Thursday, February 14, 2019

Celebrating Love - Arms Are For Hugging!

There's a new message to folks visiting the Venice Boardwalk just in time for Valentine's Day ... Arms are for hugging! I couldn't agree more, and that's the message of love I send out to the world on this day intended for the celebration of love. (Thanks for the art, Trek Thunder Kelly!) Especially on this, the one year anniversary of the Parkland massacre.

It's kind of fantastic that there is a day set aside just for love, right? We all know it's a "made up holiday" and all of that, and can cause a lot of bitterness for those without a significant other - and believe me, I've been there. But I was helping out my friends at Fiore Designs who get absolutely swamped for Valentine's Day, and I helped answer the phone to take orders and write out cards. People, there is still SO much love in the world! This day magnifies it, and this world needs so much more of it. Many of the messages weren't even for lovers ... one Dad called and the message he asked me to write to his daughter made me tear up and have to clear my throat to continue, it was so sweet. We agreed that the best one of the day was "I love all of your curves, but my favorite one is your smile." Not bad. It's cute how nervous people get about what they want written on their cards, and I felt a bit like Cyrano for a couple of emotionally challenged fellows. It was adorable. A bonus was that all of the negativity going around felt like it vanished, even for just a few precious hours. LOVE prevails!

The Venice Sign knows ... and is once again blowing up social media feeds for this V Day. It's cold and rainy but we know the sun will return, and that love for our fellow humans will keep us warm anyway, at least inside. Let yourself feel it, even you, Cynics. Thank you. I love you for reading!

*If in the Venice vicinity and need Valentine plans, tonight is the Suzy Williams and Michael Jost album release party of their new project Bravo! at Beyond Baroque at 7:30 p.m. It's going to be a hoot, and I promise there will be extra love ... enough to go around for everyone!

Happy Valentine's Day, Loved Ones! xoxoxoxo

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Savor-y Event At Kustaa!

We had a lovely event last night at Kustaa Wine & Cheese to celebrate Savor, the new cookbook from our friend, Kimberly Stevens.

The entire evening felt charmed, as it was maybe the one day this week that won't be pouring rain, and it was planned weeks in advance, so we extra lucked out, as Kustaa's seating is almost entirely outside in the open air. Phew! Friends and neighbors came out to get their copies of Savor signed, and to indulge in the cheeseboards and wine that are Kustaa's specialty.

It was a very chilly evening that still somehow managed to feel cozy ... because of the heaters, blankets, and fur throws, yes, but also because there was so much good cheer in the house.

Our friend, Bruno showed up to offer tastings of Wish Wines, which turned us on to the concept of making a wish when you finish a bottle. The wine is delicious, so I'm pretty excited for all of the wishes I have coming to me!

Almost everyone present does something cool in Venice, and it was fun to see connections made and faces behind names be recognized. There was also a beautiful vibe of women-run businesses coming together to support each other in their efforts and dreams (this includes Fiore Designs, who provided the gorgeous flowers for the evening).

For several, it was their first time at Kustaa, and I have a feeling it's going to be their new spot. Many of the people were stopping in to have wine and cheese before heading to dinner elsewhere (the regular Kustaa menu was not being served for the event), and I kind of like that very civilized idea. Or even AFTER dinner. Yes.

Blogtown is very happy to bring people together, and it was a pure delight to host this event with Kim and Tina Bonfils and Alice Koskas From Kustaa. I look forward to doing many more of these kind of fun things, with the hopes that we all get to know each other a little better - and make the world a little smaller.

Many thanks to all who came out on a chilly Los Angeles night to celebrate good books, good food, good wine, and GREAT friends! (*Extra special shout-out to my friend Brenna Thomas who took two Ubers and the train from Arcadia to be with us. Now, THAT is friendship!) You're all just lovely.

*If you were not able to attend, Savor is available at Kustaa - and so is raclette! Mmmm.

Monday, February 11, 2019

A Weekend Protest For Venice - No Chains On Ocean Front Walk!

There was a second protest this past Saturday on Ocean Front Walk to oppose the opening of an awful Starbuck's on our Venice Boardwalk in the space left vacant by the evicted Venice Freak Show - the ultimate slap in the face to Venice and its unique history.

A first protest happened early this year, but it was raining all day (and I was out of town) so the turnout wasn't what was hoped for, so another was planned ... and frankly, we should be protesting this b.s. every day anyway. This time it was bright, sunny, clear skied, and brisk after a week of rain left everything in bold Technicolor once again. Locals gathered on Ocean Front Walk in front of the dreaded Starbuck's, carrying signs and bullhorns and generally heckling anyone who would climb the steps up to the neighborhood-wrecking symbol of gentrification with shouts of "NOOOOO!" "DON'T DO IT!!!!" "JUST SAY NO!!!!" "BRING BACK THE FREAK SHOW!" "NO CHAINS IN VENICE!" and other chants with that general sentiment. Whether they went inside or not, now they know.

You can kind of forgive tourists (kind of) for not knowing, but honestly, what tourist comes to the Venice Boardwalk to go to Starbuck's? Every town - even lame ones - have that jive ... travel is supposed to open your world up to NEW experiences, places, and people ... not repeat the same homogenized behavior as the suburban dwellers that brought this scourge on society to prominence. Venice is for ONE OF A KIND places. Venice has always been about LOCAL business, Mom and Pops. Families bring their kids to Venice (for free, the day after Disneyland) to see something out there, something memorable ... and I promise you, that is not yet another Starbuck's.

Guards were posted up outside of the blight on our community, for no real need. Venice Dogz and concerned members of our changing community are a peaceful bunch, and it got no crazier than bullhorned messages being transformed to the passersby - who heard loudly and clearly that Venice is not just going to sit back and accept this greedy, gentrifying money grab. Now, I've always liked Ben & Jerry's ice cream, but I'll never go to one of their franchise stores on the Boardwalk - RIGHT NEXT to Charly Temmel's ice cream! The NERVE!!!! Whose idea was it to open up a chain directly next to an original, one of a kind ice cream parlor that has been there for decades?! It's so rude and mean, I can't believe the groovy hippie guys from Vermont ever really thought this through. I've never seen anyone sitting outside of there with ice cream, so hopefully everyone knows to go to Charly Temmel when in Venice ... but STILL. The audacity.

I hear a lot of people say things like "Oh, Venice is over" and "Umm .. I think it's too late for Venice" and that kind of thing, and it's almost always from someone who threw in the towel on Venice, left, probably misess it a lot. and it makes them feel better to dis the place that we're all still trying to preserve - at great cost and sacrifice. I shrug, let them think that, and go out to join my friends and neighbors in a peaceful protest to let everyone know we're not happy about it - and they're gonna hear about it, whether they like it or not. The hope is that maybe some other giant corporation will think twice about opening up here in Venice, where they are not welcome by anyone other than greedy landlords and New Venice people who just don't get it - and probably never will.

So, scoff all you want, I don't care. I love Venice, and I'll be arm in arm in solidarity with any and everyone who feels the same and is willing to stand up for it. To stand together and loudly proclaim: NO CHAINS ON OCEAN FRONT WALK!!!

Fists raised.

Friday, February 8, 2019

New David Hockney & Alison Saar Works At L.A. Louver!

There was a packed house at the L.A. Louver last night for the opening of David Hockney: Something New In Painting (and Photography) [And even Printing] ... Continued as well as a new sculpture from Alison Saar almost exactly a year after their dual show this time last year. The crowd was abuzz with anticipation to see the new work from one of the most celebrated living artists in the world, but certainly in Los Angeles, which is almost always the star of Hockney's work. Bright colors and swimming pools made his name, and we were all here to see the latest.

It was almost intimidating to arrive to see the absolute longest line to get in I've ever seen stretching down Venice Boulevard all the way to Speedway. Indeed, it was too much for some who chose to sit it out at James Beach or the Canal Club rather than wait in line, but that's too bad because the line moved very quickly, and the reward was great once inside the door of the Louver.

The first floor was all Hockney, with large scale murals depicting "photographic drawings" of people in chairs taking in the more familiar, colorful works from Hockney. The drawings of mostly men were a little creepy to me, but it's cool to see such a range from someone so known for the almost tropical hues of his beautiful paintings of the great and sunny outdoors.

I've loved the Australian artist, Ken Done, since I was a little kid, and several of the bright new works from Hockney reminded me of those gorgeous visuals from the hemisphere to our south.

This will be a show worth revisiting, as there was really no way to take it all in with so many people crammed in there to see and be on the Art Scene. You couldn't take two steps without running into a longtime Venetian art lover, and that's really the best part of these show openings. That, and the confirmation that ART is still very much alive and well in our fair town. I overheard a girl in line saying in her Millennial drawl, "It's smart that they're putting art galleries in Venice now, there's so much money here." I had to step in and let her know that this venerable gallery has been here in Venice since 1975 ... and that Venice has always been about art, money or none. And always will be, if we the People have anything to say about it. And we do.

The upstairs gallery featured more of the bright works, and a series of drawings of Hockney friends, from Ed Sheeran to this lady that I thought was Jane Goodall, but was really a woman called Erica Bolton.

I loved the piece called The Walk To The Studio, 2018, as it features the wonderful flora and fauna outside of Hockney's Hollywood Hills studio. Lucky fella!

In the Skyroom outdoor galley, there was the new sculpture from Alison Saar called Grow'd, depicting one of her Topsy characters based on the girl in Uncle Tom's Cabin. It is pure power, and the now grown girl/woman commanded the room beautifully. I love Saar's work, and I'm not alone, because there was a hushed and reverent aura over the room from everyone who entered. The importance of good art cannot be understated.

What a great show! And night - as the party continued on to James Beach, the Venice Art Crawl mixer at Canal Club, and then an extra fun whiskey tasting party over at The Stronghold. This was one of those Venice nights that make all the rest of the things going on here all the way worth it. Kind of like standing in the line to get into this show ... there's hassles, sure ... but the art and community you get once you're here is WHY you're here. I love you, Venice. I love you, Art. Thank you!

David Hockney Something New in Painting (and Photography) [And even Printing] 
Alison Saar : Grow'd
L.A. Louver
February 7 - March 23, 2019

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Only In Venice Vintage - For Locals, By Locals!

There's a new vintage store in town, newly opened by a couple of your favorite locals. Your girl and awesome Hinano bartender, Melissa Monroe (yes, the Melissa of "Melissa's Michelada"!), and Petey Pete, local DJ Extraordinaire, have joined forces to create Only In Venice Vintage - a space for clothing creativity and originality in a stall right on Windward Avenue, a few steps from the Boardwalk.

Both Monroe and Pete are self-confessed clothes hoarders, and both have had the dream of their own shop for a long time. By coming together, they were able to make the dreams real, and it's now open for business and discovery - by you.

Monroe was born and raised in Louisiana, and Pete was born in Thailand, and both now firmly claim Venice as their HOME. Monroe moved to L.A. for beauty school, but hated it, and soon ditched that for doing wardrobe on commercials, which she loved because she got to work with clothes. "I'm a clothes hoarder ... it's kind of gross," explained Monroe, adding, "My house, my car, my storage space, they're all full. It's a big mess of happiness and clothes." And now her treasures can be yours. Treasures like a track suit from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Like a vintage Oingo Boingo tee. Like Harley patch vests. Like vintage cord Op shorts. Like you name it, you'll probably find it.

Monroe and Pete have both collected vintage clothing forever, so there's endless potential for your perfect find in their little space on what I'm now calling "Vintage Row". We've got Gotta Have It, Animal House, Only In Venice Vintage, and a couple more all in like one block. As is the point of vintage, they're all one of a kind, original pieces, and every shop contains different treasures, so there's room for everyone in what is a pretty cool shopping destination for vintage clothing hunters. Venice is spoiled when it comes to excellent vintage - and that's a good thing. 

Venice almost lost out to Amsterdam though, when Monroe just about moved there with all of her piles of clothes. A friend there asked her what her dream was, and it was to have her own store. There was a space ready to go and everything ... and then Monroe realized that she wanted her store in Venice. "Venice is my home now." I get it. After tending bar at Hinano's for the past 13 years, Monroe had built up a family and a community here, and when she found the space for Only In Venice Vintage, she loved it because it's like a big heart shape for her to walk from her apartment to Hinano to Only In Venice Vintage to Pete's place ... it's all in the neighborhood.

Everyone always says "Only in Venice!", so that became the perfect name for Monroe and Pete to operate their business under. Their spot right off the Boardwalk brings entertaining characters by all day long, and they can post up in the chairs out front to chat with passersby and help them find just the right Venice souvenir. Also, the Venice Mardi Gras Parade is coming up on February 23, and Only In Venice Vintage has the duds to deck you out for the festivities. This year's theme is "Magical Mystery Tour" and there are psychedelic, sequined, and glittery pieces galore to make sure that you're properly groovy for the day.

As we were chatting, a friend/customer came in and heard me asking what they want people to know about the shop, and "Jimmy" said, "You know there's gonna be some cool shit in there," providing that answer for them. With all the corporate takeover b.s. that's been happening in Venice, Monroe urges their customers to "Stay original. Be one of a kind. Don't be a chain." Exactly. Pete added that, "This is a REAL local business. The people that work here, live here. Support your local Sis & Bro business." Yeah.

It's been a soft open for Only In Venice Vintage, as they still have some things to get done, like get their sign up and some other little stuff, but they're ready to go and are planning an opening party very soon. Friends have helped a lot, with Monroe's boyfriend, Frank, creating the wall collage out of vintage Life Magazine photos, friend Steve building the walls, friends John and Matt installing their lights. While doing all of this work and planning, they both also have their other jobs, Monroe at Hinano, and Pete DJ'ing at Brennan's (Saturdays) and Surfside (Wednesdays) every week. They're busy, but it's all been worth it as they're making their dream come true together. And THAT is worth supporting.

Check them out ... there's a real good chance that when you're there you'll spot something or someone that makes you say or think, "Only in Venice!" Awesome.

Only In Venice Vintage
38 Windward Avenue (formerly the Bike Rental)
IG: OnlyInVeniceVintage

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Save The Date! Sip & Savor at Kustaa!

Oh, I love it when you meet people and hear about things and know the perfect person to introduce them to in order to create great connections, a smaller world, and more fun! That happened recently when my friend, Kimberly Stevens (remember Patio Culture on Abbot Kinney? That was Kimberly and her sister, Karla's store!), came out with her new cookbook, Savor. It is a GORGEOUS book, all about cheeseboards, charcuterie, and the things that go together to make the best savories for entertaining ever. Then I finally made it to Kustaa (the new venture by Yon from Lily's in Venice, and his lovely lady, Tina Bonfils) for their raclette night (molten cheese scraped over your cheeseboard things - Heaven!) and their wine and cheese night ($15 for a cheeseboard and three glasses of wine - a steal in this town!), and WHOA. I thought to myself that I had to have Kimberly meet them, and we HAD to have an event to introduce all my pals to both Kustaa and the wonderful Savor book. So it's on. Next Tuesday, February 12!

Please join us, won't you, for a lovely soirée to celebrate Savor, Kustaa, wine, cheese, and friends! It's going to be a blast, and you can get your copy of Savor signed by Kimberly, as well as great food and wine gifts for your Valentine, if you have one. If you don't, this is your party instead, a couple of days early, and you can get all the makings for an excellent spread to treat yourself. YUM.

I hope you can make it, and I know it's Los Angeles and people are the worst about the whole rsvp thing, but it really does help us to know how much food to have ready. Plus, the first 30 people to show up will get a Kustaa swag bag to take home! Good times! 

You may rsvp to 

Thank you, and I can't wait for you all to know about both of these excellent women bosses!

See you next Tuesday! (ha) 

12954 West Washington Boulevard
Culver City 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Roller Dreams - The Legend Of Roller Dancing In Venice

There was another gorgeous sunset in Venice last night, but the show was not over after that. It was on to Beyond Baroque for Gerry Fialka's Laughtears annual night of Venice cinema. The main event was a screening of the wonderful documentary, Roller Dreams, which tells the story of the rise (and decline) of roller dancing on the Venice Boardwalk.

The 15th annual cinematic evening of works featuring Venice had a packed house for the event, which began with live music from Sara Messenger (a star of Roller Dreams) that I was still looking at the sunset for, and then a film from Taylor Cox called PULL, about artists and people in Venice listening to their inner voices to continue to be creative. That one was a nice intro to the rest of the night, especially as Fialka is one of the main people being interviewed within the film. It's great to see filmmakers continuing to be inspired by our Venice.

It was was standing room only in the Beyond Baroque auditorium by the time Roller Dreams screened, with locals and roller skater fans crammed into the room to witness a piece of Venice history on the screen. The 80's were all about roller disco, and Venice was at its very heart. The skaters were rock stars down at the Boardwalk, and thousands of bystanders would surround them to cheer them on. You meet characters like Sally, Duval (who dressed up like Superman in a cape - RIP), Jimmy, Terrell, and the mean mug of "Mad", who was the undisputed ringleader of it all.

Times change, and the roller dancing scene was eclipsed by the skateboarding one, but that's not the only reason why things changed down there at the Boardwalk. We've been living with the gentrification for years now, which is a big part of this story, along with the issue of race. The vast majority of the awesome roller dancers in Venice were African American, and once there got to be thousands of fans packing in to watch them, the police weren't comfortable and simply put an end to it. The concrete was bulldozed up, the loud music (often Prince) they danced to was forbidden, and that was pretty much that. Except it wasn't.

All of the roller dancers featured in Roller Dreams were in the house for the screening last night at Beyond Baroque - Mad is still Mad. It was extra emotional when they all stood up at the end, because we all now knew the history, their importance to our community and to the rollerskating world, as well as a glimpse into their hearts, and what all of this meant to them. Director Kate Hickey's film was inspired by the Aussie cult film Xanadu, starring Olivia Newton-John, which began Hickey's love for roller dancing. Once she moved to Venice and learned that the pioneers of the sport were all right here (and shockingly never featured in the white-washed roller disco films of the era), she knew she had to tell their stories. She has done so with a loving and respectful tone that shares the joy and pain of the roller dancer's world.

The Venice Beach Sk8 Dancers are still down there every weekend, as entertaining and groovy as ever. Now that I know their stories, I just want to go down and watch them all the time. Or better yet, learn from them, as they all said they welcome everyone and love to teach people new tricks (and rollerskating is making a big comeback! Way cuter than rollerblades). They also need our help. The Skate Dance Plaza needs a facelift (and to be even and not crumbling), and they have a Go Fund Me set up to improve the conditions so they may continue offering fun and entertainment to the global village that passes by in the thousands each weekend. They need $20,000 (and the City isn't helping - surprise). We can do this for them. They've given the world so much for decades ... we can help them get funky for decades more. Please support our Roller Dreamers!

Go Fund the Re-Paving of Venice Skate Dance Plaza!

Thanks to Gerry Fialka and Beyond Baroque for a great night of Venice cinema!