An intimate tour of L.A.’s most notorious crime scenes, celebrity death sites, and legendary graves.
I avoid superlatives whenever possible, but I can confidently say that Dearly Departed is not only the best “dark” tour of Los Angeles, but the best tour the city has to offer over all. While the subject matter may be too dark for some children and squeamish adults, the history packed 2 1/2 tour around the City of Angels will appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in the grim side of celebrity culture or wanting to have an upclose view of some of the most notorious crimes in modern history.
What makes Dearly Departed work is simple: the passion of owner/operator Scott Michaels, who does double duty as driver and host in the 15 seater passenger bus. A lifelong buff of high profile murders and celebrity deaths, Michaels is both a keen researcher and a fantastic storyteller unafraid to divulge the grittier, lesser heard details of some of the crime scenes he brings his visitors to. The smaller size of the tours allows a personal touch and a chance to genuinely engage with his guests, even customizing the tour on the fly if he can cater to a particular passenger’s interests.
On the tour I was part of, the tour began innocently enough at the restroom in a Beverly Hills park where musician George Michael was arrested in 1998 for “committing a lewd act” in public. Soon thereafter we were at the Menendez home, where Scott didn’t just retell us the story of the headline hogging 1989 case, but also played the 911 tapes of the family’s two brothers calling to report finding their parents shot to death – they were later convicted of being the murderers themselves.
Other stops on the tour included the apartment where up and coming star Rebecca Schaeffer was murdered by a fan, the mansion where “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” was shot, and the lesser discussed of the Manson Family homicide scenes, the LaBianca’s Los Feliz home.
Asked how he deals with people who claim his tours are exploitation, Scott told me, “It’s our history too.”
In addition to being a general expert on celebrity crime and death (he frequently appears as a commentator on TV, and runs the site findadeath.com, Scott Michaels is also an expert on the Manson Family murders, and occasionally gives tours specifically on the case. In the regular Dearly Departed tour I joined, he killed a little time by playing the Beach Boys “Cease to Exist,” a song actually written by Manson, though with the title “Cease to Exist.”
Note that not all tours are given by Scott personally, but he insisted that any additional drivers he hires have as much talent for the job and respect for the history as he does. In addition to Dearly Departed, his company also runs a Hollywood Movie Tour, and in October, a tour of locations from the Halloween film franchise.
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Cost: Regularly $40, and well worth every penny. But if you’re looking for a discounts, Dearly Departed’s Facebook page occasionally lists last minute deals (along with the sort of morbid news you might hear on board the tour bus).
Location: Pickup/tour start locations may vary depending on the date, but usually start near Larry Edmunds Bookshop on Hollywood Blvd. near Cherokee.
When: Generally, every day at 1pm, and on some weekends additional times are added. The tour lasts approximately 2 1/2 hours.