Birth of Venice:
Venice in Films
Actors, Filmmakers and Writers in
Venice live or lived
Actors, Filmmakers and Writers
in Venice hung out
Venice and Theater
Program of the 1978 Venice Festival
at the Fox Venice Theater
The Fox Venice Theater
Tale of the Fox
(from Free Venice Beachhead)
1981 Resistance Celebration
1981 Resistance Celebration
The Rhythm of Venice Beach
To See Venice Is To Live
- opening day slogan
University of Venice
Venice - Ocean Park
Rubber Tramps of
Paul Tanck on
The Venice Walk
JJ for President
Showbiz Comes to Venice
By John P. Marsh
from Free Venice Beachhead June 1980
The best part of the day was the ribs. Lunch came at
about 1:45 p.m. and lasted about 40 minutes. The rest of the day we made
sure that we stayed within the cameras field of vision as it was
repositioned for each shot in a scene from The Jazz Singer starring
Neil Diamond. We were what you call the deep background milieu.
Little dots on the beach. Beach balls and imperceptible activity. Probably
out of focus when it came right down to it. They probably would have liked
to use cardboard or rubber mannequins as stand-ins for us but they would
have had to hire union people to move the rubber ones around all the time
to always be seen over Neil Diamonds shoulder and when it came right
down to it were cheaper.
I consumed 3 orders of ribs, a chili dog without the
bun, 2 orders of fries, a salad, a milk, another milk, fudge cake, coffee,
a Cheddar Cheese Burger De-lux and two cobbettes. After that I was supposed
to go back down on the Venice beach and play another 3-½ hours
of volleyball and throw the Frisbee: Be sure and pick up your old
places when we left off, they yelled through a bullhorn. The horn
wasnt working too good and so you could hear the person yelling
into the horn more than the noise from the horn - which sounded sort of
tinny trebley. From where I was way out on the beach I could see a woman,
who worked the huge arc lamp for the shoot, hitting the lamp with either
a hammer or a wrench and someone saying something about the connections
not working or something.
A wino who was drinking a lot of Ripple fell off the
bench right below where the woman was whamming the lamp. He fell onto
the ground right in front of the old motel-grocery that was being used
as Neil Diamonds mothers apartment in the film. Why the hell
they are shooting The Jazz Singer at all - much less at Venice
Beach - Ill never understand. Rumors swarm the shoot. Everybody
knows that the shoot (thats what it is called
in the biz) is way over schedule. Everybody knows that Lucy
Arnaz replaced Debra Raffin and that the previous director was also fired
and that the film is way over budget. The big rumor floating today was
that B. Streisand turned the flick down cause it was such a bad
script - even though Neil and her are friends.
The wino, who wasnt being paid, just might have
been in better focus than the rest of us since he was about 400 yards
closer to the camera than any of us. Hed been sitting around very
atmospherically selling magazines off of his bench. He had the magazines
all laid out around his feet and he would cajole passersby to buy them
Hed picked them up somewhere like a laundromat or a garbage can.
Old copies of Vogue, a couple of Watchtowers, a Life
with no cover and a few Readers Digests. Later he seemed to latch
onto a bottle of Ripple so he must have made a sale.
The pages of the magazines flapped in the wind and some
tore off and flap-flopped along the roller-route of Venice Beach. After
the wino fell off the bench he too sort of flap-flopped about in his drunken
state. He sort of lay there for a long long time and then every once in
a while the arms, legs, and magazine covers all rustled in the wind. I
knew this cause I didnt have anything to do but lie on the
beach and be a prop for this bad movie they seemed to be making.
It turned real cold about 3 p.m. Real cold. And the A.D.
came out and told us to move into the last shot of the day
and look like happy beachcombers. He laughed like hell but
hardly anybody could hear him because hed stopped trying to use
the bullhorn and besides the wind was kicking up nicely. While we had
been assigned certain areas of the beach to locate into -
by 3 p.m. people had reorganized themselves into special interest groups.
The Vietnam Vet and Ms Football
were way down the beach together snuggling and an older womens
group were immediately identifiable. There was also a jock contingent
from USC who kept leaving the beach to buy beer and a regulars group
of about 8 people who had been on the shoot for over a week. The gay contingent
had put three umbrellas together to shield themselves really nicely from
the wind. We were the deep extras - living backdrop on a big
The political highlight of the day consisted of this
one upheaval centered around this one guy - who to my surprise - everyone
hated. He got called off the cold beach to stand in for Neil Diamond cause
he was 6 tall. He was disliked because he had replaced this other
guy - one of the regulars - who stood 62 and he
would receive the extra 50 dollars you get if you do this kind of work.
Hes hustled in quickly off the beach to take over for the guy that
was to tall. When this occurred, the regular types and the older woman
contingent stood around on the volleyball court and talked about how they
never liked that guy from the beginning. The big gripe against
him was that he was always off drinking beer instead of freezing on the
beach. Hes arranged his coat, hat and book bag next to an umbrella
to look like a stand-in for his body. In long, shot, and out of focus,
he probably looked like a person without even being there. I mean, there
were people who didnt go off for beer that didnt look any
better because they were asleep for ¾ of the day.
It didnt matter. We all hated the dude cause it
was cold and wed all been sucker enough to spend the whole day on
the cold windy beach for 25 dollars and lunch. A good lunch it was but
it didnt justify the existentially vacant, bankrupt experience wed
put ourselves through. Out of focus, unseen extras in a bad Neil Diamond
movie who would probably be ending up on the cutting room floor anyway,
the way the picture was going.
Some real smart people wrote and knit and spent their
time in some personally productive activity. They did stuff that they
probably had scheduled for themselves at home anyway and so they were
the lucky ones who didnt have to suffer any emotional backlash from
the total experience.
The award for the best work of the day went
to a great volleyball exchange which occurred during a filming break.
People moved and grooved but later were unable to reproduce on camera.
Actually we never knew when we were on camera or off. For
all we knew they might have never had the camera rolling the entire day.
At about 5:00 p.m. the A.D. (wearing one of those silver
space jackets) came out on the beach and told us good
work. He added that he wouldnt do your kind of work
for nothing. (He didnt know that we got 25 dollars?) He said
that we looked real nice, like a beach set. Great work,
kids. We all lined up to sign for our checks and they announced
that if we called back Tuesday night after 9 p.m. we could probably get
work seeing Neil Diamond sing in some concert portion of the movie. Somebody
asked if they would be serving dinner and then we all went home.