40th Anniversary of the Free Venice Beachhead: A Night to Remember

By erica snowlake

 Doing it Justice. Not a new slogan by Nike. A sentiment describing how we honor the entity that is so dear to our seaside community, the little newsprint rag packing a wallop since its magical inception in 1968, a year time travelers queued up for, and, equally of sublime consequence, a paper worth its weight in time.

 Summer of Love. Love’s labors won. This paper is a poem. The current collective members pulled rabbits out of hats reading passages from a kaleidoscope of erstwhile and dedicated former Beachhead staff and contributing writers spanning four decades. It was a full house first-gathering of its kind uniting Beachhead past and present with another traditional Venetian Mecca of literary pulse, Beyond Baroque, also celebrating their 40th birthday. 

 The night began with a drop-in by Councilperson Bill Rosendahl presenting the Beachhead Collective with a Certificate of Recognition. Well, yeah! Did the fine print hold hope for the restoration of Venice Cityhood? Indeed, promises are humming in the air, if not in every heart down in Whoville. We unanimously decided to pass this duly noted appreciation onto Carol Fondiller for lifelong guiding divaship of the Beachhead.

 As a recording of the lush vocals of Silvia Kohan singing “Moon over Venice” filled the room, folks were treated to Collectivite honcho Jim Smith emceeing a stellar roster of readings by Collective members and video clips featuring Venice’s beloved mannafestations from the Ocean Front Walk to the Beat Poets to Lincoln Place. 

Nobody rolled in their grave as poems by John Thomas (read by Karl Abrams), Stuart Z. Perkoff (read by Erica Snowlake) and John Haag (read by Della Franco) were delivered with Zen beret finesse, and we all cowered in delight to footage capturing Venetian Poet Laureate Philomene Long’s epic coup d’etat to the Los Angeles City Council last year.

 Tears rolled, however, at Collective member Lydia Ponce’s rendition of her housing plight and the way in which it paralleled so many stories featured in the Beachhead over the years of forced evictions, development-frenzy dramas, police raids on the homeless and the current witch hunt on RV dwellers.

 And who can forget watching the spellbinding last moments of the Lafayette Cafe? Not so much as a pin dropped in the audience as we traveled in time, again to 1983, to a roller-skating Venice of America epitomized by the loving and jesting camaraderie of a bohemian cast of characters, rivaling, no doubt, the early days of Abbot Kinney and crew’s own vision. 

 Intern Jessica Aden read a poem by Rick Davidson and Don Geagan read “Venice of America” by Jane Gordon from the Beachhead’s #1 Issue. Krista Schwimmer read Carol Fondiller’s “The Beachhead’s Back!” and Mark Lipman gave a theatrically stylized reading of the “Manifesto of Free Venice” by John Haag. 

We also dramatized the paper’s commitment to Peace with a flurry of anti-war poems. The night rounded with an endearing live performance of “Moon over Venice” by Santa’s elven bedecked songstress Suzy Williams. The entire Collective then joined in a rousing Carol’s Carol, a 70s modified version of Jingle Bells, penned by the Harpie herself. Lastly, attending writers and chroniclers of Beachheads past came up and “gave testimony.”

Yo, hilarity aboundings aside, in preparation for the evening and December’s 40th anniversary issue, (available online), fingering the worn, yellowing original copies of Beachheads from the headquarters filing cabinet brought sighs and exclamations of wonder from us all at the sheer inexorable brouhaha of existence experienced on this human plane.

 Venice, She, mystical One, is fortunate to have a fertile garden in which to reap and sow her seeds, and a group of dedicated caretakers to tend to her flesh made word. May we grow together in perpetuity! 

THANKS

A special thanks to Fred Dewey, Jim Fleck and the rest of the staff of Beyond Baroque for their gracious hosting of the Beachhead event, to Earl Newman for designing our 40th Anniversary incredibly beautiful poster, to Emily Winters for donating the sales of her art work to the Beachhead, and to Pegarty Long and Aaron Culberson for filming the event. Thanks also go to Cafe Collage as well as Nina and James Merced of the Fruit Gallery for donating spectacular food (and to many others who brought their home cooking) and to Dan and Jason from Groundwork’s coffee for donating a most delicious brew.

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