LA Despair: Chasing Death with John Gilmore is a multimedia presentation exploring the life and work of the late Noir and true crime writer John Gilmore that is a meditation on the relationship between pop cultural crime landmarks in the past century and celebrity iconography viewed amidst the landscape of the tragedies he chronicled. A Los Angeles Native born in 1935 to a homicide detective and a bit player for RKO pictures, Gilmore was as authentically hard boiled as they come, destined to document all that seethed within the underbelly of Tinseltown and the American desolation beyond from his uniquely informed first hand accounts.
Unearthing what is lurking in the shadows of the American dream-cum-nightmare by holding a mirror up to our morbid obsessions with fame and failure is at the center of Gilmore’s singular artistic career inhabited by subjects he crossed paths with ranging from Marilyn Monroe to Charles Manson. In the 1950s as a young actor and greaser, Gilmore was a member of “Night Watch”, the infamous biker gang led by James Dean and it was their deeply personal and troubled friendship that entrenched him deeper into the tragic rise and fall of the desperate figures surrounding him. His talent for mining the very darkest regions of the human soul is strikingly evident in the book that solidified him as a professional writer, Cold Blooded: The Tucson Murders based upon the factual account of his relationship with the 1960s Rockabilly “thrill killer” from Tucson, Arizona, Charles Schmidt who murdered teenage girls and buried them in the desert in the 1960s. In his pulp noir chronicle La Despair: A Landscape of Crimes and Bad Times Gilmore documents the rise and fall of movie stars, porn actors, hustlers, killers, and fame seekers whose self destruction, insecurity, and greed devour and transform them into what Gilmore called the personification of the “LA Mutant”. Arguably the most stunning and indelible journalistic feats of Gilmore’s career is, Severed: The True Story Of The Black Dahlia Murder which documents with sympathy and dread the ill fated life and enigmatic death of his first love, Elizabeth Short.
LA Despair: Chasing Death With John Gilmore is an experience that takes its participants on a “Hollywood Death Trip” that follows the trail of subversion and intimate insight that John Gilmore left behind after his death, delving into the obsessions and passions that fueled him while charting the sordid history of the city of fallen stars that birthed him, in all the mystery and allure of its glitter and doom.
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