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25 Years Ago in the Free Venice Beachhead

John Hamilton Part 1

John Hamilton Part 2

Back issues in my eBay store

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

Free Venice Beachhead archives selected articles 1980-81

Beachhead Archives 1982

Beachhead Archives 1983

Beachhead Archives 1984

Lighthearted Beachhead pieces

People of Venice (from Beachhead)

Windward Avenue Articles from Beachhead

Art in the Beachhead

Venice institutions from the Beachhead

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

1914-1910 Part 4

1914-1916 Part 5

Destiny's Consent by
Laura Shepard

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
15th Anniversary

December 1983 #168

Beachhead - Inside to Out
Rick Davidson

"Write your feelings about the Beachhead," I was asked. "I've got mixed feelings," I said. They replied. "Write whatever you want," they replied.

So how about a little history? The first issue of the paper was green; an appropriate color since when it came to putting out a community newspaper we were all as green as you could get. The "we" I'm talking about was a group of radicals who happened to be working together in the Peace & Freedom (PFP) - a new 3rd party dedicated to Peace in Vietnam and Freedom for minorities here at home. It also happened that we all lived in and loved Venice. We felt the best approach to building a new party was to build from the grassroots. Everyone knew that there had to be plenty of roots in Venice since there was so much grass around. (couldn't resist.)

Our most pressing need was to reach Venice residents. Sure we had meetings, I mean like very night, but you couldn't get all the forty thousand Venetians in the PFP office; we figured it would take about 2000 meetings to meet with all the forty thousand - we were just too impatient - there had to be a better way. Some wanted to put out a magazine; radio, one offshore past the three mile limit; a film would be fun; but a newspaper was the obvious solution.

We conceived the paper as a poem. It had to be a political statement about our thoughts on Vietnam, racism, sexism, police brutality, land reform, etc., and since our politics included art, people's art, we wanted a paper that would express that too; and we wanted it to be free: rather than "sell" it to some of the people we would "give" it to all the people. It would also be a collective effort where decisions about the paper would be made by those doing the work - participation was open to anyone ... people's democracy in action.

We named it the Beachhead because we felt we were creating a beachhead in Venice from which to extend the struggle throughout LA, California, and the US of A... a struggle to transform America into a more humanistic society. Even though we were all in the Peace & Freedom Party, we did not all agree on how the transformation would have to take place. Some of us felt it could only happen through socialism; some felt it would have to be an anarchistic society; and some felt, we found out the hard way, it should be a libertarian society ... later some of the libertarians suggested selling the beach to private enterprise because it would be more efficient and cut down on the costs to the public. NO, we were not of one mind. "Let a thousand flowers bloom" was expanded to include bushes, weeds, stones, you name it, it was growing in Venice. You can imagine, our editorial meetings were pure theater; theater of the absurd, more times than not.

The staff of the Beachhead has changed over the years. New people join as others leave - some leave Venice, others just left Beachhead work due to more pressing political work. Venice Peace & Freedom activists were running all over LA, California, and the US, including Hawaii.

There was always a struggle to balance and integrate the issues of the Vietnam War with the issues of Venice. We wore two hats: Peace & Freedom and Free Venice. TO most of us there was a direct connection between the policies waging the war in Vietnam and those trying to drive people out of Venice, but it was not always clear to everyone. More time was spent in political debate than the actual process of putting out the paper. When it happened simultaneously it really showed in the paste-up.

I continue to write and support the paper because I feel it is important to have a people's paper - the politics of the, what's its name ... the Evening Outrage, certainly aren't mine. And sometimes the politics of the Beachhead aren't either, but at least I feel I have some access (limited at times) to "our" Venice paper.

So I say thanks to those willing to spend their Saturdays writing, editing, pasting-up, printing and distributing, as well as trying to get funds to pay for it, but I do have a few criticisms I want to share.

(Of course, there is no page 28, since the issue only goes up to page 16)

And Further Out
by Carol Fondiller

Write about the Free Venice Beachhead. Easy, I thought. Well, it hasn't been. Something inside me skitters toward the subject and then flits away.

"I felt as if everyone on the staff was fucking each other and I was the only one who wasn't getting fucked," said one ex-Collective member. And it is like that when one joins a small group of people who have been working together for a long time. I feel like that right now, having come back to the Beachhead after being away from it for a while. It's true! It's true!! It's always been true! I've always felt like that with one or two exceptions when I've been fucked and fucked over. And oh, the stories I could tell if I didn't want to live in this town any more! The little tensions and eruptions of ego! "Tell that paper that Werner Scharf is wrong," said Anna Haag. "I haven't changed. I still believe in what I believe. I wanted to make a living (at the Venice West) but he stopped me. He said I sold dope. Maybe I should have. I'd be as rich as he is."

Werner Scharf and Anna Haag. Werner and Anna have always been around in Venice. One time as Anna and I sat in Hinano's, she told me "I might love a man, but I love Venice more." My sentiments, exactly.

One night in 1968, we were at the Peace and Freedom office wondering how to get the news out about the Master Plan and Venice. As I remember it, every paper and media outlet either ignored us or they portrayed us as a band of hippies, or as if they listened to Curt Simon, Werner Sharf and other speculators, we were commies intent on destroying the American way of life.

Jane Gordon, myself, John Haag, Anna Haag, Jay Jamieson, and I think Rick Davidson and Phil Chamberlain were there. John Haag said, "Why don't we start a paper?" Anna Haag organized fund raisers and I helped. During the '60s and '70s, I learned how to witness police sweeps. The LAPD's crack team was called the Metro Squad. I found that some of the police thought the presence of a person with a pencil and paper more threatening than a person with a gun.

The Beachhead has always been a renters' paper. Always in search of a place with a large workspace. As rents rose, space grew more cramped. So, there's always been an air of suspense about the paper. Some people, looking at this gypsy paper, would say, "I can do better than that," and would proceed to show those uptight politicos how to do it right. For a while, their periodicals would show up beautifully printed and laid out on good stock, with color and lots of advertising. After a few months, despite the stylish print sock-'em-out layout, these papers would disappear and that ugly, flimsy rag whose pages turned yellow in the sun after one hour, would still be slogging along.

I set the record straight for Anna Haag, I might as well get something off my chest that's been bugging me for years. I know that this has nothing to do with the fifteenth anniversary of the Beachhead, but when has a lack of relevance ever stopped me? I'd been working on one collective for about five years when all of us decided w couldn't do it any more. We were getting rigid. We were taking longer and longer at paste-up. We couldn't stand the thought of taking the paper to the printer. So we wrote an editorial titled "Beachhead Up For Grabs" requesting that those who were interested come on over and take it on. And they did! Imagine our surprise when we read an article in the Los Angeles Times about alternative press on the West Side, that stated that we broke up because of feminist issues. No way! At that point, the people working on the 'Head happened to be women. Most of us were and I believe are, feminists, but we put out a community newspaper. This funky, grubby paper chock-a-block with grumpy, idiosyncratic opinions, letters, poems, and reprints from other alternative presses, doesn't belong to a soul, and therefore, has a Soul bigger than all its pages put together. It belongs to no one, therefore to everyone. We have no editor, therefore, everyone's an editor. I feel that for all the nitpicking, backbiting, snarling and insanity that goes on in the secret meeting place of the collective, that all the collectivites past and present feel they don't own the paper, they only take care of it. The community, and when I say "community," I mean those of us who don't have the ear of the media or the government. Those of use who are sleeping in cars or who are one step away from sleeping in our cars, which means anyone who makes less than $30,000 a year and "owns" or rents their homes.

The problems that faced Venice in 1968, that brought the Beachhead into being are still here.

As a matter of fact, the Beachhead speaks to everyone who doesn't own their own businesses, isn't white, is older than 40, younger than 21, isn't male, doesn't have adequate health insurance, is a single parent who is still living in Venice because "ambiance" hasn't been discovered on their street, and does not think life begins and ends with how many people you have the power of eviction over. The Beachhead is for people who believe that they have a right and an obligation to make decisions about their destiny in the community they choose to live in, even though they are thought of as expendable and undesirable by City Hall and speculators because they can't afford the outrageously inflated rents. They have chosen Venice as a place to live. Not a place to leave when things get rough and return to buy up the place when the Olympics are coming.

The Beachhead is YOURS. USE IT.
Che Wah Wah!

A Beachhead Valentine
by Lance Diskan

My time in Venice is a track that parallels the life of the Beachhead - or as it's properly called: The Free Venice Beachhead. (I've always liked the double meaning of the name, since it seems both a call to action and a celebratory shout.) The week I arrived in Venice, Issue #4 had just hit the streets, and I recall dropping in at the cluttered house on West Washington Blvd. that served as office, distribution center and crash pad.

Fearless Leader John Haag was on the telephone somewhere, hidden amidst stacks of bundled back issues; Steve Clare (I think) was just in with a report from the scene of a local political demonstration' Earl Newman was upstairs pumping out posters.

Over the years I've put in my own two cents' worth: an observation of the Venice Town Council (does anyone out there even remember the Venice Town Council?); alarm calls about various matters coastal; strange tidbits from the moldy files of The Obscure News Service; a verbal reply to the chi-chi chic media as it analyzed us for the readers of Vogue Magazine.

But aside from these minimal contributions, The Beachhead experience for me has been one of lots of receiving, lots of learning, lots of new perspectives, and - thanks to Carol What's Her Name - lots of laughs.

Perhaps the most deeply I recall a painful series of articles about someone called "Greenie" - that disturbing, provocative true story of a local resident who broke the exceptionally flexible Venetian standards of behavior and transformed this community of freedom into a living hell for one of our more sensitive citizens. Sure, they made a TV movie about her story. Sure, they even passed new laws to help change an outrageous situation. But The Beachhead had the story first, and told it better than anyone.

So, "congrats" and thanks to all the folks who have been members of The Beachhead family over these many years. And to those who read this newspaper but have never been part of the social activities putting it together - you don't know how much fun you're missing.

All Hail The Free Venice Beachhead - fulfilling the grand tradition of American journalism. Henry Pulitzer would be amazed.

All Hail The Free Venice Beachhead - fulfilling the great American tradition of letting the good times roll! Abbot Kinney would be glad.


by memphis slim

I am the voice of Beachhead present. While I'm not the newest member of the collective, I'm the last addition to the inner circle. Yes, Virginia, there is a GANG OF FOUR at the Beachhead!

But the Beachhead isn't us the people; it is a living community institution. We, the present collective, provide the necessary mechanics to keep the issues coming, but the Beachhead lives like the GREAT OZ, independent of mere humans. But like the GREAT OZ, the spirit that keeps the Beachhead necessary is the human spirit; the human spirit provided by our readers, writers and the community itself.

The human spirit of Venice is best exemplified, I think, by we the writers of the Beachhead. Nowhere is the eclectic, vibrant and outspoken spirit of Venice shown more vividly than in articles in this paper.

I can read the cosmic space raps that Carol Fondiller has with herself, read about the latest coastal development outrage courtesy of Mr. Stavnezer and Bob Wells will keep me informed on which ethnic group is revolting. I look forward to the discourses from Dr. Springer on our local heritage and the latest update on the Peace and Freedom front by John Haag. One of our fellows is now financially embarrassed and so I can o longer look forward to travelogues about hating Communism in poor East European countries. And sadly, I can no longer look forward to diatribes from those masters of misinformation, the R.C.P.

On the more positive side, our galloping gourmet, Elizabeth, is still with us and remember she virtually predicted the Grenada invasion 2 years ago. A former collectivist, Lynn Bronstein, still submits her work to the Beachhead and with love and acrimony we usually print it.

These are some of the more regular writers I enjoy reading but there are numerous others who submit equally outstanding work albeit on a less frequent basis. Remember, Beachhead tradition means something to us, that's why Larry Abrams always has a butchered article. Consistency is important!

Those of you who've seen your name of facsimile in print are too numerous to individually name, but you've helped make the Beachhead a reflection or our outstanding community. You've made the Beachhead one of America's best ever community/political/literary publications. It's been an honor to be associated with you folks. Here's to 15 more years!

by Moe Stavnezer

About 10 years ago I wrote my first article for the Beachhead. I don't remember exactly what it was about, most likely development in North Beach (so what's new?), but I do recall that it was pretty mediocre. I didn't own a typewriter then, and when it became obvious that typing one's own article was greatly appreciated by that collective, just as it is today, I went out to a local pawn shop (now gone) and purchased an old Remington manual that worked most of the time. It and I produced passable though smudgy copy with my normal, and only slightly decreased, number of typos (still, not bad for a two-fingered typist.).

Well, I now use an IBM Selectric, still write about development in Venice and still love the Beachhead as much now as I did then. As a member of the collective, for the past 3 years, some of my reasons have changed though the bottom lines remain the same. Some years ago, when someone from the O.P. Perspective described the Beachhead as a bulletin board (compared to the Perspective which was a "newspaper") I took it as an insult. Now I think it's a compliment. People whose views and ideas might never see the light of day anywhere else have written important and interesting articles for this paper. Poets have had their works published here for the first time. Photographers and other inventive media people have been given space and credit on these pages. Not bad for a bulletin board, not bad at all.

And for a political activist, like I sometimes am, unaccustomed to seeing one's work actually produce something, the Beachhead is like a miracle. Every month there's a product, the tangible result of work - it's refreshing, gratifying and damn good for the ego! The first issue of the paper described the paper as a poem. I think of it more as a piece of graphic art that constantly changes form in order to present information in an interesting and rather eclectic format. Sometimes it fails terribly but more often succeeds wonderfully (pardon my blatant bias.). Now I don't claim that the Beachhead is beautifully laid out graphically, but it does seem to have a "sense of itself" that is accepted by the collective staff and the community.

In the past few years 3 other local newspapers have come and gone (The Ocean Front Weekly, The Perspective and the S.M. Free Weekly) On its 15th birthday the Beachhead continues. One of the oldest of its kind of papers in the country. To the whole Beachhead family, Happy Birthday and many more.

by Elizabeth Elder

When I left New Mexico, I made a "solemn oath" to myself. Having lived up to that point in my life in only two houses, one of them for 16 years, I told myself I would never live in one place for a long time again.

I landed in Venice in 1971 and have called this "home base" ever since. So much for "solemn vows" at the ripe old age of 21.

It wasn't long after coming to Venice that I began contributing, sometimes under pen names, to the Beachhead. It seemed especially fitting that the very vocal and unorthodox folks have a community "voice", a forum like that provided by the paper.

The paper has gone through a lot of incarnations since it began, people have come and gone (and come back), and the look, feeling and substance of the Beachhead have changed considerably from time to time, but throughout its changes and frivolity and seriousness, and places in between and elsewhere, there is a certain, almost indescribable thread that has continued.

Call it structural integrity if you tend toward adult definitions, or just its basic "ness," if you don't. But it is a continual source of amazement that a group of people with often very different realities and priorities can sit down with each other for 3 Saturdays a month and, using "fuel" supplied by an intense and colorful community, cook up a stew like the Beachhead and serve it up to the people of Venice.

Venice itself is pretty amazing. There's something about the spirit of the place that is a genuine miracle in a time of alienation, overconsumption, high-rolling real estate and high tech insanity. There's always something new to be learned or seen or experienced, though not things easily seen by mainstream eyes.

This summer in Sacramento a young woman was telling me how she had insisted that her fiancé' give up his apartment on the Ocean Front in Venice. (She and I were virtual strangers and I doubt that she even knew I lived in Venice.) When I asked her why, her response was, "Well, I absolutely wouldn't live there. I mean, have you seen all the dog shit?" All I could say to her was, "You're probably right, Nancy, you shouldn't live in Venice." And I thought to myself, that's one reason I do live, in Venice, honey, to get away from people who have so little imagination, they can look at a place as dynamic and interesting and unique as Venice and not see any of it because they're looking at the ground.

Well, friends, Venice is still alive and the Beachhead is still alive. If it had been left up to the "wango uprights" to decide, we all would have been plowed under long ago. So here's to the next 15 years. Viva Venice! Your spirit is free.

In the deep, dark recesses of my mind nowhere in the shadows of the lost City of Industry... it was a gray day. The presses of the old LA Free Press lay silent after running a slew of anti-war tabloids and other stuff that newspaper printers wouldn't touch. In those days and because of the Freep, the CIS, FBI and others would simply go to these people and tell them... fall in line or we destroy your action... have little talks with your clients and like that.

Standing there in the front office, staring out through the front door I was a man with the presence of an ancient warrior, John Haag. John carried the boards for the Beachhead tenderly and firmly toward the counter and laid them down. We acknowledged each other from other times and this day in 1969. We took the boards and the presses did their work 10M times. I was proud to be a small part of the Beachhead then and Anita and I have long been supporters and boosters. To the staff, past and present we salute you! To the readers, 1984 may be the most important year of your lives! Help the Beachhead grow and spread the word! CHEE-WAH-WAH!!!



© 2004 - 2012 Pat Hartman
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