Monday, January 28, 2019

Roller Dreams - The Legend Of Roller Dancing In Venice

There was another gorgeous sunset in Venice last night, but the show was not over after that. It was on to Beyond Baroque for Gerry Fialka's Laughtears annual night of Venice cinema. The main event was a screening of the wonderful documentary, Roller Dreams, which tells the story of the rise (and decline) of roller dancing on the Venice Boardwalk.

The 15th annual cinematic evening of works featuring Venice had a packed house for the event, which began with live music from Sara Messenger (a star of Roller Dreams) that I was still looking at the sunset for, and then a film from Taylor Cox called PULL, about artists and people in Venice listening to their inner voices to continue to be creative. That one was a nice intro to the rest of the night, especially as Fialka is one of the main people being interviewed within the film. It's great to see filmmakers continuing to be inspired by our Venice.

It was was standing room only in the Beyond Baroque auditorium by the time Roller Dreams screened, with locals and roller skater fans crammed into the room to witness a piece of Venice history on the screen. The 80's were all about roller disco, and Venice was at its very heart. The skaters were rock stars down at the Boardwalk, and thousands of bystanders would surround them to cheer them on. You meet characters like Sally, Duval (who dressed up like Superman in a cape - RIP), Jimmy, Terrell, and the mean mug of "Mad", who was the undisputed ringleader of it all.

Times change, and the roller dancing scene was eclipsed by the skateboarding one, but that's not the only reason why things changed down there at the Boardwalk. We've been living with the gentrification for years now, which is a big part of this story, along with the issue of race. The vast majority of the awesome roller dancers in Venice were African American, and once there got to be thousands of fans packing in to watch them, the police weren't comfortable and simply put an end to it. The concrete was bulldozed up, the loud music (often Prince) they danced to was forbidden, and that was pretty much that. Except it wasn't.

All of the roller dancers featured in Roller Dreams were in the house for the screening last night at Beyond Baroque - Mad is still Mad. It was extra emotional when they all stood up at the end, because we all now knew the history, their importance to our community and to the rollerskating world, as well as a glimpse into their hearts, and what all of this meant to them. Director Kate Hickey's film was inspired by the Aussie cult film Xanadu, starring Olivia Newton-John, which began Hickey's love for roller dancing. Once she moved to Venice and learned that the pioneers of the sport were all right here (and shockingly never featured in the white-washed roller disco films of the era), she knew she had to tell their stories. She has done so with a loving and respectful tone that shares the joy and pain of the roller dancer's world.

The Venice Beach Sk8 Dancers are still down there every weekend, as entertaining and groovy as ever. Now that I know their stories, I just want to go down and watch them all the time. Or better yet, learn from them, as they all said they welcome everyone and love to teach people new tricks (and rollerskating is making a big comeback! Way cuter than rollerblades). They also need our help. The Skate Dance Plaza needs a facelift (and to be even and not crumbling), and they have a Go Fund Me set up to improve the conditions so they may continue offering fun and entertainment to the global village that passes by in the thousands each weekend. They need $20,000 (and the City isn't helping - surprise). We can do this for them. They've given the world so much for decades ... we can help them get funky for decades more. Please support our Roller Dreamers!

Go Fund the Re-Paving of Venice Skate Dance Plaza!

Thanks to Gerry Fialka and Beyond Baroque for a great night of Venice cinema!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The 2019 L.A. Art Show - Massive!

One of my favorite parties of the year was held last night at the L.A. Convention Center, where the kickoff party for the L.A. Art Show opening went down. We took the train and got there late, as usual, so we had our work cut out for us if we wanted to see even a fraction of the huge amount of art that is on display this weekend. MASSIVE amounts of art. You belong here.

We've learned our lesson in years past, and skipped the long lines for drinks that gobble up all your art viewing time, and the food is always gone by the time we get there (we always end up getting street dogs after), so this night was all about the art. And the very excellent people watching that always happens during this opening party - SO good. This is L.A. after all, so there are all sorts of creative artist types walking around, and it's as fun to see as all of the art.

The massive hall is kind of split up into more contemporary/cool art on one side, and the more corporate/law office type of art on the other. There was so much art that when I split up from my brother in the interest of dividing and conquering and seeing the most art in our limited time, when we compared notes later we had almost no overlapping. I hadn't even seen several of his favorite works, and vice versa. It's a LOT to take in, and probably warrants a trip back downtown this weekend to see the things I missed.

The highlight for me (and everyone, I think) is always the Littletopia section, curated by my friends at the Red Truck Gallery from New Orleans.

My favorite art of the entire show is pretty much always pieces from Red Truck, and last night was no different. There were china dishes with irreverent messages ...

There was even a diorama of Jumbo's Clown Room!

I always enjoy catching up with Red Truck owner, Noah Antieau, who told me that they've also opened up a Red Truck Bar in the French Quarter, so now there's even more incentive to get back to the Crescent City and see all of their cool art in person at the source, and throw back a few cocktails with this great bunch of art lovers. Awesome.

There are always crowd pleasers at this show, that you can detect from the crowds of people gathering around to take photos. One of the big ones this year was a prism thing that created infinite angles when you looked inside of it, the Portal Icosahedron, by Anthony James. It was trippy and reminded of my brother Paul's paintings.

A lot of art these days is about its attractiveness for selfies, sadly, and I stopped to look at the great work by Adah Glenn, particularly a work that said "Trust The Process". Great message. On another wall of her booth, there was a piece that said, "Black Girl Magic", with a gorgeous, fancily dressed black girl taking her photo in front of it. Glenn was happy that her work is popular for that, but at the same time wondered if her real message gets lost in the quest for likes. Interesting to consider. Hey, trust the process, right?

There was plenty of performance art this year, and another crowd gathered around a purple painted woman rolling around on the floor with laundry, underneath hula-hoops also strewn with laundry. Sarah Trouche's You Should Wear Your Revolution was meant to symbolize women's emancipation in the tradition of the French movement of "Sans Culottes" - basically "without drawers". Word.

There was an interactive rainforest made from paper that involved all the senses, and even featured Smellavision. When you stuck your head in the little holes that featured butterfly vignettes and things, it smelled like Febreeze or something - or what I like to call "Eau de Lyft Ride". The message was to save nature though, and I'm all for that.

Also on that tip was the lovely (and one of my favorites) work by Cha, Yun Sook, her beautiful Homage To Nature. It was stunning, and it was a delight to meet the artist, who also made her matching outfit. Loved it.

Another favorite was The Lady Of Arlington, 2018 by Mike Stilkey. It was a portrait of a woman done completely on used books. Fantastic!

If you know me, you know I LOVED Prince, by Craig Alan. It was a portrait of Prince, made up of a whole bunch of tiny people.

If you zoomed in, you could see that all the tiny people were different ... like one in a wheelchair, one with a dog, etc. All combining to make the iconic face of our beloved Prince. Wow.

Another kind of performance art/art piece was by Kate Groobey, with her Places Unknown, 2017. It had a work of art on the wall, that the artist then brought to life by dressing in a costume like the piece ... pretty cool.

David Hockney was representing L.A. for the art show, and was showing a gorgeous screen in his classic style that we all wanted for our homes ... Caribbean Tea Time, 1987. The color and style are pure Los Angeles, and it was nice to see this more main stream artist there among all the rest of it.

Not remotely in the main stream was the performance piece by Dorian Wood, Nodrissx/Narcissx. This work won hands-down for the most out there situation of the evening. There was a dark room with a big Pan's Labyrinth meets Saw looking character wrapped in gauze with a hole for its nipple, intoning monk-like chants with a man-servant type guy sitting there. My friend said, "Why are there so many wet wipes scattered around?" Well, we soon found out why ...

The sign explaining the piece invited viewers to come forward and kneel to suckle at the breast protruding from the hole, and to "feed on the artist's breast for as long as they choose." What. The. Hell?! I guess the point was to challenge the artist/audience separation, but I was not down. We saw no takers for the suckling, but I heard later that artist Gary Baseman had a suck. No, gracias.

The past several years of the L.A. Art Show have always featured a hyper-realistic head sculpture by Kazuhiro Tsuji, and this year's marvel is Jimi Hendrix! It's too crazy how these things look so real, from every angle. Another highlight in a year full of highlights, too many to even see in one outing.

The loudspeaker guy was chiming in to kick everyone out while we still raced about trying to see more and find more friends before we got the boot. Near the front entrance where we were all meeting back up, there was a great neon sign, giving encouragement to all artists and those who love them ...

Everything you need is inside you (I believe a Burning Man installation, by Olivia Steele). I love that, and once again left the L.A. Art Show opening with a spring of inspiration and happiness in my step. I encourage one and all to get down to the L.A. Convention Center this weekend to take it all in. You will leave feeling better about the whole world, knowing that there is so much creativity and talent still in it. Art Saves, and we need it now more than ever.

L.A. Art Show 
L.A. Convention Center
January 23-27, 2019
11 am - 7 pm

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Journey Well!

Beach walks happen rain or shine, so this morning when I was checking out the day, I cut down the Boardwalk instead of the usual sand and saw this groovy pad all painted up in positivity, and it made me smile. This is what you want to see on the homes of Venice, California when you visit ... a declaring of peace and love in vivid color!

Angel Starlove is also a name that you'd want someone living in Venice (in "Vortexland"!) to have, and when I looked it up, sure enough, she's a groovy hippie chick, just like you'd want to see frolicking about on Ocean Front Walk. I don't know her (yet), but I appreciate her color and vibes, especially on such a cold and gloomy day. I was feeling pretty bleak, about the world at large, but also personal stuff that you don't talk about publicly. When I looked up from dodging puddles and noticed that someone had taken the time to wish everyone well, it honestly made me feel a little better about things. Everything is about attitude and outlook, and Angel Starlove helped mine improve ... so Thank you! And to everyone going anywhere today, even just on a walk to the beach ... Journey well!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Get A Tattoo On Abbot Kinney - Meet Royal Heritage Tattoo & Piercing, Now Open In Venice!

I got a call a couple months ago from David Paris, who owns The Brig building. He wanted me to know about a tattoo shop that was opening upstairs from The Brig, and to introduce me to Stephanie Anders, the proprietress of Royal Heritage Tattoo & Piercing. Now, a tattoo/piercing parlor is exactly what Abbot Kinney Boulevard needed - what Venice needed, really, instead of yet another b.s. corporate entity.  It took a minute for Anders and I to be able to sit down and chat, mainly because she was being flown to London to do piercing for Victoria Beckham (so she's got great referrals!), and then it was the holidays, and then we finally sat down to talk in her very cool shop.

Anders, like myself, was another Mid-Westerner who always knew she was going to be heading out west. Born and raised in small-town Iowa (her graduating class was 9!), Anders found an interest in piercing when she was only in second grade. She doesn't really know where the influence came from, just that she was always attracted to piercings. In high school, she got a job in a tattoo studio an hour's drive away, building her career and client base as she went.

When it was time for college, Anders went and soon realized that she had left a good, blossoming career in order to be a full-time/broke student. Why? Understanding that she had already found her path, Anders left school and returned back to her career, soon being invited to join the best studio in Des Moines, 5 Point Studios. She did get a husband (Kevin Anders, a chemist!) out of college, though, and he had spent some time living in L.A. ... and wasn't mad at the idea of returning.

In 2012, Stephanie and Kevin made the move from Iowa to Los Angeles, with no jobs, no place to live, just chasing the dream. A mere few days later, Stephanie got a job at Prix Body Piercing & Tattoo, on Sunset Boulevard at the time. While building up her west coast clientele, Anders had a piercing client, Zulu, who owned Zulu Tattoo at 3rd and Crescent Heights. When she shared with Zulu that she really wanted to open her own studio, he up and offered for her to take over Zulu! This was in 2016, Anders was only 23, but she went for it. The Zulu artists stayed, and soon Royal Heritage Tattoo & Piercing was off and running.

Anders kept renowned tattoo artists like Adam Kilss, and now has four tattoo artists working at Royal Heritage (and they're looking for more!), and 3 piercers including herself. Word of Anders' expertise soon spread around celebrity circles, and she found herself making holes in such celebrity skin (Hole song, get it?) as Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston ... you name it and she's probably pierced them. Anders likes to use high-end jewelry for her work, and set out to make her own, launching Royal Heritage Jewelry as the studio continued to grow. They needed a bigger space.

Poring over the real estate listings, Anders saw an interesting one on Abbot Kinney and decided to take a look. When turning right on to Abbot Kinney from Venice Boulevard, she saw palm trees and murals and sunshine and good looking people, and was like, "What is THIS place?!" She had never been to Venice other than the Boardwalk (!), but knew immediately that this was where she wanted to open up shop. "I needed to be here. For myself ... for my studio ... it just felt different than the rest of L.A. ... like there was a community here."

She told Paris immediately upon seeing the space that she'd take it, and then hoped that he'd say yes to a tattoo shop upstairs. Which he did, and is cool for doing. They clicked over her being a Mom & Pop for him, and for Anders, him telling her that the Venice Resistance used to meet in this space, and that she felt community like she hadn't felt before out here. I told her, like everyone does, that she would have REALLY loved Venice back in the day, but I felt good that as a newcomer, she had felt what we all felt when we moved here long ago ... still. It's good when new people try to adapt to the place, and not try to force it to be how Brentwood-style they want it (and those people know who they are). Anders is all in for our community too. I was telling her about the upcoming Venice Mardi Gras parade at the beach, and she instantly was all excited ideas about how to participate - "Ooh, we can make Royal Heritage beads to throw out!" I like her style.

Anders handled the remodel, which took most of September, and Royal Heritage opened for biz on October 18th, 2018. Many of her clients followed her here, as did her other artists' clients, plus a whole lot of good word of mouth has spread from their solid 5 star reviews on Yelp, so they've been busy at work ever since. Anders is making jewelry, piercing clients, hosting piercing parties, being flown around the globe to meet her high-end clients' piercing needs, and it seems like she's having a blast and loving living her dream. Everyone at the studio is super nice and welcoming, and the work is the height of professionalism. My brother and I were in Tijuana a week ago, and almost got margarita-induced tattoos, but I'm glad we didn't and now can give Royal Heritage a go once that wild hair returns. Filling Anders in on happenings around Venice, she told me, "Any way we can be involved in things, we want to do it." If only all our new businesses and neighbors were so helpful and agreeable ... that Venice IS and MUST remain, a special place to live and work and love and have FUN. "This is a creative environment ... that's what brought me here," explained Anders, in accordance with what brought most people here (before greed for the dollar took over).

Anders and her co-workers work a lot, so they still have a lot of Venice to explore, but Abbot's Pizza remains an almost daily go-to that they can run out up the block and grab a quick lunch. They also got very familiar with Lincoln Hardware during their build-out, and love that place too. The Brig is an obvious favorite, as customers tend to think of new tattoos downstairs while drinking, and come on up (not unlike my brother and I in T.J.). Note that newcomers also dig the neighborhood joints that we all know and love, not the corporate chains that no one wants here, save for greedy landlords. We all know how I feel about that, and it's nice to see the sentiment shared by people just now discovering our fair town ... Love for the REAL Venice.

"We want to be a high-end studio that caters to anyone who needs us. There are options for everyone to have a high-end experience. I'm just really happy and excited to be over here, and to be the best that we can be," shared Anders. Her enthusiasm is as infectious as her smile, and Royal Heritage is a most welcome addition to the block that sorely needed this infusion of real deal cool, not the kind that marketing teams deem so. Happy to have you here, Stephanie and Royal Heritage! Welcome!

Royal Heritage Tattoo & Piercing
1515 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Suite 300
(323) 782-9977
Open every day 12-8 pm

*Black and white photo by Sarit Rogers

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Nightly Venice Light Show

The best show in town can be seen almost every evening along the edge of the continent here in Venice, California. The sunsets lately have been OUTRAGEOUSLY beautiful, and last night's fantastic display was the best one of 2019 - so far.

It was a hazy shade of winter all day long, and I went to The Whaler for happy hour with my friend Sailene, who recently decided to opt out of the expense of Venice and make the move to Joshua Tree, so she wanted to see some ocean. The Whaler has way better food now, and we thoroughly enjoyed our front row seat to the nice sunset shaping up. We were not prepared for how EXTRA spectacular it was to become, so we hastily finished up and sped out to the Venice Pier to get a better look - along with the rest of the nature lovers all facing west.

It got better and better with every passing moment, and was one of the rare sunsets where it's equally beautiful in all directions, lighting up the mountains behind us while the electric orange sun was sinking in front of us.

The air felt special, and everyone had that gorgeous sunset glow on their faces as we all shared in the awe. It was impossible to tear your eyes away from it all, and I was already about 15 minutes late for a meeting. That's when you start justifying things like, "Am I going to remember being on time for a meeting or the one of the top sunsets ever?" The sunset always wins with me. Sorry (not sorry).

We walked backward slowly, unable to turn our backs on the majesty. This is the best free show in town, with a pretty awesome wave soundtrack to go along with it. The social media feeds all filled up with the glory of the setting sun, for good reason - even though even the best of the photographs can never measure up to the real thing. There's a lot that people disagree about in Venice these days, but we can all get behind a glorious sunset. I'm still in awe of it just thinking about it, and feel so lucky and happy that I was in a place where I could enjoy it to the fullest - and have the memory for always.

Thank you, Nature! Five stars.

Monday, January 7, 2019

2019 ... Let's Do This!

Happy New Year 2019! Well, I'm back in Venice and it's kind of hard to tell the difference between here and Minnesota. Cold and rainy Venice isn't much warmer than cold and rainy Minnesota ... in January.

I was kind of upset about the unseasonably warm weather the whole time I was home, and started getting mad at the weather people who were all like, "Isn't this great? Warmest day on record in January!!" And I was like, "Uh, no. It's NOT great. It's climate change and this means we have even less time on this planet, but enjoy." I didn't care at all that it was buzzkill behavior ... people need to be aware. People need to care. Rain in Minnesota in January is not normal. Or good. But other than that I had a wonderful holiday (thank you, Minnesota loved ones and places!), and hope you all did too.

Home is always a wonderful break, where I always strengthen my roots and expand my heart. I've been increasingly torn as to where I belong these days, and the excellent time (and the almost the same weather) got me thinking a lot as to where I should be living now. I suspect it might be neither Venice or Minnesota, but it will be interesting to figure out ... especially as Blogtown is entering its TENTH year, and there are OH so many stories to tell.

I missed the big protest against Starbucks on the Boardwalks, and that was a drag but couldn't be helped. I'm told it was a good turnout in spite of the rainy day, and that the message that corporate chains are not welcome in Venice was ably delivered. I will continue to stage daily protests as I walk by that pile of spit in our eyes, and encourage all to do the same. Even you, tourists (their only hope).

I missed the closing of our beloved Hal's (again!), and I guess I'm not the only one. No one knew until they were greeted by a sign on the door declaring it was closed and the business was "liquidating". I have yet to find out the real story, but my sadness and disappointment is real. Just as the Venice one was starting to once again feel like the locals hang, it's gone. As is our other hang, Wabi Sabi (I know it's Wabi Venice now, but not to me), who I'm told will be closed down for a good long time due to their raging fire late last year. UGH. Where do we hang now on Abbot Kinney? All of this makes it a lot easier to think about living somewhere else (with possibly affordable rents) ... but then you start looking forward to all the fun stuff, like the upcoming Venice Mardi Gras ... like all the art openings ... like all the music shows ... like our documentary, our street art festival (LOTS to tell you about coming this year!) and you go, "Nah, I'm good." For now.

I hope you all had a fantastic holiday break, and as we swan dive into this new year of 2019 (!), I can't wait to tell all the GOOD stories and DO all the good that we've come to expect from our community. Our global community.

Love to all - I'm so looking forward to seeing you and what comes our way this last year of a very interesting decade. Let's do this!