Celebrating the Creative Community of Venice.
Diversity & Housing
Do you think we could get something truly creative (see below photo) through the "politically modified zoning development standards" – the legal framework being routinely applied by our VNC – which currently prevents Venice from considering creative architectural alternatives capable of addressing the ongoing erosion of diversity in the Venice Community? This current legal framework is broadly perceived as leading Venice inevitably towards becoming gentrified into the equivalent of a "wealthy gated community" full of "sterile residential boxes"?
Is there a way that we can provide homes in Venice for 'starving artists-the homeless-the less wealthy'?
Homes capable of restoring the diversity we're losing by attracting new residents seeking (and capable of sustaining) what we call our current "Venice Vibe"?
Alternatives capable of accommodating those who can no longer afford to stay in the places/neighborhoods/social-networks in which they or their parents came to feel 'at their home' – the place where they grew up and/or raised their kids?
What is your opinion?
What can the VNC do to deal with this issue?
Is the VNC missing an opportunity to lead in a constructive direction?
Venice Town Hall meeting sponsored by V2K H.E.L.P.E.R. Foundation and the Urban Peace Institute to discuss the Venice Gang Injunction in use by LAPD in the “Oakwood” area of Venice, CA. Go here to sign our petition to Stop Racial Profiling in Our Venice Oakwood Community: https://www.change.org/p/stop-lapd-racial-profiling-in-our-venice-oakwood-c
Join us on the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System campus for our annual Thanksgiving. We have three decades of tradition serving the community with a wonderful free sit-down Thanksgiving dinner. We also provide haircuts, blankets, clothing, hygiene kits and a children's carnival.YOU'RE INVITED!
We have a carnival in the morning to entertain kids under 12!
You can get a tax receipt at the event when you donate.
We find that press coverage tends to disrupt the family atmosphere of Thanksgiving dinner. We do this as an expression of gratitude for our blessings, not as a way to obtain publicity.
Four hearings will be held to take stakeholder input on contents of the City Council's proposed Interim Control Ordinance.
Second meeting: Dec. 3 Belmont Senior Living; 10475 Westwood Blvd.
More info TBA…
Since 1995, the Venice Oceanarium has hosted an annual reading of Moby Dick on the beach in Venice.
We welcome volunteer readers and listeners alike; some people just stop by for a chapter or two, others make a weekend of it!
We even made it into the LA Weekly's Best of LA issue!
Chapter One begins at 8am Saturday, continuing until 10pm, and resuming for the same hours on Sunday.
Email us, and we'll put you on the mailing list, and let you know the dates of our next reading!
The next meeting of the VNC Neighborhood Committee will be on November 19th strarting at 7:30PM. The meeitng will be held at Oakwood Rec Center, 767 California Ave, Venice, CA. 90291.
The agend for the meeting can be found at: www.venicenc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Agenda_Neighborhoods_151119.pdf
You are invited to a Community Outreach meeting for the proposed new commercial and residential building at 601 Ocean Front Walk.
On behalf of the owner, the project architect, Glen Irani Architects, is seeking a Coastal Development Permit and Conditional Use Permit from the City of Los Angeles. This Community Outreach meeting is intended as a way for the architect to present and discuss the project with the Venice community in an informal setting. We welcome your input.
Where: 800 Main St , Venice 90291
When: 7-9PM Wed November 18
Please walk, ride or carpool as parking is limited
Automobile and bicycle parking fully conform to the LA Municipal Code for the on-site uses. In addition, the project provides 41 spaces as required for three neighboring buildings’ parking needs. Automobile parking will be provided on-site in an enclosed, attended (during normal business hours) and secured subterranean garage.
The architect considers this an appropriate mix of retail, office and residential use that represents the least intensive commercial use that is permitted by the City. The retail spaces are located along the entire street frontages of Ocean Front Walk and Sunset Ave where it can best serve pedestrians. The office spaces, located behind the retail on the second floor and the entirety of the third floor, represent a much needed mid-scale creative office space for the
creative industries seeking prime locations in LA’s beachfront communities where much of their target talent resides. Venice has precious little space to accommodate these businesses that hire from the local communities and thus provide work within walking and bike riding distance.
This particular neighborhood and, in fact all of Venice, has very little mid-scale creative office space and no viable opportunities to create more on Ocean Front Walk beyond this one parcel.
The Architect and owner have considered other allowable uses such as restaurants retail and hotel, however those uses are more intensive and would result in more car trips, more noise, more service vehicle needs.
Project Address: 601 Ocean Front Walk @ Sunset Ave (walk street), Venice CA
Case Numbers: ZA 2015-0102 (CUP)(CU)(SPP) / ENV-2015-103-MND
The new, three-story 28,792 sf building on a 19,195 sf lot will contain the following floor areas
7992 sf Retail on Ocean Front Walk and Sunset Ave at grade level
800 sf Residential Joint Living & Work Quarters at Sunset Ave grade level
20,000 sf Creative Office use at upper two floors
28,792 sf Total Floor Area
Project Drawings and Renderings:
Renderings and drawings can be viewed at the following website:
All of the documents related to this proposed building are available for your review now at
In addition to this Community Outreach meeting, there will be three future public hearings
concerning this permit application as follows:
Venice Neighborhood Council Land Use & Planning Committee
November 30, 2015, 6:30 P.M.
Vera Davis Center, 610 California Avenue (at Electric Ave.)
Second Hearing (NOT CONFIRMED):
Board of the Venice Neighborhood Council
Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 7:00 P.M. at the Westminster Elementary School
auditorium. Please check the VNC web site at www.VeniceNC.org to confirm date and time.
LA City Planning Department Hearing
December 3, 2015 at 9:30AM
1645 Corinth Ave, 2nd
Floor Hearing Room, West Los Angeles
At these public hearings, you will have the opportunity to learn about the proposal, to ask questions and present your opinions. You may also present your opinions by letter or by email to the VNC and to the City Zoning Administrator. I urge you to please attend the earliest meeting so that your comments can be addressed most effectively prior to the Planning Department Hearing on December 3rd
If you have any questions about the meeting or the proposed project, feel free to contact the architect, Glen Irani, by email at email@example.com.
We look forward to seeing you at the earliest meeting November 18 from 7-9PM at 800 Main Street in Venice.
Glen Irani Architects
Sponsored by Councilmember David Ryu
Registration: 9:30 to 10:00 AM
Alliance Meeting: 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
The time has come for neighborhood councils to coordinate our efforts to prepare for emergencies. On November 21st we will present a new Neighborhood Council Emergency Preparedness Alliance to help coordinate all aspects of emergency preparedness including training, communication and coordination with city and county agencies. All neighborhood council members and interested stakeholders are welcome to attend this and future meetings.
The focus of the first meeting will be the upcoming El Niño. Dr. William Patzert from JPL, an El Niño expert, will present an overview of what we can expect from an event that appears to be larger than the ’97-’98 El Niño. Representatives of LADOT, Bureau of Street Services, the Emergency Management Department, Sanitation and LAFD will present their departments’ efforts to prepare.
NCs are frequently the first level of contact that community stakeholders make with government. Since they are conduits of information regarding everything from graffiti to trash to blocked storm drains, the meeting will focus on establishing lines of communication between the NCs and the appropriate city agencies. This will enhance the city’s preparation for the expected El Niño as well as other natural and man made disasters.
Space for this first meeting may be somewhat limited. In order to park at the EOC you will need a parking pass. Therefore, we are asking that you RSVP promptly so that we can email the parking passes and directions to the EOC to you. To RSVP go to http://empowerla.nationbuilder.com/nc_emergency_preparedness_alliance.
We hope to see you on Saturday.
Commissioner Leonard Shaffer
Board of Neighborhood Commissioners
Are you aware that a beauty has been singing at Danny’s on Windward every last Wednesday of the month for the past seven years? Well! Pick up on this local jazz singer, Rachel Sorsa. She kicked off her October set with “Black Coffee,” a song with a Venice pedigree via composer Paul Francis Webster, father of our own Guy Webster (May I say that her version is authoritative? It is.).
Her set was filled with melodies you know, all the sad torch songs of yesteryear. She has a healthy handle on these tunes, and she peppers her show with her own like-minded pieces.
It’s nice to hear a skilled pro greeting her pals coming in, Venice-style. Despite her clean, pretty-girl looks, she pulls off ballads like “Cry Me a River” and “Nature Boy” with poignancy, and a purr reminiscent of Eartha Kitt. Particularly touching was her “West Coast Blues,” with its vintage suitcase imagery. Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” kept up the Venice milieu. I especially dug her “Let Me Off Uptown,” which did so much for Anita O’day in ‘41. Her tip-top band let loose on that one!
I spoke briefly to Rachel about her love of Venice. “The beach is my gym, and the garden is my therapist.” (She runs 25 miles a week along the beach.) She finds inspiration for songs in this town. One of them, “Twenty Years from Now,” is inspired by the gay bar Roosterfish and a downtrodden patron. Another original, newly written and sung a cappella, ”I Roll with the Punches,” was penned in her Oakwood neighborhood about stopping the cycle of abuse, to others and to ourselves. Her new record, “Sisú,” was mastered at Michal Jost’s evocative, bohemian digs on Venice beach.
Ms. Sorsa ended her night with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” … which she did, on us, the whole night.
Rachel Sorsa Band members:
Andy Allen – Bass
Gus Duffy – Drums
Preston Gould – Trumpet
Serge Kasimoff – Piano
Rachel Sorsa – Vocals/Songwriter
Since 1995, the Venice Oceanarium has invited readers to discover or rediscover the great literary masterpiece, Moby Dick. The detailed and realistic descriptions of whale hunting draws on Melville’s experience at sea, on his reading in whaling literature, as well as life aboard ship among a culturally diverse crew, mixed with exploration of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of God.
“I have read Moby Dick 19 times on the beach with the Venice Oceanarium. I love the book. It is exciting… insightful… meditative. It grows on you.” Tim Rudnick, Founder/Director of the The Venice Oceanarium, “A museum without walls” mission is to impart a better understanding of the ocean and the life within it through the arts and sciences and to celebrate the unique natural habitats of Venice Beach. They hold events on Venice Beach, the Venice Pier, Oakwood and Venice Beach Recreation Centers, Israel Levin Senior Center, Venice Library, Chase Burton Park in the Marina, Ecole Claire Fontaine (French School), Westminster Elementary School. These community and family-orientated events and workshops are free of charge.
The Venice Fishing Pier Project was created to educate and inspire the public about the ocean and features a weekly display of marine biological specimens, other oceanographic items, poetry placards relating to the ocean and opportunities for kids to draw fish. Workshops are held in schools, recreations centers and libraries and are hands on and provide opportunities to explore the living laboratory of the sea and dive into the world of sharks, jellyfish, sea stars, crabs and more. The popular Grunion Run Party on Venice Beach introduces the public to Venice’s robust population of grunion, a unique species of fish known for their unusual mating ritual.
The organization was founded in 1986 by Tim Rudnick, who serves as the director. He is a native of Los Angeles and considers Venice Beach to be his hometown, having spent his childhood and the last 46 years here. He holds a B.A. in Art History from UC Riverside and has taken more than 60 post graduate units in Marine Biology, Oceanography and the Earth Sciences. Tim taught classes for 15 years on the research vessel Vantuna with board member and Santa Monica College biology instructor, the late Ed Tarvyd. Professor Tarvyd’s students are the beneficiaries of his lifelong study of the sea and its sciences. Ed was a fighter to protect the Ballona Wetlands and lead several field trips to the Tahitian atoll of Teti’aroa and was also an advisor to Marlon Brando.
This year, the Venice Oceanarium has partnered with the Los Angeles County Beaches and Harbors for the Moby Dick reading, the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks for the Venice Fishing Pier Project, LA Opera will provide discounted tickets to the contemporary operatic masterpiece Moby Dick and Warner Brothers is providing tickets to a special screening of In the Heart of the Sea, directed by Ron Howard and written by Nathaniel Philbrick.
The Venice Oceanarium is funded by the Abbot Kinney Festival Association, local businesses, and individuals. This year’s Moby Dick reading is sponsored by General Real Estate Management, Shout!Factory, Hotel Erwin, Venice Boardwalk Association, and Venice Beach Suites & Hotel. Media sponsors include the Beachhead, Venice Paparazzi, and Yo!Venice. Community sponsors include: Enterprise Fish Company, Los Angeles County Beaches and Harbors, Small World Books and Whole Foods Market Venice.
Join the celebration of a shared reading of the complete book, Saturday, November 21 and Sunday the 22, from 8am to 10pm at the end of Windward Avenue, on Venice Beach near the breakwater rocks. Come read aloud or just listen and also enjoy the beauty of Venice Beach. The Venice Oceanarium is a not-for-profit, tax exempt organization. To contribute or for more information visit http://www.veniceoceanarium.org. Sign up now to read your favorite chapter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Venice Oceanarium holds the Moby Dick readings especially this time of year in recognition of the California gray whale migration. The gray whale makes one of the longest of all mammalian migrations, averaging 10,000-14,000 miles (16,000-22,530 km) round trip. In October, the whales begin to leave their feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi Seas and head south for their mating and calving lagoons in Baja California, Mexico.
One of my fondest memories from childhood is going to the library with my two brothers and mother.
No matter how plain the library looked, I soon learned there were treasures there. So, whenever I move to area, I seek out the nearest library.
For eighteen years, I have been browsing and borrowing from the Abbot Kinney Memorial Branch Library. There, I have also bought many a bargain book at their fund raising book sales, as well as visited with the Venice Canal ducks and their ducklings. (Sadly, however, these ducks do not frequent the library or the canals as much as before. Another tale, for another Beachhead.)
Recently, while taking my usual library route south on Riviera Avenue, I came across a most magnificent tree, just shouting with clusters of red flowers. With the help of a co-worker, Sol, at Mystic Journey Bookstore where I work, I managed to identify this tree as a Red Flowering Gum Tree, more formally known as Corymbia ficifolia.
Native to Western Australia, this species of trees prefers infertile, sandy soils. It is particularly great for streets as the species is hardy, moderate, fast-growing, and low maintenance. At seven years old, a Red Flowering Gum flowers. Between fifteen and twenty years old, it reaches full size. If residing on your block, Corymbia ficifolia will befriend you and your grandchildren or more, as it lives for hundreds of years.
I was so struck by the clusters of red blossoms that I practically stuck my nose in them. They were humming with bees! For several years now, I have been growing concerned about the decline of bees.
Recently, I discovered that conservationists and scientists alike think a significant reason for this decline is the use of neonicotinoids. When used on plants, neonicotinoids stay in the plant itself, making it toxic to insects. i According to the Xerces Society, when honey bees are exposed to sublethal levels of neonicotinoids, they can “experience problems with flying and navigation, reduced taste sensitivity, and slower learning of new tasks, which all impact foraging ability.”ii Looking at my new tree friend, I sincerely hoped that the bees feasting here were only tasting pure and unadulterated nectar.
The more I write about the trees in Venice, the more I realize that trees have marked significant moments in my life. After my brother, David, was lost at sea during an Outward Bound kayaking course in the Sea of Cortez, I went on an outdoors adventure myself. It was during my freshman year at Duke University. Part of me was following in my brother’s footsteps. I knew he had close friends in the program. Perhaps, through these friends of his, I could find a part of my brother I never knew.
Started in 1974, this student run program is called Project WILD (Wilderness Initiatives for Learning at Duke.) For two weeks, freshman students hike in the Pisgah National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains. More than just an outdoors program, the program seeks to build leadership and friendship in unusual ways. When I took the course, it included a ropes course; a climbing day; trust building exercises; and two weeks finding our way, with map and compass, through the Appalachian mountains to different destinations. Each crew had two student trained leaders and around 10 students. I can’t remember how many crews there were; but there were quite a few.
Project WILD also included a two day solo in the woods, right before returning to civilization.
Although the instructors were not far, we were left alone overnight, with no other person visible by sight or sound. This was a time, too, when there were no mobile phones of any kind.
I ended up beside Groger Creek. I immediately found a strong tree to support me. Although I don’t recall the species now, I remember how comfortable the tree felt against my back. I spent many hours against this trunk, thinking about my loss, about the beauty around me, and falling in a semi trance at times. I had never slept alone in the woods before; having that tree, however, made me feel safe and peaceful.
I kept a journal at that time, a practice I do to this day. Although the entries are brief, they reflect the immediate strength I found by being in nature. One entry starts: “Ahhh, to be in the open, sheltered only by the green freshness of leaves, wondering who cut out the many small patches for the sky to peep through . . . So many shades of green peer down on me . . . cool shadow green so moist that one could drink the dew off the leaf of the color . . .” In a second entry, I note: “how the water curls quickly around the larger stones and then flows freely in ripples beyond my area. I wonder how far this water has been and what many, many places it has seen.”
Looking back at my eighteen year old self, I am surprised to see how much peace she was able to find amidst the tragedy of sudden loss. Although the spirit of my brother led me to Project WILD, my own spirit knew that returning to nature would restore my soul, and prepare me for the long journey of grief ahead of me.
The benefits of trees, however, are just as great in cities as they are in mountains. Take my new friend, Red Gum, for instance. Red Gum is a street tree. Street trees have some wonderful and unique benefits to communities. So much so, that urban planners consider them to be the most important factor in the design of urban landscapes.iii Called green infrastructure, street trees minimize traffic noise, increase property values up to 25%, lower temperatures, and provide numerous mental health benefits.iv
Whether in cities or in mountains, trees are vital for humans, animals, birds, insects, and more. One Amazon Indian tribe believes that forest trees hold up the sky. So much so, that if the trees fall, so will life on earth.v Let’s heed the wisdom of indigenous people before it’s too late. A simple friendship with a neighborhood tree can lead all of us to a more conscious and kind relationship to these magnificent beings.
Do you have a favorite tree in Venice? Submit your stories (1200 words or less) and photos to the Free Venice Beachhead at email@example.com
i From Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, http://www.xerces.org
iii From “100 Tree Facts”, http://bit.ly/1WbrHW7
The Dark Side of Comedy
by: Jack Neworth
For five decades, the world adored George Carlin as a stand-up comedian, social critic, actor and best-selling author. Carlin’s career included books, record albums, HBO specials, movies and television. But, to Kelly Carlin he was just dad.
The only child of George and Brenda Carlin, Kelly, was born in 1963. As a toddler, she sat in the back seat of the family car as her parents drove around the country, going from one comedy gig to another.
When Kelly was 7, the family moved to 3002 Pacific Avenue in Venice where George developed material for his groundbreaking Class Clown and Occupation Foole albums. Brenda hung out at Hinanos Cafe and the family shopped at Dales Market. George and Brenda’s rather “laissez faire” parenting style allowed Kelly to roam the canals with playmates.
Kelly has just written a candid memoir about her childhood with a comedy icon in A Carlin Home Companion: Growing up with George. It’s based on her acclaimed one-woman show of the same name. As for the take-off on Prairie Home Companion, suffice it to say, growing up with George was no Lake Wobegon.
The memoir is funny, disturbing, loving and moving. Kelly’s intimate style makes you feel like you’re reading her diary. Given her parents’ drug and alcohol addictions, having a comedy legend for a father was a combination dream and nightmare.
We see George as a cool and caring dad. “Watching TV together was a riot, especially the fun animal shows, because he would do all the voices and it was way more entertaining than the actual show.” George also shared many passions with young Kelly, including astronomy, language and music, whether it was putting his headphones on her so she could listen to a new piece or playing the Beatles’ White Album around the house.
Not such fun, Kelly became adroit at determining if her parents’ moods were the result of alcohol, pot, cocaine or LSD. She recalls when she was 8, being frightened when her father, up for days on coke, burst into her room announcing that the sun was about to explode.
The memoir reflects love and understanding of her parents’ shortcomings. But there are also harrowing stories as a little girl alone with her parents while they’re wasted on drugs and alcohol. There was the vacation in Hawaii when Kelly was 11.
“We had spent the entire day in the bar in Lahaina so my dad could score some coke and weed. Returning to the hotel, they fought, threatened divorce, and argued about every trespass they’d ever committed against each other. Then Mom picked up a kitchen knife and Dad did, too.”
Young Kelly was often the adult in the family. “I wrote out a treaty that stated, ‘I, George Carlin/Brenda Carlin, will no longer buy or snort cocaine, drink alcohol, or argue with each other for the rest of the vacation.’”
One worries how Kelly would survive this madness. The answer is, not easily. “I made every bad choice a rich girl from Brentwood could make.” The 80’s brought her a crushing anxiety disorder, a failed marriage and “piles of coke.” Devastating Kelly, in 1997, Brenda died within five weeks of her diagnosis of liver cancer. In 2000, George moved back to Venice where he lived until he died in 2008, months before posthumously receiving the prestigious Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
Ultimately the memoir is about Kelly’s heroic journey from the abyss of drugs and constant anxiety to self-discovery and redemption. Comedian Jay Mohr commented, “For anyone that has ever not been sure who they are, this book is for you.” For Carlin fans still missing him, Jon Stewart notes, “When I wish I could sit next to George and talk, this is the next best thing.”
In a touching chapter, Kelly describes George’s memorial, attended by friends, some going back to his grade school days. There were also comedians for whom Carlin had been their inspiration.
They embraced Kelly like an orphan child. She inherited an extended family of new uncles and cousins who shared a love for her father. Kelly’s description of the memorial, filled with sorrow and laughter, brought me to tears.
Buckle your seat belt, A Carlin Home Companion is a wild but heartwarming ride.
The Carlin Home Companion is available at Amazon.com and wherever books are sold. Kelly hosts The Kelly Carlin Show on Sirius XM Radio’s Raw Dog Comedy and Waking From The American Dream on SModcast Internet Radio. George Carlin is currently the subject of a three month exhibition at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. Jack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The bakery opened in around 1948 on the Ocean Front Walk in Ocean Park around Raymond Ave. Before 1958 the OFW continued from Venice all the way to the Santa Monica Pier. What is left now begins again at the Casa Del Mar Hotel at Bay Street going north to the Santa Monica Pier. Back then the OFW north from the Venice border continued just like in Venice with shops, homes and hotels. There was a huge amusement pier starting on the north border of Venice called the Ocean Park Pier. It had other names during its long history but us locals always called it the Ocean Park Pier until it was later turned into Pacific Ocean Park in 1958. Along the OFW by the pier there were shops of all kinds on both sides of the walk and small shops in the middle of the OFW that sold drinks and hot dogs. The huge Ocean Park Pier had a giant roller coaster called the High Boy, bumper cars and a great fun house called Toonerville named from the Toonerville Trolley cartoon strips. There was the most amazing diving bell towards the end of the pier that actually pumped up ocean water and was filled with sharks and other great fish. The manager who looked like Popeye the sailor man and wore a sailor’s hat would go fishing on a boat at night and catch fish that he would bring back alive and dump into his amazing diving bell tank of water. One night he brought back two big sacks of huge abalone and gave one sack to my mom. I think he had a crush on her. Today that abalone would probably be worth a small fortune if you could even find abalone that big anymore. My mom had never seen abalone. Jews, especially from Poland didn’t eat shellfish. She hadn’t a clue how to cook them and so she fried some for our cat and gave a few away to some goyim (non Jew) neighbors who were very happy to get them. I think our cat seemed happy also. The pier also had dance halls, a great merry-go-round and all sorts of food and other concessions. The end of the pier had fishing on two levels. On the bottom level was a cage with water and a big old sea lion that I loved to go and talk to. The pier was bigger than Coney Island.
In 1950 my mom, Ruthie began working in the bakery. It was owned by a nice family named White. It was a Jewish style bakery and much of the surrounding community was Jewish. I guess their name White was picked up in Europe to hide their Jewishness? One uncle and aunt of mine who ran to Paris during WW2 changed their name to Parizer to also try and escape the Nazis rounding up Jews. We lived half a block down on Raymond Ave. Back then there were several streets that have disappeared at the beach because of redevelopment. The streets going north from Venice along the OFW were; Marine St., Pier Ave., Kinney St., Ashland Ave., Raymond Ave., Hill St., Surf St., Grand Ave., Ocean Park Blvd.
I used to hang out at the bakery even before I started kindergarten because we were too poor to hire a babysitter. Bruno the baker let me make small breads and rolls. In around 1955 the bakery was sold to a holocaust survival and baker by the name of Davidavitz. They expanded and took over the old restaurant next door. I used to help with small jobs like breaking open dozens of eggs for baking and sweeping and cleaning the shelves. I don’t think there were child labor laws yet but I usually enjoyed my chores. It kept me from getting into too much trouble at the beach which I did sometimes.
Next to the bakery was Ada’s Market, a bathing suit and beachwear shop and a fancy old restaurant. The restaurant had seen better days and the bakery expanded and took it over. The first Synanon opened and took over the beachwear shop in around 1957. Synanon was a drug rehab with housing started by Chuck Dederick who had gotten some ideas from the A.A. and added his own rules and twists to work with his heroin addicted buddies. I grew up as a small kid with these heroin addicts who all seemed to love me and treat me wonderfully. Of course I had no idea what heroin was as a small brat. A few old people tried to scare me to stay away from them! Ada decided she didn’t want her market next door to a bunch of druggies and she moved out and Synanon took over her spot also. Just south of the bakery was the great Otto’s Hot Dogs who sold great cheap hot dogs loaded with chilli and burgers.
There was a big playground out in front on the sand just north of the Ocean Park Pier. The old Ocean Park Pier started at the north border of Venice on the OFW. It was free to enter at Pier Ave. and I just loved to wander around even when I was still tiny and with no money. All the kids in the neighborhood would go to the
Dome Theater on Saturdays for the kiddie shows with 2 movies, cartoons and sometimes a magic act and a give-away where you could win a bike or a box of popcorn if your ticket stub had the winning number. I once won a box of Flicks chocolates. The Dome Theater was at Pier Ave next to the entrance to the pier. There was an enormous, beautiful, brass chandelier inside on the ceiling that went through to the roof. It was ornate and fantastic but I always imagined that someday an earthquake or some giant monster like King Kong above in the dome would make it crash down and smash everyone underneath it. Above was the old dome. There was a little stairway and ladder in the back of the stage that took you up into the big dome. I went up many years later when I worked at the pier. I remember seeing the original ‘Invaders from Mars’ movie there with my brother Jerry when I was 4 and I went home and took my toy cap pistol and slept with my eyes open all night. Those Martians wouldn’t get me with my Hoppy cap gun! A little ways south was the Rosemary Theater which usually showed more adult themed movies like yucky love movies and I only went there when my mom dragged me along.
Later in 1958 the pier was transformed into Pacific Ocean Park or P.O.P., an ocean themed Disneyland. They closed the theaters. The Dome Theater was used for storage and part of the back may have been used for a ride called the Magic Carpet Ride. The entrance at Pier Ave. became the exit and a spectacular new entrance was built at the north end of the pier. The Toonerville fun house was turned into a ocean themed fun house called Davy Jones Locker and the roller coaster was renamed the Sea Serpent. Many great rides were added. However, the wonderful old diving bell was moved away from the ocean and lost its scary charm. They then had an admission to get in and I couldn’t just go for a stroll on the pier like I used to. The pier fishing was eliminated. They paved over much of the beach north of the pier for parking and that was the end of the great playground on the beach. All of the beach parking from the south Santa Monica lots to Bay Street were put in then. P.O.P. was my first real job I worked at when I was 17 ½ years old. You were supposed to be 18 but I lied. I figured it was only a couple more months until I was 18 and we were very poor and needed the money. I think they started me off with a giant $1.25 an hour and I went up to about $1.50 until I finally got another job with more hours washing dishes at the historic old Sinbad’s Restaurant on the Santa Monica Pier. Unfortunately Sinbads and next door was the grand old La Monica Ballroom were both demolished some years ago.
In 1958 Santa Monica wanted to turn Ocean Park into another Miami Beach or Honolulu with lots of high rises along the beach. They started the Ocean Park Redevelopment Project and began forcing the old Jews and other poor people in the neighborhood to sell their little beach homes and shops. This was our Eminent Domain laws at their worst! Our neighbors were forced to sell their homes for $5,000. A small home by the beach now sells for 2-6 million! The bakery was torn down as was our house. Synanon moved and kept growing bigger and bigger and expanded all over America. Synanon is another amazing story I can tell some day….
The Davidavitz family opened another bakery on Fairfax Ave. called the King David Bakery. For awhile my mom, Ruthie took the bus to Fairfax but she kept asking the Davidavitzs to open another bakery here. There was a notions shop with cloth and thread in the shop in the Cadillac Hotel at Dudley Ave. in Venice where the Titanic store is today. They rented this store and they opened a branch of the King David Bakery there. The baking was done in Faifax and the baked goods were brought by a van every morning. My mom then ran the Venice branch by herself.
The bakery had become a local hangout with my mom. She hung up a photo of Eleanor Roosevelt to watch over the store. Locals would come in and hang out and talk. Across the way on Dudley Ave. the Venice West Coffee Shop opened with Beatnik poetry. The bakery and the Venice West became focal points for locals to get a cup of coffee and discuss the problems of Venice and the world. The community all knew my mom. People would say she should run for mayor of Venice!
The city of Santa Monica continued the destruction of old Ocean Park and in the 1960s L.A. also began condemning much of old Venice to try and gentrify the beach. In the interim the neighborhood was in a shambles. In the early 1970s the Davidavitzs sold the bakery for a couple hundred bucks to two young men who wanted to try a health food store. They fixed it up real cute and sold juices and organic bread and other health foods. My mom stayed on since they worked other jobs. She convinced them to continue selling Jewish bread and pastries also for her old customers. They called it the Pooh House, like from Winnie the Pooh, yet everyone still just called it the bakery. I guess the time wasn’t right for a health food store yet and business was very slow, especially in the winter. After a couple years the two nice men gave up the business and offered it to my mom for free by just continuing paying the rent. The rent back then was a gigantic $100 a month! My mom didn’t want to take the chance, especially since she had no help. She said she couldn’t depend on me since I was a bit of a wild, young dude who only cared about chasing pretty gals and shooting hoops.
One old customer by the name of Harold Singer used to come in the bakery. Harold was a bit fat and he loved good pastries and so my mom talked him into taking it over. My mom kept running the bakery and Harold would go out in the mornings and bring back bakery goods and other food. He would drive around and buy old food from shops around L.A. and bring it back and sell whatever he could in the bakery. The bakery became kind of a cheap old food shop. Harold put in an old microwave and a coffee maker and sold a day old bagel and a cup of coffee for 15 cents! For awhile I was enlisted to drive in the mornings to pick up Jewish bakery goods from Fred’s Bakery on Robertson Blvd.. I was paid 5 bucks including gas for my car. I loved Fred and his two kids who worked there. After awhile I gave it up and my mom found other poor people to pick up the bread. I kept hanging out at the bakery after school or after work. I swept up and sometimes helped out selling if it was busy. I have many fun stories about the bakery. Here are a couple short stories.
When the bakery closed at night, my mom would hide the paper money in a little paper bag and throw it in the trash barrel in the back of the store to hide it in case the store was broken into at night. She would leave the cash register open to look like there was only some change and so a crook wouldn’t break the cash register which cost more than the cash that they usually had inside. The register had been broken a couple times before in robberies. One night while I was sweeping up my mom handed me a paper bag and said to throw it in the barrel. I thought the bag was just some garbage to throw out with my pan of dirt. I took it and the dirt and bread crumbs and threw it in a barrel of garbage outside on the OFW. I came back in and kept cleaning and before we left my mom asked me if I threw the money in the barrel? I said, “What money?!” She yelled almost hysterical, “I gave you the money in a paper bag to throw in the back barrel!” I screamed that, “I didn’t know, I thought it was garbage!” I ran outside and sifted through the garbage and there was the little bag filled with about $680! It would have made some homeless person looking through the trash poop in their pants! That was some bread, or dough back then- and I don’t mean the baking kind…
The bakery was rarely robbed but one day Ruthie was there alone on a slow cool day when a guy walked in with his sweater over his face. He yelled to my mom,“Give me the money!” My mom recognized this dude even with his sweater over his face as one of the regular poor guys on the OFW that she had fed. She said to him,“Are you crazy! I know you Tommy! You think I can’t recognize your voice and your hair! You must be kidding! If you’re hungry I’ll give you something, or if you need a couple bucks…” The robber pulled out a big knife and began banging on the cash register with the knife handle and yelling, “Give me the money!” The register opened and he grabbed a few bucks that was on top and he ran out of the store. He was so dumb he didn’t realize that the larger bills were under the money tray in the register. My mom came home all shaking and told us what just happened. My dad yelled,“Didn’t you call the police?!” My mom said, “No, I know him from the beach for a long time and he was always such a nice young man! I’m sure something really bad must have happened for him to steal a few dollars! It was only $12 and I replaced it with my money.” Me and my dad began yelling at her that she was nuts! We went on and on for an hour that she was stupid and a fool for not having him arrested! The next day Tommy was waiting at the bakery door with his head down. “I’m sorry Ruthie! I was on drugs! You’ve been helping me and everyone out here and I am a jerk! Here’s the money back. I’m sorry….” I heard that he later cleaned himself up and made a mench of himself. (mench; a real human being, an upstanding person)
One day it was rather busy in the bakery and my mom let me help wait on customers. One very old man bought a couple bagels and a couple cookies and he handed me a handful of change. I stared at a bunch of strange looking coins and at first I told him that we don’t take foreign money. It was busy but as I looked closer I could see the coins were very, very old American coins! One dime was 1829! I tried to show them to my mom but she yelled at me, “Don’t take foreign money!” With all the customers waiting I tried to argue with my mom that they are old American coins but she wouldn’t listen. She reluctantly finally took the 40 cents just to shut me up and to get back to work. The old man had a big handful of old coins and he took his bagels and pocket full of ancient coins and walked out. That night I had to argue with my dad and mom that these were rare American coins and not worthless foreign money. My dad looked close and finally agreed with me. We found an old coin guide and the 1829 dime alone was worth about 18 bucks back then! For some time I kept hoping that old man would return from the Twilight Zone in his time machine with another big pocketful of rare coins, but I never saw him again…
One cold winter evening, the beach was dark and pretty much deserted and I was helping Ruthie to get ready to close. I was watching the beach and I could see the water from the sea slowly creeping farther and farther toward the OFW. It wasn’t big waves crashing but the tide was huge and just kept slowly pushing farther up the beach and the parking lot. There was some strong winds blowing and dark clouds. I said to my mom, “It looks like the ocean is going to come over the walk.” My mom said, “You’re crazy, it won’t ever come that far!” Suddenly the ocean was on the OFW and came sweeping under the door of the bakery! My mom yelled, “Grab towels and shove them under the door!” We shoved towels and bags by the door and took out mops and brooms to stem the tide. We waited for awhile to see if the bakery was going to be washed away. Finally my mom decided to abandon ship and we ran out the door after stuffing all the towels and mobs under the door. The water on the walk was about 2 -3 inches deep and as we left it had reached the Speedway but then it stopped getting higher and began to recede. I imagined that if it got any bigger we would be fishing for giant sharks in our living room!
I add this story as a warning to young kids. One day when I was 12, I was sitting on the bench in front of the bakery in Venice watching the world go by when some strange older man came over and sat down next to me. He began asking me questions about where I lived and other personal stuff. I told him about my love for comic books and he said he had some on the beach I could read. He led me to a small tent he had set up on the beach. Inside he had a stack of muscle men magazines and had me look at them. I asked where his comics were but he insisted that I look at his magazines. I never was interested in muscle men except maybe seeing Steve Reeves in Hercules movies. He came over and began to rub my back. I was getting a little nervous. Then he stuck his hand down my pants and grabbed my smeckle (penis)! I said, “I need to get back to the bakery! My mom will be worried!” He tried to urge me to stay but I pushed his hand aside and bolted out of the tent and ran back to the bakery all shook up. I didn’t tell anybody because I was ashamed and scared. A couple of years later I thought that I’m sure this creeper had molested other young boys and I should have told my mom and the cops and maybe I would have saved some other poor boys from being molested.
For a few days back in 1968 they were filming a Peter Sellers movie on the OFW called, “I Love You Alice B. Toklas!”. One day they filmed right in front of the bakery and blocked up the front. While they were filming my mom walked out and told Mr. Sellers and the other actor in the scene that they were blocking the bakery door and she needs to sell the bread. She didn’t know who Peter Sellers was but I was awe struck. I had loved the Pink Panther movies. I told her you can’t just yell at Peter Sellers in front of the bakery in the middle of a scene! My little Jewish mamala could argue with G-d about the 10 Commandments if she were on the mountain with Moses! She was fearless! She always said I was afraid of my shadow! I still am! I can imagine her now on top of the mountain telling G-d, “Listen, 10 Commandments ain’t enough! Number 11 should be; Thou men shall not peeith on the toilet seat. And number 12 should say; Would it hurt men if you could wash a dish!” An assistant then gave 50 bucks to the bakery for filming. If you watch the movie close, Peter walks down the OFW and stops for a few moments in front of the bakery and you can see the plain little sign up saying bakery…
As the years raced by, my mom, Ruthie was getting old
er and she hired her friend Dora to work part time. A few years later a nice lady by the name of Rose was hired and then a funny old guy by the name of Moe who lived in the Gingerbread Court began working part time. The Gingerbread Court had been inexpensive apartments before it was changed into expensive shops like it is now.
The owner of the Cadillac Hotel was a wonderful, generous old man by the name of Mr. Gross. He kept the rents low including the bakery since he loved my mom and liked the rye bread. I can still taste the thick cheesecake with cherry or blue berries and the chocolate brownies. YUM! The cheese danish, onion rolls and the giant chocolate chip cookies were to die for and they probably did kill a few old people with cholesterol problems! Sometimes I had a taste for the prune danish which helped you poop. Some old men liked the Jewish high, poppy seed cake filled with poppy seeds. It was rumored that if you ate enough poppy seeds you could get a slight high.
Mr. Gross on Christmas and New Years would make a party for the old people who lived in the Cadillac Hotel. The mother of the famous singer Eddie Fisher lived there and his famous acting wife Debbie Reynolds would come and entertain for free. Eddie divorced Debbie for Elizabeth Taylor but for years Debbie Reynolds still came and entertained for Eddie’s mom and the other old people for free without Eddie. She was wonderful.
Mr. Gross finally passed away and his kids inherited the building. They kept it for awhile and then they sold it to Werner Scharff. Old Werner was one of Venice’s most successful property owners. He had started his empire in the “shmatte” business. (“shmatte”= rags and old clothing. Anything made of cloth) He designed his own style bed clothes and other clothes that sold well starting in the 1930s until the 1950s. He designed the famous Lanz flannel granny nightgown which was long and warm. He took much of his “shmatte” fortune and began buying up Venice. He was a sharp old dude and over the years he bought quite a lot of property in Venice. He died at 90 in 2006.
Part of the sale of the Cadillac Hotel to Mr. Scharff was that they would keep the old tenants there. However the bakery wasn’t part of the deal and one day while I was there Mr. Scharff came in with two other men in expensive business suits and fancy briefcases. Back then nobody wore a fancy suit on the OFW. The new owner told my mom that next month the rent will go from $125 to $2800 per month! At that time this was a fortune! My little mom all of 5 feet stood up tall and told Mr. Scharff and his two well dressed cronies, “Mr. Scharff, the rent is paid until the first of next month, and until that time, get the hell out of the store!” They turned red and blue and ran out! They couldn’t rent the shop for that rent then and so the bakery continued on. Mr. Singer kept making deals on the rent for around $500. This went on for a couple more years but they kept trying to raise the rent. It was hard to make much on a 15 cent bagel and coffee. Mr. Singer was kind of roly-poly fat and the last thing he needed was lots of pastries. He developed heart problems and finally gave it up in around 1984. My mom kept working part time until it closed even when she had health problems of her own.
The bakery was vacant for awhile until it was rented and turned into the Titanic with hats and metal sculptures. Recently, the new owner of the Cadillac Hotel was involved in the murder of a young homeless dude in front of the hotel!