Remembering Clifton's Cafeteria (1935-2011-?)
There exist in this world those rare places where souls can linger, each one alone in their thoughts but feeling part of a lively community. Unlike so many contemporary spaces with their hard surfaces and excess of rules (read: Pershing Square), these spots are calibrated to welcome individuals. There are comfortable chairs, little corners of privacy, light for reading, reasonably priced and healthful food and drink available. In these places, lovers meet, tourists marvel, visions are nurtured and the old and lonesome can escape their rooms. Nobody will lean over you and clear their throat to suggest you've been sitting too long, and ought to be moving along in one of these magical places, for there, you are at home.
This week, we say a fond farewell to one of these gems, Clifton's Cafeteria. Since 1935, Clifford Clinton's redwood-themed cafeteria has welcomed millions to its bosom in the heart of downtown. Clifton's was there when 7th & Broadway was among the busiest corners on earth, through the dark years of urban decline and into its renewal. Founded with a remarkable philosophy which fused solid business acumen with charitable works, Clifford Clinton's flagship restaurant was a lightning rod for right action that transformed this city. Clinton fed the hungry, treated his employees like family, and led the brave campaign that brought down the corrupt Mayor Frank Shaw and the octopus of vice which inhabited the LAPD. For his efforts he was harassed, his home bombed (by a cop), his cafeterias subject to false reports of food poisoning, but he and his friends fought on, armed with a vision of a better Los Angeles in which every person was treated with dignity, and had a full belly, a safe place to sleep and real opportunities to better themselves. Mayor Shaw and his venal cronies laughed at the Cafeteria Kid, but they weren't laughing when the jail bars slammed.
Last year, Clifton's was sold to a sympathetic new owner, and attempts were made to renovate the building while remaining open as a restaurant. This didn't work. So on Monday, after 76 years, Clifton's closed its doors. There are plans for a soft reopening as a bakery soon, with the full restaurant and two cocktail bars to follow in time. We are working with the management to continue to lead tours through Clifton's, and to host our free LAVA Sunday Salon there (Sunday, closing day, marked the 19th month of this event). But today, the doors of Clifton's are closed, and the good people who felt so at home there are scattered to the winds.
This edition of the newsletter goes out, with love, to all our friends from 648 South Broadway. We are thinking especially of the gracious associates, some of whom worked at Clifton's for upwards of thirty years. We're so pleased that Clifton's will live on, but it won't be the same without those friendly faces.
We will leave you with Clifford Clinton's credo, which are words to live by: "We pray our humble service be measured not by gold, but by the golden rule."
Now read on, for all the news you can use, noting especially announcement #5, a free screening that we are very excited to share with you.
1) SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1 - SOLD OUT! Our most popular crime bus tour, THE REAL BLACK DAHLIA begins in the historic Olive Street lobby of the Biltmore Hotel and ends in time for you to take tea and crumpets where Beth Short waited out the last hours of her freedom before walking south into hell. After multiple revisions, this is less a murder tour than a social history of 1940s Hollywood female culture, mass media and madness, and we welcome you to join us for the ride. This tour is now sold out, and will return in January. To get on the waiting list should any seats open up, send us an email, or visit: http://esotouric.com/dahlia-10-1-11
2) SUNDAY, OCTOBER 2 - SOLD OUT! Esotouric and 100.3 The Sound present WHERE THE ACTION WAS, the Hollywood rock and roll history tour. Co-hosted by pop historians GENE SCULATTI and KIM COOPER, with special guests 1960s pop sensation IAN "You Turn Me On" WHITCOMB and The Sound DJ RITA WILDE, the tour begins inside of Capitol Records with a reception and preview of the new Pink Floyd box set, then takes you deep into L.A.'s incredible rock and roll legacy on a time travel bus adventure. http://esotouric.com/action
3) SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8 - Esotouric's JOAN RENNER presents a free lecture at the Los Angeles Public Library, GOLD DIGGERS & SNAKE HANDLERS: DERANGED L.A. CRIMES FROM THE NOTEBOOK OF AGGIE UNDERWOOD. Presented by Photo Friends and featuring crime photos from the Herald-Examiner collection. Free and open to the public. For more info, visit http://lavatransforms.org/golddiggers
4) SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15 - Join us for the very popular RAYMOND CHANDLER'S LOS ANGELES: IN A LONELY PLACE, a journey from the downtown of Chandler's pre-literary youth (but which always lingered at the fore of his imagination) to the Hollywood of his greatest success, with a stop along the way at Tai Kim's SCOOPS for unexpected gelato creations inspired by the author. We'll start the tour following in the young Chandler's footsteps, as he roamed the blocks near the downtown oil company office where he worked. See sites from "Lady in the Lake" and "The Little Sister," discover the real Philip Marlowe (Esotouric's exclusive scoop), and be steeped in noir LA. To reserve, see http://esotouric.com/chandler-10-15-11
5) THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20 - You are invited to attend a FREE ROOFTOP SCREENING of an astonishing, newly-discovered 1949 short color film shot on Main Street in downtown L.A. -- OF SCRAP & STEEL. This is an event celebrating the our new blogging project in the archives of the Union Rescue Mission, and we are so excited to share this amazing footage with fellow fans of L.A.'s fascinating lost lore. Space is quite limited! For more details or to reserve your spot, visit: http://lavatransforms.org/scrapsteel
6) SUNDAY, OCTOBER 23 - Forget Hollywood, babe, 'cause the quintessential LA town in definitely El Monte, its history packed with noirish murders, brilliant thespians, loony Nazis, James Ellroy's naked lunch and the lion farm that MGM's celebrated kitty called home. See all this and so much more, including the Man from Mars Bandit's Waterloo, when you climb aboard the BLOOD & DUMPLINGS crime bus tour, the daffiest crime tour in our arsenal. Info is at http://esotouric.com/bnd
7) SUNDAY, OCTOBER 30 - You are invited to be part of a transformative downtown experience. The SUNDAY SALON is the free monthly gathering of our creative consortium LAVA - The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. From noon to 2pm, at Clifton's Cafeteria (location subject to change--check the website!), we hope you'll join L.A.'s most innovative artists, writers and performers to enjoy good company, hearty comfort food, and presentations from fascinating LAVA Visionaries. At this Salon you'll discover how science and art can play well together as evidenced in "Circuitry & Poetry" where LAVA Visionary JEFF BOYNTON's DIY electronics accompany LAVA Visionary MONA JEAN CEDAR’s communicative arts of dance, poetry and sign language. More black art than science, circuit bending entails the subversive act of ripping open inexpensive electronics devices -- ranging from children’s toys to professional keyboard instruments -- exposing their circuit boards, and attacking their vulnerable insides by poking, probing, and prodding in the spirit of exploration to search for new sounds which are then activated at will. Mr. Boynton’s deep classical music background influences his performances on these ingenious circuit-bent instruments, providing a soundscape over which Mona Jean Cedar performs. Ms. Cedar creates her singular multi-layered approach to spoken word and movement by composing and choreographing with sign languages, both American and foreign. Concurrently cryptic and clearly communicative, the highly visual nature of sign language exponentially increases the expressiveness of the poetry and the dance. Together their unique talents create performances that astound with sound, pique with poetry and delight with dance. Plus, back by popular demand, LAVA Visionary JOE OESTERLE, author of the newly-released Weird Hollywood and the classic Weird California and Weird Las Vegas. Joe will be reading some spooky stories from his books as well as sharing some anecdotes from his weird road travels. Joe also promises to bring along one of the real life Weird Hollywood characters from his book. The multi-talented Joe Oesterle is a former Senior Editor of National Lampoon, a visual artist, musician, animator and curator of the strange and marvelous. Joe will be signing copies of Weird Hollywood. The Sunday Salon is an amazing gathering of the nicest and most thoughtful folks anywhere--you don't want to miss this one! For more info, click below: http://lavatransforms.org/salon1011
8) SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5 - Here's a most infrequent bus adventure to add to your butterfly collection. Come take the WEIRD WEST ADAMS crime bus tour, through the Beverly Hills of the early 20th Century, a mysterious neighborhood of decaying manors, dark secrets and souls that rest unpeacefully in their pretty graves. From the Krazy Kafitz family who simply could not behave, to the woe-begotten Marvin Gayes Junior and Senior, jazz age bootleggers, poison-gobbling kiddies, fiends and freaks, it's a tour packed with oddities and the unexpected. And the architecture too is to die for, from courtly Alvarado Terrace to the lovely lawns of Angelus Rosedale Cemetery, where some of the most fascinating characters are buried. You won't want to miss this grim day out, so join us, do. Info http://esotouric.com/westadams
9) SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 12 - City Lights Books & Esotouric invite you to come explore CHARLES BUKOWSKI's lost Los Angeles and the fascinating contradictions that make this great local writer such a hoot to explore. HAUNTS OF A DIRTY OLD MAN is a raucous day out celebrating liquor, ladies, pimps and poets. The tour includes a visit to Buk's DeLongpre bungalow, where you'll see the Cultural-Historic Monument sign that we helped to get approved, and a mid-tour provisions stop at Pink Elephant Liquor. On this special edition of the tour we celebrate the publication of "More Notes of a Dirty Old Man," featuring rare Bukowski columns unseen in decades. After toiling in obscurity for years, Charles Bukowski found fame in 1967 with his autobiographical newspaper column, "Notes of a Dirty Old Man," and a book of that name in 1969. He continued writing this column, from its inception in "Open City" to its conclusion in "High Times," through the mid-1980s. "More Notes of a Dirty Old Man" gathers many uncollected gems from the column's 20-year run. And five lucky passengers will win a free copy on tour day, More details are at http://esotouric.com/hank-11-12-11
10) Don't forget, there are DISCOUNTS to be had on the Esotouric bus. Take 15% off if you are a KCRW subscriber (for gift certificates, too). Spring for a SOLO 6-PACK or a SHAREABLE 12-PACK and save big on every seat, visit http://www.esotouric.com/6pack for the skinny. Call us if you have a group of 8 or more people wanting to ride a tour for a special quote. Or rent the whole bus and make a private party of it... you can even bring Crimebo the Clown along, if you must. There really are no limits except your imagination, our driver's patience and gravity.
11) Come BUY OUR WARES - they make great gifts! We're the exclusive LA distributor of Bob Waldmire's amazing ROUTE 66 maps and postcards and RAYMOND CHANDLER MYSTERY MAPS. You can hang GEORGE MANN'S rare color images of BUNKER HILL on your wall. And our 9-photo set of vintage HISTORIC CORE IMAGES is an instant Downtown L.A. history lesson. See links below for more info.
12) Come BROWSE OUR SHOP - FREE! Have you seen the ESOTOURIC FILM NOIR SELECTION? It's a virtual DVD shop containing some delightfully dark tales. Should you happen to buy something, we'll get a share of the sale price to help support our esoteric explorations, but the cheap dates among you can just use the links below to augment your library wish list.http://onbunkerhill.org/purefilmnnoir
13) And finally, links!
"This is false. Many people had heard of Ralph Cuomo."
Russell Brown, our Art Walk nemesis, refuses to go gentle into that good night
Of scrap, steel and the street culture of Main Street
Kim's keynote speech from post45 at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is now online
Bottle tree farm
Secrets of the grave
In search of lost downtown murals
Down the rabbit hole with abandoned report cards
Frank Jones' haints and horrors
Save Glendale's modern courthouse
Lost James M. Cain novel found?
Discovering Dan Fante
An influential L.A. home/gallery survives
Scotland Yard cries out for a Wikileaks
Of ruby slippers and sneaky costumers
Farewell to Sunset Junction's most charming commercial block
Barb Cabot rides our James M. Cain bus
Upcoming Esotouric bus tour and special event schedule
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