Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Happy Spring, Lovers!

Spring has sprung! My Mom is here visiting, and it's her favorite time of year, when everything comes back to life. After long Minnesota winters, the warmer temperatures, the flowers blooming, and the general feeling of re-birth is extra tangible, but here in Venice you can feel it too. The jasmine and mock orange are busting out everywhere, we're actually getting to use our dusty umbrellas, and people have that Spring spring in their steps.

I took a sunset stroll yesterday, and decided to go down an alley I don't think I have traversed before. I was rewarded - as you often are here - by a big mural on the back of a house, of masked lovers dipping back in an embrace. Spring fever! I love it. There are so many unexpected surprises that you can discover walking around Venice, and that's why we love it. The lovers, the dreamers, and me.

Happy Spring to all! May you feel the renewal in your own heart, and go out and do some good with it.

"It is Spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't know quite what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!"
                                                                                        - Mark Twain

Friday, March 16, 2018

The March Venice Art Crawl - Celebrating Art And Women

The March edition of the Venice Art Crawl was held last night, and people were out in force, despite the blustery chill (for Venice). My Mom had just arrived to town, so got to experience her first V.A.C., and as this time around it was all concentrated in one area - Windward - it made it that much easier for us to get around. We got to chatting though, and thus, got a late crawl start and had to hustle just as much as usual. But it was worth it, as usual.

The Westside Wisemen were playing live music on the sidewalk in front of Hama Sushi, welcoming us to the proceedings from blocks away, and adding to the festive vibe in the streets. I think my favorite piece of the night was also on the sidewalk in front of Hama, this great beachy work by Sergio Padilla. Want it. 

I looked for Tonan's art stop, but didn't see it, so we zipped up to Surfside, as I'd been told that was the headquarters to get maps. The streets were full of art revelers, and a good time was being had by all. The art in the house was really great, as we were greeted right inside the door by the work of Ryan Patrick McGuire of Ink and Lumber. Real coolly framed photos and designs, the best one featuring Kurt Cobain. Dug it.

My homie Ray Rae was showcasing his gorgeous Venice photography there also, and holding down the information fort. Everyone should have a piece by Ray Rae.

Upstairs at Surfside there was a trip-out interactive hologram experience put on by Cody Nowak, an "AEC Disruptor". Mom got to put on the headset and check out little characters popping up around the room, like monkeys and unicorns and ballerinas floating around in space. This stuff is going to change the entire world of entertainment before we know it, and the art world is already feeling it.

I charged through Larry's to see the work of Molly Wiggins, David Downs, and Aisha Singleton, as well as the always great video installations of Olly Bell. People were digging it.

There was a special edition of Artists & Fleas going down in the parking lot of Great White, complete with a big VAC projection for good measure. DJ music added to the fun, and folks were grooving.

I had to race over to the Erwin Hotel in the middle of it all to see some of the wonderful women artists of Venice being honored for their work. As we're on Venice Standard Time, it didn't start on time, so I ran out to see more art while the got it ready. I'm glad I did, because Noah Gottlieb was showing his work on the sidewalk in front of the Bank Of Venice, and it was great. Like Realist meets Fantasy stuff ... from a local cat. Check him out.

Back at the Erwin, a bunch of us squeezed into a tiny room, where Mike Bonin, George Francisco, and Sunny Bak gave plaques and certificates to the eight women artists of Venice being celebrated appropriately in International Women's Month. Judy Baca, Joelle Dumas, Emily Winters, and Meryl Lebowitz were there to accept their awards and be applauded, while Jules Muck, Jean Edelstein, Christina Angelina, and Lucy Walker were no-shows.

It was great and touching to toast these trailblazers, as women who have helped to shape the Venice art scene ... some for decades, some bursting out more recently. Treasures all.

The ceremony took a while, so I wound up missing a bunch of art, but that's how it goes. I hit up Gotta Have It, whose crowd was spilling out on to the sidewalks as a live band tore it up inside the packed and awesome vintage store.

In a mad dash to see as much as I could, I race-walked down the street to Solé Bicycles, where they had already packed up, but I hopped into the truck of Flewnt to check out his cool Venice-centric work. I had missed the music and the gumbo, but it was still cool.

I took off back toward Windward to see what else I could see that was still happening, and that's when I heard a gun shot and saw people running. Again in front of Surfside. WHAT is going on?! ENOUGH with the guns, People. So sick of it, and what a damper on what had been a wonderful night of celebrating Venice art. Geez. The interesting thing was that it didn't seem like people were all that phased. One dude got shot in the arm, and then people kept on partying under the shadow of the "O'Venice" sign, lit up green for St. Patrick's Day.

And that's a good thing. We can't let the terrorists win - and that's exactly what gun-toting hotheads are. Sorry to any artists I didn't get to see, but ceremonies and shootings sometimes prohibit getting around to everything. I hope everyone has an excellent weekend, stays safe, and continues to create and appreciate art. It's what makes Venice go around. THANKS once again to the great organizers of the V.A.C. for another fantastic time - guns and all. Love you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Rock The Auction For Walgrove Elementary!

I was recently in a conversation where a fancy mother was talking about how they lived in an area that would have her children go to a local Venice school, but the school's programs weren't enough for her/them, so they have them in a private school in Santa Monica. They could walk to the Venice school, but instead endure a morning and evening traffic commute, and put all their resources into a school that doesn't need it. Public schools NEED it. Venice schools NEED it. If all the parents with means ignore that, what is going to happen to the public schools - the very foundation of our nation and world's future? It's extra sad ... and then you get an Education Secretary in Betsy DeVos that is actually dumber than a box of rocks, and you realize it's up to all of us. And I'm not even a parent. We HAVE TO CARE.

Well, SOME Venice parents ARE doing something about it. The great community of parents and friends of Walgrove Elementary fund pretty much everything extra themselves, through their fundraising efforts. Their big one, the Walgrove "We Rock The Auction" annual silent auction fundraiser is on NOW through this Friday, with a zillion things that you can bid on to help out our local kids. They can have the same cool programs that the fancy schools have, right here in our own neighborhood, the kids of our own neighbors. That's how communities - and then countries - thrive again.

The items range all over the place, from gift cards to awesome local merchants like Burro, to classes of all sorts of kinds, to restaurant deals, theater passes, cool art, clothes, cupcakes, and just about anything you can think of. You can get more for your money AND assist Walgrove in making sure our Venice kids have the very best opportunities for fun and learning that we can give them. Education is obviously super needed in this country, and it's well beyond time to improve on it all. Because it's getting embarrassing.

But not at Walgrove! These kids - all through efforts like this auction ON JUST UNTIL THIS FRIDAY, MARCH 16!! - get to do cool stuff like "Studio Lab", an innovative program that does things like having kids do Basquiat forgery paintings. I want in on that myself! They fund the teachers' aides. The physical education program. The P.S. Arts program. The musical theater program - this year putting on Annie! The Walgrove Wildlands and edible garden - where they are creating a monarch butterfly rest stop! Campus beautification and teacher appreciation are also funded by the Friends of Walgrove, and really, it's endless. NONE of those things would be in place without the help of parents, friends, and members of the local community. How awful would that be? The schools always need something, and our government is not funding our public schools even close to enough, so it's up to them. And us. We who care about the future of this country, and our future leaders.

Please think about it ... and then go HERE and bid on something - anything - from this instant while you're still thinking about it, through this Friday. I thank you, Walgrove thanks you, and when you see how great these kids grow up to be, you'll thank yourself.

Rock the Auction for Walgrove!

*Photos courtesy of Walgrove

Monday, March 12, 2018

Conversations With Bootsy Collins At The Miracle!

William "Bootsy" Collins is the best. What a happy, kind, positive spirit this funk legend is, and we got to hear all about him and his life in his conversation with UCLA professor, Dr. Scot Brown, held at the fantastic Miracle Theater in Inglewood last Friday night.

Collins was there to discuss his new album, World Wide Funk, as well as to promote his Bootsy Collins Foundation, whose mission statement is "To inspire, educate, and enrich the lives of individuals from all backgrounds", and he did all of that in a single evening at the Miracle.

There was a meet and greet held before the actual sit-down with Dr. Brown, and when I was introduced to Mr. Bootsy Collins (!), I got unexpectedly emotional out of the blue, and almost cried. You see, I first ever heard of Collins and the Parliament Funkadelic because of Prince, who would always shout out to Bootsy and the P-Funk as major inspirations of his, and you can for sure hear it in his and the "Minneapolis Sound". Prince even inducted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with proper respect and admiration. Collins seemed to understand the moment I simply said, "Prince", and we shared an embrace over the immense loss of Prince - but also over the joy of the moment in being there to celebrate the music, because we still can. It was special.

My friend K.C. Mancebo had organize the event, and when she took the stage to introduce Collins, Brown, and DJ Lance Rock (of Yo Gabba Gabba! fame, who spun the Pure Funk throughout), it was to a rowdy and excited crowd of superfans who were FEELING it. Brown came out and spoke to how influential funk is on all music ("When people reach for samples, they go back to funk."), and then, "Without further ado, Bootzilla, Zillatron, Casper, The Player of the Year, Bootsy Collins!" Collins came out on stage to chants of "Bootsy!", clad in his black and gold rhinestone spiked get-up, with trademark top hat and star-shaped sunglasses. He cupped his ear to take in the chants, smiling big all the while. He loves it, we love him.

Brown spoke to how funk has progressed, and Collins answered that back in the day, "You couldn't say 'Funk' on the radio ... now you'll get arrested if you DON'T say Funk!" He went on to say, "Funk says come as you are, we accept you, we encourage you, we embrace you. Anyone who wants to have some funking fun, bring your rump to the funk!" It's all just so fun, it's irresistible. Patti Collins, Bootsy's wife, was there too, in all her regal beauty, and also to promote her "Peppermint Patti's Grooveminte Girls" organization. Having fun AND doing good for the community is the best.

                                                                                                         *Photo courtesy of Nick Presniakov

Starting out playing with James Brown is a pretty darn good musical education, and Collins told us that "James Brown taught us the ABC's, he taught us the ONE. All number after that are just numbers... "Love has gotta be there. LOVE is the ONE." After Brown, Collins took up with George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic, and then took off on his own with Bootsy's Rubber Band, with great stories for every era. Like how on a song called "Munchies For Your Love", "These were my personal experiences ... I always had my own stash."

                                                                                                         *Photo courtesy of Nick Presniakov

In between awesome statements like "You can't funk with the Funk!" and "You never know how the funk is gonna creep up on you", Collins spoke about how important it is to him that every kid has an instrument, and he's seeing to that through his "Say It Loud" program. This cat just kept getting cooler and cooler the more he spoke.

For Collins, it all started with the church ("Getting down for God!"), where he loved the music he would hear. "Music DROVE me," he explained, "I loved to draw, and paint, but what could I do at school with no guitar?" So he learned the clarinet, and kept at it until he was first chair clarinet. That's why it's so important to him that kids have access to instruments, and he is seeing to it. "If they're interested or good at music, HELP them. Mugs wanna learn. Help kids feel like they're SOMEBODY." When the Q and A portion of the evening began, one man asked where he could get some cool star sunglasses like his. Collins replied that he had them custom made when he first started out so that when kids looked at him, they would see their own reflection in his eyes - as a star. I love that so much, and was my favorite anecdote of the night.

                                                                                                         *Photo courtesy of Nick Presniakov

Another woman snaked me on my questions about Prince, but she asked if they'd ever worked together, and Collins confirmed that they never did. "He would come to shows ... he wasn't a threat, he didn't look like a regular brother (laughter). He took the funk to a whole new generation." That was completely true, because I only knew about the P-Funk due to Prince, and then my late friend, Darren Sakai, who used to play it all the time when he was my roommate in Hawai'i. I sorely wished he could have been there with me to meet one of his favorites. Yep, choked up again!

Catfish Collins was Bootsy's brother, who he said, "Was the whole reason I'm standing up here now. He had my back. Didn't nothing mean nothing but getting to the gig for the people. We'd leave the car in traffic." In response to one man's question about where funk began, Collins replied, "They started calling it 'Funk' with James Brown. They never help the Funk. We need y'all, applaud yourselves (we did). It was never about the money, it was always about giving up the Funk." And you can feel that truth in everything Collins says and does - tangibly.

The questions had to stop sometime, but when they did, the chants began again. "Come back, Bootsy, Come back!" So he stayed and signed everybody's everything, graciously taking photos and taking the time to chat with anyone who approached. It truly was an evening of "Unplanned World Wide Funk Attacks", and we were all better for experiencing it. Massive thank yous to Mr. Bootsy Collins, his wife Patti, Dr. Scot Brown, DJ Lance Rock, K.C. Mancebo, Owen Smith and The Miracle Theater staff, and everyone who was there to feel the funk and the love. Spread it Worldwide!

Friday, March 9, 2018

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. - Part Two

There was a very special gathering of Venice ladies last night at La Cabaña for International Women's Day, that was touching, inspiring, and an awful lot of fun. Organized by longtime Venice advocate for everyone, Yolanda Miranda (in town visiting from Utah, where she said she is like "A palm tree in Siberia."), I felt honored to be there in the presence of such strong and talented women.

                                                           *Poster created by Greta Cobar

Former Free Venice Beachhead ringleader, Jim Smith, was there to present us all (nearly all Beachhead Alumni) with roses on behalf of the men of Venice. Pitchers of margaritas were already flowing by the time I got there, and the ladies were in the mood to celebrate. We had the back patio pretty much taken over, and other patrons were on notice that it might get loud. And it did. Miranda read Ain't I A Woman by Sojourner Truth to us, and it gave goosebumps ... Just click on the link and read it for yourself. 

I'll wait. (I'd post it here but something is messing up with formatting today. Like below. Sorry.)

Wow.  Then Greta Cobar recited And Still I Rise, by Maya Angelou, which is equally great. Cobar's mother, Natasha, was there as well, and it's always great to see where your friends get their radness from.

Artist and poet, Hillary Kaye, created a beautiful poster, and she and Miranda gifted us all with bookmarks made from the same art as the poster that featured legendary women. I love it. Thank you!  There was a purple bag (the color for International Women's Day, I was told) for each of us, containing a sachet that I'm smelling and loving now, and a card featuring Frida Kahlo. I love that I.W.D. is becoming an actual celebration - complete with gifts! 

Suzy Williams sang such a beautiful rendition of Moon Over Venice that a woman approached me in the bathroom and asked who it was that had such a wonderful voice. That's our Venice Songbird for you.  Beautiful speeches were made, and all were honored. Alice Stek was there - she delivers and saves babies born with AIDS every day. Ivonne Guzman was there - she fights for housing and the homeless every day.

                                                                                 *Photo by Jim Smith
A woman was there who had lost her husband to cancer only a month ago, and you could see her regain strength just being there amid women that understood, and enveloped her with love. It truly was a special feeling ... of what it means to belong to the tribe of Women - women who can -and DO - do anything. The mariachi fellows honored us with their beautiful serenades, and the party was on.

There was even a special cake for the occasion, and it too was fantastic. I hope ladies everywhere felt special yesterday, and that the current groundswell of support for each other only continues to build ... into a tsunami of change and progress that cannot be challenged. 

Viva Las Mujeres! 

Gracias, Yolanda & every woman there. You are forces of nature, All. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

International Women's Day 2018 - R.E.S.P.E.C.T!

It's nice that everyone is posting about International Women's Day today, but I've never been a fan of "Days" like this, mainly because I think it only showcases that there's still a need to be set apart, and, of course, we should all be cool to everybody on every day. Still, it's nice. I was thinking about the past year, and all that has been going on in regards to Women ... and it's a good thing. I went through and picked out some highlights of the last year, celebrating women with the women I know and love. It all began with the Women's March in January of 2017, and that thing was something else. Peaceful protest, full of love, all day long. Who runs the world?!

After the Women's March, we took to the streets of Venice for International Women's Day last year. After a great presentation at Principessa, we had our own march right down the middle of Abbot Kinney. Honks and waves of support let us know that the movement is only growing. Women are rad.

I was surrounded by the wonderful women of Venice in the summer when I got to be the Neptune Queen, and it was a glorious day of celebrating with my mermaids ...

... And my bathing beauties! Our Venice women know how to have FUN!

I got to spend my birthday with my best friends, my home friends, and we kicked up our heels on the banks of the mighty Mississippi, where I always go to regroup and feel my roots. I'm so lucky to have lifelong friends that only get better with each passing year.

My favorite woman in all the world is my darling Mother, and we got to spend a lot of time together this past year, with massive appreciation for each other obvious and apparent in every lovely memory that we created. She is a masterpiece of humanity, and I learned how to be a good person from her. She personifies good, and I absolutely honor and celebrate her every single day.

I'm still as tight as ever with my girls from high school, and we had a ladies night when I was home where I once again felt so happy that we can just pick up where we left off every time. It's rare, and it's super extra special to me. I'm full of gratitude for every one of them, again, every day.

The Golden Globes asked that all women wear black this year to showcase the "Me Too" and "Time's Up" movements, and honestly, it's all well past long overdue. Every lady I know has had some sexual harassment b.s. to deal with. I was asked by a kind of old school guy today, "Well, when is Men's Day?" and I just had to laugh. The patriarchy is so old and rusty it's funny, if it wasn't still so gross and wrong. I know SO many smart, funny, kind, talented, gorgeous, wonderful single women (myself included), and I get asked all the time why no one has snatched me - or them -  up yet, and the answer is because men need to be better. Get some balls. Ask women out. Court them. Be good to them. Don't cheat on them (if you can't do that, don't commit at all in the first place). Don't sexually harass them (duh). Communicate. Be honest. RESPECT them. It's really not that hard. But for some reason (perhaps entire generations being overly coddled by their mothers to the point that chivalry is nearly dead because they've had everything done for them - just a guess), it seems to be real hard to grasp. And women should never settle.

 Venice Mardi Gras was full of beautiful, strong Venice women, and there hasn't been a better time yet this year. Hail the Queen!

I love this photo of myself as a kid, because I think I look like no nonsense, and I've tried to remain true to that raised chin ever since. The whole photo is of my whole family, and I've got on a halter and skinned knees from playing with all the boys (there are very few women in my family). I never felt less than. I never felt like boys were better. I felt like I could do just about everything boys could do - and still do. I guess (or I've been told) that that can be intimidating or less attractive or whatever, but if men can't handle women like me - or the scores of equal-minded women I know - then they're really not worthy of us, and here we are.

That little girl wants to be like this woman I saw on the internet when I grow up. Having fun, taking no prisoners, and spreading love all the while. It's all a choice.

International Women's Day feels cooler this year, because we're surfing a changing tide, and it's good. Cheers to ALL women, and Men, we look forward to you being better. Thank you in advance!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Before They Go - A Venice Group Art Show

Last Saturday night was Very Venice, as we celebrated the arts and culture of Venice all night long.

The evening began with a little soirée at Beyond Baroque to toast our venerable literary institution on its 50 years of existence. We're so lucky to still have a place to host such a comprehensive book store and performance facility that celebrates the history - and the contemporary torch bearers - of the Venice Beats - and Friends. It's a true gem.

I got there a little late to hear the program, but glasses were clinked, and we got pretty much everyone there to follow us over to The Hangär (not sure why there's an umlaud) on Centinela to take in the opening of the Before They Go group art show featuring the work of Venice artists, and photographs of them all in their studios in the impressive project from Debbie Zeitman.

You might have seen some of these photographs on the wall at Wabi Sabi the past couple of months, showing our beloved Venice artists in their studios, well ... before they go. Several of the featured artists have lost their studio spaces in Venice due to the astronomical - and exceedingly greedy - rents pricing them out. This night was to acknowledge them all, and to appreciate what we still have, while it lasts - and to ensure that it always does. Venice is meant to be about the art, and this show puts an exclamation point on that truism. In addition to featuring artists that are gone, leaving, still hanging in there by their claws, or thriving and fortunate, some of the work also featured Venice places that are gone, like the Venice Beach Laundry piece from Taylor Barnes (the one that was next to Whole Foods).

There was a great turn-out of artists and the people who love them. Wine flowed, introductions were made, and so were friends. The art was displayed around in little vignettes within the antique/ furniture store there on the corner of Centinela and Palms. It was a smart venue, because you could picture how a piece would look in your own home, as well as it offering ample seating for the many conversations going on around the room.

The diversity of the works were beautiful reflections of the Venice art community itself, and there really is something for everyone. You might be into wildlife, and there was a piece featuring Wise Wolves by Marty Katon for you. It was accompanied by a picture of Katon and a blurb telling about him and his art, as there was for almost all of the artists. I learned a lot about our resident artists that I didn't know before, and it's worth the cruise over to Centinela for the stories alone. Except there's also so much good art as well!

There was an almost photographic painting of artist Peter Lodato by Kenny Harris, that captured the legend perfectly. I wanted to cheers him.

Trek Thunder Kelly was represented with his piece Control Alt-Right Delete, a protest poster that gets right to the point. As ever, our artists are taking the clay of the world and shaping it with their own views, without flinching.

There were a few that would be good companion pieces in the same room, creating fine ocean views wherever you may be. I loved MB Boissonnault's The Long Winter ... and I bet some people are feeling like that right now ...

Google Earth by Jason Marello was another beachy piece that brought you an aerial view of  Venice (also a home to Google) ...

 ...  and the String Field Series by Gary Palmer was also in the vein of water and meditation that added a sense of calm to the bustling venue.

Flavio Biscotti was represented with his piece Monumento, and it looked right at home in its own still-life with lamp and vase - all also for sale.

Rohitash Rao shared his art - and wit - with his piece calling everyone out for always being on their dang phones, When He Finally Looked Up. Zing! Be on the lookout for Rao's upcoming show at Google featuring his fake album cover works. Cannot wait.

Sunny Bak shared her iconic photos of The Beastie Boys, and was there in the house representing.

There are so many artists in the show (29!) that there is still plenty for you to go see that is not picture here, in multiple rooms, while the show is up at The Hangär for the month of March. I think maybe the most legit Venice piece came from Tonan Ruiz, with his Surf Culture - mixed media on a palm frond! It's a diorama of basically what it feels like to be in Venice at the beach. Love it.

Like Beyond Baroque, this show was extra-great mainly for its celebration of the art and culture of Venice, and for its zoom lens on the importance of the arts in our community. To know the actual stories and see the photographs of the artists working in their own studio environments (while they still had/have them) is to truly appreciate what they and their art mean to this place. Sincere and heartfelt congratulations to Debbie Zeitman and Barbara Lavery for this impressive assembling of the current arts and artists of Venice. Thank you.

Before They Go is up through March.

The Hangär
3472 South Centinela

*Shout out to The Rustic Kitchen on Centinela too, for your great food and warm hospitality shown to our rowdy bunch of art hooligans. Thanks!