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Esotouric LA Tours: Guided Crime History Tours of Los Angeles

Guided Crime History Tours of Los Angeles


Esotouric Guides

Esotouric Guides Richard Schave, Nathan Marsak, Domenic Priore, Kim Cooper and Kelly Kuvo

Photo © 2007 Kayte Deioma, used with permission


  • It's something different from the usual tourist view
  • If you're a fan of the subject you can learn a lot
  • Slides illustrate history


  • Limited interest
  • Long
  • Slides distract from experiencing the city
Esotouric Tours started out with the 1947Project Crime Bus, a tour of Los Angeles based on the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short, better known as the Black Dahlia, and a dozen other women killed that year. They have since expanded, adding a whole series of new crime history and crime fiction tours plus one rock 'n' roll tour.

Esotouric organized a press tour that was an introduction to the new tour series. It's hard to give a fair evaluation of what each of the five-hour tours would be like based on the Cliff Notes version of four different tours being crammed into three hours. Only one of the four tours, the True Black Dahlia tour, had ever been conducted in full. Kim Cooper and Nathan Marsak have their well-researched and entertaining Dahlia spiel down pat. The guides for the tours scheduled to start a month down the road weren't quite ready for prime time. They talked about landmarks they couldn't even find on the street.

That said, it was clear from Black Dahlia tour content that the team knows how to do their homework and develop a decent presentation, so with a little practice, I'm sure they will get their act together.

The new tours include John Fante: Dreams of Bunker Hill, a downtown bus and walking tour based on the life and works of crime fiction writer John Fante, and Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: In a Lonely Place, a bus tour through downtown and Hollywood based on the life, books and films of crime writer Raymond Chandler (Phillip Marlowe books). If you're a fan of these particular authors, crime fiction, crime drama or film noir, then the landmarks may have meaning for you and driving by the parking structure that replaced the restaurant where Fante was once a bus boy might be interesting.

I admit I've never read a Fante or Chandler book, or seen a Chandler film, and the abridged version of their tours didn't do anything to make me want to. I was bored with 40 minutes on each one and can't imagine I'd be any more interested after five hours. But that's just me. If I'd read the books, I might think differently.

The fourth tour they previewed diverges from the crime theme, although there's plenty of scandal and mayhem. It is called Riot on the Sunset Strip, based on Domenic Priore's upcoming book Riot on the Sunset Strip: Rock 'n' Roll's Last Stand in Hollywood and conducted by the author himself. It focuses on 1960's rock legends and unknowns and the role of different landmark institutions and buildings in rock 'n' roll history. Priore was too immersed in his on-board slideshow of old rock 'n' roll photos of bands playing at the Palladium to point out that we were passing by the actual building.

All the tours are illustrated with old photos and documents projected on monitors on the bus. While it is interesting to see what things used to look like, it seemed like the slides were the focus of the tour and the physical landmarks were mentioned more as an afterthought. That's not so bad when the original building has been replaced by a parking structure, but I didn't appreciate hearing "we just passed the…" and not having a chance to get a good look.

Longer tours include snack stops in the middle or at the end. One of those is Scoops Ice Cream in East Hollywood where the owner prepares ice cream flavors with a Dahlia theme.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I don't claim that this is a fair evaluation of any of the five-hour tours since it is based on a preview. And it doesn't reflect the opinion of someone interested in the subject to begin with.

If you're interested in the macabre and crime scene history in general, the True Black Dahlia Tour or the Pasadena Confidential Tour (not included in the preview) might be of interest. If you're a Fante or Chandler fan, then those tours could have meaning for you. As for the Riot on the Sunset Strip tour, we never actually got to the Sunset Strip, so I can't say, but another option for Rock 'n' Roll fans is Tourcaster's Rock & Walk Tour of Los Angeles.

Esotouric Tours are not yet offered on any kind of a regular schedule, so check the web site to see if any of the tours are scheduled during your visit to LA, or plan your trip around the tour of your choice. All tours depart from the Cypress/Lincoln Gold Line Metro Station parking lot in Lincoln Heights. For rates and schedule information, visit www.esotouric.com.

Check Goldstar.com for discount tickets for Esotouric tours (free membership required).
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