Writers Are Broadway Stars as the Million Dollar Theater Celebrates our John Fante, Raymond Chandler Tours
Last Saturday was the novelist and screenwriter John Fante’s birthday, and we celebrated by walking all over old and new Downtown landscapes, looking for places that he lived, loved and wrote about, with a merry crew of bookish urban explorers in tow.
A few scenes from our adventures are above and on our social media, including a flashlight tour of the only cruisy bathroom on the National Register, a store room under the King Edward Hotel that is extravagantly decorated with racy drawings and invitations to come out and play!
The basement speakeasy attached to this room is described in Fante’s great Los Angeles novel Ask the Dust as a place where B-girls hustled overpriced drinks from lonely men, and in the shadows we even found the corner where the ladies stuck their chewing gum!
We ended the tour with birthday cake in honor of Fante’s 114th birthday, and a few beautiful words from his daughter Vickie, thanking everyone for keeping her father’s spirit alive.
The last stop before cake was Third and Broadway. Our friends from Grand Central Market had invited us to curate the Million Dollar Theater marquee with a few choice Fante-isms, and it was simply a perfect end to a beautiful day.
Tomorrow’s tour is also a literary stroll through Downtown Los Angeles departing from Grand Central Market, and we were offered another chance to fill the marquee. Here’s what you’ll see if you join us on the Raymond Chandler walk, or just swing by Third and Broadway on your own sometime soon.
This is a short newsletter, because we’re up to our eyeballs in analyzing emails about the implosion of the Skid Row Housing Trust, obtained through a public records request from a state agency. Stay tuned for some horrifying discoveries, building upon our previous scoops.
But we didn’t want the week to end without sharing images of these two bookish movie palace tributes, and reminding you that we’ll be exploring the lost noir world of the young Raymond Chandler tomorrow, with room for you to join us on this time travel trip!
yours for Los Angeles,
Kim & Richard
Psst… If you’d like to support our efforts to be the voice of places worth preserving, we have a tip jar and a subscriber edition of this newsletter, vintage Los Angeles webinars available to stream, in-person walking tours, gift certificates and a souvenir shop you can browse in. Or just share this link with other people who care.
UPCOMING WALKING TOURS & BUS TOUR SALE
Saturday, April 15 - Raymond Chandler’s Downtown • Saturday, April 22 - Alvarado Terrace & South Bonnie Brae Tract • Saturday, April 29 - Human Sacrifice: The Black Dahlia, Elisa Lam, Heidi Planck & Skid Row Slasher Cases • Saturday, May 13 - All Around the Auto Club West Adams • Saturday, May 20 - Bunker Hill’s Modernist Marvels with Nathan Marsak • Saturday, May 27 - Evergreen Cemetery, 1877
CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS
We went to Grand Central Market last week and discovered that legacy vendor Chiles Secos had quietly shuttered, after 48 years of service. Our sad photo went viral and caused some consternation, but after we tweeted at former Time Out writer Stephanie Breijo, she caught up with 3rd generation owner Claudia Armendariz to get the skinny on her aunt Rocio Lopez' decision to retire, how GCM helped them stay open through the pandemic—and a planned revival of the mole business! Plus, here’s Grand Central Market's lovely message of thanks, founder Celestino Lopez greeting Huell Howser in 1991, and you can hear Richard talk about the important of GCM’s legacy vendors ten years ago on Which Way, LA?
The Artery captures the ghastly state of the Morrison Hotel, 111 rent controlled rooms held vacant by troubled Hollywood party hoteliers Relevant Group. Illegally gutted with much recent heavy tagging. It is a crime scene.
Demolition permits are sought for Lindley Bothwell Ranch. But there is a better way, to preserve this sweet and fragrant relic of the old San Fernando Valley as a teaching and community space.
Mapping Los Angeles bungalow courts is an idea that's catching on. Cheers to Gabrielle Thomas, who made a self-guided walking route for East Hollywood.
Public domain Los Angeles architecture lovers bonanza—also of use to miniaturists!—Mike Callahan and Don Ray have uploaded six volumes of WPA sketches used to construct the city's scale model of Downtown Los Angeles.
1504 Bel Aire in Glendale is not just any wee 1926 Norman castle: it was home to Thomas H. James, a real life model for Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, and his bride Marguerite! Sadly flippers have stripped all the age away inside, but it's still a house with soul. Tom James aids the young Raymond Chandler in some oil company cult sleuthing in Kim's non-fiction novel The Kept Girl, available from us by mail or on tomorrow’s tour.
Redevelopment threatens the time capsule roadside La Crescenta Motel and filming location, and its beloved neon and incandescent sign—which should be preserved in place.
Dig the magnificent 1966 dingbat at 428 Arnaz in Beverly Grove. Sold for $2.4M in 2019. Three rent controlled two-bedroom units, to be demolished for a duplex. Not an Ellis Act property. Where are the tenants? Survey LA calls it out as an "Excellent example of a Dingbat... retains essential character-defining features" and the city said it deserved protection when the huge new building took out its neighbors on Hamel. Can it be saved?
An update from Los Feliz, where Thomas James Homes demolished the historic Kuromi-Ito residence and tried to develop on top of an artesian spring, turning the block into a stinky swamp: they flipped the dry lot! Los Angeles must not permit more development here, but likely will.
The Harry L. Huginin Residence is on the market for the first time in a century and it's vulnerable to demolition for land value. Share to help find a preservation minded owner! We hope it can be landmarked preemptively.
Airbnb appears to have scrubbed the #1 East Hollywood host from its listings, along with all Fen's illegal listings in the ARN Radio Studio at 5287 Sunset that burned in March. Unlike Montreal, nobody was killed in the fire. And nothing has changed in L.A. (Map via Inside Airbnb)
Landmark nomination submitted for Hollywood Sikh Temple (1995), est. 1969 in the 1940s Colonial Inn restaurant. Religious buildings can only be made historic monuments with owner consent—should be an interesting hearing!
There's trouble at Rockhaven Sanitarium, home to Marilyn Monroe's mother Gladys and the loveliest sunbather in clay: the nonprofit that fought to save the site is suing Glendale to remediate years of admitted neglect.
It will be years before the papers are processed, but the full story of how Brenda Levin restored the Bradbury Building for Ira Yellin will be told. (This photo of molds, doors and more comes from our subscriber edition newsletter, A Rare Glimpse Into The Bradbury Building's Basement.)
1326 South Mariposa was a potential landmark folk Victorian in the Pico-Union District, its tenants displaced under the Ellis Act, marketed as a teardown for 15 units. Vandals burned it down. Now it's a vacant lot suitable for 8 units, $1.5M—cheap!
Glendale City Council kicked history in the teeth this week, when they moved to let politically connected developer Rodney Khan demolish 1642 S. Central Ave., a 110 year old survivor. Khan refuses to consider different designs that would preserve the historic home, even though the law requires he do so. Damian Sullivan explains why the city is wrong, and here’s more from Glendale Historical Society.
Our tours often call out elected officials for criminal shenanigans. What a contrast to East Hampton, where Mayor Jerry Larson is hosting his own true crime tour for the 1st Hamptons Mystery & Crime Festival!
Long Beach beats Los Angeles in implementing a Legacy Business Program. Main Street in Downtown L.A. lost its inkslingers, but LB still has Outer Limits Tattoo, formerly Bert Grimm’s on the Pike!
What's new at Sunset and Hobart, where East Hollywood's #1 Airbnb host was renting ARN Radio Studio booths and RVs until the building burned? The legal RSO apartments next door sold for $1.9M, are targeted for demolition, upzoning.
The Raymond Chandler Estate has moved on from Benjamin Black and selected Denise Mina to write the next official Philip Marlowe story, The Second Murderer, featuring a missing heiress, a female detective and trip to Skid Row. What could go wrong?
Happy 115th birthday, eden ahbez! Hollywood's very own exotica hippie trendsetter. "The greatest thing you'll ever learn / Is just to love and be loved in return"
Corruption Corner: Via Meghann Cuniff's essential newsletter, some stunning developments in Raymond Chan's racketeering trial: attorney Harland Braun is too ill to return to court, so a mistrial has been declared—and the Feds are willing to talk to Chan's new lawyer about that deal the increasingly unhinged Braun left on the table the month Jose Huizar got raided… A must read is former Councilman and Police Chief Bernard C. Parks' statement on the conviction of his one-time rival Mark Ridley-Thomas, including the suggestion that MRT also sold his vote to demolish LACMA, which we believe to be true… There’s a disturbing new document filed in legal proceedings by former Hope + Flower tenant Brittany A. Stillwell about missing person Heidi Planck and a long list of crimes she says were ignored by the authorities… Rev. Andy Bales from the Union Rescue Mission gave a powerful 12 minute interview to John & Ken on KFI-AM, about how he spent years telling reporters, Los Angeles Times editors and elected officials about the crisis at Skid Row Housing Trust, and they either didn't believe him or refused to report on the failure of the widely acclaimed "model" for supportive housing on Skid Row. More to come on this.
fascinating I love that you are able to spread this information to others who might night get a chance to understand what is happening in our city. I can't believe the prices in East Hollywood . Richard do you remember we lived on Hobart and Melrose when you were my only child. Your father was in Medical School and you and I walked the streets around Melrose and Hobart. Where we lived was the home of my famous Christmas Tree Event..