Friday, January 12, 2018

Try To Set The Night On Fire - A New Jim Mural In Venice

What an excellent surprise to be walking down Speedway the day I got back to town, when I looked up to see a brand new mural of Jim Morrison being finished by muralist Jonas Never on the side of the Ellison Suites on Paloma. With the official "Day of the Doors" celebrated in Venice on January 4th, this was pretty good timing. I missed that, but we can all go try to set the night on fire this coming Sunday (January 14th) when Peace Frog plays at Surfside Venice. If you've never seen them live, and you feel like having a blast, go. You can shut your eyes and imagine it's the real Doors playing for you ... because they're just about that good.

Humming "Love Street" to myself, I walked on to see that the other side of the Ellison Suites had a giant mural of the actor John Hurt (The Elephant Man, Harry Potter, V For Vendetta, etc ...), who is rumored to have lived in this building. It is a gorgeous tribute to the late actor who passed away last January.

Next to Mr. Hurt is a gigantic Lana Del Rey, for reasons I really don't know. I've never heard of a Venice connection with her, but there she is, larger than life. O.K.

I'm of the mindset that all buildings should have an awesome mural painted on them, and the Ellison Suites have never looked better. Take a stroll down Speedway when you get the chance, and tip your hat to the Lizard King there, watching over it all.

And have a sensational weekend while you're at it!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The 2018 L.A. Art Show - Art Galore!

I got back to town just in time for the opening night celebration of the L.A. Art Show, and as usual, it did not disappoint. There is just SO much art that you really almost need to attend every day if you think you might be able to see everything ... and you probably still won't. There is truly something for everyone, and as I heard a dude say to his friend, "Dude, aren't you getting inspired?!" You can't help but be.

Margaret Keane (of Big Eyes fame) was an honored with a lifetime achievement award this year, and it was very cool to see her work up close and personal - especially after watching that film and knowing her back story. Whoa. I loved her Girl From Kaanapali, 1971 the most. It's happier than anything I've ever seen from her.

I'd never seen any of her work with adults in it, and it's really something. Her characters (as in the above Escape, 1962) draw you in with their eyes, and make you want to know more. There are also very recent works, like up to 2015 by the now 90 year old artist. The trip downtown was worth it for this alone, but oh boy, was there ever SO much more.

Littletopia is always my favorite section of the L.A. Art Show, and always the most interesting. Curated by the fine folks at the Red Truck Gallery (from New Orleans), they have the best stuff, in my humble - and honest - opinion. Red Truck is so cool, and I made their Rachael Cronin pose in front of the wonderful Albino Deer piece by Chris Roberts, whose work I simply must own one day. She's incredible - and the mother of gallery owner Noah Antieau. Awesome.

I loved the works by Vance Lorenzini, with an entire booth featuring his work. There were the 12 stations of the cross, with words like "Truth" and "Love" emblazoned across the tops.

There were assemblages with pop culture icons embedded within, like the excellent pieces featuring lyrics by David Bowie (as we pass the two year mark since losing him).

Everywhere you look there is something great to look at, so much so that it almost gets overwhelming, especially when you're running into friends and trying to get something to drink. (*Forget about getting food on opening night unless you're there lined up the second it starts. In all the years I've attended this wonderful event, I've never made it to the food section in time to taste a single thing. Oh well, it's about the art. Eat first.) The good news is that near the food area is the L.A. Arts Online booth, so we got to see and compliment the wonderful Paige Petrone on all of her hard work for this event every year. Venice representing! In this time of strong women (like Paige), there was a piece by Kim Dong Yoo showing off some awesome women.

Art means so many different things to everyone, and there truly is something to appeal to everyone at this massive show, representing artists from all over the world. There was a bike covered with fish from Japan that was probably someone's favorite piece there.

There are always fun installations at the show, and this year was no different (if a bit less dramatic than the live naked lady in fresh flowers from a couple of years ago). The big crowd pleaser this year was Left Or Right - A Healing Project (1998-2018) by Antuan, rows of red punching bags adorned with the most punchable faces in the world. There were particularly long lines to punch Trump, of course, and it was very personally satisfying to me to smack George W. Bush in the kisser, but I was a little disappointed there was no Paul Ryan or Steven Miller there. OOH, are they punchable! Kim Jung Un and Putin were also popular to punch. And rightly so.

Interactive exhibits are always cool, and this time around they had a thing you took off your shoes and walked on and looked at stuff (I didn't have the luxury of time to do so, so might have to go back this weekend) that people seemed to like ...

... as well as Brainstorming: Empathy by Victoria Vesna and Mark Cohen - a thing where you could don alien heads and have your brain waves communicate through color and sound to the other person. Trrrrrippy.

I was happy to see a booth featuring the works of Dan Eldon, the young journalist who was killed in Somalia in 1993, and was the author of The Journey Is The Destination - a personal favorite of my brother's and mine. Eldon's mother and sister have taken on his mission of storytelling to influence hearts and minds.

To that end, this was also an interactive situation, where you could fill out postcards with your personal thoughts and missions to add to a wall to create insight as to how "Connection is the solution." Very cool, and also very, very important to our global village in times like these. Seeing Eldon's personal journals there was also very moving and great.

Right after that I walked by a piece that summed that all up ... Matt Smiley was right. His Lessons In History, 2017 tells us the truism, that the world is just not that simple.

Many works made their statements, as all the best art does. I particularly enjoyed Mass Incarceration by Ryan McCann, showing a weed life in what looked like prison cinder blocks. Good one, as L.A. legalized marijuana as of January 1st, just as the little weasel Jeff Sessions is trying to make it the same as heroin again. Please.

This re-cap is all over the place, as were my meanderings around the massive Convention Center. I'd bump into someone and they'd tell me I just had to see the butterflies made out of international currency, so off I'd go ...

Someone would say to go check out the bedazzled punk rock buddhas, and off I'd race in an entirely different direction.

Inevitably, in my travels back to the other side, I'd pass by some other thing that would stop me in my tracks, like the statue of Rocky punching the side of beef that changed dimension as you circled around it. (I'd often be racing so fast that I didn't catch the name of the artist. Sorry if I did!)

There was a fantasy "Spaceboat" installation that looked like something a Wes Anderson type kid would sail away in, brought to us by Bunnie Reiss at the Superchief Gallery in L.A. Loved it.

Jeff Gillette created a hood out of Hollywood, with a Hollywood sign disintegrating into a shanty town that was pretty heavy.

I loved the needlepoint pieces by Suchitra Mattai, with idyllic scenes featuring people with lasers coming out of their eyes. Why not?

For What It's Worth was a mixed media guitar by Victoria Roberts, inspired by the Buffalo Springfield song that was pretty cool.

This year's crazy realistic head by Kazuhiro Tsuji was the artist Mark Ryden. Not as recognizable as the previous years' Frida Kahlo, Warhol, and Dali, but still as trippily real as ever.

The L.A. Art Show lets you know that art can be a sculpture of a pile of thousands of pennies ...

... an archway made out of wood (that you could probably build yourself for loads cheaper) that I loved and wanted for my own pad one day ...

...random words and shapes (by David Buckingham) ...

... or even a clipboard stating that one will no longer draw flying penises in class.  Again, why not?

All in all, art is awesome. The L.A. Art show itself is awesome, in every sense, including size. Thank goodness that so many people still care so much about art, as it and its creators are needed in the world now more than ever. To shape culture and life, to question it, and, ultimately to celebrate it. And as long as this is, it only scratches the surface, so you really gotta get there yourself if you also love art.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to every artist, every gallery, and everyone who loves ART.

The L.A. Art Show is on now through Sunday, January 14th 2018.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Back In Venice - The End Of The Rainbow!

Hi! Happy New Year, All! 20Greateen! I got back to Venice late last night after a long break in the absolute tundra of Minnesota, and I have to admit, I was pretty torn. I always have a great time back home for the beautiful holidays with my lifelong loved ones, and with all its Winter Wonderland vibes and total hoopla surrounding our upcoming hosting of the Superbowl (GO VIKINGS!!!), and all of my awesome friends and family ... it was hard to leave. When I turned on my phone after the long journey (don't ask), my entire social media accounts were all full of rainbows over Venice! Beautiful, perfect rainbow photos (like the below one from Jennifer Everhart) telling me that here is a lovely place to be ... and I took it as a great omen.

                                                                                                                           Photo: Jennifer Everhart

Home was the movie Frozen ... like there were several days that did not make it above zero. The entire Minnehaha Falls was frozen solid - a stunning spectacle of winter beauty.

The historic Grain Belt Beer sign was re-lit above the Mississippi River after being dark for decades, and the event took place on a night that was -15 outside. We went anyway. It's been a long time since I was that cold, but it was great, and invigorating, and makes you feel ultra-alive (unless you freeze to death - an actual concern).

It's always cool to be walking out on a lake or river that is usually water, and a trippy feeling every time. I ate it all up, and wanted more.

Then, as it goes in Minnesota, yesterday before I left yesterday, the temperature soared to +45, and I found myself wanting the cold. There wasn't that much snow to begin with, and it all melted yesterday. Now I hear there's going to be a ton of snow tomorrow and back below zero - always right when I leave. Only in Minnesota, indeed. THANK YOU to every single wonderful soul that made my time at home so very special, once again. I love you.

I got back to a bright, sunny Venice, having missed the rain entirely (kind of a bummer), but met with such warmth and beauty that you can't be missing rain that you missed. I took a walk to the beach to greet the beauty that I had also sorely missed, and bumped into seemingly everyone I knew along the way.

People I had been thinking about suddenly appeared, and things have been falling into place beautifully right from hello. There is a whole bunch of exciting work coming up, and this is where I need to be right now. I missed you, dear Venice. Thank you for always being such a fantastic spot to return to. I breathe it all in deeply, and exhale in gratitude. 2018 ... invigorated and ready to go!

See you soon.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Venice Or Venaughty?

Everyone is racing around out there trying to get everything done in time for Christmas. The post office is crazy. Traffic is crazy. Moods are crazy. Families are crazy. Our government is certainly crazy. But in spite of all the craziness, there's a great feeling surrounding it all. Some might call it the Christmas Spirit. People are just a little bit nicer. A little bit cooler. A little bit more helpful. A little bit more fun. We're also all reflecting back on a year that was extra crazy, and thinking ahead to what will be next year. I already know it's going to be better, it just has to be. This reflection also begs the question ... were you Venice or Venaughty ... and what WILL you be next year?

I like to be balanced, so I suspect I will be a little bit of both (in a good naughty way). The world can really use us ALL being a whole lot nicer, so my hope for the new year is that everyone will fall far more over to the VeNICE side of things - no matter where you are. It's a state of mind, after all.

As we spread out all over the globe, please know that I wish a MERRY CHRISTMAS to one and all!

And the BEST New Year any of us has ever had!!!

Looking forward to sharing many yuletide tales upon my return back to VeNICE. Spread peace, good cheer, and have fun, Everyone!

Love, your Christmas Carol 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Café Collage - The Locals Hang

Café Collage has been taking care of Venice locals since 1993, and locals remain their focus. Amid all the change going down in the area recently, it's a consolation to walk into the doors of a place that has remained chill and unpretentious no matter what is happening around town. If you've been missing Abbot's Habit (and who hasn't been?), Collage offers the same relaxed neighborhood atmosphere, with the same affordability ... but with, ahem, better food and coffee. Just saying.

I have a long list of people and places that I want to write about in telling the stories of Venice, and Café Collage has been on it for years. It got moved up higher when I recently read Patti Smith's M Train, and she talks about sitting in our own Café Collage years ago, when a surfer ran in yelling, "Art is dead!" and ran out. I can't have Smith writing about a place in Venice that I haven't yet written about, so I bugged manager, Paul Evidente, until we finally sat down to chat about the wonderful spot there in the shadow of the Venice sign.

Collage will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2018, and locals have loved it the whole time, making it a welcome part of their daily routines. There have been four different owners in its lifetime, and current owner, Jennifer Park, has guided it to be the best it's ever been. The café got its name from the murals that used to be painted all over the ceiling, and has always been a place for local artists to showcase their work. Raymundo has been back there making your sandwiches since 1997, and always has a smile and a hello, no matter how busy working he is. There is a warmth extended to everyone from everyone, and it is both noted and appreciated every time I walk in.

Between serving the customers/friends coming in all morning, Evidente told me that he locals are the foundation, and that there is "no such thing as Venice Beach without the locals." Exactly. Whatever is left over at the end of every day is brought down to the beach and given to the homeless. There is never any trouble inside of Café Collage for exactly that reason, there is a mutual respect between everyone.

Having said that, it can also be crazy, and employees of Collage have pretty much seen it all. There might be a topless girl having her picture taken under the Venice sign. A homeless dude might be chopping wood outside to make a warming fire. There might be a "Running of the bulls" meeting up (a bunch of rollergirls being chased by one dressed like a bull). There might be a fight outside, but never inside. And if there is a fight, locals like Tonan will take care of it (as has happened). "If you take care of your locals, the locals will take care of your business," Evidente said, and that is fact.

Rachel Walker is a bright spot in my day when I walk into Collage and am so pleasantly greeted every time. She told me that she's tried everything on the menu, there's something for everyone, and every single thing is good. She's right. They update the menu all the time to stay current with the competition, but there really is no competition in the area when you can still get a drip coffee and something to eat for like $3.00. At a time when pricing of just about everything in Venice has become outrageous, it's awfully nice to be treated well and not break your bank over breakfast. They know their customers, and keep everything affordable, as a priority. "I just want to make sure every customer walks out happy and content," says Escalante, and you can truly feel the sincerity behind that statement when he says it.

He continued, "Venice is a small community, and we know all the faces. There's still a 60's, 70's, 80's feeling, and it's all about the people. I'm from Hawai'i, and I'll never go back. The fun, the drinks, the ladies ... that's why people want to come and be a part of it, every tourist's first stop is Venice ... everyone wants a piece of Venice." But for those who live here all the time, Café Collage is still for you most of all.

"We're here for everybody, from the homeless to the rich. We want to make you feel at home, give you quality, and leave happy so that you'll come back to us." Park nodded as Evidente told me this, and I can see them walking this talk every day. Please support this wonderful locals spot, as they have supported the community from 6:30 am to 7:00 pm (later on special events like the sign lightings!) every day for nearly 25 years.

Thanks and Happy (early) Anniversary to all the great people at Café Collage! Oh, and try the Palermo drink - espresso with orange peel, chocolate, and nutmeg. The holidays in a cup!

Café Collage
1518 Pacific Avenue

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Terry Kath Experience ... A Daughter's Labor Of Love

Do you know who Terry Kath is? Well, his daughter is going to make sure you do. My very talented friend, Michelle Kath Sinclair, directed a documentary about her father, Terry Kath, and friends and family finally got to see the wonderful The Terry Kath Experience last night at a screening at the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills.

Kath was the lead guitarist and singer of the band Chicago, who died tragically from a gun accident in 1978. Michelle was only 2, and never really knew her father, aside from photos and stories. This documentary is a daughter's search to know her dad better, and it is an obvious labor of true love.

Co-produced with our friends Jordan Levy (also the D.P.) and Tony Papa (also the editor), the film that we'd all been hearing about for seven years was finally up there on the screen for us, on the day of its digital and dvd release (Dvd's already sold out! Now streaming everywhere!). The theater was packed with friends and family and rock stars ("This is like the most epic party I could ever have!" - MKS), all of whom laughed and cried and got to know the absolute genius of Terry Kath, if they didn't know already.

The film opens with a quote from a music journalist that stated that had Kath been in his own group, called something like "The Terry Kath Experience", everyone would know about him, but as he was a member of a big ensemble band like Chicago, and passed away almost 40 years ago before he could get his own solo work out there ("without horns!"), history has not remembered him in the same way that it does someone like Jimi Hendrix. That's sad, because Hendrix himself highly revered Kath, and considered him a better guitarist than himself - and said so.

Watching Kath in concert, it's clear to see why. INCREDIBLE. The music that flowed through this man's mind is almost hard to understand on paper (the film shows his charts), but when you hear it, it's all this glorious rock and roll that makes total sense. The gigantic loss of this man is tangibly felt by all of those interviewed in this film, and as you watch it, you can feel the loss to music at large, never mind the loss of a little girl never knowing her father.

I felt extra emotional throughout the film, because I lost my dad when I was four, and didn't really know him either. We don't have all this beautiful footage of my dad, or the stories, or the music, and I felt myself feeling deeply wistful that we did. Then, right when you had tears streaming down your face at the senseless loss, someone would say something hilarious (often Joe Walsh, who was there, and deserves his own documentary!), and you would laugh while wiping your eyes. As Dolly Parton said in Steel Magnolias ... "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." Agreed, and this film will give you that feeling, for sure.

Michelle travels to Chicago to walk the same streets as her Dad. She interviews all the bandmates and peers of Kath, who all show how much they miss him right on their faces, as well as how much of a thrill it was for them to be interviewed by their friend's now grown baby daughter, who looks so much like him many of them got choked up. The moment that really got me was when they show Michelle on her wedding day (to her husband, Adam Sinclair, another producer and great friend). Her stepfather, Kiefer Sutherland, makes a toast to the newlyweds, and quotes Kath's song that he wrote for his little girl, "Little One"... because he wasn't there to do it himself. I was a wreck, and it really brought home how much Kath was missed, loved, and still in his daughter's life. Beautiful.

Michelle found all kinds of 8mm films in a box of her father's things, and they make up the most of the film, and show just how cool and talented this cat was. A long-vanished Fender guitar is featured in many of them, and serves as the material device that Michelle is searching for throughout the film, along with the memories of her dad. She takes the viewer along on the search, which gives actual goosebumps when she gets close. Her late Grandfather is quoted as saying, "Michelle can have the guitars when she knows their value." This entire film shows that she absolutely knows their value, both to the music world and sentimentally. No one had touched Kath's guitars since him. They retained his tuning. That's a special moment for a daughter, one you can only imagine.

 Chicago started out being called "The Big Thing", a name that was thankfully changed once they got some traction. "Chicago Transit Authority" or CTA was way cooler, and soon they became one of the most popular bands in the world. Michelle's mother, Camelia, fell in love with his character and his music, and watching her watching her daughter's search is one of the most touching aspects of the film. When they return to Terry and Camelia's happiest place, The Caribou Ranch in Colorado, you can feel her nostalgia and love in an exceptionally moving part of the film. It's so moving because you can tell Michelle is really feeling the spirit and soul of her long lost dad, and also what a senseless loss it was. Drugs are bad. 

The film closes with a clip from Chicago's Rock Hall of Fame induction, with Michelle accepting on behalf of her father. What a moment! Her hope is that through this film, audiences worldwide will come to know and revere the work of Terry Kath anew, and that he will continue to live on through his music. At the post-screening Q and A (with Michelle, Chicago producer Jimmy Guercio, and Chicago drummer Danny Seraphine), Michelle said that she hopes that people will leave the film with the "warm, fuzzy feeling that my Dad gives you." Well, mission accomplished, because we all left there feeling exactly that. You will too.

Heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS to Michelle Kath Sinclair, and to everyone involved with this exceptional love letter to a father, and to rock and roll. Well done!!!

The Terry Kath Experience is now available to stream everywhere.