Announcing a second immersive webinar, “Inside The Dutch Chocolate Shop” (10/3)

Tune in live to participate in the Q&A, or at your leisure for a week

Gentle reader,

Greetings from your friendly historic Los Angeles sightseeing tour company, now offering digital programming until we can again organize groups to gather and explore the city we love.

We’re both delighted and encouraged by the response to our debut webinar program Inside the Bradbury Building (September 26), and have had to “bump up” to a higher streaming tier so more folks can attend.

Thank you to everyone who signed up and told a friend. If you haven’t yet booked your spot, you can do so up until showtime, which will let you watch live, or to stream the recording for up to a week.

Our plan for the fall season is to offer a new webinar each Saturday, and to announce the topic two weeks out. Just listed is Inside the Dutch Chocolate Shop (October 3), a deep dive into the history and lore of Ernest Batchelder’s tiled Arts & Crafts masterpiece. Even if you’ve visited this landmark on one of our Lowdown on Downtown tours, you’ll find much that’s fresh and unexpected in this virtual visit.

Last night, we went live on Facebook to preview the upcoming webinars and the visual language of the mmhmm software that lets our talking heads share the screen with the environments and archival material we’ll be exploring. Click here or on the photo to have a look.

We try not to let external forces shape our moods, but frankly it’s been tough to be cut off from our work of telling stories and bringing people into the places we love. We know how lucky we are to make a living from our passions these last thirteen years, and we’re deeply appreciative for every person who has “gotten on the bus” to spend a few hours immersed in our world.

Many times, a guest has taken us aside during a snack break to ask if we’ve ever thought about taking Esotouric online. We’ve always said we didn’t want to do that, because creating a temporary community of urban explorers was as much a part of the experience as what we had to share.

But that was in a pre-pandemic world, when we had a choice. Today, it feels exciting to be starting out with new tools and a fresh format, and to again create a sense of togertheness. We always loved spending our Saturday afternoons with folks with shared interests, and are buoyed by the chance to return to that happy schedule.

We hope you’ve been holding on to the good things that sustain you, that the links below send you down some enjoyable rabbit holes, and that you might give us a chance to bring our sweet city into your home sometime soon.

yours for Los Angeles,

Kim & Richard


Subscribe! In the latest subscriber's edition of this newsletter—$10/month, cheap!—Archeological Explorations in Downtown's Mayan Theatre—the exotic architecture is spectacular, but it's some pencil stub scribblings on a plain cement wall that really blew our mind. Not a subscriber? Sneak a peek here.


If you enjoy all we do to celebrate and preserve Los Angeles history and would like to say thank you, please consider signing up for the subscriber’s edition of this newsletter, or putting a little something into our digital tip jar. Looking for something L.A.-centric to enliven your collection? We’ve got a swell selection of local history books and maps, some written by us, others sourced from dusty warehouses. For a wider selection, Bookshop uses the power of distributor Ingram to help independent bookstores stick around. We've curated a selection of uniquely Los Angeles titles, and when you order from these links, it supports participating local shops, and us, too. You can also click here before shopping on Amazon. Or you can reserve a gift certificate to join us for a tour once we're back on the road (tour gift certificates will also be redeemable for the lower priced ticketed webinars while tours are on hiatus)... & if you love what we do, please tell your friends.


We're dark until public health officials determine that groups can gather safely. But in addition to weekly webinar programs, we've got 138 episodes of the podcast You Can't Eat The Sunshine free to download for armchair explorers, and videos of the Downtown L.A. LAVA walking tours, plus Cranky Preservationist videos.


Road Trip! Although public bus tours are on hiatus, we still get around on our social distancing road trips around our beloved Los Angeles. Be a virtual backseat companion when you click the #esotouricroadtrip hashtag, on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

The Getty’s newly launched Ed Ruscha streetscape photo portal continues to deliver cool discoveries. Our fingers itch imagining the cheap vintage treasures at The Aaardvark's Odd Ark (reviewed, fascinating founder Joe Stromei)… Burrito King mini mall has so many little burros wearing crowns… Echo Park’s Sunset Bar (RIP), as seen in the opening credits of Barfly… The eternally festive Vine-American Party Store… The case of the missing columns… Bikini Bar Maids once plied their trade on Melrose… Raymond Chandler’s agent’s office.. Aron’s Records digs Frank Zappa… A doggy diner… Lucy and Ernie feed your tummy and eyes… Paramount Studios ate a dive bar… XXX signage lost and found… Eastman Kodak’s gorgeous Hollywood HQ… And this 1974 view might just help ensure Les Freres Taix French Restaurant gets the landmark status it deserves.

HBO’s Perry Mason is a virtual culinary tour of early Los Angeles. Featuring Ptomaine Tommy’s and our beloved Philippe’s, and the not-actually-Angeleno Boo Koo Burgers (it was in Texas, but a cute joint nonetheless).

The King Edward Hotel on old Skid Row is nominated for National Register status. If so designated, we believe it would be the first gay tea room to receive such an honor. PDF link (see page 8).

Artist Sheila Klein says "I started crocheting street lights in advance of reinstalling Vermonica- we are beginning to mobilize. Please stay tuned" as our most provocative preservation battle comes to a joyous conclusion.

Amazing 1961 Mel Hall radio aircheck on San Diego's KDEO "the sound of tomorrow" with an ad for "lady contractor" Louise Mary Severin's modern duplex rentals Severin Manor at 5:42.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation's PastForward conference will be virtual this year, with a focus on diversity and climate change, and scholarship opportunities for underrepresented communities. And the California Preservation Awards programs are both virtual and free.

We live tweeted a preservation-focused Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council committee meeting, focusing on Breed Street Shul and the the threat that the elderly Japanese Keiro/ Sakura Gardens tenants will be displaced for redevelopment. (Watch the whole meeting on Zoom with passcode 7=5H9&tt )

Happy news for Angels Flight fans: the landmark funicular railway has returned to service, following all recommended COVID-19 protocols. Take a time travel trip today!

Noir data diving in the new Circulating American Magazines project: running the circulation numbers for "The Maltese Falcon" in Black Mask. Virtual launch event on 10/5.

Highlights of a new addition to USC's Special Collections: Archiving Olive View: 100 Years of Public Health in Los Angeles on Zoom on 9/24.

"My Ultimate Pandemic Life Hack: Just Living in a Hotel." But the "hotel" is Villa Carlotta, the legendary rent controlled apartment paradise that City Council let CGI turn into a flophouse. For shame!

We are utterly heartbroken. RIP Pacific Dining Car (1921-2020), with fixtures up for auction. No more Eggs Sardou at 3 in the morning served by the sweetest old guys in the world. What will be left of our shared culture when the lights come on again? We went looking, but couldn’t find an answer.

Historic-Cultural Monument hearing scheduled for Howard Hughes' art deco headquarters at Romaine and Orange.

Preservation alert! Application filed for an upzoned TOC project on the site of The Silver Platter (founded 1963), the oldest gay/trans Latinx hangout in Westlake and one of the last dives still standing from the iconic Barfly neon nightlife credits.

Crooked councilman Jose Huizar and his public defenders will be accessing the Grand Juror Selection Records related to the citizens who heard the case leading to his RICO charges. He intends to challenge jury selection, and you, taxpayer, are paying for it! PDF link.

New on the Tom Waits podcast: an interview with David Smay, author of the 33 1/3 series book Swordfishtrombones and host of our springtime tour about Waits' L.A. (hopefully returning in 2021).

On our Real Black Dahlia tour, we focus not on the unsolved 1947 murder, but on who Beth Short was in life, and how the police and newspapers chased after her elusive shadow. But we do highlight one theory of the crime, and it’s a doozy.

The Chateau Marmont deserves better than the groper who owns it, and has driven its service community into the ground with union busting and toxic mismanagement.

Construction fire damages East Los Angeles' lovely Unique Theatre, the dollar store with the coolest historic details inside. A whole block of small businesses has been displaced.

The NTSB has released a public case docket as part of its investigation into the Conception dive boat fire. Interviews with the survivors and information that will inform the board's final determination of the cause of the tragedy.

Kieran (smallscaleLA) makes tiny replicas of Los Angeles landmarks, and will raffle off his latest wee treasure, Fugetsu-do Sweet Shop, to someone who contributes to the Little Tokyo Small Business Relief Fund. Mini mochi not included.

Zumthor, shmumthor. Is anybody excited by these bland LACMA gallery renderings? Our feet and eyes hurt looking at that endless hardscape. In Curbed, Alissa Walker mourns the lack of a public voice in the destruction of the museum. (That's what the Save LACMA ballot measure seeks to correct.

Holy glassed-in sneeze trap! Bet the folks behind the Dodger Stadium gondola scheme are wishing they'd gone with an open-air model right now.

History lovers and redevelopment haters are invited to tune in on 9/24 for the virtual book release celebration of our preservation pal Nathan Marsak's Bunker Hill Los Angeles, packed with unpublished photos and heartbreaking tales of all that redevelopment stole from Angelenos. He was interviewed on Air Talk and in print, and we caught him some time back in full Bunker Hill crank mode. (The book is available on Amazon or from your local independent bookseller.)

Also new from Angel City Press, a beautiful project we helped get off the ground when we introduced Janna Ireland to the publisher: Regarding Paul R. Williams: A Photographer’s View. (On Amazon, from independents)

Around 1989, Swiss comic artist Cosey captured the most beautiful east/west block on old Skid Row, and the lost Baltimore and King Edward Hotel blade signs. We dream they might one day be restored.