This line of thinking applies to almost everything that emanates from and represents Los Angeles. Take, for example, the story that ran in the Los Angeles Times that was picked up by the wires and ran in the Oregonian the day before yesterday, December 9th-- Buses will take tourists to the heart of L.A. Gangland. The article is about a company called L.A. GangTours, that had a "VIP preview last month" and "expects to open to the public in January."
Making a buck with a bus full of rubes from the Midwest is nothing new. Just spend a couple hours at the Farmers' Market on Fairfax some weekday in the fall when the busses filled with fans of the visiting college teams playing USC or UCLA pull up and open their wallets to bring home overpriced tchotchkies and trinkets, T-shirts of places they haven't been to and delicacies they don't need to eat.
The tourists who are savvy enough to rent a car discover that all Los Angeles has to offer invariably fall for the "maps to the stars' homes." About half the homes listed were the former residences of dead celebrities, who died of old age-- Lucy, Jack Benny, Cesar Romero and Lupe Velez. Never mind the other tours that take them to OJ's house, or the scene of "The Crime of the Century." The disappointment to some that learn that the house where Sharon Tate got butchered by the Manson girls was torn down is palpable. There are horror tours, noir tours, and cemetery tours. The Raymond Chandler Tour and a drive-by to the location where the Black Dahlia's dismembered body was found... on Norton Avenue, in what, up until recently was known as South Central. There is the Rock Walk of Fame and the famous Hollywood Boulevard of Stars, culminating with the hand and footprints of some of the biggest stars of all, right in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater. To get to see them, the tourists have to fend off the costumed crackhead look-alikes. Fat Batman and out-of-shape Robin. Numerous Spidermen and Superman, Oscar the Grouch and Star Wars Storm Troopers. Wonderwoman and Catwoman. Popeye and Chaplin. Groucho and Conan. Joseph Wambaugh does a wonderful and pretty accurate send-up of these costumed losers in his book, Hollywood Crows (recommended).
These strutting poseurs get in tourists' faces and insist on having their pictures taken with them... and then they demand the seemingly compulsory gratuity. Like it's not enough that these poor schmucks are all so disappointed that Hollywood Boulevard is not gentrified enough for their middle American sensibilities, or lack thereof. They may be heartened to know it will never be gentrified enough.
But back to the point of all this rambling... YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS SHIT UP.
The gang tour is reported to be planning to include the sales of T-shirts "painted on the spot by a graffiti 'tagger,' but they have "decided against a plan to have kids shoot tourists with water pistols, followed by the sale of T-shirts that read: I Got Shot in South-Central."
Actually, everyone knows that the LA City Council and LAPD eliminated the gang violence and related crime in South-Central... by renaming the area "South LA."
According the LA Gangland Tour website (www.lagangtours.com), the tour plans to visit:
The Los Angeles County Jail
The Los Angeles River Bed
The Metropolitan Detention Center
Pueblos Housing Project
The Symbionese Liberation Army Shoot Out
Birthplace of Black Panther Party
Firestone Sheriff Station
Jordan Downs Housing Projects
Hall of Justice Jail
Pico Union Graff Lab (Graffiti Lab)
Skid Row! The SLA shoot-out location! the birthplace of the Black Panthers! Be still my beating heart!
All things being equal (and they never are), I am relatively happy to freeze in Oregon.