History

Pasadena Confidential crime bus tour

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.

East Side Babylon crime bus tour

Go East, Young Crime Fiend!

For years, the devoted and demented crime historians of Esotouric have been stockpiling hideous 20th century crime tales from the east side of the Los Angeles River, and waiting for the perfect moment to spring them upon an unsuspecting world. That moment has arrived. On the EAST SIDE BABYLON tour you'll discover fascinating, little-known neighborhoods and the grim memories they hold. 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 Los Angeles, 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. All this, and so much more on EAST SIDE BABYLON, Esotouric's exploration of L.A.'s most horrifying forgotten crimes.

LAVA's 39th Sunday Salon

Join LAVA for our revived free monthly Sunday Salon series. We return to South Broadway, to the mezzanine of Les Noces du Figaro, which was recently opened by the family behind Figaro Bistro in Los Feliz. This handsome space was formerly Schaber's Cafeteria (Charles F. Plummer, 1928), and the mezzanine features wonderful views of the Los Angeles Theatre.

On the last Sunday of each month, LAVA welcomes interested individuals to gather in downtown Los Angeles (noon-2pm), for a structured Salon featuring formal presentations and opportunities to meet and connect with one another. If you're interested in joining LAVA as a creative contributor or an attendee, we recommend Salon attendance as an introduction to this growing community. We also recommend the eclairs.

Read about the original Sunday Salon at Clifton's Cafeteria here.

Presentation One: Charlie Parker's Central Avenue Jazz 

Alto saxophonist Charlie Parker arrived at Los Angeles' Union Station in December of 1945 all but tied to his seat. Somewhere in the southwestern desert his heroin withdrawals had caught up with him and the rest of the band knew they were going to be in for a long trip. But none was going to be as long as Parker's.

The two titans of bebop, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, had booked a winter gig in sunny LA. Six nights a week in a Hollywood nightclub was a nice way to get out of the City and introduce a new audience to their innovative bebop sounds -- but Parker's spiraling drug problem was a liability before the band had even packed their bags.

When the residency finally ended, relationships were in shambles, box office receipts were disappointing and the band was eager to just get home. But Parker didn't show up for the flight. It took him over a year to finally get out of Los Angeles. During his extended stay, Parker had disastrous recording sessions, transcendent recording sessions, he signed over royalties to his drug dealer, lit his hotel room on fire and eventually served six months in a mental institution.

Author Sean J. O'Connell chronicles Los Angeles's unique 20th century jazz scene in his newest book, Los Angeles's Central Avenue Jazz. For his first LAVA presentation, he will chart the journey of jazz' greatest destructive genius through the nightclubs and back alleys of 1940s Los Angeles.

Presentation Two: Living a Magickal Life

What is magick and how does one live it? From kitchen witchery and crafting to ceremonial magic, join us to examine the core principles underlying magick and discover ways to enrich your life by creating change in accord with Will.

Soror Lilya is an Initiate of Ordo Templi Orientis, a Thelemite and a Crafter who has been working with Magick for over 20 years.

The Salon will be followed by a free walking tour, The Flaneur & The City: Broadway on My Mind walking tour #12. Please visit the tour series Landing Page for videos and descriptions of past tours and the goals of the series.

The Flâneur & The City: Broadway On My Mind walking tour #12

To sign up for this free event: First register as a user on this site, or login, and then return to this page. Refresh the page and the signup tab will appear just to the left, above this paragraph. Click "signup" and reserve your spot. No plus-ones; each guest must register individually.

Join us the latest installment of The Flaneur & The City: Broadway On My Mind walking tour series. (This tour series was originally titled Broadway Streetscape Master Plan Awareness walking tour.)  

About This Tour:

This month’s tour will be the third of several tours which focus on the architect Robert Brown Young, whose career spans the 19th & 20th centuries, the residential and commercial. His work on Broadway is the perfect introduction to understanding Young and his iconic structures.  

Our goal with these tours is to explore the history of the built environment on Broadway, while seeking to understand the scope of the work of Strategy One, Phase One of the Broadway Streetscape Master Plan and the “Road Diet,” which has recently begun.

Press clippings: the walking tour series is featured in Mike Sonksen's KCET Departures report, "Punk Rock, Poetry, and Public Policy." 

Video from previous Broadway On My Mind walking tours: tour #1, tour #2, tour #3, tour #4, tour #5tour #7.

ABOUT THE TOUR SERIES: In July 2013, LAVA launched a series of monthly walking tours along Broadway meant to raise consciousness about the Broadway Theater and Commercial District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the pending implementation of Strategy One, Phase One of the City of Los Angeles’ Broadway Streetscape Master Plan (PDF). Each walking tour will follow and depart from the free LAVA Sunday Salon.

Stretching from 2nd Street to Olympic, the District contains the most intact collection of Beaux-Arts buildings in Los Angeles, and the largest collection of historic theaters anywhere in the United States.

As Broadway’s vast scope and scale can be overwhelming, on each walking tour we will look closely at several different historic buildings, in order to acclimatize the observer to better understand and appreciate the whole. We will also be looking at the historic streetscape, with attention paid to street lights, sidewalks (terrazzo in particular), basement hatches, sidewalk vents, glass blocks, manhole covers, granite curbs and signage.

Motivation for this tour series:

With City Council’s June 2013 approval of funding for Strategy One, Phase One of the Broadway Streetscape Master Plan, we believe that it is it is imperative to develop a greater public awareness and understanding of Broadway’s architectural and scenic qualities, and to bring the informed voices of the community into discussion of the proposed changes and alterations. We believe that no element of Broadway’s streetscape can be altered without causing a transformation of the whole, requiring careful consideration before any permanent or semi-permanent changes are made. Broadway’s architectural character is defined not by any single feature (uniform height limits, predominance of theaters) or single landmark building (Eastern Columbia, Bradbury Building, Los Angeles Theater), but upon the concord of all of it, and the strength of the impression which all together they provide. No feature or building is of dominant importance, but each contributes, and all are vitally fused together into our National Register landmark district. Many of the salient architectural and streetscape features which will be the focus of this tour series are proposed to be impacted by the yet-unfunded Strategy One, Phase Two of the Broadway Streetscape Master Plan. The evolving situation demands public input and public awareness. We hope that you will join us on the tour series to better understand Broadway and become an advocate for its continued preservation, stewardship and vibrancy.

Echo Park Book Of The Dead crime bus tour

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.

The Lowdown on Downtown

This is NOT a tour about beautiful buildings--although beautiful buildings will be all around you. This is NOT a tour about brilliant architects--although we will gaze upon their works and marvel.

The Lowdown on Downtown IS a tour about urban redevelopment, public policy, protest, power and the police. It is a revealing history of how the New Downtown became an "overnight sensation" after decades of quiet work behind the scenes by public agencies and private developers. This tour is about what really happened in the heart of Los Angeles, a complicated story that will fascinate and infuriate, break your heart and thrill your spirit.

So join your host Richard Schave, the founding director of the Downtown LA Art Walk non-profit, on a tour that reveals the secret history, and the fascinating future, of this most beguiling LA neighborhood.

This is a tour about the populated, vibrant mid-20th Century Downtown Los Angeles you've only heard about, and about the 21st Century Downtown that can rise again with a richness of heritage and quality of life leaving natives and visitors gaping in disbelief. This is a tour about Downtown's invisible neighborhoods and great public spaces which managed to escape the wrecking ball. This is a tour about how gentrification sprung up on the city's meanest streets, with all the conflicts that go along with a major socio-economic shift in a small community, and about how the free speech concerns of Occupy LA protesters came into synch with those of homeless rights activists in a challenging moment for LAPD and the arts community. This is a tour about the real and evolving Los Angeles, the city even natives don't know. Get on the bus for the real Lowdown on Downtown, as no one but Esotouric's Richard Schave can reveal it.

Our tour begins in the corporate public spaces of Bunker Hill and Pershing Square, each the result of deliberate social engineering (the razing of old Bunker Hill which displaced 9,000 residents; the elimination of positive public space in Pershing Square to thwart public address and gatherings). We segue to the underappreciated yet extremely successful public spaces of the Historic Core and then to the emerging live/work community of The Old Bank District, where developer Tom Gilmore’s gentrification and the popular monthly Art Walk are bringing life to spaces which have been dead for decades. The tour concludes with a visit to an underground arts space.

Having studied under architecture critic Reyner Banham in the mid-1980s, tour host Richard Schave has taken it upon himself to correct his teacher’s gross oversight of downtown Los Angeles, relegated to a dismissive coda in his seminal Los Angeles guidebook Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies. Richard and his wife Kim Cooper work extensively with the history and lost cultures of downtown in their bus tours, in their work placing Art Walk into a non-profit, on blogs including On Bunker HillIn SRO Land and1947project, and through public lectures on the subject.

This tour has a significant walking component, down the stairs along Angels Flight, around Pershing Square, through several other pedestrian locations. It is broken up, but please be advised to be ready to stretch your legs.

Locations on the tour include:
Angels Flight
Pershing Square
Bunker Hill
Grand Central Market
Mercantile Arcade Building
Bloom's General Store
An underground arts space

This tour is just one of our California Culture tour series (formerly known as the Reyner Banham Loves L.A. series).

Hotel Horrors & Main Street Vice crime bus tour

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.

The Hotel Horrors portion is a true crime and oddities tour featuring some of the wildest, weirdest, goriest and most memorable happenings in historic hotels like the Alexandria, St. George, Barclay and Cecil. Get on the bus to see inside some of these legendary locales and find out where Night Stalker Richard Ramirez liked to stay and the hotel that saw a visit from the Skid Row Slasher, and where two traveling chocolate salesmen laughed so hard they fell backwards out a window to their deaths. You'll also explore the fiery curse that repeatedly leveled the St. George Hotel. Included are some light hearted stories to help the blood and gore go down.

The Main Street Vice portion is a social history tour celebrating the ribald, racy, raunchy old promenade where the better people simply did not travel, but kicks were had by all who did. Burlesque babes and dirty picture parlors, mummified western outlaws and old time tattoo parlors, wax museums and pawn brokers, "professors" offering sex lectures and magazine peddlers with nudie Marilyn Monroe calendars under the counter, sophisticated steak houses and nickel donut dives -- these were the pleasures and the people to be found along Main during the first half of the 20th century, a street that every Angeleno knew offered more (yet less) of what could be seen anywhere else. On this tour, we'll visit the scenes of some more unforgettable debaucheries and share stories of crime, smut, passion and commerce.

Climb aboard for a time travel journey back to the downtown that's not there anymore, and the surprising amount of gems that survive.

Don't Turn Your Back: Real L.A. Murders from the Dawn of Forensic Science

To purchase a ticket for this special event, click here. If you'd like to be contacted when another crime lab tour and lecture are scheduled, subscribe to LAVA's occasional Crime Lab Newsletter.

Join us in the Cal State Los Angeles teaching crime lab for an afternoon’s inquiry into the history of forensic science in Los Angeles, in support of new research coming out of the Criminalistics Department.

Presenters:

Mike Fratantoni, an LASD Deputy who sits on the board of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Museum, makes a return engagement to the crime lab to present two fascinating and complex cases which will explore the development of forensic investigation.

Meiling Cabral is Chair of the California Association of Criminalists’ Historical Committee, and a forensic investigator for the LAPD. Meiling combines a practicing forensic scientist’s experience and an historian’s passion for reconstructing the past. For each of Deputy Fratantoni’s case presentations, she will provide a “Then & Now” forensic overview, highlighting technological breakthroughs, methodological changes and how the cases have influenced the development of modern forensic investigation.

Case One: Poor Little Louise Peete

In 1920, a homeless Louise Peete turned her romantic attentions towards elderly mining executive Jacob Denton, and moved into his house off Wilshire Boulevard. In May, Denton disappeared. When his friends called, Louise claimed that Denton had gone into hiding after being disfigured in a sword fight. For months, she lived and entertained in Denton’s mansion, until the police agreed to search the house. Denton’s murdered body was discovered buried in the basement, but Louise Peete had flown the coop. Captured and tried, she was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in San Quentin. She served eighteen years, and was once again homeless. Good-hearted Margaret Logan offered Louise a position as paid companion and housekeeper. Five years later, Margaret vanished. Her body was discovered in the backyard of her Pacific Palisades home. Thanks to the forensic evidence gathered and interpreted by Ray Pinker, LAPD chemist and future director of the CSULA Criminalistics Department, Louise was found guilty of murder and executed in the California gas chamber in 1947.

Case Two: The End of Charlie Crawford

Charlie “The Gray Wolf” Crawford and newspaper editor Hebert Spencer were shot, Spencer fatally, in Crawford’s Hollywood office on May 20, 1931. The investigation and trials that followed are the stuff of Los Angeles legend. Crawford was a racketeer who was in with the crooked “City Hall Crowd” during Prohibition. He died in a hospital ward muttering with his last breath that he’d take the name of his killer to his grave. Forensic investigators in the LAPD went to work seeking the answer. Before they found it, David Clark, a former Assistant District Attorney and candidate for a municipal judgeship, walked into the Hall of Justice and confessed. Homicide detectives were incredulous, and the forensic investigation continued. The first trial resulted in a mistrial, the second in acquittal. In his presentation, Deputy Frantantoni will walk us through the landmark forensic analysis and pull back the curtains on this rich and fascinating period of Los Angeles history, and a story so twisted, no less a noir master than Raymond Chandler fictionalized it.

Noir California: The Masters of 20th Century Crime Fiction

A panel of experts discuss 20th century crime fiction in California. Denise Hamilton (editor, L.A. NOIR) leads a conversation between Julie M. Rivett (Dashiell Hammett scholar & granddaughter, editor of THE HUNTER & OTHER STORIES), Kim Cooper (Esotouric crime historian, author of THE KEPT GIRL) and Tom Nolan (author of ROSS MACDONALD: A BIOGRAPHY) at the Pasadena Central Library. Reception at 6:00pm, discussion 7:00pm-8:30pm). Books will be available for purchase and signing.

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

Bungalows. Crime. Hollywood. Blondes. Vets. Smog. Death.

This was Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles, which resonated under deft and melancholy fits from his writer’s bow.

Join us as we go down the mean streets that shaped his fiction, and that in turn shaped his hard-boiled times, in a four hour tour of downtown, Hollywood and surrounding environs: The Los Angeles Athletic Club, the Larry Edmunds Bookshop, the Hotel Van Nuys, Paramount Studio’s gates, and much, much more, including a Chandler-themed gelato stop at East Hollywood cult favorite Scoops.

Through published work, private correspondence, screenplays and film adaptations, we trace Chandler’s search for meaning and his anti-hero Philip Marlowe’s struggle to not be pigeonholed or give anything less than all he has, which lead them both down the rabbit hole of isolation, depression, and drink.

Tour passengers will have the opportunity to purchase an autographed copy of co-host Kim Cooper's mystery novel The Kept Girl, inspired by this tour and starring the young Chandler and the real-life Philip Marlowe on the trail of a cult of murderous angel worshippers.