Delightfully Ellyn…

April 1, 2014

By Anne Alvarez

Ellyn Maybe shares her name on the poets monument wall alongside Philomene Long, Linda Albertano, Jim Morrisson and a slew of other Venice Poetic Greats. However, you would never know it just by meeting her.

Maybe is shy, gentle, and introspective. She comments on accomplishments and associations in the most nonchalant modest manner.

Such as when she tells me Jackson Browne is one of her biggest supporters; Browne encouraged Maybe to expand her art. She recently finished recording the first full length album collaboration with musical ingénue Robbie Fitzsimmons at Groove Masters, Jackson Browne’s studio. The album is a combination of poetry and music.

Jackson Browne wrote the following on her website. It describes accurately what takes place when listening to Maybe recite her poetry: “I have started to write something about you for your site several times, and each time I am struck by my inability to describe what you do in terms beautiful enough, original enough to do you justice. But it’s always been this way. Who has ever been able to say in other words what a song says? Maybe it’s why I like your poems so much, they say what can only be said in exactly the way you say it. The best way of turning someone on to you is to play you for them”.

Maybe was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1964, where she first began to write during her childhood.

Along with her family, she relocated to Southern California in 1980 seeking reprieve from Wisconsin’s relentlessly cold weather.

In 1994 the family moved once again to the Westside when the family’s apartment in Chatsworth became un-inhabitable due to damage caused by the 1994 Northridge quake.

Maybe wrote her first poem while living in Manhattan, NY in 1986. She was hit with a wave of inspiration while walking past a bookstore window display of a mannequin holding books. “The words just came to me, she recalls.”

I ask her what inspires  her poetry now. It ranges from Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen to Stephen Sondheim. “Poems, just come to me, something sparks it and I don’t revise much,” says Maybe.

Maybe sees college campus tours, venues and festivals such as  2013 Symbiosis Festival in the future for the Ellyn and Robbie project.

Ellyn Maybe poetry books are available at Beyond Baroque’s bookstore or Amazon. For more info on Ellyn’s current and future projects check out: ellynmaybe.com or ellynandrobbie.com

DO YOU FEAR ME

Do you fear me cause I wear a purple friendship bracelet?

Do you fear having me as a friend?

Are you afraid to introduce me to your grandparents?

The only perfect thing about me is my perfect lack of confidence

does that freak you out?

I’m fat. How does that sit with you?

I wear political pins does that bother you?

I’m a bookworm. Does that depress you?

Are you terrified cause i’ve been bas mitzvahed

Are you scared cause i think spiders are sacred?

I’m left handed, ooooooooooooo No comment.

Do you worry about me cause i’m a virgin?

Cause i’m loud and sometimes embarrassing

are you wary of spending time with me?

I know where the feminist bookstores are in a whole bunch of states

Does that make you tremble?

People think i’m younger and older than i am

Does that reflect badly on you somehow?

I don’t always comb my hair

can you hear it coming?

Is it my ugliness or beauty that frightens you the most?

Are you afraid of me cause i’m human?

—Ellyn Maybe

Ellen Maybe

 

Above: Ellyn Maybe at the Poetry Walls


Somewhere Over The Rainbow

July 6, 2013

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

By Anne Alvarez
Rainbow Acres health food store recently celebrated its 33rd anniversary. It was no small feat for owner, Howard Pollack, who in 1980 decided to lease 1200 square feet on the corner of Washington and Redwood, opening one of the first health food stores in the area.

The store has recently expanded to over 14,000 square feet, and has been called the largest independent natural food distributor in the country. They carry their own line of vitamins and teas. Asked how he has been able to grow with competitors like Whole Foods Market nearby, Pollack says it is not a competition.  What his store has to offer in customer service and quality speaks for itself. “We make most of our prepared foods in-house. This includes our soups and chili, made fresh daily. The smoothie and juice bar are extensive, and the prices are reasonable. “As a matter of fact, when the Whole Foods located on
Rose & Venice was going through the process of establishing a store, Pollack spoke on their behalf, encouraging local council members to approve the project, because it would bring a healthy awareness to the community.

Bonnie Ji, a store regular, said “I find that this place is a great asset to community members who prefer to support the local cottage industry, as opposed to the Wal-Marts of health food.” Most of the core management team has been with the store between 12 and 30 years, including Pollack’s two daughters and son. This is, after all, a family business. Ramon Marron, who has been working at the store as a manager for nine years, says, “This
store is like his second family. I enjoy coming into work.”

Throughout the store when I asked employees what they thought about their job, the response was similar. Cashier Mark Alvarez said, ” I love this place. It’s fun working here. I love the people, both the customers and my employers.” Trina M., also a cashier, said, “What I like the most are the people that come in. They are so warm and down to earth, with a no-one-is-better-than-anyone attitude.”

Pollack is highly involved with the Venice community, supporting and sponsoring local schools during fundraisers and special events, whether by donating food or gift baskets for raffles being held. Pollack has received many awards through the years for his business ethics and community involvement. He has been President of the Rotary Club of Venice, has served on the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce, and is a supporter of the
Venice Boys and Girls club.

Rainbow  Acres is located at 13208 W. Washington Blvd


Another Door Closes

June 1, 2013

By Anne Alvarez

The music world lost a legend when founding member and keyboardist of “The Doors” Ray Manzarek passed away in Germany on May 19th at age 74 from Bile duct cancer.

Manzarek met Jim Morrison while both were in film school at UCLA between 1962 and 1965. A month after graduating they ran into each other at Venice Beach. They hooked up with guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore, whom Manzarek met at a TM lecture. Morrison named the group “The Doors” based on Aldous Huxley’s psychotropic monograph The Doors of Perception.

In an interview with NPR in 2001 Manzarek stated: “That’s the blend of The Doors as the sun is setting into the Pacific Ocean at the end, the terminus of Western civilization. That’s the end of it. Western civilization ends here in California at Venice Beach, so we stood there inventing a new world on psychedelics.”

Manazarek’s quirky, innovative and often gothic themes, combined with Kreiger’s hypnotic, seductive riffs, were the perfect vehicle for Morrison’s dark, brooding, svengali-like persona and often-improvised poetic, lyrical flights, all of which was punctuated by Densmore’s savage percussion.

The doors had no bass player, Manzarek played bass foot pedals while simultaneously playing keyboards.

Their first album, the eponymous The Doors, included two of their biggest hits “Light My Fire” and “Break on Through.”

Besides their 6 Doors albums 2 albums, Other Voices and Full Circle with Ray on vocals were released after Jim’s death in July, 1971. The Doors formally disbanded in 1973.

To date The Doors remain one of the best selling bands of all time, having sold over 100 million albums worldwide, with 2.4 million in annual sales.

Manzarek is survived by his wife of 45 years, Dorothy,his son Pablo, daughter-in-law Sharmin and three grand children.


Art Aficionados ‘Google’ The 34th Annual Venice ArtWalk and Auction

June 1, 2013

By Anne Alvarez

On May 19 Google opened its doors for the second year in a row to host the Venice Family Clinic’s 34th annual Art Walk and Auction, with 100% of the $650,000 proceeds going to fund the VFC, the largest free clinic in the country.

Over the years The Venice Art Walk & Auctions has raised more than $10 million in total in support of its nationally-recognized humanitarianism. The VFC offers a full range of primary, specialty,dental, vision and mental health services to more than 25,000 low-income and uninsured children and adults annually at its nine locations, two of which are in Venice; the others are located in Santa Monica, Mar Vista, Inglewood, and Culver City.

This year’s events included Art & Architecture tours of a selection of art studios and architecturally significant homes, including artists and architects from East and West of Lincoln. One of the main attractions was artist Cheri Pann and Gonzalo Duran’s Mosaic Tile House located on Palms.

The main event featured live music by various bands, food, drinks and the artwork of more than 350 Southern California artists including: Graphic artist John Van Hamersveld, who has produced posters for Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Jefferson Airplane and designed the cover for the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour album. His most famous poster is the iconic “The Endless Summer” movie poster. Van Hamersveld designed this year’s graphic image and logo for the Art Walk.

Also showcased and honored at this year’s event was local artist Larry Bell one, of the most prominent and influential artists to have come out of the Los Angeles art scene in the 1960s.

His works are in public collections throughout the world, including The Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, and the Los Angeles County Museum.

The silent auction’s biggest seller was Liz Kraft’s “Weed Couch,” which sold for $22,500. Overall, it was a successful, fun-filled event benefiting the less fortunate members of our society.


Food for the Soul

April 1, 2013

By Anne Alvarez

New Life Society is a local grassroots non-profit which was founded in 2001 by Millie Mims, in the mountain community of Badger, California. The original intent was to provide shelter on the family property to people who were in need of temporary housing.

For over ten years, Millie helped people who came to the community and needed lodging. She began going to the local farmer’s market, asking for donations of fruits and vegetables for the small local school, and for families that were in need of food.

In 2010, Millie relocated to Venice, and immediately set up a spot on the Boardwalk to feed the homeless and anyone in need of a hot meal. She sets up a minimum of five days a week, across from the Venice Bistro at 3:30 in the afternoon, and stays until all six gallons of homemade soup, 2 1/2 gallons of salad, rice and bread are all distributed.

She is able to maintain this schedule through the generous donations of local farmer’s markets. On Sundays, she heads to the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market, where local farmers, like Lupe Cordova and her grandson Kyle Moran, donate on a weekly basis.

For about six months, New Life Society was out on the Boardwalk, seven days a week. However, the number of volunteers needed was not met, and she has been unable to maintain that schedule. “We are in need of help on Thursdays and Fridays, in order to get back to a seven-day-a-week feeding schedule. We also need a person with a car to come to the apartment where the food is prepared, to help pick up and drop off at the beach … We need help with people serving, and we need someone that can return back with all the containers. We are also looking for volunteers to help with clean up in the evening for 1 hour, either from 6 to 7, or 7 to 8 PM, would be ideal.”

The New Life Society offers clean water, vegetarian food and emergency shelter to all. Millie and her company are true advocates in the fight to end hunger and homelessness. Remaining persistent in her commitment to help those in need, she is a strong, wise and gentle human being.

Currently Millie is in search of a building in the Venice area, where New Life Society will be able to offer shelter to some of the unhoused looking to get their lives in order.

If you are interested in volunteering please visit http://www.newlifesocietycalifornia.org or you can reach Millie at 310-398-1901.


Writing The American Dream On A Grain Of Rice…

March 1, 2013

By Anne Alvarez

Vivianne Robinson is one of Ocean Front Walk’s most colorful and successful artists, known for her ability to write on a grain of rice. Her record is 14 letters on a single grain spelling out “Rumpelstiltskin.”

It is an art form that originated in Ancient Anatolia, where artisans began inscribing messages and names on rice, widely known in those days as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune.

Born and raised in Venice, she recalls spending her childhood playing on the Boardwalk, often in bare feet. During her teens, she attended school in Santa Monica, but spent most of her free time rollerskating from Santa Monica to Venice. “I made lifelong friends with the performers, vendors and artists of the time. Growing up in Venice gave me an appreciation for diverse cultures and lifestyles. It helped spark my lifelong love of travel. One of the main reasons I love Venice is the diversity. It is unlike any other place on earth.”

Vivianne should know. During her twenties, she traveled to France, Italy and Germany where she worked as a waitress, babysitter and at McDonalds. “I like to absorb the culture. I have always been fascinated by different languages.” She speaks French and German fluently.

She returned to the States, and received a degree in Recreational Studies from Long Beach State. After graduation, she was offered and accepted a job working for the City of Santa Monica, heading the kids and senior curricular programs. She remained there for ten years.

It was a chance encounter with a kind Indian man in 1994, while vacationing on the beaches of Portugal, that her destiny would change. “He was writing on rice and people were lining up for his trinkets. I asked him how he did it and he took the time to show me. It requires lots of patience and a steady hand,” he said. “He encouraged me to do it back home. As soon as my vacation ended, I purchased some rice, quit my job and was fortunate that a friend had a stall for rent on the Boardwalk, and offered it to me.”

“Never imagining working for myself, I had no experience running a business, and frankly just never thought I would succeed.” Her first day on the Boardwalk, people lined up to get their names on rice, and business blossomed for years. That is, until recently, which she blames on the current recession.

Vivianne has become a staple on OFW, garnering national attention when she was the focus of a Modern Marvels episode for her ability to write the world’s tiniest writing. She only uses Uncle Ben’s rice which she says is “the smoothest, most unbreakable rice out there.”

In 2010, muralist Rip Cronk approached her while he was painting his famous “Venice Reconstituted” mural, which according to the artist, is a parody of Botticelli”s Birth Of Venus masterpiece. He asked to take her picture, and mentioned making her a part of the mural, but asked her not to tell anyone. Vivianne obliged, and didn’t say a word to anyone, not even her parents. “I didn’t really believe it. I was completely surprised one day as I arrived at the beach and saw myself halfway painted on the wall.”

While attending the 2012 London Olympics, (she has attended 5) Vivianne’s colorful outfits made her an instant celebrity after the Associated Press took a picture of her arriving at Heathrow airport and it circulated worldwide. Throughout her stay in London, she was featured on the cover of various British magazines, finding out about them only when another tourists handed her one. At one point she was approached by a member of the U.S Track and Field team while eating at the food court at Westfield London’s shopping center, “I don’t know her name, she just walked up to me and asked if I had ever gone inside the Olympic Stadium. I told her no, and she then handed me a ticket and told me to go, as the races had already begun. To my surprise it was a seat 10 feet from the track surrounded by Track and Field stars representing every country.” Her seat was also next to the massive Olympic torch.

Celebrities often approach Vivianne to take pictures with her, and to purchase trinkets for themselves and as gifts, such as Halle Berry, the Olson Twins and the late Jenni Rivera, to name a few. Vivianne is one of a handful of vendors on the Boardwalk to have two stalls opposite each other. She is also an avid photographer, often documenting the daily goings on of Venice Beach. She hopes to publish a book of pictures in the near future. In the meantime she keeps busy doing her art and working private parties. Next time you’re on the Boardwalk, stop by, say hi and get to know a very intriguing woman.

To learn more about Vivianne check out her website: http://www.nameonrice.com


Jazz in the Canals

February 1, 2013

By Anne Alvarez

Chris Bennett sits still during a moment of reflection on the patio of her home overlooking the Venice Canals, as she takes me back through a multi faceted career that spans 3 decades, various  genres of music and a Grammy nomination for co/writing and singing the title track for the film Midnight Express. Bennett worked alongside composer, Giorgio Moroder, who went on to win the Oscar for the film’s musical score.

Her resume is extensive, including among other things being a pianist, songwriter, jazz performer, choreographer and former disco queen. Having sung back up for Johnny Mathis, Rita Coolidge and Donna Summer on her hit “MaCarthur Park” and “Heaven Knows”,  as well as song writing for singer Tina Turner on her 1979 disco music album Love Explosion.

Bennett, an only child of a conservative Illinois Judge and her music teacher mother, grew up listening to Big Band melodies and Broadway show tunes, and was playing the piano by age 5. She often chose practicing instead of doing chores. It wasn’t until her high school days that she developed a love for the performing arts, specifically dance, that led her to open her own dance studio at the age of 16. She pursued the love of performance art after leaving her family behind, and moving to Los Angeles to attend UCLA. However, within a few months of being in town, she was approached by Jim Nabors, known mostly for his role as sidekick on The Andy Griffith Show. Nabors asked Bennett to join his Las Vegas revue which would eventually tour across the country. Getting to perform on stage every night in new venues, and playing to a variety of audiences in different cities helped Bennett gain the confidence and experience of a seasoned professional.

By her mid-twenties, Bennett had become a worldly woman and a well-known vocalist throughout the music industry. In 1976, while touring Germany, she was scouted and hand picked by composer/producer Giorgio Moroder, a man many credit with pioneering electronic music. Moroder asked her to join the popular disco group, Munich Machine, choosing Bennett to be the lead vocalist for their sophomore album which included a dance version of the Procol Harum rock classic, “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” Bennett not only recorded the entire album, she also posed for the groundbreaking cover art, entirely naked. Bennett’s runway model’s body and movie star looks caused an international sensation and made for one of the highest charting and highest grossing disco albums of 1978. As exciting as this period in Bennett’s career was, she knew this wasn’t all she wanted to do. Her main passion had always been jazz, so she took time off, to focus on songwriting, composing and her marriage.

Re-emerging in 1993 a full fledged jazz singer, she produced and independently released an eponymous album that featured an eclectic assortment of covers, including “My Funny Valentine,” the Hollies’ “Bus Stop,” and Leon Ware’s “Somewhere”, along with her own original compositions.

Going through Bennett’s repertoire, it is easy to see why she is regarded as one of the most under appreciated singer/songwriters of our time by many in the jazz community, who compare her near vibrato-less voice to Chris Connor’s airiness. While echoing the purity of Doris Day, and at times channeling jazz idol, Anita O’Day, her ability to sing bittersweet melodies and rockin’ swing tunes make her unique. Bennett has released a total of 11 solo albums, including two live albums, a Christmas platter, and most recently Sail Away – The Tahiti Sessions.

She has also become an advocate for equal rights within the gay community, having composed the song, “Everybody Has The Right” with co-writers, Lisa Catherine Cohen and McKinley Marshall, which she performed alongside disco diva queen Pattie Brooks in major events for the Gay Pride events. Bennett, a heterosexual, firmly believes that everyone should have the same basic rights, a point of view which the Gay and Lesbian community warmly embrace.

Asked why she chose Venice as her home,she answers with a sigh and a warm smile, “There’s no place like Venice anywhere in the world. It is a great place to get older, lots of artistic people with individual ideas are around, and for me it offers the best quality of life one can experience.”

Currently, Bennett tours as one quarter of the disco group, Club Majestic with Pattie Brooks, Suzi Lane and Billie Kaman. Bennett is also collaborating on a musical soundtrack for an upcoming Broadway play by Hollye Leven,alongside acclaimed composer/conductor Maestro Dino Zonic.

She takes me into her in-home recording studio,sits in front of her 1928 Steinway and begins belting out one of the most beautiful melodies I have ever heard, “Sail Away”, a song about love lost.

One thing is for certain, the only place Chris Bennett is sailing into is peoples’ hearts with her gentle and unassuming presence and style.

To Learn more about Chris Bennett check out: http://www.chrisbennett.com/


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