Celebrating the Creative Community of Venice.
VenicePaparazzi updated gallery '07.26.14 Muscle Beach Nutrition Bikini + Fitness Contest'
By Greta Cobar
A rare lightning storm hit Venice on Sunday, July 27, killing one person and injuring 13 others. Nicholas Patrick Fagnano (November 23, 1993 – July 27, 2014) was getting ready to start attending USC, his dream school, in two weeks.
“He worked hard these past two years and was so excited to start at USC,” his father, Jay Fagnano, told the Beachhead. He didn’t get into USC right out of high school, and attended Santa Barbara City College for two years. “He just went downtown to finalize where he was gonna live and from there just came to the beach, two weeks before college, with his high school friends. They really liked going to the beach, and this was their go-to spot,” his father told the Beachhead.
“Nick was on the volleyball courts, and before heading home he told his friends: ‘let me just get in the water and rinse the sand off me’ – he just went in for one minute. After it happened there was such pandemonium – his friends couldn’t find him,” his father said.
“They found him fifty feet out, about thirty minutes later. Two lifeguards found him and did everything they could. Then they took him to the Marina hospital. It was lightning that killed him,” his father went on to say.
I met his parents, Mary and Jay Fagnano, on the Venice pier at a small family memorial held for Nick. Locals, friends and family members brought written words, pictures and flowers to the entrance to the pier, in what has become a make-shift memorial for Nick. He is survived by his parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. Nick has no siblings. A scholarship fund for an undergraduate transfer student to USC has been established in Nick’s name.
Vern L. Williams can be found fishing at the end of the Venice pier on most days, and July 27 was no different. He was sitting right next to the light pole at the very end of the pier as “clouds came over us and stopped in the middle of the circle,” he told the Beachhead. “It started roaming, and then Boom! Everybody ducked down and then they all left the pier. I said I’m not going nowhere – I’ve been on this pier thirty to forty years of my life, fishing. I was the only one left on the pier,” Williams told the Beachhead.
“The lightning hit the pole, I saw it when it hit, I saw light circle the pole – good thing I didn’t touch the pole. I would’ve been dead. I saw the light ricochet off the pole. It was really scary. I started shivering and then it started raining,” Williams said.
By Bruce Meade
Looked for a place to live in Venice lately? Then you know rents are astronomical for even the smallest spaces. Big demand, small supply.
A supply that is dwindling even further as landlords convert long-term rental units to short-term (under 30 days), which happens to be illegal in a residential zone. But since when does the law matter when Big Money is involved?
Advocates of affordable housing decry the loss of units, which squeezes the rental market even tighter.
Advocates of the “sharing economy” decry the loss of a chance to make a buck, or save a buck, as the case may be.
Here are some of the players in the short-term rental game:
Online Brokers such as AirBnB, etc.: they take their percentage from each side of the transaction and look the other way when things go south. Just another multi-million dollar industry. Tenants, be aware: if you sub-rent your place online your landlord can evict you. Most lease agreements have provisions against sub-renting, sub-leasing and against having guests over for more than a week or two. If you are a landlord, be even more aware: it is a zoning code violation to run a hotel in a residential area. Building and Safety is currently zoning in on these code violations with fines.
The Los Angeles Short Term Rental Alliance (LA-STRA) is a recently formed group of landlords alarmed by the fact that some cities, like New York and New Orleans, have already banned short-term rentals. They want to make sure Venice remains a gravy bowl of profit. They want less stringent rules and oversight on short-term rentals. If they have their way, affordable housing in Venice will be harder to find than a pay phone.
Keep Neighborhoods First is a grass-roots Venice organization set up to educate and inform the public about the onslaught of short-term rentals in Venice. Go to their website, keepneighborhoodsfirst.com, to learn more about getting involved in this looming economic issue. The Venice Neighborhood Council is currently thinking about addressing the issue: get involved by attending meetings and taking a stand.
And a final thought: just because something is profitable does not make it right. Without affordable housing, Venice can say good-bye to whatever diversity is left here. Short-term rentals, left unchecked, may turn Venice into a city of strangers.
By Deborah Lashever
Now at our VNC meetings we begin with the Pledge of Allegiance. Interesting. It has been a while since I have had to think about standing for it. Or not. After some reflection, I find I still feel the same as I did in the sixties. This is not a poem. It is a pledge. That means in order to repeat it – with hand over heart no less – I should believe it on a very deep level. A pledge is my word. And I take that seriously. This tends to offend some people.
What do the words really mean? Have you thought about it? Are they true and applicable in our country today? Do most people believe we are one nation under God? What does the Republic actually mean? Does it still stand for something? What? Are we really indivisible? Is there truly Justice and Liberty for all? Just who and what am I pledging allegiance to really? The military industrial complex? Corporate personhood? Who are these people running the country? They do not resemble anyone who is doing the Will of the People that I can savvy and isn’t that, after all, what the Republic stands for?
Don’t mean to offend…..but…..hmmm….I should say these words that do not apply to any reality….why? I should pledge myself to untruth because….? I should drink the Kool Aid? Or at least publicly pretend to so not to offend some distant, hardly looked at sense of generalized red white and blue clad patriotism? Nope. Sorry.
Yes, I will stand while people pledge their allegiance, even though I know most have never thought about the meaning of the words. I will face the American flag out of some sort of weird respect for people who still like to lap up that artificially colored, artificially flavored beverage. But the words I do speak – loudly and with conviction – are, “with liberty and justice for all.” I do this just in case someone is actually listening. I speak this fine phrase with the full force of my conviction. For it is this phrase that for me epitomizes what this nation has indeed stood for and what made us great once upon a time and what – if anything – will save us. I speak these words to draw attention to the fact that it is not happening at all – and that it should.
It is inauthentic for me to do anything else. This country is not what we say we stand for. Again, sorry if I offend anyone but if I do not stand for truth I do not stand for anything. I pledge my allegiance to that.
Mary Getlein’s July piece (Bonin Walks From Meeting) is insightful and indicative of how Mr. Bonin approaches the Venice neighborhood and governance in general.
The freshman council member doesn’t allow for any serious exchange with residents and the “Venice Life” meeting held on June 18 was another example of that flawed policy.
When first elected to the council Mr. Bonin was a speaker at a monthly meeting of the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) and took no questions.
When a Venice Town Hall was held in response to the senseless auto death of an Italian tourist on her honeymoon, Bonin lectured residents on his vision of Venice, and promptly left again after his prepared remarks and no interaction with the hundreds in attendance.
It seems to be the policy of the 11th District council member that unless the environment is controlled, an honest discussion or the ability to ask questions is non-existent.
In dealings with his staff, emails are rarely if ever returned – especially if you disagree with their public policy positions or inaction as witnessed for over a year as it applies to the current condition of the Venice bike path and knolls that separate it from the pedestrian walk.
Building consensus and reaching out to residents in a diversified community such as Venice takes thoughtful leadership from the head, and not the back of the line.
I play drums for Phylte Risk (http://VeniceLion.com). I am primarily a Jazz drummer. I play at a low volume that accompanies acoustic pianos and other Jazz and quiet amplified music groups. I enjoy drumming for Al Robinson, who leads the group, and is a great guitar player, who plays through a small battery operated amp.
Our group alternates performances with other acts in front of On the Waterfront restaurant on Ocean Front Walk just north of Rose. The police came by as a loud guitar player was performing, and they shut him down. I told the officers that we had encouraged him, we encourage all performers who come out to play, and do not appreciate the police who come by and say all kinds of contradictory things, and that amplified sound is ok as long as it’s kept to a reasonable level.
So our group began to play at our lower level. The policeman came up to our guitar player who leads the group and was able to have a normal conversation with him as we played, and told him to turn it down. So we did. The police officer and the guitar player were able to converse and I could even hear what they were talking about sitting at the drums while we were playing. The officers told us to play even lower and when we did they then told us to shut down. We did comply. I was angry. They have no right to shut us down, we know the legal decibel level and know the police were being unreasonable. The crowd and the patrons where chanting over and over “let them play”.
So this is when at some distance away from where we were set up I went up to the officers and asked for their contact information, because I wanted to make a complaint against them. They told me they would not give me this information unless I gave them my driver’s license. Well I told them I didn’t want to give them my license and they again repeated the same story that they wouldn’t give me their info unless I gave them my license. So like an idiot I gave them my license. I thought they were telling the truth. I waited and waited and thought they were writing down the information I had asked for and waited and waited and they gave me a ticket.
A ticket for 115.02 LAMC: Amplified Sound: Engaging in the installation, use, or operation of any loudspeaker or sound amplifying equipment in a fixed or movable position;……..
Amplified sound is legal on the boardwalk no matter what the police say.
I’ve lived on the OFW since 1992 and there are many horror stories from many musicians who have been abused, lied to and threatened by the police. Venice has been a circus, loud, noisy since its beginning. Anyone who says they came to Venice for peace and quiet is a bold face liar.
The wonderful DVD, “The Cook,” (Milestone film & video, 2003) starring Roscoe Arbuckle and Harold Lloyd, deserves the attention of Venice. It is a real gem!
The disc includes countless, amazing historic scenes shot right here in old Venice, and Ocean Park!
The first film on the disc, The Cook, long believed lost, was restored when additional missing footage was found in Norway. With incredible sight gags, juggling food, and wild slapstick comedy, this picture includes amazing footage of a chase on the old Crystal Pier, or perhaps early Ocean Park Pier, with its rickety rollercoaster, in Santa Monica, just south of Pico Blvd. In the background appears what is now the Casa del Mar Hotel, and the whole beachfront to the south, with many rides and buildings under construction. Some of this footage may be misidentified on the disc’s liner notes as the Pike, yet may be recognized as old Santa Monica in 1917.
Surprisingly, this movie includes what may have been the 20th century’s first filmed wardrobe malfunction: high up on the rollercoaster overlooking the Pacific, a frightened cashier, played by Alice Lake, turns to face her pursuer (Al St. John as The Toughest Guy,) when her see-through bodice slips slightly, and she reveals a bit more than just her acting talents.
(See if you notice The Toughest Guy leering – while actually the actor seems to be clinging for his life to a flimsy guardrail!)
The entire beachfront scene from Santa Monica Pier to Ocean Park Pier, Lick Pier, and Venice Pier (“Admission: 10¢”) are the backdrop for at least two of the hilarious early films on this disc. Shot in 1917, as well as in 1920, using a single stationary camera, (just months before the pier being destroyed by fires), these pictures present our whole early beachfront scene, ready to be explored as if through a time machine.
The later, very funny film, “Number Please,” starring Harold Lloyd, gets comedic (and some racially stereotypic) play from the newfangled telephone, but the action soon brings us to the pleasure piers.
Everything there sure looks like a lot of fun, demonstrating how many fascinating and curious attractions the beachfront had going in 1920. In fact, these pleasure piers play their own big role in this picture, since all that festivity emphasizes the irony of Lloyd’s forlorn look, as a lover who has lost again, now lonely in the crowd.
The Merry-Go-Round has a great part in this movie too, as Keaton runs in frantic circles to rescue his girl’s small dog, one who is also an incredible scene-stealer (and purse-stealer,) while we watch the dog’s point of view from a camera placed on the turning carousel.
It may well be noticed that attitudes toward the treatment of animals in film have changed over the last century, though Keaton and this poor hardworking dog will likely still make us laugh out loud.
At the close of the film, a vignette focuses on his sad gaze, then widens out to show Buster Keaton gloomily chugging off on the little Kinney-Marquez Railroad that took happy vacationers on Venice beachside pleasure tours.
Explore more, and tell what you discover!
Yours for all time,
I can be reached at (310) 927-2959, if needed.
By Krista Schwimmer
The history of Venice is full of rebels, revolutionaries, dreamers, and even witches. One such witch is Zsuzsanna, or Z Budapest. Some Venetians may remember her for her shop, “The Feminist Wicca” on 442 Lincoln Boulevard. Others, for her arrest and trial for the simple act of fortunetelling there.
In 1970, along with other volunteer women at the Crenshaw Women’s Center, Z Budapest “moved to the beach because we couldn’t take the air anymore. That was a great move because there California could kiss me. The sea breezes, the good smells, more relaxed people, less traffic. There was a lot of blessing there for me. A little Hungarian who made it all the way to the edge of the world.” During this time, Z says, Venice was full of lesbians, many riding motor bikes “because parking was always a premium and motor bikes were easier to park.”
She first lived on Brooks, across from Gold’s Gym, but moved out to Rose because of the street noise at night. In the early ’70’s, she opened a store. Her ad in the Beachhead read: “detailed tarot readings, occult supplies, magical jewels, and books and herbs.” Her first supporters were the black women from the area. They knew exactly what kind of occult supplies they wanted. They particularly approved of Budapest’s oils, as she did not cut them with alcohol. One of Budapest’s favorite oils is Rosa Ava, or, White Rose. This scent was also Susan B. Anthony’s favorite because it was discreet. According to Z, White Rose, “makes everyone stand back and develop a little respect for you.”
While living in Venice, Z commuted back to Crenshaw every Wednesday, the day women came for abortions. She had a job as an abortion counselor before it was legal. Once, Z recalls, a woman came for an abortion to the clinic with her six children. She was fighting not to have a seventh. Her husband was a Catholic and would not use a rubber. Z believes that patriarchy uses the natural bond a mother has with her child against her. “You don’t have to put any more chains on (a woman). Her heart keeps her there.” As a result, many women cannot walk away from abusive relationships because there is a child involved.
Z was not, however, arrested for her work as an abortion counselor; rather, she was arrested for the violation of municipal code 43.30. This code made fortune telling illegal with one exception: it was permitted if part of a recognized religion’s practices.
On February 10, 1975, the fateful day arrived. The cops had been routinely busting psychics and astrologers alphabetically. They had reached the letter Z. A female, undercover cop, named Rosalie Kimberlin, made an appointment to have a reading with Budapest at “The Feminist Wicca”. When Z stepped into her store for the appointment, she was met with a horrific stench: a cat had mysteriously gotten in and left a pile of shit right under the chair she normally sat on during her card readings. Although Z felt this was an omen – after all, she didn’t even have a cat – Rosalie pleaded with her, saying it was her only day off, that she had heard feminists were so reliable. Upon hearing the word, ‘reliability’, Z caved, calling this “the feminist card.” So, they opened the store windows and Z read the undercover cop’s cards.
Z recalls that the reading was succinct and accurate. Z told Rosalie that “she has an occupation that has to do with bondage – the Devil card, you know. Voluntary bondage that she could get out of if she wanted to but she was there for some payoff.” She told her that her daughter would be accepted at a Vet school in Florida, and other detailed things that came to pass. At the end of the reading, the undercover cop left, sending in two plain clothes policemen. They wanted to handcuff Budapest, something that pushed her buttons as a Hungarian refugee. In Hungary, arrest could mean going to Siberia. So, she told the cops that whoever first touched her would receive four months worth of nightmares. Nobody touched her. They even opened the door for her. At the station, she called the feminist lawyer, Marge Buckley, who came and bailed her out.
The trial went on for four days. Her judge, Michael Sauer, was an active Catholic who took communion before work. Her lawyer told Z that to change the law, Z would have to actually lose the trial so that they could appeal. Z said, “Ok, I’ll go the long way, the hard way, and give me something to drink right away.” During that time, Z remembers, you could actually get a good bottle of Portuguese or Spanish wine for just 99 cents!
At the end of the trial, Z was indeed found guilty. Then, a nine year battle began. She obtained pro bono legal work with the help of women finishing law school who would cut their teeth on her case. Fittingly, it was Chief Justice Rose Bird of the California Supreme Court who finally threw it out. Chief Justice Bird was the first woman appointed as both a justice and chief justice of the California Supreme Court. Her decision set a precedent that is still used across the country where similar laws still exist. When Z won, the only congratulations she received was a clipping from the LA times, sent by the last lawyer who worked on her case. Z said that she didn’t mind. Still, every time Z sees people reading tarot on the sidewalk, she says, “I’m just smiling and thinking, little do they know that every penny they make is because Z Budapest fought back.” The ruling, however, was critical for another reason. Because the Supreme Court repealed the guilty verdict as unconstitutional and in violation of the Freedom of Religion Act, Wicca found its first legal foothold.
Before the fight was over, Z moved to Oakland, California where she lives today. She said she stopped reading tarot for a while. “My mind is not just on that. My mind is on history. I am very much interested in the evolution of my species.” This love of history and women led Z to accomplish many other things. She founded the first feminist, women-only coven called Susan B. Anthony #1; she created a year long feature, “Every day is a Holiday,” on KPFK radio where she found daily holidays often feminine in nature. She wrote10 books, all centered around women’s spirituality, starting in 1975 with, “The Feminist Book of Lights and Shadows,” later republished as the beloved book, “The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries.” Other titles include, “ Grandmother Time,” “Grandmother Moon,” and “Summoning the Fates.”
Right now, Z Budapest is preparing for her upcoming Goddess Festival in Northern California from September 5th through 7th. Z first established this festival in 1980 as part of the Women’s Spirituality Movement which she founded. This year, Z is asking participants to download photos of all the Republicans who cast votes against feeding children and other bad things. Why? Because she plans to lead them in “an ancient little hex. We’re going to pee on those pictures.” Then, they will toss them in a bonfire and send it back to the universe. “This is so instinctive,” Z states, “women peeing on what they want to get rid of. It’s being done in Russia on Putin’s face.”
Z wants women today to reconstitute the consciousness raising groups, like the Red Tent movement. She also wants each woman to find women role models from history. “Who are the women that you respect now, from the past, who are just dust now, but their ideas and what they achieved, you are using. You are living off them.” Then, says Z, “you pay it forward by putting your energy into fighting and maintaining woman’s rights.”
Z Budapest has done just that. From defeating a municipal code in California that did not allow women to seek each others counsel through card readings to igniting a woman’s spirituality movement world wide, Z Budapest is a feminist witch who continues to fight back where ever she goes – a witch armed with knowledge, laughter, many “blessed be’s”, and a hex now and again.
By Roxanne Brown
Here’s an update on two very similar Venice projects: proposed restaurants at 320 Sunset and Kim’s Market.
Kim’s Market’s new owners Alicia Searle and partner, architect Steve Vitalich, and LUPC Chair Robin Rudisill held an Owner Outreach Meeting at the Oakwood Community Center on July 14, 2014.
They requested use of the community center, because Kim’s Market could not hold the crowd of 50 plus. Yet, the proposal for Kim’s is to have a restaurant, selling on-site and off-site liquor, serving 60+ patrons. This does not include people lining up for take-out, people waiting to be seated, and employees.
The Venice residents who came to this meeting, concluded and clearly stated that they do not think this proposed change of use to a restaurant serves the community. Only one person spoke in support of the restaurant.
Kim’s Market is located at the juncture of Venice, Ocean and Mildred (across from the Venice Library and Farmers’ Market, along with a coastal access route), making this an already congested area with narrow streets and little parking. Kim’s will have some tables seating patrons on the sidewalk (at this busy intersection).
Residents at the meeting stated that there have been several bike accidents at this location. An elderly woman told the group that a truck hit her as she attempted to cross Ocean Avenue to get to Kim’s.
Kim’s owners say they will provide seven parking spaces, though they have none on-site, and want to have valet service, which would further cause back-ups and congestion. Where will their delivery trucks go?
Kim’s Market’s plan sounds similar to 320 Sunset’s plan. It seems that Gjelina’s Owner, Fran Camaj, is backtracking and trying to piece meal a plan together. He applied for and was permitted a bakery. Now Camaj wants to go backwards and change 320 Sunset from its original use (prior to his bakery, it was an office of 6 artists) to a restaurant serving 85 patrons, 30 employees, 30 getting take out, plus people eating on milk crates in the parking lot and people waiting in line to be seated. What happened to the bakery?
Like Kim’s, 320 Sunset is on a narrow street at the juncture of Sunset, 3rd Street, and the alley between Vernon and Sunset (with Gold’s Gym and Google nearby, along with a coastal access route).
320 Sunset’s parking lot will be receiving deliveries and have patrons eating on milk crates with a daytime attendant and a few cars parked there. Cars and people eating on crates – doesn’t sound healthy, safe, neighborhood-friendly or legal.
Camaj has applied for an on and off-site liquor license for 320 Sunset. Why does a bakery need a liquor license? Can a liquor license be issued to a bakery?
There is evidence that Camaj’s Gjelina’s restaurant on Abbott Kinney has not been a good neighbor (see the July Beachhead along with other media coverage, code violations, seating over capacity, noise complaints, improprieties with parking). Why would the city allow this restaurant at 320 Sunset, knowing the owner’s track record and that he will most likely bring this same set of problems to another neighborhood?
There are so many similarities in these two projects, which will negatively impact Venice. Here are 8 major community concerns:
1 Abutting residents’ homes (12-13 feet in 320’s case – less than that at Kim’s) with adverse impact on the community’s quality of life.
2 Zoning: 320 Sunset is zoned M1-1 (light manufacturing). M1-1 is where our endangered species – Venice artists – work. There is a shortage of M1-1 zoning for our artists. Kim’s is zoned commercial. A commercial appraiser at the outreach meeting was adamant that Kim’s location is completely inappropriate for a restaurant.
3 Restaurants (providing little to no parking) increase pedestrian and vehicular traffic, further reducing parking and increasing traffic in these already congested areas – 3 streets converging, narrow streets.
4 Hinder coastal access.
5 Liquor licenses (on-site and off-site sales) increase patronage. Liquor tends to increase patrons’ speaking volume and bad behavior, and impairs driving/walking/biking abilities. 320 and Kim’s have outdoor patios, where this loud volume will echo throughout the residential neighborhoods.
6 Late night hours: 320 Sunset hours: 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. – with prep and clean up before and after, and baking operations – that’s pretty much 24/7. Kim’s hours: 7 a.m. – 12 a.m. Outdoor patio: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday –Thursday, and 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with prep and cleanup before and after.
7 Drought: Water usage – Restaurant: Versus bakery? Versus market?
8 Little to no Venice Community Support.
In both cases, it seems the same strategy was used – a type of clandestine bait and switch: neighbors were led to believe one thing – a market, a bakery – when it seems that all along restaurants with on-site and off-site liquor licenses were the actual goals.
Neighbors are OK with a market at Kim’s location and a bakery at 320 Sunset. A market and bakery serve the needs of the community. Neighbors oppose both proposals for restaurants (with on and off-site liquor licenses, and late night hours) at these preposterous locations.
It’s not only the developers who have the community up in arms, City Hall and the regulatory agencies are being complicit. The owners can’t do anything unless the city and its regulatory agencies allow it. In our view, they’re not fulfilling their obligations to the residents, not monitoring Venice, not doing their job.
Where’s the Coastal Commission? Where’s the Zoning Administrator? Where’s Building and Safety? Where’s Alcohol and Beverage Control (ABC)? Where’s Councilman Mike Bonin? Where’s Mayor Eric Garcetti?
It’s time to push the pause button! It’s time to do the right thing!
A neighborhood organization is the easiest and most effective way to have your voice heard. Each voice gets louder and bigger in the context of a group. If you wish to be heard regarding these two projects, join Concerned Neighbors of 320 Sunset (CNS); please email us at email@example.com.
Above: Kim’s Market, at 600 to 604 Mildred Ave. A new restaurant at this location would probably involve installing windows on the wall with the beautiful, historical mural of Venice – the owners would have the right to destroy the mural if they wish.
By Tina Lynch
Artist Stephanie Visser has submerged herself in the Venice Art World. Her studio is located in a shared artist warehouse on Vernon, which keeps her involved in the Venice arts community. “I find Venice an exciting and vibrant place to work,” said Visser. “I love the exposure to other artists and am inspired by what they are doing which often feeds my own process in a way I would never experience elsewhere.”
She has been involved in the Venice Art Block since it was first created in 2013. Visser has participated in three of the Art Block events and plans to be a part of the next one.
“I was pleased with the last event,” said Visser. “It was very well attended. It brought out people that were really interested in the art and wanted to chat and understand what motivated the artists and how they actually did the work. It’s a lot of work and very tiring to be there and participate for a whole day event, so when people seem invested in the process and enjoy the day, it makes it worth while.”
Visser also keeps her studio open for the Venice Art Walk. She continues, “It’s such a well known event that it brings out tons of people and it’s a mixed crowd bringing a diverse group together all in the name of art and doing something good for the community.”
In 2013, Visser had to deal with her own “life obstacle.” She was told she had cancer. “Absolutely the worst word one can ever hear, said Visser. “I dodged a bullet. Non-metastatic. Complete cure with surgery…final outcome…still to come. Last surgery, number 6, scheduled August 7.”
Through that life experience, Visser’s new work has become different from her previous paintings. She explained how she learned about each emotion. “Anger… is ultimately based on fear…that small inner voice that whispers that somehow we are responsible for where we are…what did I do to have this happen in my life…am I somehow at fault?…then we use anger to cover it up. Happiness…something you might think would be very easy was a very difficult painting to do…a lot a stuff underneath the surface…finally at the end, covering the hurt, pain, guilt, sadness, fear….making a choice to be happy despite the stuff underneath.”
Visser’s paintings are on view at FABstudio, (2001 Main St., SM) Friday, August 1st – September 25th. (424) 744-8156; http://fabstudiola.com/
By Marty Liboff
When Abbot Kinney opened his Venice of America in 1905, he had a small steam train running around the canals. On the Venice Ocean Front there were wicker basket trams that were pushed from behind by people power. (A good idea for today?).
By 1920 the trams were electric battery powered. They ran from Windward Ave. and the Venice Pier, to the Ocean Park Pier, and then to the Santa Monica Pier, and back. Believe it or not, when I was a kid, the Ocean Front Walk continued straight to the Santa Monica Pier with shops, homes and hotels just like in Venice.
In 1923, the Venice Tram Company was formed. By the 1930s, the trams had 4 cylinder, Ford model A engines and canopy tops. There were also similar 4 cylinder, Chevy engines.The seats faced toward the ocean or shops plus a back seat.
In 1958, the Ocean Park Pier was transformed into Pacific Ocean Park, or P.O.P. It was an amazing ocean-themed Disneyland. (This is another great story.) The old trams were spruced up and painted blue, and cute seahorses were attached to the fronts. On the back was an ad for P.O.P. During the early days of P.O.P., the 18 tram fleet carried 20,000 people a day!
The old engines kept rolling for over 40 years. They never went very fast, especially in later years. Sometimes they would even stop if there were too many people on board. It was a nickel early on, then a dime. My pal Hank reminded me that for a while you had to pay an extra dime to go all the way to the Santa Monica Pier.
When I was little, my mom would take me on the tram to Windward ave. There were all kinds of shops there: grocery store, drugstore, clothing shops, notions and a bar. She would do some shopping and then we would ride the tram back home to Ocean Park. The conductor would stop for us by our house. I loved riding the tram, watching the walk go by with people and sites and with the ocean breeze blowing through my hair. It was wonderful sunny days…
Most of us poor kids in Ocean Park and Venice would wait until the tram slowed or stopped and then we’d hop on the back and sneak on. Back in the 1950s, a dime could buy us kids a comic book, a Coke in a bottle, or even two Hershey chocolate almond bars. We wouldn’t want to spend our precious dime on the tram if we could sneak on for free. A couple times we got caught and the conductor stopped and kicked us off. I remember him yelling at us! Sometimes the conductor saw us but let us poor kids ride anyway. Some of the early skateboarders in the neighborhood would grab the back and be towed along the beachfront. Real cool! Sometimes the conductor would yell at them! It was great fun…
As I remember, they had a big garage on Brooks and the Speedway, behind where the Cafe Venicia is today. They were kept there and tinkered on. There were 18 trams, and 16 before they stopped running. They were always tuning up those antique engines. It was an amazing shop with strange tools and lifts and things going on.
After P.O.P. opened, Santa Monica began its Ocean Park Redevelopment Project and tore down most of Ocean Park. A couple years later, L.A. began condemning the old Abbot Kinney buildings around Windward and other old buildings around the beach. The beach became blighted. Then P.O.P. closed in Oct.1967. P.O.P. soon became a crazy, scary ghost town. There was no reason to take the tram and no place to go. The few buildings left on Windward just had a couple seedy bars. Ocean Park was gutted. The heart of old Ocean Park was Pier Ave., with shops of all kinds, and it was torn down. Many of us locals had been kicked out and our homes demolished. We were some of the trams ridership. I remember watching the old torn up trams sadly chugging along the boardwalk with rarely any riders.
In September 1970, after one of many fires on the closed P.O.P. pier, the trams stopped running without any fanfare. The manager, Robert Bestor, a relative of the original owner, said that “Revenue was way down since P.O.P. closed. Our revenue doesn’t even cover the cost of our insurance. The beach is in a state of decay. Vandals have cut up the seats and canvas tops. Some neighborhood kids jump on to ride for free. Some kids even throw rocks at us and dent the trams!” He also blamed TV: “TV hurt business also. People don’t go to piers and ballrooms anymore. They stay home and watch TV.”
In the next few months, there was some discussion by the L.A.City Council whether to save the trams in the hope that the beachfront would improve. Some councilmen wanted the Parks and Recreation, or Transportation departments, to take over the trams, but in the end they decided to end the franchise.
After nearly 48 years and over 10 million riders, the Venice Tram Company disappeared. There had been trams on the Ocean Front since the beginning of Abbot Kinney’s amazing Venice of America, over 65 years before the last run. Now, only a handful of us old timers even remember the tram.
(For more history read ‘Venice California: Coney Island of the Pacific’ by Jeffrey Stanton)
Damn Where’s that Venice Tram!
Hot damn Madame
Let’s ride the Venice Tram.
For only a Dime
We’ll have a great Time.
From Windward to the Santa Monica Pier
I’m gonna kiss my Dear.
We can eat green eggs and Ham
On the Venice Tram.
Its fun at the pier in Venice
Eatin pizza & Coke with Ice.
We’ll ride the roller coaster at P.O.P.
Then swim in the Sea.
Off to Santa Monica Pier we Zoom
To dance at the La Monica Ballroom.
Then back again to Windward
Where the conductor yells,”All Aboard!”
Hot damn Madame
Lets ride the Venice Tram!
– Marty Liboff
Above: The Venice Tram through the years: Top postcard: Man-powered push roller chairs, 1905 to 1910; Second and third postcards: Electric trams, 1910 to early 1930s; Bottom postcard: The tram from the 1930s to when it stopped in 1970.