On March 6, 2012, social historians, bloggers and tour guides Nathan Marsak and Richard Schave spoke to students in Dr. J.B.C. Axelrod's History 395 course "Reading and Writing L.A." at Occidental College about their work on the 1947project time travel blogs, including On Bunker Hill, and the many ways of telling the many stories of Los Angeles.
Although we selfishly wish you to stay here all day, frittering, may we nonetheless suggest a pair of historically-minded websites you might explore?
Backroads of American Music operates from the charming supposition that the places where great music was made and heard, or where music makers broke bread, prayed or knocked their wives around, are worth visiting, photographing and talking about. Obviously, we quite agree. The site is interactive, and welcomes your contributions and comments.
Big Orange Landmarks, penned by the hirsute Floyd B. Bariscale, is one of those stunt blogs that the kids are all talking about. Only instead of cooking his way through the Larousse Gastronomique or eating nothing but peanut brittle and tracking the results, Floyd is working his way chronologically through the historic-cultural monuments of our great city, documenting the histories, providing new photographs, crowing when delighted and quite frankly stating his disappointment when the journey proves more than the destination. He's up to #75, over on Carroll Avenue in Angelino Heights, but we'll have to wait a while until he reaches Bob's Market, just steps away, but numbered 215.
September 17, 1927
When two amateur fighters faced each other in the boxing ring at the Cudahy Athletic Club in Bell, each expected to emerge victorious…they could never have imagined that one of them would die.
The young pugilists had been promised two dollars apiece by fight promoter and referee, A. De Weese. Harold Williams, seventeen, of 580 Wilcox Avenue, Bell, was upright for barely two minutes before he was knocked to the canvas three consecutive times by James Campbell, nineteen, of 4549 East Sixth Street, Los Angeles. Harold died of a brain hemorrhage at the scene.
At the coroner’s inquest Harold’s brother Loren who had witnessed the fight, stated that Harold was given a “long count” (longer than ten seconds) by referee De Weese and so was allowed to continue fighting when he should have been counted out. De Weese and Campbell were arrested for manslaughter and each held on $10,000 (119,712.07 USD 2007 dollars) bail. Charges against them would be dismissed when Municipal Judge Baird ruled that there had been no violation of the California Penal Code.
Harold’s may be one of the saddest long counts, but the most famous long count in boxing history is still five days in the future.
The much anticipated rematch between defending heavyweight champion Gene Tunney, the “Fighting Marine”, and former champion Jack Dempsey, the “Manassa Mauler”, will be held at Solider Field in Chicago on September 26, 1927. Tunney will dominate for the first six rounds, but during the seventh round he will find himself in a corner being pummeled by a savage combination of punches that will drive him to the floor.
Referee Dave Barry ordered Dempsey to return to a neutral corner, but the former champ ignored him for approximately nine seconds. Those few seconds would prove crucial. According to the rules the referee was not allowed to begin the count until Dempsey had returned to a neutral corner. It is very likely that Dempsey’s delay cost him the championship. Tunney had thirteen to sixteen seconds to recover during the long count.
Tunney dropped Dempsey briefly during the eighth round – he retained his title and retired undefeated.
Dempsey retired after his bout with Tunney and opened a restaurant in New York City.
Event: Weds, Jun 13 2007, 6:30-8:00pm
In anticipation of our upcoming Esotouric bus adventure John Fante: Dreams of Bunker Hill, we will be hosting the inaugural meeting of the Nobody Reads In L.A. book club at Lost Souls Cafe in downtown Los Angeles. The book under discussion: John Fante's classic tale of a downtown writer's struggles, Ask The Dust. Buy your copy at Metropolis Books around the corner from Los Souls, say you are a friend of Bandini's, and get 10% off the cover price.
Crack that spine, and we'll see you there!
Lisa Sweetingham of CourtTV rode the Halloween Horrors Crime Bus, and reports in with a charming little feature she calls "The bus ride to hell, and back."
LOS ANGELES — "Ladies and gentlemen, this tour should not be taken by anyone with a heart condition ... We recommend you leave the bus immediately." A tour guide makes the announcement as the doors slam shut on our filled-to-capacity 56-seat cruising bus. We are rolling into Los Angeles noir, embarking on an exhaustive five-hour tour of grisly crime scenes and lesser Halloween hijinks from the '20s to the '50s.
The 1947project's inaugural Halloween Horrors crime bus tour is touted as a BYOBB (Bring Your Own Barf Bag) event. And no children are allowed.
So why is there a clown breathing down my neck?
Crimebo the crime clown (aka Michael Perrick) bares his teeth and purrs in a gravelly voice as he walks down the aisle with a cauldron full of cheap candy, some shaped like eyeballs. "Something sticky?" he offers.
He pops a balloon animal and quips, "These things just keep committing suicide."
Kindly click to read on.
Crimebo the Crime Clown is regularly available for party and event bookings within the metro Los Angeles area, and phone greetings anywhere. Out of town trips and other unusual requests can sometimes be accomodated, so please ask. For more info, visit his page at Esotouric.
Interested? Contact us with any questions, or to ask if your desired date and time are available. If you want the personalized touch, please include dates of the honoree's birthday or anniversary (if different from the event date), so Crimebo can research all the terrible things that happened on that date.
Inspired by the birthday wishlist of LA Brain Terrain blogiste Adrienne Crew, Rodger Jacobs has posted his own five-things-most-desired list, and asks that your humble editrix do the same. It is not nice to stir peoples' covetousness. I can not rest until such a selection is compiled. And so:
1) a landscape by Léon Spilliaert
2) a green Fortuny Delphos gown
3) the full set of Grandville's fleurs animes, still in the book and not canibalized for prints.
4) an image of Bruges by Fernand Khnopff
5) A forty-year-old dioscora macrostachys from the California Cactus Center
Tagging: Nathan Marsak, Richard Schave, Ryan at Losanjealous, L.A. City Nerd
Lea Lion of the Los Angeles Downtown News rode along on the first Nightmares of Bunker Hill tour, and wrote a cool and moody piece about it in this week's paper.
Nathan and I were appropriately thrilled when the legendary Gary Leonard took our picture, and we even made the front page (under the fold). You can pick up a copy most anywhere in the middle of LA, or read it online.
***** Murder, an Acid Attack and More Downtown Fun 'Nightmares of Bunker Hill' Bus Tour Finds an Audience by Lea Lion I sneak a peak at the other passengers on the bus and wonder why they are really all here. It is Easter Sunday morning and we're idling in a deserted Lincoln Heights parking lot, waiting for a couple of latecomers to arrive. Of course, I know exactly why we're here, but there is still something a little strange about the fact that a busload of people have elected to pay $47 a head to devote five sunny Sunday hours to a tour of Downtown's most notorious crime scenes of the past century. We've gathered for the provocatively titled tour "Nightmares of Bunker Hill," and as we wait, I start to feel a little suspicious of my fellow crime bus riders and their hunger for tales of long-ago murder and mayhem. The whole thing reeks of a sensational headline, maybe something like, "Maniac Trails Reporter Home From Crime Tour!" I'm trying to keep my paranoia in check, when the man sitting across the aisle, a fellow solitary rider, leans over and introduces himself. He's Victor de Anda, a West L.A. native who works in the film industry. Soon he slides over to the comfy coach seat next to mine and starts telling me about the Jack the Ripper-themed walking tour he caught on a recent London vacation. Eventually, the stragglers show up, and de Anda's story of murdered prostitutes gives way to a bus rolling along the narrow, bungalow-lined streets of Lincoln Heights into Downtown. We stop in front of a police car graveyard on the outskirts of Chinatown and a man dressed in a 1940s broad-shouldered suit, complete with vest and pocket watch, stands up. This turns out to be tour guide Nathan Marsak, who delivers a rapid-fire account of a turn-of-the-century crime that occurred roughly 50 feet to the right of the bus. "May 12, 1887," Marsak states bluntly. He pauses dramatically before continuing. "Imagine a Victorian rooming house - Queen Anne with turrets and gingerbread - right over there." He gestures towards the parking lot and then dives into the story of a woman who threw a bottle of acid in her lover's face. Marsak ends the story with a descriptive edict: "Picture him tumbling down the steps grabbing his face." Without missing a beat, Marsak's partner-in-crime and fellow tour guide Kim Cooper launches into another grisly tale. Dressed in a vintage printed dress, Cooper stands at the front of the bus and details the story of the longhaired "Sanchez girl," who was starved to death by her parents circa 1900. Her ghost is rumored to haunt a stretch of Broadway. Twisted Sensibilities Self-professed (obviously) crime buffs, Marsak and Cooper are co-founders of the blog the "1947project" (1947project.com), which last year gained a fair amount of buzz as it documented that year's most newsworthy crimes - from the heinous to the quirky - in a day-by-day account frequently accompanied by photographs. After completing the full calendar year of 1947, the duo has moved on, or, more accurately, turned back the clock. This year they're blogging like it's 1907, and the bus tour is a way both to promote the site and to share their enthusiasm and knowledge. The year 1907, said Marsak, "fulfilled our giddy enthusiasm for Edwardian-era Los Angeles." He loudly exhaled a puff of cigarette smoke. "People always go on about the good ol' days and so forth and so on and we serve as a gentle reminder that there was as much villainy and mayhem and dastardly deeds then as now." Marsak and Cooper dig up most of their crime stories from local newspaper archives. According to Marsak, all it takes is a little imagination and a lot of ingenuity. "The papers were rather circumspect, so you have to learn to read between the lines," Marsak said. "The 'yellow' papers were more sensationalistic, so when you want to get the full story you read the Times and then you have to go down to the archives and go read the Examiner and the Herald." Cooper describes her researching technique as "very improvisational." "I tend to do it in the witching hour," Cooper said with a laugh. "I get into the online L.A. Times archive and I start coming up with words that might trigger an interesting story. I'll use a particular keyword like 'gruesome' or 'ghastly' or 'severed' or 'weird' or 'gun' or 'police' and just see where it takes me." The division of labor has Cooper looking through old newspaper files, while Marsak drives around locating historic crime sites and documenting the "what's there now" aspect. It's a tactic that has an intriguing tie to modern Downtown Los Angeles - 99 years ago, before the extensive sprawl of the city, most of the action occurred around Downtown. Cooper and Marsak's shared fascination dates back to when they met as undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz. In the past, the pair has done a noir-style radio show called "Manny Chavez" and hosted a Black Dahlia-themed bus tour that also included many stops in Downtown. The "Nightmares of Bunker Hill" tour was a quick sell-out, and the duo has scheduled another one for June 10. "I think Nathan and I both have pretty twisted sensibilities, but we are not dark people," Cooper said. "We are much more colored by the Addams Family than by Charles Manson." Back on the Bus During the five-hour tour, we do in fact learn that Downtown has an often gruesome past. Surprisingly, a whole slew of sometimes horrific, sometimes humorous acts took place in the early 1900s around New High Street in what is now Chinatown. According to our tour guides, the area was a hotspot for bar brawls, gambling houses and opium dens. It was also the site of at least one gypsy kidnapping and an out-of-control goat (in separate incidents). Countless brutal murders, fake seances and severed limbs later, I am getting to know my fellow riders. It seems the event has drawn everyone from history buffs to high school teachers to aficionados who have already hit all the other tours in the city. As we pull in at 5 p.m. I lean over and ask de Anda which tour he liked better, "Nightmares of Bunker Hill" or Jack the Ripper?
"Well, the Jack the Ripper tour was at night, so it was much, much scarier," de Anda said. "I guess I'll have to go with that one."
That may be the case, but Jack the Ripper didn't have brutal slayings, ghosts and acid attacks so close to where I work. So when the bus finally rumbles up to the end of the line and disgorges its passengers, I run for my car.
April 19, 1907
north of Monrovia
It seems the rumors are true: there really is a wild man living in the remote reaches of Big Santa Anita Canyon! He was seen this week by two brave boys from Monrovia, Charles Crandall and Sherman Black, who climbed high into the hills, past the old Sturtevant camp, to the West Fork, then about two miles above Clam Shell Canon. It was there they encountered the living myth.
The wild man has long been rumored to live in the caves high above civilization, and to be insane. The creature the Monrovians spied was old and yellow skinned, with long claws on his hands, a wild beard and stooped figure. He was surprised in the doorway of his rude dwelling, a windowless concrete hut with live oak rafters, but slammed the door when they attempted to make conversation.
The young men of Monrovia are not to be so easily snubbed. Even now, an exploration party is being assembled, with the intention of learning more about what makes the wild man tick.
April 8, 1907
R. Crawford Smith, a wealthy Cincinnati bachelor who died in February, aged 61, spent the past several years living amongst strangers in Los Angeles. For a long while, he called the Hotel Melrose on Grand Avenue his home, and more recently had lived with familes on McClintock Avenue and South Olive Street.
His two brothers, William E. and A. Denniston Smith, have come from the east after Crawford's death to inquire how it is that his will, which was to have split his $100,000 fortune equally between them and two sisters, acquired late codiciles leaving $17,000 to three females, rumored to be practictioners of Spiritualism, all residents of this city. The Smiths have hired Attorney Charles Cassat Davis to handle the challenge.
E.Z. Barrett, husband of the woman willed $10,000, says his wife Dora befriended a sad old man, and was repaid for her kindness with the posthumous gift. Mediumship had nought to do with it--though Dora is a popular lecturer on the subject, who has been known to give public demonstrations of her ability to commune with those who have "passed over." Mr. Barrett stresses however that Dora is not a medium of the typical type.
Pasadena high school teacher Miss Lottie Livingston was willed $5000 from the Smith coffers, and Mrs. Lola Swilling, whose husband is said to be an Army officer stationed in Cuba, has a $2000 gift promised her.
Smith's few local friends recall him as a lonesome, ill and melancholy man, a believer in Spiritualism who sought out Mrs. Barrett and frequently visited her home in his last days, apologizing for being a burden but saying how much he appreciated being among friends.
The late man's estate was largely held in property, including a hotel at the southeast corner of Hope and Sixth Streets here.
Won't you please join us on Saturday June 10th, for our second tour of the downtown area to explore some of the weirdest criminal and spectral happenings of the past century?
Each ticket costs $47, and entitles the bearer to a 5-hour guided tour on a n air-conditioned luxury coach, snacks, beverages and the fascinating company of fifty-some fellow crime and social history buffs.
Tickets may be purchased here, via paypal:
Or if you prefer to pay by check, just get in touch and we will hold your seat.
Tomorrow, at 10am, 10:40am and 11:20am, you can tune in to KFWB radio 980-AM to hear several different features on the upcoming Nightmares of Bunker Hill Crime Bus Tour, Sunday April 16 (Easter), noon-5pm.
If you were holding off reserving your seat, we suggest you email me promptly to reserve, because the radio spots might well cause the Easter bus to sell out. We will run this tour again soon if demand so indicates.
March 30, 1907
Newlyweds Mr. and Mrs. Paul Solf, a couple from Denver who have been honeymooning at the Estelle at 312 1/2 West First Street, paid a visit to the police this evening at the insistence of the lady.
Paul Solf told the desk sergeant that he had returned to their room earlier, to find his wife reading a letter from a former admirer. As he snatched it away, a photograph fell out, and the pair commenced to arguing. After a time, Mrs. Solf said that if he did not accompany her to the police station, she would call for them herself. Thinking she was bluffing, he joined her in a perambulation towards Central Station.
Upon entering, Mrs. Solf declared that Paul Solf had threatened her with a revolver. He denied this, but a quick search revealed a heavy revolver on his person. Solf was locked up, while officers determined that he had a letter for $5000 credit from a Denver bank, and nearly as much in cash. On reflection, Mrs. Solf decided she didn't wish to prosecute, but officers still plan to charge him for carrying a concealed weapon.
Solf is a race horse man, and his bride a bit of a gambler.
March 27, 1907
After visiting her Chinese husband in the County Jail, Mrs. Yee Lung (also called Mrs. Frank Chew) spoke of her intention to join her beloved as he was deported, and to travel with him in the train car packed with forty other Chinese deportees for the trip up to San Francisco.
Special permission has been granted by the U.S. Marshall for her to ride with her husband. They will immediately board a boat to Hong Kong, and the woman may never again see her white friends relatives in this country.
Mrs. Lung's friends have pleaded with her to reconsider, but she insists "I trust my husband implicitly... he wouldn't go without me, and I wouldn't be so cruel as to ask him to."