By Carol Fondiller
Frankly, I feel as if I’m viewing the decades of the Free Venice Beachhead’s existence on old celluloid film. Jumping and bumping with splats, cracks and flashes. Cutting through images that have been spliced together with cellophane tape being fed through the old moviola of my brain.
Who was that guy with the Jesus-length hair who was a master of lay-out? Can’t remember his name. And John Haag – “this paper is a poem” and through the four decades of its publication, there were poems in every issue of the Beachhead.
The remaining Beats watched with tolerant condescension as the collectives struggled to put this together.
The margins were never even, mis-prints, mistakes were always in abundance. Somehow, no matter now hard we tried to eradicate those cussed little errors, they’d pop up to be forever immortalized in print. Some contributors were really deeply hurt by what they considered negligence and disrespect for their articles. My thought was we gave voice to the voiceless. There were and are many voices in Venice who speak and are ignored. The Beachhead enabled those voices to be heard by a larger group than just their allies.
The Beachhead grew from a bothersome little rag to an influential voice in the community. Truly, the Beachhead worked locally and thought globally. The Beachhead was founded by the Peace and Freedom Party, but except for a few years, welcomed even political contributors to its pages. From polemics and theory to explanations of various laws and regulations and , of course, poems and stories to pro-renter and women’s movements, and anti-war activities, if it was happening locally, it was reported in the Beachhead.
The Beachhead ALWAYS had points of view. It reported events from a distinct populist, what is called leftist point of view. The Beachhead tried to be accurate in its reporting of facts. But it has always been pro majority of the people who inhabit this little blue planet, i.e., the low income folks who are struggling to stay housed, the people who are unhoused and the people who’ve lived in the area for years, but are being displaced because they don’t have $$$ to stay in their community because they have been told by landlords, the city, the state, etc., that they don’t count. (There are still renters who believe that they don’t have a right to voice their opinion, if any, about the direction of their community. The Beachhead still has a lot of work to do regarding consciousness raising about this).
Speak of consciousness raising, the Beachhead raised awareness about stalking and the vulnerability of the people to the dangers of this highly romanticized dangerous activity in a series of articles about the terror and disruption inflicted on a respected member of Venice and a collectivite on the Beachhead.
We used to lay out the Beachhead on the floor using glue, scissors, Xacto Blades and press tape. Oh, who could forget presstype – my nightmare. I don’t know who still uses it, if it exists anymore – it consisted of a sheet of plastic with letters that are pressed down individually onto the paper, rubbed in, and a headline was created. That is, unless parts of the letter fell off, and then the handy dandy black pen would come into play. My headlines were almost always crooked – sort of like a humpback whale swimming through the print.
When the Beachhead first came into being there were no computers. In the mid 70s the holy grail of print technology was an IBM Selectric Composer. I believe Moe Stravnezer and Linda Lucks were the proud owners. I never advanced to more than pen and pencil, having been intimidated at an early age with the typewriter ribbon and indentation. I am forever grateful to the people who slaved over my chicken tracks and transcribed them into print.
Now it is zipped through the computer straight to the printer, who mates with the disk and births many thousands of Beachheads.
The Beachhead has gone through many collectives and many changes, but the message remains the same: PEACE AND FREEDOM.
4 More Decades!
The New York Times and the L.A. Times try to be objective; however, in the face of injustice and greed there is no room for objectivity, but there is fairness. Thank Goodness the Beachhead hasn’t “balanced” discrimination with points of view from the KKK to balance out the view of racial equality.
There, I hope I’ve been clear.
This article is re-printed from the 40th Birthday Anniversary of the Beachhead in the December 2008 issue.
Carol Fondiller (June 22, 1936 – January 9, 2010), pictured above, was the one and only Queen of Venice. She was one of the founders of the Free Venice Beachhead in 1968 and continued to be one of its wittiest, most prominent writers for the next 41 years.
By Carol Fondiller