Join Esotouric, L.A.'s most eclectic sightseeing tour company, for an immersive cultural history webinar that’s a deep dive into the history of Los Angeles neon signs, and how this new art and science grew up with and shaped the city.
Our guests for this program are some of the Southland’s most passionate and knowledgable sign geeks, scholars and artisans. So pull up a virtual chair in the cool green glow of your screen and let’s talk L.A. neon!
Setting the stage, neon historian, geographer and Museum of Neon Art (MONA) board member Dydia DeLyser and her sign crafter / historian husband Paul Greenstein (authors of Neon, A Light History) will take us on a time travel trip to Los Angeles in neon’s boom years. We’ll learn about the technological benefits and limitations, get to know iconic local signs and and discover just how these brilliant stripes and whorls defined the urban landscape and helped sell the Southern California dream.
Signage historian, tour guide and MONA board member J. Eric Lynxwiler (author of Signs of Life: Los Angeles Is the City of Neon) will focus on Wilshire Boulevard, pointing out great rooftop and storefront signs lost and still standing and explaining how they interact with and improve the boulevard’s Art Deco, Beaux Art and Modernist architecture. Plus, he’ll introduce us to MONA’s work as a collecting institution that restores some historic signs for gallery display, and works to get others back out into the open air where the community can enjoy them.
Architectural and signage historian Nathan Marsak (author of Los Angeles Neon) puts on his Bunker Hill detective hat for a rare view of the lost neighborhood’s neon signs, explains how expensive incandescent signs were converted to ultra-modern neon, explores the city’s vintage hotel rooftop signs and how they were relit, and shows a little love for his personal post-neon obsession: delicate and endangered artist-designed backlit plastic signs.
This webinar is an illustrated lecture packed with rare photos that will bring the history, preservation and future of Los Angeles neon to life. And you'll find the look of an Esotouric webinar is a little different than your standard dry Zoom session, with lively interactive graphics courtesy of the mmhmm app.
Our guests are eager to answer your questions, so get ready to be a part of the show.
Can't join in when the webinar is happening? You'll have access to the full replay for one week. Please note: the 90 minute running time is just an estimate, and we often run long because the stories take on a life of their own. You can always come back and watch the last part of the webinar recording later.
So tune in and discover the incredible history of Los Angeles, with the couple whose passion for the city is infectious.
FYI: Immediately upon registering, you will receive a separate, automated email containing the link to join the webinar. The webinar is reliable on all devices, Mac, PC, iOS and Android.
ABOUT OUR GUESTS:
Urban anthropologist J. Eric Lynxwiler is a Board Member of the Museum of Neon Art (MONA) and, 22 years running, the affable host of its nighttime Neon Cruise which takes guests on a convertible double-decker bus from downtown Los Angeles to Hollywood and back. For the Museum of Neon Art, he has saved numerous neon signs from the wrecking ball. Downtown LA preservationists know him as an LA Conservancy docent for the Broadway theater district and he hosts walking tours of Wilshire’s Miracle Mile district for the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles. Lynxwiler is the co-author of three books of local history: Spectacular Illumination: Neon Los Angeles 1925-1965, Wilshire Boulevard: Grand Concourse of Los Angeles, and Knott’s Preserved: From Boysenberry to Theme Park, The History Of Knott’s Berry Farm.
Dydia DeLyser is a feminist cultural-historical geographer at California State University, Fullerton who forwards her research interests through community engagements in participatory historical geography. For over a decade she has undertaken scholarly research on how neon signs have transformed the American landscape and, as part of that work, has served on the Board of the American Sign Museum and serves as Secretary of the Board of the Museum of Neon Art. Her collaborative research with Paul Greenstein revealed that the Los Angeles sign widely heralded as the first neon sign in the US was in fact not first. Their most recent collaborative effort is the richly illustrated book Neon, A Light History.
Paul Greenstein has been one of the most influential Los Angeles neon-sign designers and restorers of the past forty years, helping keep neon in the public eye and preserving neon’s history for our future. He began in 1977, a time when neon signs were nearly extinct, by designing, building and installing the then-revolutionary neon, cast resin, and plastic guitar sign for “Granny’s,” a rock-and-roll tailor on West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, leading to other bespoke neon signs for businesses on what would become the very trendy Melrose Avenue. But even as Greenstein designed, engineered, and crafted iconic new signs for new businesses, he has always also been a leader in sign restoration, restoring signs like the Hollywood Columbia Drug store sign in 1979-one of the first neon sign restorations possibly in the country, Hollywood’s 1930 “Castle Argyle” sign, Westlake Park’s 1928 “Hotel Californian” sign, and Echo Park’s 1924 “Jensen’s Recreation Center.” Devoted to the art and craft of neon, as well as to its potential for community beautification and invigoration, Greenstein uses his neon skills to serve the greater Los Angeles community. He is the co-author, together with Dydia DeLyser, of Neon, A Light History.
Nathan Marsak is the author of the books Bunker Hill Los Angeles: Essence of Sunshine and Noir, Bunker Noir! and “Los Angeles Neon” and can be found spitting tacks in the character of The Cranky Preservationist. His blog is Bunker Hill Los Angeles.
About Esotouric: As undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz, Kim Cooper and Richard Schave inexplicably hated one other on sight. (Perhaps less inexplicably, their academic advisor believed they were soul mates). A chance meeting 18 years later proved much more agreeable. Richard wooed Kim with high-level library database access, with which she launched the 1947project true crime blog, highlighting a crime a day from the year of The Black Dahlia and Bugsy Siegel slayings. The popular blog’s readers demanded a tour, and then another. The tour was magical, a hothouse inspiring new ways for the by-then-newlyweds to tell the story of Los Angeles. Esotouric was born in 2007 with a calendar packed with true crime, literary, architecture and rock and roll tours. Ever since, it has provided a platform for promoting historic preservation issues (like the Save the 76 Ball campaign and the landmarking of Charles Bukowski’s bungalow), building a community of urban explorers (including dozens of free talks and tours under the umbrella of LAVA) and digging ever deeper into the secret heart of the city they love.
Rights and permissions: By attending an Esotouric webinar, you acknowledge that the entirety of the presentation is copyrighted, and no portion of the video or text may be reproduced in any fashion.
After his undergraduate studies in art history at UC Santa Cruz, Richard Schave set out to explore the American interior as an itinerant brick mason. His return to his native Los Angeles coincided with a renewed acquaintance with Kim Cooper, a once-detested academic colleague who would become his bride. Together, fusing scholarly research with new digital tools, they launched the 1947project time travel blog, along with In SRO Land, and On Bunker Hill, as well as the Esotouric tour company. With the success of Kim’s True Crime tours, Richard developed a series of Literary and California Culture excursions. Richard is a dedicated preservationist, and the host of the LAVA Sunday Salon and the LAVA Literary Salon series, named Best L.A. Literary Salon by Los Angeles Magazine. He also curates an ongoing series of forensic science programs at Cal State Los Angeles. Richard is also a reader at the Huntington Library.
Kim Cooper (“one of L.A.’s brightest torchbearers” – Electric Literature) is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including Pasadena Confidential, the Real Black Dahlia and Weird West Adams. She is the author of The Kept Girl, the acclaimed historical mystery starring the young Raymond Chandler and the real-life Philip Marlowe, and of The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles. Her collaborative L.A. history blogs include On Bunker Hill and In SRO Land. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons of LAVA – The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage, vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For Life, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, Lost in the Grooves and an oral history of Neutral Milk Hotel.
I came to praise Los Angeles, not to bury her. And yet developers, City Hall and social reformers work in concert to effect wholesale demolition, removing the human scale of my town, tossing its charm into a landfill. The least I can do is memorialize in real time those places worth noting, as they slide inexorably into memory.
In college I studied under Banham. I learned to love Los Angeles via Reyner’s teachings (and came to abjure Mike Davis and his lurid, fanciful, laughably-researched assertions). In grad school I focused on visionary urbanism and technological utopianism—so while some may find the premise of preserving communities so much ill-considered reactionary twaddle, at least I have a background in the other side.
Anyway, I moved to Los Angeles, and began to document. I drove about shooting neon signs. I put endless miles across the Plains of Id on the old Packard as part of the 1947project; when Kim Cooper blogged about some bad lunch meat in Compton, I drove down to there to check on the scene of the crime (never via freeway—you can’t really learn Los Angeles unless you study her from the surface streets).
But in short order one landmark after another disappeared. Few demolitions are as contentious or high profile as the Ambassador or Parker Center; rather, it is all the little houses and commercial buildings the social engineers are desperate to destroy in the name of the Greater Good. The fabric of our city is woven together by communities and neighborhoods who no longer have a say in their zoning or planning so it’s important to shine a light on these vanishing treasures, now, before the remarkable character of our city is wiped away like a stain from a countertop. (But Nathan, you say, it’s just this one house—no, it isn’t. Principiis obsta, finem respice.)
And who knows, one might even be saved. Excelsior!