Celebrating the Creative Community of Venice.
VenicePaparazzi updated gallery '10.04.14 Premiere of The Ice Cream Song by TigerTripp'
705 Hampton Dr. Venice,Ca,90291
By Greta Cobar
A lifeguard driving an L.A. County truck accidentally ran over a sunbather on September 15 at 4:25 pm near the intersection of Ocean Front Walk and Venice Blvd. Twenty-five year old Loraine Bermudez of Whittier suffered fractures and internal injuries, and was immediately transported to a hospital. Her injuries are not life-threatening.
The lifeguard stopped immediately after the accident, rendered help to Bermudez, and called for help. He had responded to a call about swimmers getting too close to the rocks just North of the Venice pier. Mass media initially reported that the accident happened while the lifeguard was driving towards the rocks, with his lights and sirens on. However, he struck her while he was driving away from the rocks, without lights or sirens.
The accident happened while Bermudez’s husband was in the ocean.
Just this past May a 49 year old woman was run over by a sanitation truck while sunbathing on the beach here in Venice.
The September 2013 Beachhead article titled “Increase Safety by Banning Police Cars on OFW” addressed the issue of danger from being run over by police and lifeguard vehicles (http://bit.ly/1rGP8EN). Both the recent and the May accidents are truly unfortunate. The fact is that there are way too many vehicles going way too fast on the sand and on OFW at almost all times. They all need to slow way down and reduce over-all traffic in general.
Is Mike Bonin, our City Councilperson, now planning on installing bollards all over the sand?
Following the August 3, 2013 death of Alice Gruppioni, who was run over by a mad man driving down OFW, Bonin ordered plastic bollards that fold to the ground when any car touches them to be installed all over OFW. In no time they became an eye-sore and a big tripping hazard. Bonin replaced them in April (http://bit.ly/1prLwmT) and they again became nothing but an eyesore and we ended up with even more tripping hazards. At Rose and OFW they were just replaced once again in September. How much did all of this cost?
At the October 29, 2013 Town Hall meeting the Venice community vehemently and overwhelmingly spoke against bollards and cameras on OFW (http://bit.ly/1vz5Kkp). Bonin requested the meeting and attended the first three quarters of it, but not with the goal of catering to the wishes of the community, like he’s supposed to. His motion before City Council to install cameras on OFW was introduced in August 2013, three months prior to the Town Hall (http://bit.ly/1rGP8EN).
Twenty new LAPD surveillance cameras are about to be installed on OFW and be monitored by officers at the Pacific Division’s Venice Beach Substation. Our City Councilperson is filling the post of our usual politician: using fear and safety pretenses to invade our privacy. Through increased government control Bonin is pretending to care about our safety while catering to Big Brother.
Public safety from government vehicles is not being addressed in spite of two women being run over in the past five months. But because a mad man drove on the sidewalk off Dudley St. in order to get around the permanent metal bollards that have been on Dudley and OFW for many years, we are going to be subjected to constant police surveillance in what truly has become a police state. Never mind that the cameras would not have prevented the mad man from doing what he did.
On August 1, during the First Friday madness on Abbot Kinney Blvd., a deep-fat fryer caught fire inside the Miami Nights food truck and ripped through the roof, rising four feet above the vehicle. The food truck was located at Abbot Kinney and Andalusia. Luck had it that it was only 7:12 pm, and the crowds had not arrived yet. Fire-fighting vehicles were able to reach the food truck and extinguish the flames before the propane tanks inside caught on fire. Had it been between 8 and 9 pm, the streets would have been grid-locked with vehicles, sidewalks would have been over-spilling with pedestrians, and food trucks would have been parked back-to-back up and down the street. Imagine the danger of that situation.
Bonin did not care to address that situation at all. However, fast forward four hours later, to 11 pm on August 1, and you could have found Bonin and his new husband on OFW because they got word of a mattress on fire. So Bonin proceeded to help actually lift the mattress off the ground and put it in a hauling truck while at the same time calling the situation on OFW “apocalyptical”.
Never mind that the fire rose only five inches above the mattress, created damage less than a foot in diameter, and was extinguished in a matter of a few short minutes. And never mind that only a homeless hater would set a mattress on fire – let’s blame the homeless! And let’s cater to the yuppies on Abbot Kinney and pretend that they didn’t almost set the city of Venice on fire.
During the January Venice Neighborhood Council meeting Bonin told the audience of his intent to remove personal belongings off OFW and enumerated his obstacles, such as legislature stating that the city can remove “abandoned materials”, but not “unattended materials”; that things have to be tagged before being removed; and that everything removed has to be stored by the city for 90 days before being discarded.
Fast forward to September 12, 2 am to 4 am on OFW, when an un-announced sweep took place that removed things without tagging anything. People sleeping on the side-streets off OFW wanted to go and grab their belongings before the things were taken away, but LAPD threatened them with arrest for violating the illegal curfew selectively enforced on OFW between midnight and 5 am.
A note was left stating that all items picked up were taken to the Temple St. warehouse.
Rachel Gomez, Ibrahim Butler’s partner, called the Temple St. warehouse to inquire about Ibrahim’s “Welcome to Venice” sign, one of the items confiscated September 12. The sign had been a fixture on OFW for two years, greeting visitors and providing photo-ops. It was recently featured in two movies, Ride and Undateable John.
“When I called the Temple St. warehouse, I was told that the item wasn’t there,” Gomez told the Beachhead.
It is our fault for allowing our elected officials to put us under surveillance 24 hours a day behind fabricated fear factors while the real dangers that our own government poses to us are shoved under some homeless person’s mattress.
I’m not even gonna go into advising you to contact Bonin or to elect somebody else. The fact is that the more disappointed we are with our elected officials and our government as a whole, the closer we are to a true People’s Revolution. So the less they appease us, the less time we’re gonna allow them to rule over us and destroy all of us in the process. Viva la Revolucion!
Who Pays for the Pigs?
Big Brother is here!
Cops see your underwear!
Pigs have eyes on the Ocean Front Walk
The ones of the Parks & Rec. even talk!
Cops have 20 new cameras to see your zits
Your gal doing the splits
And your wife’s tits!
Monitoring in real time
Looking for bikinis, butts and crime.
We’re all taped for them to see
If you fart, belch or pee!
Pick your nose and scratch your ass
Pull up your pants or fondle your lass.
They’ll see you talk to Joe Smoe or Bob the Bum
A movie star or some gutter scum.
Everywhere you go
They will know
If you smoke, do coke
Or take a pill for some ill.
Killers, thieves, rapists they’ll lock up in jail
Also homeless, nuts and hippies without fail –
And just try and get bail!
They’ll record vendors, tourists and stores
Musicians, artists, poets and whores.
They’ll see what you eat
Who you greet
Who has big feet
And dogs in heat!
Police watch all day
The poor and minorities will pay.
Peek a boo
I see you!
It’s true, pigs ain’t got a clue
What you do
But they’ll beat you black & blue!
Helicopters and drones fly by
Pigs spy, so say hi
Before you die! My, oh my!
Now nothing will escape Big Brother’s eye
So we can say to freedom and privacy – Bye, Bye!!!
– Moishe Pupik
Above: new, useless bollards just installed at Rose and OFW
Above: Bollards and broken bollards that are nothing but an eye-sore and tripping hazard
Above: Food truck on fire, Friday, August 1, Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Jim Smith – Venice Peace Park
Rachel Gomez – Venice Beach Drum Orchestra
Laura Shepard Townsend – Hail the Beachhead!
Vernon Courteaux – Unjust OFW Ordinance
One of the great things about the Free Venice Beachhead is the sense of continuity and history that it gives to readers. Venice has had a long and exciting, and sometimes, tragic history during its nearly 110 years. For instance, the first Beachhead, in 1968, told the story of Abbot Kinney. For many Venetians, it was the first they had heard about the magnificent creator of the city of Venice. And through the years, the paper has given us a blow-by-blow description of the ongoing saga of the community’s fight against L.A. developers’ plans to run a freeway through the center of Venice, turn the canals into a yacht harbor, and, in general, bulldoze everything in sight.
That’s why I was dismayed to find a couple of uncritical references to “Centennial Park” in the past few issues. This park is the plot of ground directly east of the Abbot Kinney Library, which for many years was a refuge for Venetians who had nowhere else to go.
In 2004, the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council (GRVNC), of which I was the elected treasurer, found out that our unelected city councilmember Cindy Miscikowski was going to have this lonesome plot of ground declared a park.
Miscikowski had been imposed on Venice by the L.A. City Council, in an arrogant act of disdain for Venice, when it summarily transferred our well-liked – and elected – councilmember, Ruth Galanter, to a vacant seat in the east San Fernando Valley. In her place, they brought in Miscikowski, who had been representing Pacific Palisades and Westwood.
We told Miscikowski that we would like the people of Venice to pick a name for the new park. On February 26, 2004, the GRVNC sponsored a town meeting at the First Methodist Church, which hundreds of Venetians attended. In a secret ballot vote, “Peace Park” was picked as the overwhelming choice for the park’s name. The name, Peace Park, was doubly significant because of the gang war that had been afflicting Venice, and because of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. We informed Miscikowski, of the results and thought that was the end of it.
Without the knowledge of anyone on the neighborhood council, Miscikowski then called together a small group of Venice hi-rollers at the Abbot Kinney Library to pick another name for the park. The name picked by the few people at the meeting was Centennial Park. It is true that the 100th anniversary of the founding of Venice was coming up in 2005, but this plot of land had played no part in Venice history. It had always been just part of the Venice Blvd. center divider.
This same group, with Miscikowski’s blessing, created a counter-centennial committee to the already existing committee which was called the Peoples Centennial Committee, and which held many events around Venice in the months leading up to the 100-year parade on July 4, 2005. The Peoples Committee held a great parade from our old city hall to the Venice Circle (from which pedestrians are now banned). Most of the community organizations and long-time active Venetians were part of this committee. At no time did the Miscikowski committee contact us to suggest working together. They were kissing L.A.’s official ass and didn’t have time for the locals.
The arbitrary change of name from Peace Park is still a sore spot with a lot of locals who have been active in Venice since 2004. What annoys us even more are not just the constant efforts by L.A. City Hall to split our local movements, but the willing cooperation of those in Venice who will sell out their neighbors in exchange for some phony recognition and/or crumbs from their downtown masters. This probably goes on in other areas, but it has been particularly acute in Venice, perhaps because, as a group, we are so outspoken.
The machinations of L.A. officials and their local minions began with a simple name change, went on to divide our 100-year celebration, and within a few months had brought down the most pro-Venice and active neighborhood council our community has ever had. If you’re new to Venice, and think this is all a paranoid delusion, then read their emails which we obtained in a public records request: .
With the current wave of gentrification destroying Venice house by house, it is more important than ever to know who provides the political cover for policies that will forever change Venice. The biggest mouth in Venice belongs to the Beachhead. We’re counting on you to keep the community informed.
Ibrahim Butler of The Venice Beach Drum Orchestra finds himself in court once again. Enough is enough!
Once upon a time, in 2003, Joseph Shemaria, an attorney and an Ocean Front Walk property owner located at 319 Ocean Front Walk, thought it would be a good idea to sue Ibrahim, a local artist, musician and activist for his inability to rent his 3-unit property.
What an interesting idea…Venice Beach ocean front property owners suing artists and musicians for adversely affecting their occupancy rates. Hmm.
Actually, Shemaria did sue Ibrahim, of the Venice Beach Drum Orchestra – an array of international West African drummers, teachers and multi- talented musicians. His suit was based on his inability to rent his boardwalk real estate and his belief that Ibrahim alone caused his loss. The case went to mediation and an agreement was struck that allowed Ibrahim to continue playing music with stipulations.
Nine years passed with no complaint from Shemaria. Within that time, L.A.M.C. ordinance 42.15 came into effect allowing amplified music, performance and First Amendment free expression to exist from 9 am until sunset seven days per week throughout the year on Ocean Front Walk.
The Ocean Front Walk has become one of the most visited tourist destinations in the state of California because of its diversity of original art, music and people like Ibrahim.
Ibrahim and The Venice Beach Drum Orchestra have been entertaining and uplifting the Venice community and tourists for decades with its original drum beat and electrified sound Saturdays, Sundays and major holidays from noon until 4:30 pm. So what’s the problem?
Fast-forward to 2012. Shemaria again decided to take up court time with a contempt of court order against Ibrahim. Today, this case is still in the court system.
Is this a waste of precious court resources and time? Is Shemaria’s pursuit of legal recourse against Ibrahim a personal issue?
Interestingly, Shemaria has never complained or pursued legal action against any other artist or musician on the Ocean Front Walk. Shemaria has never complained about his property being located next to a bar with weekly musical entertainment that plays until 11 pm.
It is important to note, when the judge asked Shemaria about his desired outcome of this suit, he replied that he wanted Ibrahim to move to another location and away from his building.
So I say, Enough is Enough!
It is time that the entire Venice community acknowledges and supports the very artists, musicians and free speech expressionists that attract the millions of visitors to Venice each year.
Today, let’s all move towards creative peaceful resolutions where unity and community spirit thrive.
Ibrahim is scheduled to appear at the Santa Monica courthouse for trial on November 3 at 9 am. Your support is welcome.
Peace and Blessings!
HAIL the Free Venice Beachhead!!!
Readers, whether you agree with an article or a perspective or not, you are free to write a letter, and chances are, the Collective will accept it and print it.
Today, most of the newspapers, periodicals and news stations are owned by just a handful of owners.
There is extreme treachery, brought home succinctly while I have been researching for the 3rd book of my Destiny’s Consent series. For background, I had been reading every Venice Evening Vanguard from September to December, 1924.
There, article after article enthusiastically endorsed the cementing over of the Venice Canals. It only made perfect sense!! After all, who traveled around by boat??? The Vanguard wielded huge sections of ads, with beautiful pictures of the new toy, the automobile, to entice populations away from public transportation, the efficient and 40 mph Red Cars.
Everyone agreed that Venetians would get rich; property values in the city would increase by $10Million!!! As I read, I decided to put myself into the noggin of anyone reading this newspaper, without knowing what later transpired when the steam shovels and trucks showed up to annihilate Abbot Kinney’s canals.
This was absolutely not the TRUTH of the matter!!! When the shoveling of dirt began to fill in the canals, hundreds of people, shoveling BY HAND, were managing to keep up with the machines. Finally, the volunteer army gave up.
But here’s the rub. Reading these newspapers, supposedly representing Venice, there was not one, not ONE article with an opposing view. Only one article reluctantly admitted that there was ‘some controversy’ at a town hall meeting.
So, Venetians, do not take the existence of the Free Venice Beachhead for granted, lest there be no Beachhead…the ‘paper that is a poem’.
Laura Shepard Townsend
I’d like to once again bring an injustice to your attention. I’d like to offer you a different take on it from someone who has been arrested for merely making and selling a $5 dollar bracelet along the Venice Boardwalk.
“Poverty is a sin against our humanity and a cumbersome drag on our economy”. That is a quote from L.A. Councilman Mike Bonin’s website. I find this very hypocritical when the L.A. City Council has thrown the local artisans under the bus with an ordinance that does not allow original handcrafted jewelry to be sold along the boardwalk. This will affect many people, single moms, low income families, starving artists and even the tourists and local Los Angeleno’s who only want the right to make a choice for what they want to purchase.
The ordinance supports the shops on the east side of the boardwalk, who import mass reproduced knock-offs from other countries while criminalizing the local handcraft artists. Why are only a few shops allowed to dictate what millions Los Angeleno’s can purchase when visiting the beach? If the L.A. City Council was truly interested in the community they would recognize the many great artisans that are local and the ones that travel through and stop in Venice to show their handcrafted work. Instead we have a very few people deciding what all of us can make, sell and or buy along the Venice Beach Boardwalk and it just so happens those people who want to dictate what we make, sell or buy are making huge profits selling imported mass reproduction knock-offs on the east side of the boardwalk. Do they care what the public wants?
We need to highlight the hypocrisy of this ordinance and the City Council’s ineffectiveness to create real positive solutions, like permits for artisans, or regulating the commercial activity. Instead they have chosen to criminalize its citizens and local artisans.
The public does not know what is going on, all of the people I have explained this law to think it is appalling. For more info, visit: http://bit.ly/1javVHp.
Vernon Courteaux 310-621-5035
By Krista Schwimmer
Update on August 7th Boardwalk Beating
Last month, the Beachhead reported on the LAPD’s tazing and beating of Arrington Samuel Calhoun – a disabled, African-American, homeless man who had simply been sleeping under an umbrella, according to several witnesses. With the help of Nazareth Haysbert, an attorney at Khorrami Boucher, LLP, we now know that his name is actually Samuel Arrington Calhoun. Nazareth told the Beachhead that Samuel had indeed been arrested on August 7. He was then kept in Los Angeles County jail until September 17, when he was released. Just why Calhoun was arrested in the first place is still unknown. Nazareth, whose practice focuses on civil rights, class action ligation, and mass tort litigation, also expressed interest in continuing to help uncover what happened.
Although Nazareth was able to track down a sister in Columbia, South Carolina, as well as a local family who has befriended Samuel, none of these people have seen or heard from Samuel since his release. If anyone in the community has seen or heard from Samuel, please contact the Beachhead.
VNC: Rejections & Remorse
At the October meeting of the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC), several building projects were rejected. The first, 600 Mildred, or “Kim’s Market”, was halted when the motion to deny the project passed, 12-1-2. Before casting his vote, Ira Koslow, Community Officer, said he thought that this project was a result of running out of space on both Rose Avenue and Abbot Kinney Boulevard. The proposed project would be an incursion into a residential area. “It’s unconscionable to destroy the neighborhood like that,” Ira concluded. Another proposed single family residence at 1620 Electric Avenue was also denied by a vote of 12-2-1. During public comments for this project, Grey and Debra Marshall, the couple living in the so-called gargantuan home next to the proposed 1620, spoke against the project. “My home should never have been built,” Debra stated. Two wrongs, however, don’t make a right. Marc Saltzberg, Vice President, agreed with Debra, saying the VNC should not have allowed two of the houses built on Electric to go through. The architect representing 1620 later that night called VNC “a court of subjectivity.”
That night, VNC also passed a motion related to short term rentals. The motion included sending a letter to the L.A. City Council Sharing Economy Work Group asking to be included in the Group’s preparation report, as well as a recommendation that this Group “carefully research and analyze the impact of non owner-occupied short-term rentals on the availability of long-term housing stock in Venice, the number of rent controlled units in Venice, and on the quality of life and socio-economic diversity in Venice’s residential neighborhoods (including commercial zones with rent-controlled properties).”
Before the night ended, VNC also voted 14-0-1 to request the early opening of West Side Winter Shelter at the West LA National Guard Armory. The date requested is on or before November 1, 2014 rather than December 1. The VNC also recommends extending the closing date past March 1, 2015.
By Roxanne Brown, Member – Stop 600 Mildred & Concerned Neighbors of 320 Sunset
VENICE NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL (VNC) MEETING – SEPTEMBER 16, 2014
KIM’S MARKET – VNC reviewed proposed conversion of Kim’s Market to restaurant with liquor license.
CROWD: Standing room only –mostly opposition.
CAR JUMPS CURB: Alicia Searle (new owner of Kim’s Market) told the audience and VNC that the ex-husband of someone who is against her restaurant had driven up on the sidewalk allegedly trying to “kill” her husband. The group was shocked.
Searle has hired a detective and the police are investigating.
COMMENTS on CONVERSION: Individuals who spoke for the proposed restaurant were: the prior owner who sold the property to Searle, a gentlemen whose proposed project near Kim’s has been denied three times, and a woman who lives on Palms, who knows the owners and their Santa Fe restaurant. Neighbors whom Searle and husband had reached out to appeared to be for the restaurant due to a concern of what might go up if the restaurant didn’t get approved.
Individuals who spoke in opposition included the mother of a 2 and 13 year old who lives 3 feet from the restaurant. Others said Searle and her husband seem like nice people; it’s just the wrong location. Robin Murez reminded people that the Silver Triangle (Kim’s location) is often called the Bermuda Triangle, as once cars get on Ocean; they are trapped between congested Venice and congested Washington and the Venice Canals.
VNC COMMENTS AND DECISION: Ira Koslow led the discussion saying that running out of room on Rose and Abbott Kinney, restaurants now want to go into residential areas and it’s not OK. Nice idea for a restaurant – wrong location.
Almost all VNC members agreed. George Francisco abstained. Melissa Diner said Searle didn’t cause the traffic and voted for the project. VNC denied the project.
THE FAKERY – 320 SUNSET (Gjelina’s 3rd location) – Proposed conversion from office of 6 architects to restaurant with liquor license, seating 87, open from 6 a.m. to 12a.m. (through the week) – 1 a.m. weekends.
DECISION: Both VNC and LUPC denied conversion.
PERMIT & FAKERY: Camaj told residents/neighbors he wanted to build a bakery, applied for and was given a permit for “change of use from office to bakery and retail including new bathrooms, storage walls, and the installation of bakery equipment.”
Prior to that, Camaj had signed a lease for bakery and café. Thus, it appears the bakery was a fakery. With permit to build a bakery, it appears Camaj has built a restaurant and installed restaurant kitchen equipment.
EVICTION: Artists on the 300 block of Sunset have now been getting eviction notices. Landlords are telling tenants they want to develop their property.
NOTICE OF INTENT (NOI): For the first time, mid-September, a NOI to build a restaurant is in the window at 320 Sunset. It reads, “Change of use of the existing 5008 sf commercial bakery/kitchen/retail building to a commercial bakery/kitchen/retail/restaurant with….”
DESCREPANCY: Camaj has a Certificate of Occupancy (CoO) for a bakery/retail, no seating, with bakery equipment. Where did the kitchen come from? Why do neighbors smell non-baked goods being cooked?
Lawsuits filed and press confirms that Camaj appears to be doing what he pleases without regard for permits/codes at his Gjelina’s location on Abbott Kinney. It seems Camaj is replicating this behavior at 320 Sunset, his third proposed restaurant location in Venice.
As always, the windows at 320 Sunset are covered with brown paper. Neighbors who live behind 320 tell CNS they are watching a wall being constructed for an outdoor patio to seat patrons, and already hear music coming from this area.
Alcohol and Beverage Control (ABC) – Given the many protest letters from residents, Camaj will now have to call for a hearing if he wishes to continue the liquor license application process. CNS will keep you informed and publicize that date should Camaj request a hearing.
ZONING: On September 4, 2014, Zoning announced that they have put their decision on hold and a new public hearing will be required after receipt of the following:
-Revised Master Land Use Application and Findings
-Photographic proof of the posting of a Notice of Intent (NOI) with updated project description
-A Department of Transportation Referral Form analyzing the traffic and access for the proposed project (change of use from commercial bakery/retail to restaurant/bakery/retail)
-If the project results in any potential significant traffic or access impacts the MND must be re-circulated for 30-days
-BTC receipt for the mailing of the new hearing notice
-Updated radius map and labels
NUISANCE: For seven years, Camaj’s Gjelina’s restaurant at 1429 Abbott Kinney has been documented as a nuisance, disturbing neighbors with noise, traffic, seating more than capacity, building dining facilities without permits, parking shenanigans and more. In seven years, the city has not fined or penalized Camaj. The City continues to renew the operating license, and the nuisance continues. Neighbors have been complaining for seven years and are still complaining.
CITY LEADERSHIP: Knowing this, how does the city say: Yes, go build two more restaurants – it’s OK to build without permits, seat over code, play parking shenanigans, and be a nuisance – you can do this in more neighborhoods with no penalty?
HOW DO ONE OR TWO OWNERS HIJACK AN ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TAX PAYING CITIZENS?
THESE RESTAURANTS ARE CASH COWS FOR THE OWNERS AT THE NEIGHBORHOODS’ AND RESIDENTS’ EXPENSE.
Should 320 Sunset’s and 600 Mildred’s restaurant go through, a giant green “GO” light will be flashed, setting a precedent. This will have a disastrous domino effect, destroying residential neighborhoods – one block at a time – throughout Los Angeles.
STOP THE FAKERY: CAMAJ HAS A CoO FOR A BAKERY/RETAIL WITH BAKERY EQUIPMENT AND NO-SEATING. COUNCILMAN BONIN, MAYOR GARCETTI, ZONING, BUILDING AND SAFETY, ABC, please do the right thing for residents. Let it go no further. We pay you to enforce restrictions/code/permits. Please do your job.
By Krista Schwimmer
Throughout the world, birds have been revered as gods and goddesses, messengers and teachers, omens and signs. Whole systems of divination have revolved around their movement. They have inspired us to sing, to soar, and to dream.
In many indigenous cultures, birds are part of what the Ojibway call, the totem system. “Totem” or “dodaem” in Ojibway means brother/sister kin. Tribes sharing the same totem, then, would have obligations to one another, as well as the totem or totems they shared. According to Ojibway scholar, Basil Johnston, in his 1990 book, “Ojibway Heritage,” he says that totem is “that from which I draw my purpose, meaning, and being.”
The modern spiritual movement has taken to bringing this concept to everyone by encouraging individuals to find his or her totem or totems, depending on the system one follows. It also encourages the individual to view encountering birds, animals, and other natural things as a magical event, filled with meaning and significance. One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to meet and to learn about a totem is simply through nature herself.
Because of its proximity to the Pacific Flyway, a major north-south migratory route running from Alaska to Patagonia, Venice offers easy access to discovering bird totems. One such bird is the snowy egret, seen frequently at the Venice Canals, the Bellona Wetlands (a key stop on the Pacific Flyway), and the shore line itself. With its elegant, white plumage, thin black bill, long black legs shorn with bright, yellow feet, this member of the heron family is quite approachable. Once, I watched a Latino man cleaning the canals with a long, rake. Standing right beside him was a single egret, hoping perhaps for a handout. Watching an egret fish is particularly engaging. I love especially how the bird stirs the water with its beautiful, yellow feet. For me, this gesture with its cheery feet symbolizes the importance of approaching work with an element of enthusiasm.
As part of the heron family, egret shares an ancient symbolism. Greek mythology saw this bird as a messenger from Aphrodite or Athena. In both Eastern and Egyptian symbolism, the heron is associated with the sun itself. In her wonderful deck called “the Medicine Cards”, Jamie Sams talks about the message of the heron. She says it is about bringing balance between the mind and the emotions. On the website “Wildspeak”, egret is called “The Holy Spear,” due to the striking precision of its hunt.
To build a relationship with any totem, it is important not only to understand the totem, but the world in which the totem lives. Being a wading bird, the egret is common in marshlands and wetlands. Anyone claiming the egret or heron as a personal totem would learn much about these graceful birds by spending time at the extraordinary Bellona Wetlands. According to Ted Andrews, popular author of magical and pagan books, because wetlands are a place for breaking down old growth in order for new growth to occur, egret’s appearance alerts one to change.
Like any meaningful relationship, a relationship with a totem should include helping the creature in whatever way is possible. The Migratory Bird Act of 1918 did just that for not only the snowy egret, but for many other birds facing extinction due to the millinery trade.
According to Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources website, 200 million birds were killed annually at that time for the feather trade. Heron and egret feathers were particularly popular. Due to this Act, snowy egrets have rebounded, giving them the conservation status today of “Least Concern.” It is still critical to protect the bird’s habitat. One way to help our local Venice birds is to become involved with stopping the over- development here and in neighboring cities. Hyper-gentrification of neighborhoods not only dismisses many human lives, but lives of other inhabitants like squirrels, trees, birds, and insects.
The snowy egret is but one of the many inspiring bird totems of Venice that can teach us and guide us in our lives. So, next time you spy this graceful being, take time to pause and reflect with the bird. Notice what the bird is doing and how this may reflect something happening in your life at that moment. Who knows – perhaps the egret will bless you with a message that may even change your life.
By Laura Shepard Townsend
While it is essential that we must all do our best to instigate drought strategies here in Southern California, it seems the answers, especially here in Venice, are bordering on a simplistic formula: the systematic destruction of plantings. Unfortunately this seems to be simultaneous with the destruction of so many of our small cottages and bungalows that once graced Venetian lots, replaced with contemporary boxes built right out to the property lines, leaving very little space for verdancy.
If there is a garden for these contemporary box houses, the celebrated plants are those ‘just in’, architecturals from Australia or the desert. The new style of gardens is now akin to a power point presentation, eyes skipping over the terrain rapidly to glean its design, rather than a space within which to immerse one’s being.
As a child, I learned that gardens were my natural sanctuaries. For solitude, I climbed way up high into the grandness of my strong maple tree; when disappointed by love I sought the comfort of its strong limbs. I meandered about in profuse juxtapositions of scents and hues in gardens around my home. Watching wildlife taught me about the glory of life’s renewal.
Perhaps people have lost the art of just sitting in a garden to watch a hummingbird dart about from blossom to blossom.
Perhaps they do not know the joy of the cycle of a mockingbird — singing its heart out to attract a mate, the careful selection of materials for a nest; the strenuous demands of the young birds for food; the teaching of flight to the clumsy feather ball, and finally the launch.
Perhaps they do not know about aromatics in nature as a means to smooth out the intensities and stresses of the day, and rely instead on candles or what has been bought somewhere. I, as an artist and naturalist, stubbornly cannot believe it. Or let’s say I am hopeful that the soul of mankind will gravitate to meditative immersions.
For me, more critical perhaps than soothing stress levels is the nurturing of wildlife in urbanscapes. Studies indicate that U.S. cities and suburbs house 2/3 of all North America wild bird species; a diverse native bird population indicates that the ecosystem as a whole is healthy. While pondering what kind of hardscape to implement in your garden, know that a study on the bees in California has found that pavement and structures are key factors in the bee’s nesting decline. But it is clear that every single creature is in trouble, and we can all plant to assist their survival and thriving. As an example, the May 2014 Beachhead article by Krista Schwimmer urges the planting of milkweeds for the larva of the Monarch butterfly and to aid in the Monarch’s survival.
Mixing varieties of plants (especially the native plants) is key to achieve the above components. There are now conclusive studies showing that bees are attracted to species-rich patches of garden than to dense patches of a few species such as in architectural plantings. The planet is in a pollinator crisis, and since annual pollination is estimated to be worth more than $200 billion, it would be great to contribute in some simple ways to some solutions…to ensure the survival of bees and perhaps even that of our species.
Landscaping is a big topic. However, here are a few ideas to create an oasis that will balance: the utilization of little supplemental water; the nurturing of wildlife; color all year around; fruit and flowers (and maybe some herbs) for your table and cooking. It is vital to mix many components to create a glory of a garden, one that is a delight to the senses and to the heart.
A quick overview: the use of certain fruit trees, that once established, requires little water and easily thrives with drip systems. An essential is the dwarf Meyer’s lemon tree, which will supply lemons year round. Besides yielding fruit and lovely scents, the blossoms attract bees and hummingbirds. I am also very partial to vines loaded with berries.
Native Plants are the best to nurture Native Wildlife. Unfortunately they are often thought to be dull as dishwater. Look again! The showstopper is the Matilija poppy, which graces the curves of canyon landscapes.
Go to a native plant nursery and marvel at the salvias, the sages—one of my favorite is Cleveland sage with its tufts of periwinkle florals. And mix the natives with plants from other regions.
So, if you are joining the Venice community, I would urge you to do your part to nurture wildlife, rather than to plant soulless monochromatic corporate planting. Leave that to the shopping centers…
By Marty Liboff
After Abbot Kinney opened his amazing Venice of America in 1905 with beautiful Italian Renaissance style buildings and miles of canals, he dreamed of bringing fine culture to L.A. He built an auditorium on his new pier at Windward Ave. and planned fine arts with opera, classical music and Shakespeare. He managed to get the lady once called the greatest actress of all time, Sarah Bernhardt, to come in 1906 to play Tosca and parts from other plays. She parked her private rail car on the pier and every night had dinner with Abbot. It was rumored that the sometimes cross dressing Sarah had an affair with the married Abbot Kinney!
Although her engagement was a success, it soon became quite apparent that the idea of fine culture for most people in L.A. was bars, gambling, amusement park rides, bathing beauties, and dance halls. Kinney then built a giant dance hall near the auditorium. In the next few years, several dance halls were built in Venice and Ocean Park. Venice had the Venice Ballroom and the Sunset Ballroom. On the Ocean Park pier, that started in Venice at Navy street, there came to be several dance halls or ballrooms. On the Santa Monica pier the great La Monica Ballroom was later built.
It is hard to imagine today, but before TV, computers and iphones, many people would go ballroom dancing for entertainment. Visitors would come down here to the beach to gamble, swim, dance and go to several huge bath houses. Across from the Ocean Park pier was the grand Palace Dance Hall. On the Ocean Park pier was the Casino Gardens Ballroom where the jazz great Tommy Dorsey played. There was also the amazing Egyptian Ballroom with ancient Egyptian statues and paintings. On the south side of the pier at Navy street in Venice was the Bon Ton Ballroom. This ballroom had several names during its day, and was the last of the great old ballrooms on our Ocean Front to close. The Bon Ton, or Aragon Ballroom, is the one I remember.
The Bon Ton Ballroom was opened in 1922 on the south side of the Ocean Park pier in Venice. The south side of the pier in Venice was sometimes called the Lick Pier. In 1924, a massive fire consumed the entire pier. The pier was quickly rebuilt with a new Bon Ton Ballroom. In 1942 it was renamed the Aragon Ballroom after a famous club back east. Many great old jazz bands played at the Aragon Ballroom on the pier in Venice. In the 1940s, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra, and Harry James and his band played at the Aragon. During World War Two, the ballrooms were filled all the time by workers from Douglas Aircraft and locals who needed a break from the war. The Douglas Aircraft Company was next to the Santa Monica Airport on Ocean Park Blvd. In 1950, Kirk Douglas shot part of his movie”Young Man With A Horn” in the Aragon Ballroom.
After the war, business was down on the piers. In 1946 the city of L.A. decided they didn’t want the Venice pier anymore and they ended the lease. Sadly, in 1947 the wonderful Venice pier was demolished with its dance halls, auditorium, rides and the Venice movie theater. The Ocean Park pier didn’t have the competition anymore and did better.
In the mid 1940s, the self named King of Country Swing Music, Spade Cooley played at the Venice Ballroom, and for a time at the Aragon. In the late 1940s he moved to the large La Monica Ballroom on the Santa Monica pier. He became a giant sensation when he went on TV. When I was a child we’d always tune in on TV and watch Spade play his country fiddle, or “fidoodlin”. He was a big star until, while drunk, he horribly beat and killed his wife Ella Mae. He called her “the purtiest little filly in California!”. He wrote a love song to her called,”Spadella”. In one of his drunken rages, he imagined she was having an affair with the famous movie star, the King of the Cowboys, Roy Rogers! Spade was convicted in a sensational trial. It was as big news at the time as the O.J. Simpson trial was! One of Spade’s big hit songs was, “Shame On You!”.
In 1951, Lawrence Welk and his “Champagne Music Orchestra” took over at the Aragon Ballroom. He also went on TV and became a great success. Ballroom dancers packed the dance floor as Lawrence played polka and pop hits on his accordion and led his big band with a, “anda one, anda two…”. He had a bubble machine blowing bubbles like champagne. Many musicians and singers became famous on his show. When I was a kid, I was in love with the lovely young Lennon Sisters who sang on the show. They became huge stars. Welk’s son discovered them while attending Venice High School with the older sisters. A couple of the Lennon brothers also played music later in the local rock band called ‘Venice’.
Occasionally the Aragon Ballroom had special events. In the early 1960s with the anti-communist madness going on in America, there were anti-commie rallies held there.
In 1958 the Ocean Park Pier was transformed into a fantastic ocean themed amusement pier called Pacific Ocean Park (P.O.P.). Lawrence Welk continued with his orchestra on TV in the Aragon Ballroom at P.O.P. until he moved to Hollywood in 1961. For a short time the big band leader Freddy Martin took over at the Aragon. However, the days of the old big bands was coming to a close. Pacific Ocean Park already had success with that crazy new music called rock & roll. The Aragon Ballroom would soon rise again, reincarnated into one of the greatest rock and roll clubs of all time… I’ll tell you about it next month…
(For more history read: Venice California: ‘Coney Island of the Pacific’ by Jeffrey Stanton and Pacific Ocean Park by Christopher Merritt and Domenic Priore).
By Greta Cobar
Talk of a possible sale of our historic Venice Post Office started in March 2011 and was followed by an unprecedented community unity in our efforts to keep it a public institution. Rallies, petitions, media attention and dozens of articles published in the Beachhead did not eventually stop the sale.
Movie producer Joel Silver bought the building in September 2012 and postal services were moved to the hole-in-the-wall annex that continues to operate as a post office.
In our efforts to save the Work Projects Administration building from going into private ownership, several Venice citizens petitioned the Postal Regulatory Committee (PRC) for review concerning the sale. The PRC’s response was that it lacks jurisdiction.
A lawsuit was filed in District Court in Washington D.C. in March 2012 by Elaine Mittleman challenging the PRC’s assertion of their lack of jurisdiction over post office sales. Created to monitor the actions of the United States Postal Service (USPS), the PRC was meant to be an advocate for the public and to ensure public’s access to postal services.
Mittleman appealed the decision to move postal services in Venice to the annex, arguing that closure of our historic post office would severely reduce or temporarily eliminate the availability of postal services to the community. The PRC dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.
However, on August 29 2014 Mittleman filed a petition for rehearing in the D.C. Circuit Court, asking the PRC to file a response.
“It does not mean that the petition will be granted, but at least the Court wants to know what the PRC has to say in response,” Mittleman stated in an email message.
Edward Biberman’s Story of Venice mural that had adorned the wall of our historical post office was leased by the USPS to Silver for fifty years at no cost. The community has been struggling to get the USPS to lease the mural to a public institution, such as the Venice library, where the public would have access to it.
The so-called post office crisis is a manufactured crisis created to destroy a unionized government institution that delivers to all in favor of the private shipping companies that charge more and deliver to less.