The Fox Venice
find out about Single
Wing Turquoise Bird
at this outside website
Tale of the Fox
by Wendy Reeves
A Venice Wedding
The File Cabinet:
30 Years Ago in
Visions of Venice
To See Venice
Is To Live
Venice's True Sister City
Venice - the Safest Beach
The 1978 Venice Festival
at the Fox Venice Theater
The first thing we encounter, in the window where Venice
memorabilia are displayed, is the first edition, dated September 1974,
of a magazine. On the cover Dick Drake, whose look could be described
as Intelligent Caveman, smiles with a rose in his teeth.
I had sent him a Christmas card from all of us, and yesterday
one came back from him: an old-time black and white photo of a Santa Claus
with a huge beard, flanked by two very serious looking police officers.
On the ground are several bags filled with kilos of pot.
Back to "Venice Night" - a few minutes later
Carla spots Drake himself on the other side of the crowd. Then I see Joan
Silverthorn, the dancer, writer and sex surrogate, who makes her home
in one of the boardwalk apartment buildings, in conversation with three
or four men. A searchlight is in operation out front of the theater, and
someone releases giant bubbles into its beam.
In the display window is a well-preserved poster with
a gal in an old-time tank bathing suit with a striped umbrella. "Venice,"
it says, "the safest beach." That was a long time ago. Another
item is a page from the Santa Monica Evening Outlook (or Outhouse
as it's more commonly known) about a former festival. The headline reads
"Chaos Rules Venice Show." That year it took place in the Pavilion.
In the crowd outside we stand near a woman with a pseudo-punk
hair style, who desperately and repeatedly embraces a man with blond hair
and a bright red beard. Her eyes have that certain look that says "zonked
on acid." She stays glued to the guy, never lets go for a minute.
I've met her, as a patient in the group practice office. She had uterine
cancer and was waiting to find out whether it had metastasized. Maybe
that's why she clings so desperately to her man, because they just got
either some very good or very bad news.
I eavesdrop on conversations between others waiting for
the lobby to open. Tweed-wearing pipe smokers are one-upping each other
with their knowledge of Venice history and lore. After an ungodly long
wait out front, Carla and I finally enter the theater with the crowd and
buy our popcorn. Venice insider phrases float through the air: "Is
that the Bubble Man?" and "He's an old friend of mine from the
Canals" and "Where's the Swami?" Inside we see the fabled
boardwalk character Jingles. He has a big bell appliqued to his clothing,
and so many bells attached to his body that one more couldn't possibly
fit. Formerly of New York City, Jingles sings and plays guitar. In April,
he organized a free four-hour concert with about a dozen prominent street
performers. He says the street performers have an organization that is
both a non-profit union and an entertainment co-op. They have a lawyer
and dues, $20 to join plus $10 a year. The eight-point charter includes
many goals. They want to take their music into hospitals and jails, and
to apply for grants from the government and private foundations. Venice
Precision Roller Works already gave them $125 to rent a sound system for
the concert. That kind of generosity is not typical of the merchants,
who mostly say the buskers hurt business.
The law says they can put out a box or something to catch
money, but aren't allowed to ask for it. In all of Los Angeles, Venice
is, not surprisingly, the community most favorable to street performers,
though Hollywood is interested. The group is asking for a city ordinance
like the one in San Francisco, where you pay for a permit and don't get
arrested. It seems strange that such an anarchistic group as street performers
should ask the government to make a law. They want to feel secure and
be protected from competition, like hairdressers or plumbers. It's a bummer
that they want money from the government. By coincidence, I'm sure, the
buskers' concert was on the 15th, income tax day, as if to say, "Here's
what you'll get for the part of your taxes that comes to us."
We are given a ballot to vote for our favorite community
service groups, which are competing for the money from this benefit. Candidates
are the Boys and Girls Club (sports, arts and crafts, tutoring and counseling),
the Beachhead, Madres Unidas (a dance troupe), Native Visions,
the Oakwood Wesley House (low-income housing, Christmas food baskets,
the Police Practices Complaint Center) and the Venice Town Council.
In the auditorium a large bloc of seats in the center
is roped off, reserved for the press and contributing artists. "Soft
Parade" plays over the PA system. The side walls, down front near
the screen, are an impromptu art gallery. An artist drives more nails
into the wall to hold more paintings. They are wonderful mood pieces of
Venice locales, mostly nighttime scenes, paintings I would want to own.
One is of the Gas House, a legendary Beat hangout on the boardwalk. All
that remains of it now is an iron post. Supposedly part of the Roger Corman
movie Bucket of Blood was filmed there in 1959. The paintings are
by Bob Farrington. "His images chronicle the beat infusion from 1950
until the Gas House closed in 1962 and he painted 'every house and oil
Someone makes an announcement: "Tonight, because
of the nature of the event, there will be no smoking in the theater."
Most of the audience applauds. The program begins with the Harbinger Dance
Theatre performing the Roller Skate Dance, in which they impersonate skaters,
cops and old folks trying to get out of the way. The first film, from
maybe the 20s, shows fireworks and midway lights and, on the canals, Italian
gondoliers imported from New York. It extols the wonders of a large hotel
with "hot salt water in every room as a therapeutic bonus."
It characterizes Venice as the hoped-for birthplace of the American Renaissance.
My notes are a mess, and it's hard to remember what scenes
were in which films. There was a documentary called Canals, Calliopes,
and Chaos by Tom Moran and Tom Sewall. Tom Moran, the program says,
"has written numerous pieces about Venice for local publications
and is now preparing a book on Venice history." I met him at the
"Mensas in the Movies" get-together in Beverly Hills; he mentioned
writing for New West. That was the same event where I met Sid Garfein,
author, dentist to the stars, etc. whom I see quite often shambling along
Peace Press did the printing for the affair - an interesting
outfit that was reported on in the Times some weeks back - socialistic
I guess you'd call it.
Brucemas is about a transvestite named Jimmy.
One film was called Hey Mama and I think it's the one with a shot
of the same fellow with blond hair and red beard I saw caressing the lost-looking
woman in the lobby. In the movie he was riding a bicycle down by the beach
with a poodle in the front basket. In this film also are the Bubble Man,
Francesco (without the Beam) and Swami X, who says, "If elected I
will pass a bill changing the 'no-knock' law to 'come back next Thursday,
It was the world premiere of Feeding the Sparrows
by Feeding the Horses by Moritz Borman. He's in the States for a while
free-lancing for German television. According to the press release, it's
about "the struggle of a heterogeneous community to maintain its
social, ethnic and geographical integrity." That's us.
Excerpted from Call Someplace Paradise copyright
2000 by Pat Hartman