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Symposium: "L.A. Despair: Chasing Death with John Gilmore"

  • Monarch Tavern 12 Clinton Street Toronto, ON, M6J 2N8 Canada (map)

LA Despair: Chasing Death with John Gilmore is a multi-media 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 firsthand 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.


RÉMY BENNETT is a filmmaker, writer, and curator living in New York City. She earned her BA in acting, directing, and drama studies from The Central School of Speech and Drama in London and studied film at SVA in New York. Her feature directorial debut, the psychosexual film Buttercup Bill was produced by Sadie Frost and screened at The New Orleans Film Festival, Raindance, and The Marfa Film Festival and was distributed theatrically in the UK. Her short film titled Eat Me and an accompanying art installation based on a fictitious female serial killer exhibited at the 2016 SPRING/BREAK ART SHOW and was voted in the critics top 10 shows at Armory Week in W Magazine and Gothamist.

In 2017, Bennett journalistically covered the inaugural true crime festival CrimeCon for Playboy and The Front Media. Her six part docuseries Under Her Skin, co-directed with her sister Kelsey Bennett and produced by the female led media company The Front, had its premiere in April at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, and she is in development on several feature film documentaries including LA Despair: Chasing Death With John Gilmore which explores the life and writings of cult Hollywood true crime writer John Gilmore.  As an artist and writer Bennett has contributed to PLAYBOY, VICE, BUST MAGAZINE, and DIABOLIQUE and has most recently curated a film series at The Roxy Hotel Cinema in NYC titled GRIT & GORE: NYC HORROR which featured artist talks with Larry Fessenden, William Lustig, Frank Henenlotter and Roberta Findlay. Bennett has lectured on crime and horror at The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies in Brooklyn and will be speaking on a panel at the design institute AD/O in Brooklyn in a seminar exploring Fear, Violence, & Monsters in culture curated by Dr. Nelly Ben Hayoun.  


15% of ticket sales from this event will be donated to charity.