Back in the 20th Century with the Free Venice Beachhead

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By Moe Stavnezer

 

I wasn’t there at the birth, but I fell in love with the baby, spittle, poops and all. As befits a doting, now turning senile, grandfather, I can’t remember the first time I saw the tyke though I admired its spunkiness, its zaniness and most of all the honesty in its eyes. Oh yes, its eyes. Because it was the eyes of Venice, intense, glinty, often bloodshot but true and warm and caring.

That’s how I began my tribute to the Beachhead in the 1988 20th Anniversary issue of the Beachhead. In it are articles by John Haag, Carol Fondiller, Rick Davidson, Patrick McCartney, memphis slim, Alice Cramden, Diane Nickerson, Geriatric Jack, Lynne Bronstein and me. Even then, the Beachhead was the oldest continuously published free community newspaper in the country and it was an honor to write for the rag. And it was, quite often, a rag but kinda like that favorite rag that you use all the time and would never throw away. 

I wrote articles for the paper for almost 15 years and was a member of the collective for five. I have a collection of Beachheads that includes issues printed before and after that time. They are, aside from the people I met during those years, many of whom remain good friends, my most tangible connection to a community that changed my life.

The Beachhead was born in an age before computers, even before correcting typewriters. The first articles I typed were on a manual typewriter that I bought at a pawn shop and they looked like it. The paper sported as many typefaces as there were people who could type. My greatest personal challenge was typing Carol Fondiller’s wonderfully creative prose. Carol could, and still can, write but she couldn’t write if you know what I mean. 

The headlines, ah the headlines, were done with press-on type and never looked the same from one article to another. Lots of creative juices went into the headlines. After reading the articles we would sit around in various altered states of consciousness and come up with brilliant, witty and often downright silly headlines. I can still hear Arnie’s distinctive laugh when we came up with one that was absolutely over the top. We often got more comments about the headlines than the articles they headed. 

If this all sounds silly, let me tell you that none of us ever thought that the Beachhead was silly. It was our voice and that was a very serious matter. No matter that our voices were not always the same, they were voices that could not possibly be heard anywhere else. The paper was filled with various viewpoints about issues ranging from the war in Viet Nam to Prop 13 to community planning and development to the latest book on the community. Nothing was too large or too small. Hey, if you wanted to have your say about the latest city plan for the community or the graffiti at the now destroyed pavilion, this was the place to do it. And many, many people did just that and, amazingly, are still doing it. 

 

That the Beachhead is still a vital part of the Venice community is just a little short of a miracle. Yes it’s now available online (there was no online in 1988), it’s neater and more colorful but it still has a voice, loud and clear, that can’t be found anywhere else. 15 years ago I ended my article with a statement that still stands:

“The Beachhead is the only place I’ve found where I, and so many others, can tell it just like we think it is and why. Hundreds of people have, and still, contribute to this paper, thousands read and support it because there simply is no other place to get the information and ideas it offers.”

If you read and value the Beachhead, I urge you to support the paper with some of your hard earned money. This may be a free paper but it costs money to print it and you can help. No contribution is too small or too large.

Long live the Beachhead!!

Reprinted from the December 2003 Beachhead.

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