O Brave New World, That Has Raymond Chandler In It!
We're getting comfortable with virtual storytelling, and look forward all week to spending our Saturdays exploring Los Angeles with friends near and far.
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.
Six days ago, we sat down in front of the green screen in our new home video production studio (AKA Richard’s office) and hit the START button on a new way of telling the stories of Los Angeles.
It was a peculiar feeling watching the clock tick down to Saturday noon, the hour when for thirteen years we would do a head count against the passenger manifest—“count twice, leave once”—then close the door of the tour bus and begin our road show.
Even though the “Inside the Bradbury Building” webinar was a virtual event, showtime is showtime, and the butterflies in our stomachs felt as real as ever. We looked at each other, then at the clock. Then the lights flicked on, our floating faces appeared on the screen with George Wyman’s landmark 1893 office building behind us, and we jumped into the deep end.
Instead of 50 people arrayed in rows of two, we had nearly 200 viewers tuning in from their homes in Southern California, across the USA and in other nations. We couldn’t see their faces, but their names appeared in the sidebar chat panel. Some were familiar characters who have joined us on numerous tours over the years, some we’ve never met before, and a couple of them were our moms.
All had come together at noon Los Angeles time to explore the history and lore of a building that fascinates on first glance, and that rewards repeated visits and inquiry. If they were wearing silk pajamas, it wasn’t any business of ours, as we unpacked the tale of the Bradbury from 1893 to 2020, illustrated with rare archival images and photos we’ve taken of non-public spaces, with a special focus on the people whose lives have become entwined with the landmark.
Joining us “inside” the Bradbury Building for the Q&A session at the end of the presentation was a special guest, Paul McKelvey. Paul grew up in the building that his father Terry managed, and as he grew from a boy to a man, his responsibilities evolved from watering the ferns to overseeing seismic retrofitting work.
Having Paul join us gave such a tangible sense of the golden thread of responsible stewardship that has given all of us the pleasure of knowing something as beautiful as the Bradbury Building still stands, well cared for, still of service, in the heart of the city.
When the show was over and Richard switched off the camera and the lights, for a moment we missed the traditional post-tour ritual of hanging out with our “gentle riders” at Urban Radish market, signing books, answering questions, getting a snack.
But soon our inbox began to fill with feedback and questions from attendees, and they didn’t let up all weekend.
And we realized that this new Esotouric storytelling model, forced on us by the pandemic, isn’t really so different from what we’ve been doing all these years. It’s our job to bring historic Los Angeles landmarks into focus, not just as pretty postcard pictures, but as living, breathing, evolving cogs in the urban engine. By immersing ourselves in recorded history, and spending time inside these places getting to know their caretakers and the marks left behind by long public use, we can tell stories that have never been told before.
So it doesn’t really matter if we’re all moving through town together on and off an enclosed coach class bus, or if we’re gathered around individual glowing screens. The end result is the same: letting you feel like an insider, too.
As we gear up for tomorrow’s “Inside The Dutch Chocolate Shop” (October 3), we’d like to thank each one of you who has supported us in this new virtual Esotouric series, by buying a webinar ticket, by commenting on social media or sharing the link online, by emailing your feedback and suggestions for future topics. We couldn’t do what we do without you, and are so grateful for the opportunity to make a living sharing our obsessions.
Tomorrow’s webinar is an immersive visit to Ernest Batchelder’s Dutch Chocolate Shop, a fascinating space that over 106 lively years has been home to an elegant tea room, a faddish health food restaurant, a cheap cafeteria beloved by taxi drivers, a quack medical clinic and a funky marketplace. We’ll zoom in close to expose hidden details as you join us in imagining the landmark’s next chapter.
Next up is Black Dahlia Days: Sleuthing out Beth Short’s Southern California (October 10), with special guest Joan Renner. Two true crime historians (and one patient husband) invite you to dig deeper into the case that haunts us, and explore some time capsule landmarks where the crime and its cultural impact still feel as fresh as a new bruise.
And just announced is Shaking The Raymond Chandler Tree: New Discoveries About L.A.’s Master Detective Novelist (October 17).
While traveling in Chandler’s footsteps over thirteen years of tours, we’ve made some bombshell discoveries that that transform our understanding of who Raymond Chandler really was, while illuminating personal mysteries he intended to take with him to the grave. Join us for a virtual tour of the time capsule places that he immortalized in fiction, to get to know the fascinating, private man behind the hard-boiled persona.
Stay tuned as we roll out a new webinar program each Saturday. And remember that if you can’t watch live or need to leave mid-stream, you can tune in to the recording for one full week. There’s still time to go “Inside the Bradbury Building” through Saturday night, and we’d love to see you tomorrow to explore the Dutch Chocolate Shop.
In these weird times, it’s a pleasure to dig through the thousands of photos we’ve taken on tours, in research libraries, and poking around weird corners of the city, piecing together the puzzle pieces that reveal the places we want you to know better.
These places are still out there, just waiting for us to get our collective act together and start making Los Angeles history on the spot once again! Until that happy day, we’ll see you in the webinars.
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.
WANT TO SUPPORT OUR WORK?
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.
AND WHAT'S THE NEXT TOUR? WHO KNOWS?!
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.
AND FINALLY, LINKS
RoadTrip! 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 estate of Robert Evans is being auctioned off at Julien's, including this bitchy telegram exchange with Francis Ford Coppola, an epic expression of coked out egomania.
The out of state developer seeking to demolish Taix French Restaurant has updated the design for their upzoned monstrosity. Spoiler: it still looks cheap and ugly. As two visions battle for the soul of Echo Park, save the date for the landmark hearing on October 15.
Department store historian Michael Lisicky writes in the Forbes opinion section about the threat facing Boyle Heights' historic Sears store. Scoop: The Shomofs have dropped plans for loft living in the warehouse.
Tract map permit filed to transform Welton Becket's Capitol Records tower into mixed use with senior apartments, develop the surrounding parking lots.
After the auction, trying to unpack the nebulous plans for the Pacific Dining Car. It will be filled with aging meat?
Alpine Village landmarked by unanimous vote of the County Supervisors! Now to get this special place into the hands of owners who care to make it successful. There is so much potential in this kitschy, charming pocket of old Europe in the South Bay of L.A.
Lobbyist Morrie Goldman pleaded guilty to conspiring with Jose Huizar to sell out Angelenos to greedy developers, run illegal PAC for Richelle Huizar. His attorney wants you to know Morrie was a man of integrity before sleazy Huizy corrupted him. Advocacy like that is why you don’t go with the public defender.
On October 5, Bunker Hill historian Nathan Marsak is live "from" Vroman's Bookstore with an illustrated talk about the lost neighborhood and his beautiful new book packed with never before seen images. Throw a little business this 126-year-old shop's way!
Suddenly frugal, LACMA is selling director Michael Govan's rent-free house for $6.6 Million, and we want to know what happened to the fireplace. Looks like it blew up in someone's face, much as the Zumthor remodel has.
Frank Gehry can drape a napkin over his head, but Michael Govan’s folly will still be a nightmare Angelenos have to live with when the lights come on again. That’s why the Save LACMA nonprofit is putting a measure on the ballot to force accountability.
How many times must Angelenos organize to fight proposals to run commercial trams through Griffith Park? It's illegal under the terms of the Griffith gift, and a waste of citizen energy and civic resources. Stop it!
Four years ago, Jose Huizar and then AG Kamala Harris thought it was a great idea for a commercial property developer to upzone Boyle Heights' historic, culturally Japanese senior care center. It was wrong then, and it's horrifying now. BHNC, Maxine Waters and the JA community are still fighting.
Grand Central Market now has a marketwide delivery service, so now you can scratch your Chiles Secos mole and Sarita's pupusa itch without leaving the house.