Crawling Down Cahuenga: Tom Waits’ L.A.
This is the definitive tour of Tom Waits’ formative creative life in Los Angeles, and the people, places and late night pastries that shaped it. Calling all rain dogs, gin-soaked boys and Gun Street girls! Climb aboard as your hosts David Smay (author of the 33 1/3 series book on Swordfishtrombones) and Esotouric’s Kim Cooper (a Zoetrope Studios intern who’ll tell how she used teenage subterfuge to arrange a private concert by Tom) lead you on a scrupulously researched ride through Tom’s epic misdeeds and shenanigans, from the Trashing of the Troubadour to epic nights at the Tropicana.
And oh, there are such tales to tell, from food fights with L.A. Punks and smackdowns with L.A. Police. We’ll crawl through the Sewers of Paris, tattle on the Ivar Theater, and get the lowdown on Tom’s legendary performances at the Wiltern and elsewhere. Before departing for points rural, Tom left his mark all over L.A., from Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios to Sunset Sound to Skid Row. We’ll show you where Tom found his true love and collaborator, Kathleen Brennan, and how all the pieces came together to transform a drunken, desperate singer into the multi-faceted, multi-media artist he’d become.
Raised near San Diego, Tom Waits launched his musical career in L.A., signing with David Geffen’s Asylum Records in 1972, living at the raunchy Tropicana Hotel (where he sawed off the kitchen drain board so his piano would fit), and building a reputation as a songwriter willing to risk his own health and sanity to get inside the sad sack characters that peopled songs like “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me),” “On The Nickel” and “Pasties And A G-string (At The Two O’clock Club).”
By 1980, Tom was 31 and starting to feel the effects of his hard living. While scoring the music to Francis Ford Coppola’s “One From The Heart,” he met Kathleen Brennan, whose influence would completely transform his life and his art. After a whirlwind courtship the pair married and began a 28-year creative and personal partnership, beginning with the revolutionary album Swordfishtrombones, the subject of tour host David Smay’s book.
“Crawling Down Cahuenga” spans Tom’s personal city, from The Nickel (aka Skid Row) to once-ratty West Hollywood, favorite strip clubs and midnight diners, recording studios, night clubs, record labels and film studios, before rolling back downtown via the filming location of Waits’ “In The Neighborhood” video.
Click here to purchase David Smay’s book about Tom Waits.
Ryan Boyd of Fodor’s interviews David Smay before the 2017 tour.
David Smay talked with Take Two on KPCC before the 2016 tour.
Leonie Cooper of The Guardian got an emotional weather report on the once-a-year Tom Waits bus adventure.
The 2013 edition of our once-a-year Tom Waits tour is L.A. Weekly’s Go >> L.A. pick of the week.
ABOUT THE HOSTS: Longtime collaborators David Smay and Kim Cooper co-edited the books “Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth” (“quite simply the most fun music book I have ever read.” -Bucketfull of Brains) and “Lost in the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed” (“the perfect book for the advanced record collector” -Ear Candy) before penning their solo 33 1/3 series books on Tom Waits and Neutral Milk Hotel. Kim gives Esotouric’s rock history and true crime tours. David Smay lives in San Francisco, where he is working on a history of the Beats.
David Smay visits the Tom Waits In The Neighborhood video location.