Hidden gems and macabre moments of the real L.A.

LA_noirTestimonial by Toni DeVito ’77:

Reed College’s own Mike Teskey, along with Esotouric, has arranged an absolute-must, don’t-miss weekend, March 7-9, for we who are inquisitive about the social and urban history of this unique place that we call home: Los Angeles.

Esotouric changed my life. Its tours are museums on wheels. Kim and Richard engage in repartee, present visuals, tell obscure stories. My husband and I have enjoyed two of their tours: the first about the Black Dahlia, and the other, Chandler’s Los Angeles, which included a stop for ice cream with booze-inspired flavors. Kim and Richard run that kind of tour.

Owners Kim Cooper and Richard Schave are art historians, archivists, writers, and information detectives. Their brains are encyclopedias; they know everything about Los Angeles, much of it arcane, all of it fascinating. I would dub them honorary Reedies, although they are actually graduates of UC Santa Cruz and UCLA; they are serious about their subjects (crime, noir, art, architecture, city planning), but present it with flair, style, and humor. They transformed the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk into a non-profit organization; the monthly walk is now a highlight of downtown nightlife.

My first encounter with these social and art historians was at the Cal State Los Angeles teaching crime lab. I wondered what kind of ghoulish people might be there. It turned out that the room was packed with people from all over the city, including a high-school student, accompanied by her mom, who was interested in forensic science (A fan of C.S.I., she confessed.). Our speakers discussed two different crimes in elaborate, gritty detail. A tour of the crime lab included a replica of a murder that students have to solve. The blood splatter on Phil Spector after he murdered Lana Clarkson was another puzzle for students.

These sights and events would be merely macabre, but the social fabric and cultural norms–and deviations–of the time are woven into these crime discussions, adding insight into the ever-evolving landscape of Southern California.

I quote from the Esotouric website:

Los Angeles is a city without a center, but with an unjustly bad reputation. It’s also home to fascinating people, places and happenings. But these wonders are dotted over a vast and confusing landscape, drowned out by media blare and corporate blather. You could easily spend years in hard searching to discover the real Los Angeles, those hidden gems and secret gatherings that give this city a soul.

Search no more–just sign up. (And by the way, the price for this tour is a bargain; doing these events a la carte, as my husband and I have done, is much costlier.) See you there!

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