Ruthie in the Bakery

April 1, 2014

By Marty Liboff

My mother, Ruthie began managing a Jewish bakery on the oceanfront in 1951. It was two blocks north of Venice in old Ocean Park. Ocean Park in the 1950s was predominately a poor, older Jewish community with beautiful turn of the last century buildings. In 1959 the city decided to redevelop old Ocean Park and they began forcing all the old time residents out so they could demolish it for new high rises. We were lucky and found an old house a couple of blocks away. The bakery moved in 1959 to the Venice Ocean Front Walk on Dudley Ave. where the Titanic is today, in the Cadillac Hotel building. A few steps away on Dudley, the Venice West Cafe opened in 1962. It was run by John Haag and his wonderful baleboosteh* wife, Anna. The Venice West Cafe was a cool hangout where weird, wild beatniks with scraggy beards and wild eyes would rant like crazy poetry. John and Anna were the honorary king and queen of Venice and they helped found the Peace and Freedom Party and the Beachhead newspaper. They were great friends of my mom and hung out at the bakery quite often. If John and Anna were the unofficial king and queen of Venice, Ruthie was the mayor.  Back then, Venice was even poorer than old Ocean Park. There was an amazing mix of old Jews, hippies, bums, gonifs*, assorted nuts, homeless and druggies. There was also a poor black neighborhood, da hood, nearby.

Ruthie made the bakery the cultural center of Venice, especially after the Venice West Cafe closed. She managed the bakery through four decades and four different owners. For 15 cents you could get a cup of coffee and a day-old bagel with a lively kibbitz* about politics, TV, drugs, race, the war, and the rising cost of cookie dough. If you were broke, she would give you a couple bucks, and load you up with day-old bread and broken cookies. She would even feed the hungry dogs and pigeons. Ruthie made sure that nobody starved on the beach. I remember many great stories around the bakery. Here is one…

In 1965, I was about 17 years old when the Watts riots broke out. The TV was warning everyone to stay home, especially at night. That evening, after my mom heard the news, she said to me, “Let’s take a walk to check and see if the bakery is O.K.” She didn’t even own the shop, and to risk our lives for a few onion rolls seemed silly to me. I argued and pleaded, but Ruthie just put on her sweater and said, “If you’re too chicken, I’ll go myself!” Well, this tiny woman, all of five feet, calling me “chicken” got me going, and so out we went walking into the night.

Venice looked like a wild party of crazed Somali pirates. Some stores had broken windows, and a few black men taunted us. Some were very drunk. I was ready to wet my pants, and I begged my mom to turn back and go home, but Ruthie just kept marching onward to the bakery. She opened up the bakery door and began giving away the food. I stupidly hung up a sign saying, “Please don’t break in.”

As we were about to leave, four huge threatening men carrying pipes and baseball bats blocked our path. I nearly pooped in my underpants! Ruthie stepped up and said, “You guys know me. I’ve been here for years helping you guys.” A giant of a man with a crowbar came over and put his arms around Ruthie and said, “Ruthie, we all love you. Don’t you worry, we’ll make sure nothing happens to the bakery.”

The next day we walked back to the bakery. The Jewish market and deli and all the shops were smashed and looted. Men were roasting sides of beef over trash cans that were taken from the kosher butcher, while grumbling to us, “What did that damn butcher do with all the pork chops?”. The only shop not broken into was the bakery…

Ruthie in the Bakery

Above: Ruthie in the bakery, by the bread cutter, circa 1961


New Bollards, More Yellow Than the Old Bollards

April 1, 2014

By Greta Cobar

It is unclear why Mike Bonin, our Councilperson, held a Town Hall meeting on October 29, 2013 to hear the public’s input concerning bollards, cameras and blocking off the streets leading to Ocean Front Walk (OFW). During the meeting the public was vehemently against all such so-called “safety measures.”

Speaking as any other politician, Bonin assured us at the Town Hall meeting that he was there to listen to us. Whether he listened or not is irrelevant, for he went ahead with the plan that he had before the meeting, to install bollards and cameras and to block off the streets.

“I appreciate that many people were outspoken against bollards or cameras, and I very much took those opinions into consideration.  Ultimately, I weighed those opinions against public safety and came to a different decision,” Bonin stated in an email message to the Beachhead.

The safety concern was raised following the August 3 death of Alice Gruppioni, an Italian tourist on her honey moon who was struck by the car that Nathan Louis Campbell drove onto OFW from Dudley. Ironically, Dudley is the one of the few streets that has permanent, metal bollards at its intersection with OFW. Campbell intentionally drove onto the sidewalk to get onto OFW. As many have stated at the Town Hall meeting, nobody can stop a madman.

The plastic bollards that flatten to the ground when any vehicle touches them and that were installed immediately after the August murder became nothing but an eye-sore and a tripping hazard in a matter of weeks. Bonin recently replaced them with identical ones, except that the new ones are yellow and the old ones were white. In the numerous places where one of the bollards has broken off, a new one was not installed. That gives plenty of space for a vehicle to pass – if space was actually needed, but it is not, because they flatten. How is this supposed to prevent a murder similar to the one that occurred in August?

The hidden goal of this so-called “public safety” measure is to install cameras all over OFW. It is nothing but an excuse for increased government surveillance right in our back yard.

“The new bollards are temporary, and I hope to replace many of them (depending on location) with bike racks, art, large flower pots, or permanent bollards. We have not determined the total number of cameras or locations, and nothing will happen all at once.  Things will likely be phased in,” Bonin wrote in an email message to the Beachhead.

“Bonin is our elected rep. I respect that he listens to the community and makes his own decisions.  That is his right,” Linda Lucks, VNC President, told the Beachhead.

Whatever happened to our right to privacy?

IMG_2829

Above: New bollards installed by Mike Bonin against public input


Police Selectively Enforcing Vending Ordinance on OFW

January 1, 2014

By Timothy Trygg

Municipal code LAMC 42.15 was established to stop the selling of commercial items on Ocean Front Walk (OFW) so that there would be more space for the artists and the stores would have less competition. Venice has been known for its free speech zones, musicians, jewelry makers/wire wrappers for years. Since the beginning of time jewelry has been considered an art-form, and most prestigious, well-established art museums worldwide have jewelry pieces on display.

Selling jewelry on OFW was made illegal under LAMC 42.15, code which does not include jewelry in the definition of art. Quoting a price for your jewelry is punishable by a fine, and a second offense can result in a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine or your arrest and confiscation of your property.

In fact, LAMC 42.15 is so broad that it has banned the selling of hula hoops on OFW. Do you think that selling a hand-made hula hoop should be considered a crime? My friend Jennifer Jenson  has been given three tickets, and was grabbed by her wrists, very aggressively, by LAPD cops, for being hesitant to sign the ticket. She had to go to the doctor because of her injuries.

Several other items that have been sold in Venice for years were banned by LAMC 42.15. For example, wrapping someone’s hair is now illegal. I was given a ticket three months ago for selling a bracelet I made. The cops warned me that jewelry is illegal, and proceeded to go around the corner and spy on me until I made a transaction and served me with a ticket.

On December 15 the LAPD used undercover officers to entrap and record people without their knowledge. I was approached by an undercover officer, who asked the price of an item. I quoted him a price for an item I made, and as he walked away I was surrounded by three officers. They began to photograph me and my jewelry without telling me what they were doing. I asked officer Skinner what was going on. She told me to go and stand over there, for I was getting detained. She proceeded to record the entire conversation.

Venetians, why are we tolerating this police misconduct and our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression being trampled right in front of our eyes?

I am an artist, jewelry maker, poet, and peace maker. I moved here in 2000, and Venice has helped me to grow as an artist. Venice helped me to simply be me. I am an artist/poet who just wants to be free.

Municipal code LAMC 42.15 is so broad that it has banned tilting your umbrella to protect yourself from the sun. It has banned jewelry and all other hand-made items that do not fit into the code’s own, original definition of art. Some white-collar people sat in a downtown L.A. board room and wrote LAMC 42.15 while being totally oblivious to Venice and what we are all about.

Native American Indians are being fined for making hand-made crafts that they’ve been making since long before the Europeans showed up. So why are there so many made-in-China dream catchers being sold on OFW? Why was I targeted for my hand-made jewelry and not the vendor next to me selling dream catchers from China and the guy on the other side of me accepting signatures for a new banking system? How much did he get paid per signature collected?

The LAPD cops, left to their own devices, will continue their selective enforcement of LAMC 42.15. Some artists selling their hand-made objects are being prosecuted, while others bringing made-in-China stuff from the downtown alley are left alone. Do we have to file yet another lawsuit to yet again try to stop police misconduct on OFW?

ImageAbove: Jennifer Jenson and one of her unique, hand-made-on-the-spot hula hoops, OFW

 


Google’s Ghetto by the Sea

January 1, 2014

By Theo Kirkham-Lewitt

Back and forth on her low-ride beach cruiser bicycle, wearing a black Suicidal Tendencies band t-shirt, dark Ray Ban shades and blood-red lipstick, she pops out against a background of the now tame Abbot Kinney Boulevard. “F.U. GQ! Get out of our city!” Tamara shouts repeatedly as she continually passes by the Party’s entrance. Her partner in protest, with a blue Mohawk over an otherwise bald head and a black shirt that reads, in a white gothic font, “I hate Venice…because of you,” detonates punk rock tunes from a small boom box. Their elderly comrade, wearing a floral print kimono, bobbed grey hair dyed blindingly purple, holds a sign reading, “Venice, The People’s Beach.” Amongst an array of picket signs held by a militantly diverse crowd of long-time Venice residents, GQ magazine’s team of systematically styled representatives stand at attention, arms crossed, hair gelled, matching shirts reading “GQHQ,” projecting an overall aura of disinterest in the growing boycott around them.

The fenced off party held in the parking lot of Brandelli’s Brig, a once rough and tumble bar that attracted Venice’s rather surly crowd, had been transformed into a tidy display of fashion and ‘culture.’ Equipped with a photo booth resembling that of a red carpet and a skateboard ramp attended to by young, manicured men whose image seemed more in line with a Hollister brand advertisement than Venice’s bristly skateboarding past, GQ Magazine’s party on Abbot Kinney Boulevard manifested a change in physical form. The partygoers, a trendy crowd of recent Venice transplants, clashed tremendously with the protest going on just on mere steps away.

Abbot Kinney, the roughly mile-long commercial Boulevard that stretches between Venice Boulevard and Main Street, sacrificially accepted the blunt force of Venice’s transformation, often referred to as the street’s ‘renaissance’. Gentrification seems more fitting. One of the few prominent commercial streets along Venice’s coastal regions, Abbot Kinney acted as a cross section, one in which storeowners, restaurateurs, gallery owners, and their patrons came into close proximity with the neighborhood that rears the boulevard to the east, Oakwood. Abbot Kinney’s close vicinity with Oakwood, a neighborhood central to the once considerable amount of the gang activity in Venice, created a tension between the sundry residents. While ‘tension’ tends to take on a negative connotation, it took partial responsibility in defining Venice as a whole for quite some time. Creative people of all types flocked to Venice in part because of this very cultural friction.  While nearby suburbs lacked tension, Venice had abundance, and thus, had its identity.

On November 16th, 2013, GQ magazine decided to throw a party to celebrate the boulevard’s rise to its current position upon the regal thrown of LA’s hip social scene. As a follow up to an article they published in April of 2012, GQ announced that it planned to “take over” what they had called “the coolest block in America,” for a (pretentious) day of “style.” November 16th (1850) also marks the birthday of Mr. Abbot Kinney, the developer and conservationist that founded Venice beach in 1905. GQ’s celebration seemed, however, to focus more on the “coolness” of the once turbulent boulevard, rather than celebrate the historical relevance of the day, a subtle, albeit, perhaps unintentional, slap in the face to those residents who have called Venice home for a lifetime.

I grew up on Dudley Avenue, one of the many ‘walk-streets’ in the area, a microcosm of the surrounding three square miles that once endearingly embraced a title, “Ghetto by the Sea;” a melting pot within melting pots. As a young kid who wanted nothing more than to surf all morning and skate all day, the backdrop of my daily life seemed exclusively of ‘the street’. Pre-sunrise commutes down the iconic Venice boardwalk, surfboard in hand, bled into countless hours clattering up and down the walk-street with the other neighborhood kids.

First-name basis conversations with the local homeless men and women were the norm. Pick up games of basketball with the gypsies’ kids from down the block happened weekly. Altercations between seedy hooded men and women in front of the crack house at 58 Dudley Ave kept us on our toes. The neighbors’ urban chicken-coup provided hours of entertainment. The Phoenix house, a drug rehab center a few steps around the corner, added its own array of unstable characters to the circus, while across the street, Eric Clapton’s modern mansion stood obtrudingly amongst the surrounding cottages and stucco apartment buildings. Across the street from my 1907-built home, a successful entertainment lawyer lived next door to Katherine Hardwick, Hollywood director most well known for Thirteen and the first Twilight movie. A quick glance up my street, across the perpendiculars of Pacific Avenue and Main Street, and the iconic Frank Geary designed “binocular building” dominated the horizon. Assuming the weather was favorable, floods of tourists wedged themselves into the mix of street vendors and vagrants, as if they were the excessive grout between lines of deteriorating bricks.

In the midst of this charming chaos, the neighborhood kids went about their daily non-routine, Dudley Avenue as their playground. Of course we had some loose supervision. My dad, an independent film producer, often watched us skate, occasionally accompanied by his old friend Eddie Bunker, a former two-decade-long inmate at San Quentin Penitentiary turned writer, who would humorously point out to my dad which houses on the block he had boosted in his former life. Apparently he had hit them all. Our once-drug dealing neighbor served as another source of supervision. Always home, he ceaselessly kept at least one protective eye on us, the other eye on his ‘business’. In the event that Crazy Mary, a local schizophrenic homeless woman that frequented our neighborhood, decided to venture up onto our urban playground, screaming indecipherable nonsense, our adolescent games of tag suddenly became training. She scared the living crap out of us, and would send us hopping over my home’s short fence, darting onto my porch quicker than a ‘crack head’ could put flame to pipe. To us, it was an exhilarating, and admittedly horrifying, game. My parents and older sister (of 4 years) would always laugh in retrospect at the time she got her dress stuck on the fence in attempt to run from an approaching Mary, frantically running in place as she gained no ground. Too young to remember this incident for myself, it became that of a wives’ tale to me, The Legend of Mary and the Dress.

The luxury of a living on this “walk street” meant that all of the interaction and people-watching unfolded without the interruption of passing cars; our very own concrete park. Perhaps if we had lived on one of the more popular commuter streets like Pacific, Rose, or near Abbot Kinney Boulevard, we would have noticed all of the fancy cars that were becoming more and more common over the last near-decade. Fumes of change began seeping through the cracks of our wonderfully confused community. Sure, our contemporary “Ghetto by the Sea” remains by the sea, but the “Ghetto” qualities that made the community exciting have since faded to near extinction.

Upon this stage of both sub-cultural confrontation and coexistence, creative people of all types found inspiration. Steadfast in their devotion to non-normative society, the beatniks adopted Venice as a Mecca. Here, they drew inspiration from the surrounding street culture and the accessibility of narcotics.  Throughout the seventies and beyond, Venice became known as one of the most hardcore, localized hubs of surf and skate culture to date, germinating yet another subset of social rejects. Venice’s history of providing room and board for hoards of culturally deviant castaways certainly left its mark on the small beachside city. While the beatniks may have faded, relics of their era persist. One glance at either the beachside parking lots or residential side streets, and the curious visitor would have been hard pressed to miss the bearded men in their florally cloaked trailer homes, throwbacks to the city’s fading past. The lack of these vehicular floral orchestrations both literally and metaphorically marks a sad end to the vibrancy of Venice’s identity, its shift towards ‘the ordinary’.

Over the course of the last dozen years or so, Venice’s reputation of cultural eclecticism has fallen below a matter of fact, and crept closer and closer towards the realm of myth. Many Venetians attribute much of their present disillusionment to Google, who, in November of 2011, moved roughly 450 engineers into the space at the Frank Geary Binocular building, simultaneously taking over the two surrounding buildings. While the move may have only taken place recently, the surrounding community began experiencing a shift in character months in advance, as the number of high-end restaurants and designer boutiques began to inflate at an alarming rate. Rose Avenue, a commercial street less than a block away from Google’s new headquarters seemed to mutate the fastest. In what felt like an overnight occurrence, condo complexes were erected, along with a string of cafes serving up ten-dollar juices and five-dollar coffees a la Café Gratitude. To a devout foodie, the flash flood of fine dining was a blessing. The obvious alignment towards an incoming upper social class of technological entrepreneurs, on the other hand, made me nauseous.

In an article published on LA Currents in May of this year, Tasbeeh Herwees illuminates the opinions of a handful of longtime Venice residents, including those held by Deborah Lashever, member of Occupy Venice as well as a small local business owner. She recalls that Google said “that they were moving to Venice because they really like the culture…so I don’t understand why they want to wreck it.” As Tamara, one of the more vocal protesters from the GQHQ protest points out, “they wanted to make it a community and make it part of our community, but they’re not. They’re totally separating themselves. They literally look at us like we’re the scum of the earth, but we’re the artists! We’re the ones that made [Venice] what it is!” While expressing her thoughts, Tamara’s frustration became increasingly visible as she noticed her ex-landlord hanging out at the GQ event. Recently evicted due to drastic increases in rent, Tamara, and many residents in a similar situation, take the changes in Venice’s character very personally.

Despite all of the changes brought forth by the rushed gentrification of the once coastal ghetto, and the apparent death of a city’s soul, oddly enough, tension, that ever-defining trait, lives on. Whereas the past embraced a tension between art and crime, concrete and sand, both the present and foreseeable future seem to have adopted a new, perhaps more ubiquitous alteration, one that exists between economic and social classes. Perhaps more accessible to the observing outsider, this archetypal tension follows suit with Venice’s shift towards becoming increasingly palatable to the masses. Having lived in Venice for just over twenty years, I’m disturbed at how quickly I have been assigned a sense of displacement towards my own city. While Venice will always be my home, I may have to dig increasingly deeper into my memory to regain the sense of place that once defined my home experience.  Timothy Leary sightings replaced by glimpses of Robert Downy Jr., and artists replaced by trust-funders, the old kind of Venetians roll with the punches, still the early rounds of a steep uphill battle for ownership; Venice’s new form of turf warfare.

ImageO

Above: Ocean Front Walk, 1972.  Photo: Richard Mann


Zipline Leaves Juan Smelling BS

October 1, 2013

By Greta Cobar

Following their promise to leave only footprints, Flightlinez removed the two towers supporting the zipline and are in the process of restoring the grass that was uprooted when the towers were installed. Unfortunately, the process of restoring the grass involved a stinky fertilizer that stunk up parts of Ocean Front Walk for days.

Business at the Sidewalk Cafe was negatively affected by the foul smell according to Mason, who works there.

In spite of the stench, Venetians have been delighted to see the ocean-view-obstructing zipline gone.

“It’s finally quiet again,” said Vivianne Robinson, whose Name on Rice stand on OFW is right in front of the location where the zipline operated.

The best news is that they did not make their anticipated profit, and therefore will probably not return. Their loss should stand as a testament and warning to other similar attractions that might consider coming to Venice.

“Our goal was to have 350 riders per day, but we did not touch that,” said Brina Marcus, marketing director for Flightlinez/Greenheart, in a conversation with the Beachhead.

The so-called attraction was sold to Venice residents under the pretext that it would provide money to the city of Los Angeles to clean and maintain the bathrooms in Venice. Three months later, the bathrooms are not any cleaner. This should stand as a testament to us Venetians to not be fooled again, and to remember that it is the city of L.A.’s job to clean our bathrooms. Such cleanup should never be contingent on an ocean-view-obstructing attraction operated by a company in Canada.

“Financially it doesn’t make sense for us to come back as temporary because setting up and tearing down is time-consuming and costly,” Marcus told the Beachhead. “To become a permanent project, however, would take anywhere between 18 months to 3 years, and it would involve permits and processes with the California Coastal Commission,” Marcus said.

“I can’t divulge anything we learned,” Marcus told the Beachhead. She was not able to tell us the average number of riders per day, nor the amount of money the city of L.A. received from Flightlinez. According to the contract, the city was supposed to receive 15 percent of gross profit. By the low number of riders that residents have witnessed throughout the summer, there might not have been a profit.

Meanwhile the Venice bathrooms continue to offer third-world conditions and to stand as a violation of basic human rights. Busy summer weekends witnessed hour-long lines, lack of toilet paper and no locks on doors. Of course we get annoyed when people pee in our neighborhoods, but where are they really supposed to go when nature calls and there is nowhere to go?

In Santa Monica they have new, state-of-the-art, well lit, clean bathrooms with plenty of paper and other basic necessities that we, over the border, see as fancy.

Cityhood is the difference between Santa Monica and Venice. They get to spend their money on what they choose, while all of the revenue generated in Venice goes downtown L.A. and we are left crying and begging like an ignored step-child.

The city of Los Angeles annexed Venice in 1925, following the discovery of offshore oil. The citizens of Venice at that time voted in favor of annexation, but the vote was rigged by just-arrived implants, who were moved to Venice right before the vote. In addition, Venice citizens were misinformed and threatened that without annexation, they would have no more drinking water.

Add this to the barricades the city of L.A. put against Venice cityhood: the entire city of L.A. would have to vote on and approve a current de-annexation. However, only the citizens of Venice voted to approve the annexation in 1925.

If Venetians were allowed to decide and vote upon, we would have our own magnificent city of Venice with the grandeur of yore. There would be no need for an ocean-view-obscuring zipline in the vain hopes of having clean bathrooms. One way to achieve that would be to change the requirement that the entire city of L.A. needs to approve de-annexation, and allow Venetians to once and for all decide for themselves.

Juan Smelling BS


The Merchant of Venice

October 1, 2013

By Delores Hanney

Today Mike T. lives a life of gracious bohemianism with his longtime love Laura. He’s an artist; she’s a writer. Their enchanting Venice home and its 800 square-foot studio behind are hidden from view by thriving gardens swoony with scent and color, tinkling chimes and little surprises tucked in here and there. Sometimes they are in residence enjoying a mellow, mystical lifeway. Other times, when fortunate travelers have taken up occupancy, they load up their trailer and sally off to bask in the alternate pleasures of San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente, Laguna, Monterey or some other lush by-the-sea location: a pair of nature-enthralled gypsies in a rolling abode. But back in the time of hippies, Mike was part owner of a psychedelic book store-cum-gallery, an emporium purveying all manner of accoutrements, trappings and regalia for enhancement of the 1960s counter culturists’ lifestyle.

The Earth Rose, as it was called, was located at Ocean Front Walk and Rose Avenue, where the Venice Ale House currently stands. Next door a Jewish delicatessen was operated by Holocaust survivors; the hotel across the street was known as the Ocean View in that era. The shop came into being when Mike threw his lot in with trust fund endowed Steve Richmond who made a hobby of casual entrepreneurship. “He was an edgy kind of guy, a poet and both of us were pretty weird,” Mike told me. “Steve was responsible for ‘content,’ mostly books of poetry or spirituality.” While Mike was the ambiance maker and finder of groovy merchandise irresistible to hippy taste, they shared the role of shop clerk and chatter-upper of whoever happened to walk in. Keeping a surfboard at The Earth Rose, with his current girlfriend or Richmond watching the store, he regularly nipped across the sand to surrender to the sea for a deliciously mind-altering hour of riding the surf, his co-passion along with painting.  “Painting and surfing bring similar feelings of being put in touch with something bigger than me,” he says.

The building the shop inhabited was roughly 3000 square feet, with thirteen-foot ceilings and a bright red floor. Aurally permeating the space, music by the Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish, the Grateful Dead and suchlike ripped and roared from the sound system.

A large painting of a rose, similar to the one that now decorates the Rose Café, reigned as emblematic greeter above the grand double door entrance. Inside, the walls were filled with the work of local artists, including Mike and a guy who made a specialty of dayglow colored scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There were posters from the Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco’s famed rock venue. Square black tables covered in lace displayed jewelry and there were racks of handmade items of leather clothing. They sold incense, Indian rugs, beaded curtains. Before long they expanded their inventory to openly include drug paraphernalia: pipes, rolling papers and whatnot. It was a charmingly notorious enterprise when considered from the perspective of today’s medical marijuana peddlers common as cabbages along Ocean Front Walk.

“The store was the most visible feature on the boardwalk, as merchants were then few,” Mike reports. The gathering of a gaggle of comfortable chairs around the cash box area helped create a relaxed, clubby atmosphere for hanging out that brought a kind of focus to the community. Ray Manzarek – of The Doors – and members of the nearby Strawberry Fields commune were frequently countable among the throng of congenial regulars. From this it grew into a neighborhood resource that under the auspices of others was part of a free food program and additional grass roots services. It also provided public meeting space supporting issues of humanitarian concern.

The Earth Rose was a modest success, financially, but its incarnation was a brief one. The inevitable demise oozed from the fact that neither of the owners was a sit-around-all-day-and-watch-the-shop sort of chap. Richmond bought Mike out but shuttered the doors not long after, because it just wasn’t fun anymore.

Faced with a delightful dearth of daily duties, Mike T. pootled off to Oahu (one of the Hawaiian Islands) to be a part of the North Shore surfing scene’s golden age for nine months. Returning to Venice, he resumed painting with renewed vigor and was taken to the bosom of the booming L.A. art crowd. A few years later he was inspired to travel to Europe in the role of manufactured mescaline evangelizer for the incredible spiritual highs it induced. As a mission the trip was a bust, but just being there was an epiphany for the artist in him. Back at home again, his art flourished. In time Laura arrived.

And The Earth Rose was only a memory.

Earth Rose


Our Oldest Mural Is Gone

September 1, 2013

By Greta Cobar

The owner of the building housing the oldest surviving mural in Venice destroyed the mural without consulting the community or the artist who painted it.

Located on Brooks at Pacific, the 15¢ wash and 5¢ dry artwork has been a part of Venice since 1969. Locals at that time, The Doors band members posed in front of it and used the photo for publicity.

Through the years the bottom of the mural got tagged and was partly painted over.

The law allows building owners to paint over murals as long as they inform the artist 90 days in advance. Victor Henderson, the artist of the mural on Brooks, was not notified. The wall was sand-blasted and primed.

Ralph Ziman, the owner of the building, hired Clinton Bopp, a painter from Santa Monica, to re-create the mural. The two of them had planned to include The Doors band members in the new mural, but the original artist himself, Victor Henderson, showed up and put a stop to that idea.

So should we be happy that we got a brand-new, shiny and more colorful copy of the original mural on the building on Brooks? NO! The forty-four year old artwork was destroyed. Its re-creation is analogous to a copy or a re-creation of a Picasso painting. There are millions of those copies and re-creations, but only one cherished original.

“Henderson’s 1969 mural in Venice was obliterated and it will be recreated. We don’t recreate murals, we restore them,” the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles stated on their Facebook page. Residents, visitors, artists and muralists would have preferred to preserve the original mural and restore it. But they did not have a choice – the owner of the building did.

Artists have the right to sue if their artwork is destroyed without the required 90-days notice. Considered the grand-daddy of the current mural movement, Kent Twitchell did sue the city when his 3-story high Ed Ruscha (1987) mural disappeared in 2006. He got a million dollars. Victor Henderson would have a similar case against the owner of the building on Brooks.

“Their loss is deeply felt not just by the artists, but by Los Angeles,” wrote Alice Emmons in the Rogue Art Research and Writing Journal referring to “discarded, stolen, erased” murals.

A year ago the owner of the building on the north-east corner of Windward and Pacific decided to cover the whole building in white, painting over a beautiful, intact mural on the busiest intersection in Venice. To think that such a decision is remote, and does not affect the community, would be a mis-judgement. Murals are public art, and by definition they belong to the public. When they are taken away, it is the public’s loss. People appreciate art in their communities, and with time they rightfully begin to identify with it. Murals become part of the community.

Nostalgia and public interest in lost murals prompted the art show “Lost L.A. Murals,” which took place in November of 2012 at Cal State Fullerton. The show “explores how that loss (of murals) has impacted the culture and history of art in Los Angeles,” wrote Alice Emmons in the Rogue Art Research and Writing Journal.

Two of the four murals featured in the “Lost L.A. Murals” show once lived in Venice: Terry Schoonnhoven’s St. Charles Painting (1979) and Venice in the Snow (1970) by the Fine Art Squad. The first muralist group in Los Angeles, the Fine Arts Squad was created by Victor Henderson and Terry Schoonnhoven.

Just like Victor Henderson’s Brooks mural was a mirror image of the landscape facing it, so Terry Schoonhoven’s St. Charles Painting on Windward, on the east side of the building now occupied by Danny’s Deli and the Cotel hostel, was a mirror image of  1979 Windward facing Pacific. It was painted over in 2012 by Jonas Never’s A Touch of Venice mural. Terry Schoonhoven’s widow apparently stated that Terry Schoonhoven did not want his murals to be restored, instead accepting their inevitable decay and disappearance.

Venice in the Snow, on the other hand, still exists, but it is obscured by an apartment building that was built inches away from it. Based on a report of snowfall in Venice in 1949, the mural illustrates Ocean Front Walk covered in a blanket of snow. “It captured the imagination of the community with its ironic and realistic style,” wrote Alice Emmons in Rogue Art Research and Writing Journal.

Painting on buildings was a novice concept in the 60s and early 70s, and when the Fine Arts Squad started working on the Venice in the Snow mural, “the local community became enthralled and involved with the project, leaving offerings, setting up couches to create an outdoor living room of sorts,” wrote Liz Sadoff in LA Fine Art Squad. This further goes to show that a community becomes part of the mural much as the mural becomes part of the community.

World-famous artist known as Banksy bestowed one of his artworks on a garage door in Venice in January 2011. A self-titled graffiti artist, Banksy gained world-wide fame and notoriety with the movie “Exit Through the Gift Shop”.

Consequently, the garage door that he tagged was bought by theChive, a Texas-based company that was already using a hand-full of Banksy’s designs on their shirts. And not coincidentally that same company is currently renting, and flying their flags high on, one of the newly-built super-expensive condos on OFW and Thornton.

This is a generic example of a company that has absolutely nothing to do with Venice moving in to smudge off the “coolness” of Venice. When asked why they took public, street art out of its intended location, the company stated that it plans to loan it to museums. The garage door has not been seen since 2011. But how often do we walk through a museum compared to how often we walk down the street? And which one is free?

The owners of the building housing Emily Winters’s JAYA mural on Dell, in the Venice canals, are currently expecting a child and are planning on moving out. “If the building got sold and the new owners wanted to paint over the mural, I could go and take pictures of it. Moving the mural would cost $100,000. But they probably wouldn’t paint over it because they wouldn’t want to antagonize the community,” Winters told the Beachhead.

If Ralph Ziman, the owner of the building on Brooks, would have given the required 90-day notice of intent to destroy the mural, the public could have been mobilized to fight the destruction of the oldest mural in Venice, and one of the oldest in all of Los Angeles. Victor Henderson could have been paid to restore it, with the original, dimmer colors. As it is, Ziman just antagonized the local community and the arts community far and wide. The saddest part is that what he did cannot be undone.


Increase Safety by Banning Police Cars on OFW

September 1, 2013

By Greta Cobar

Plastic bollards that lay flat on the ground when a car touches them will not stop anyone determined to drive down Ocean Front Walk. Several such bollards that have been installed following the August 3 incident, which resulted in one death and sixteen injuries, have already been broken and removed. The others have become nothing but a major eye-sore.

Mike Bonin, our new councilperson, is responsible for the bollards that materialized on OFW days after Alice Gruppioni, a 32-year old Italian tourist on her honeymoon, was run over and killed on OFW.

Expanded and improved surveillance camera systems on OFW could not have prevented the tragedy that took place August 3 any more than the current (and missing) bollards would have. Yet that is what Bonin’s motion before City Council is asking for.

The current situation on OFW is a microcosm of what has been going on nation-wide for quite some time. It’s been under the pretense of an attack (that our government has been blaming on some group of terrorists) that government surveillance was started and further propagated. And they are about to amplify the spying in our back yard, OFW, again under some false safety pretense.

Pretense is how it gets done – chemical weapons in Syria much like weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and us having to go through the invasive inconvenience of taking our shoes off at the airport as a result.

As we seat quietly while they barricade the beach, remember that Nathan Campbell, who drove down OFW like a maniac trying to hit people, entered on Dudley. Cars cannot enter OFW by driving down Dudley because of metal barricades that have been in place for years. Campbell drove onto the sidewalk on Dudley. If permanent metal barricades were not able to stop him, do we put our hopes into bendable plastic ones?

Campbell, 38, turned himself in hours after the August 3 incident, at which time he failed a field sobriety test. It is unknown at this time if it was alcohol and/or drugs that he tested positive for. He has since pleaded not guilty to one count of murder, 16 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 17 counts of hit-and-run, and is being held on $1.48 million bail.

Car traffic cannot be blocked off OFW because of trash pick-up and emergency police, paramedics and firefighters. Most of us don’t witness the early hour trash pick-up, but pretty much as often as we are out there we see police and fire vehicles parading up and down OFW for reasons other than emergencies. “Oh, the police car is coming, get off the bike.” “Oh, wait till they leave to light up.” That is their effectiveness summed up.

A quick internet search yields hundreds of results for police cars running over people on boardwalks such as ours or while sunbathing. In May 2010 a Long Beach man was run over while he was sunbathing. Within days county detectives completed their investigation and the officer was cleared of any criminal conduct. Similarly, in February 2003 a French tourist was run over and killed by a Miami Beach police officer. And in December 2012 the safety chief ran over a sunbather in Hollywood Beach, Florida, and was back on the job the next day.

Just hours after the tragedy that happened here in Venice on August 3 blogs were calling the incident an act of terrorism. According to an August 7 Washington Post blog, “you are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist.” So why don’t we address that issue, instead? Why do the police drive up and down the beach and OFW all day long while not “serving” the public? Consider an August 9 ONION headline while pondering the answer to the last question: “Insecure, Frustrated Bully With Something to Prove Considering Career in Law Enforcement.”


For Alice Gruppioni, who died here

September 1, 2013

For Alice Gruppioni, who died here

she came here for her honeymoon

she left, to go to her funeral

a sun-kissed shore, that’s what they call Venice

so many people have come here

to come home:

they come here and the last piece of

the puzzle that is themselves,

slips into place:

and you go: oh yeah!

THIS is the place I’ve been looking for

I always wanted to live in the Gingerbread House

I wanted to fall asleep on the sand

and wake up to find the moon talking

to me –

and saying: look! look! look!

here I am the moon

the moon –

“by the light of the silvery moon”

we played day and night

walking, hopping + skipping down the boardwalk

trying a second or third time

to get this childhood right:

just want to stay at home and play

with glue, feathers, paints, glitter –

did not get enough of that –

that girl from Italy =

we are so sorry this happened to you.

it’s so sad –

we bless you and your family

our hearts reach out to your hearts –

we know what sorrow is –

we share your sorrow with ours.

Mary Getlein


Love Around the World

September 1, 2013

By CJ Gronner

I was out of town in Chicago, having a blast at Lollapalooza. My friend said, “Some psycho mowed down people on the Boardwalk today!” Then I started getting messages from people all over, hoping I wasn’t down there myself when this evil maniac decided to hurt people on purpose. I wasn’t, thank God. Nor was anyone close to me. Thank goodness!

A whole busy Summer Saturday throng was there, however, and will never forget it. It’s actually a complete miracle that more people weren’t killed or hurt, considering how dense the population is down there at that time. (Kind of how amazing it was that more people weren’t killed when the Minneapolis bridge collapsed a few years ago at rush hour. Complete miracle.)

I got back to Venice, and the first thing I wanted to do was go down there and talk to people, to try to understand a bit for myself. But there is no understanding of this kind of crazy. No one could believe their eyes, even as it was happening.

The incredible thing now is that each and every person I talked to on the Boardwalk was coming at it with love. Their main concern was that the family of Alice Gruppioni, the new bride on her honeymoon from Italy – TRAGIC – knows that Venice sends them love, and feels their pain. We love our community dearly. Having something horrific like this happen in a place that is world-famous for mellow vibes and one love is just completely out of context.

I was happy to see that the Boardwalk was packed. On a weekday. Everyone was laughing and having a good time, per usual. No fear at all detected. More incredulity, really. Like, WHAT?!

As we walked along, and got closer to where Gruppioni was killed, I had a weird, quiet feeling. I’m pretty sensitive to the feelings of things, and it just felt … different. Reflective. Reverent. Sad.

A memorial was set up, with signs and flowers and messages of love. The artists of the beach came together to create big canvases that they sent to the Gruppioni family in Italy. It can’t change what happened, but it can let them know that we are with them in their grief. Community – and love – always helps in healing.

The sky was as bright as the colors in the paintings, and it felt like nothing bad could ever happen. The thing is, that when something bad DID happen … the people came together and showed love, helping one another in every way that was necessary as the horror played out. They all talked about that – the coming together. The good in the bad. That should be what we take from it.

That’s why we have to absolutely treasure every golden moment we get to do that smiling and laughing, because you just never know. I guess that’s the lesson every time some insane thing like this happens. Love your life NOW.

Deepest sympathies to everyone hurt by this outrageous act. Love to everyone who loves Venice, around the world. Love.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers