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Free Venice Beachhead archives selected articles 1980-81

Beachhead Archives 1982

Beachhead Archives 1983

Beachhead Archives 1984

Street performers

30 Years Ago This Month in the Free Venice Beachhead

Tale of the Fox

Lighthearted Beachhead pieces

People of Venice

Windward Avenue Articles

Art in the Beachhead

Venice institutions from the Beachhead


30 Years Ago in Call Someplace Paradise and/or Ghost Town

Venice in Books A-C

Venice in Books D-K

Venice in Books L-P

Venice in Books Q-Z

Quotations about Venice

Venice in Magazines and other ephemeral sources

1981 Resistance Celebration Schedule

1981 Resistance Celebration Articles

Birth of Venice:
old-timey magazines

1914-1916 Part 1

1914-1916 Part 4

1914-1916 Part 5

John Hamilton

Destiny's Consent by
Laura Shepard
Townsend

Lions and Gondolas

Poem about Venice Beachhead

Rana Ayzeren

Tales of the Blue Meanie by Allan Cole

Another Chapter from Tales of the Blue Meanie by Allan Cole

"Brick" Garrigues

The Spectre

Venice Historical Society

1969 Police Riots

Jack the Liar

 

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 permission.

L. A. Shuns Walking Wounded
By Patrick McCartney........ #177 Sept. 1984

You all know him as Wino Bob, maybe as Veteran Bob. He’s the loudest, most obnoxious, egomaniacal, cussedest, theatrical public drunk and liar on the boardwalk. If you don’t believe me, just ask him.

But for all the times I’ve heard Bob run off at the mouth and chuckled at the audacity of his lies, I’m sorry he didn’t get his shot at the Olympics. Maybe you didn’t 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. He’d 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 Bob’s wheelchair. "We’re going to arrest him again," he told me in a confidential tone. I asked what for and was told for warrants. So much for Bob’s ballyhooed anticipation of the Olympic games.

The reason I’m writing this is not really to defend Bob’s 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 town’s 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.

Isn’t 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 don’t 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-they’ll-leave" attitude.

That brings me to the second point that bothered me about Bob’s and Tony’s removals. Tony should have been under medical care months ago. His joints were so bad from improper nutrition he couldn’t 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 the afternoon."

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 the Times.

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 can cook.

"And it's really time for me to be a queen," he added with a small sigh. "After all, I am getting on."


Venetians Remembered:
David Rosen
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" temperament.

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 the world.

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.

Goodbye, David.


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 people.

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 Free Venice.

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 change.

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.

Q. Marijuana?

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 physical reaction?

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 family man?

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 family now?

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 now?

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

Pagoda Kidnap!
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 to extremes.

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

"It's 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

July 1983

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 for!"

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 Tony Bill?"

"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 anything?"

"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 and parking."

"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 ad nauseum.

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 permit.

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 for development.

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 lethargy.

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 free advice!

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."

Why?

"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 nothing."

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 project."

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 office.

"Well," I asked, "if after ten years you've decided to become active in Venice again, what are your plans?"

"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 Venice.

--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 too.

-- 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 do that.

-- 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 it?

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 perhaps...."


Giant Kite Kills Its Maker
Tom F. O'Mara

(An 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.


"Baza's Dream"
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 womanship.

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

May 1984

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 respect.

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

July 1984

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 world leaders?

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 terrorist?

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 optimism?

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 stop.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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