Celebrating the Creative Community of Venice.
By CJ Gronner
Venice lost one of the true O. G.s on August 15th, when Jay Adams, founding member of Dogtown’s Z-Boys and skateboard legend, passed away at the age of 53 of a heart attack, while on a three month surf trip in Porto Escondido, Mexico with his wife, Tracy. Adams had just told Tracy that it was the trip of his life, catching all the best waves, being in love and at peace. He was very much looking forward to coming back and living his life as a man of God, and helping others to deal with drug and violence issues like he’d struggled with in his past. He wanted to be a positive force in the world. “He survived so many things to get to a place where he could help people,” Tracy Adams told me. He had recently read her the Bible verse from 2 Timothy, 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” as being very meaningful to him. Adams died in his sleep, a happy man, ripping apart waves right up until the end. What a way to go.
When Venice got word of Adams’ passing, everyone came together. Lauren Wiley of the Venice Skate Alliance helped raise $14,000 in a matter of days to bring Adams back, cover funeral expenses, and help get Adams’ ashes and family to Hawai’i, where half of them will be spread. The other half will stay in Venice, where Adams was born in the canals, and always returned to visit.
Venice really came together on August 30th, a perfectly beautiful day, and one that will long be remembered in our community. Generations united to celebrate the life of Jay Adams with a paddle out ceremony next to the Venice Pier. It looked like a surf contest, with tents set up, a band playing, tropical flowers everywhere, friends and family members tailgating, and even a pot-luck bbq set up on tables in the sand.
Flower arrangements, banners and memorial surfboards made the occasion clear, and hundreds of people filled the sand and lined the pier to pay their respects to one of the men who not only helped keep skateboarding alive, but changed it forever with his smooth, surf style.
Old friends reconnected, new friends were made. It was a giant Venice family reunion, with both those who left a long time ago, but always kept it in their heart, to those who will never leave and are doing everything they can to hold on to the feeling of community like was felt on the sand that day. As Wiley said, “Look around. The spirit of Venice is not dead.” Not even close.
Adams will always live on as well, as pro skater and keeper of the Venice Skate Park, Jesse Martinez, told me, “If someone is skateboarding, Jay lives. Kids skating today don’t realize, Jay Adams had a big part in everything they’re doing today. He set me on the path to literally change my life through skateboarding … and it changed skateboarding forever.” All day long I heard stories being told about Adams and the wild and crazy times that were had with him. Martinez continued, “If Jay was your friend, you were in for a ride. You were privileged to have time with him. It sounds like a broken record, because everyone you talk to will say the same thing … there was just something about Jay. He stood out. He had a unique aura that he carried with him … life put him through ten rounds and chicks still loved him!” A kid approached Martinez at the skatepark and told him he was sorry he lost his friend. Martinez replied, “No, WE lost Jay. We all lost a friend.”
That was the common refrain of the day… “I haven’t seen you in forever, Bro!” “Yeah, I had to come. Jay was like a brother to me.” “He was a brother to all of us.” Which is what Seven Adams, Jay’s son, told me. “By having his fatherhood, I got a brotherhood.” That was clear all day, as hugs and respect were exchanged, and you know these guys will be looking out for Jay’s son (and daughter, Venice) always.
“My Dad taught me how to treat people, he’d give you the shirt off his back. When someone told me that, I ripped my shirt off coming off the plane, and gave it to someone.” A charming and happy kid, Seven told me that, “I just want people to remember how rad my Dad was, that he was just raw stoke. He went hard at everything … I know that he was one of the luckiest people alive, because he was stoked every day. Everyone has so much love for him, it’s been amazing.”
It really was amazing, as after a bit of eulogizing by pro skater, Christian Hosoi (“A perfect day, Jay would be so stoked …. Let’s all get together, not just at memorials, but to celebrate us being alive and being together … Amen?!” Amen.), everyone paddled out into the ocean north of the Venice Pier, where even the lifeguard boat paid their respects with a giant spout of water and horns blaring.
Flower petals were scattered down into the water as all the surfers shouted and slapped the water, bringing both chills and tears to the eyes. Adams was again eulogized by friends in the water and by his Pastor from Calvary Chapel in Santa Ana (“Welcome to Venice, Pastor!”), where his memorial service had been held the day before. It wasn’t easy to hear from up above on the pier, but I could make out a guy in the middle yelling, “Jay was 100%! 100% Skater, 100% Surfer, 100% Man of God, 100% Inspiration!” and everyone yelled and splashed the water some more.
A giant circle formed, and symbolically brought everyone together again. As we were watching (and a drone was filming it all from above!), rock star and Adams’ friend, Perry Farrell, told me, “He had a ton of energy, total fearlessness and courage. Men aspire to be courageous, and Jay was. There was no one like him.”
There was such a large turnout that there was a police presence, of course. I heard one guy say, “Jay ain’t even here and the cops came!” People laughed about stories with Jay all day, with Martinez adding, “You always had the best and craziest times with Jay … like all people growing up in Venice, we all had shady pasts, but then you evolve.” Seven Adams added to that, “He grew up a punk – but the most loved punk ever – and died a man of God.” Tracy Adams reiterated that, “He overcame so much, and became a man of integrity, 100% living and loving life.”
Carter Slade, a longtime friend of Adams, said, “The only thing you need to remember about Jay Boy is how big his heart was,” and went on to share wild stories about Jay, like the time he surprised a friend that needed one with a car, keys just left under the mat. According to everyone there, he did stuff like that all the time. Tracy Adams told me that he’d just spent the recent Go Skateboarding Day in Mexico, giving little kids all his clothes and teaching them tricks.
When the paddle out was completed with a chant of “Live Like Jay!”, everyone caught a big party wave back in, and spent the rest of the day catching up, partying around town, and then re-convening for a skate session over at the Venice Skatepark in the evening. There, pro skaters like Hosoi, Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta, and Lance Mountain eulogized Adams again through their tricks inspired by him, and an Adams mural was unveiled in the bowl.
I saw a tiny little boy standing in front of the board decorated in tribute to Adams for the paddle out, and in that moment, the depth and importance of Jay Adams – both in Venice and in the skate and surf worlds – was captured for me. That kid will remember this day, and he’ll learn tricks originated by the ever-smooth Adams. Adams himself said it best … “You didn’t quit skateboarding because you got old, you got old because you quit skateboarding.” Generations of skateboarders … forever young, with Adams to thank for that sage advice.
Adams, like the Venice he came from, was creative, unique, fun-loving, tough as nails, and very much beloved. It was a special day in Venice, for sure. Another Venice original, another piece of Venice history, is gone, but never forgotten. It’s events like this let you know how very special and precious it all is, and reminds you to hold it all dear. To Jay Adams for the reminder and the inspiration, to the spirit of Venice, and to the people who keep it alive every day … To you all, thank you.
Jay Adams 1961-2014 … Rest in peace.
Jay, a young bird flying high on his skateboard
To the heavens he soared…
Daring long haired kid
Rode like nobody else did!
Tricks & flips & jumps
Turns, twists & hitting bumps…
A rebel and skateboard’s wild child
Underneath was shy & mild.
Everyone else sold out for the buck
Jay just wanted to surf & skateboard saying,
“What the fuck!”
Arrests, drugs & drinking
Took its toll & messed up his thinking.
Now he can rest…
Jay is in heaven teaching J.C. & the Virgin to skateboard
Now the angels won’t be bored!
– Marty Liboff
Above: Jay Adams memorial, August 30, Venice Pier
Photo by: CJ Gronner
Above: Jay Adams, Venice Skate Park
Photo by: Rae Ray
Above: Jay Adams memorial, August 30, Venice Pier
Photo by: CJ Gronner
Photo by: Rae Ray
By Krista Schwimmer
Throughout the country, numerous cases of police brutality are bringing communities together in both explosive and peaceful ways. The most recent case is the killing of 18 year old, African-American Michael Brown, an unarmed teen shot down by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. The shooting of this teen led to rioting in Ferguson, bringing urgent attention to the matter across the nation. Such incidents not only reflect the racism in this country made more transparent since the election of our first African-American president, but also the heavy handedness of the police forces throughout the country. Military style tactics are used not only against African-Americans, but against the homeless and the mentally ill. A recent, unreported incident on the Venice Beach Boardwalk reflects just how far the local, LAPD police are willing to go to show their might.
On Thursday, August 7th, Solomon Turner, also known as “The Snake Man”, was skateboarding on the Boardwalk. It was a sunny, breezy afternoon, around 1 pm, with vendors, tourists, and locals enjoying the vibrancy of Venice. Solomon noticed four cops walking together “like the Gestapo.” He watched as these same cops surrounded a man sitting under a pagoda. Solomon had previously seen the man a few times. He described him as an African-American man in his 50’s or 60’s with grey hair, 6 feet something, 200 plus pounds, and wearing headphones. Later, this man was identified as Arrington Samuel Calhoun – not only elderly and African-American, but also disabled.
The same cops that Solomon thought were “walking like Gestapo” went up to Arrington who other witnesses claimed was merely sleeping under an umbrella. These officers wanted to write him a ticket for his umbrella.
According to not only Solomon, but several other witnesses there at the time, Arrington was just sitting down. “All he did was say he was not going to sign the ticket.” He did not fight or resist the police. He did, however, finally say he was tired of the cops messing with him; and then, looked up to the heavens. Evidently, he was known already for singing to God, singing to the Universe. When Solomon later asked people if this man was combative, the response was “he was the coolest guy ever.”
Solomon told the Beachhead that all of the cops jumped the man; then, took out “little skinny sticks and started poking him. All of a sudden we heard a tazer go off – BOOM!” After that, one of the cops punched him six or seven times in the face while Arrington was laying face down on the ground. Then they hogtied him, and took him to a nearby police car.
“That was the worst beating I have ever seen,” said Solomon. “Worse than Rodney King, worse than the highway patrol with the lady.” Here, Solomon is referring to the July 1st incident where California Highway Patrol Officer Daniel Andrew was caught on video punching 51 year old, homeless Marlene Pinnock. Evidently, the CHP Officer thought punching her would protect her from wandering onto Interstate 10 where she was walking, barefoot along the shoulder.
Another witness to the incident, Katt, said the police “took him. They tazed him. They put a thing around his neck, his feet. They bound him up like an animal, a pig.” Not only that – but one of the cops grabbed Katt’s arm as she recorded the incident on her phone. The officer then threatened to take her to jail. She refused, telling the officer she knows her rights as an American citizen. Katt also stated that the reason she was getting more involved in this incident was because “I’ve seen what they did to another man before, a Caucasian guy that was walking through the parking lot and he was kind of hollering out, but he wasn’t bothering anyone. It was over there on 7th and Broadway. They threw the man on the ground, they tazed him, started beating on him. And I stood right there and told them. ‘Stop it’ because if I hadn’t they would have kept on going.” In that instance, the police officers did stop the beating, even offered an apology. Katt thought the apology was insignificant. The man needed help, not a beating.
Michael Mandel, a third witness to the August 7th beating, said he “saw the whole thing from the time the cops came over and beat this poor man silly. You know, he just wanted to sit and relax and they turned it into violence on their part. . . I bet a lot of people were getting robbed in the area while they were picking on this poor man. It’s very sad where they put their priorities. . . The guy was peaceful.”
On September 1st Solomon told the Beachhead that he has not seen Arrington Calhoun since the beating. The police, however, left all of the man’s stuff. “No telling what happened to him,” Solomon said. On another day, when talking to other police officers about the incident, Solomon said to them that “If we weren’t there, if it was in a dark alley, you would have killed him.”
But it wasn’t a dark alley. It was a sunny, breezy afternoon in the month of August, a time when the boardwalk is full of vendors, tourists, children, and locals. A time when it is quite common to run into a variety of quirky, strange characters of Venice. Was this deliberate on the part of LAPD? Through the number of officers and the excessive force on what Solomon said was “just a helpless, old, homeless guy sitting on the beach,” were the officers making a statement to the community at large?
In a Venice Neighborhood Council meeting this past February, Councilman Mike Bonin discussed at length his position on the homeless throughout the city. On the one hand, he referred to the problem as complex, a kind of rubrics cube of different colors and different sizes, that required diagnosing each situation individually. On the other hand, he seemed more concerned that our streets look inferior to those of Santa Monica due to the success of the Lavon case which prohibits the city from removing materials that may or may not belong to someone living on the streets. He spent more time explaining how the city can now get around this through storage units and 72 hour notices that state the city is going to remove materials then addressing how we could “move beyond managing the problem to solving the problem.” Ironically, the August 7th incident occurred on the afternoon before one of these city cleanups.
There is enough fury, grief, and dismay throughout the country to call to task the polices of police regarding the use of force. In fact, even the International Association of the Chiefs of Police (IACP) recognize this urgent need. On August 15, the IACP President Yost Zakhary released a public statement stating that due to the fact that “High profile incidents and allegations of police misconduct may drive a wedge between law enforcement agencies and citizens they are sworn to protect” IACP “will shortly be convening a summit to examine the current state of police-community relations, the evolving landscape of threats that confront law enforcement, and the need for policies and procedures that ensure fair and equitable policing practices.”
In the meantime, we must all watch over each other. Like Solomon, Michael, and Katt, we must be willing to not only bear witness to injustices around us, but to stand up and speak out about them. As the Buddha once said: “You are the community now. Be a lamp for yourselves. Be your own refuge. Seek for no other. All things must pass. Strive on diligently. Don’t give up.”
If you have photos or videos of this incident, please contact the Beachhead at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by: Michael Mandel
By Marty Noel
If someone from another country, or perhaps another planet, saw the televised images coming out of Ferguson, Missouri, this past month, they might think that they were watching war footage of Afghanistan, or perhaps Syria. Any place other than America, where of course we are reminded that such governmental domestic militarism cannot and does not exist. Yet, the “police riot” that the whole world has seen evolving on the streets of Ferguson is real! The senseless death of another young African American male, a young man who had no criminal record and was unarmed, was shot dead in the street and left to die like a dog, by another white male cop cannot be justified, no matter how the media chooses to cover it. While combat clad “riot cops” attempted to cover up their own crimes against humanity, by forcing down a news camera, while brutalizing onsite journalists whose only crime was to dutifully report the violation of and suspension of the rights of peaceful protesters. All taken together as one, this shows the perpetuation of a “police state” in America that has taken the madness of our ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and has brought them home to us, especially against African Americans and the poor who are brutalized in this “police state” the most. Whether the rest of us want to admit it to ourselves or not, the fullest ramifications of this now exposed state are still to be felt. However, beyond all of the socio, political after shocks and possible future shocks, of the events that transpired on a street in a place called Ferguson, Missouri, somewhere in the so-called “heartland of America” is this: a young man unarmed and innocent was murdered in cold blood by a police officer, and the rights of peaceful protesters and observers were violated under the cover of darkness for all of America and the world to witness.
What more can possibly be said?
What are we going to do about it?
By Laura Silagi and Laura Shepard Townsend
After a flurry of litigation, in 1984, an agreement between the City of Santa Monica and the FAA was reached, which stated that Santa Monica had to operate the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) until 2015, at which time, Santa Monica would be permitted to cease airport operations. The City of Santa Monica is looking to put a park on the 227 acres of land, but lobbyist carpetbaggers have arrived with their satchels of ‘do-re-mi’ from Washington, D.C. to contest local wishes.
The ‘Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’ (AOPA) aligned with the ‘National Business Aviation Association’ (NBAA) are highly invested in making sure that the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) does not close and it will be business as usual. They have spent $280K to put their deceptive Charter Amendment measure, Measure D, on the City of Santa Monica ballot. Estimates of $1Million will be spent to get Measure D (you can remember it as – D for Deceptive) passed.
Why should Venice residents care? In case you haven’t noticed, the majority of the planes, jets and helicopters that fly over Venice, a densely populated area, are from SMO. They not only cause noise pollution, but put residents at risk in a possible crash – if one of those jets goes down, it will take out a block of houses. Ever wonder why LAX took out all of the houses west of the airport?
They also spew health hazards from the sky above, burning leaded fuel (lead in any amount is unacceptable) in prop planes as well as emissions of harmful ultra fine particulates from jet planes. Private jets are the most polluting form of transportation on the planet. All these pollutants are particularly dangerous to the vulnerable, the many schoolchildren as well as seniors. And if one of those jets goes down, it will take out a block of houses…
If you are not up on these topics, and want more information, go to the Venice Neighborhood Council’s Santa Monica Airport Committee’s report for information and documentation on the health impacts from Santa Monica Airport. (http://badair.publica.us/SMO/vnc-smo-overview.pdf) There you will learn plenty. Probably too much.
Ok, back to Measure D. If measure D passes, Santa Monica Airport will never close or be downsized because of the crafty wording by savvy consultant groups who serve only those with deep pockets. Here’s why.
Measure D, (the aviation industry measure) masquerades as a no-development, voters rights initiative requiring “voter approval” to close the airport. The measure reads in part,
“Shall the Santa Monica City Charter be amended to require the City to continue to operate the Santa Monica Airport in a manner that supports its aviation uses unless the voters approve the Airport’s closure or change in use, and until that voter approval occurs, the City shall be prohibited from imposing additional restrictions on aviation support services to tenants and airport users that inhibit fuel sales or the full use of aviation facilities, prohibit the City from imposing upon aviation services providers new restrictions that would inhibit the sale of fuel or the “full use” of aviation facilities.”
This means, changes, such as downsizing the airport, changing noise regulations, limiting hours, selling aviation fuel, changing landing fees or any other changes such as creating a park, etc. would be impossible. And closing the airport would require “a majority of the voters of the city voting ‘yes’ on a ballot measure approving such a change at a general municipal.”
There are different opinions even among the lawyers on what ‘majority of voters’ means, but in any case, after an analysis of past elections, it has been noted that it will be nearly impossible to obtain the majority of the registered voters. A vote to close SMO would require more voter participation on a single ballot issue than has ever happened in any election in the city’s history. In other words, a vote to close the airport would be nearly impossible to obtain. On the other hand, obtaining the majority of voters on the issue will be also very difficult due to the extensive moneyed political aviation lobbying. This is really a ‘keep the airport forever initiative’.
There is a competing measure we must support: Measure LC
Measure LC states,
“Shall the City Charter be amended to: (1) prohibit new development on Airport land, except for parks, public open spaces and public recreational facilities, until the voters approve limits on the uses and development that may occur on the land; affirm the and (2) City Council’s authority to manage the Airport and to close all or part of it.”
This would allow the Santa Monica City Council to control the airport while it exists. The Council could vote to downsize or close the airport and there would be no development allowed, except for parks, open spaces, recreational —until the voters voted for something else. It also means that if the FAA prevented the airport from closing, the city could still downsize it, change hours of operation, eliminate fuel sales, etc. This is clearly a better choice for those of us opposed to the airport.
It is frustrating that Santa Monicans alone can determine something that affects so many. But here is what we in Venice can do to support Measure LC.
Support Measure LC by getting involved in the following ways:
• Go to ItsOurland.org , a grass roots organization of local control, for the latest campaign news.
• Contribute money for the fight against the airport lobby.
• Walk precincts in Santa Monica and describe to residents (especially in the northern sections who are not directly exposed to SMO) our first hand experience with the airport to inform them of the level of its impacts.
Help with telephone banks.
• Reach out to anyone you know in Santa Monica and urge them to vote for measure LC and oppose measure D.
• Organize fundraising events.
It is greatly in the interests of those who live in Venice to have Measure LC pass, and as usual, we are fighting a well-funded political lobby group. Get involved and help get SMO converted into a park we can all use!
Top picture: Plane crash at 7th and Rose Ave., July 7, 1989;
Bottom picture: Plane crash at SMO hangar, September 30, 2013
By Anthony Castillo
I’ve followed the important work of award-winning investigative journalist Russ Baker since the release of his seminal book “Family of Secrets, the Bush dynasty, America’s invisible government, and the hidden history of the last fifty years.” Mr Baker’s work has been published in every prestigious news outlet from the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Esquire, The Nation to name a few. He’s served as contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. He founded the nonpartisan, nonprofit news Web site http://www.whowhatwhy.org which stands in stark contrast to the infotainment doled out by mainstream corporate media, as well as to the pseudo alternative media.
While I was familiar with Mr Baker’s work, I wasn’t familiar with Russ Baker the person. Through a close friend of mine who volunteers with WhoWhaWhy I found out that Russ Baker was a graduate of Venice High School in the 70’s. Now a resident of New York City, he was in town for one of his biannual visits to his old stomping grounds. I wasted no time in setting up an interview to ask Mr Baker some questions about the importance of independent media, his work, as well as what it was like to grow up in the Venice area at the same time when the Z-Boys were inventing skateboarding. The Free Venice Beachhead prides itself on being an independent news source for the Venice community. Russ Baker brings his independent reporting to an international level and now to the pages of the Beachhead.
Beachhead: How and when did you become politicized? Did you have any mentors who helped set you on your path to journalism?
Russ Baker: My father was a good guy, really cared deeply about injustice. I suppose he politicized me – got me helping him on grassroots political and issue campaigns, took me to demonstrations, and also helped a lot of people.
BH: How, if at all, did growing up in Venice shape your world view, and what was it like living here as a kid?
RB: In those days, the area was a mix of working class conservatives and of more progressive types. I was exposed to an amazing mix: elite families and gangs. I learned to protect myself at a rough junior high. Venice itself was not the trendy place it is today – it was definitely rough and tumble, but also had this bohemian poetic beatnik set.
BH: Can you summarize the main topics you cover in Family of Secrets, and how did the research you did for writing the book affect you?
RB: I was interested in understanding how and why America got to where it would put someone like George W. Bush in the White House. It seemed to me that there must be some deeper truths we could learn rather than just rushing away in horror as he left office. My digging proved that I was right – I attained a whole new understanding of the networks of power that shape our country. In Family of Secrets, I trace the rise of the Bush clan, and find especially interesting how little we really knew about the father (George H.W. Bush) and his father, Senator Prescott Bush and how deeply entwined they were with a whole subterranean network of bankers, oilmen, intelligence people, military. You might call it the invisible fascist substructure. It explains a great deal about what happened – and explains a great deal about why we continue to be disappointed in our quest for real democracy and a decent society.
BH: Why should regular folks care about “deep politics” and what is it, for those readers not familiar with the term?
RB: Deep politics, or parapolitics, refers to the goings-on that are not made public – and the people and institutions that guide our country in ways often unseen. The concept is common in many other countries, but utterly alien to us. We believe that most everything is right on the surface, and we are wrong at our peril.
BH: At WhoWhatWhy you’ve done some of the best in depth reporting on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Could you tell our readers some of the parts of this ongoing story that the corporate, mainstream media is ignoring, distorting or covering up that we should be paying attention to?
RB: At WhoWhatWhy we are agnostic about stories. We go in with an open mind – but also with our eyes open and our noses twitching. We consider patterns of behavior, and that the past is prologue. In the case of the Boston bombing, we were struck by the “rush to judgment” that was similar to that with Lee Harvey Oswald half a century earlier. The authorities rushed to assure us they had identified the culprits, that no one else was involved, and that we all needed to move on. Typically, when security agencies claim to have solved something that fast, they’re in the midst of a coverup. Our extensive research, focusing on the FBI and its pattern of recruiting informants who then participate in luring others into criminal acts, found once again a lot of problems with the FBI’s behavior in the matter. Many things do not add up, and one comes away with the sense that whatever really happened that led to the Boston bombings, a premium is being placed on making sure we never find out the truth. I urge everyone to read as many of the several dozen pieces we’ve done on this subject as possible – because the bombing led to the unprecedented lock down of a major American city, and if this is in any way tied to that kind of erosion of our basic freedoms, we need to care.
BH: You’ve worked for most of the big name media outlets (New York Times, Washington Post etc.) but you chose to start an alternative on-line news site. What motivated you to do so and why do you think credible alternative news outlets such as yours are so important?
RB: Frankly, I found that when you work in media (and I’d include both the corporate media and most ‘alternative media’) there’s an agenda and a failure to follow the facts wherever they lead. Everyone is afraid of getting too far away from consensus, from being attacked, ridiculed, marginalized. So there is very, very little bold work being done, especially on the biggest and most traumatic issues we face. That’s why there is a growing credibility gap where the public doesn’t think it is getting the real story. And because the media, almost all of the media, including even many new ‘cool’ online sites, won’t tackle “Deep Politics”, it fosters a kind of mentality that everything is a conspiracy or a coverup. That’s not healthy. What we desperately need is a media outlet that will soberly look at things, find out what it can, and without fear or hesitancy, but with due diligence and responsibility, tell us the truth. That is why I started WhoWhatWhy.
BH: At WhoWhatWhy you go to great lengths to vet the content of the reporting that you post. Can you tell us about the team you have to help with this process and why you’re so passionate about making sure you have your facts correct?
RB: I think your credibility (and success) ought to be based on how right you are. Unfortunately, in this country there are almost no consequences for being wrong. The most celebrated media outlets in the US make tons of huge mistakes, get us into wars, misrepresent presidential candidates, etc, and just go right on at the top. At WhoWhatWhy, we have a small but smart and thoughtful team that reads a lot, thinks a lot, and is involved in reviewing our stories. We do try as hard as we can to be accurate and proportional. We hope that people care about that commitment to quality – we are, deliberately, a nonprofit that does not take corporate money or ads, and we depend entirely on public donations. So people can show us if they share our values.
BH: What else can people find at WhoWhatWhy and what is its mission?
RB: I encourage everyone to visit the site and click around a lot. Although we are still small and limited in our output, we’ve covered a pretty substantial range of subjects, and even stories from a couple of years ago still seem relevant and surprising. For example, we were practically alone in questioning the real motives for the interventions in Libya, Syria, Iran, Ukraine, and so forth. Also, besides being almost the only news organization to investigate the Boston Bombing story in-depth, we were nearly alone in probing at least somewhat into the strange one-car crash that killed investigative journalist Michael Hastings in LA.
BH: Have you done any reporting on Google? If so, what have you found?
RB: We’ve reported some on general issues of privacy, and on the growing power of companies like Google – and also about the danger of social media companies cooperating with censorship imposed by governments. Our stories about the hacktivist journalist Barrett Brown and the government’s effort to silence him and imprison him for a long time should be of interest.
BH: What can every day, rank and file folks do to change the direction of our country?
RB: As long as we have an open internet, the power we all wield is dramatically increased. Use of social media to share articles and viewpoints is important. By doing so, you really do spread knowledge. If and when enough people have the real facts, we will see changes. If and when the problems we face rise to the level of urgency that we discuss them on a sustained basis, the system inevitably must and will respond.
BH: Any last thoughts that you would like to share?
RB: As I said, we’re a small outfit. But we aim to grow big. As a kind of collaborative, we depend a lot on pro bono help with legal, publicity, art, etc. If anyone would like to be part of this grand experiment at delivering truth to the public, we’d love to hear from them. They can contact us via the site. You can support our work by making a tax-deductible donation via the site. And we’re also interested in hearing from experienced journalists and researchers who would like to be part of our team.
By Marty Liboff
Let us go back, back before Venice even existed. Abbot Kinney and a few of his business partners as early as 1895, had developed parts of the northern borders of what is now Venice and south Santa Monica. This area was called Ocean Park, and they built houses, gambling casinos and a pier. Kinney had a falling out with his partners and they flipped a coin to see who would stay and who would go. Abbot Kinney lost the toss and he moved his dreams a little ways south. His dreams later transformed into a fantastic Venice of America with his own pier and a complete recreation of Venice Italy with canals and classical Italian style buildings. It opened in 1905.
Back in Ocean Park, the old pier went through several incarnations. Finally in 1958, a giant amusement pier called Pacific Ocean Park opened. The pier began in Venice at Navy street and continued north for several blocks. It was one of the largest piers ever made. It was several times the size of the Santa Monica pier! The border of Venice and Ocean Park, or Santa Monica, is now about 50 feet north of Navy street. The border was set when Ocean Park was incorporated into Santa Monica, and Venice became part of L.A.
When I was a punk teenager, I worked at P.O.P., or Pacific Ocean Park. Recently I helped with a new book that just came out called; ‘Pacific Ocean Park-The Rise and Fall of Los Angeles’ Space-Age Nautical Pleasure Pier’ by Christopher Merritt and Domenic Priore. For a couple of years this amusement pier actually had as many people attending as Disneyland! It was a wonderful, ocean themed Disneyland with all sorts of wild rides. The entrance was one of the wonders of our modern world. It had 60 foot pillar arms supporting giant bubbles and rotating sea horses. One of the badly damaged old seahorses is on display at the Santa Monica Museum. Everyone who went to P.O.P. will love this book. Even if you never went there, the colorful photos of the crazy rides will leave you amazed. The book starts out with a great history from Abbot Kinney to the final end of the pier.
Our own father of Venice art, Earl Newman, had done a series of posters of P.O.P. (right). Some are in this book. He has them available again in new digital prints because of this book coming out at; earlnewmanprints.com. Many years ago, Earl had his old art studio on the Ocean Front where Small World Books is now. He is one of the original Venice “Beat” artists.
On the Venice side of the pier, sometimes called the Lick pier, was a lovely old ballroom. It was called the Aragon Ballroom and the last couple of years it was called the Cheetah Club. All the great bands played there. I’ll tell you about it next month!
In 1975 the P.O.P. pier was torn down. Now, when you walk north from the Venice border, there is no sign that one of the biggest and most wonderful amusement piers of all time was there. There is only the shifting sands of time covering over the site, and our memories…
P.O.P. by the sea
Fun for you & me.
Roller coasters & a Ferris wheel
Pay one price is such a deal !
Riding bubbles high over the Pacific
The Sea Circus was terrific !
A banana train & bumper cars
A diving bell & Flight to Mars !
Scary Davy Jones fun house
A fast Flying Fish mouse.
Cotton candy & a merry-go-round
Famous movie stars all around.
Neptune’s Kingdom and a Magic Carpet Ride
Hugging your honey by your side.
The greatest pier of all time
Now it only exists in my rhyme…
Above: Earl Newman poster of P.O.P. – this and seven others now available again
More info: earlnewmanprints.com
By Greta Cobar
A visit to Pano’s apartment is a visit to Pano’s museum: all vertical and horizontal surfaces are covered with sculptures, paintings and drawings that he’s been creating for most of his ninety years. Beachhead readers might be familiar with his poetry, which has been published in this paper in the past.
But Pano’s been around since before the Beachhead: moved to Ocean Park in ’63 and moved about 2 blocks South in ’75, when he came to Venice.
After celebrating his 90th Birthday on May 12, Pano continues to do what he’s been doing since the ‘60s and enjoys every minute of it.
“I try to write a poem every week – I like it a lot – I feel really great. You’re revealing your inner self – poetry is more revealing than prose,” Pano said. And he stays on top of his game by attending the Wednesday evening poetry workshops at Beyond Baroque. “I go every week – I get validated and I get immediate approval. I like it if they say it’s good,” Pano said. He has two published poetry books, which he sells for $5 each.
And then he went on to tell me about the difference between the A, B and C parties that he threw in his 5,000 square foot dwelling on Pier and Nielson: “it was like a nightclub, for God’s sake!” That was at night though – in the daytime the place was a real artist workshop, with people renting rooms as day studios and attending the drawing workshop that Pano ran for twelve years. The building was owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad and Pano got evicted when they decided that the building was not earthquake safe.
“Eight percent of artists make it on their work alone – the other 92 percent either have another job or their wife is working,” according to Pano. After getting a Sociology degree from USC and a Masters in Fine Arts from UCLA, Pano “did things to keep the groceries coming in – drove a cab, woodworking, built ceramic bases for lamps.”
“I became an artist for the dentists,” Pano exclaimed, and then went on to tell me how he operated on the barter system, making sculptures of the dentist, his wife and kids in exchange for dental work.
Success as both an artist and a poet did not evade Pano, though. Some of his paintings and drawings have been exhibited in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Pasadena Art Museum.
“Now I appreciate the Emeritus college at Santa Monica City College, where I go weekly for the figurative drawing class,” Pano said.
So where did his fancy Panagiotis name come from? From his Greek parents, of course. Born in Pasadena, Pano was not familiar with the English language or the American culture till he went to school, and that’s when his older brother was like a father to him. When it came up in our conversation that his older brother was killed in combat, in World War II, Pano said: “I can’t talk about it.”
“I wasn’t gonna volunteer,” Pano said about being drafted and being in the service for three years, also in World War II. “I was in the Battle of Bulge – there were more casualties than in any other World War II battle: 17,000 US soldiers in 6 weeks,” Pano told me.
And just like you would ask any other Greek person born in this country, I asked Pano if he ever went to Greece. He said he went and had a good time with his cousins, who were sheep herders in the mountains. That must have been a trip!
“‘How are you’ now means ‘How is your health?’,” Pano told me about being ninety. And then he somewhat summarized his life by saying: “I’ve never had a credit card, I’ve never used a computer. I pinch pennies.”
Pano, thank you for sharing your work and life with me, and thank you for all that you give us all through your poetry and artwork.
Not to Frown
By Pano Douvos
Life is a stage tis said
You cross it fast
Sheet life is no fucking stage
Man it’s for real one time
No trucking back
To pick off bad fruit
No way you should get seconds
Life is no fucking stage
Life is a pair of dice
Dig it snake-eyes for you
And snake-bit no foolin
But not to frown
Pano Douvos was honored for his poetry at Beyond Baroque on August 31, 2014. Friends gathered to pay tribute with stories, music, food and dancing. Douvos read a selection of his poetry; Photo: Dorothy Spirus
By Laura Shepard Townsend
They say “if you don’t learn from history…then you’re just stupid!”
The changes currently assaulting the community of Venice, heralded as ‘progress’, call to mind 1926, a year of rabid dismantlement of everything Abbot Kinney, our enlightened doge-founder, wove into the fabric of Venice, a community he created to foster art, the humanities and the human spirit.
Let’s note some important similarities between 1926 and 2014. In 1926, newspaper headlines blared the record-setting numbers of building permits issued in Venice. It was marveled that each month broke the previous month’s record-breaking number of permits.
Now in 2014, unprecedented numbers of liquor licenses are applied for (108 counted and those are the ones we know about). Permits and variances have swamped and continue to swamp LUPC as well as the Coastal Commission. Yes sirree, folks, it is the wild, wild west here in Venice! At a recent Coastal Commission meeting, one owner abashedly admitted the one house under consideration for demolition had already been razed! Right under the nose of the Department of Building and Safety. WHOOPS!!! Didn’t that contractor hit the jackpot!! And what fine was levied for his serious digression? A bona fide permit by the Coastal Commission to continue the construction of yet another humongous box.
Getting back to 1926. There were so many permits granted in 1926 because that was the year after the City of Venice voted to annex to the City of Los Angeles. Venice had a lot of problems. Their city government was inept, bordering on corruption. Even though millions of dollars were needed to repair the failing infrastructure, in every election the Venice voters rejected the necessary bonds. The Kinney Company blessed annexation to L.A. as the most expedient way to get repairs done for the least amount of money; the esteemed newspaper, the Venice Vanguard, ran constant editorials touting annexation to the City of Los Angeles. When the vote was tallied, it won by a whopping 915 votes (3130 votes for annexation, 2215 against) – numbers purportedly padded by the importation of ‘temporary’ residents.
Okay, so let’s see what happened to Venice as a result of annexation in 1925, and the subsequent record-granting of permits in 1926. Since Venice had become the City of Los Angeles’ one and only beach city, it had to be rebuilt to be L.A.’s one and only beach city.
Los Angeles’ first act was to hasten the demise of the Red Cars by paving over Trolley Way. Simply, this ensured that the private automobile ruled, which meant roads had to be built for them to drive on. The Kinney Company added to the development hoopla by razing Villa City, Abbot Kinney’s prized cluster of 246 villas designed for the rich and poor, the traveler and resident. In its place, they would put a second business district. As a result of such rapid development, traffic ballooned – the solution: the glory of the Venice Canals had to be filled in, then paved over with asphalt. This was no small matter. Venice was absolutely defined by the constant delight and serenity of its canals, “where it seemed as if some magic hand had lined the banks with beds of flowers along the clear water”. Protesting Venetians were overruled by the courts. And it was done.
Because The Kinney Company seemed to be so insistent in killing off Venice, a statement had to be issued. Thornton Kinney, Abbot Kinney’s son, explained, “Venice was a dream city and without sentiment it could not be built. But financial calculations suffocate sentiment and the march of time and progress of the community demanded sentiment be stifled.” Obviously, Thornton had different dreams than his father. And obviously, the profit margins of the Kinney Company were insufficient.
But Venetians were going to pay even more penalties with its annexation to Los Angeles. Venice relied heavily on amusement for its revenue, but L.A.’s ‘Blue Laws’ would forbid not only gambling, but all-night dancing as well as dancing on Sundays. Tourists quickly abandoned Venice for Santa Monica, where there were no such restrictions on dancing and gambling. One-third of Venetian businesses ended up closing their doors.
1925 marked when Venice ceased to be its own community, but with distillation, this remains the core of all of the battles Venice is fighting against today. In terms of the variances and permit granting by Los Angeles to these boxy behemoths, (restaurants, bars, hotels and businesses), they hasten the destruction of what is left of community.
It is only because the structures and businesses being proposed are so out of line with this community, that they require permits and variances. Because the behemoths are so built out to the property lines, they ensure that the next box structure constructed must be even larger so the new building will absolutely not reside in the shadows of the one built before. And so the beat goes on…..Imagine living in a small cottage towered over by these huge boxes that block those precious commodities for which we all moved to (or stayed in) Venice – like sunlight and air flow. The Golden Rule has ceased to be operational in Venice. Money is the only trump in this game….
Our former City Councilperson, Ruth Gallanter, once had the wisdom and the audacity to put a moratorium on all construction. It might be time to do the same.
All the great cities of Europe maintain their architecture to encourage tourism. Venice is the second largest draw in California after Disneyland. However, with the razing of the quaint cottages and California bungalows that once graced our streets and canals, what will be the interest in our city to visitors? The box architecture currently being erected is not only anti-quaint, but one can see them anywhere and everywhere. One does not have to venture all the way to Venice, California for its unique perspective on the world.
The tourists can and will go to Santa Monica for restaurants; the waves are better in Malibu. If our City Councilperson is interested in retaining revenue for Los Angeles, then as Los Angeles’ one and only beach city, Venice’s signature, its spirit and community, must be safeguarded.
By Suzy Williams
I don’t know about you, but every time I bike under the Venice sign, I get a little high, a little glow of pride, for I know that for a long, long time, for ninety-plus years, there had been no such thing. Funny, I had occasionally felt the ghost of the old early electrical marvel, and longed to see it in place once more. I guess part of the reason I get so giddy now is that I KNOW the person who made it happen and I even live on the same street (Glyndon Avenue) that he and his lovely wife reside upon. I refer of course to Todd and Theo von Hoffmann. And since they were crowned King and Queen of the Mardi Gras Festival this year, I thought I’d hie myself to their place (which sports a lit- up, smaller version of the Venice sign on its front) and see if I could find out more about this amazingly active, pro-Venice duo.
She is a petite brunette with sparkling eyes and a wide, wide smile and cooks like the Greek goddess she is. He has preppy good looks, is always down for a good laugh and peppers his conversation with masculine phrases like ”Damnit” and “Helluva” (his swingingly illustrated book The Bigger Damner Book of Sheer Manliness is a must-have for any sophisticated coffee table in our town). Todd is rife with knowledge on Venice history and is quick to credit historians Elayne Alexander, Eric Dugdale and Jeffrey Stanton as his mentors and compadres. In the backyard next to the bunting-festooned shooting gallery and the turtle, frog and fish pond, and under the biggest cactus I’ve ever seen, Todd poured himself a 1 barrel rum, two fingers, neat, and waxed on about legendary Venetians. He spoke dizzyingly of Clarence Tabor and Jataun Valentine, of Tom Sewell and Dennis Hopper (to name a few), characters he brings to life with an unflagging enthusiasm and no small amount of charm.
Back in the kitchen, Theo hands me an exquisite Malbec. I asked them how they came to live here and got so involved with the community. Theo said, “We decided to move here when we were pregnant with our daughter, Kristina, who was born in October of 1987. Initially we dreaded bringing up a child in L. A. – it seemed highly transient to us – but Venice, to our happy surprise, seemed like a Greenwich Village West, which we were both familiar with. I’d lived on the lower East Side for many years before coming west in 1980. We take a lot of pride that Kristina is a Venice-raised kid – and so does she!” Todd chimed in: “My parents had a very strong sense of place – both folks were deeply involved in the history and community of my hometown of Summit, New Jersey. They trained me well, I must say.”
“How exactly did the recreation of the ‘Venice’ sign happen?” I queried.
“Well, it was part of the pitch I made back in 2003 to then Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski to celebrate the upcoming Venice Centennial in 2005. I collaborated with Venice-owned companies DesignTown and Heaven Or Las Vegas, not to mention the community at large. The beauty of this project is that it was one thing that the often fractious Venetians could agree on.”
And to this day, there isn’t a soul who doesn’t appreciate it.
Todd has assisted with or been wholly responsible for the Venice Art Crawl, (he did a piece called “the Man Cave” which, among other things, featured a vintage milk-bottle game from the original Venice carnival. It was called “The Venice Ballz, and is Todd’s most prized possession, courtesy of EBay. He calls it “The website that ate my wallet!”), the wrap-around Rip Cronk mural inside Danny’s; the VNC Barbecue at Oakwood Park; the Venice Home and Garden Tour; the Neptune Festival on the beach; the Penmar “Gopher Scramble,” (a hilarious Caddyshack – inspired romp), the purple tux-cladded “Windward Krewe” which is ready to lend a partying hand to the Venice Mardi Gras (begun here in the 20’s), or any other necessary revelry. Yes, the list certainly does go on and on! In fact, the temptation was to mention everything that he and Theo have accomplished here, but it honestly would come off as a resume, a very long one at that! Anyone who would like to get in on this inclusive couple’s shenanigans should merely hit up “von Hoffmann Bros” on Facebook.
There you will find so many 2015 projects that Todd is now getting the community involved with, such as The Centennial of the Venice motorcycle Grand Prix, the Automotive Grand Prix, and the 50th anniversary of the start of the Doors on Venice Beach.
But I must mention Todd’s fondest dream. That dream is of a very real Venice Heritage Museum he envisions in the currently-fallow Centennial Park- the island just east of the Venice library- where Venice Blvd starts to split into north and south. There would be a replica of the old Station House and a 100 year old Red Car alongside it. Working with folks like us and the LA Dept. of Parks and Rec, the now sad space would be transformed to a gorgeously landscaped place for community events. In both structures, there could be revolving exhibits of photographs, literature and artifacts. Says Todd “We need a place where Venice youth can learn the great Venice story.”
Theo puts in her two cents: “Venice is a community of the wildest artists, musicians, explorers of culture and just plain freakazoids we have ever met. And you know what? We are so very blessed to be here.”
Above: Todd and Theo von Hoffmann
Photo: Paul Rivas
By Suzy Williams
I’m going to give you a reason or two, dear Beachhead readers, why you should take advantage of the fact that The Cherry Orchard is now playing at our great and very local Pacific Resident Theatre. First, it is a great full look into the socio-economic upheavals that were the Russian mirror of what happened here with the Emancipation Proclamation, that the abolition of slavery here and serfdom there happened in the same decade. We had Lincoln, they had Tsar Alexander II. Later, we had Gone with The Wind; they had The Cherry Orchard. (Perhaps other peoples were gaining their freedom at that same time. I must research!)
This play explores one of the most universal human emotions: that of a sense of home and the loss thereof. The central character, Ranevskaya, (played vulnerably and passionately by PRT’s artistic director, Marilyn Fox) is part of an oppressive regime, and we witness her ditzily cutting her whole family out of their birthplace and also committing a most selfish act of omission. But Chekov has created a deeply layered character who is also capable of spontaneous generosity, and always has the grace of a great lady. We empathize with her, because maybe we lost our home, too.
The Cherry Orchard has been directed by Charles Laughton, Peter Brook and Jean-Louis Barrault, and I double-dare any of these greats to top the Pacific Resident Theatre casting (most noted: Marilyn Fox and longtime Beachhead collectivist Mary Jane) the costumes (Audrey Eisner, designer) the airy and elegant scene design (Staci Walters and Jeffrey Eisenmann), the staging, sound and overall direction, (Dana Jackson, director) of this production. I cried at the surprise ending and you might, too!
The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekov
Thurs thru Sunday at 8:00
Sunday matinee at 3:00
Until September 28
The Pacific Resident Theatre
703 Venice Blvd
Venice CA 90291
310 822 8392
Right, top: Marilyn Fox as Ranevskaya and Bruce French as Gaev
Right, bottom: Kelsey Ritter as Anya and Marilyn Fox as Ranevskaya
Photos: Vitor Martins