What Lies Beneath edition





October 27th, 2014


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Azusa Street Revival. Ground zero for American Pentecostalism. #skidrow #DTLA #losangeles #signage #history by @esotouric

Gentle Reader. . .

Last Saturday, we rolled with our first Wild Wild Westside crime bus tour in nearly five years. The bus was almost full — which is actually preferable to a sold-out one, since a little elbow room is appreciated by your gentle tour guides — and we were happy with the route, the timing and, especially, the good company.

Yes, Wild Wild Westside fits neatly into our crime bus repertoire, and we're looking forward to offering it again early in the new year.

But smooth as it was, we wouldn't say the trip was uneventful. In fact, it was one of our most memorable tours, simply by dint of one interaction with a Venice denizen.

There we were, in the alley by the new house that long ago replaced the shotgun shack that gained notoriety as "The House of Horrors," in 1940s tabloid lingo. We always strive not to disturb residents of historic sites, but outside voices carry, and just a few sentences into Kim's narrative, a pretty young woman in an itsy bitsy bikini stepped out from behind the high gate and asked if she could listen in. Certainly — assuming she wasn't uncomfortable hearing a disturbing story about the old house that used to be there.

She was not.

As Kim recounted the ghastly tale of a pair of mentally ill women whose unlicensed business caring for unwanted children deteriorated into terrifying levels of neglect, the young woman listened with rapt attention. But before the story's end, it was time to return to the bus. Richard pressed our contact information into her hand and said "email us for the rest of the story."

That was when she caught Kim's eye and said that she had chills, because since living in the house, she had been compelled to take in young people in need, to help them get onto their feet. The chills passed neatly through the warm sea air and found a new home at the back of Kim's neck, as she thanked our new friend for unknowingly working to undo the spot's legacy of cruelty.

And as our large group returned to the bus, it seemed that each one of us was moved and a bit shaken by the layers of history that accumulate where extreme experiences linger. When we first stopped, it was to learn about a "House of Horrors," but as we left, it was with the unexpected knowledge that it had become a "House of Hope." May all blighted places be so redeemed.

Have you snagged your seat yet on Richard's once-a-year-never-repeated-tons-of-fun birthday bus adventure? We hope you can join us for a festive day out exploring beautiful southland cemeteries, feasting on birthday treats and enjoying embarrassing photos from Richard's family album.

We're not on the bus this Saturday, but we'd love to see you at the Central Library for Kim's Rare Book Friends talk on her 1920s cult mystery novel The Kept Girl, and its real world inspirations. It's free and should be a blast. Join us, do!

We're delighted to have been invited to speak at the Mark Taper Auditorium of the Los Angeles Public Library in support of the Rare Books department. At this free multi-media presentation, Kim will discuss and sign copies of her 1920s mystery, The Kept Girl. Kim's illustrated talk will draw on her years of research into the lost lore of Los Angeles, with a focus on the bizarre Great Eleven cult, which began just above the library on Bunker Hill and ensnared dozens of credulous Angelenos in their mystical rites before one disgruntled ex-believer brought the whole enterprise tumbling down. You'll hear about Raymond Chandler's pre-literary life as a downtown oil company executive, the idealistic L.A. policeman who is a likely model for Philip Marlowe, the real woman who inspired the character of Chandler's secretary Muriel, and the terrible secrets revealed by the fraud investigation in the Great Eleven's activities. Richard will share insights into how he used cutting edge computing tools to evoke the look and feel of a mid-century book, and Kim will talk abut the deluxe Art Deco wraps created for the Subscribers, whose pre-publication support covered a big chunk of the print cost. Copies of the paperback and deluxe Art Deco Subscribers' edition will be available for purchase after the talk. It's a big room–please bring a friend!

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.

Join LAVA in the teaching crime lab of Cal State L.A. for our quarterly forensic science seminar. This time, we'll explore a pair of fascinating historic murder cases, and compare the techniques used to analyze them with modern methods of evidence collection and interpretation. Featured cases are Louise Peete's chilling serial killing spree, and the still-mysterious shooting of racketeer Charlie Crawford and muckraking journalist Herbert Spencer. And your ticket purchase supports the advanced research of the Criminalistics graduate department, where CSI breakthroughs are being made.

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.

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.

Go East, young ghoul, with our newest crime bus adventure. Come visit Boyle Heights, where the Night Stalker was captured and a mad dad ran amok. Roam the hallowed lawns of Evergreen, L.A.'s oldest cemetery and home of some memorable haunts and strange burials. Visit East L.A., where a deranged radio shop employee made mince meat of his boss and bride–and you can get your hair done in a building shaped like a giant tamale. Explore the ghastly streets of Commerce, where one small neighborhood's myriad crimes will shock and surprise. Visit Montebello, for scrumptious milk and cookies at Broguiere's Farm Fresh Dairy washed down with a horrifying case of child murder.



  • At last! Joy in Guadalupe as C.B. DeMille's lost dune sphinx is found.
  • Walking a hard beat.
  • CIM Group hates Hollywood history. But their secretive, illegal demolition is going to cost them.
  • And where will the Godfather of Graving spend eternity?
  • Skid Row dispatch, 1955.
  • Half a pickle is better than none.
  • Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe can be yours (and it's not landmarked, so teardown IS a possibility).
  • Double Indemnity-themed play Billy & Ray flops in New York. (Our bus tour is much more fun!)
  • We talked cults and California with Curbed LA.
  • Fighting back in the shade of a Beverlywood McMansion.
  • See Kristin Bedford's astonishing photos of Father Divine's followers, as presented on our last Weird West Adams bus tour.
  • Everyone thinks they know what's best for Pershing Square. (Including us: let's simply restore, already!)
  • Developer's proposed "preservation" of Bob Baker Marionette Theater lops off the backstage.
  • Time travel to Beany's Drive-In, Long Beach, circa 1952-53.
  • A lot of love for Kim's work on the Raymond Chandler map.
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    Kim and Richard


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