While other Los Angeles tour companies will take your cash to drive you around in their double-decker red buses and show you the touristy celebrity sites you could find on your own, Esotouric's "Bus Adventures Into the Secret Heart of Los Angeles" focuses on the long-forgotten treasures of our city's notorious history. Esotouric co-founders and social historians Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, also the co-founders of LAVA (Los Angeles Visionaries Association) and producers of the L.A. podcast "You Can't Eat the Sunshine," dig deep into the "morgue files" (library and newspaper archives) to find the gory and sordid stories hidden in the stacks.
Esotouric doesn't drive you around in an unshaded conveyance, a tightly-converted SUV, or a family mini-van. When you go on an Esotouric Tour, you climb aboard one of those huge commercial buses usually used to drive across the country. Comfortable chairs, air-conditioning, and several audio-visual monitors furnish the interior. (There's even a toilet in the rear.) Kim and Richard deliver their riveting lectures via the microphone, illustrated with photos and video on the monitors, while a trained professional driver captains the bus. You are free and encouraged to bring aboard your own chosen refreshments.
Recently, I took their "Wild Wild Westside" tour of the west-Westside, which included Venice, Ocean Park, Santa Monica, Brentwood, and West L.A. As a west-Westside resident myself (Santa Monica and Westwood) for over 20 years, I know and give private tours of the more popular crime and death locations here (most notably, Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Stratten, Ted Healy, Chris Penn, Freddie Prinze, Gail Russell, Julia Redding, and Thelma Todd). On this day, I happily traveled downtown east of Alameda to board the Esotouric bus and returned to my side of town to see what new horrors Kim and Richard had to show me. What a terrific day! Esotouric vividly introduced me to religious cult scandals, serial killers, and other assorted freaks of mankind that I had not known about before. My favorite story proved to be Kim's narrative describing the remorseless life of killer Stephen Nash, who murdered one of his victims beneath the Santa Monica Pier. (I also enjoyed Richard's charming sidebar about his youthful adventures at Crossroads School.) Before returning back downtown, the Esotouric bus stopped at Santa Monica's Woodlawn Cemetery to point out a few related tombstones as well as snacks of coffee and cookies.
Los Angeles Morgue Files eagerly recommends the Esotouric Tours of Los Angeles. Check out their schedule of tours all over Los Angeles and with many different themes. For more information:
By the way, check out Kim Cooper's new book, "THE KEPT GIRL," a novel set in 1929 Los Angeles, starring the young Raymond Chandler, his devoted secretary and the real-life Philip Marlowe in pursuit of a murderous cult of angel worshippers.