Monday, October 16, 2017

Go Fwd!

Sometimes in life you get little messages from just paying attention, and sometimes they're perfectly timed. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I feel like a lot of times things feel real hopeless lately. Two halves of the country are fighting with each other. A new natural disaster seems to happen almost every day ... to the point where my little 8 year old friend commented on how there sure does seem to be a lot of awful things happening in the world, "like storms and stuff." And he's right.  It can all feel like an awful lot, and never mind even bringing your own stuff into it all - which can also be a lot. So, when you catch a license plate telling you to "GO FWD", you stop. You think about it ...

... and off you go. Forward. Thanks, Landrover in Venice. I will. As we all will. To better days ahead. I just know it.

Friday, October 13, 2017

An Art Benefit For Planned Parenthood In Venice - Women Power!

There was an art benefit at the WNDO/Budman Studio on Vernon (that still has a lease sign on the front after kicking all the artists out last year) held last night to raise funds for Planned Parenthood, and it could not have been timed any better. Venice artists came together to show their art and support the more important than ever Planned Parenthood organization. The whole world is abuzz with the "news" that Harvey Weinstein has been sexually harassing women for decades, which only sheds more light on how women continue to be mistreated. There is far more regulation over our bodies than for the guns that are used in mass shootings all the time, and we're fed up. We're taking matters into our own hands. From the wonderful Women's March in January in opposition of the awful current administration, to last night's focus on Planned Parenthood, this has been a year that has shown the endless power of Women united.

The news cycle is all about the filthy Jabba the Hutt resembling Weinstein's predatory ways, but every woman in the entertainment industry has a story. Many of us have several. I know I do. There was the film director in Minnesota I met at a local event who invited me back to a crew gathering in the lobby of their hotel. I was fresh out of college and trying to get a foot in the door of the film industry that I loved, and was eager to make connections that would lead me to work when I made the move to Los Angeles. I arrived at the hotel to find the lobby bar empty. A woman working at the front desk told me the party had been moved up to the director's room upstairs, and gave me the room number. I took the elevator up, and knocked on the door. The director answered and invited me in. There was no one else there, because "they were all tired and left, but would you like some wine?" I uncomfortably said sure, because I didn't want to offend this guy that could easily give me some work in the field that I loved. He went around the corner to presumably get wine, still talking the whole time, as I sat there, fully bundled up for the Minnesota winter, mittens and all.

He finally came back around the corner of the bathroom hallway, fully naked, with an erection and a wine bottle. I immediately stood up and said I had to go, with my mittens raised in the air, like "Whoa, dude." I walked to the door and sped down the hallway, with the director sticking his head out the door, telling me to call him. I couldn't believe it. But I could. He left several messages after that, and I returned none. I never got a job on that film. I saw him years later at a premiere in L.A., and avoided him completely, but I know he saw me. I still had the creeps years later.

I had a producer boss that took closed door "meetings" with young hopeful starlets all the time, even though he hadn't produced a film in years. I could often hear his porn playing through the door after he'd return to the office from lunch. He had exactly no shame.

I had another female boss that I lived with in Hawai'i (bad decision) - until her live-in boyfriend hit on me, making a bad situation worse. I had to move out in the middle of the night (to crash with friends) when they were out of town, I had to leave the job and scramble for another one, and we never spoke again.

I helped host a party with a producer I was working for to honor Oliver Stone years ago. He arrived very late, and seemingly very coked out. I greatly admired his work up until then, and was honored to get to meet him. When I went to shake his hand, he grabbed my hair and pulled my head back with it, saying, "I love this hair!" As a hello. Because he was Oliver Stone, and he felt he could do anything he wanted, appropriate or not.

I've had too many meetings to count where you could feel the eyes roaming over you, as you just hoped they would talk about the merits of your script and not hit on you. One meeting stands out in my mind, where as I was going into the good part of my pitch, the guy interrupted me and asked me to come behind his desk and look at how good the view of Hollywood was from his office. I was like, "Yeah, I can see it from here. It's nice. Thanks. Bye." That was our last meeting about a script he'd been very enthusiastic about, and it has still not been made. *Female producers, we should talk! I could keep going, but I think the point has been made, and I'm getting nauseous and mad thinking back on this junk. I'm glad that I was born pretty strong-willed, and unafraid to say no. Many were not.

It's been an epidemic since film was invented, and as I said, every woman has at least one story. But when even the current President of the United States is a known and proven misogynist, the Boys Club thinks it's all acceptable. It is not. Nor is any man telling any woman what to do with their own body. I have a friend who was given a free abortion from Planned Parenthood, for all intents and purposes, saving her life. Women need Planned Parenthood. Women need support from good men (and I know there are some - some that were raised by good women). Women need to stick up for each other. To speak up when something is even remotely sketchy. To stand up to the b.s. men have been getting away with for years. To celebrate the absolute wonder that being a woman is!

It feels like a big sigh of relief to be experiencing the flood of women sharing their stories, like nothing has to be hidden anymore, and no one is alone. And no one will be putting up with it anymore. Thank you to the organizers of last night's event for Women - and to all the women who are now putting their collective feet down and saying enough. We're all better than that.

Resist. Empower. Celebrate Women!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Beach Walks Help

I like to start my days with a walk on the beach. It helps me think. It helps me to remember what is important. It makes me healthier. It forces you to take time to reflect and appreciate all that you have, and how very beautiful the big, blue sea is. It also makes you want to do all you can to protect it.

I was away from the beach for a month, and though I also love my walks around lakes and alongside rivers, it's not the same. The sheer size of the ocean makes you recognize how little you are, and along with that, how not that important the little things that get you down really are. The whole world seems to have gone crazy at times, with big, bad, awful things ... a walk on the beach helps with all of that too. Trust me on this. You will always, always feel better about things after a beach walk. You just will. 

"The cure for anything is salt water - tears, sweat, or the sea." I've repeated this great Isak Dinesen quote so many times, because it's just straight up true. That trifecta of saltiness is the absolute answer for most anything that ails you ... or at least will make you feel better about it all.

I'm always amazed at how few people are down at the seashore doing the same thing. So surprisingly few that we pretty much all recognize each other and wave, with most only recognizing each other from being there. I've rarely, if ever, seen any of the beach walkers/runners anywhere else in town, and that's kind of cool. It's like our own little nature loving club - with no membership dues! It really has so many benefits, I don't even really think about it as exercise ... though it certainly is.

I recently worked on a show and a woman was there to promote her anti-aging games. She told me that the single most important thing anyone can do for their health and well being was to fit in at least a 30 minute fast walk every day. Everyone can do that - and when you do, it puts of heart disease, stroke, some kind of diabetes, dementia, and over just a short amount of time, makes your pants bigger. Just do it!

 On the way back today, I saw a little needlepoint pillow just lying there on the grass in a yard. "A true friend is a found treasure." I sure have been learning the truth behind that this year ... the value of having someone who is there for you, no matter what, cannot be overstated. The value of finding out who you cannot count on is also way up there ... and sometimes painful and surprising - but awfully good to know.

You true friends - and you know who you are, because you feel it too - are sincerely the wind beneath my wings. May we all soar together!!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Life Is A Beach. Grab A Bucket!

Man, what a week. Sometimes you just need to go to the beach. So I did. On the way down, I saw this person pulled over in the broad daylight pasting something up on the utility box. I liked that they were so brazen about it, and looked forward to what it would be.

On the way back, they were done and gone. There was some new street art there by MegZany featuring Strawberry Shortcake, telling us that "Life is a beach. Grab a bucket." I love it. I was a big fan (as was my brother) of Strawberry Shortcake and her gang (particularly Orange Blossom and Apple Dumpling), and everyone knows I'm a big big fan of the beach. But I also like the sentiment. Yeah, times are hard, but you gotta do something about it. Grab a bucket.

It's a glorious Friday, gearing up for another glorious weekend at the beach in Venice. There is much to be grateful for. Life is a beach ... !

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Made In Venice Out Now - On The Venice Skatepark's 8th Birthday!

On Tuesday, I was standing on the street corner talking to a former neighbor when a car drove by and someone yelled, "Nice hat!" I was wearing my Made In Venice baseball hat, and the yeller was one of the stars of that excellent documentary, Jesse Martinez. It was fitting that I would run into him on that day, as it was both the release date on DVD and online for the film, and also the 8th birthday of the Venice Skatepark - cause for much celebration!

This story had to lag a couple days as Martinez is not the easiest cat to get a hold of, and I wanted to talk to him about the State of the Skatepark today at eight years old, and we got to have a good chat about it all just this morning. Now that the movie is available for all to see, everyone will have a better idea about what all went into making the dream of a world class Skatepark in Venice become a reality. It was a years long effort by many, many people, and Made In Venice tells it exactly as it went down. 

The hope with telling this story is that audiences will know how much the park means to the people of Venice, and by sharing the story, garner more support for the people that continue to make it all happen ... especially Jesse Martinez. Though everyone knows Martinez as the Dogtown icon that he is, I'm not sure everyone knows how hard he works every day to maintain the park, and how little he gets in return. He has been there nearly every day of its 8 year existence, usually at about 4 a.m., making sure the Skatepark is clean and safe for everyone to use. He does it because it means the world to him, not because he's paid - because he's not. Martinez goes out of pocket for cleaning supplies, donates his time and labor, and put his own skating career on hold to see that the park is well maintained ... and it truly seems that the City of L.A. just doesn't care.

The city makes a lot of money off of that park, with filming fees, rentals, and tourist dollars, and none of it comes back to the park. Zero of it goes to Martinez and his cleaning crew (friends and skaters that just volunteer), not even for supplies. And it's just not right. There has been nothing but a run-around from the city, and Councilman Mike Bonin. Bonin promised to push through a contract for Martinez to be an official member of City staff to maintain the park ... well, that was three years ago, and nothing has happened. Nada. They won't offer a Skatepark budget of any kind, though Martinez has saved the city an astronomical amount of money by doing the work himself. The contract they would offer was so unfair that everyone urged Martinez not to sign it, and the City replied that it was that or nothing. Martinez thought about walking away, and did so for a couple of weeks, only to return to find the Skatepark in the absolute worst condition of its relatively young life. Which is dangerous for skaters, and bad for everyone. The park is a major tourist attraction, "the most commercialized Skatepark in the history of Skateparks," according to Martinez, and it's high time the City of L.A. recognizes the massive worth of both the park and Martinez.

"It's like they were kids that were bullied, and now they're trying to get back at us," said Martinez about the suits that make these kinds of decisions. Which is about the only thing that makes sense, as anyone who hears about the way Martinez is treated by the City finds it completely outrageous. Including the Pacific Division cops, who routinely stop and thank Martinez for the work he does, and for keeping all of those kids out of trouble while skating. Parents thank him for the same thing. Skaters hold him in the very highest regard, and follow his example of respecting those around them, as well as the park itself. "It's not a Me, it's a We," says Martinez. "It's a community that does this."

A community that Councilman Bonin and his cronies need to also respect, or soon find themselves out of their jobs. We're supposed to be talking about how great a film Made In Venice is, and how much it can help Martinez out (after paying back the investors, especially the mother of its director, Jonathan Penson), as he will see monies from the film returned back to helping maintain the park - but Bonin never even attended a screening. They've sent hundreds of emails to the Mayor of L.A. requesting a little help, without a single one being returned. "Everything changed once Bill Rosendahl died. He was such a Venice local, and such a good man ... everything was great when he was alive," Martinez explained to me. And I'm sure Councilman Rosendahl would be rolling over in his grave if he now knew how his friends at the Skatepark (that he greatly helped with bringing to life) were being dismissed. If you know anything about the history of Venice, you know it's not real wise to become the villian to Dogtown ... just saying. Especially when their backs are against the wall, which Martinez feels they now are. He can come with an army of skaters over 18 to protest all of this, and you can be sure that none of them will be voting to re-elect Bonin (who everyone knows can use all the support he can get these days).

To look at the positive side of things, I asked Martinez about the current generation of Dogtown skaters. "I'm more than proud to call these kids Dogtown boys {and girls}, I couldn't be any happier with them. My main goal was to assure that there would be a third generation {at least} of Venice skaters, and the new age of Venice skaters is out there just DESTROYING that park. Everything I've been working for, there it is! It's WHY I've been doing this for 38 years, why I put my own career on hold, why I've given EVERYTHING to that park ... but the financial hardship is too much, and I've gotta draw the line. I'd love to stay on at the Skatepark for the next 20 years, and then pass the torch to someone younger, but I don't know. The City has completely let me down. I'm a skateboarder, so I might move on ...". And no one could blame him.

Watch Made In Venice and you'll realize how much Martinez has given of his life to this wonderful Skatepark, but he certainly hasn't done it for the money - or the glory. Martinez has carried the weight of all of this around for years, but now says, "I'm beyond proud of how this movie came out. A lot of good has come out of it. I was worried because people take Venice very seriously, and I didn't want to disgrace the neighborhood. And it's a real story, with less tricks and things than your typical skate film, so I wasn't sure how skaters would react, but I've traveled all around the country to screenings, and the reaction has been nothing but good. There's not one bad review. I just wish Jay Adams and Shogo Kubo could have seen it, but their sons are around, so they're still here."

It's a great film, and really provides a wonderful insight about what it means to be from, or live in, or simply love Venice, California. "I hope it inspires kids long after I'm gone to be proud of Venice. Dogtown will never die, it's worldwide. I love Venice, I just wish I could live there." It's a very sad thing (which I totally get and am also dealing with) when someone like Martinez - born, raised, and a true legend of Venice - can no longer afford to live here, especially considering how much of his life he has dedicated to this town, in every way. People trying to just make bank off of this very special place simply don't get it. And never will.

Please support Venice, its Skatepark, and its champion, Martinez by purchasing Made In Venice (and its merch!) to ensure that future generations will indeed be able to proudly call themselves Dogtown skaters.

Made In Venice is available now everywhere.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Grease Was The Word!

The annual singalong screening of Grease was held at Venice High School this past Saturday night, and was great, as ever. There was a big crowd there filling most of the football field (that is soon to be renovated, and will no longer look like it did in the movie, so this was a special screening, for sure), with a whole bunch of T-Birds, Pink Ladies, and poodle skirt wearing teeny boppers representing the greaser spirit.

Booths lined the running track (also to be updated), fundraising for various school groups, selling things like fried rice and unicorn quesadillas, in addition to a bbq, and the usual high school football game fare. Everyone has seen the film so many times that you could hear the dialogue being recited along with every word, not just the songs.

My friend visiting from out of town mentioned how it felt so small town, which is pretty remarkable, considering how big L.A. is - and it did. Friends waved to neighbors, people squeezed on to the prime blanket real estate on the grass, people shared their movie snacks, and watched other peoples' kids while they went for more. It was great. As I was thinking about it all this morning, I thought how everyone was out there just to have a good time in the community with fellow fun-havers. No one thought twice about being gathered in a big group out in public. It didn't enter our minds that someone might open fire on us all. I'm sure the revelers in Las Vegas for a concert last night didn't think that either ... until it happened. The biggest mass shooting in the United States in modern times. Over 50 dead. Over 500 injured. All for nothing. All because of guns, no gun control, and yet another crazy white man. It's the worst. The fun of the weekend feels like it didn't even happen. But it did, and that's important to remember. We can't give up having fun, or give in to fear, because then we're not living while we're alive - and every breath is precious. This tragedy in Vegas only highlights that fact even more, once again.

Take care of each other. Have fun. Love. And fight for gun control with everything you've got, because something has to stop this insanity, and it's up to We, the People. As everything now has to be.