Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Jack Prichett Photo Exhibit Opens At Hal's - Night Vision: The City After Dark

Hal's Venice was jam packed last night for the opening of an exhibit of photography by Jack Prichett. A longtime capturer of Venice images, Prichett was showing work from his series called Night Vision: The City After Dark, which were all metal plate images of Venice and L.A. proper.

Guests mingled and schmoozed in the main room at Hal's on Abbot Kinney, as our favorite waiters walked around with trays of nibbles, like sliders and little shots of tomato soup. Yum.

Other Venice artists were on hand, like the wonderful Amy Kaps (fresh from her performance at Red Cat!), who introduced me to Mr. Prichett, who amazingly I'd never met before.

That's a cool thing about living in Venice ... you think you know just about everyone, and then you go to something, and you meet a whole new crew of wonderfully talented folks whose paths you just haven't crossed yet. A new friendship around every corner.

It was a BIG weekend, so my Hal's visit was brief, but I left having seen more cool art in Venice (on display at Hal's Abbot Kinney for the next month), and with new friends to boot.

Thanks again, Venice. XO

Thank You, Venice! - The 90291: Venice Unzipped Lantern House Fundraiser!

Oh, Venice. How great are you?! We had one big shindig at the Lantern House on Saturday night to raise funds for our upcoming documentary 90291: Venice Unzipped. It was awesome, and I'm still beaming over it.

Documentaries take money to make, so that was the impetus for the affair, but really, it was all about our community and how much we all love our Venice. Our film is going to examine income inequality in the United States, with a zoom lens on Venice as an extreme example. When you have 6 million dollar homes with a tent city in the alleys behind them (or in their yards), something is wrong. We are going to talk about it, and try to come up with some solutions together, as we celebrate what is really the last beach community of color. 

If you've never been to an event at the Lantern House, you really should try. It's so perfectly Venice, with art everywhere, and an eclectic vibe that really feels like what we're about. The chandeliers in the trees, and the several little bungalows making up the whole space transport you into a magical scene that truly was perfect. Eternal thanks to Scott Mayers - and his gargoyles - for opening up his home to share with us.

The event at the Lantern House was hosted by myself and my co-producers on the film, Colin Keith Gray and Megan Raney Aarons ("The Sibs") from Grainey Pictures. The wonderful women of Fiore Designs handled the floral decor and the food, and it was all just gorgeous. 

Spirits were donated by Venice Duck Brewery and Jim Robb, while desserts were provided by local artisan chocolatier, Chocolate Wonder Love and Erewhon. All were excellent, and so good that they vanished before I could even get any, but I was fine with that.

It truly was an event by and for the community. Local businesses donated super cool stuff for our silent auction, from beautiful photography to dinners at local restaurants to clothing to hotel stays to classes to even a basket full of Ruby's Doobies! All were extremely appreciated, and beyond generous to our cause. 

D.J. Rick spun the tunes, and our first musical guest was my dear friend, Lacey Kay Cowden, who entranced the revelers, even under the challenging circumstances of being in the time slot when people were still arriving, and highly vocal during her set. She is a pro, and a treasure. Thank you, Lacey!

People mixed and mingled, and then we gathered them all up to hear an introduction from our host, Scott Mayers, who is the owner of The Lantern House, and a true raconteur. He told stories of when he first moved in, and had to duck bullets in his shower ... how things change - and stay the same.

Colin and Megan gave speeches about our film, and our hopes for making it a true community project. We asked for help in casting our families that we will be following over the next year, and if you have any suggestions to that end, they may be given to Andrea McHugh HERE

We showed a trailer of our film, and if you were not able to be in attendance on Saturday, you can watch it HERE. It should give you a good idea of what we're trying to do, and the conversation that we're trying to have. 

I gave a little spiel about how I've been telling the real stories of real Venice for over a decade now through the Free Venice Beachhead, and right here at Blogtown, and how people should know by now how much this town and its denizens mean to me. And how much I value being a part of this community that embraced me - and I, it - when I moved here over 20 years ago now. I didn't move here to live on a corporate campus ... I moved here to live in one of the most uniquely cool places on Earth. 

And I"ll fight to keep it that way ... as will pretty much everyone who was there, I'm sure. I also got to introduce my wonderful friend, Michael Dorman, as our next musical guest. He stars in the excellent Patriot on Amazon Prime (one of my favorite shows!), and who is also one of my very favorite musicians. He gifted us with a short set that featured the awesome - and appropriate - "I Ain't No VIP!" My little friend Mia (age 8) said, "He's like Bob Dylan, but better." She's not wrong. See:

I'm so SO grateful to all the local businesses and artists who donated to our silent auction. To everyone who shared our invitation to the event on social media. To everyone who donated to our fund to make this film ... and you can continue to do that HERE (THANK YOU!!!) pretty much until it premieres. 

To everyone who showed up to this super fun party. To everyone who ever supports anything I do. I looked around the entire evening and knew that this is the community where I belong, and my eternal thanks to everyone who makes me feel like that. If you couldn't for whatever reason do any of the above (?), you still can. And you'll feel good about it, and will also be thanked effusively. Try it! Helping others feels good, and that's the point of this entire endeavor. Community. 

After the speeches and performances, it was time to get down and party - and that we did. In fact, Mr. Mayers (our hero) graciously agreed to extend the party hours, and we all just went for it. The silent auction winners were announced, and many people went home with extra cool things that all really do define Venice. I especially loved the happy trio that got the Juice Magazine swag they wanted!

I also need to shout out to my brother, Paul, both for donating a gorgeous photo to our silent auction, and for always supporting me in everything I do. Love you, Pablito! 

And now we'll set off on the journey of actually making this film - and we'll continue to need your help and your input, to make it a project that really, truly reflects ALL of Venice. Please join us on this trip, follow along with our progress, and know how very, very grateful we are to everyone for your involvement. 

Wow, Venice. You really are the best. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

In Loving Memory Of Larry Hendrickson - He Changed Lives

* My best friends in the world lost their father yesterday morning, and the world lost a heck of a guy. After the initial tears dried, friends and family gathered at the Hendrickson home in Richfield to comfort each other, and celebrate together an extremely special life, lived and left on Larry Hendrickson's own terms. I felt so far away, yet still included in their family, like they have always made me feel. It was my great honor to be asked to write Larry's obituary ... but I couldn't stop writing and expressing all that can be said about this man, so it got pretty long. We decided to make it an article here instead, so we would not be constrained by column space on the obit page. Wonderful matriarch Jane helped me get the facts straight, but there is still so much that could be said. Following is an attempt to give a glimpse into who Larry Hendrickson was - and there will never be another like him. My heartfelt love and sympathy to my deeply loved friends, The Hendricksons. We will never stop  honoring and celebrating your awesome Dad. Thank you for sharing him with the rest of the world. See you soon, Friends ...

Minnesota has lost one of its greats. Husband, Father, Grandfather, Coach, Philanthropist, and Hendrickson Foundation founder, Larry Hendrickson, passed away from a rare heart condition called Amyloidosis on Friday, June 15th in his longtime Richfield home, both fully at peace, well loved, and surrounded by family and friends.  

Hendrickson was born on October 20, 1942 in Minneapolis to Joseph and Lorraine Hendrickson. He played all the sports, of course, but was also well known for his unique character and strong faith. He met his junior high school sweetheart, Jane Hagen, at Ramsey Middle School, but didn't make his move until they were both attending Washburn High School. After graduating college at the University of Minnesota and a obtaining a Masters degree from St. Thomas, they married and settled in Richfield. Hendrickson was also one of Richfield High School's cherished teachers and coaches. 

Larry and Jane raised four fantastic children (Christine, Darby, Danny, and Julie), and in addition to the kids, some very special dogs.  "The Richfield Pool" in their backyard served as home away from home to Spartans of all ages, and was often where you could find "Coach Hendy" in more recent years, enjoying a Captain Coke, Lynchburg Lemonade or an icy Coors Light, and sharing inspirational conversations about hockey, hunting, and fishing, while hanging out with his beloved dogs.  

The "Hendrickson" name is synonymous with "Hockey" in Minnesota, and Hendrickson's career illustrated this fact. He coached varsity hockey at Richfield, where they played in the state title game in 1976 (and we're still sore that they lost to Grand Rapids).  Hendrickson helped his good friend, Herb Brooks, prepare the "Miracle On Ice" Olympic team for their gold medal victory in 1980, and served as the strength coach for the Minnesota Gophers in 1985, and the professional Minnesota North Stars from 1986-1988.  As Head Coach at Apple Valley, he led the team to a state championships in both 1981 and 1996 to win a title with a record 5 OT semi-final game that remains revered in Minnesota sports lore as the best high school hockey game ever. He also coached at Benilde-St. Margaret in more recent years, as they transitioned from Class A to AA hockey. Hendrickson was inducted into the Minnesota High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 2010. 

All of Hendrickson's children went on to play hockey ... Christine and Julie play (because Minnesota is a state where the Hockey Moms PLAY hockey), and Darby and Danny both played at Richfield and as Minnesota Gophers. Darby went on to play professionally, even scoring the first goal for the Minnesota Wild, and now serving them as an Assistant Coach. Larry was so proud of all of his children, who live their lives with all the important values instilled in them by these excellent parents. He was also a father figure to many, sharing his guidance and wisdom generously with anyone who needed it. That it's Father's Day weekend that Larry left us is both appropriate and special. 

The Hendrickson's are a very public family, and have always been a the more the merrier type of clan. Their house was always been full of kids and animals and fun, but some of their most special and treasured memories as a family took place privately, as a family, at the cabin on Island Lake in Duluth. It was a refuge and a sanctuary, where deep conversations and quality time together was spent, and those are the times they hold most dear. 

Strength is a word that anyone who ever met Hendrickson would instantly associate with him. "Strength Coach" was even his title at times in his career. Many muscles were built in Hendrickson's home gym, but none more than the heart. It is ironic that his own heart failed him, when he had instilled such strength in the hearts and minds of so many. His equally strong faith is what sustained him through his final months, and as he said, "Don't worry about me ... it's just a change of address." He lived a full - and fulfilling - life, and passed away when he was ready, surrounded by his loving family. That's the way to go.  

Hendrickson also founded the D.J. company, Spirit Unlimited, to support his family while he served in Young Life. Spirit Unlimited was an apt name for the fun they brought to all the Richfield High School dances and countless other events. There was a reunion of Spirit Unlimited crew this past holiday season, and everyone in attendance told stories of how Hendrickson had employed them, guided them, and inspired them. Helped them. How he set an example for them that they all still live by. How he changed their lives.  

The Hendrickson Foundation's motto is "Hockey Changes Lives", and one only has to look around at their annual hockey festival to know how very true this statement is. Conceived in 2011, with his dear friend Mike McMillan's encouragement, Hendrickson set out with the idea as a means to encourage and inspire those with disabilities and special needs through getting them out on skates or sleds to play hockey. No one could leave one of their events without being inspired, including themselves. Lives have truly been changed for the much better through the Hendrickson Foundation - for having known Hendrickson, his family, and being a part of their exceptional organization. 

Hendrickson was also a great and inspirational speaker, who always put philanthropy and serving others above personal glory. A recent Christmas speech ended with the following words to live by ...


"I've been having a lot of thoughts ... and what I realized is what an incredible amount of blessings that  I have personally had - and that I married up. Look, nobody's perfect, life isn't always easy, but out of that comes a value system. It makes you ask, 'What do we believe in?' And I've come to the conclusion that my wife, my children, and their spouses ... we believe in others. When the good Lord gives you a blessing, and you can share it with someone who has had a curveball in life, you are a very fortunate person. What you give gives you more joy than what you have. The blessing we have is knowing that we need each other."

The entire Hendrickson family and vast extended family of friends takes comfort in knowing that our lives are full of blessings, that we need each other, and that we have each other. 

Larry Hendrickson was preceded in death by his parents,  his sisters, Joanne and Susan, and Brother in law, Rick Hagen. He is survived by his beloved wife, Jane ("Nonnie"), daughter Christine Krsnik (husband Renato, daughters Jane and Kate), son Darby (wife Dana, sons Mason, Beckett, Rennick, daughter Addison), son Danny (wife Megan, daughters Grace and Lily, son Robbie), daughter Julie Oss (husband Dave, sons Leo, Nolan, Brody), brother in law Jim Hagen (Debbie) & Steve Johnson, sister in law Kathy McGovern, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends worldwide, and this man's best friend hounds, Nikki, Darby, Burlin, Herbie, Burly, Bruno and Brutus (1, 2).

A Memorial service and celebration of Larry's life will take place  at 4 p.m. Thursday, June 28th 2018 at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, with Reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Hendrickson Foundation, which son Danny carries on proudly in Larry's honor.

Rest in loving Peace, Coach Hendy. You'll be forever missed.

*Photos Courtsesy of The Hendrickson Family

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Radio Venice - A True Venice Treasure

I finally got to sit in on a Radio Venice session last weekend, when my friend Lacey Kay Cowden was making her Radio Venice debut, and I decided to tag along.

Radio Venice has been up and running since 2015, showcasing the very best music that Venice, California has to offer. Each Sunday at 4:20 p.m. (PST, of course), Radio Venice broadcasts live from their location in the Venice Suites hotel right on the Boardwalk.

Hosted by Michael Jost and Tonan Ruiz, the radio broadcast was founded by Jost, Rae Stanton, and Roy Edwards in the home location of Breakwater Studios. It's a tiny little beach apartment, with not a lot of room for an audience (I sat squeezed in on the end of the bed while I watched), but that's o.k., because the show is available to listen to and watch worldwide live on the web. Where it looks and sounds great, and you can almost hear the seagulls flying by out the windows.

Taking a look at the Radio Venice website shows a who's who of Venice and International artists that have played here for their broadcast, and the good new for you if you're just hearing about this gem of an entertainment site, is that they're all archived for you to go down the rabbit hole into, and watch them all. And there's a lot, so get comfy.

After Lacey played her set (beautifully), next up was Jost and his friend, Rick Boston, who comprise the acoustic guitar duo, Los Pochos. Wow. Their intricate playing was kind of a mix of classical and flamenco guitar, and utterly gorgeous.

Our friends were hosting a nacho party (!) while we were there, so we had to race out when there was a lull in the music, causing us to miss the sets from Erinn Williams (bummed because she plays electric guitar while singing opera!), and Lovemando ... but we were able to watch them later on the site - as are you. And you'll dig it, for sure.

The great news is that TONIGHT you have a chance to see some of this music live again! Jost is playing at the new music venue at Pacific Resident Theater from 7-9 p.m., and then you can head on over to The Townhouse/Del Monte Speakeasy to catch Lacey Cowden and friends at her weekly Tuesday excellent residency, starting at 9 p.m. - so you can do it all! On foot or bike from each other! Venice is awesome. And so is Radio Venice. Tune in every Sunday to get your Venice music fix!

Tune in, turn on, drop IN!

Monday, June 11, 2018

The First Flower Fest Fun - Flower Power!

Flower Fest kicked off its first incarnation on a beautiful Saturday on Rose Avenue in Venice. Flower Fest is a brand new festival put on by the Venice Chamber of Commerce and the Venice Art Crawl folks (and some weed companies for good measure, though real Venice supports the o.g. longtime local medicine providers), with a fun way of showing off some of the best that Venice has to offer.

It was billed as "A Taste Of Venice", so there were a lot of food booths. Local restaurants set up little outposts of their brick and mortar locations, and there was pretty much anything you wanted, from Italian to Asian, from Casa Linda to Great White.

You didn't really get the flower vibe until you passed through all of the restaurant tents, but then there was booth after booth of lovely blooms of all kinds.

You could get flower crowns custom made, you could get them braided right into your hair ... and you could stop traffic with your giant handmade headdress, just like the groovy old hippie days in Venice.

As it was a collab with the Art Crawl, there was also plenty of art on hand.

Artists were live painting murals up and down the blocks, featuring flowers mostly, but also messages of absolute truth.

One of my favorite local artists, Beckett, was also on hand doing some live painting on a canvas set up for kids to go to town on, and his rainbow was my favorite piece I saw all day (and I don't think I was alone in that, as several bystanders stopped to photograph this little boy happily painting away, while taking it very seriously). Teach the children well!

Beckett also started his own art collection, finding a piece he couldn't live without from artist Todd Goodman. The two creatives took time out to pose together, in a summit meeting of two important Venice painters. Awesome.

A stage was set up at the closer to Lincoln end of Rose, festooned with paper flowers and blasting terrible music - at least when we were there. Anxiety-inducing beats were being spun by some D.J. that didn't really know his family audience in the early afternoon, but I heard it got more awesome as the day progressed. It culminated in a performance by Phantogram there in the street on Rose, that I was bummed to have to miss, but heard was great.

I say the more Festivals the merrier, and you really can't go wrong in Venice with food, flowers, art, and music. All the things we love. Plus, a reminder that one of the most important aspects of life is to GROW. It was a little under-attended, possibly because not very many people I talked to had known about it ... it was more a delightful surprise they stumbled on to out on a Saturday bike ride or stroll.

Congratulations to everyone on another cool thing to do in Venice ... may it grow!!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

90291: VENICE UNZIPPED - A Film For Our Community

Friends ... all you have to do is walk down any street in Venice to know that there is a massive issue with income inequality in our community. I believe it is THE issue of our time for our entire country. The way that you begin to understand any issue is through the stories from the people that it affects. So, when feeling an intense need to DO SOMETHING about it, and sharing stories about it, you start to come up with ideas for solutions ... and the way to do that is always knowledge. Learning about the roots of an issue, and going from there.

My friends Colin Gray and Megan Raney Aarons ("The Sibs") are longtime Venice residents and filmmakers, with several successful documentaries already under their belts, and they saw the same multi-million dollar houses with tent cities in their Venice backyards that I did, and once we got to really talking about it all, we felt that Venice could be zoom-lensed on as an example of what is happening across this nation ... and begin to do something about it.

90291: VENICE UNZIPPED is the film we are setting out to make. We'll embed with three families - one homeless, one middle class, and one wealthy - living in almost unimaginably different circumstances here in Venice. We'll also talk to friends and neighbors across all income and cultural divides, interview local and national thought-leaders from multiple points of view, and attempt to make some sense of it all. Will it be a cautionary tale about what not to do to a vibrant, diverse community ... or a success story about how people came together to preserve what is wonderful and historical about this place, and how we looked after our own? Time will tell ... and shooting begins soon.

All films take funds to create, and we are holding our first fundraiser at The Lantern House in Venice on June 16th, and we would love for all of you to be involved. Come to the fun event. Send a little (or big, if you can!) tax-deductible donation via our fundraising link HERE. (A detailed equity investment prospectus is also available upon request HERE. Donate to our silent auction of unique Venice items (let us know asap if that's a way you'd like to contribute, so that we may also promote you in the process!). Share your own stories with us, or point us in the direction of a good tale. This is going to be a film for our entire community, and thus, entire community involvement is crucial to telling the whole story.

We are also starting our search for the three families we’ll be embedding with in our documentary.  If anyone has a suggestion for a family who might be willing to participate in our film, please contact us HERE.  We’re looking for one homeless couple / family with or without kids, one middle class family with kids, one wealthy family with kids.  We will be very mindful of everyone’s time and space.  The plan is to film these families for 6-8 days total, each family, over the next year.

The fundraiser information, donation links, and the link to our brand new trailer are again all below. Please read, watch, share, and chime in to let us know what you think! This project is for all of us.

As a friend of Venice Beach and this eclectic, world renowned community… We Want You!  Come be a part of our feature documentary's grass roots fundraising event on Saturday June 16th from 7- 9pm.  Hot links to RSVP and for tax-deductible donations are in the attached PDF, as well as below.  

What:  90291: VENICE UNZIPPED fundraiser
Where: The Lantern House, Venice
Parking: Bike, walk, or park on street
Support: To make a tax-deductible donation, please visit:  https://www.documentary.org/project/unzipped

The film:  90291: VENICE UNZIPPED is a provocative feature documentary about income inequality in America, told through the lens of one community and three families living in the same 90291 zip code, but at the opposite ends of the growing income divide.  In the film, we’re embedding in Venice, California, the once gritty, artistic and working class beach city, now the epicenter of gentrification in Los Angeles and a growing homelessness crisis. We’ll follow three families - one homeless, one middle class and one wealthy - living in almost unimaginably different circumstances, while putting a human face on Venice’s vanishing working and middle class.  We’ll then follow a proposed homeless housing project that’s splitting the community in two, make connections to gentrification and affordable housing issues in other cities, and investigate how poverty is being criminalized in America.  Is Venice, the last beach city of color, a cautionary tale about an eclectic community’s demise, or can solutions be found for protecting other income diverse cities across the United States?

Style: The film's point-of-view is investigative, fact-based, and deliberately non-partisan.  Rounding out our embed coverage will be interviews with local and national thought-leaders from multiple points of view.  

The team: Brought to you by long time Venice locals - writer / director Colin Keith Gray and producer Megan Raney Aarons (AKA “The Sibs” - Atari: Game Over, Being Canadian, Freedom’s Fury);  journalist / co-producer CJ Gronner (Blogtown); political consultant / co-producer, Marc Baranov;  EPs Amaechi Uzoigwe (Run The Jewels) and Lorien Gabel (Interlog, PINGG); Supervising Producers Matt Green (Refuge Wild) & Andrea McHugh (Hell’s Kitchen, Oprah Winfrey Show, Ghost Hunters); Emmy award winning editor Mohamed El Manasterly (The Square); DP Tyler Heckerman (The Cape); and Emmy award winning VR director, Ben Tricklebank (Clouds Over Cuba). Project is produced by GRAiNEY PICTURES and EVO Films USA.  

Schedule: We'll film Summer of 2018 through Spring 2019. Plan is to then complete the film by Fall 2019 in time for submission to Sundance and other premiere festivals. Goal is to then debut at a major festival and release the film Summer/Fall 2020 in advance of the 2020 Presidential elections. A larger social impact campaign will then launch around the film release to provoke further debate on the issues . Project elements include a virtual reality (VR) short film, an interactive website, an augmented reality app, and a comprehensive educational initiative.

Giving Back:  With a topic this pressing, we feel it’s important we give back.  90291: VENICE UNZIPPED will donate ten percent (10%) of the film’s total profits to leading grass roots organizations and NGOs that are actively engaged in income inequality & homelessness issues in Venice, and across America.

Funding: The project is being funded through a combination of equity investments in the Unzipped Movie LLC, non-recoupable grants, crowd-funding contributions, and tax-deductible donations to the film through its' fiscal sponsor, the International Documentary Association (please make donations by clicking on the Make A Donation tab above). A detailed investment prospectus (PPM) is available upon request.

Why you?  We'd truly value your involvement & support at our fundraiser as we craft, cast & compose this important story.  Filming to begin this Summer across Venice. 

We can't wait to make and show you this film! THANK YOU!!!