By Jim Zane
I was part of the Beachhead collective for a 14 to 16 month period that spanned the end of 1972 through the first few months of 1974. I remember the Venice Pier, food buying clubs, the Canals before gentrification and the short-lived nude beach. I, of course, didn’t live in Venice at the time. I lived in Brentwood, a couple hundred yards from a place where a condo would be built in which Nicole Simpson would meet her demise 20 years later.
It was a thrilling and vibrant time. It was a time when the fire of youth colored my world. It was a time of right and wrong and life and death. It was a time when we were going to change the world for the better.
I remember the Beachhead monthly meetings, the discussion about articles, dividing up the typesetting, getting ads, doing layout and paste-up, driving to the printer to drop off the layout boards and then returning to pick up the paper a few days later to distribute it.
I had come to the Beachhead via Gail Williamson. I had fallen in lust with her the moment my eyes first caught a glimpse of her walking down the boardwalk on a warm, sunny Summer afternoon. I would follow this goddess wherever she chose to go. (Thankfully, stalker laws have been strengthened since those years.)
What my eyes couldn’t tell, my head soon would. Gail was a very strong woman. And strong women are my weakness. In those years there were other strong women involved with the Beachhead: Linda Lucks, Dawn Rouda and Carol Fondiller. In fact, I suspect, that if it weren’t for strong women, the Beachhead wouldn’t have survived long enough to come anywhere close to celebrating 400 issues.
Beachhead meetings could be volatile. That came with the territory because this was Venice. And in those years, there was the possibility that you might encounter a lunatic or two in the community. That, coupled with a lack of a sense of humor, could prove to be lethal.
I remember one meeting where tempers flared and tensions were rising at an exponential rate between Carol and a photographer named Jerry. Something had gotten out of hand between the two. Voices were raised in anger as both stood, facing one another. Because we were in the process of cutting out and pasting up the monthly issue, we all had X-Acto knives. Carol’s was in her hand and pointed at Jerry, and he clearly wasn’t intimidated because he was making things worse.
I don’t remember how things deescalated or how Jerry managed to get out of there with his balls intact. But he did. Somehow cooler heads would prevail and another issue of the Beachhead was put to bed without having to phone 9-1-1 for the paramedics. I learned a very important lesson that day: no one should ever be allowed to be part of the Diplomatic Corps without first having to work on the Beachhead for six months.
I am grateful for my time with the Beachhead, my fellow staff members and the community we served. My memories of that time are dear to me. I try to hold onto as many as I can as they relentlessly seem to churn themselves into the fog of the past.
Although I live on the opposite end of the country and am unable to physically be at 400th edition celebration, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to participate in this small way with this short reminiscence. And for those of you who are there that I’ve known, I’m grateful to you for touching my life in the sweetest ways possible; and I wish you the very best as we travel this most auspicious of journeys into the all that is.
As for the glorious Free Venice Beachhead, here’s to another 400 issues. Somehow, I have a sneaking suspicion I may miss that celebration as well. But if I still happen to be on the planet, I plan on being there. So please, save me a parking place and a seat.
By Jim Zane