Crime Bus Tours

Downtown Los Angeles, 1946: Beth Short's last walk

Here's another amazing discovery from the good folks at the Internet Archive. This May 1946 night time process shot through Downtown Los Angeles was filmed by Columbia for the Rita Hayworth vehicle Down to Earth. In the picture, the actress portrays the ancient Greek Muse Terpsichore, who visits 20th century America to torment the Broadway producer who dares put on a show portraying the muses as man-crazy sluts, and Terpsichore herself as "just an ordinary dame." Sacrilege! 

It's a fitting theme for us here at 1947project. For while perturbed Terpsichore was no human female, we think she'd sympathize with the posthumous plight of Beth Short, Black Dahlia murder victim, brutalized before death by unknown assailants, and ever after subject to vile, false rumors. (No, she wasn't a prostitute. Our offshoot Esotouric offers a bus tour explaining who she really was.) 

Now thanks to Down to Earth, we have this gorgeous footage of the heart of Beth Short's post-war city, a bright, populated and thriving Downtown that is as lost to us as the cultures of the Inca or the Toltec. Click "play" and enter a place that positively thrums with energy. Marvel at the neon lights, the late-night coffee houses, the fur shops, the airline offices, the swimsuit-clad manikins, the drug stores, the theaters of Broadway (some open all night), the street life. Gasp at Clifton's Pacific Seas (demolished 1960, now a parking lot) and Clifton's Brookdale (still with us, but indefinitely closed for renovations), boggle at Alexander & Oviatt's bright-lit windows packed with the hautest of gentleman's couture, and laugh when you spy unmistakeable evidence of just how huge a star Miss Rita Hayworth was in the spring of 1946.

Beth Short spent the last half of 1946 living in Los Angeles, bouncing from cheap hotel to friends' couch and back again. Her social life centered on the nightspots of Hollywood and Downtown. This process footage contains a near-exact recreation of her final steps on the night she vanished: south along Olive Street away from the Biltmore Hotel, then left on Eighth Street, where we are rewarded with two astonishingly rare views of the Crown Grill, the last place she was seen alive. 

Knowing what we do, the stylized crown above the bar's entrance looks an awful lot like a death's head, doesn't it?

Screen grab, 1946 "Down To Earth" process shot

As a time travel portal, this clip rates among the finest. Blow it up big on your screen, sit back with a cup of something soothing, and be transported.

Newsflash: win the "People Take Warning!" box set

Gentle reader,

When not trawling the archives for tales of past century misbehavior, several of your 1947project / On Bunker Hill bloggers host Esotouric bus adventures on themes of crime, literature, architecture and rock and roll. You'll see our upcoming events calendar in the sidebar, but to really stay informed about these popular and provocative tours, you want to subscribe to our weekly email announcement list, packed with sneak previews, links to tour photos, discount offers and contests.

This week's announcement went out on Tuesday, and includes a drawing to win a copy of the astonishing box set "People Take Warning! Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs 1913-1938," the musical equivalent of one of our crime bus tours. The lucky winner will be picked on July 4, and you still have a chance to enter. Just email and say "put me on the list, I want to win PTW" and we'll sign you up and send you the most recent announcement, where you'll also find a discount offer for the July 12 New Chinatowns urban history tour ending with a dim sum /wine tasting, news of a repeat edition of Visionary Hollywood and of the upcoming Crawling Down Cahuenga: Tom Waits LA.

Another good reason to get on the list: when James Ellroy offered his sold out James Ellroy Digs L.A. tours over the Christmas holidays, most everyone who snagged a ticket was an Esotouric mailing list subscriber. By the time word spread out among civilians, the bus was full.

To Do: Prune Your Roses in Memory of Beth Short

Gentle reader,

Today is a terrible day in Los Angeles history, the 61st anniversary of the morning when Elizabeth Short, soon to be infamous as the Black Dahlia, was discovered dead and cut in two in a vacant lot in Leimert Park. Each January 15, our friend and Dahlia-ologist Larry Harnisch likes to prune his roses and think of Beth. Richard already pruned our roses this morning, and as they come back to lovely life we will remember this little lost girl. She would have been 83 years old, had she lived.

On Sunday, the Esotouric bus rolled south from Vroman's Bookstore with a full bus of charming people for the debut of Richard's new manifestation of our flagship tour THE REAL BLACK DAHLIA. We were seen off by the delightful Queen Mickie, taking a break from her Doodah Parade preparations to christen the bus with champagne... bubblebath! Then we headed downtown, to explore the psychology and deep mysteries of Beth Short's last hours, visiting the places she frequented, examining the characters who touched her, in life and in death and coming to some understanding of who this strange girl was and what brought her to Los Angeles and her early death.

See photos from this tour here:
http://blackdahliavromans1-13-08.notlong.com/

And see Queen Mickie in the Doodah Parade next Sunday:
http://www.pasadenadoodahparade.info/

This Saturday, 1/19, we offer my personal favorite of our true crime tours, BLOOD AND DUMPLINGS, a criminal and gastronomical excursion into the deeply bizarre criminal and cultural history of the San Gabriel Valley. Meet lions and nazis and hypodermic-jabbing lesbians, religious zealots obsessed with pyramid power, a lesser-known Manson Family victim, James Ellroy's iconic murdered mother Geneva, Phil Spector and his hillside castle, deadly trailer parks and actual sea monsters, who will keep you company as you gobble down a dumpling feast from 101 Noodle Express, one of Jonathan Gold's top LA restaurants. Join us do, and reserve your spot today by emailing me or buying online at http://www.esotouric.com/bnd-1-19-08

As always, we offer 15% off for KCRW members, and a $30 discount when you purchase a 4-tour Season Pass, which can be applied retroactively for folks who have ridden a recent tour. Email for more info or visit the website to reserve your spot on the unpredictable floating LA think tank that is the Esotouric bus.  

yrs,
Kim

Upcoming Esotouric bus tour schedule (new tours starred):
Sat Jan 19- Blood & Dumplings San Gabriel Valley Crime Bus Tour
San Jan 26- Weird West Adams Crime Bus Tour
Sat Feb 2- Where the Action Was Hollywood Rock and Roll Tour
*Sat Feb 16- Wild Wild West Side Crime Bus Tour
*Sat Feb 23- Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles: The Many Downtowns
*Sat Mar 1- Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles: Route 66 (on Banham's birthday weekend)
*Sat Mar 8- Raymond Chandler's Bay City (West Los Angeles Chandler tour)
Sun Mar 9- Haunts of a Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski's Los Angeles (on the anniversary of his death)
Sat Mar 15- Vroman's Bookstore presents Pasadena Confidential

Spend Xmas With the Demon Dog on the James Ellroy Digs L.A. Bus Tour

UPDATE: 12/22 has sold out, 12/29 tour was added and sold out within a day... but you can still get on the waiting lists!

Gentle reader,

We are giddy to announce that our Christmas week tour will be a very special event: "James Ellroy Digs L.A."

Our host on the tour will be the acclaimed crime novelist and memoirist whose highly personal take on L.A.'s underworld from the 1940s through the 1960s is as captivating as it's horrifying.

Passengers will gather on Saturday 12/22 at Arnie Morton's downtown (which is opening specially for our group at noon, with a limited snack and bar menu), then get on the bus at 1pm sharp for James Ellroy's personal guided tour through the city that haunts his dreams and inspires his art.
 
We'll accompany the author on an uncensored time travel journey to tony Hancock Park, where he stalked his teenage classmates and later broke into houses. . . to the Hollywood flats to explore some of the heinous 1950s murder cases that fascinated him as a youth and continue to feed his obsessions. . . and out to El Monte, where his mother Geneva was murdered, the unsolved crime that runs through all his work, from "The Black Dahlia" to "My Dark Places."
 
When asked what passengers could expect on this tour, James Ellroy said, "I dig L.A. because I'm from here. My parents hatched me in a cool locale. I'm desperate to impress people, I'm a good talker, I know a shitload about L.A. and I want to share it. On this tour, you'll get L.A. crime and social history on an unparalleled AND intimate scale."
 
So get on the bus at Arnie Morton's in downtown LA on December 22 and spend your holidays with the demon dog of American literature, on what's sure to be the coolest ticket in town.

Tickets are $60/person, available from http://www.esotouric.com/ellroy or by emailing to reserve and then sending a check. Seats are extremely limited on this special event tour; and sorry, no discounts or Esotouric season pass tickets will be honored.
 
Upcoming Esotouric bus tour schedule:
Sat Nov 17  – Pasadena Confidential tour
Sat Dec 8 - Raymond Chandler's LA
Sat Dec 15 - James M. Cain's So California Nightmare
Sat Dec 22 – James Ellroy Digs L.A.
Sun Jan 15 - Vroman's edition, The Real Black Dahlia
 

Dahlia surprises/ James Cain's deathday/ Crimebo awaits you

Gentle reader,

1) Saturday's edition of "The Real Black Dahlia" was a reminder that, as
many times as we may offer some of these tours, this city is alive and
nebulous, and new and wonderful (or terrible!) things can happen at any
time. In this case, the new things were quite wonderful:

    a) Parked at the Hirsch Apartments (supposed murder scene according to the blackdahliasolution.org theory), I was suddenly sure that the main door was about to open, so I got off the bus just in time to catch it as some
residents went out. Soon the hallway was packed with our passengers as they
stood in the black and hideous heart of this fascinating building.
    b) At Trinity and 33rd Street, one of the floating murder scenes suggested
by John "Severed" Gilmore, some kids  were initially shocked to see a tour
bus pull up, and then delighted the passengers by holding up several
enormous Red Eared Slider turtles.
    c) We had a charming passenger named Laurie who regaled us with tales of her youth, dancing in the chorus at the Florentine Gardens and hanging out in
the nearby home of Black Dahlia suspect Mark Hansen--who, she assured us,
was a swell fella.

2) As we approach Saturday's 30th anniversary of the death of domestic noir
master James M. Cain, may I remind you of some upcoming Esotouric literary
tours? There's our passage through "Cain's Southern California Nightmare" on
December 15, the Raymond Chandler tour on December 8 (just in time for the
publication of Judith Freeman's "The Long Embrace," the first book to
explore his marriage to the mysterious Cissy), and on Cain's deathday itself
(Saturday 10/27), the new edition of "Haunts of a Dirty Old Man: Charles
Bukowski's LA," now co-hosted by "Bukowkski: Born Into This" director John

Dullaghan and now including a stop for libations at Buk's favorite liquor
store.

3) And coming up this Sunday, it's the sole 2007 edition of "Halloween
Horrors with Crimebo the Clown." This is one of our wildest tours, featuring
a selection of unusually disgusting, wacky and seasonal crimes. We've added
some hideous new locations and some chilling surprises, and the Clown has
learned new tricks that are certain to repulse, so join us do, in costume or
otherwise, on 10/28!

Tickets and additional info for all tours are available at
http://www.esotouric.com

Yrs,
Kim

Upcoming Esotouric bus tour schedule:
Sat Oct 27 ­ Haunts of a Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski's LA
Sun Oct 28 ­ Hallowe'en Horrors featuring Crimebo the Clown
Sat Nov 10 ­ Hotel Horrors and Main Street Vice tours
Sat Nov 17  ­ Pasadena Confidential tour
Sat Dec 8 - Raymond Chandler's LA
Sat Dec 15 - James M. Cain's So California Nightmare
Sun Jan 15 - Vroman's edition, The Real Black Dahlia

Book club tonight, bus tours galore

Gentle reader,

Baby, it's getting cold outside, but it's toasty on the crime bus, so join us do. Tours and events run all this weekend and next, starting with:

TONIGHT, Thurs 10/18, 7pm, LA READS: the site specific Los Angeles book club discusses Nathanael West's apocalyptic Hollywood fantasy "Day of the Locust" at Clifton's Cafeteria at 6th and Broadway downtown. http://www.lareads.com

Sat 10/20, 12-5pm, THE REAL BLACK DAHLIA: an exploration of Elizabeth Short's Los Angeles, from her 1947 death to the slew of theories, suspects and mysteries surrounding this unsolved slaying. http://www.esotouric.com/dahlia-10-20-07

Sun 10/21, 1-6pm, WHERE THE ACTION WAS: the debut rock and roll history excursion through Hollywood and West Hollywood, hosted by myself and Catalog of Cool scribe Gene Sculatti. SEE where the Velvet Underground were shut down by the man, SMELL the unconvincing coroner's verdict on Bobby Fuller's demise, TASTE psychedelic gelato crafted by Scoops exclusively for us, HEAR rare, weird and historic sounds, TOUCH the pretty colors as Esotouric takes you down the Sunset Strip and into the rock and roll past.  http://www.esotouric.com/action-10-21-07

Sat 10/27, 3-7pm, CHARLES BUKOWSKI'S LA: join Richard Schave and Buk documentarian John Dullaghan on a tender, yet loutish journey from Skid Row to Crown Hill to Hollywood (east and otherwise), in which a young man finds his place in the Post Office, and an old man finds his way as a writer. http://www.esotouric.com/buk-10-27-07

Sun 10/28, 11am-3pm, HALLOWEEN HORRORS WITH CRIMEBO THE CLOWN: only offered in October, this no-holds-barred tour of the most grisly, wacky, Halloweeny crimes and oddities to strike our city, from downtown to the eastern Valley to Hollywood and Echo Park. There will be thrills, chills, sugar rushes and disgusting photos enough to please even your blackened little heart, and the clown TRULY cannot wait to see you. http://www.esotouric.com/halloween-10-28-07

Coming up:
Hotel Horrors & Main Street Vice - Saturday November 10th
Pasadena Confidential - Saturday, Nov 17th
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles - Saturday, Dec 8th
James M. Cain's Los Angeles - Saturday, December 15th

As always, please let us know in advance if you wish to ride. We can often save seats for passengers bringing cash to the bus door (for all tours, please check in half an hour before departure) if you call Richard at 310-995-4591.

yrs,
Kim

Saturday 9/29 - Explore the San Gabriel Valley's legacy of weird crimes, sea monsters and great eats

Gentle reader,

What are you doing Saturday afternoon? Will you be among the lucky citizens exploring the strange secrets of the San Gabriel Valley and feasting on juicy dumplings on a concrete sea monster, or will you bored and kicking yourself for not getting on the Crime Bus? Read on for all you need to know to avoid that sad fate.
 
For this Saturday, September 29, Esotouric's Crime Bus offers a rare edition of its wackiest true crime and history tour, Blood & Dumplings. Tickets for the four-to-five hour luxury coach tour, including dumplings, are $60. Heading due East out of downtown for points rarely seen, the tour explores several historic communities that reflect the growth and eccentricity that are hallmarks of 20th century Los Angeles.

Crime Bus passengers will be treated to detailed descriptions of some of the most notorious, strange and fascinating forgotten tales from the past hundred years, each told at the scene of the crime. They'll thrill to the freakish case of the Man from Mars Bandit who stalked area supermarkets for months in 1951 before meeting his match in a police sharpshooter, shock to discover the deadly infighting among El Monte's American Nazi Party members, mourn the Case of the Buried Bride dragged beneath her home on her wedding day by her secret lover, gnash teeth at the weird lion farm (home to every MGM lion) that served lion meat barbecues on special occasions, and visit scenes of notorious cases including Phil Spector's spooky hilltop castle, James Ellroy's murder victim mother Geneva (the true-life inspiration for his Black Dahlia novel), neglected Manson victim Steve Parent and even an obscure East LA link to the JFK assassination.
 
And since no visit to the San Gabriel Valley is complete without a delicious Chinese meal, the Crime Bus will stop at 101 Noodle Express (one of Jonathan Gold's picks for 99 L.A. restaurants not to be missed) to pick up a dumpling feast, which will be enjoyed picnic-style at Monster Park, a remarkable sea-themed folk art environment recently saved from demolition. There passengers can enjoy their snack in the mouth of a concrete whale, or under a grinning octopus, then pose for photos with the creatures.

All this, plus stunning mid-century trailer parks, subterranean Black Panther hideouts, wild shootouts, dope-dealing druggists, missing Salvador Dali paintings, the original  "little girl down a well" television sensation, and a very strange story about ducks.

This tour is my personal favorite of all our tours, packed with more offbeat history, horror, roadside architecture and fabulous Route 66 vistas than any other. We don't offer it very often, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has been thinking about getting on the Crime Bus.

And don't forget, we offer 15% discounts for KCRW members, gift certificates, and Season Pass deals ($30 off four tours for one person) that can be applied retroactively for recent passengers.

For more info on Esotouric, or to reserve your seat, visit
http://www.esotouric.com
 
Upcoming Esotouric bus tour schedule:
Sat Sept 29 – Blood & Dumplings (San Gabriel Valley true crime tour)
Sun Oct 7– Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles (architecture/urbanism tour)
Sat Oct 20– The Real Black Dahlia tour
Sun Oct 21 – Where the Action Was (rock history tour)
Sat Oct 27 – Haunts of a Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski's LA
Sun Oct 28 – Hallowe'en Horrors featuring Crimebo the Clown

Esotouric Tours in the coming weeks

Gentle reader,

Shall we see you on the Crime Bus or a bloodless Esotouric bus adventure soon? There are some doozies coming up, and you can learn more or buy a ticket at the Esotouric website. We hope you will.

ESOTOURIC SCHEDULE 

Sat Sept 22 – In A Lonely Place: Raymond Chandler's LA tour
Sat Sept 29 – Blood & Dumplings (San Gabriel Valley true crime tour)
Sun Oct 7– Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles (architecture/urbanism tour)
Sat Oct 20– The Real Black Dahlia tour
Sun Oct 21 – Where the Action Was (rock history tour)
Sat Oct 27 – Haunts of a Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski's LA
Sun Oct 28 – Hallowe'en Horrors featuring Crimebo the Clown

Esotouric Named Best Tours by the Downtown News

We're very happy to announce that the best of issue of the Downtown News is on the stands, and Esotouric has been named Best Tours.

In 2005, Kim Cooper, Larry Harnisch and Nathan Marsak created the 1947project, a blog that chronicled a different L.A. crime for each day of that year. The project was such a success that they followed up with a similar blog detailing the sordid affairs of 1907 and 1927. Now, Cooper and others lead excursions for a tour bus company called Esotouric. The four- or five-hour adventures canvass the city, highlighting crime sites from the heinous to the quirky. This summer, Esotouric debuted "John Fante's Dreams of Bunker Hill," which visited the Downtown haunts of Arturo Bandini, the protagonist of Fante's 1939 novel Ask the Dust. In August, don't miss the Charles Bukowski birthday tour, which celebrates what would have been the author's 87th birthday. At esotouric.com.-LL

Well, if the Downtown News thinks we're doing something right with our Black Dahlia, John Fante and other downtown-centered tours, the least we can do to say thanks is to offer two new bus tours celebrating the neighborhood as it was in the wild old days.

So on September 8, we'll launch our first 90-minute Crime Bus tours, the back-to-back Hotel Horrors and Main Street Vice, with a cocktail/snack break between. You can ride one for $25 or both for $45, and we hope the lower price and shorter running time will be an opportunity for folks who've been wanting to ride for a while to join us. See you on the bus!

A Short Film About Scoops Gelato

Gentle reader,

If you've ridden the Crime Bus in LA, you've probably enjoyed Tai Kim's
extraordinary themed gelato creations, such as Guinness Tiramisu, Bacon Caramel, Black Dahlia, Nicotine and so many more.

Now there is a short film being made about Tai and the Scoops community, and the filmmakers are looking for people to interview. If interested, please visit the film website and fill out their questionnaire.

June 23: Esotouric Weird West Adams vintage dress-up tour

This is a special edition of Esotouric's rarely-offered Weird West Adams tour dedicated to our friends at the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles and the West Adams Heritage Association. Passengers are encouraged to dress in whatever period attire best suits them. Current (or brand new!) members of WAHA or ADSLA can reserve seats by phone (at 323-223-2767) or email (via our contact form) and save $5 off the $55 ticket cost, provided they pay by check. Non-members are also welcome, and can either pay by check or online using the link below.

http://www.esotouric.com/adams-6-23-07

The tour will end around 3pm, and be followed by a reception with refreshments at the Susan Wilshire Residence, a private historic home nearby. The reception precedes WAHA's Preservation Meeting on the topic of "Local History: Visual Storytelling," demonstrating the new Powerpoint narratives the city requires along with landmark applications. See old photos and ephemera related to Felix Chevrolet, the first (1878) farmhouse in Jefferson Park, a 1902 Tudor mansion on what was then Bankers' Row by USC, and a fab Craftsman/Art Nouveau mansion in Victoria Park built by Michael Shannon, LA's first traffic cop.

On this tour through the Beverly Hills of the early 20th Century, passengers thrill to the carjacking horror of silent film starlet Myrtle Gonzalez, shiver as Dream Killer Otto Parzyjegla chops his newspaper publisher boss to pieces with the paper-cutting blade, shudder at the pickled poignancy of the murder-by-brandy of Benjamin Weber, then gag at terrible fate visited on kidnap victim Marion Parker by The Fox. There will be 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.

Hope to see you there!
Kim

Debut 1947project Podcast

Greetings, citizens of the future! Click here to enjoy the debut bi-weekly podcast from your pals from the 1947project.

Featured is a lively and sometimes tasteless recap of recent crimes covered on the blog (including the Bath Township school disaster), recommended events for the next two weeks for listeners in 1927 or 2007, A Moment with Crimebo the Crime Clown, Nathan Marsak's saucy faux adverts and a sneak announcement of a top secret Crime Bus tour not otherwise available to the public.

On the mic: Kim Cooper, Crimebo the Clown (Michael Perrick), Nathan Marsak, Mary McCoy and Joan Renner. We certainly hope you find this 40 minute podcast to your liking, and thank you for your kind attention.

The Real Black Dahlia on the BBC's Pods and Blogs show

Tim Coyne of The Hollywood Podcast rode along on The Real Black Dahlia crime bus tour and prepared a cool little piece for BBC 5's Pods and Blogs program (or programme, if you will) explaining Beth Short and our fascination with 1947 LA and the odd characters in her orbit to a nation that doesn't know the case.

Here's a link to the MP3 of Tim's interview with Nathan and me. 

Crimebo and Pals on Saturday's Pasadena Confidential tour

Nathan Marsak and Crimebo the Clown

above: Nathan Marsak and Crimebo the Clown prepare for the debut performance of The Jack Parsons Story as presented by the Crimebo Players. Weird Sex! Rocketships! Space Creatures! Warlocks! Sex Slaves! Is this the Pasadena the Chamber of Commerce wants us talking about? Hmmm.... maybe not. But we sure had fun.   

The Crimebo Players present The Jack Parsons Story: The Goddess Babalon

Below, a visit to Mitchell Books, where John Mitchell held us rapt with tales of real and fictional murder.

John Mitchell fascinated Crimebo with his OJ theory in Mitchell Books

You Are There: The Esotouric Press Preview

Nathan Marsak

Last month, we previewed four of Esotouric's bus adventures for members of the press. Photographer Summer Scotland was aboard, and snapped some striking shots of the city and our hosts as we oozed across town to our rendezvous with Tai Kim's Bacon-Caramel gelato. Imagine you were there, or thrill to recall that you were, right here. Thanks, Summer!  

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