Suzy Williams, Venice Songbird

By Jim Smith
Perhaps you’ve seen Suzy Williams peddling down your street on a flower-festooned bicycle named Gladus. Just another Venetian with pink hair going about her business in our community.
But if you’ve seen Suzy at night when she comes alive in a cabaret, bar or at a party, you know you’re seeing the Venice Queen of of jazz, blues and performance right before your eyes.
Suzy’s repertoire is so large that you’ll never see the same show twice. Her heroes and musical influences include Bessie Smith, Sophie Tucker, Billie Holiday and Anita O’Day. She also has 60 songs that she’s written in the past two years alone. In any given performance, about half the songs she sings will be her originals.
Then there’s her Venice collection of songs and poems set to music, including “Moon Over Venice,” the signature song of the late Sylvia Kohan; “Under the Shade of a Black Palm Tree,” by Peter Damien, and many more.
Suzy’s been singing since she was 18, including the last ten years in Venice. Before that, Suzy made the circuit of nightclubs in New York and New England, learning her trade and building a fan base. She makes an annual tour of her old haunts to the delight of her still loyal fans.
In Venice and L.A., she sometimes sings with an eight piece band, the Solid Senders, and sometimes with just a piano player. Once in a while, she will perform The Sophie Tucker Show, where Suzy becomes Sophie for a night – songs, jokes and persona. For the past several years, she’s been putting the great works of literature to song in an annual event at Beyond Baroque. This year’s show, on June 16, will include lyrics by James Joyce, Lewis Carroll, Dorothy Parker, and others.
Suzy often works with a long-time collaborator, Venetian Brad Kay, who is a pianist, cornetist, composer, musicologist, and sometimes singer.
The best place to catch Suzy, every second Thursday of the month, is at Danny’s Venice Deli in the St. Charles Hotel, 23 Windward Avenue. The back room is intimate, hardly allowing room for Suzy, a piano player and perhaps a sax player, amid the tables and booths. Unlike many performers, Suzy interacts – perhaps melds is a better word, with her audience. Under the Rip Cronk caricatures of famous Venetians, Suzy belts out three sets per evening. By the end of the night, she’s on a first-name basis with most of the house.
In addition to Suzy’s stunning performances, it’s worth it to go to Danny’s to admire what owners James Evans and Daniel Samakow have done to the place. They sank a lot of money into remodeling the restaurant after the Venice Cantina called it quits. The interior is a display of good taste and a tribute to the culture and history of Venice. Unfortunately, the follow through has left something to be desired. The place has waffled between being a deli with tasty sandwiches and being a watering hole for the hoards that descend on Venice in the summer. Even Suzy, who draws the largest crowd of the month, has to compete with a blaring TV in the room with the bar. The feeling expressed by some locals is that Danny’s feels like the stepchild compared to Evans and Samakow’s other local restaurants, James Beach and the Canal Club.
Quite frankly, it’s been a struggle for any restaurant to survive and prosper at the St. Charles, in what was once Venice’s thriving downtown district. The Cantina had a constant running battle over noise and parking with the wealthy artist who lived in a fortress a few doors down the street. The Townhouse Bar across the street also had to endure harassment of its patrons who were videotaped from the artist’s compound. This writer also was confronted by a security guard at the fortress when he was pointing out their surveillance cameras.
Danny’s is the latest in a succession of nightspots in the building that began life as the annex to the beautiful St. Mark’s hotel across Speedway, which was destroyed by the city of Los Angeles in the early 1960s. For 60 years St. Mark’s and the St. Charles were linked by a second story “bridge of sighs,” imitating the original in Venice, Italy.
By the mid-1970s, the first bar had opened in the bottom floor of the St. Charles Hotel. It was named the “St. Charles’s Cabaret.” Later, St. Mark’s bar took over the space and adjoining liquor store. Unfortunately, the bar’s name gave rise to the mistaken impression that the building was the St. Mark’s hotel, when in fact, it was only the annex. Initially it opened to large crowds before falling on hard times. There seems to be a pattern here of initial success followed by failure.
The Venice Songbird, Suzy Williams, may be the key to breaking this cycle. If her appearances at Danny’s received the kind of promotion they deserve, a growing fan base for both Suzy and Danny’s could develop. If the Windward merchants and other Venetians got together to insist the city close the street from Pacific to Speedway, tables could be set out. A farmers’ market could set up once a week. Festivals of all kinds would have a home. Meanwhile, more restaurants would gravitate to the street. If a restoration project rebuilt the street the way it appeared when Abbot Kinney strolled down it, Venice would once again have a center. Eventually, Windward could be closed all the way to the Circle, creating a park-like area like the one that existed there a hundred years ago.
Who would support such a project? Certainly not the downtown snarkdom of L.A. officials and bureaucrats. Such a revitalization of our Venice might have to wait until we finally restore cityhood (hang in there, Suzy, it might be a while).
But even if they can prevent us from having a geographical center to our fair community, they can’t take away our Suzy. Venice is honored to have one of the truly unique and original singers, songwriters and performers in the person of Suzy Williams. Drop into Danny’s and see for yourself.
Meanwhile, there are videos of Suzy on YouTube, and rumors of a new CD coming soon. Check the Beachhead Calendar for other Suzy sightings.
By Jim Smith
Perhaps you’ve seen Suzy Williams peddling down your street on a flower-festooned bicycle named Gladus. Just another Venetian with pink hair going about her business in our community.
But if you’ve seen Suzy at night when she comes alive in a cabaret, bar or at a party, you know you’re seeing the Venice Queen of of jazz, blues and performance right before your eyes.
Suzy’s repertoire is so large that you’ll never see the same show twice. Her heroes and musical influences include Bessie Smith, Sophie Tucker, Billie Holiday and Anita O’Day. She also has 60 songs that she’s written in the past two years alone. In any given performance, about half the songs she sings will be her originals.
Then there’s her Venice collection of songs and poems set to music, including “Moon Over Venice,” the signature song of the late Sylvia Kohan; “Under the Shade of a Black Palm Tree,” by Peter Damien, and many more.
Suzy’s been singing since she was 18, including the last ten years in Venice. Before that, Suzy made the circuit of nightclubs in New York and New England, learning her trade and building a fan base. She makes an annual tour of her old haunts to the delight of her still loyal fans.
In Venice and L.A., she sometimes sings with an eight piece band, the Solid Senders, and sometimes with just a piano player. Once in a while, she will perform The Sophie Tucker Show, where Suzy becomes Sophie for a night – songs, jokes and persona. For the past several years, she’s been putting the great works of literature to song in an annual event at Beyond Baroque. This year’s show, on June 16, will include lyrics by James Joyce, Lewis Carroll, Dorothy Parker, and others.
Suzy often works with a long-time collaborator, Venetian Brad Kay, who is a pianist, cornetist, composer, musicologist, and sometimes singer.
The best place to catch Suzy, every second Thursday of the month, is at Danny’s Venice Deli in the St. Charles Hotel, 23 Windward Avenue. The back room is intimate, hardly allowing room for Suzy, a piano player and perhaps a sax player, amid the tables and booths. Unlike many performers, Suzy interacts – perhaps melds is a better word, with her audience. Under the Rip Cronk caricatures of famous Venetians, Suzy belts out three sets per evening. By the end of the night, she’s on a first-name basis with most of the house.
In addition to Suzy’s stunning performances, it’s worth it to go to Danny’s to admire what owners James Evans and Daniel Samakow have done to the place. They sank a lot of money into remodeling the restaurant after the Venice Cantina called it quits. The interior is a display of good taste and a tribute to the culture and history of Venice. Unfortunately, the follow through has left something to be desired. The place has waffled between being a deli with tasty sandwiches and being a watering hole for the hoards that descend on Venice in the summer. Even Suzy, who draws the largest crowd of the month, has to compete with a blaring TV in the room with the bar. The feeling expressed by some locals is that Danny’s feels like the stepchild compared to Evans and Samakow’s other local restaurants, James Beach and the Canal Club.
Quite frankly, it’s been a struggle for any restaurant to survive and prosper at the St. Charles, in what was once Venice’s thriving downtown district. The Cantina had a constant running battle over noise and parking with the wealthy artist who lived in a fortress a few doors down the street. The Townhouse Bar across the street also had to endure harassment of its patrons who were videotaped from the artist’s compound. This writer also was confronted by a security guard at the fortress when he was pointing out their surveillance cameras.
Danny’s is the latest in a succession of nightspots in the building that began life as the annex to the beautiful St. Mark’s hotel across Speedway, which was destroyed by the city of Los Angeles in the early 1960s. For 60 years St. Mark’s and the St. Charles were linked by a second story “bridge of sighs,” imitating the original in Venice, Italy.
By the mid-1970s, the first bar had opened in the bottom floor of the St. Charles Hotel. It was named the “St. Charles’s Cabaret.” Later, St. Mark’s bar took over the space and adjoining liquor store. Unfortunately, the bar’s name gave rise to the mistaken impression that the building was the St. Mark’s hotel, when in fact, it was only the annex. Initially it opened to large crowds before falling on hard times. There seems to be a pattern here of initial success followed by failure.
The Venice Songbird, Suzy Williams, may be the key to breaking this cycle. If her appearances at Danny’s received the kind of promotion they deserve, a growing fan base for both Suzy and Danny’s could develop. If the Windward merchants and other Venetians got together to insist the city close the street from Pacific to Speedway, tables could be set out. A farmers’ market could set up once a week. Festivals of all kinds would have a home. Meanwhile, more restaurants would gravitate to the street. If a restoration project rebuilt the street the way it appeared when Abbot Kinney strolled down it, Venice would once again have a center. Eventually, Windward could be closed all the way to the Circle, creating a park-like area like the one that existed there a hundred years ago.
Who would support such a project? Certainly not the downtown snarkdom of L.A. officials and bureaucrats. Such a revitalization of our Venice might have to wait until we finally restore cityhood (hang in there, Suzy, it might be a while).
But even if they can prevent us from having a geographical center to our fair community, they can’t take away our Suzy. Venice is honored to have one of the truly unique and original singers, songwriters and performers in the person of Suzy Williams. Drop into Danny’s and see for yourself.
Meanwhile, there are videos of Suzy on YouTube, and rumors of a new CD coming soon. Check the Beachhead Calendar for other Suzy sightings.
About these ads

One Response to Suzy Williams, Venice Songbird

  1. Saw Suzy Williams on Swans Island in the Sweet Chariot concert series! She was full of energy and what a voice!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 69 other followers

%d bloggers like this: