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.
This week, we just want to say thanks. These past months have been tough for all of us, and fear, tedium and ambiguity are an unpleasant cocktail to sip—especially every day, for more than a year! It’s okay if you’re feeling a little wobbly—it would be weird if you weren’t.
But through it all, we’ve been kept mercifully occupied because you’re such a great audience. We’ve collected news stories to share with you, documented this pretty city from the passenger window in our socially distanced road trips, made a few free podcast episodes and a whole bunch of weekly webinars.
And you’ve made this a dialogue, with your social media comments, sweet personal notes and live chatting during the webinars, by pulling our sleeves to preservation crises in your neighborhoods, asking for advice on how to speak out and save threatened buildings, sending us the books, zines and music you’ve been making, and just letting us know you’re still out there, and appreciate what we do.
It means a lot.
And in this funny in-between time, when more and more of us are reaching a state of full vaccination and navigating the anxious return to some kind of normal life in Los Angeles, we just want to take a moment to consider where we are and what comes next.
We can’t know what the new normal is, and the more we try to imagine it the harder it is to see. Our job, after all, is getting 60 people together in a small rolling room, engaging with them in close quarters, moving through old spaces where ventilation means plugging in a fan. It will get clearer with time.
But we’re confident it’s going to be okay because the new normal is made up of folks who care about our shared history, preserving landmarks, staying connected and supporting the unique small businesses that reflect the culture, creativity and passion of Angelenos. And won’t it be wonderful to be able to do all this in person once again? Soon!
But until that time, we’re making webinars! And this Saturday at noon it’s A Downtown Los Angeles Lovers’ Treasure Hunt. Come with us on a virtual stroll through the historic heart of the city, as we show off some favorite discoveries made through archival research, urban exploration and picking the brains of colorful old timers. Even if you know Downtown L.A. like the back of your own hand, we think you’ll hear some things that are brand new, so join us, do!
Saturday, May 1 is a very special 107th anniversary program, The Rough Road to Llano del Rio, L.A.’s Utopian Colony in the Antelope Valley. For this virtual excursion to where dreamers settled the high desert, we’ll be joined by Llano expert (and neon sign maker extraordinaire) Paul Greenstein and Los Angeles legal historian Bob Wolfe to explore a fascinating era in Los Angeles cultural history, and how the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building tilted the scales against electing a Socialist mayor, but opened up a whole world of potential on the back side of the Angeles Crest. Come discover the city that might have been, and a weird slice of paradise off the Pearblossom Highway.
And just added for May 8 is Fourth & Main, Downtown Los Angeles’ Most Fascinating Intersection. We’re shining a spotlight on one incredible corner that’s packed with so many layers of fascinating history, we don’t expect to reach the center. But let’s see how far we can get, from Mr. Van Nuys’ grand Victorian hotel to the bank that never closed, the Follies Burlesque and the favorite table of politicians and stage stars, punch drunk boxers and theatrical pachyderms, folks singers, private detectives, killers and creeps. When we’re done, you’ll be prepared to fit in whatever year the time machine spits you out!
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 The Wonders and Weirdness of Wilshire Boulevard through Saturday night.
These webinars are now available as On-Demand recordings: Sunset Boulevard • John Fante • Art Deco Leisure Suits • Paul R. Williams • Saving South L.A. Landmarks • Birth of Noir • Storybook Architecture • Dark Side of the West Side • Hotel Cecil • L.A. Historic Preservation, 1900s-1980s • Southern California’s Architecture of Death • Crawford’s Markets • John Bengtson’s Silent Film Locations • George Mann’s Vintage L.A. • Pershing Square • Cafeterias of Old L.A. • 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 and 13 Uncanny Crimes & Mysteries.
And we’d love to see you tomorrow at noon for A Downtown Los Angeles Lovers’ Treasure Hunt.
yours for Los Angeles,
Kim & Richard
Subscribe! In the latest subscriber's edition of this newsletter—$10/month, cheap!—Peep Inside a 1930s Movie Theater Manager's Promotional Scrapbook—we get a glimpse of a lost world of thrilling ballyhoo in Old Town Pasadena.
WANT TO SUPPORT OUR WORK?
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.
AND WHAT'S THE NEXT TOUR? WHO KNOWS?!
We're dark until public health officials and we 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
Hopefully good news for Hollywood neon lovers: we heard the Hotel Knickerbocker’s rooftop sign had been dark for a month, sent a pal over to inquire. He was told it’s being repaired, should be illuminated shortly. Still dark as of last night, so keep watching the skies!
Last Friday, the property owner who allowed television prankster Bam Margara to trash a 1906 house for a film shoot applied for a demolition permit. Demolition permits are not instantly granted in Los Angeles, but that didn’t stop this jerk from sending in the bulldozers on Saturday.
Illegal demolition has gutted the landmarked Thomas C. Churchill residence (1907), a perfect test case for the City of Los Angeles to step up and put some teeth and enforcement in its historic preservation ordinance, or stop pretending it cares about the past.
MOCA seems to be a failed experiment. Perhaps there is a better public use for these prime pieces of Bunker Hill and Little Tokyo land than subjecting generations of art workers (including us!) to abuse.
Raymond Chandler relied heavily on his secretaries, but once he left Hollywood and the fine-tuned studio system, he had to train them himself. The Strand runs his unpublished instructions to late assistant Juanita Messick, revealing a frank and fair boss.
Dedicating L.A.’s newest tiny home village, a shocking tweet from Councilman Paul Krekorian, that could just as easily apply to his City Hall colleagues who will soon be sent to prison cells—larger than these two-man tuff sheds—to reflect upon their RICO crimes that corrupted land use, displaced Angelenos. Matthew Tinoco has a grim report from the scene.
Wow! The L.A. County Department of Public Health has rejected Pacifica's proposal to displace the elderly Japanese-American residents of Sakura Gardens (Keiro). The developer's plan to clear out the elders' Boyle Heights home for redevelopment is deadly, and we’re hopeful the property can be returned to its historic use.