Thursday, October 31, 2013

Jane's Addiction Gets A Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame!

Jane's Addiction received their star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame yesterday on a beautiful sunshiny day that bore nothing in common with the "dark, mysterious, dangerous, edgy" band that was being honored. Fans crowded in all along the sidewalk in front of the Playmates store on Hollywood Boulevard, where the Jane's star is now located.

It was an extra-special day for a band that pioneered alternative rock, and are iconic in so many ways. Led by one of the all-time greatest front men (and super great friend and person), Perry Farrell, Jane's Addiction will always be one of my all-time favorite bands, and I was so very happy to get to be there to witness such an important and well-deserved day for these guys.

After a long introduction from the guy that took over for Johnny Grant about the history of Jane's, and getting the crowd hyped by mentioning favorite songs and all the other killer bands that were influenced by Jane's, the band took the stage to massive cheers. Perry, Dave Navarro, Stephen Perkins and Chris Chaney were all smiling ear to ear, and it was clear that this was a big deal for them too. Taylor Hawkins from the Foo Fighters took the dais to give the first speech. He spoke about how the "nursery rhymes on acid sung by this guy with green dreadlocks," caught his attention when he was coming up in bands. They all joked around with each other for a bit, before Hawkins said, "In the immortal words of Perry Farrell, 'Thank you, Boys!"

John Doe from the seminal Los Angeles band X was up next, and he said, "In 1991, nobody would have thought that these guys would be getting a star on the Walk of Fame, no fucking way. They were dangerous and scary and shone a light on the underbelly of L.A." He went on to talk about how they went on to create festivals (Lollapalooza!) and make classic music for the ages, before looking at them and saying, "What else can you say?" To which a fan in the crowd yelled out, "RIGHT ON!" Right on.

The Doors were another band closely associated with Los Angeles, and Doors drummer, John Densmore began his induction speech by saying, "When the Doors started out ..." and Farrell interrupted him, saying, "No, this is about Jane's Addiction," getting a big laugh. But when The Doors did start out, he said, "There was no word 'Rockstar' in the vocabulary, not even an energy drink. We were an alternative band before our time," going on to explain that Jane's Addiction was an alternative band for ALL time, as they conjured up images of "Dark, mysterious opium dens". Densmore introduced each member of the band, saving Perkins for last, "And the most important member of the band - the drummer!," which got laughs and arms thrust in the air from Perkins. He closed by saying, "I hope to be the first person to step on your star!"

Then it was time for the resolutions and presentation of certificates from the city, proclaiming it Jane's Addiction Day in Los Angeles! Each band member got a certificate and framed star plaque. Then it was time to hear from the guys in the band.

Dave Navarro said he was "thrilled that this day is here, and that my Dad, Mike Navarro is here ... We were part of the dark subculture that Hollywood is, and I never imagined I'd be part of this legacy ... I want to thank these three guys. We're a family, a brotherhood." He earned laughs when he said, "I can't think of a better spot for our star than in front of the Playmates store ... I may have had something to do with that."

Chris Chaney spoke of how the other guys were not only his teachers, but his family and friends. "These guys have the biggest hearts of anyone I know, and I'm so blessed to be a part of it." In a classy move, he said that it was intimidating to come in as the bass player after Eric Avery had created and played on three epic albums, "But I hope I've honored Eric's legacy." He has. (That was the only mention of original bassist, Avery, who has been estranged from the band for a some time.)

Stephen Perkins thanked Perry "for his music, his lyrics, his balls," which Perry replied with "You're welcome from my balls." Perkins thanked his parents for "Drum lessons every Tuesday," and said he couldn't wait to come back with his little boy next week and "look at this star and the girls with him," as girls were strutting around in the sexy costume store while all this was going on. "I REALLY love Jane's Addiction!" he said as he gathered the other guys in a group hug. It was a truly touching and sweet moment seeing them all, arms around each other, heads bowed together, soaking up all the past into the present monumental moment.

Farrell spoke last, and was his usual entertaining self. He pointed out the brick building across the street, saying they used to live on pizza from there. "We used to walk these streets and imagine that we were famous and great," never picturing a day like this. "Can I go on for a bit?," he asked, and the whole crowd agreed he could. He told stories about the Hollywood characters that they hung out with and influenced their music, like "Johnny Shades" and "Reuben Blue" who did the "Rock City News". He told how "music was so happening back then, with GNR and the Chili Peppers all cranking as you'd walk down the streets. I appreciated how he shared stories about real people like that, and wasn't all about all the famous people he could thank and go on about, further cementing the fact that Jane's Addiction is about REAL Los Angeles, through and through.

"We make these songs for all of you. These songs and stories came RIGHT off the streets of Hollywood. I accept this on behalf of the denizens of these streets, and I'm so happy to see some of you are still alive! Thank you!" There was wild applause from everyone gathered, and then it was time to unveil the star.

Photographers went wild snapping shots of the shiny new star and the beaming band surrounding it. It really was a thrill to behold, seeing a truly original, ferociously talented and ground breaking band get their due credit. The screaming fans fully agreed with that, as they strained on tiptoe to see it all go down.

Perry's wife, Etty, and sons, Izzadore and Hezron had a family photo, and I have a good feeling these young men will do a great job at carrying on the family business.

Once the official photos were done, the guys in the band went around signing autographs on posters, cds, vinyl, photos, and all the things that people thrust out for them to sign, happily. It was a happy day all around, in fact. You could feel it in the air.

We all trooped over to a hidden, dark, downstairs bar (fittingly) called Dirty Laundry, where toasts were made and a whole bunch of fun was had congratulating the band in a great post-induction reception. Then it was off to the Roosevelt Hotel to continue carrying on until it was time for Jane's Addiction to PLAY for the fans, on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show right up the street.

The crowd was PACKED in at the outdoor stage, and as soon as the first note was played, it was all the more evident why this day happened for Jane's Addiction. They got down to what they do best, and played with a joy and a ferocity that showed they were extra meaning it, and fan favorite "Stop" blew the place up.

"Another Soulmate" off their most recent, and fantastic, album The Great Escape Artist showcased how they're as fresh and awesome as they ever were ... and I gush because I love. So there.

Showing off just why Jane's Addiction has always been thought of as "Mysterious, dark, dangerous, etc..." they tore apart the epic "Three Days". Girls flew above, suspended from skewers in their backs, lending an even more ominous, hardcore tone. Yikes.

Etty Farrell danced around her husband, and together they heated up the entire audience.

It's all just SO good.

Everyone loves their "Ocean Size", and this time was no different. MONSTROUS. HUGE. The band was clearly having as much fun playing as the crowd was rocking, as they were all smiles and animated.

Perry was in rare form, bounding from one side of the stage to the next, dancing and howling in his inimitable vocal style. You could tell it had been a really good day.

It certainly had. As Jane's Addiction took their bows, it was time for more celebration in the Jimmy Kimmel Green Room. Too much fun. What a day!! Hugs and good nights were exchanged all around and it's a pretty safe bet everyone involved fell asleep with a smile on their face.

Sincere, heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS to Juana's Addicion!! Thank you for the music, then, now and always. Thank you, Boys!!!

*Photos by Emma Leslie

Monday, October 28, 2013

Read The Circle - By Dave Eggers

With the weather cooling down and even some slight precipitation in Venice recently, it's that faintly perceptible shift of the seasons that we do get here that makes you want to just stay in and read sometimes.  That was my feeling last week, and it perfectly aligned with the arrival of the new novel/cautionary tale by Dave Eggers, The Circle.

Eggers has long been one of my very favorite living authors and inspirations (he founded the excellent 826 tutoring centers across the country), and he proves to me why with every new project he does. This one should be required reading for every person in the world to read, or be read to. After being at dinner recently and being the absolute only person not looking at my phone, I've had many a conversation about how social media is really making us all more anti-social. It's sad. I rebel.

The Circle addresses this - to the extreme. The Circle is like a all-encompassing Facebook, that links every account you have and everyone can keep track of exactly where you are and what you're doing, even to the point of full "transparency," where cameras show what everyone (including Governments) are doing at all times. If you don't agree to transparency, then you're instantly suspicious. This kind of life is a complete nightmare to me, but it's not too hard to see it coming to fruition. This is Orwell's 1984, for now.

This is a super important book, that I flew through, enjoying every page, all while mounting concern for the reality of it all grew in my mind. Please read The Circle, and let's have some good discussions about it/figure out how to save each other and the world. 

*Happy Birthday, B!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tom Freund - Pledge Allegiance To His Album To Be

This is shaping up to be Venice music video week! My friend, Tom Freund, Venice/International musical phenom is launching his Pledge campaign today to fund raise for his new album to be.

Tom often includes "I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends" in his sets, and this is a perfect example of that. We need to support our musicians at a time when the industry really does not. This campaign features incentives that are like fantasy camp for musicians: Guest appearance on stage! Play the shaker on his recording! Get an original song written and performed for you! Have a private concert in your own living room! Or good time Venice activities, like walk dogs with Tom. A bike tour/happy hour around Venice. A signed skateboard. All sorts of good stuff like that - or just do what you can by pre-ordering the new album while simultaneously helping to pay for it. Very insider.

You'll get updates along the way, and most of all, you'll feel good for helping out someone super talented bring more beautiful music into this world, that needs way more of that, every day. As his new song, "Angel Eyes" states, You gotta know who's got your back and who's pretending ... You make it possible to do the things I do ...

Help Tom make it possible, and stay in touch to hear how good it all comes out! Thank you.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Low Movie - (How To Quit Smoking)

Last night we had a little Venice backyard screening of a film that is so gorgeous, so creative and so impressive that I really felt like we should be watching it in one of those video installation rooms in a modern art museum. Stunning.

The film was Low Movie (How To Quit Smoking) and it truly is one of the most visually inventive and beautiful things I've ever seen, and I'm not just saying that because it was shot and directed by my longtime friend, Philip Harder.

Phil started Phil-ming the band Low before their first album even came out (1993-ish) and collaborated together with them over the next two decades to culminate in this heirloom of a picture. The trailer hints at what you're in store for, but one really needs to sit back and absorb the whole thing.

Low first attracted the attention of Harder because the Grunge times were ending and Low sounded like nothing he'd heard before. Low is from Duluth, and that might be enough to explain it (and we're all from Minnesota, where you try to help each other). Opening sequences were shot on a frozen Lake Superior and look almost exactly like classic shots from Nanook Of The North ... everything sounds a bit frozen and slowed down ... molasses in January. Sweet AND bracing.

From there, it all just gets more inventive. Pretty much all of it was shot on 16 mm, so that lends itself to the artistic feel of it all, but it could probably have been shot on video and still been breathtaking. A robot in the big city, alien abductions in a snowstorm, I-pod ad style silhouettes commenting on I-raq, Fellini-esque scenes with red balloons, and Silent film era looking vignettes all accompany the unique sounds - both tranquil and punk rock at once, at times - to give one the complete "Low experience," as Harder states in the introduction.

(*Warning: And, perhaps counter-productively, it also makes you feel like smoking.)

Over the duration of their artistic partnership, Harder became a much in-demand music video director, but whenever Low called, whatever the budget (often low itself) or vision, Harder would always answer with, "I'm there."

And thank goodness, or we would not have such unforgettable images as a wintry 35W Bridge, pre-collapse. A woman in red lying in snow, shot from high above,  as St. Anthony Falls rushes underneath her. A montage of Harder's son, Otto, right there alongside his father as he grows from infant to wild-haired boy running to the ocean to robot on the subway. Or my favorite segment/analogy, of lush plant life growing up and out of the equipment inside the recording studio.

Our collective jaws were all hanging open as we watched all of this splendor under a crisp Venice sky. We're so lucky to be surrounded by such vast talent and creativity in this world, it's almost overwhelming, but more so, it's straight inspiring.

So if you're Low's biggest fan, or have never yet heard of them, do jump at any chance to watch this collection of beautiful sounds and images by some of the most talented, creative people out there. We missed the one showing of it in downtown L.A. and thus begged for this backyard showing/Q & A with Harder, which he thankfully granted.

There will probably be more festival screenings (All Tomorrow's Parties in the UK next month) and a dvd/on-demand release, so check in with the Low website ( to get your chance. I can see it showing outside the Walker Art Center in the Summer, or in Loring Park, as the perfect venue - right after your friend's yard on a glorious October night by the fire in Venice. As an added bonus, you might even quit smoking! Just because.

*Photos courtesy of Philip Harder (and shot by Andy Grund, Tom Herbers, Katie Maren Nelson, and Karl Raschke)

**Screening courtesy of Philip Harder and hosted at Ellis Farms. Thank you!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Matt Ellis "Candy" Video - Co-Starring Lincoln Place

The great new video from Matt Ellis (my awesome friend) is done and ready for your viewing pleasure! The cover of Iggy Pop's "Candy" is directed by Jordan Levy (my awesome neighbor),  co-stars Matt's wife, Vavine (also my awesome friend) and Lincoln Place, the embattled apartment complex off of Lincoln Boulevard in Venice - that sat vacant for years over legal wrangling, while houseless people slept outside in the cold.

It's a historic place, and the video bridges past and present ... and offers a hint at the future too.  It's beautiful, and entirely a Venice production, from all the people involved to its transforming location. Without further ado .... "Candy"!

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Venice Artblock - Excellent and Free!

The very first Venice Artblock was held on Sunday, and it was fantastic. And FREE! After many of our local artists were denied participation in the official Venice Art Walk this past Spring, they took it upon themselves to create - in a very Venice-spirited way, a little anarchist, take the power back style - their own event, free and open to the public, without any lines, wrist bands, or corporate headquarters ... just art, art and more art! In these times, that's both highly commendable, and historical.

It was done just as legit (if not more) as the Art Walk, with a great map, balloons and signs to signify where the stops were, and even a shuttle to get you around if you forgot your bike (always the best way to cover the most ground at these type of events). It was very spread out, from the beach to almost Lincoln, and from Venice Blvd. to Rose. The area around Vernon and Sunset was kind of the hub, with the most concentrated number of studios to hit.

It's so great to go around, and get to see inside the studios of artists that you may just know socially, or have heard of, and then get to peek inside their work space and understand how they operate. What a treat to have them share so much of not just their art, but themselves.

It was a party atmosphere at the studio of William Attaway, with Argentinian barbeque being grilled up, and music thumping. Attaway has a new series of paintings going that feel very bright and tropical, and it's always fun to see his sculptural works in progress.

Alberto Bevacqua's photographs are always haunting and provocative, and stood in stark contrast to the wooden circus animals of Pamela Weir-Quiton down the street. There is certainly something for everyone to admire in Venice.

Gary Palmer had his studio open and shared some stories about his recent excursion to participate in a big sidewalk chalk drawing event in Atlantic City. If you saw his Abbot Kinney in chalk at the Street Fair, you know Palmer is a master of this craft. His oil paintings are collected all over the world, and it's cool to see where it all begins. Very cool.

I always love to see what they have going on at the Curio Studio, one of my favorites in town.  

361 Vernon, where Palmer's studio is, also had a whole slew of studios open, from video installations to ceramics and everything in between. There is so much going on all the time, that you don't have any idea about, which may explain why so many people feel that Venice truly IS a creative vortex.

With SO much going on, it was difficult to hit all the points on the map, especially when you get held up chatting and catching up with other art lovers enjoying such a remarkable day. I stopped by to see what performance artist  and awesome lady Amy Kaps had going on, and she showed off her works while performing hostess duties all decked out in black, white and hot pink. She is a Venice treasure, for sure.

Across the street on Electric, Rohitash Rao was showing his paintings done mostly on garbage. Faces and phrases painted on empty coffee cups or other flotsam, all comic with an edge. Good stuff, good hang too.

I got a late start so it was already almost 5 (closing time) when I got over to SPARC. The talented and erudite Kay Brown showed some of us how her gorgeous wood block printing, and how the printing process is done. Her floral print reminded me of Attaway's flowers at the first stop. Full Circle.

SPARC always has wonderful things to look at, and the murals surrounded by the old bars of the town jail that the building once was lend even more power to the images you're seeing. SPARC is a hallowed institution and if you live in or care about Venice, it really warrants your time to explore and know about.

Every person I ran into along the way raved about how excellent this event was, and how wonderful that it was free and open to absolutely anyone, not just those who can cough up the steep admission price of the official Art Walk. It somehow felt more REAL too ... like art for art's sake, not necessarily profit, though work was being sold, and perhaps as importantly, being seen, learned and known about. The community was out in force, great conversations were being had, and every artist I encountered was beaming with the success of the day ... and the FUN!

Artblock was in fact SO cool, that I have to imagine they're already plotting the next one. And you should be there. It's the REAL deal. Thank you to all the artists involved, for inviting us all into your creative spaces, and for being there in the first place. Venice needs you!!! Sincerely, Thanks.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Venice's Symphony Orchestra - From Beck To Bach

When I first heard there was going to be a Venice Symphony Orchestra, I thought it was just about the best idea ever. Then I heard them, and that is now confirmed. Led by founder/director/conductor/musician, Wesley Flowers, I heard the VSO play for the first time at the September Venice Art Crawl, and as their tag-line goes, they did indeed play everything "From Beck to Bach." Beautifully.

Flowers grew up in Georgia, playing the bass and piano - a little.  As life goes, opportunities spring up and you either grab them or you don't, and when Flowers was offered a gig playing on tour with Butch Walker, he grabbed it. Flowers played with Walker for five years, and that gig is what first brought him out to Los Angeles. He found that he didn't like L.A. at all, but when he came down to the beach in Venice - near the studio they were working out of - he said the clouds parted and he knew these were his people. I've heard that same story so many times - and told it - where people arrive in Venice and just either get it or they don't. The ones who get it stay ... and then do their best to not only preserve what they loved about it upon arrival, but to add to it in creative and positive ways. That's just what Flowers set out to do, right from the beginning.

After attending a performance of the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra, Flowers was blown away - and then even more so to find that Venice did not have an Orchestra of its own. What?! A creative hub of the entire world did not have an Orchestra?! Something had to be done. Flowers approached some friends with his idea, and Venice architect/developer Jason Teague thought it was a fantastic idea, and said that Flowers was exactly the kind of person we want living in Venice. Exactly right. Teague helped to get a non-profit set up, and Flowers was off to the races, recruiting musicians through Craig's List, Yo Venice and The Free Venice Beachhead. The VSO had their first performance in the fall of 2012 at The Electric Lodge, where they were also allowed to hold rehearsals. Flowers said, "This is the only town this could happen in." Everyone is a volunteer at this point, everything has been donated, and all are in it for the love of music.

The music. With so many talented musicians in town, there has been a kind of revolving door of VSO members thus far, as everyone has busy schedules and also need to make a living, so sometimes well-paying gigs need to take precedence while the VSO gets up, running, and more self-sufficient. Watching them perform at last month's Art Crawl, one would have no idea that there was so little time for the group to rehearse as a whole. The program (Mozart AND "Good Vibrations"!) was flawless and had the entire audience jam-packed (with a line down the block to get in!) into Teague's shipping container compound applauding and elated that we now DO have a symphony orchestra of our own!

Their hopes are to keep growing, to offer free music lessons to at-risk local youth, have free performances for the neighborhood, tour with the VSO, have a permanent home (how about a concert hall in the Windward Circle?!) to play in, have a staff, score films, stage a performance at the end of the Venice Pier ... the great ideas are really endless. To make them a reality will require help and support from our whole community. You can donate through their website. You can sign up for "LivnGiv" where participating restaurants donate 20% of your tab to the VSO, at no extra cost to you. You can book them for a private function (what a great work holiday party idea!). And as the membership is now only about 1/4 as big as Flowers would like, you can dust off your own instrument and join in on the music-making!

"We put the Venice in symphony orchestra," Flowers said, and added that the people and the music selections are "funky enough to be the VENICE Symphony Orchestra." It's great to see a younger generation not only getting involved with orchestral music, but creating it for the whole community to enjoy. "I think we can revolutionize the movement and redefine what an orchestra can be. We can re-invent the classics, while still honoring them, and incorporating things like electronic music, because it all ties together."  A pretty apt mission statement for an orchestra for Venice, California if you ask me. I think Abbot Kinney would not only be proud of these guys, but would probably see a little bit of his dreamer self in them ... and the part that then goes out and makes it happen.

Celebrate the music of Venice! The Venice Symphony Orchestra will be playing monthly at First Fridays at Trim Salon on Abbot Kinney, at the next Art Crawl on December 19th, and wherever our town books them to share the gift of their music.

Please support our VSO. Contact them at Like them on Facebook ( Sign up for LivnGiv ( )and select VSO as your cause. Thank you, and Enjoy the music!!!

Friday, October 4, 2013

It Takes A Village ... To Keep It A Village

I have to admit, I'd never attended a LUPC (Land Use and Planning Committee) meeting in Venice before October 2nd. I, like my friends and neighbors, was compelled to go in absolute opposition to the new hotel proposed at 1033 Abbot Kinney Boulevard. A HOTEL! What?! NO. That was the gist of the entire sitting and standing room only meeting at the Oakwood Rec Center, where even the youngest Venetians jammed in shoulder to shoulder to use their voices against yet another project determined to turn Venice all upscale and not Venice anymore.

Led by committee chair, Jake Kaufman, in a bit of an abrasive, tough guy manner ("If you even whisper, I'll point you out in front of everyone and ask you to leave."), it was clear that almost 100% of the folks in the room were there for the hotel issue, in the hopes of "Keeping Venice eclectic," which was mentioned several times. Outside you could hear the kids playing basketball and having fun after dark, which only added to the community aspect of it all.

The team behind the hotel, led by the new land owner, Dan Abrams, kept their presentation very short, and stood there with crossed arms and sullen faces while listening to what came in the next two hours. They seemed to think that it was a big deal that just that very afternoon, they decided to take the proposed fourth floor off of the project. They announced that change a couple hours before the meeting in an open letter on Yo Venice, in a move that smacked very much of the old trick where you ask for way bigger to come down to the scale that you really want in the first place. To seem like open guys, "listening to the community." Almost no one in there was buying it, or having it. Many said, "Disingenuous," about it all. When Abrams said, "A lot of people want nothing to go on this site - that is not an option." To which someone yelled out, "Yes, it is!" and everyone else clapped (and got scolded for it by Kaufman). The removal of the fourth floor also eliminated affordable housing that was originally included, something Venice NEEDS - far, far more than some posh boutique hotel.

This whole deal is still in the very early stages, which is why it was so heartening to see such a massive turnout for a preliminary meeting. Venice people know what they want - and what they for sure do NOT want - and they're not afraid to speak up.

All citizens were to be kept to a one minute speaking term, unless they respectfully asked for two, which many did. It was on a first name basis in there, and Tibby went first, setting the tone when she said, "I do NOT support this project," and surmised that committee member John Reed had already taken a side and was advocating for the project. It did feel like that as the night went along, as he kept sticking up for it all. Joan said that the "concession" to three floors is still absurd when all the other buildings are one story, and shows a lack of understanding of the community. A community of walkers, bikers, artists, and activists that already struggle with the congestion on Abbot Kinney, a main concern.

Dov read a letter from someone that couldn't be there and then said his own, and powerful, piece. "I'm TIRED of the poor being kicked out of Venice! This gentrification was funded by gang wars and crack cocaine!" He riled the place up, earning claps and shouts of agreement. Gail was opposed. She said Abbot Kinney is successful as a tourist attraction, but we don't want to become victims of that success. The PEOPLE gave it the color, diversity, and eclecticism that made it so, and they're being driven out. "All that will be left is an over-developed, congested, gridlocked mess ... I object to this project in TOTALITY." Lara was concerned about this development setting a precedent, and losing all the diversity of the neighborhood.

Joe, Antoinette, Chris, and many other voiced concerns that the hotel was going to be across the street from an elementary school, and with a roof-top bar, pool and transient hotel guests, it might not be the best idea to have all that swirling around little kids. Everyone seemed to agree on that.

Traffic was a major issue, and most speakers mentioned it. As a hotel, there will be 24 hour deliveries (which I'm sure the close neighbors will love - never mind the ages of construction it would all take), and loading docks blocking traffic on Electric, an already extra-narrow thoroughfare. Caskey spoke eloquently about how when she moved here 18 years ago ("and still consider myself a newbie"), she loved that she could ride bikes down the boulevard to the beach, but she would never dream of taking her young boys down the street on bikes now, with all the traffic and oblivious tourists ALREADY here, and this will only make it way worse. "The tourist money doesn't stay here, and it will only detract from the Venice we love ... Expect to hear from us." Word.

Parking was another biggie, and almost all mentioned it. Where are all the employees going to park? Where will the people go to park that don't want to pay high hotel parking prices? Into the neighborhoods, that's where. It's already difficult for people who live adjacent to AKB to find parking anywhere near their homes, and this will, of course, only exacerbate the problem. Steve and many more mentioned that they already avoid the street at all costs, which is sad when you figure it is there for US first. Or should be.

The open letter from the owners said that Venice "needs" a hotel. One prepared speaker named Lisa did some quick research before she came and told us that there are 35 (!) hotels in a 2 mile radius, so yeah, we don't need it. One guy whose name I missed said, "This is a NOT in my backyard situation. This is our village, and this project will fundamentally shift the vibe of our town. No." Another guy said, "You walk down Abbot Kinney and you think, 'I wish I had a cup of coffee.' No one says, 'I wish I had a hotel.' This project is pure arrogance." Yep.

Danny was recently in Amsterdam, and was impressed at how developers there built things to conform to the historical nature of the area, which these guys should emulate. "Venice is in crisis now, this is a wonderful area that we want to preserve." Amen.

Logan said "We do NOT want this place to turn into the 3rd Street Promenade," which was echoed by David. Angelo said that if the hotel people were FOR community, they would never have even THOUGHT about putting a hotel there, and that he saw "No way to solve these problems in that location." Kim said she was opposed to a hotel that would cater to the wealthy. "Everything coming in is high end. I own two stores on Abbot Kinney (the lovely and reasonably priced Ananda and Skylark, proudly NOT corporate chain stores) and I can't afford to buy a house here. All my employees walk to work, but they're finding it hard to afford to even rent an apartment here anymore." That isn't right. That isn't Venice.

Marta asked for a show of hands opposing the hotel, and almost every hand went up. She said, "We, as Venetians, get to choose the character of our community!" and felt that the hotel group were making their "concessions" because of the pressure they're getting, not because it's what's right to do. She then plunked down over 100 letters of opposition in front of the committee for good measure. Bam!

There were maybe three or four people who spoke that were for the project, and at least two of them felt like total plants. One was so gushy about it, you'd think a Nobel Prize was next for people who want to put up a boxy, fancy hotel in a surf, skate, art neighborhood. She said, "I'm 100% in favor of this, and we don't need to hear another 'No' tonight," to which the entire place drowned out anything else she said after in a chorus of "NOOOOOOs!" It was kind of great, a very power to the people moment. Both Abrams and Kaufman said at different points in the evening, "Not to sound sarcastic (which it did) but if you don't like it, tell your neighbors not to sell." True enough (DON'T SELL!!!), but it came off as a screw you.

When all had spoken, the hotel team had a chance to respond. That was the "Then don't sell" time, and Abrams said he had bought the property before someone else - that didn't care as much - came in to build BIG without any regard for the community, and if they didn't get to build their hotel, they'd sell to someone who would. To that, someone radly yelled, "Don't threaten us!" More claps. When Abrams said, "We want to do something in the context and reality of Venice's future," that got maybe two claps. They ended with "We're listening and we hear you and we want to work with you, thank you." That might be true, but in demeanor and tone, it felt like some pandering to get what you want.

At the end, one guy said, "Look us in the eye and say you're going to do the right thing. Honor this exceptional community." Another lady said, "This project is NOT inevitable. We care. We fight. We are active activists. This is NOT a given, and CAN be stopped!" That got big applause, in solidarity.

And it can be stopped. As someone said, "Nowhere else do you see a community coming together like this. This is Venice, and our community is authentic." We all milled around in the lobby after the hotel part of the meeting was done and discussed it all. No one likes that it seems to be a matter of "Old, crazy Venice" vs. "Nouveau riche Venice," because time and money spent do not make the spirit of a place. A thoughtful population - from 50 years to 50 days living here - that honors the past, respects its beautiful diversity of residents in all income brackets (including none), and looks forward in a cool, conscientious manner is what makes a place great. We still have that, and we WILL fight for it. There will be more meetings, debate and votes about this, and we will be there. Defend Venice!

*You can learn more for yourself at and at

** Additional photos by Marta Evry and Mario Signore