A New Carthage (1830-1941)
Robbing Native Americans of their land was not limited to the East and the Great Plains. In 1836, the European arrivals forced what was left of the original village of Yangna into a segregated area into what is now (the still segregated) Skid Row in modern downtown Los Angeles. In 1845, the police commission recommended that the remaining indigenous be relocated east of the Los Angeles River. In 1847, that settlement was razed and the natives (excepting those reduced to slavery) moved even farther away to the Puente and San Jose Hills.
The new European settlers became known as los diablos, and there was nothing about the subsequent gold rushes of ’42 and ’49 which did anything to alleviate this judgement, attracting as it did some of the worst human garbage in North America. This ‘new Carthage’ attracted disappointed prospectors, thieves, murderers and degenerates of every kind. Homicides among the mortal population averaged one per day for decades, while the numbers of murdered Indians weren’t tracked at all. Los Angeles probably had more gambling dens, saloons and brothels per capita than anywhere else in the country. What very little law there was came in the form of lynch gangs, who tended to string up the most convenient (and often racially undesirable) suspect. In short, Los Angeles made San Francisco seem like a paradise of law and order.
Kindred scholars have long noted that communities often take on the complexion of the Kindred who dwell there, and that is certainly the case for Los Angeles. From 1845 until 1870, Los Angeles had the reputation of being one of the most debauched towns in America. Statistics indicate that by 1855, the local population from the remaining natives to shaggy-haired prospectors suffered from a surprisingly wide range of communicable diseases, most notably syphilis. Los Angeles became a popular stand-in for ministers and missionaries across the country (especially up north around the Bay Area), to be used as an holy example for the wages of sin and excess.
Los Angeles didn’t begin to realize its true potential until 1870, when Don Sebastian claimed the mantle of Prince. Not long after (driven as much by his own ego, ambition and competition with the Princes of San Francisco and San Diego as anything else), Don Sebastian began the process of transforming a town with a mediocre future into the foundation of the Los Angeles we know tonight. He encouraged the first generation of visionary city leaders who successfully lobbied for federal funds, beating out San Diego, to build a deep-water harbor in San Pedro Bay. By using a combination of bribery, threats and Domination, Don Sebastian and his coterie convinced Southern Pacific Railroad to put a line through to Los Angeles in 1876, and in 1885 the Santa Fe Railway was also connected to Los Angeles (both of which undermined San Francisco’s previous monopoly on rail travel.)
Eventually, increasingly fierce competition among the ‘Big Four’ railroad tycoons resulted in one of the country’s first ‘rate wars’. Ticket prices dropped so low that soon people couldn’t afford not to come: In 1869 the fare from Chicago to California had been $130, in 1887 it dropped to $1. A huge advertising campaign convinced people that California was the Promised Land – and for the first time, entire families (bringing with them their higher expectations of civil stability and social morality) began to arrive en masse rather than opportunists and desperados.
In 1880, Los Angeles had a population of a mere 11,000 people. By 1900, the population was 100,000, and by 1912, it would balloon to 300,000. When the city itself filled up, speculators and developers (including among them some of the city’s most famously family legacies) laid out huge new communities to the west towards Santa Monica Bay.
This was a huge population for a city built in a semi-arid wasteland, and it wasn’t long before drought and water shortages threatened to clip Los Angeles’ newfound wings. Simultaneously, as law and order increased in the city, it was becoming increasingly difficult to sustain such a large Kindred population. If the city was going to keep growing – and its resident Kindred were going to avoid a savage territorial struggle – it would need a new source of water, which would bring with it new blood as well.
Accordingly, Don Sebastian sent his agents into the Owens Valley, north of L.A., to covertly option and then purchase a checkerboard of properties. He then created a false water shortage, actually dumping huge amounts of fresh water into the sewers (thus earning the lasting enmity of the startled Nosferatu), yet which succeeded in frightening the citizens of L.A. into voting for a Water Bond act. With the vast sums of capital thus raised, the Owens Valley Aqueduct was built which siphoned the (allegedly stolen) water into the San Fernando Valley, which experienced a real estate boom as many made their fortunes from land which had been sold cheaply, and then quadrupled in value as it soon filled with people and profitable agriculture.
The resulting desiccation of Owens Valley did not concern Don Sebastian, however. With Los Angeles now having a virtual monopoly on water supplies, it was able to force one formerly independent city after another to make a choice of whether to become part of Los Angeles and enjoy the water supply or remain independent and wither away. With one or two notable exceptions, who had had the foresight to secure their own water contracts, such as Santa Monica, most joined up or faded into obscurity.
The Decadent Dominion (1870-1930)
By the end of the ‘Water Wars’, a steady stream of anarchs, autarkis and other outcast Kindred had swelled the population of Southern California to a dangerous, Masquerade-threatening level. The largest metropolis of the Southwest, Los Angeles, was a Camarilla domain that had now been ruled by Don Sebastian Juan Dominguez for over half a century.
Originally, many of these vampires were refugees from the much older and better-established Kindred community in San Francisco, as the Ventrue there continued to pressure the Brujah and other anarchs. In Don Sebastian, they initially thought they had found a stern yet (superficially) fair Prince, one who did not care what anyone had done elsewhere, as long as all obeyed his rules while they were in his Domain. In fact, the Prince of San Francisco would accuse Don Sebastian of running a dangerously laissez-faire city, which allowed both its Kine and Kindred alike the freedom to run amok. Disillusioned anarchs would soon realize that Don Sebastian’s permissive reputation had more to do with bored indifference than benevolence – he could prove shockingly callous and imperious the moment his own interests were even accidentally infringed upon.
Don Sebastian’s origins were somewhat mysterious, but he was unquestionably a powerful Kindred — a Toreador of good breeding and relatively potent generation and quick-witted enough to best any immediate challengers to his claim of praxis over Los Angeles. That said, even during his glory years, Don Sebastian was an often petulant and vicious creature, who collected and disposed of favorites and rivals alike with equal arbitrariness. His well known penchant for intrigue has resulted in any number of alleged misdeeds being laid at his feed, whether real or imagined. It is entirely likely that more than a few Kindred benefited from the Prince’s notoriety to cover for their own crimes.
In modern nights, even the most shameless Camarilla propagandist would concede that Don Sebastian, for all his brutal effectiveness at enforcing his authority on sullen anarchs, darkly good looks, impeccable ‘breeding’ and powerful blood, was an otherwise unspectacular choice for Prince of a city as large, complicated and influential as Los Angeles had become by the late 1920s. You could not rule a major, modern American city as a noble’s hacienda. He was often slow to react, and as his frustrations and insecurities mounted, began to compensate by overreacting in the most terrifying fashion. In time, Don Sebastian’s court became quite efficient at managing a Masquerade breach or other crisis after it had already occurred, yet the Prince seemed incapable of the imagination or foresight to head them off before they became an issue.
Don Sebastian’s greatest sin however, was his breathtaking hypocrisy. For example, he often created Masquerade breaches through his own decadent conduct. He habitually fed in public restaurants, and his legendary Hollywood parties sometimes resulted in terrified starlets being chased down Hollywood Boulevard by a pack of nude vampires baying for their blood (much to Isaac Abram’s immense disgust). No few Harpies speculated that these unpleasantries happened because some insidious Setite had introduced Sebastian to the pleasures of vitae taken from vessels on a cocaine binge. More likely, he discovered that vice entirely on his own.
From Shoemaker to Showtime (1907-1943)
Izaak Abramovitch arrived on the shores of the New World at some point in the early to mid 1800s as a penniless, Jewish shoemaker from Danzig, Poland, fleeing the troubles of his homeland. There is very little known about the circumstances of his Embrace, except that it happened when he was already past the threshold of middle age.
It is theorized (by those who go in for such things), that Izaak, having proved a disappointment to his rather impulsive Sire (who had a passion for elegant shoes!), banished the fledgling from his East Sire, forever embittering him towards the Camarilla. It is no doubt that Izaak, during the long years of his wanderings, had to swallow his pride more than once to survive…all the while being keenly aware of his lack of talent in the areas of traditional artistry. He tried his hand at one time or another with water color, sculpture, poetry, wood covering and even the violin – yet found no success.
By the time Izaak Abramovitch, now going by Isaac Abrams found himself on the West Coast, he had managed to reinvent himself as a reasonably successful patron rather than performer of the arts (mostly involving a string of bootleg Gilbert & Sullivan productions across the Midwest). However, he was still left unfulfilled. That is until he finally found his muse: In 1907, Isaac Abrams saw his first motion picture, and it entranced him. This would be his gift to the world. Through this new medium, the full brilliance of Isaac Abram’s artistic genius would become clear to the entire Camarilla.
Isaac Abrams began by Dominating the directors who came to the West Coast to do location shooting. In this way, Isaac ‘convinced’ a number of them to stay and set up studios in Hollywood, such as D.W Griffith in 1910. By funneling money to their fledgling operations, he set up a studio system that broke away from the bosses in New York then running the movie business (making several immortal enemies in the process among his own Clan). Through Domination, Presence and old fashioned blackmail, Isaac ‘attracted’ acting talent to Los Angeles, and kept it there.
Always afraid of losing control to other rapacious, encroaching Toreador, Isaac Abrams set up the studio system to hamstring the competition: The talent stayed strictly under the thumb of the studio bosses, who were in turn Isaac’s puppets. For the first 30 years of the industry (right up until the Anarch Revolt of 1943), Isaac Abrams managed every facet of motion picture production, from choosing the actors to approving the scripts and final edits. Although Isaac Abrams would cunningly weather and survive the tribulations in the decades ahead, his influence in the movie industry would eventually be reduced to a mere sliver of what it once was. He has however, never lost the blunt, no-nonsense demeanor of a Golden Age of Hollywood studio mogul.
There were many during the 1930s who tried to encourage Isaac Abrams to challenge Don Sebastian for the praxis of Los Angeles. He refused to, and instead carefully assuaged Don Sebastian’s growing paranoia by presenting himself as an aloof, quixotic obsessive, caring only for his ‘toys of light and music’. Not to mention, he ensured Don Sebastian and his coterie enjoyed a steady diet of ingenue starlets that didn’t quite meet Isaac’s standards. The reason for the Hollywood mogul’s caution had everything to do with the terrible example made of the one Primogen who did challenge Don Sebastian directly, the Tremere Alonzo de Portola.
The Warlock Who Would Be Prince (1927)
Even worse for the domain than Don Sebastian’s lax self-governance and increasingly despotic nature was his unashamedly old fashioned racist, classist and sadistic beliefs. He was openly contemptuous of practically anyone who wasn’t a pure-blooded Spaniard of noble descent – which, by the 1930s, meant almost everyone around him. He had an especially savage disregard for the indigenous, both living and undead alike, including any Hispanic with the slightest hint of native ancestry (virtually the entire Chicano population of Los Angeles). He also fancied himself an ‘artiste of punishment’ and seemed to believe that his creative justice levied against those who displeased him represented some sort of artistic endeavor worthy of respect.
It can well be imagined then how furious Don Sebastian was, when the first serious challenge to his rule came in the form of an experienced, charismatic and respected Tremere Primogen named Alonzo de Portola of the eighth-generation. Born in Mexico City of the last century (during its brief period of Camarilla rule) and entirely unashamed of his mother’s mestizo heritage. In 1927, he managed to drum up a surprising amount of support for a run at the Prince’s throne. For a while, it even looked like he might be successful, since a number of the younger Kindred (and the Nosferatu in general) were getting tired of Don Sebastian.
One night, however, Alonzo and his entire, mixed-Clan coterie simply disappeared, and no one has heard from them since. This effectively ended any question as to who was Prince of Los Angeles. Since the remaining Primogen had no idea how Don Sebastian had managed to snuff all resistance with such seeming effortlessness, they felt they had no choice yet to support him with even more (feigned) enthusiasm than before.
There aren’t many who remember Alonzo de Portola’s fate among the modern nights. Those who do remember him (even among the Nosferatu) take it for granted that his end was brought about by Don Sebastian’s perfidy. All that is known for sure is that the Pyramid avoided Los Angeles for nearly six decades after Alonzo’s mysterious disappearance. The Tremere would not have an official presence in L.A. again until Alonzo’s own Sire, the powerful Warlock known as Maximillian Strauss would eventually arrive in Los Angeles during the 1990s. If the Tremere Regent has an opinion as to the true fate of his long lost Childe, he has never been known to reveal it.