On Hallowe'en, May We Freak You Out?

with candy, costumes and tales of bad ideas that ended in the graveyard. Plus: meet a friend of Raymond Chandler, Vermonica returns and wild tales from preservation hearings.

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.

In these strange times when we’re not able to be physically with friends, it’s especially gratifying when a collaborative preservation project comes back into focus to reach a happy, if socially distanced, conclusion.

Three years ago, we became the voice of Vermonica, Sheila Klein’s marvelous urban candelabra of vintage Los Angeles streetlights that stood in an East Hollywood mini mall parking lot until the city removed it without notice. (Accept no imitations!)

Bringing Vermonica back required meetings with public agencies, sleuthing in sketchy email threads, patience, faith and consulting underground vault maps for a suitable new location. But by January, the path was clear, and Sheila Klein was making plans for a Cinco de Mayo street party to celebrate Vermonica’s rebirth.

COVID put a stop to the festivities, but not to Vermonica’s return. And on Monday, Sheila Klein will be in town to supervise the reinstallation of her beautiful Vermonica, and she wants you to help by taking photos, tagging them #vermonica2020 and sharing them on social media. We’d love to see Vermonica as you see her.

So if you’re in East Hollywood over the next couple of weeks, won’t you please welcome Vermonica home and help tell her Los Angeles story? If you don’t have social media but still want to participate, email us your photos and we’ll share them for you. More information and the new location can be found here.

Saturday’s webinar celebrates detective novelist Raymond Chandler and new discoveries we’ve made over 13 years of touring places that figure in his work. We’re delighted to announce a very special guest: Sybil Davis. Her mother Jean Fracasse was Raymond Chandler’s last secretary, and Sybil enjoyed a unique relationship with the author as that rare child who he considered a friend. You won’t want to miss Sybil’s stories.

This year, Hallowe’en falls on a Saturday with a full moon blazing in the night sky. If this was any other year, the spooky set would be pulling out all the stops with their most terrifying costumes, snacks and decorations. But since the real world is much scarier than pretend monsters, Hallowe’en 2020 celebrations must be virtual.

And we’re doing our part to make the holiday memorable. Just announced is an October 31 webinar featuring some of the strangest cases from Kim’s big book of vintage crime clippings. We think “13 Uncanny Los Angeles Crimes & Mysteries” will amuse and surprise you, and hope you can tune in, either for the livestream at noon, or all week for the recording.

And on October 24, it’s “Los Angeles Underground: Sleuthing Tunnels Lost & Found,” a cultural history of subterranean development in heart of the city. Tunnel construction brings out the nuttiest aspects of the Angeleno character, and we’ve got some wild tales to tell… and maybe a treasure hunt for the more daring among you to take on.

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 see “Black Dahlia Days: Sleuthing out Beth Short’s Southern California” through Saturday night, and “Inside the Dutch Chocolate Shop” and “Inside the Bradbury Building” are now available On-Demand, and we’d love to see you tomorrow at noon for “Shaking The Raymond Chandler Tree.”

yours for Los Angeles,

Kim & Richard


Subscribe! In the latest subscriber's edition of this newsletter—$10/month, cheap!—Leafing Through UCLA Special Collections' Eclectic Southern California Menu Holdings—rare artifacts from Walt Disney's Commissary, The Garden of Allah, Googie's, plus fried chicken, streamlined survivors and rose-hip soup. 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.

Los Angeles voters, has your vote by mail ballot arrived? It should have. Check between the pages of junk mail circulars and at the bottom of the mailbox. If it's not there, it's not too late to get a new ballot sent to you.

They call it a "Restaurant Closure Auction,” but Pacific Dining Car ownership keeps telling the press and public that we don’t understand. More lots, including this time portal photo are on the block.

Kemal Cilengir documented the emotional scene in Downtown LA, at the spontaneous celebration of the Lakers' championship win, for LA Taco. Good to see joy in the streets right now, though sadly the evening ended in chaos.

56 years ago this week, the original Taix French Restaurant closed, seized by Federal eminent domain. Yesterday in a wild hearing, the Cultural Heritage Commission agreed to consider landmark designation for "new" Taix, on a corner named for the iconic business.

Also moving forward as a potential landmark, Sister Corita Kent’s art studio. Our notes on the contentious hearing are here.

Historic-Cultural Monument nominations just filed for Reunion House (a non-temporal collaboration between Richard and Dion Neutra), for the John Van Pelt Estate (that daffy 2+ acre compound on Lyric that has been a source of preservationist anxiety since it was put on the market in July) and for Otomisan (the last Japanese diner in Boyle Heights) and the adjacent Nishiyama Residence (1890).

LACMA no longer has a sculpture garden, but three works from the County's collection are now on view at Cal State Los Angeles through 2030. Swing by the sleepy campus, presently closed for classes, and check them out.

Activists pressured Tom Gores, who profits from prison exploitation, to resign from LACMA’s board. We're encouraged to learn the public can change the make up of that dysfunctional body.

Multi-building demolition permits have been pulled for Felix Chevrolet, where the greatest neon sign in Los Angeles not only wasn't landmarked, but was adulterated with cheap, non-historic LEDs. Can it be saved?

A rather miraculous object on view at the Rare Books Los Angeles virtual book fair: Ray Bradbury's wee 1949 folk art painting of a Los Angeles LARy yellow car in a night illuminated by neon and incandescent signage.

So convenient, how two days before the Board of Building and Safety Commissioners was to consider Lincoln Hospital a public nuisance, it burns again. The BBSC can't wait to demolish, even though 40 people live inside, a landmark nomination is in the works, and a preservation minded owner wants to buy it. Our hearing blow by blow is in the comments here.

Bunker Hill Refrain is a new collaborative public history project from USC, seeking volunteers to transcribe WPA household survey cards that took a snapshot of Downtown Los Angeles' great lost neighborhood before the Federal bulldozer came. You can help!