Shhhh... We're Going on a Silent Cinema Safari and You're Invited To Come Along!

Plus sneaky business surrounds El Pino, the most famous tree in East Los Angeles

Gentle reader,

Sweetest and safest of New Years wishes 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.

These dangerous times try us all, and although we try to wear a brave face, we’re not immune to the stress or anxiety.

We’ve found one way to feel a little less stressed in 2021. Because there’s no hurry and no place else we need to be, we’ve updated our standard webinar event copy to read: “the 90 minute running time is just an estimate, and we often run long because the stories take on a life of their own. You can always come back and watch the last part of the webinar recording later." Put your feet up and enjoy, and we will, too.

We know we have a unique opportunity through our webinars, social media stream and preservation activism to create diversions that make it easier to pass the time, and through this work to remind all of us what we’re missing while unable to go out freely in Los Angeles. We are also discovering ways in which the city can reinvent itself once the lights come on again, by looking backward and reviving some of the great things from the past that have been lost. It feels good to be useful, and to be learning new things every day. Thank you for tuning in, and for caring about the city we love so much.

And so tomorrow at noon, it’s Pershing Square, Los Angeles: the History, Tragedy and Potential of Our Original Central Park, 1866-2020. You won’t believe how much history can be packed into one small slice of public space, as we launch our new year of programming with a plea to the City of Los Angeles stop messing around and bring the great park back. Joining us in this bustling urban treasure hunt are Stephen Gee (architect John Parkinson’s biographer), Courtland Jindra (sleuth of the park’s missing siege cannon), Mark Wild (historian of public space and speaking), Kemal Cilengir (street photographer and Occupy LA member), Nathan Marsak (Bunker Hill historian) and Gordon Pattison (Bunker Hill native son). It’s a Pershing Square party that won’t be complete without YOU!

On January 9, it’s George Mann’s Fabulous Vintage Views of Los Angeles. You’ll be amazed by the improbable tale of the spaghetti-limbed vaudeville star who reinvented himself in mid-life as a commercial photographer capturing cool 3-D views of Southern California for display in a custom viewing device invented with the help of pal Bill Lear of Lear Jet fame. We’ll be joined by George’s son Brad Smith and daughter-in-law Dianne Woods, and 3-D photographer Chris Casady. The webinar features never before seen photos that will be presented in two dimensions.

And just announced is a very special collaboration on Saturday, January 16: John Bengtson’s “Silent Echoes in Westlake” Early Los Angeles Film Locations webinar. This is one you won’t want to miss!

When we had to shut down our 2020 tours due to COVID, it was personally disappointing not to be able to again go exploring on a tour bus with our favorite silent cinema locations sleuth, who never fails to blow our minds with his discoveries and astonishing lucky breaks. We’re so pleased that John Bengtson will be joining us virtually, to take a time travel trip through the historic Westlake neighborhood, illuminating the landmark locations that are immortalized in the comic films of Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin. For more info, or to reserve your spot, click here.

Stay tuned as we roll out a new webinar program each Saturday. And remember if you can’t watch live or need to leave mid-stream, you can watch the recording for one full week. There’s still time to see A Love Letter to the Cafeterias of Old Los Angeles, with our very special guest Robert Clinton of Clifton’s Cafeteria, through Saturday night.

Programmatic Architecture, Angels Flight, Grand Central Market, Ohio River Valley, Bunker Hill, Charles Bukowski, Raymond Chandler,Black Dahlia,Dutch Chocolate Shop,Bradbury Building, Tunnels, L.A. Times Bombing, 13 Uncanny Crimes & Mysteries are now available On-Demand. And we’d love to see you tomorrow at noon for Pershing Square, Los Angeles: the History, Tragedy and Potential of Our Original Central Park, 1866-2020.

yours for Los Angeles,

Kim & Richard


Subscribe! In the latest subscriber's edition of this newsletter—$10/month, cheap!—A Wartime Obsession Shared Beneath The Flickering Neon Tubes of Lompoc's Rice Bowl Café—we share one of the wildest things anyone has ever told us about how a landmark came to be built. Here’s a hint: a little bit of Hitler lives in Lompoc.


If you enjoy all we do to celebrate and preserve Los Angeles history, please consider signing up for (or gifting) the subscriber’s edition of this newsletter, or putting a little something into our digital tip jar. Gift certificates are available for any webinar in our library or upcoming calendar, starting at $10. Printed matter? We’ve got a swell selection of 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... & 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.


New on the Esotouric blog: Is Jose Huizar's Crony Art Gastelum Trying to Kill El Pino, the most famous tree in East L.A.? Don’t be fooled by the PR puff pieces that ran in the L.A. Times and on Channel 7’s Facebook page, when you can get the real story from us!

Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi will introduce legislation halting eviction of the Japanese speaking seniors at Sakura Gardens in Boyle Heights by the developer that bought their home from a sketchy non-profit. It's a death sentence to kick them out during COVID.

What's happening at the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights... and will the grim lesson of the Garden of Allah be forgotten so Frank Gehry can build something mediocre atop a later landmark? Save Lytton Savings!

New on R.I.P. Los Angeles: the impending demolition of 915 S. Grand View, and the sickening feeling in the gut for all of us who see that wrecking good buildings doesn't just fail to fix the housing use crisis, but forever lessens us as Angelenos.

A slice of sad, seedy Los Angeles life in 1950: Daily News photographer Helen Brush goes undercover as a taxi dancer at the Roseland Roof, and tells all when she gets back to the newsroom. The dance hall and its amazing sign survive!

On January 9, Netflix presents its Egyptian Theatre remodel proposal to the Cultural Heritage Commission, which can approve or reject changes to landmarks. We’ll be watching closely, as we have been since they began the process of buying the American Cinematheque’s only asset. Plus, Corky’s goes back to its Googie roots, NoHo High Magnolias and more. PDF agenda link.

Public domain freaks are foaming at the mouth as the rich, creative legacy of 1925 enters the commons, twenty years late thanks to political interference. The Great Gatsby! Gentlemen Prefer Blondes! Mix 'em up: they are yours to play with now.

When Bob Baker promised good clean fun for all ages, this is not what he had in mind: we hear LAPD busted an illegal COVID casino in the historic, landmarked marionette theater! How about seizing and giving it back to the puppeteers? Take a virtual tour, in 3D, with no risk of arrest.

Brava to The Ebell Club, recently named to the National Trust's growing list of places where American women made history. And they still do here!

Yikes! Recruiting agency Bob Murray and Associates has invited internet troll Josh Albrektson to help select South Pasadena's new City Manager. The recent transplant is bafflingly listed as a "Community Leader." Explore his antics here.

Pink's Hot Dog Stand has made the difficult decision to shutter in the interest of public safety, even though it is legal for them to be open. When legacy businesses are more socially responsible than elected officials, it's clear Los Angeles needs change.