They're Not Your Ordinary Tour Company. Esotouric.
The concept was born from a blog launched by Kim Cooper (the third generation Angeleno passionate with combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, editor of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture, amongst others) in 2005 called 1947project. The site featured an obscure (and occasionally celebrated) 1947 crime on the anniversary of the day it happened, then explored how the particular crime scene had changed over the following 60 years. Soon Cooper had a loyal following. And when readers wanted to see the crime sites she was writing about, it seemed only natural to rent a bus and take them there. Along with her husband, Richard Schave (the person that makes this all happen, has been at various times an art historian, a mason, an independent film producer, and a computer programmer) they’ve established the one and only Esotouric.
A few years later, Esotouric offers about a dozen different year-round tours, guided not only by the Cooper/Schave duo, but also featuring fine characters like Erik Davis, a San Francisco-based writer, culture critic, and independent scholar, the author of "TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information“, frequent lecturer on topics ranging from electronic music to the evolution of consciousness. (occasional Visionary Hollywood tour); Crime novelist and memoirist James Ellroy hosts occasional James Ellroy Digs L.A. tours, a highly personal journey into the psycho-geography of the region that made him, and that informs such best selling books as "L.A. Confidential," "The Black Dahlia" and "My Dark Places“; Crimebo, the crime clown, a master of the inappropriate remark, a maker of headless balloon animals, a wearer of mismatched plaid patterns and caretaker of "Crimebo's Big Book of Horrible Crimes," from which he shares the most hideous occurrences of this or any year (occasional Crime Bus tours like Halloween Horrors and Pasadena Confidential) or Gene Sculatti, a writer, editor and music-business veteran, former Editorial Director of Warner Bros. Records and Director of Special Issues for Billboard magazine, author of The Catalog of Cool, "Too Cool," "San Francisco Nights: The Psychedelic Music Trip" and The "100 Best Selling Albums of the 60s.", with Kim Cooper he co-hosts Where The Action Was, Esotouric's rock and roll history tour.
There's a tour that covers the favorite haunts of Skid Row poet laureate Charles Bukowski and another that takes you down the streets that inspired musician Tom Waits. The sites that shaped the works of classic L.A. noir writers John Fante ("Ask the Dust") and James M. Cain ("Double Indemnity") also are included. The routes veer off into fascinating, neglected neighborhoods, guides are passionate, well versed in most of everything that could have anything to do with the topics of their trips. Tour themes are provocative and complex, but never dry, mixing crime and social history, rock and roll and architecture, literature and film, fine art and urban studies, a vast array of geniuses, freaks, cranks and visionaries. Even the snack stops are unique: a Chinese dumpling picnic in a garden of concrete sea monsters, homemade mint lemonade and cookies at the site of the first UFO sighting in the Southland, or Black Dahlia and Nicotine flavored gelato at Scoops in East Hollywood.
When you climb aboard for a bus adventure, you're guaranteed an intelligent, unpredictable ride into the secret heart of the city the guides love. These tours could be easily recommended to natives, tourists and anyone who likes to dig a little deeper and discover the world beyond the everyday. Esotouric tours aren't polished to a high gloss. There's improvisation; there are surprises. They can run a bit late. And the company's recreation of the past isn't G-rated, these tours were spun out of the 1947project's true crime yarns, after all.
When Esotouric launched their offbeat L.A. crime tours in spring 2007, The Real Black Dahlia was an immediate hit, and has remained their most popular tour. Esotouric recently updated the tour, and it now begins at the historic Biltmore Hotel lobby where Beth Short spent some of last moments before vanishing. Among the new tour stops is a visit inside the original Greyhound Bus Terminal where Beth checked her bags, bags which would become the King Tut's Tomb of true crime reportage when located by newspapermen. Inside the moody, spooky Greyhound Terminal, now a nest of tiny shops, tour guides will share the newly discovered tale of the building's lady ghost. Is it Beth, or some other lost soul?
There’s always something for those who’re currently broke on Esotouric’s event list: Hippodrome, the official free shuttle of downtown's Art Walk, running every second Thursday from 6-10pm, which serves as a floating salon, featuring live music, art happenings, readings and curated conversations.