In Memory of Clifton’s Cafeteria (1935-2011) edition





September 25th, 2014


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San Gabriel Village #neon #signage #sgv #signporn #signgeeks by @esotouric

Gentle Reader. . .

Three years ago today, Clifton's Cafeteria, a Los Angeles institution since 1935, shut the doors of its last restaurant, the California redwood-themed Brookdale on Broadway. The Clinton family had sold their interests to a new owner, whose plan was to add numerous theme bars and a bakery to the business, while maintaining some sort of cafeteria service at ground level.

Re-opening dates have come and gone. The 1960s-era "cheese-grater" facade came down, along with the distinctive plastic blade sign. Revealed was the woodsy 1930s facade, in very poor repair. In time, bricked up windows were replaced with glass, and cranes lifted heavy machinery onto the roof. Rough patches on the faux-wood were smoothed and stained. But three years on, Clifton's Cafeteria remains closed.

Places like Clifton's are so much more than just restaurants. They contain the accumulated memories of uncounted years of good fellowship, meals shared with departed loved ones, childhood wonder and the priceless treasure of lifelong continuity. There were dozens of cafeterias in 1930s Los Angeles, and thousands of restaurants. But as the years ticked by, most of these old establishments fell away. With each one lost, Clifton's, by its very survival, became more precious.

There is no question that we're asked more frequently on our tours than "When will Clifton's re-open?" We do not know the answer. Nobody does. Soon, we hope. Before another year has passed, we pray.

But in our hearts, Clifton's never closed. The kind servers are still hustling across the mezzanine with arms full of trays bound for the dumbwaiter and the colorful regulars hold court at their favorite tables. Children blow out the candles on their birthday cakes and grandparents hold hands under the table and take bites of each others' meals. On the cafeteria line, wholesome food nestles warm above the steam bath. Enchiladas and whole trout, turkey at the carving station, deep vats of soup, jello in every color of the rainbow, decorative geese covered in carrot slices, hot coffee with a squirt of milk from an ingenious metal dipper.

Three years ago today, Clifton's Cafeteria shut its doors. If you love it, like we do, take a moment to remember. For so long as we remember, Clifton's Brookdale will never die.

We're back on the bus this Saturday, with a Pasadena Confidential crime bus tour sure to rattle the cages of the white glove set. Join us, do!

Upcoming Tours and Happenings

The Crown City masquerades as a calm and refined retreat, where well-bred ladies glide around their perfect bungalows and everyone knows what fork to use first. But don't be fooled by appearances. Dip into the confidential files of old Pasadena and meet assassins and oddballs, kidnappers and slashers, Satanists and all manner of maniac in a delightful little tour you WON'T find recommended by the better class of people! From celebrated cases like the RFK assassination (with a visit to Sirhan Sirhan's folks' house), "Eraserhead" star Jack Nance's strange end, black magician/rocket scientist Jack Parsons' death-by-misadventure and the 1926 Rose Parade grand stand collapse, to fascinating obscurities, the tour's dozens of murders, arsons, kidnappings, robberies, suicides, auto wrecks and oddball happening sites provide a alternate history of Pasadena that's as fascinating as it is creepy. Passengers will tour the old Millionaire's Row on Orange Grove, thrill to the shocking Sphinx Murder on the steps of the downtown Masonic Hall and discover why people named Judd should think twice before moving to Pasadena. (Please note that, due to circumstances beyond our control, Crimebo the Crime Clown will not be joining us on this edition of Pasadena Confidential. The tour will contain all the same crimes and stops, but there will be no clowning around.)

Dear friends, it is with no small amount of regret that we are putting the monthly LAVA Sunday Salon and Broadway on My Mind walking tour series on hiatus, effective immediately. Both events take place at Les Noces du Figaro restaurant, which is closing down for several months of renovations. We will be working closely with Jonathan Mgaieth of Figaro to determine a relaunch date as soon as the restaurant reopens, hopefully in early 2015. So stay tuned, and we hope to see you at other LAVA events in the meantime.

New from the deranged minds of Esotouric, an historical crime bus tour meant to honor the lost souls who wander the hills and byways of the "streetcar suburbs" (Echo Park, Silver Lake, Elysian Park, Angeleno Heights) that hug Sunset Boulevard. Climb aboard to see seemingly ordinary houses, streets and commercial buildings revealed as the scenes of chilling crimes and mysteries, populated by some of the most fascinating people you'd never want to meet. Featured cases include Edward Hickman's kidnapping of little Marion Parker and the bizarre "Man in the Attic" love nest slaying, plus dozens of incredible, forgotten tales of Angelenoes in peril. Guests will also see some of the most beautiful historic architecture in Los Angeles, including a visit to Sister Aimee Semple McPherson's exquisite Parsonage, her one-time home, now a museum

Join us on this iconic, unsolved Los Angeles murder mystery tour. Our excursion begins in the historic Olive Street lobby of the Biltmore Hotel and ends in time for you to take tea and crumpets where Beth Short waited out the last hours of her freedom before walking south into hell. After multiple revisions, this is less a murder tour than a social history of 1940s Hollywood female culture, mass media and madness, and we welcome you to join us for the ride. This tour always sells out, so reserve your spot today.

Join us for a journey from the downtown of Chandler's pre-literary youth (but which always lingered at the fore of his imagination) to the Hollywood of his greatest success, with a stop along the way at Tai Kim's Scoops for unexpected gelato creations inspired by the author. We'll start the tour following in the young Chandler's footsteps, as he roamed the blocks near the downtown oil company office where he worked. See sites from Lady in the Lake and The Little Sister, discover the real Philip Marlowe (Esotouric's exclusive scoop, and the inspiration for Kim's novel The Kept Girl), and be steeped in noir LA.

Come explore Charles Bukowski's lost Los Angeles and the fascinating contradictions that make this great local writer such a hoot to explore. Haunts of a Dirty Old Man is a raucous day out celebrating liquor, ladies, pimps and poets. The tour includes a visit to Buk's DeLongpre bungalow, where you'll see the Cultural-Historic Monument sign that we helped to get approved, and a mid-tour provisions stop at Pink Elephant Liquor.

On this guided tour through the Beverly Hills of the early 20th Century, Crime Bus passengers thrill as Jazz Age bootleggers run amok, marvel at the Krazy Kafitz family's litany of murder-suicides, attempted husband slayings, Byzantine estate battles and mad bombings, visit the shortest street in Los Angeles (15' long Powers Place, with its magnificent views of the mansions of Alvarado Terrace), discover which fabulous mansion was once transformed into a functioning whiskey factory using every room in the house, and stroll the haunted paths of Rosedale Cemetery, site of notable burials (May K. Rindge, the mother of Malibu) and odd graveside crimes. Featured players include the most famous dwarf in Hollywood, mass suicide ringleader Reverend Jim Jones, wacky millionaires who can't control their automobiles, human mole bank robbers, comically inept fumigators, kids trapped in tar pits, and dozens of other unusual and fascinating denizens of early Los Angeles.

This is a special day-long edition of our Raymond Chandler bus tour of historic locations in Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood, coinciding with the 2014 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention and departing from the Hyatt Regency in Long Beach. In addition to visits to The Oviatt Building (The Gillerlain Company in The Lady in The Lake), The Bank of Italy (where Chandler was employed by The Dabney Oil Company), The Barclay Hotel (site of an icepick murder in The Little Sister), The Mayfair Hotel (where a suicidal Chandler kept his mistress), Paramount Studios, Raymond Chandler Square and other iconic locations from the life and work of the master of Los Angeles noir. The excursion includes a no-host lunch stop and a shopping visit to Hollywood's Larry Edmunds Bookshop, the famous cinema collectors store which directly descends from The Stanley Rose Book Shop, whose proprietor was the model for Geiger in The Big Sleep.

From the founding of the city through the 1940s, downtown was the true center of Los Angeles, a lively, densely populated, exciting and sometimes dangerous place. After many quiet decades, downtown is making an incredible return. But while many of the historic buildings remain, their human context has been lost. This downtown double feature tour is meant to bring alive the old ghosts and memories that cling to the streets and structures of the historic core, and is especially recommended for downtown residents curious about their neighborhood's neglected history.

For Richard's once-a-year birthday bus adventure, we invite you to climb aboard for a 7-hour excursion exploring some of the greatest buildings in the Southland that you've never seen–unless you go to a lot of funerals. The tour is hosted by Nathan Marsak, America's wittiest historian of mortuary architecture. Come discover the beauty, secrets and unexpected modernism of Sunnyside Long Beach (1922), Community Mausoleum Anaheim (1914), Fairhaven Santa Ana (1916) and Calvary East Los Angeles (1936). Lunch is included and much merriment will be had. Visit the tour page for more information on this one-time-only event and reserve your spot today.



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    Kim and Richard


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