History

Weird West Adams crime bus tour

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.

There are even some celebrity sites along the route, including the death scenes of Motown soul sensation Marvin Gaye and 1920s star Angels baseball catcher Gus Sandberg. And the architecture too is to die for, as the Crime Bus rolls down the elegant streets of old West Adams, lined with gay mansions, adorable bungalows and signs of a century's decay which only enhance the neighborhood's charm.

Passengers on this eye-opening, funny and informative tour will forever see the West Adams district in a new light. It is highly recommended for natives and newcomers alike, crime and history buffs and anyone who likes to seek out the unexpected.

Haunts of A Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski's Los Angeles tour

"[This tour is] a poetic journey full of rare insight into the life of a man who's come to represent the ghettoized contingency of the City of Angels.” - Tanja M. Laden, Flavorpill

"Haunts of a Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski's LA" focuses on Bukowski’s great passions: writing, screwing and Los Angeles. We’ll take in the canonical locations of his life and myth: the Postal Annex Terminal where he gathered the material for “Post Office,” the De Longpre apartment where he briefly experimented with marriage and fatherhood, one of his favorite bars and liquor stores, and many other spots. Along the way, we’ll explore the people and ideas that made up the warp and weft of Buk’s rich inner life. This Esotouric bus adventure is hosted by Richard Schave.

The tour spans Bukowski's personal city, from Skid Row to once-genteel Crown Hill, to Bukowski's favorite East Hollywood liquor store, the Pink Elephant.

Esotouric has made its name with true crime bus tours (Black Dahlia, Pasadena Confidential) and explorations of literary LA (Raymond Chandler, John Fante, James M. Cain). Now they turn their creative attentions to Bukowski, the prolific poet, novelist and screenwriter whose rough-hewn tales of boozing, wild women and rotten jobs never obscure the deep vein of sweetness and hope that runs through all his work. In one of his finest poems, he described this as a bluebird he kept caged, and that bluebird is been represented in the Bukbird, a pale blue version of his beloved alcoholic crow character, represented by a logo created by cartoonist Tony Millionaire exclusively for this tour. The Bukbird is available on T-shirtsbeer coasters and fine art prints by plasticmuse.

Press clips:

Silver Birch press gives our Bukowski bus a most auspicious rating.

LA Weekly interviews Charles Bukowski tour host Richard Schave to compile a list of L.A. sites that were important to the writer.

Slake wonders if the Charles Bukowski tour is "'Fawlty Towers' on wheels."

Spike Magazine digs our literary tours.

Novelist Anna Stothard explores the hidden gems of Los Angeles for the London Guardian, including our Bukowski tour.

Annenberg News Radio covers our Charles Bukowski tour in a video/slideshow.

Marco Mannone on the Charles Bukowski bus: "Four hours after we departed, the tour drops us back off at Philippe’s. This is a terrible way to simplify the tour, filled with so much wit and insight into not only Bukowski, but lost parts of Los Angeles.&quot

Girls Gone Wild digs the Charles Bukowski tour.

For more info, see this short film on the landmarking of Bukowski’s former bungalow on De Longpre.

Pasadena Confidential tour with Crimebo the Clown

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.

LAVA's 34th 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.

The Salon will be broken into two distinct presentations each lasting about 45 minutes. You are encouraged to arrive early if you wish to order food and beverages from the counter downstairs, and bring your meal upstairs. 

Presentation One

In its first century of existence, beginning in 1850, Los Angeles County government evolved from a frontier institution with only a few constituents, a meager treasury and few duties, to an early American "urban county" and an innovator in local government at this level. The issues faced by the county’s leadership in the form of the Board of Supervisors had a profound effect on the economy and quality of life in what would become the most populous county in the nation. Many of these challenges, as examined in Tom Sitton’s book The Courthouse Crowd: Los Angeles County and its Government, 1850-1950 would persist in the post-World War II era and are still apparent today. In his presentation, author Tom Sitton will discuss a few of these issues and some of the increasingly powerful Supervisors who faced them, share a colorful "rogues' gallery" of some of the most corrupt politicians in the region's history, and describe how the book was written.

Presentation Two

A joint presentation centered around The Kept Girl (Esotouric Ink, 2014), LAVA co-founder Kim Cooper’s novel of 1929 Los Angeles starring the young Raymond Chandler, his devoted secretary and the real-life cop who is a likely model for Philip Marlowe. Kim will dig deep into the book’s true crime and literary inspirations and the process of bringing the book to press. Artist Paul Rogers will discuss his cover art for The Kept Girl, then move into a more freeform discussion of his often historic L.A.-themed creative process, from the germ of an idea, to photos, sketches, all the way to a complete series of prints.

The Salon will be followed by yet another tour in our series, The Flaneur & The City: Broadway on My Mind walking tour #7Please visit the tour series Landing Page for past tours, videos and goals & objectives.

Black Talkies on Parade screening: King: A Filmed Record...

To celebrate the extraordinary life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Black Talkies on Parade presents the rarely scene 1970 Academy Award Documentary Nominee, King: A Filmed Record... From Montgomery to Memphis.

Few films have captured the all-encompassing life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and this landmark masterpiece does so to impressive results. Directed by film legend Sidney Lumet, King showcases rare newsreel footage, intimate glimpses of Dr. King as he pursues his life's fight for social equality, and interviews from notable celebrities including Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier, to paint a vivid picture of one of the most indelible leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. The film's lasting social impact was recognized in 1999 with an induction into the National Film Registry, an honor bestowed to those films deemed culturally significant by the United States Library of Congress. 

 

free

St. Clair Bourne 4th Monday Screening presented by BADWest: Right On! Original Last Poets documentary

Right On! (1970, USA.) Directed by Herbert Danska. Produced by Woodie King, Jr. With Gylan Kain, David Nelson, Felipe Luciano. Described as "a conspiracy of ritual, street theater, soul music and cinema," Right On! is a pioneering concert film, a compelling record of radical Black sentiment in 1960s America, and a precursor of the Hip Hop revolution in musical culture. Shot guerilla-style on the streets and rooftops of lower Manhattan, it features the original Last Poets performing twenty-eight numbers adapted from their legendary Concept-East Poetry appearance at New York's Paperback Theater in 1969. Opening almost simultaneously with Melvin Pebbles' Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, Right On! was described by its producer as "the first 'totally black film'" making "no concession in language and symbolism to white audiences." Rarely screened for over thirty years, To Save and Project presents the world premiere of the Museum's new restoration, made from the recently recovered 35mm negative. Restored by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation and Paul Newman (San Francisco).

This event is free. Free parking. 

The Flâneur & The City: Broadway On My Mind walking tour #6

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.)  

This Tour

Join us as we restart the post-Salon walking tour series with the new year. February will bring John Parkinson back into focus as we take a stroll down “Parkinson Alley,” that stretch of West 5th Street stretching from Spring through Broadway and Hill which is thick with examples of this iconic Los Angeles architect’s work. And who better to help us parse the landscape than Parkinson’s advocate, Stephen Gee, whose book, Iconic Vision: John Parkinson, Architect of Los Angeles is the definitive survey of this seminal Los Angeles designer and builder?  In addition to Stephen, the tour will be hosted by, Richard Schave.

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.

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.

Boyle Heights & The San Gabriel Valley: The Hidden Histories of L.A.'s Melting Pot tour

Press clips: Los Angeles Times feature article on this tour.

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 On the east side the Los Angeles River, some of the most fascinating Southern California stories are waiting to be told. Join Esotouric, L.A.’s most eclectic bus adventure company, on a century’s social history tour through the transformation of neighborhoods, punctuated with immersive stops to sample the sites, smells and cultures that make our changing city so beguiling.

Voter registration, citizenship classes, walkouts, blow-outs, anti-Semitism, adult education, racial covenants, boycotts, The City Beautiful, Exclusion Acts and Immigration Acts, property values, xenophobia, and delicious dumplings—all are themes which will be addressed on this lively bus and walking tour.

THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY:

In the mid-1920s, Monterey Park was poised on the brink of becoming the Beverly Hills of the east. The Wall Street crash put an end to opulent residential development, but left some beautiful remnants of what might have been. In the 1950s, a thriving Italian-American community settled in the hills, and established some of the area’s most beloved landmark businesses. Since the 1980s, the communities of Alhambra, San Gabriel and Monterey Park have transformed themselves from sleepy suburban bedroom communities (bursting at the seams from a 1950s housing explosion) to the nexus of a pan-Asian megalopolis. Fueled by immigration and investment from Taiwan, Hong Kong and South-East Asia, these communities have found their 21st Century identity, and their economic base—but at the expense of aging long-time residents, who have seen familiar neighborhoods and retail zones become unrecognizable.

 

BOYLE HEIGHTS:

In the 1890s, Rev. Dana Bartlett ministered to and taught the Russian Molokons in the cramped riverside neighborhood known then and now as “The Flats.” Today, the area contains public housing projects--a belated mid-century solution to the social problems that worried Bartlett, and an ongoing challenge for residents and city planners. In the 1960s, the Chicano Moratorium emerged from the same streets where in the 1920s and 1930s Jewish activists helped change the face of labor in California and the nation. Using the organizing tools first honed by their Jewish neighbors, young Chicanos stood up and rejected the military machine that sent so many of their peers to die in Vietnam, and developed an empowered social identity that lead all the way to the Mayor’s office.

SO GET ON THE BUS:

This whirlwind social history tour of some of the most interesting and dynamic neighborhoods on the east side of Los Angeles will include stops at:

  • The Vladeck Center
  • Hollenbeck Park
  • Wyvernwood Garden Apartments
  • Evergreen Cemetery
  • The Venice Room
  • El Encanto & Cascades Park
  • Divine’s Furniture
  • Wing Hop Fung for a complementary tea tasting

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 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, hosted by Kim Cooper, Joan Renner and Richard Schave, 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.

LAVA's 33rd 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.

The Salon will be broken into two distinct presentations each lasting about 45 minutes. You are encouraged to arrive early if you wish to order food and beverages from the counter downstairs, and bring your meal upstairs. 

Presentation One

Back by popular demand, LAVA Visionary Joe Oesterle, author of Weird Hollywood and the classics Weird California and Weird Las Vegas. Joe will read some spooky stories from his books and share anecdotes from his weird road travels, and sign copies of Weird Hollywood. The multi-talented Joe Oesterle is a former Senior Editor of National Lampoon, a visual artist, musician, animator and curator of the strange and marvelous. At the Salon, Joe will be joined by Count Smokula, a 496-year-old accordion-playing vampire from the vaguely Eastern-European nation of Smokesylvania. A mainstay in the Los Angeles Underground scene, the Count has been described as a cross between Bela Lugosi and Jackie Mason. Please join us as the Count delights us with several numbers on his accordion.  

Presentation Two

Poet Fred Voss will read for about 20 minutes from his Bloodaxe (UK) collections Hammers And Hearts Of The Gods and Carnegie Hall With Tin Walls and from Tooth And Fang And Machine Handle, his winning chapbook from Nerve Cowboy's (USA) 2013 Competition. Poems mostly about his working experiences, reflections on those experiences, and his 35-year life as a machinist which will include non-machine shop philosophical poems and a couple domestic-comedy “Frank & Jane” poems which bear a striking resemblance to his marriage to poet Joan Jobe Smith.

A teenager in 1950s’ L.A., go-go girl in swinging 60s-70s, poet, writer, teacher, mentor, founding editor of PEARL, and confidante of Charles Bukowski for nearly a decade, Joan Jobe Smith will read 20 minute’s worth of selected poems about the movies, lands of a 1,000 dances, and her friendship with Bukowski from her 2012 literary profile Charles Bukowski: Epic Glottis: His Women & His Art (& me), and the 2013 Bukowski Anthology, both published by Silver Birch Press.

(Linda King, previously scheduled to appear at this Salon, regrets that she is unable to attend.) 

The Salon will be followed by the 6th Broadway On My Mind walking tour which will focus on John Parkinson buildings around the intersection of 5th & Broadway. Please visit the tour series Landing Page for past tours, videos and goals & objectives.