Free Venice Beachhead
Local People Archives
Webslave's note: Each month, back
when I lived in Venice, someone from the Beachhead Collective would
drop off a bundle of a hundred copies at my door, and I would distribute
them house-to-house around Oakwood. My way of continuing to be a Beachhead
volunteer is to resurrect and re-type selected articles from its past
(pre-computer) issues, for which the Beachhead has graciously granted
L. A. Shuns Walking Wounded
By Patrick McCartney........ #177 Sept. 1984
You all know him as Wino Bob, maybe as Veteran Bob.
Hes the loudest, most obnoxious, egomaniacal, cussedest, theatrical
public drunk and liar on the boardwalk. If you dont believe me,
just ask him.
But for all the times Ive heard Bob run off
at the mouth and chuckled at the audacity of his lies, Im sorry
he didnt get his shot at the Olympics. Maybe you didnt notice
(say, if you left L.A. so you could watch the Olympics from a motel TV
in uncrowded Boise), but Wino Bob (Schmidt is his family name) was given
a three-week vacation at County General thanks to the LAPD and its contribution
to cleaning up the streets.
To be honest, when the police took him in the day
before the Olympics began, I was happy enough. They took Tony - "Circles"
- also, the young, gentle schizophrenic who paced endlessly in circles,
his feet eventually polishing the asphalt in a six-foot circle that defined
his whole world.
Bob Schmidt was released two weeks after - the Friday
before the Olympics final weekend. As usual after a dryout, Bob
was spry, funny, and congenial. His voice was, for the moment, strong.
Bob stopped in front of my apartment and exchanged
greetings. Hed been back on the boardwalk for an hour, but as we
spoke a cruiser stopped and the officer asked Bob to get in, that the
Sergeant wanted to see him. Bob cooperated, and the cop tried to give
me Bobs wheelchair. "Were going to arrest him again,"
he told me in a confidential tone. I asked what for and was told for warrants.
So much for Bobs ballyhooed anticipation of the Olympic games.
The reason Im writing this is not really to
defend Bobs right to have been loud and obnoxious during the Olympics
- although I think a case could be made for just that. But instead, the
incident bothers me for somewhat different reasons.
First, I remember the indignation expressed in 1980
when the City of Moscow hosted the Summer Olympics and the Russkies dared
to paint the town, stock its stores up with rare delicacies, and build
a small towns worth of new facilities.
The idea of the Soviet Union constructing a made-for-world-television
Potemkin Village in downtown Moscow infuriated critics who would have
preferred TV coverage that stripped bare Communist propaganda.
Isnt that exactly what happened here? Not
only did we grace our public streets with pennants, "festively"
painted Olympic signs, and exuberant temporary structures, but the City
tried to paint over its seamier side.
The Police ran stings against area prostitutes before
the Olympics, trying to suppress their activities. In downtown Los Angeles,
the LAPD was eventually prevented from tossing away bedrolls and bundles
from a stash area in Pershing Square.
Venice transients dont have as many advocates
as the homeless in downtown Los Angeles, so nobody protested when the
LAPD twice patrolled the length of the boardwalk tossing all unattended
bedrolls and packs in a dump truck. Since no count facilities exist in
Venice for the care of the homeless, the only public policy apparent is
a "make-it-tough-enough-on-them-and-theyll-leave" attitude.
That brings me to the second point that bothered
me about Bobs and Tonys removals. Tony should have been under
medical care months ago. His joints were so bad from improper nutrition
he couldnt bend over: he slept standing up. When he was lucid (which
was most of the time he was not pacing), he was a gentle, even witty young
man. But he heard voices, and when he paced, he went into a trance-like
state that nothing could affect. Tony was loved by a lot of people in
Venice - I consider it a testament to the good will of most people that
he was not hurt, and was given food and money regularly without asking.
Bob and Tony never had what it takes to succeed
in a competitive society. Certainly, in a material sense, they have both
been losers. It saddens me to believe that the only time our city and
county will do something for the weakest and most deserving is when they
want the streets cleaned up for a world television audience.
Ruby to Crown Goldie November 13
by Wendy Reeves.........November 1979
Mark it on your calendars: the coronation of Goldie
Glitters as Queen of Venice will take place on Tuesday, November 13th, starting
at 9:30 a.m. in the Lafayette Cafe (corner Ocean Front Walk and Westminster,
a few blocks north of Windward Avenue).
A true Venice event, the ceremony
is the brainchild of ever-popular community person Ruby Witeaker, a Lafayette
waitress for the last nine years. Ruby's idea first appeared in the September
Beachhead, and an enthusiastic response encouraged her to go ahead
with it. Assisting Ruby in organizing the ceremony is Barbara Avedon,
well-known community activist and long-time close friend of Goldie's.
As a direct result of stories
this summer in the LA Times and the Beachhead, Goldie's
star is on the rise again in the media. On Monday, October 29th, he is
finally receiving the Homecoming Queen crown from Santa Monica College
which he has been waiting for since 1975. "No queen has waited so long
and been so patient as I have," was his comment to me on that belated
award. An already completed interview with Dorothy Rhineholt will appear
shortly afterwards in the Santa Monica Evening Outlook. A book
he has written on his life - called Goldie Glitters - is now being
read by Adams Ray Rosenberg Literary Agency. He has also been a guest
on two TV talk shows - "AM Los Angeles" and "Collage"
- and will no doubt be snapped up for others. At a recent ceremony-planning
breakfast at the Lafayette, Goldie said he will not resume drag to receive
his Venice Queen crown; he intends to wear an appropriate outfit consisting
of tennis shoes, Levis, a black and white Lafayette T-shirt, and a robe
worn by Richard Burton in a Shakespeare play on Broadway which he bought
in New York. However, he says he may change his mind at the last minute
- surely the prerogative of a queen.
"This is so exciting,"
Goldie said over french toast. "Perhaps this will be the beginning
of a yearly event, a festival day in Venice, with a new queen each year."
"We'll start early so the
press can cover it," added Barbara, "then we'll keep it going on into
Ruby stressed, "We want everyone
and their cousin to be here!"
It looks like Ruby may get
her wish. In addition to the many residents who have assured us they are
coming, Peter Brown of the "Real People" TV show says the coronation will
be featured on that program, and Carol Blue will be writing it up for
I asked Goldie, with all
this publicity, what he wanted to do with his life now; is he serious
about the movies?
"I love entertaining people,"
he answered, "and if I could get into movies that would be just fine.
I would like to buy my house. I would like to finish paying off my dental
work and all my bills. I would like to have everything paid off and not
have to struggle any more.
"I don't have to worry about
being rich because I don't really think that's ever going to happen.
If it does, I'll be ecstatically happy and give fabulous dinner parties
every other night. And anyone who's been to my dinner parties knows I
"And it's really time for me to be a queen," he
added with a small sigh. "After all, I am getting on."
by Richard Conant........#130 Nov. 1980
David Rosen was murdered on August 20,
1980. He was killed by someone who shot him once in the heart with a .22
caliber handgun, just as he was opening his Venice apartment door to his
killer. It appears that David was unconscious and dead quite quickly.
David was a friend of mine, and of many
people in Venice. He was 33 years old when he died. He lived in my apartment
building on Ocean Front Walk. You may remember him hanging out with us
on the front steps of our building, passing the weekend time watching
and interacting with the flow of Boardwalk traffic that passed in front
of us. He was, no doubt, the dark, full-bearded guy in the cutoff jean
shorts and the tight-fit Army green sleeveless t-shirt.
David was about 5'10", with photogenic
body builder proportions, a rock of a guy to look at. But such bold looks
can deceive, for he was actually the nicest, quietest, and most unphysical
of people. Never did he use his brawn to intimidate; rather, his muscular
appearance was just that, an appearance for the modeling work that he
did and for the women he loved to attract. His was a gentle, "California"
How, then, did David draw someone's cowardly
wrath? The small newspaper article that appeared after his death indicated
that, "the slaying may have been related to narcotics dealing."
Could be. He was minorly involved in some of the illegal activities pursued
by a few of the people who do not want a piece of mainstream life: he
dealt some drugs and would proudly show you some of the many magazines
that featured his modeling work. I understand that a suitcase where he
kept his drugs was missing, maybe some money, too. That may all be true.
The police investigation continues. If you can help, do. Contact Lieutenant
Zorn at Venice Division, 478-0781.
No matter how or why David died, he should
be remembered not so much or so simply for how he died, but for who he
was as he lived among us.
I think of him as a simple, uncomplicated,
unassuming guy who wanted to and did enjoy as much as possible of each
day and of each contact with someone. I knew David fairly well for more
than a year, and never saw him angry or even visibly disturbed. In fact,
I'll always see him, newly awake, with a smile on his face (more of a
smirk), coming out of our building weekend afternoons around one o'clock,
yawning and stretching dramatically to announce his late arrival to the
doorstep hangers-out, saying, "Hey, what's happening?"
David was friendly, trusting,
and non-judgmental - and hoped that other people would be that way toward
him. He was a low-key fellow who, mostly, hoped that the rest of the world
would not much bother him, while he would not much bother the rest of
Somewhere, that way of
living got screwed up badly. Someone in the rest of the world bothered
with David and murdered him. IN the end, he was too uncareful, too trusting,
too vulnerable, too friendly. But, that is just what David was: a nice,
vulnerable, trusting, non-judgmental, friendly guy. I and many others
will miss him.
Street Vendor's Blues
by Carole Berkson........... March 1981 #135
Nearly three years ago, I discovered Venice. It was April
1st, April Fools' Day. A friend had asked me to come and sell my handwoven
belts at a Medieval Fantasy Faire sponsored by the Parks Department.
I was fascinated. It was a wonderful day - people reading
Shakespeare, theater groups performing - music, crafts, food - good, interesting
Across the way, I noticed, there were people selling,
too. Just a few people, most of them selling craftwork. Was this an all
the time thing? Could I do it? I found someone to ask. The answer was
yes to both questions. Within the month, I was selling on the lot. The
Vendors' Lot, it was called. I liked being a vendor. Selling there wasn't
just selling. It was part of something.
Some of you may remember, on the corner of Market Street,
a woman who sat with her loom, on the ground, on a carpet weaving. That
was me, in the summer of '78. My belts hung on a pole. Sometimes people
bought them. Some people stopped to look. Some people stopped to talk.
I didn't make much money, but then I didn't pay much. And I loved it.
I sat on my carpet for months, every Saturday and every
Sunday. My daughter had the run of the Boardwalk. The vendors were like
a family and mostly everyone was friendly. The whole atmosphere in those
days was very laid back, very cas.
Then, after a while, things got a little more hectic.
A little too hectic to keep sitting on the ground. I got a table. By then
I was making purses as well as belts. I had regular customers as well
as regular Boardwalk-going friends who stopped to visit. I was making
money, I was also paying more rent, but not more than seemed equitable
in light of what I was making.
By then the whole enterprise had become more professional,
tighter. But it was still primarily professional crafts people. Those
who weren't selling crafts were selling things that fit with them: cacti,
baskets, Indian and Mexican clothes. The Vendors' Lot had stopped looking
like a few hippies out playing and started to look more like some sort
of Moroccan bazaar. A Bizarre Bazaar. I thought about putting a sign up,
and sending fliers out, maybe. I never did. There were quite enough people
flocking to the Boardwalk without them. But not too many. Somehow the
powers that be had balanced things just right. Those were the halcyon
days, the spring of '79.
Those were also the days when we went to court once a
month - well, not once a month, but it felt that way sometimes. We were
fighting for our right to exist and continue to vend. "Save the Pushcart.
Save the American Dream." Some of you may remember that sign in the
middle of the lot and the petitions we circulated that went along with
it. It never occurred to us then to stipulate a place for craftspeople
or any kind of clause as to quality of merchandise. Craftspeople on the
Boardwalk were after all traditional in Venice. Look, Jane. See Craftspeople.
You know. You hear it all the time.
Then things got more hectic. The summer of 1980. By this
time I had two tables and no longer brought out my loom. I was selling
beads and whatnot as well as my belts and purses, only not doing so well
as I had earlier, and paying more, and enjoying it less. And some of the
vendors had left and we were less of a family and a lot of the people
around weren't any longer so nice and a lot of the merchandise wasn't
so nice either. I was feeling more and more like a token craftsperson
on the Boardwalk. I didn't like it.
I never actually made a real decision to leave. Last
fall for weekends on end there were other things I was involved with.
I had to take time off. Then the weather got bad. Then when the time came
to go back, I just didn't want to go back. It made me sad. I had love
it so much for so long. I miss it. I still love it. Only I love it how
it was, not how it is, and the contrast is painful.
I'm sure I haven't sat on my corner for the last time.
The weather will be warm again soon. I know I'll be drawn back there.
Even as I write I can feel that stirring hope that says change is constant.
What was good turned bad. What's gone bad can turn good. And I feel the
excitement of getting up on a Saturday or Sunday morning, going down to
breakfast at the Lafayette, and setting up, and settling down to wait,
not knowing WHAT might happen, businesswise or otherwise.
Vendors are invincible. So are craftspeople. You
have to be, to be either. Not to mention both. I was a Venice vendor.
It's still in my blood. Don't stop the carnival. I'm on my way there.
Montagnard or Marxist:
Calling the Question on Bob Wells
October 1981 #142
(This is the second part of an interview with Bob
Wells, longtime Venice activist who recently left for a new life and setting
in Berkeley. The interview was conducted on Aug. 7, 1981, by Arnold Springer
for the Beachhead.)
Q. You've been involved in many activities here
in Venice: the Free Venice movement, the Renters League, the Town Council.
What did the Free Venice movement mean to you?
A. Speaking for myself, because at one time the
Free Venice movement had dozens of people in it for dozens of reasons.
At the time that was its strength; later it became its weakness. I like
to think my reasons were like those of Steve Clare, Rick Davidson, Judy
Goldberg. Ed Pearl was big in Peace and Freedom but not particularly in
Q. So its significance was community organizing?
Towards what end?
A. Well, there was kind of a mystique of community
organizing at that time. The "movement," a combination of the
civil rights and growing anti-war movements, had been based, to a great
extent, on the campuses and in other peoples communities...Mississippi,
Harlem, places like that. And the feeling was, because of everything that
was wrong...people were starting to feel that revolution was necessary.
No real idea of what revolution actually meant, but the fundamentals gotta
It was not just that the good Jeffersonian democratic
system is going wrong, suckered. There was something fundamentally wrong
and we had to make it fundamentally right. To do that we have to go to
masses of people. And they're in the communities, so let's go to the communities.
And organize. People had a variation of themes on what that meant, organizing.
My own feeling at the time was that two things were
going on. The civil rights movement had begun to generate a black liberation
movement. This was happening at the time that the anti-war movement was
growing. Somehow, together, this development had knocked out from under
large numbers of people, mostly, it seemed, upper middle class and working
class whites. They were alienated from this system; they weren't sure
what system, what community, they did belong to. They were at arms length,
had even broken away from what in the 50s was everything. that we had
what all human history had been moving toward. All we had to do was maintain
it. Well, that was smashed, broken. So people were beginning to congregate
in the sump pumps of society, or whatever, in the drains. And a new culture,
new standards had begun to evolve. Venice was one place where that was
beginning to happen.
In retrospect people make fun of the counter-culture
society, but it took a tremendous amount of personal, individual courage
for people to do that in those days, because there was no networking system.
People were bailing out individually, and jumping into a dark pit with
no idea of what was there; with no companionship for the jump.
Nowadays it's somewhat reactionary white workers
and bikers who wear long hair but in those days young kids were growing
their hair long and getting shot at in places like Casper, Wyoming; for
having long hair. And they did it anyway. So there was a tremendous amount
of courage and progress. That was definitely a movement that shook American
society. Not a movement: it was a trend. So part of this community organizing
was to try to pull some organizational form out of these people who were
looking for a new culture, society, and standards.
Q. Do you mean that you thought that the counterculture
would provide the organizational form or that you would define one? Were
you intending to give it meaning or substance by organizing it?
A. It was a combination, a dialectical interaction.
Partly because that threatening social phenomenon was happening here,
the powers that be were trying to break it up, to scatter it. Through
code enforcement and community development, planning, and tremendous police
pressure. And so there had to be a resistance, it couldn't be just a spontaneous,
laissez-faire, let the thing grow and see what comes out kind of a
thing. There had to be resistance and it had to have some organization.
That organization had to be shaped, determined and constantly redefined
by the people it was coming out of. We weren't"parachutists"
coming into the community for some larger outside movement. We were coming
out of the community itself. We had the heads for organization but we
had to draw the forms and principles constantly from the community. But
for me there was something else.
Q. What was that?
A. The year 1968 was historic, like 1848 in terms
of revolution. It was building toward that. The anti-war movement had
become radicalized. It was no longer a "Let's make a good Jeffersonian
thing out of a bad situation," but it was becoming radical, and bureaucraticised.
There was a lot of focus on the campuses, there was NACLA. People were
specializing, they were saying that we had to get off the campuses and
out of the specializes and into the community; take the anti-war message
and build a mass movement by taking it to the people, to communities.
So I saw that as my specially. And it coincided
with what was happening in Venice. And the developments were inter-related,
because it was mainly the Vietnam was which was the catalyst that had
alienated people from the system. So the whole thing was tied together.
The police pressure in those days was like nothing that's happened since.
I remember me and Randy Waste had loaded 500 Beachheads
in the back of a car. We were dropping them at various markets and distribution
points. People had neighborhood routes. We had a police tail the entire
time, black and white, and Metro. We saw them, they were following us.
We went down some alleys, some odd routes, and they were right with us
the whole way. It kind of put a romantic edge on what we were doing, gave
us a sense of importance.
John Haag was instrumental to say the least in creating
the Beachhead as an organ for Peace and Freedom and the Free Venice
Organizing movement. We had to have an organ to communicate with the community.
The Beachhead was it. So here we were delivering this revolutionary
message with the cops bumper to bumper.
Q. Did you think it was a revolutionary message?
A. Yes, at that time.
Q. What was the most important lesson you learned
out of the Free Venice experience?
A. I would say... there were dozens of people in
the movement with dozens of ideas.. Well, I think that there was a great
deal of loneliness, anti-war alienation that I've already run down. Community
was being reified because people were looking to end that alienation.
And this took place under a real threat from city engineers, planners,
and cops. Those were the things that brought us together, but they weren't
to keep us together.
The most important lesson is this truth, that there
is no revolutionary movement without a revolutionary politics. And that's
the most important thing. I've seen that validated in practice, negarively
and positively. And every single revolutionary movement that I've had
respect for has said that it was true for them. Like General Giap. In
his books on the people's war in Vietnam he hardly talked about military
strategy; it's always politics. It's the party, not the army, that always
gets the credit.
We didn't have that in Venice. We didn't have a
common political theory, one view and notion of how the world ran and
functioned. Something was going on. We had to figure it out and what to
do about it. And we never did succeed to do that as a unified movement.
A lot of people in the movement did come to conclusions as a result of
the experience of Free Venice. But the movement itself never attained
that goal. And that's why it didn't stay together.
Q. Do you think that this failure resulted from
too much emphasis on Venice and its problems?
A. You mean localism. Well, there was a time, around
1973, when Free Venice had been large but had then shrunk after we had
passes a certain landmark. It was after the Canals fight. The struggle
shifted ground and large numbers of people were no longer there. Of the
rump that remained...people went in their own directions. Some of us decided
to take the time and try to figure out what was going on. We formed the
Free Venice Socialist Collective. We wanted to understand how we fitted
into a larger movement, to break out of that localism.
We couldn't do it just on our own educational resources.
We couldn't break out of localism in a local context. The break had to
come from outside. And it was primed by Marxist study groups set up by
people who lived in Venice but who were outsiders in the sense that they
weren't part of the Venice movement. For a number of us (by this time
a pretty small number)... in 1974 the Weather Underground published their
book Prairie Fire, a summing-up of how they saw the world.
January 1982 #145
Interview with Bob Wells
This is the fourth and final part
of an interview with Bob Wells, longtime Venice activist, who is back
in Venice after a recent move to Berkeley. The interview was conducted
on Aug. 7, 1981, by Arnold Springer for the Beachhead.
Q. Is your work in Venice finished?
A. My work is. I don't think the work in
Venice is finished, although I definitely think it's hit a stage...I mean
it's not like what it was in the Free Venice days.
Q. Do you have any regrets, politically or personally?
Things that if you had a chance to do over you would?
A. One thing about the Venice movement when it was
hot was that the social and political work were almost the same. We were
all spending so much time on politics that we had to eat while we were
doing it, so our social and political life became merged. My regret is
that when the two started to diverge,...I don't regret that I went with
the political divergence, but I think that I did it in such a way, (maybe
it's just my character, maybe I didn't have an other way to do it), but
I would have like to have retained more of the personal relationship,
you know, more of the busy interaction with people on a personal basis.
Q. Isn't that an important question? The mix between
the personal and social was so intense in the Venice movement. That dynamic
is not discussed in books, is it?
A. No, I don't think so. But it was our strength
at the time. That's why we were able to go and go and go, 18 hours a day,
day and night, for year after year winning victory after victory on our
terms. But then it became our weakness. Because when the time came to
sharpen up our politics people began to diverge because there were just
lots of different notions and people were prepped to go in different directions.
And because our political life was our social life, we were liberal about
that. We didn't press political questions to conclusion because we knew
that when we did we would go in different directions. And that would blow
the social thing. It was the strength that kept us going until it became
an anchor which held us back.
Q. What's the relationship between sex and politics
in Venice? How has sex worked as a dynamic?
A. Well, without directly answering that question.
I felt that when I was getting involved in the Free Venice movement, that
it was an important thing. It brought together what I had been building
toward in my life. It was something I really wanted to commit to, almost
careerism. And I felt that sex and politics shouldn't mix. Because that
takes that social and political contradiction and really locks it in tight.
So you can have a couple of lovers who, inevitably, at some point diverge.
Sometimes there's tremendous bitterness and that can really screw up the
politics. Or you have people who diverge politically, or should diverge
politically, and don't because they're lovers. I mean, it just make everything
real funny. And I've always been rather shy and lame around that kind
of thing anyway, so it was kind of convenient for me, for a lot of reasons,
to try and keep my sexual life out of the area of my political life. That
wasn't totally the case; I had some love affairs with women in the Venice
movement, but most of it has been outside the Venice movement.
Q. But there's a lot of that interaction in Venice.
A. Right. Well, maybe I'm copping out on answering
that question by saying that I tried to stay out of it.
Q. Well, how would you assess it? How would you
deal with it in the future? What if you had to organize a study group
in community organizing and politics and somebody asked, "Well, Mr.
Wells, how should we deal with this question? What would your advice be?
A. Somebody who went to China asked a young woman
there what she was looking for in a husband and she replied that 1st of
all his politics have to be right. That's an example of how rigid, and
foolish, and... unreal the Chinese people were. But that made sense to
me because your political ideals are really the world you live in, and
you really can't have a growing and intimate relationship with another
person if you live an another world. That's how the woman put it. So it's
got to happen I think that I was probably unrealistic about trying to
keep them separate. And I probably put myself through a lot of turmoil
I didn't need to. They can't be separate. At the same time, they're a
contradiction and, well, I don't know... I guess I don't have much wisdom
on this question. You have to be aware of the contradiction and ride it,
that's all I can say.
Q. Sometimes revolutionaries are portrayed as without
vices. Do you have any?
A. I'm lazy.
Q. What about drugs and revolution?
A. I think that the only drug that could be useful
for revolution is possibly caffeine. And that taken in moderation.
Q. You don't smoke or drink?
A. I don't smoke. I drink. I don't get drunk because
I don't enjoy it.
A. I quit smoking marijuana because it didn't make
me feel good, dizzy and a little nauseated. A glass of beer did make me
feel good, so...
Q. The question of smoking or not smoking marijuana
didn't have any objective significance; it was just personal? Just a bad
A. Yes. I smoked it socially.
Q. How does Bob Wells relax?
A. I'm an expert sleeper. I love to sleep, with
a friend when possible, but alone if necessary. I run. I find if I'm getting
depressed that a good run-off I can't sleeps run for pleasure, not for
conditioning any more.
Q. What's the importance of family now in your life.
You have three kids, your ex-wife lives in Venice, so you're really a
A. Well, in terms of what I get out of it. I tried
being a hermit, maybe that's another vice that I have. Besides being lazy,
I can also be a hermit. I can do that for years at a time. I begin to
lose notions of myself when I do that. I lose touch with myself. Family
kind of posits me, and I'm amazed that people love me. I can't understand
why. I try to rationally figure it out, but it doesn't figure. But it
happens anyway. It's more than that it makes me feel good, it kind of
props me up. Also, because there are things that I have to do, make money,
spend it, be involved in other people's lives, because of loyalty, obligations,
responsibility, law, whatever, it gets me out of myself.
Q. Do you think you'll be spending more time with
A. I have been just recently. I come from a big
family. The five kids...we got brilliant at finding ways to be alone.
When you're a parent you can't do that. You have to interact.
Q. Did you find that hard, not being a parent but
having children? Did that cause you a lot of pain?
A. Yeah. It cause me pain and it was also convenient.
I had a lot of time to myself that I didn't have before. Whole areas of
my head were free to think about what I wanted to think about, because
I didn't have to think about details like, you know...get the kid registered
for school, buy the shoes, getting him to the doctors on time.
Q. Are you looking forward to having to do that
A. Yeah. At the time I was looking forward to getting
away from it. Now I'm looking forward to getting into it. It also was
painful, because I missed the kids. I missed myself with them, and you
know, it always comes and goes at the same time. These are some pretty
good questions you're coming up with. Nobody's ever probed me like this.
I'm flattered to be the subject of this.
February 1982 # 146
by T. Vestal
Maxine Mann, 63, of 5 Rose Ave., was
sitting in the Breeze Ave. pagoda on Tues. Jan. 19 when two men entered
and, without saying a word, grabbed her, knocked her down, handcuffed
her, grabbed her purse, dragged her to a car in the parking lot, and threw
onto the back seat. From the phone at "the Doghouse" they put
in a call saying, "officer needs assistance." Four police cars
rolled up; the men showed the officers badges and were allowed to drive
off with Maxine.
They took her to the Santa Monica Police
station, calling her "Ruthie" and asking her "how many
aliases do you go under?" One man took her ID from her purse and
went into the state. After awhile he came out and stand that she was the
wrong person. They were looking for a 40 year old blonde named Ruthie
who was reported to have been seen on the beach and she was wanted for
grand theft auto.
She was put back in the car and dropped
off at Sunset Ave. and Speedway. "Remember," one of the men
told her, "we're not cops."
The manager of #5 Rose Ave. told Maxine
that two men with the same description had been there on the day before
asking if there was a blonde in the building. Maxine reported the incident
to an officer on the beach patrol and he told her, "You haven't a
leg to stand on. They didn't take you anywhere."
"It was a terrible experience for
someone who has never been arrested," said Maxine. "They committed
at least three crimes: kidnapping, assault, and false arrest, in addition
to taking and opening my purse. I mean to try my best to follow up and
find out who those men were." She didn't get the license plate number
of the car. Maxine has reported the incident to the Santa Monica Police
who said they would investigate.
Bums, Winos and Vigilantes
by Joan Friedberg from #128 September 1980
I guess I don't like watching someone
pee or puke in public any more than the next guy. But one thing I've observed
is that you can't make any generalizations about the kind of person who
does it. Nearly every Sunday as I stood in my kitchen fixing breakfast
(I've since moved) looking out over the Venice Blvd. center strip, I witnessed
some guy getting out of his car, whipping down his fly, looking from left
to right to see if anyone was watching, and then pissing on the weeds
next to my (former) building.
Some of them drove up in fancy sports
cars, and some were well dressed. And the reason I bring this rather disgusting
subject up at all is that recently there have been some members of the
Venice community who, in their zeal to clean up the beach, have organized
vigilante committees to patrol the boardwalk and chase away "undesirable"
elements, such as bums and winos, for doing the same thing.
Vigilante committee...the mere idea stirs
up wonderful memories from the hours I spent as a child in front of the
television set watching old Westerns. There's the John Wayne prototype,
rounding up a crowd of all of the men in the small old West town, "Okay,
men," he says, "Are we gonna let those varmints terrorize Liberty
Gulch or are we gonna stand up like men and fight 'em?"
"Yeah!", they all say in unison.
So the John Wayne prototype deputizes
everyone by passing our star-shaped badges, they all get on their horses,
rifles in hand, and ride off in a cloud of dust in pursuit of the villains.
The next scene is usually either a shoot-out or a hanging.
There may have been some justification
for vigilantes in the old West, where there wasn't any other law and order,
but anyone who seriously considers this method of dealing with the crime
or "undesirables" in Venice is taking the urban cowboy myth
There are several real dangers of such
a method. For one thing, just like the old West sheriff who passed out
star-shaped badges from the studio prop department, those who take matters
into their own hands are assuming authority that is not rightfully theirs.
They may not, and often do not, have the backing of the community they're
trying to protect. I, for one, believe that the bums and winos of Venice
are an integral part of what makes Venice a unique community, one which
allows people who can't cope with our society to be left alone in their
pathos. Besides that, they were here long before all the chic, rich, people
who want to clean them out came on the scene. People who can't appreciate
that are like Americans who go to Mexico and love the charm...if only
there weren't so many Mexicans.
If we're going to clean up the beach,
we better first agree on who goes. No bum or wino has ever bothered me,
and I don't find them any more offensive than roller skaters who swerve
in and out of the paths of walkers or obnoxious visitors who carry their
radios tuned up full blast.
A second real danger of vigilantism is
that it could result in the harassment of other innocent people whose
appearance bears any resemblance to our stereotypes of criminals. An untrained
or overzealous street deputy may prevent a crime, but he also could hit
the wrong guy over the head with a club. He may think someone looks like
a criminal because he's black. Even trained police officers have been
known to make that mistake. In case anyone has forgotten, a person cannot
be arrested for looking suspicious. American law does not allow for "prior"
arrest. A person is innocent until proven guilty. At least that's the
way it's written in the law books.
Venice, 1980, is not the old West. And
the idea of an untrained, self-appointed militia patrolling the beach
makes me a lot more nervous than any bum or wino ever did. While I don't
have any ready solutions to the crime problem, I think we ought to stop
and consider the implications before we let a bunch of macho, modern-day
vigilantes rush out with clubs in hand to clean up the beach.
Jim Congdon - 1948-1982
"By Their Works Ye Shall Know Them..."
November 1982 #155
by Mario Fonda-Bonardi, Carolyn Rios, Ross Moster
an adventure." These optimistic words were spoken by Jim Congdon,
time and time again in response to the struggles and battles he participated
in during his all too brief 34 years. On September 30th, 1982, he was
tragically taken from us by drowning from an epileptic seizure off the
Ocean Park beach at Bicknell. Many who knew Jim didn't know his life was
shadowed by epilepsy, not because of an deceit on his part, but because
he refused to let it chain his spirit down.
That expansive spirit showed itself first
and foremost in his love of his children, Ian, Alia, Sacha, who he cheerfully
raised initially with macrobiotics, always with love. Later when divorced,
he insisted on having them come to see him every other week. His care
and affection for them surpassed all other obligations and even when telling
his friends of the troubles his children were causing him, as all children
may, you could always tell from the tone in his voice that he was very
proud of them. Even those who didn't now him couldn't help but notice
his care for his children. In fact his girl friend, Sue Viets, was attracted
to him, when they met for the first time two years ago, by the way he
was caring for his children (two of whom were sick with the flu.) They
were waiting stalled on the runway in New York on one of those nightmare
LA-NY flights which never reached LA because it was detoured to Las Vegas.
His children were not the only beneficiaries
of his love: Steppingstone, OPCO, SMRR among others all received his direct
volunteer involvement. Although he lived on a very limited budget set
by SDI due to his epileptic condition, the last three checks he wrote
in his life were to Common Cause, OPCO, and SMRR: modest amounts but given
with generosity and conviction.
However, it was to the Venice Ocean Park
Food Coop that Jim poured out his soul over the last five years. He participated
in the initial steering committee, on the workers' collective, on the
Board, as a worker and as a coop advocate. He is the only member of VOP
who served the Coop uninterruptedly from its start to the present. His
stamina, good spirits, idealism and honesty were invaluable to the coop
and his fellow workers. And like any organization with economic and political
goals, VOP's birth and growth were very painful and exhausting. Naturally
such an organization is very vulnerable to "burn-out" on one
side and power trips on the other. Gifted with an innate modestly Jim
avoided ego and power trips on one hand and gifted with an optimistic
spirit, he miraculously avoided "burn-out."
Although in the coop's evolution he ended
up acting as a manager, in his heart he refused both the title and the
role, preferring instead a workers' collective form of management where
the workers all have democratic control of decision making. There are
three tragic ironies that illuminate Jim's last days at VOP. First, the
newly proposed work schedule made it impossible for him to see his children,
so he was going to stop working in the store; thus he eagerly planned
to be on the Board of Directors. Second, the new produce case he actively
fought for during the past year was installed the last day he worked there;
he never saw its final impact on the Coop. And finally two weeks after
his death the coop had its annual meeting where for the first time in
three years, it broke even financially, a milestone that could not have
happened without Jim's tireless devotion over the last five years.
But the ultimate irony is that he was
taken from us by the betrayal of epilepsy, something Jim never let rule
his life. It would be naive to think it didn't influence him: He wouldn't
drive a car so it bugged him to have to always bum a ride from his friends.
On the other hand a man who was landlocked (anyone without a car in LA
is landlocked) managed to travel around the world last year. Epilepsy
with its uncertainty and random appearance made Jim live in the here and
now more than anyone I know. Perhaps that is why he had many girlfriends,
perhaps that is why he wrote more than a dozen volumes of poems, notes
and journals since 1966, perhaps that is why he loved rock and roll, dancing,
and smoking, perhaps that is why he uniquely combined political seriousness
and partying pleasures. Perhaps that is why he loved swimming and body
surfing - choosing to risk leading life his way rather than paralysis
of epilepsy's way: Jim chose life over death.
We have lost a friend, poet, comrade,
cooperator, father and lover. But he taught us in leaving how precious
and perishable life is, how not to accept the limitations of any illness,
how to live in the here and now, and that life, as he was fond of saying,
is an adventure. An adventure much emptier without you.
For Whom the Bill Tolls
by Carol Fondiller
I was making the best of a bout of insomnia
by watching the all night news. I love television, and I love TV news
above all. TV news has no sense of proportion. And the all night news
is the best, the quintessence of boob tube news.
My mind was being shredded and pulped.
I was getting to the point where the Steam 'n' Wok Kits and the Carpenteria
ads assumed the same importance as the story of the FBI, CIA, and Coast
Guard declaring war on drugs.
I was envisioning a huge cocaine and
heroin filled tidal wave engulfing everything along the California coastline,
as all the heads in all the boats in all the marinas from Baja to the
Oregon border flushed simultaneously. How silly, I thought, to use drugs.
Who needs drugs when they've got the all night news?
The phone rang - "Hey Carol? It's
me - Berman!"
"What the hell are you doing calling
me at 3 a.m.?"
"Hey," she laughed, "you're
a news junkie. You're the one in this town who's awake and not making
mushi-mishi. I got news for you. The culture freaks are getting ready
to sell out the "ambiance." that they say they moved down here
I turned down the set. "Look Berman,
'They' have sucked out the ambiance long ago. Now it's just another sleazo
beach town with ambiance to look like Long Beach." I did want to
watch the news.
"I blew it!" shrilled Berman,
"I lost my cool!"
"Well that news is as dated as the
slang you're using. You've been blowing your cool for decades. As a matter
of fact, I doubt whether you've ever had any cool to blow."
"Hey, listen to me! You remember
Tony Bill, don't you?"
Tony Bill. Yes I remembered Tony Bill.
He produced The Sting and My Bodyguard.
He was one of the pioneers of the Afflu-Hip
set. He and Tom Sewell were the proto-type gentrificators of Venice -
they were so cute with their curly hair white teeth and charm. I always
wanted to use them as book-ends.
I heard ice tinkle in a glass and an
explosion that practically destroyed my ear drums. The bitch was actually
chewing on an ice cube. Right in my ear. God, she was tacky!
"Hey Carol. You still there? Remember
"Yes I remember Tony Bill. He bought
the old Marco Building..."
Berman interrupted. "Yeah, the ol'
Marco Building on Horizon and Pacific - people livin' there, they'd converted
office space into living space, just like what's happening now except
it's the other way around - living space into retail space."
Anyway, Mr. Bill liked the ambiance,
the 'sense of community.' He wanted to use it as his headquarters.
Fixed it up, kind of like a rich Phillip
Marlowe's office - puffy chairs, 1930s lamps, dark wood - the nostalgia
was so thick you had to use a Red Ryder secret dog whistle to find the
bathrooms, and he rented or leased parking across the street. It didn't
seem to serve as parking space for his employees or his stable of struggling
screenwriters. It was more like a corral for his herd of collectible cars.
"So, what's that got to do with
"Okay, okay," she said. "A
few years ago, I get this call. "Ms. Berman? This is Adrian Minter.
I'm Tony Bill's partner. We're having a meeting about the parking problems
in Venice. We can't build because of the parking requirements laid down
by the Coastal Commission Guidelines, so we'd like to have you and other
community people give us some input about in-lieu fees instead of parking.
It's going to be held tonight."
"Tonight?" I said.
"I've been trying to get you all
week," she said. Oh yeah, sure. "It's going to be held tonight
at 7:30 at Westchester City Hall." Well, I was so fed up with being
asked to collaborate as to how I'd like to be cut in half -take your choice
- the parking lot where you live or where your friends live - and that's
what's called 'community participation.'
Her voice had become overprecise - a
sure sign of excessive gin and tonics. "I was livid. Well, I told
her that I was sick of people coming to places like Venice because of
its 'community feeling' and then wanting to Carmel-ize it by fucking up
the social ecology of the place to jam another Porsche up Horizon Avenue,
and that I'd had it up to here with being pushed out because people needed
my living space for their cars and that she could shove her in-lieu fees
up her public input...."
"You called to tell me this?"
"Well," whined Berman, "it
frosted me that Mr. Tony Bill was whimpering on the front page of the
Calendar Section of the LA Times about three years ago about the
loss of community since the big BULL ART HEAVIES had been moving into
Venice, and here he is cutting out what's left because his friends can't
take the bus or carpool, for Chrissake."
"What happened at the meeting?"
"I didn't go. But I found out even
if I'd schlepped on the bus up to Westchester I'd have missed the meeting,
because the time was switched from 7:30 p.m. to 6 p.m."
"What do you want from me?"
"Just because I won't dig my own
grave, I still want to find out what went on. Could you...?"
Later that morning I called a few people
at the Coastal Commission.
"Why," I asked, "was the
meeting held at Westchester?" Because, said my unnamed source, fear
of 'radicals' and other dissidents, and there didn't seem to be a safe
place to hold a night meeting in Venice.
A few people who were active in the Coastal
Commission were there, some home-owners, plus representatives of speculators
who were sitting on large amounts of land on the Ocean Front Walk.
What was talked about?
Parking problems, in-lieu fees, and the
fact that the Coastal Commission has recommended a combination of office
buildings and parking structures on the Ocean Front Walk.
My source told me that one of the first
speculators in Venice - he prefers to see himself as having a dream of
a west coast Miami Gold Coast where 'certain people' can be barred from
beaches, because the beaches in Miami were owned by large hotels.
In the early 20th century, when people
wanted to get to Venice, they used the Red Cars, Los Angeles's rapid transit
that was used until the mid-1950s.
Having been built up in the early 20th
Century, the early speculators divvied up the lots so that they were [
] than a man's handkerchief. There was little or no planning for private
transportation. Short-sighted to say the least, but if one goes down Speedway
south of Washington St, one can see that the descendants of the early
freebooters of the 1920s still have the short-sightedness endemic to the
breed. Not enough parking has been provided to accommodate the tenants
of the apartment houses that cover the Ocean Front Walk.
Too late, alas, the Empire builders and
the would-be entrepreneurs discovered that space in Venice is finite,
particularly on the Ocean Front Walk. The Coastal Commission, only too
happy to roll over and play dead when the legislature exised low-income
housing and displacement of low-income residents from the Coastal Act,
is making a semi-gallant last ditch stand to save public access.
The Coastal Commission has recommended
that the large vacant lots on the Ocean Front Walk be used as combination
office buildings and parking spaces to go no higher than 4 stories.
The agent for the owner of 2 or 3 lots
on the O.F.W. thought that was a fine idea.
"Money can be made from offices
"Well Berman, I don't know about
you, but I have this inclination to say, "Far out! Build it all up!"
Why stop at 4 stories - you're going to bootleg at least 2 more stories
- and most likely the County-owned parking lots on Venice Bl. and Rose
Avenue will be taken over by developers of the trendy shops and high income
townhouses that our visionary speculators are speculating about.
Why, there are plans promulgated to transform
the city-owned (that means publicly-owned) pavilion into a warren of high
and medium art stores, croissant places, a bowling alley...
"Listen Berman, all those lowbrow
'50s activities are IN right now." And of course underground parking
under the lawn of the Pavilion opposite the Windward and Ocean Front Walk
lots owned and/or leased by the Sheik of Chic.
Keep your eyes peeled for the story of
the CHRISMAS present for Venice in future issues of the Beachhead.
Bill Comes Due
by Carol Fondiller
September 1983 #165
More about the finite ad infinitum
Tony Bill, producer, director and actor
(My Bodyguard, The Sting) has acquired the old Ace Gallery, once
owned by leading entrepreneur Doug Chrismas on 72 Market Street.
Bill is planning to turn the building
into an expensive restaurant.
According to the permit he filed with
the city, the restaurant will seat 80 people. This means at least 50 parking
spaces must be found, if you count employees. There are no parking spaces
in the immediate vicinity of Market Street. It's not the sort of restaurant
where you chain up your bike outside, tie up your dog and stand on one
foot while you slap the sand off your other foot with your zori.
This is not going to be your causal walk-in
trade from the beach Uh-uh!
Will Tony Bill, mourner of the lost ambiance,
get involved in the Phantom Parking lot game?
This scam has been played by Bob Goodfader
of the Sidewalk Cafe and Doug Chrismas for some years now.
Basically, the game is played thusly;
they trade the same parking lots back and forth between them, and each
time any one of them wants to add on or build new structures they use
the same old parking places on Windward and Ocean Front Walk for their
Adrian Minter, partner of Tony Bill and
owner of some property on Rose Ave, is suggesting in-lieu fees be paid
to the Coastal Conservancy instead of finding parking spaces. I believe
the only existing vacant land that is left are those lots already marked
There ain't no more space left, guys!
As you recall, if you read the July issue
of the *Beachhead,* Ms. Berman vented her feelings to me about squeezing
out people for Porsches.
My suggestion is, instead of in-lieu
fees paid to some anonymous faceless agency, that bribery begin at home.
I suggest that Tony Bill give me 4 free meals a month for me and 1 guest,
a permanent special table somewhere in the back not near the kitchen with
a ceiling fan, where I can sit with a Megroni or gin and tonic and'or
some good California Zinfandel and accept in-lieu fees.
For those of you who think this would
be a swell trade-off in-lieu of in-lieu fees, the public hearing on CDP83-021
will be at the 2nd floor hearing room, W.L.A. Municipal Building, 1645
Corinth Ave. on Tuesday, September 6th at 9:30 a.m.
Those of you not interested in keeping
me quiescent with food and drink, please don't bother.
Speaking of Phantom parking lots, the
Croissant Place at Dudley Ave. and Ocean Front Walk has finally opened.
The owner obtained his permit by stating
that it was to be take-out food only. Now he wants to amend his permit
so he can have restaurant seating. Seems he can't make it as a take out
- only problem is no parking, but no sweat, free enterprise uber alles.
If the city and Coastal Commission follows their previous scenarios, the
owner will get his permit - and if he doesn't he'll put in the tables
anyway, and the city and Coastal Commission will react with their usual
If one opens a take-out place, one doesn't
need as many parking spaces as if one opens a restaurant. But if one opens
a take-out place and then puts in tables, the city won't do a thing.
Now that should squelch all you folks
who've been calling me a socialist all these years. I'm giving you entrepreneurs
Did anyone read the Evening Outlook*
story on the vendors in Venice?
As usual when something goes on that
offends the aesthetes of Venice, they claim that this occurrence attracts
narcotics sales and use. The Defunct Ocean Front Improvement Association
headed by Curt Simon and Werner Scharff claimed that people who were involved
in community activities against developers sat on benches and "smoked
narcotics and read Marxist literature."
This time the folks who want to make
Venice safe for business - expensive business - claim the outdoor vendors
are involved with narcotics use and sales. Sgt. Tucker. LAPD claims that
he hasn't noticed any narcotics/drugs being used any more now than usual
"Besides," he said, "they couldn't be selling dope, half
of them don't speak English."
That's all folks!
Largest Oceanfront Property Owner
Werner Scharff "Reclaims" Venice
by Arnold Springer
September 1983 #165
Werner Scharff owns the most property
along the Ocean Front walk in Venice. I'd heard of him ever since I moved
to Venice in 1963. Everyone said that he had plans to change Venice into
Miami Beach West.
Over the years I'd seen Scharff at City
planning meetings but I'd never met him' only his representative, the
ubiquitous Mr. Brown. He was, to me, Venice's Grey Eminence, a demi-force
from the netherworld of speculation and money, a man possessed of the
power to transform the Venice community.
Werner Scharff: The Man and the Dream
Werner Scharff is a successful businessman,
the owner of the clothing firm of Lanz International. He is soft-spoken,
modestly dressed and courteous. Ruth Clark from the vendors lot at Park
has helped me to get an interview with Mr. Scharff. Tell him, I said to
her, that I want to talk with him about his new project now underway on
the Ocean Front and Breeze Ave. Tell him I want to learn of his future
plans for Venice Tell him that I want to put all of this in the Beachhead.*
Several hours later Ruth called me to say that Scharff was agreeable to
an interview. And so now I was meeting with him in his generously appointed
office in Culver CIty. We talked for two hours.
"I know," says Scharff, "that
you and I are not always seeing eye to eye on what is best for Venice,
But I trust that you will represent my views objectively and fairly in
you paper." I assure him.
"I love Venice," he continues,
"I want Venice to remain Venice. I want Venice to be what it was.
Venice was for people for the poor, for the middle class, for the wealthy,
for everyone to enjoy. I don't want to change anything except that Venice
should be clean and safe for people to walk and to enjoy. It should be
a place to have good, clean fun. And it should be a place to live and
to work' for all people. That's what I want for Venice. Is that so bad?"
A Little Personal History
Werner Scharff came to Los Angeles from
Germany in 1937, a political refugee. He and his brother and Mr. Lanz
formed Lanz manufacturing in that same year. But it was still the Depression
and the clothing business did not just take off. Then, in 1939, Scharff
was drafted and for him, the business was on hold. He served at Fort Lee
Virginia as an interpreter for the quartermaster corps reaching the rank
of buck private.
At war's end he returned to Los Angeles
and his business. It is then that his connection with Venice begins.
"I used to go swimming along the
beach in Santa Monica," he said. "One day I decided to walk
as far to the south as I could, just to see what it was like. I walked
down to Venice. There were beautiful beaches but the town was practically
deserted. No one. No one used the beaches and the town appeared lifeless."
"Well, there were the oil derricks
on the beach, the ugly, wide-ranging pipelines, the unsightly holding
tanks, the smells. Then the beach south of Brooks was still under quarantine
because of overflow raw sewage from the Hyperian plant. All one could
see in Venice then on the Ocean Front were old people, no young people
at all," he continued.
"Well, I came swimming in Venice
all the time. I fell in love with it. And then I began to buy property
here. In the 1950s it was cheap, people were giving it away, practically
begging others to take it off their hands so the could get out of town.
No one had put anything into Venice for decades, it seemed. You know,
life doesn't stand still, it either goes forwards or back. And that's
true of communities as well. People had taken, taken from Venice, not
put anything back into her, and so she appeared old, run-down, worn-out,
and the property owners wanted to get out.
"Well, I didn't have much money
myself. And I hadn't intended to buy property in Venice. But I was fascinated
with the place and its prospects. So, there was a combination of factors.
For a few hundred dollars down and the promise to take over their payments
I was able to acquire a lot of Venice property.
"The buildings along the Ocean Front
were practically empty then, deserted," he continues. "The most
notable business activity then was the Bingo games. But after the war
the City had closed them down and that killed off the Front. There was
In the 1950s Scharff made several large
purchases including the properties at Park Av.. and the Beach House between
Wavecrest and Clubhouse. On that land, where the two-story apartment wing
now stands, there was a bar called The Four Aces. It was practically the
only business still open on the walk, and it was able to pay its rent.
A crummy bar with a few apartments upstairs? How? "Then one day someone
asked what I thought about the Four Aces. It pays the rent, I said. "
"But it's a whorehouse." I didn't know that and I closed it,
the last thriving business in Venice.
"I thought that Venice was beautiful
and was going to waste, that it wasn't being used. We wanted to change
that. And then in the early 60s both Santa Monica and Lost Angeles began
building code enforcement by the beach. Buildings had no foundations,
the plumbing was no good, the electrical wiring was dangerous. At first
enforcement was strict and a lot of owners tore their houses down thinking
it was not worth it to fix them. But the community fought enforcement
and urban renewal and gradually the enforcement officials became lax."
After the defeat of urban renewal in
Venice, Scharff and several associates put forward what we used to refer
to as "the master plan." They got the support of some business
and chamber of commerce people, and some people in City Planning. But
they encountered strong community opposition because people feared that
the plan would transform Venice into a playground for the rich and chic.
"Yes," recalls Scharff, "I
remember those days well, I remember John and Anna Haag, Myrna Aldridge,
and others. We fought and fought; I couldn't understand what they wanted.
Certainly we were antagonists. But you know, nowadays I have seen Anna
Haag and she has different ideas. And Myrna Aldridge - well now she owns
apartments and charges... Things change."
The 70s. A Slight Pause
"After that struggle in the 60s
and 70s I thought to myself: Why do this? This is crazy. So I basically
abandoned any large plans for cleaning up Venice, of renewing the town,
and focused on other things. I thought that life was passing and that
I could spend my time more constructively.
But things change. I've just had my 67th
birthday. I have a wonderful family, seven children, but no grandchildren
yet, unfortunately. I've turned day-to-day operation of Lanz over to my
children and... I have begun to think about Venice again. I thought that
I was too old for that, but I've changed my mind. I love Venice. You might
say it is almost an obsession with me."
"What property do you actually own
on the Front?" I asked.
"I've owned various properties over
the years. Some I fix up and sell, to buy others and do the same thing.
Some I keep. In the 50s I once owned the St. Marks Hotel on Windward (now
gone) for a few hours. I owned what is not the Sidewalk Cafe and sold
it to the Hormel family and they sold it to the present owner. I own the
Ocean House at Wavecrest. I bought that in the 50s, renovated it, and
built all those apartments. It was a big project and people said I was
crazy for investing all that money in an old building. And indeed the
project practically ruined me. But I wanted to do something for Venice,
and I still do.
"I own the lot at Park Ave. and
Ocean Front. There was a beautiful house on it, 805 Ocean Front, a fabulous,
rambling generous house. In retrospect I might have liked to live there
but the City made me tear it down during a code enforcement. It was phenomenal,
a lot of taste.
"The two parking lots at Thornton
are mine, and the building where the Figtree is located. I've just finished
renovating the Figtree and it's beautiful. Have you seen it?
"And that's what I own on the Ocean
Front. I own the Villa Verona on Brooks and have owned the Ocean Front
Manor at Breeze Ave. And of course I am part owner-developer of the SeaBreeze
Schraff also manages a few buildings
for friends, including the Lands End Restaurant building. He is putting
in the new bakery adjacent to Lands End in what used to be an architect's
"Well," I asked, "if after
ten years you've decided to become active in Venice again, what are your
"I've just recently purchased the
Cadillac Hotel at Paloma and Ocean Front. I intend to restore the Hotel
to what it was originally. Eventually I hope that it will be a hotel for
people to come and spend some time at the beach, just like it was intended
when it was built."
I ask him about the current residents.
"All of the seniors (some have rents
as low as $70) will stay on at the same rents. I have written to Social
Security telling them that. But you know, the building is run down, a
wreck inside. It has to be gone over. I want to restore it. But before
I do that, I have decided that the older people must have decent apartments
to live in. And so my architect is now working on plans for a new building,
a seniors' building, right here in Venice, and in the first block to the
beach. It will have 40 units, a subterranean garage for 80 cars, and with
affordable rents for the 17 seniors in the Cadillac and for others in
Venice as well. I will build it myself, without any government subsidies
or grants. I want to do this to put back into Venice for all the good
fortune I have received from her. And the older people will remain in
the Cadillac until that housing is ready for them."
What about the rumors that he wants to
rent the Cadillac out for Olympics visitors? He laughs. "I wish I
could but the project won't be completed for 3 or 4 years. No, I don't
have any Olympic plans for the Cadillac. The Cadillac was just down. You
should just see how people live. One apartment was stacked full of newspapers,
even stacked on the bed. Dirty and filthy. It's impossible, Venice has
to be cleaned up."
"You know," he continues, "people
are so strange. They do the most crazy and unexpected things. For instance,
when I bought the Villa Verona we began to fix it up, clean it up. There
was an apartment, dirty, filthy, filled with junk. We asked the person
to leave. While cleaning the place out we found two bank deposit books
- That person had over $100,000 in the bank and yet lived like a dog.
How can you explain it?
Other than that I have no concrete plans.
There are no plans for the Park Ave. lot or the Thornton lots. I was interested
in the Navy St. lots and mad Safran an offer but he wants too much for
it. My idea was to put in lots of parking, above ground, and on top a
restaurant and place to dance. You know, a fun place. Venice needs to
be a fun place, an enjoyable place, But he wants too much for it.
Scharff on Various Subjects
--Vending: I think it's okay. As long
as people want it we should have it. It doesn't create dirt or crime.
It's colorful, bright. They don't sell alcohol or drugs and so don't contribute
to the problems in Venice. Look at the Park Ave. lot. It's an asset to
--Leasing the Pavilion: I think it's
a great idea. The City has done nothing with it and it's dragging Venice
down. If a group of people asked me to go in with them on a renovation,
I'd consider it. I would like the theater to be used. We should have plays
and exhibits there. We have so many talented people here.
--Parking: I am for parking, lots and
lots of parking. It's the key to improving Venice. But I am against putting
any parking on the beach sand. I will build as much parking as I can for
my new projects, more than City code requires. Everyone should do that.
And I think that if you take parking away on the Ocean Front, if you build
on lots where there is presently parking, you should replace that parking
-- Rents: I've always tried to keep my
rents fair and I don't try to get all that the market will bear. But of
course I bought long ago, and it was not expensive, so I can afford to
-- Cleaning up Venice: By that I mean
get rid of the drugs and alcohol, the riff-raff element. The trash, the
paper, the mattresses. And the riff-raff. I think if we could do that
Venice would be a much nicer, safer, pleasing place. But I've thought
and thought about how to do it. Does anyone have any ideas on how to do
Oh, I think that the Ocean Front Walk
should be bricked in, the asphalt torn out."
" The City has no funds for that
kind of thing", I say.
"Never mind," says Scharff.
"If all of us could agree on it we would find a way to do it ourselves."
I thank Scharff for his time and ask
him one last question. "Why don't you live in Venice, since you say
you love it so much?"
"Well," he says, "I don't
have a house here that is attractive to me, and if I were to build a new
one, people would point and say, 'How ostentatious, how pompous.' But
Giant Kite Kills Its Maker
Tom F. O'Mara
Eideken rainbow kite)
November 1983 #167
On the day of September
24, 1983, Steve Eideken, 30, husband and father of two, died of injuries
suffered in a bizarre accident. He was taking part in the launching of
the world's largest kite. The kite has as much surface area as a football
field. It was necessary to tether it to two dump trucks filed with sand.
Prior to launching, Steve and the launch team made final adjustments to
the many stabilizing lines and the thousands of yards of colorful sail
cloth. The wind had been mild all day but was picking up as final preparations
were made for launch. The billowy cloth seemed anxious to fly.
As the lift-off got underway,
everyone was excited. The wind came up as if on cue and the huge kite
began to ascend. Suddenly a gust took the kite up at an alarming rate.
Somehow Steve's leg became entangled in the guide lines. He was hauled
aloft, almost instantly, more than a hundred feet into the air. He managed
to right himself and hung by his hands briefly. He was a man of great
strength and so the forces at play must have been tremendous, for he couldn't
maintain his grip. Hundreds of spectators and friends watched helplessly
from below as he fell to his death. It all happened so quickly, there
was very little, if anything, that might have been done. He was taken
to a local hospital in Long Beach, Washington, the site of the event,
where he was pronounced dead.
Steve started his kite
business in the garage which I now occupy. There is still an old kite
template covering a hole in the concrete. There are some shelves he made
of scrap lumber from my shop next door. One of the boards has been written
on by his step-daughter, Skye. "I LOVE MY MOTHER" it says. Steve
had nailed it so it could be easily read.
Before the kite business,
Steve was a carpenter. We worked together. I always looked forward to
working with him. No problem was unsurmountable as far as he was concerned.
He taught me a great deal about the virtues of positive thinking. His
very attitude helped me to hit the nail more squarely ... cut the line
more accurately. He imparted a great sense of dignity to work. He made
it fascinating. We would come home dog tired, but he would come here,
to the garage, and manufacture kites until late a night. The orders from
friends and friends of friends kept coming in.
One day he announced
that he was going to devote full time to designing and manufacturing stunt
kites. The whole family pitched in. Less than three years later the "RAINBOW
KITE CO" was a well-established business with an international reputation.
We, his friends and neighbors, looked on with admiration as this twenty-six-year-old
man shouldered his responsibilities, made his way through the jungles
of self-doubt that we all must confront, and, in the end, achieved things
that were even beyond his own substantial goals.
And so his death stunned
us all. It had the ring of fiction. No one could quite believe it. After
the shock we realize our loss. His life spirit lifted us all. Children
flocked around him. He was the guy everyone liked. Thousands of anonymous
admirers have been entertained by the long "trains" of rainbow
stunt kites that have decorated the Venice sky-line in recent years. Few
knew the man at the other end of the lines. He was the man who started
it all. He was a maker of joy, of lofty ideals and, ultimately, of the
history of Venice. He inspired us to look beyond our pettiness and to
raise our vision. What greater gift might we have received? It is left
for us to nurture the principles he embraced.
He is at peace but for
the anguish his family must suffer. And our own great sense of loss is
minor by comparison. What words of consolation are adequate? But for the
hand of God, or at least cosmic sanity, we might agonize in despair. Yet
Steve would insist we overcome such lethargy of faith and strive toward
a better order of things. These wonderful kites and colors were not simply
the incidental materials of a business ... they are the stuff of childhood's
dreams ... visions of fancy ... inspiration toward high ideals and achievement.
Let us all be so inspired. In his parting from these times, Steve leaves
us with the courage to aim at our own dreams. A good friend said, "He
will live in our memories forever." It should be a good place for
him to reside.
by Andersen Van Hoy
December 1983 #168
Almost everyone in Venice knows him,
especially the artists, poets and musicians. He's called "Baza,"
a.k.a. Bob Alexander.
Baza has lived in Venice since 1938.
He's poet, artist, supporter and lover of Venice arts, politics and its
people. He's also the reverend of the non-denominational Temple of Man.
At age 60, Baza (who describes himself
as a "stubborn sonuvabitch") still has a dream for Venice and
all of its artists and political activists and supporters-in-general.
And Baza's dream is about to come true.
A Venice tavern supporting the arts and
open political discussions will hopefully be opening this coming year,
1984, all under the auspices of the non-profit Temple of Man. It will
be open to all who wish to share good food and drink, political philosophy,
new films, painting exhibitions, jazz, acoustic music (not electronic),
etc. But most of all, says Baza, people will be sharing fellowship and
It's all based on Baza's vision of "how-it-once-was"
in Venice and "how-it's-going-to-be" again.... that is, if a
location can be found and a bit more financial support comes through.
Already Baza's dream tavern has had several
large contributions, among them the Armadillo and Company Distributors
of Venice. Edwardo Ferrar, owner of Armadillo, which distributes new-age
political magazines, recently gave $5,000 towards the tavern's opening.
Interested investors are actively being
sought to share "Baza's Dream."
Morrie Rosen: a mitzvah among us
by Lance Diskan
At a few minutes after high noon on Thursday
April 19th, 1984, an era ended in Venice. Most of you probably weren't
there to mark the event, but at that moment Morrie Rosen retired as Director
of The Israel Levin Center.
For more than 20 years Morrie has been
Godfather to the elderly citizens of Venice, with special emphasis on
the dwindling Jewish cultural 'family' for whom the Levn Center meant
food, shelter and a defender against the forces of destruction and death.
The Levin Center was a spiritual focus for people who had fled the unimaginable
horror of the Holocaust, and then yet another displacement caused when
their small ocean front cottages were demolished to make way for the Santa
Monica Redevelopment Project.
Through the decades Morrie was a leader
in the fight to preserve and construct low-income housing for the elderly,
to prevent the gentrification of the Venice beachfront; to bridge the
gap between the vulnerable old and the radical young; to make the politicians
keep their electioneering promises. He attended more public hearings,
City Council sessions, Planning Department workshops, and assorted sordid
bureaucrtic meetings than is possible to count.
He nagged at Pat Russell, sweet-talked
Yvonne Burke, vilified numerous YUPpies from Calvin Hamilton's endless
supply of "Big Picture" urban planning specialists, and made
bargains with the Mayor and members of the State Assembly and the Congress.
He would go anywhere, meet anyone if it meant a better life for the elderly.
During the next few months Morrie will
travel to Europe with Elder-Hostel to continue his studies of world cultures
and social systems. He will be preceeded by the reputation of the Israel
Levin Center - made world famous by the Academy Award-winning film Number
Our Days that he helped bring into existence. And he'll know that
the Levin Center and its members still live because he made sure it survived
an attempted closure in 1976.
As he travels, Morrie will remember all
those here in Venice who travel with him in spirit; and he'll look forward
to returning to the Levin Center later this year as a volunteer. We hope
that as he travels he will know that not just the elderly send their best
wishes; for among the skeptical younger generations he has earned a precious
Many of us who have worked with Morrie
during these past years have had our disagreements with him. We've sometimes
been frustrated by his obsessions. But we've never, ever doubted the sincerity
of his concern for those people amongst us who were most desperate for
help. We know that while many people talk the talk, Morrie walked the
walk. He was there in the trenches during the battles for this community.
Given Morrie's contempt for promise-breakers
and those who equivocate when people's lives are at stake it was perhaps
predictable that on April 19th, as he struggled against tears while reading
a farewell poem to his beloved Levin Center members, there were no politicians
or bureaucrats to say goodbye. There were a few friends and associates
- and a room overflowing with frail little men and women who owe their
very lives to his work in their behalf.
There is a word in Jewish: "mitzvah."
It means "a good deed." Morrie Rosen's life in Venice has been
a mitzvah. All of us--young and old--have lost an ally. Thank you, Morrie,
for all you have given us.
Lance Diskan Q&A Ken Kesey
Remember Vietnam? Do you know who John
F. Kennedy was? Is Deep Throat more than just the title of a film? Do
you have an army-surplus gas mask stashed in a carton in your attic left
over from the People's Park riots? Does the phrase "score a tab"
mean something other than drinking diet soda?
If you answer yes, take a Get Out of
Jail Free card - you're a survivor of the 1960s. And get ready, because
the '60s are back in fashion. "The Big Chill" has been drawing
steady audiences to movie theaters around the country; the Claremont Colleges
conducted a four-day "Guided Tour of the 60s;" and People magazine
sill devote an entire issue to that momentous decade.
Recently I had the fortune to spend some
time with one of the main catalysts of what has come to be known as "the
counter-culture": author Ken Kesey. In addition to writing his influential
novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Kesey was a founder of the legendary
Merry Pranksters - an intinerant-socio-political-psychic-gonzo-group-phenomenon
that made powerful contributions to altered states of consciousness. We
spoke in late afternoon sunlight as the breezes blew across Venice Beach.
Q. Can you begin with some background
about your own life in Venice?
I was here about eight years ago, but
just for a visit. I lived here in the early sixties: '60-'61. There was
a community; really something. You could get really cheap places to live,
and there were a number of different co-ops. Once a lot of people got
together and bought one of the (ocean-front) hotels You didn't really
need anything except a mattress and a blanket - and bongos. One of these
old hotels I stayed in was run by a Ukrainian woman who cooked everything
in garlic. You could have eaten the wallpaper. You could have dipped a
curtain in hot water and made soup.
We had a little place for awhile right
on one of the canals. Gee it was neat! It was as far from LA as you could
be. You couldn't believe you were in a big populated area; there were
ducks in the canals and big weedy parking lots.
When I was down here Bob Kaufman was
here. He's Mr. Beatnik. He's a black Jew with Spanish ancestry - a Moor.
His most famous book of poems is called Golden Sardines written
about the Chessman execution. He's the best of the poets from that time.
Kenneth Patchen was also down here then. There was the whole Gas House
scene, and just down the way you could hear the best jazz in the world.
When North Beach (San Francisco) got
to be like a tourist trap people moved out and came down here to Venice.
I remember a guy called Patty O'Sullivan. He was the Beatnik Pirate: a
terrible poet and a terrible womanizer. He would corral you and drunkenly
reel off his poetry and then hit you up for money.
The first "cross-tops" I ever
bought I got down there. Those old Bennies, they were the best damn speed
in the world. We once bought a whole fruit jar for two hundred dollars
- but Cassidy ate them all within a very short time, ate them right down.
Q. Who do you consider some of today's
The Pope is the best leader in the world
right now. He is hard-working, he's working in everybody's language; he
touches people all over the world. That time when he sent in and sat in
the cell with the guy who shot him - powerful stuff! And honest. He's
not doing this just for effect. You look at this guy and you think: this
is a real leader.
Jane Fonda is a leader. Just look at
how many people she's influenced - not just with "right mind"
but also with "right body."
Dick Gregory is a leader. A powerful
and spiritual person.
And I think that leaders will be more
oriented towards their communities, and will be known only in their communities.
I was up in Bolinas a couple of weeks ago and got to talking with the
people up there about what they've done (to control development) - like
what people have done in Venice. These people know that perhaps they could
run for a Senate seat and maybe get it - but they would be relinquishing
power. The real leaders keep themselves "underground."
Q. What is the function of community
in the 1980s?
(Where I live in Oregon) there's no longer
a Grange; there's no real community church any more; we don't have City
Hall; there's no meeting place. But my kids are involved in high school
sports, and you really become aware of the value of the high school. Watching
a football or basketball game or going to wrestling matches you really
get to know your neighbors, and that way you're able to talk about whether
someone's going to put in a road where you don't want it or (planning)
a new development in the community.
The services that are being provided
by "customary workers" - the teachers, the nurses at the hospital,
the firemen, the police - these are services that have been largely unappreciated.
Unless they're Starsky and Hutch nobody's really interested. But these
services are community services and really ought to be recognized and
rewarded much more than they are.
Q. You've spoken of the "Dangerous
Disappointeds" - who are they?
The Dangerous Disappointeds are the people
who really cared and invested and ten were burned by a spiritual group
or something in their nation or someone in their family or by God. A lot
of them just have straight-on arguments with God: like fat people who
say "Why can't I eat cream puffs and not get fat?" So a lot
of people's arguments are with God, and when they're arguing with God
you don't want to get between them and who they're arguing with, because
He's going to whap them.
Q. In the United States an international
This is something that we don't want
to happen. I mean if we're bragging about it, where we're openly doing
it then all is lost. It's amazing that they're just gone ahead and then
said: "Yeah, we're doing this. So what?" It shows a real slipping
of consciousness, bragging about (what has been done).
Q. Do you have any thoughts on the
differences between the word and the image?
In the Beginning was the Word. And as
(biologist) Lewis Thomas says, "The Word is a living entity that
travels on our DNA."
When I was in China I saw these characters
written on a tortoise shell in a museum. There were 22 characters: Ts
and Ss and Us and Vs and Ns. They were the original alphabet before the
Chinese began to hook them together into their Chinese characters. Everything
speaks the same language, and it's all based on those 22 symbols that
are the major arcanum of the tarot; the alphabet. The real thing that
gives us reason is based on The Word.
In a hundred years the images that we
have (recorded) will not play back on anything the people have then. All
of these images that are magnetically stored can be sucked off just by
walking past any store with an electro-magnet. They're all decaying anyway.
What will last are little dots that are
chiseled in stone of scratched onto paper. Thousands of years form now
people will be able to find them and sort it out just like the Rosetta
Stone, and they'll be in contact with people form another time. The Word
carries the image, not the other way around.
Q. What are some of your causes for
When I first started traveling around
talking to kids and at colleges there was a different look in their faces
than there is now. People have been influenced by the plant world. Think
about it. When I (first) went around to colleges I don't think I knew
of any men who had plants in their rooms. Now, every man I know deals
with plants, raises plants. This kind of nurturing is different than what
it was like when I was in college. There is a gentleness.
When Willie Nelson sings at his concerts
you feel him court those redneck minds; and then his acid consciousness
reaches right inside that redneck mind and adjust a little thing that's
out of whack and fixes it. Same thing with Taj Mahal. He's not putting
himself forward, he's putting a message forward. He's steadily hammering,
hammering on this message; going in and reaching for this little spirit-gear
that's inside of people and adjusting it - trueing it up.
There are a lot of artists that are working
this way, working really hard. The Grateful Dead work really hard at this.
And if anything means anything, if something is better than something
else, art has to be it. Art has to be one of the prominent movers of people,
and there are a lot of artists working very hard at adjusting this American
spirit. And they're having effect; it's just not an obvious effect.
Q Do you have any parting words on
power or magic?
Power doesn't corrupt, power purifies.
Force corrupts. People use force when they don't have power; they use
force to make people believe that they do have power. Power never has
to rape; force rapes. Whenever you use force you relinquish magic, and
you give up on it. You say (to yourself) "I can't charm her into
it, I'm going to have to rustle her down right here in the ditch."
Then you have given up your power, you become a user of force and you
become used by force - whether you're a nation or a human being. The more
people use force the less magic they have.
August 1984 #176
No Help for Jean - Life on the Streets
by Jim Conn
I know a woman who lives in Ocean Park
who isn't much different from the rest of us. About 5 foot 3, she's a
bit overweight, but not considering her years and what she's lived through.
She's white, maybe even Irish with that sort of ruddy skin that doesn't
tan. She's lived here a couple of years now. She likes Ocean Park, and
she knows it well.
More than that I don't know much about her. Except for
one thing: she screams a lot. She just stands mid-block and screams. Sometimes
she screams obscenities, but usually just a raw, high-pitched screech.
Sometimes she screams at particular people who don't appear to be there.
Sometimes she screams at whoever walks by.
But recently she's been screaming about something very
specific. She stands on the Community Center steps and screams that she
has a right to a place to sleep, a right to be where she won't get beat
up or raped, where she can be clean and warm and dry. Not too much o ask,
even if you're out of your mind part of the time because the voices won't
But no one will take her. When things used to get too
rough, the Santa Monica Police would send an officer out who took her
to the County facility on Euclid Street. But 24 hours later and drugged
sick they put her back on the street. Now they won't even do that. Harbor
General used to take her now and then. They would feed her and clean her
up and get her well again, drug her real good, and set her on the street
again. But they won't do that anymore either. So even the police won't
pick her up now because they have no place to take her.
She needs care because sometimes she can't care for herself.
But the State facilities won't keep the semi-capable. The County doesn't
have the facilities for the walking wounded. And no one pays. SO the Community
Center feeds her and tries to keep her alive. But when things get out
of hand, there's no where to go.
Probably 10,000 people like Jean walk the streets of
this state. They're there because the governor who is now President slashed
programs and cut hospitals. And because Proposition 13 left no money for
anything different. And because the sitting governor keeps it this way.
Only the people who sit on the curb and scream their souls out want it
to be different.