Beachhead Front and Center in NOPD Battle

July 7, 2013

Beachhead Front and Center in NOPD Battle

By Greta Cobar

Over the past three months the Beachhead proved to be the go-to source of print media when it came to Overnight Parking Districts in Venice.

Other publications that cover Venice are the Marina del Rey-based Argonaut and the LA Times.

The Argonaut did not inform the public about the June 13 Coastal Commission hearing.  Its only mention of Overnight Parking Districts (OPDs) in Venice was published on June 20, a week after the unanimous vote against OPDs.

The Los Angeles Times, on the other hand, published an editorial the day before the hearing openly advising the California Coastal Commission to approve OPDs in Venice.

Following, Richard Abcarian (father of LA Times columnist Robin Abcarian) had this to say in an email message to Venetians: “Congratulations to all of you. What a great victory! I am going to rag on my daughter about the editorial stance her paper (LA Times) took.  Then I am going to sit quietly and entertain myself thinking about Mark Ryavec.”

“No one was happy with our suggestions,” states a June 14 LA Times article concerning their own advice to the Coastal Commission regarding OPDs in Venice.

Having been around for the past 45 years, the Beachhead documented a significant part of Venice’s 108-year old history. Happy 108th Birthday, Venice!  And here’s to many more!

You can watch the entire video of the June 13 Coastal Commission hearing at:

This is what commissioner Jack Wickett had to say about Venice, Venetians and the Vibe

July 7, 2013

“I want to thank everyone for their testimonies today. Often times when we have so many people testify it gets pretty repetitious for the Commissioners, and I just want to say that each one of you brought a different flavor and actually had something original to say. Congratulations to you on that. I don’t think you were organized very well, and if ever you did get organized, that would be pretty amazing. I live in Northern California, and I know when people come to visit me they always stop in Venice – and actually sitting here today, I’m beginning to see why.

This is not the first time I’ve heard “The Vibe of Venice,” I hear it from people coming to visit you from international destinations. Whatever your marketing department is doing, it is attracting people from all over the world.  Having said that, we are all about coastal access. When people come and visit from all over the world and stopping in their journeys in the Mecca of Venice, they are also hoping to visit the coast, and depending on the kind of person they are, they want to visit the coast at all times of day, so frankly I am disappointed with the current curfew on the beach. I am hoping that the new mayor of Los Angeles, your new City Council Person, the new City Attorney, will all appreciate what you really bring to the greater Los Angeles area, and what you provide to the world, really. The creativity that comes out of Venice to the entire planet is something quite remarkable. Some people here today have thrown out a few examples of the Doors emanating from here, but it’s so much more than that, it is regardless of it being famous or not. It’s just that.

We’re all about coastal access, though.”

Venice Victorious – How We Won The Third OPD War

July 7, 2013

Venice, a jewel of the Pacific
Venice, a dream so sublime
Venice, where freedom is in our hearts
Venice, where the light will not be extinguished
Venice, where time goes by but the magic remains
Venice, where a city like none other is being born

By Jim Smith

Our recent victory against Overnight Pay Parking Districts (OPDs) is well-known by most Venetians.  In spite of great odds against us, an army of  truth-sayers from Venice made their way to Long Beach, June 13, where they again spoke truth to power as they did in 2009 and 2010, but this time with even more eloquence.

It was a victory supported by the majority of Venice residents and a lesson to those who would attempt to restrict the freedom of our community.

We were arrayed against our old nemesis, the city of Los Angeles, represented by a bumbling Norman Kulla (none of the better known OPD advocates, including Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and City Attorney Carmen Tutanich showed up),  the empty suits of the Coastal Commission staff who bought into the OPD advocates bogus arguments, and Mark Ryavec’s Venice Stakeholder Association, represented by John Henning, who is the rightwing Pacific Legal Foundation’s favorite lawyer.

This month we are celebrating the 108th anniversary of the founding of Venice.  During that time, we have also celebrated some astounding victories, and some devastating defeats. The very founding of Venice was a victory for the creative spirit of humanity. Venice arrived full grown, as out of the brow of Zeus, and was a marvel to behold. There was nothing like it in 1905. We have the genius and perseverance of one man, Abbot Kinney, to thank for our home. And even today, after years of being treated like a punching bag by Los Angeles, Venice is still a marvel to behold. And so are Venetians. So says the Coastal Commission.

Venice has been on the ropes many times.  Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty wanted to bulldoze the whole town.  In the late Sixties, the city’s “Master Plan” would have turned Venice into a high-rise abomination.  The Canal Project would have made the remaining canals another Marina yacht harbor. A freeway would have run down Electric Avenue, bisecting Venice into white and Black halves. All these schemes were stopped by an aroused

Later, a seven-story “castle” would have risen where Ralphs, Rite-Aide and Ross now stand. Lincoln Place would have been destroyed and replaced by 1,000 condo hi-rises. Permit parking schemes have been swatted down since the 1990s. And still they come.

You have to admire the tenacity of Venetians. We exist in a permanent state of war to preserve our homes and our culture. Our obituary has been written many times. Beat poet Tony Scibella bemoaned the end of Venice in 1959 (The Kid in America) when tourists descended upon Venice to gawk at and take photos of the “beatniks.”

Venice activists Arnold Springer and Moe Stavnezer stared into the camera in Moritz Bormann’s 1978 documentary, Feeding the Sparrows by Feeding the Horses and declared Venice wouldn’t exist in ten more years.

Yes, Venice has changed from (pick a date). But it continues to attract refugees who need a haven where they can take a time out from the capitalist world.  Many lost souls come for a few months and end up spending the rest of the lives here. Sooner or later, they become involved in saving their adopted home when it is under attack by developers, city planners and the self-righteous. This is how in 2013, we are still able to defend the promise of Venice as envisioned, and fought for, by Abbot Kinney, John Haag, Rick Davidson, Marvena Kennedy, Carol Berman and so many more, now departed.

NOPD – The enduring resilience of the Venice Vibe 

Our victory in Long Beach on June 13, against OPDs ranks with our other righteous triumphs, described above. It was a textbook example of community organizing.

Even though many of us believed – correctly, as it turned out – that some residents were growing dubious about OPDs and would reconsider their support, we didn’t take anything for granted.

Our campaign was decentralized. No one person or group made decisions for everyone. Each group - Venice Action, Venice Peace and Freedom, Occupy Venice, the Beachhead, Venice Community Housing, Spirit of Venice, Venice Surf and Skateboard Assn. - essentially ran their own complementary campaigns against the OPDs, as did other groups and individuals.

The Free Venice Beachhead should win a newspaper award for its three-month long series of articles and public service announcements explaining why OPDs are contrary to the spirit of Venice (Of course, the Beachhead also rallied the community against pay parking in 2009 and 2010).

Venice Peace and Freedom distributed 12,000 postcards throughout the community and created the “NOPD” stop sign artwork that was adopted by the campaign as a whole.  Venice Action Alliance raised money for a lawyer and held a rally that brought everyone together.

Occupy Venice mobilized social media while Surfers and Skateboarders reached out to their youngish community for support.  While the Venice Neighborhood Council stayed neutral, they did run a poll on their website that showed the overwhelming opposition to OPDs in Venice (400 No OPDs votes to 294 Yes votes).

How we won – the strategy and tactics of the NOPD campaign:

• A clever slogan, NOPD, a contraction of No OPDs, had been used by some in 2010. This time around, Peace & Freedom ran with it on all their flyers and postcards. By the end of the campaign, everyone had adopted it.

• A decentralized campaign meant that every organization and group could do whatever they did best, and reach the age, ethnic, income and gender group they knew best.

• Our side took the offense. We presented numerous arguments why OPDs were a bad idea. Pro-OPD groups, like the Venice Stakeholder Assn., ended up responding to our points. The city of L.A., was less than aggressive as it was caught in the midst of a changeover with the strongest advocates of OPDs,  Trutanich and Rosendahl, becoming lame ducks. At the hearing, only a low-level staffer came to speak on behalf of the city.

• We had strength in numbers. Lots of people attended the rally, distributed literature, wrote emails, tweets and Facebook. Our numbers really helped us at the Coastal Commission hearing where we outnumbered the pro-OPD advocates by 90 or 100 to five or ten.

• The city made a serious blunder in closing the beach at night in spite of strongly worded letters from Commission officials telling them not to do it. We jumped on the beach closure as an example that city officials held the Commission in contempt. We further argued that there was no way to measure how many people would be deprived access to the beach by OPDs, since they were already deprived access by the illegal closure.

• We seized the moral high ground. While our opponents tried to turn OPDs into simply a parking issue (and under their breath, into an anti-homeless issue), many of us focused on the right of everyone to have access to the beach. This was not a tactical ploy on our part but rather a matter of principle. We explained to other Venetians and Commissioners, alike, that Venice had always been the People’s Beach where everyone, no matter who they were, could feel at home. Our beach was a cool (in more ways than one) haven for Angelenos, in particular, who live in a much hotter summer climate. It is one of the few places a poor family can take their kids, and not spend a cent if they can’t afford it.

What were the lessons we learned, and the lessons we should learn:

We learned that good people abound in Venice and have not disappeared into the sands of history. We learned that programatic unity (No OPDs) does not require organizational unity. We learned that the Coastal Commission is still our friend. We learned that the city of Los Angeles is not our friend. It will do whatever it can to grind us down into its image of quiet, obedient Matrix-like consumers. We should learn that they will come at us again and again because there are billions of dollars to be made in Venice by the developers who pull the strings of city officials.  We should learn that it never works out well when a people – a nation or a city – is ruled from the
outside by people who have a different set of values.  We should learn that no matter how long it takes, or how many defeats we suffer along the way, we have to begin the struggle to restore the city of Venice.

No Overnight Parking Districts (OPDs)

July 7, 2013

By Karl Abrams

I’m concerned with the Spontaneous Poet
that dreamy visitor who drives in to our
Coastal Venice by the sea, without warning
bringing peace in character and freedom of spirit,
Visitor or Venetian, who teaches and talks into the
leaving a trusty parked car without OPD permit.
Perhaps it’s a Walt Whitman, a Pablo Naruda or a
Mary Getlein,
who spends a tired and spontaneous night
at my carefree Venice house.
Who, after a few glasses of wine,
sleeps on my couch without OPD permission
rather than risk a life
driving back home alone.
I’m concerned with the Spontaneous Lover
Visitor or Venice rover,
who parks near the misty coast
and dreams innocent songs of Love, at most,
told by some among us
that they’re just too afraid of
his or her nightly unpermitted presence and too afraid
to let them sleep through the night
to wake again in a new and Free
Venice morning by the sea.

This poem was read by Karl Abrams in front of the
California Coastal Commission at the June 13 hearing
concerning OPDs in Venice

Edward Biberman Mural

February 1, 2013

By Delores Hanney

Since the recent slipping into private hands of the 1939 WPA-built post office in Venice, there has been much anguish and gnashing of teeth mainly due to the loss of an almost constant availability of the pleasure afforded by an offhand gaze at its iconic mural, The Story of Venice, tucked up inside the building. The 6’6” by 15’10” oil-emulsion tribute to the town’s past is the work of one Edward Biberman done in 1941.

The Work Projects Administration was a New Deal agency created during the Great Depression to provide useful employment to the otherwise jobless: constructing roads and bridges, parks and public buildings. Many of those buildings were then festooned with murals capturing a topic of local significance, painted by talented artists such as Biberman who were also working under New Deal programs, The Section of Fine Arts in Biberman’s case.

Not being painted directly onto its host wall, The Story of Venice is separated by process – if not purpose – from those pictographs of the cave painting sort harking back to times of antiquity. By contrast, the Venice post office version of visual life recordation is an oil on canvas that Biberman created in his studio on Vine Street in Hollywood. Actually, the oil was mixed with a wax preparation following a recipe he was given by Hilarie Hiler, a WPA mural-maker working out of San Francisco. It imbued the surface with a lovely eggshell quality and a gentle sheen as opposed to a shine. In completion, the painting was affixed to the wall through a technique called “marouflage,” a kinky kind of name for a procedure not that far removed from a do-it-yourselfer hanging wallpaper in the dining room.

He was way jazzed to receive the commission for this, his second mural. “It’s a painter’s dream to run into that kind of rich material, which also happens to be true,” he told an interviewer for the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian twenty-three years later. “Everything about the place is something which one would imagine to have been created from a figment of some very rosy imagination.”

Biberman’s approach, to this pictorial – and picturesque – historytelling project of his, is delicious, as all who ever saw it can readily testify. Following the ersatz triptych model employed on his first mural painted for the Federal Post Office Building in downtown Los Angeles, Venice founder Abbot Kinney is the central image in The Story of Venice, behind him the visionary rendition of his cultural Shangri-La. To the left Biberman depicted its honky-tonk manifestation; to the right in its industrialized form. In this manner, he captured not only Kinney’s fancy but also how it evolved upon making contact with real life. “It’s a wry commentary on what can happen to a man’s dream,” the artist observed. Venetians promptly claimed it as their own.

Stylistically influenced by the work of important Mexican muralists such as Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clements Orozco, all of whom he knew from his days back in New York, it’s not just a sentimental reminder of things past. The piece exudes a certain romantic muscularity that embraces both the idealistic and the pragmatic in a sideways kind of optimism for the future. It offers, however, no hint of the somber social advocacy that later would become the primary focus of his fervor.

For more than seven decades, Edward Biberman’s awesome mural was there to welcome Venice post office patrons who bustled about, task oriented, towards a swift completion of business. The government retains ownership of the treasure but the covenant signed by the building’s new owner, movie producer Joel Silver – of Die Hard, The Matrix and, Lethal Weapon famewould have him restore it for public viewing at his new digs, by appointment on a bi-monthly basis. That eventuality would have the effect of lifting said mural-viewing from an incidental part of an ordinary day’s errands to the status of a special event. But as Greta Cobar reported in the Free Venice Beachhead, a law suit was filed in Washington D.C. for reconsideration hopefully resulting in re-emplacement in the Abbot Kinney library: the best possible outcome for Venice homies.

In his moody and mystical and impassioned poem, “Sacred Places,” Jim Smith evokes that old post office to enshrine it as a temple, the mural image of Abbot Kinney inside as its resident deity. With it, a piercing howl of pain breaks from Smith’s soul.

Primeval articulation of a community’s grief for things as they stand now.

Sparkly Party for SPARC’s 35th Anniversary

November 1, 2012

By CJ Gronner

It has been all about the art lately in Venice, and a recent Saturday night was a big one for it. C.A.V.E. (Center for Audio and Visual Expression)  Gallery on Abbot Kinney had the opening of renowned street artist Shark Toof’s Ping Pong Show AND it was the big celebration for SPARC‘s (Social and Public Art Resource Center) 35th Anniversary. A full night of greatness.

My dear friend, Shana Nys Dambrot, wrote the introduction for Shark Toof‘s new and completely gorgeous coffee table book, and we discussed Shark Toof’s fine art works on canvas with the man himself.

Shark (I’m gonna call him that, as I have a hard time with the f) opined on the state of sexual taboos in the world that gave his show its name.

“Ping Pong” does not refer to the hooker trick of yore, but rather the sex industry mores of Asia vs. here in the U.S.

Bright fluorescent stripes on the walls caromed about and around the paintings, giving the whole gallery an installation feeling, picking up the colors exploding off the art. The gallery was packed with collectors and hipsters, locals and even a couple tiger face-painted babies that could have climbed out of one of the paintings.

Shark is best known as a street artist, and his work has shown up on exterior walls all over the world, often featuring sharks.

With this new, crucial book, and gallery shows like this, Shark has taken his outdoor pieces inside, and successfully bridged that gap previously crossed by folks like Shephard Fairey and Banksy. “Post Art Bills” reads the box that houses his book. Yes.

The show is bright and profound and you can check it out on Abbot Kinney now through November 11th.

I raced from C.A.V.E. over to the SPARC affair at its headquarters in the old jail on Venice Boulevard. The entire building was lit up, with murals hanging from every inch of it.

The back parking lot had been transformed into a Big Fish style outdoor party, with lights strung up everywhere and music blasting from the stage, courtesy of Venice’s own Tom Schnabel spinning his KCRW brand of world beats, and later jazz and blues legend Barbara Morrison and her band getting everybody up and dancing.

SPARC was founded by Judy Baca, Christina Schlesinger and Donna Deitch in 1976 with their first project, The Great Wall of Los Angeles. It is the longest mural in the world, taking the viewer through important moments in our history all along the L.A. River bank. They offered tours of the massive mural (all done by volunteers and at-risk youth), led by Baca. I couldn’t attend the mural tour, but encourage everyone to get down there and see this true wonder of the world as soon as you get the chance. It is truly massive, and makes abundantly clear the importance of art as a tool for social expression and teaching history.

Awards were given, speeches were made, and there was an air of jubilation over the entire affair. It was a delight to see so many neighbors all out and having a good time under the stars, dancing, drinking (theme drinks like “The Mural”), and eating delicious fare from the booths set up by Hal’s, Casa Linda, and Ben’s BBQ.

You could participate in live mural painting on one of the back walls, and it gave you a sense of the camaraderie and effort that goes into creating the more massive pieces that adorn our fair city.

Every surface was adorned with a mural illuminating important cultural characters and events. Even in the bathroom. In a time when street artists (folks like Shark Toof) get busted and jailed for beautifying spaces, and murals are under attack by small-minded building owners and corporate advertising, this was an especially satisfying evening in homage to the importance of art’s role in social justice.

Once all the donation pitches and speechifying was complete, it was time to simply party. Barbara Morrison and her excellent backing band tore it up, and people kept dancing even as the event was being cleaned up around them. A great cause, a great night of wonderful art, and another exclamation point on the SPECIAL! place that we call home.

As SPARC’s saying goes, “BE the Spark – to bring the past into the present to inspire the future.”

Shark Toof

The Ping Pong Show

C.A.V.E. Gallery

1108 Abbot Kinney Boulevard

Through November 11th


685 Venice Boulevard

Hopefully Always

Earl Newman Goes From Venice to the Smithsonian

September 1, 2012

By Greta Cobar

“I want to thank Venice for being open to free-spirited people,” Earl Newman says 53 years after he came here from the East Coast with a wife and two kids in a ’55 Chevy station wagon “in quest of a future.”

And that he found. After being homeless for a few weeks, Earl and his family moved into the boarded-up store-front that now is the Small World Bookstore on Ocean Front Walk, next door to the Sidewalk Cafe. And there, according to Earl, “opportunity came.”

Someone had left, at the back of the Gas House, all the equipment he needed to silk-screen posters. “And I knew how to use it. I started using it to pay rent and didn’t think that it would lead anywhere or that I’d do it years later,” Earl recently told the Beachhead.

Well, it lead to him being a successful self-employed artist since. This year he is celebrating his 50th year designing posters for the Monterey Jazz Festival, which takes place September 21 to 23. He finds 50 to be a “good, round number” to change direction and “maybe stop designing posters for the festival, maybe go fishing or traveling in a ‘Winnebago’.”

Among his large following is the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, which purchased the complete collection of Earl’s signed and numbered Monterey Jazz Festival posters for their permanent collection.

“I found something I really enjoy doing,” he says of creating and silk-screening his artwork. The first poster he printed in Venice was of the Gas House, a coffee shop just steps south of Small World Bookstore, where Vivianne Robinson’s Name on Rice shop is now located.

“My parents came to visit shortly after we moved into the place, and when my mom walked in, she started crying and said: ‘Earl, we didn’t bring you up to live like this.’ ” According to Earl, it was raining and there were pots and pans on the floor to catch the drips from the ceiling. The floor was covered in sand that he had hauled from the beach to cover up the broken tile.

Earl and his family lived a very primitive lifestyle and had little money. At times Earl didn’t think that they would make it, and might have to return to New England with his wife Jean and two daughters Andrea and April and return to being a school teacher. Looking back, Earl is thankful to Jean, who was also an art teacher, for inspiring him to come out West and for being supportive of their common endeavors. With perseverance Earl and Jean fixed the place up, painted it, made an art gallery in the front and set up residence in the back. “My son Dale was born in the back of the gallery. I delivered him,” Earl told the Beachhead.

Meanwhile, in the front, there was a new art show every month, which allowed Earl to “barely make it.” When he got a night job for the Yellow Pages in West LA, Earl thought to himself: “I’m not gonna do this,” and really got into poster making.

The commemorative 50th Monterey Jazz Festival poster depicts and is a tribute to Shelly Manne, whom Earl wishes to thank for “helping me get to this point.” It was back in 1962, in Escondido, that Earl was selling posters for the first time at a fair, and he met Shelly. “He saw my posters, bought a bunch, and invited me to his jazz club, Shelly’s Manhole, in Hollywood.” Earl went on to design two posters for Shelly, and while hanging out at the club he met a woman who was doing human relations for the Monterey Jazz Festival. She asked him to design a poster for the festival, Earl drew Joe Gordon, a trumpeter, and the rest is history.

“My first time attending the 3-day event, in 1963, I made $1000. I knew right then and there what the formula is: fine art, not commercial, at a good festival.”

Back in Venice, a few years later, Earl set up studio a few houses south of Venice and Abbot Kinney Blvd. He bought a parcel of land with two lots on it, built a 2-story building for himself on one of the parcels, and offered the house residing on the other one rent-free to Rick Davidson, Ana and John Haag, all three of whom founded the Free Venice Beachhead and the Peace and Freedom Party in that very residence. Both the Beachhead and the Peace and Freedom Party operated in that location for quite a few years. According to Earl, “nobody remembers how many.”

By the time the ‘70s came around, business in Venice was slowing down for Earl, and big galleries were coming into town. “I didn’t fit into that package,” he said. So in ’72 he moved up north with his wife and three children to experience farm life in Summit, Oregon. “It’s one of the best things that happened to me – outside of Venice,” Earl said.

He still lives on that farm today with two cats, about twenty chickens, a garden with strawberries, peas, lettuce, rhubarb, carrots and much more. The farm is so big that most of it is a forest with a river running through it. And yes, there are bridges under big trees, with chairs and tables, ideal spots to sit and sip some wine.

Fresh off the boat in Oregon in 1974, Earl visited the Oregon Country Fair for the first time. There he found Peace and Freedom Party members selling bumper stickers and anti-war stuff. He thought to himself: “My posters might fit right in with this.” Within minutes Earl was selling posters side-by-side with the Peace and Freedom folks. After a  few years of co-existence, the Peace and Freedom Party members took off on another adventure, and Earl continues to sell his posters there to this day, without missing a single year.

“I could get bored any time now, but for some reason I don’t,” Earl said about designing and printing posters at 82. “That’s the name of the game: find a passion,” he says. He definitely found his passion. “Art is and has been a great companion for me,” Earl told the Beachhead.

The Lit Show is a Hit – With Suzy Williams

August 1, 2012

By CJ Gronner

Oh, Suzy Williams. How are you so so cool? Well, for starters. she and her husband, Gerry Fialka, put on The Lit Show every year at Beyond Baroque, where you hear the words of famous authors put to jazzy compositions by Suzy and Brad Kay. Where you wind up being not only thoroughly entertained, but smarter.

In the 7th or 8th Annual (no one was really sure which) Lit Show, Suzy and Brad were joined by Oliver Steinberg on stand up bass, Carol Chaikin on everything (well, flute, clarinet and two different saxes), Barry Zweig on guitar, and Don Allen on drums. And the entire crowd of loyal Venice fans on laughter, clapping and the opening chorus of “The Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit Show!!!!” Everyone was down from the opening notes, that Suzy delivered in full Marilyn Monroe (who was also featured on the evening’s program cover, reading Ulysses) regalia, right down to the beauty mark. That’s the thing about Suzy, she really DELIVERS every single word, making her especially great at adapting such glorious words from authors that you may not have even known ever wrote song lyrics.

Like Kurt Vonnegut, Rudyard Kipling, and Ben Hecht (very upbeat number from the dude who wrote Scarface, etal!). Even Ray Bradbury, who lived exactly right across the street here in Venice for a spell, and whose song, “Bedtime Exercise” found Suzy portraying a sexy robot. A “Venusian Venetian.”  To introduce Nabokov’s ditty from Lolita, Suzy said, “Let’s blow it all to Hell!” Which happened, particularly due to Carol Chaikin’s sax blowing that was so feeling it that it reminded me of Lisa Simpson going off.

“The Great Secret”, inspired by words from Hafiz, Suzy’s “Spiritual Master”, turned out to be that There really is no such thing as sin … so we’re off the hook, boys and girls! Suzy is the best. She reminds me a little of Bette Midler in her delivery, and her not giving a damn what anyone thinks, straight up doing her own thing, and in the vaudeville style way she interacts with the crowd. Suzy is a true mold breaker, though, and fully deserving of her title, The Songbird of Venice.

After a brief intermission, Suzy returned to the stage as a sultry brunette, salting the set with funny little asides like, “Edna liked to be called ‘Vincent’” about Edna St. Vincent Millay. For Vonnegut, Suzy donned a turban and hoop earrings and shook a maraca for the summery delight of “Bokomon’s Calypso” from Cat’s Cradle. All the Venice faces were smiling along, deeply in love with the divine Ms. W.  Nice, Nice, Very Nice!

The “G Rated Bessie Smith of Venice”, introduced Brad Kay of Suzy when she sang “Little Shirley Beans”. This one was inspired by Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye – which she suggested everyone re-read when they’re older. I’m going to.

The very bohemianly awesome evening ended with the crowd singing along “LOOOOOOOOOVE!” with Suzy to “A Song of Love” by Lewis Carroll (from Sylvie and Bruno). I loved every bit of it, and urge anyone who’s never seen Suzy to get there and get charmed by our dear local treasure songbird. Especially because she shouts great things like, “Don’t forget! Marilyn Monroe is always on the merry go round reading Ulysses!” to end her show.

The Liiiiiiiiiiiiit Show was about the most sweet/street, smart/tart time I’ve had in a while, and truly so original. Just like Suzy.

Venice – Where Art Meets Sublime

August 1, 2012

By CJ Gronner

The Hammer Museum came down to put on the “Venice Beach Biennial” (which the materials all keep calling a “tongue in cheek” play on the Venice Biennale in Italy – Thanks, we get it.), where a bunch of “Museum” artists joined the Venice artists that are down on the Boardwalk every day, to showcase both styles of art. But art is ALL art, no?

There was a real old style Carnival in Windward Circle put on, interestingly, I thought, by the LAPD. Interesting, considering there are always talks about budget cuts and not enough officers to get the jobs done, but they can throw up a bunch of rides and man-power to watch all the additional people said carny rides bring out? Is it perhaps a little bit to help the image, or what? Interesting, that’s all I’m saying.

I’m not that into rides that are thrown up in a few days, so that whole deal was pretty much a bike through all weekend, but I’m glad the little kids had fun.  The great thing for me was seeing the focus on ART again at the beach. On the beach artists, to be specific, as though the Hammer project brought their artists down, they were not nearly as visible as the people crafting and selling their work every day of the week down there. Aside from the big show pieces nearest Windward Circle, it was nearly impossible to differentiate who came from where … it was just ALL art. And beautiful. If you couldn’t get down there, let me take you on a little stroll of the day with me. Imagine the sun warming your back as you walked, the sea salt breeze making it all perfectly comfortable, music everywhere, and the childhood smells of a day at the beach … except with the sage, incense, and weed smoke moments of now.

The day was so gorgeous out, it was a piece of art unto itself. One thing about the Hammer works was that they weren’t labeled or identified in any way other than a dot on a map they gave out, so people weren’t really sure what they were looking at. So I guess it was just look and enjoy.

Big Easter Island Moai sculptures by Alex Israel had everyone taking attention away from the skaters in the Skatepark for a minute. So cool.

Big pink balloons marked booths where artists were being featured by the VB Biennial, but most of them appeared to be the people that can usually be found down there, like colorful pieces by SKY (Stacey Kai Young).

I spoke to Arthure “Art” Moore who was the featured artist on the materials for the VB Biennial, with his Funky Pussy painting as the logo for the whole deal. He was stoked on it all, and said that the Boardwalk artists were selling more than ever, and really being recognized for their work. VENICE was being recognized as a destination for art again, and that was important to everyone involved. I saw plenty of people holding their own version of Funky Pussy, so Moore, with his homemade eye patch, was taking full advantage of his new celebrity.

In fact, we couldn’t chat too long as we were constantly interrupted by people who wanted their photo with him. Moore was happy to oblige and offered up his signature middle finger (with a smile) to all passersby and tourist photographers. Very Venice, very awesome.

Thank goodness Rara Superstar was back from showing his art all over Ibiza in time to partake in the Biennial, as his colorful pieces are a crucial part of the Boardwalk landscape. He too was kept busy all day taking photos with people and selling them a new memory for their home collections, while reminding them that “Love always wins”.

The day could not have been more pristine, so it was a complete pleasure to amble along and spend more time than you normally would really looking at everything. The bright sunny mood was infectious, and people were open and friendly and into it. One of those days like what could be bad.

All the art looked great against such a beautiful beachy background, that it made you want to get a piece from everyone you passed by. I made a lot of notes on who to return to when I need a perfectly Venice gift for someone. I think a lot of that was going on, really. What better souvenir to bring someone back than a piece of art from someone most likely painting it right there off the sand?

There were street performers and Hammer performers (none of whom did I see all day), and I was stoked to get my own little rap from Dr. Geek … Hey, Blondie, I like the way you wear your laundry … Rad.

Ibrahim was performing in full voice and drums down by the Venice Bistro, and it gave the day a wonderfully authentic soundtrack of badassness.

Art showed up in all mediums, from paintings to jewelry to crazy little heads of figures from Bob Marley to Wilma Flintstone, if that was your thing.

Humor was everywhere – also very Venice – as even the Funky Pussy official materials were pretty funny. Some guys were hawking “Official Bum signs – For just 1 dollar you can own your own bum sign!” yelled some very official looking gentlemen who had made funny cardboard signs for your purchasing pleasure. They wouldn’t let me take a photo. Of course.

I was just beaming all day at how fun and cool life can be, especially here in Venice. I think the best thing I overheard all day was from a middle aged couple – clearly tourists -  walking down the Boardwalk. The man said, “I think we’re going the wrong way.” The woman smiled and said, “I think we’re in the right place to be going the wrong way.

Exactly. She got it. I get it. In that moment, we got each other. And that’s what days like these are all about.

Ray Bradbury and the Free Monorail System

July 1, 2012

Ray Bradbury may have had his head in the sky for The Martian Chronicles and other amaz- ing stories set on other worlds and dimensions, but he knew a good thing here on Earth when he saw it.

In the early Sixties, the Alweg Monorail Company offered to build a 41.8-mile long trans- portation system free of charge. It would have included two lines extending east and west of downtown Los Angeles, and a third running through the Valley to downtown. Standard Oil (now Chevron) became active in lobbying against the plan. Only a few years earlier, Standard, Gen- eral Motors, Firestone Tire and others had bought up and derailed L.A.’s Red Car system, and nu- merous other urban railway companies through- out the country.

The Los Angeles Board of Supervisions quickly rejected the Alweg offer, over Bradbury’s strenuous objections. He recalled being thrown out of the meeting for making “impolite noises.”

The entire system would have cost $123 mil- lion to build ($740 million in today’s dollars), which Alweg would have been reimbursed for out of fare receipts. The company said it would consider more miles of the system if the County wanted it. The Alweg plan can be viewed at

The towers for the tracks, and the tracks themselves, would have been built in a factory and assembled on the spot like a giant erector set. Since it would run down the center of existing streets the system could have been built and op- erating within months, not years. At the time of its proposal, Alweg had already built the Disney- land and Seattle monorails, both of which are still in service.

In contract, the “Subway to the Sea” began with a projected cost of $4 billion. The estimate has already increased to $9 billion and that is only as far as Westwood. Getting to the Sea will cost billions more. Bradbury objected to this waste of time and money, as well, stating that with the pleasant climate in Southern Califormia, monorails made more sense that subways.

Instead of $9 billion for a 10-mile long sub- way, we could have had, or still could have, 549 miles of monorails. That would give us a transit system approaching the coverage of the old Red Car lines, which the city and county ripped up. By the way, the subway won’t be completed until 2036. Bradbury must have been livid.

See more about the Solid Gold Subway at:

–Jim Smith 


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