Despite the Pandemic, Esotouric Still Brings Cultural Vitality to Los Angeles

Images from Esotouric’s “Weird World of Programmatic Architecture” webinar by Karin E. Baker for The LA Beat


Esotouric has escorted lovers of Los Angeles history on off-the-beaten-path sightseeing tours since 2007. Focusing on such topics as Charles Bukowski, the Black Dahlia, and other true crime stories, the crime novelists that inspired film noir, sundry grifters, underappreciated architecture, and much more, these passionate historians delve into fascinating, oft-seedy aspects of LA history. 

The pandemic has made bus tours impossible for a while, but Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, the duo behind Esotouric, have gracefully pivoted to another way of sharing their love of overlooked local lore in another way. They now present weekly virtual events using mmhmm. This interactive video presentation tool allows viewers to linger over arresting visuals far more dynamically than allowed by platforms like Zoom. “There’s no way we’re doing live bus tours before the end of 2021,” Richard told me during a recent interview. 

Plus, if you join one of Esotouric’s live webinars, you can participate in the Q&A afterward with like-minded lovers of LA. “We have more people than we could ever have on a single bus tour,” Kim says, “and they talk in the sidebar, so it’s also a social space.” The webinars attract people from around the globe: “If they’re not Angelenos or former Angelenos, they’re honorary Angelenos.” 

As a fan of Esotouric’s bus tours, I was curious about their webinars while wondering if they’d be as fun and informative. After watching two, the answer is an emphatic yes! Best of all, you can participate in Esotouric’s virtual events, live or on-demand, for just $10. 

Worries that the webinars might be a bit static were put to rest when I watched The Weird World of Programmatic Los Angeles Architecture. Iconic buildings shaped like hats, owls, dogs, cameras, tamales, and more make up this quintessentially Los Angeles art form. The Brown Derby is the most famous example, but dozens more such structures popped up all over the city during the early 20th century. Sadly, few remain. 

Kim and Richard were joined by architect/historian Alan Hess (author of “Googie,” “Palm Springs Weekend,” and numerous other influential books), Bobby Green of 1933 Group (responsible for restoring The Formosa Cafe, the barrel-shaped Idle Hour bar in North Hollywood, the upcoming reuse of the hot d0g-shaped Tail o’ the Pup, and much more), and Alison Martino of Vintage Los Angeles

The presentation and conversation among the group was delightful and visually arresting while allowing plenty of time for the eye to linger over dozens of vintage visuals. 

Also recommended is This is Charles Bukowski’s Los Angeles. Richard and Kim discuss the late, great poet and novelist’s motivations, loves, career, haunts, and homes. There is nothing dry about this interactive presentation laden with great visuals and archival materials from Bukowski’s life in the underbelly of LA. 

More than 20 on-demand webinars are currently available, with more to come every Saturday. You can learn about the Bradbury Building, early silent film locations, the history of Angels Flight or Grand Central Market, and other uniquely LA topics. 

Each seminar is at least 90 minutes long (“but they always end up over two hours,” says Richard). To purchase an on-demand tour or find out about future live webinars, be sure to visit Esotouric’s website.

Karin E. Baker

About Karin E. Baker

Karin E. Baker is a native Angeleno who loves the eateries, history, nature, architecture, and art of her hometown. When not exploring poke shacks in Kona, tascas in Córdoba, and konditoris in Malmö, she writes about food, culture, lifestyle and travel. She obsesses over comma usage and classic films and is always happy to find an excuse to open a bottle of champagne.
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