Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Venice Gets A Rainbow Crosswalk!

It was crazy to be back in Venice after being gone all summer, and to see how much things have changed. So many businesses gone, so many new ones in. I found myself fondly remembering the days when we stood up and fought against chains, and ran Pinkberry out of town in just a few months, and I liked Pinkberry - just not in Venice. With so much of the cool being priced out of Venice, it was nice to see one NEW cool thing ... a rainbow crosswalk on Abbot Kinney!

I remember sitting in Tim Bonefeld and Erinn Berkson's (owner of one of the few remaining locally owned businesss on Abbot Kinney, the wonderful Burro!) living room after dinner a while back, and Tim talking about how he had the idea for a rainbow crosswalk to replace the dingy one outside of The Roosterfish ... and he made it happen! Dedicated on June 28th, 2019 (when I was gone, sadly) it now glistens there in the sun, AND makes crossing safer on AKB.

The Roosterfish used to be my Abbot Kinney Festival go-to spot to use the ladies room, as there was never a line for it in there. It was almost all gay men. Those days appear to be gone, as the place was packed with the Millenial crowd, and who knows if anyone was gay anymore in there. That's fine, it's just different, and I feel a little bad for all the people who would gather there in THEIR spot. Still, it's pretty cool to have the first rainbow crosswalk in Los Angeles celebrating our LBGTQ friends right here in Venice.

There are plaques in the street for the people who sponsored each color, and they are all to be commended (especially after the debacle this year between Venice Pride and the Venice Chamber of Commerce, who refused to let them use the Venice Sign for Pride - yeah.) for making Venice still have a little cool, and making the now douchebag-filled Abbot Kinney (Seriously. Locals I spoke to that haven't left didn't even know about the crosswalk because they won't go to AKB anymore!)  rainbow bright!

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

New Digs For Nick Fouquet Hats!

It was crazy how much had changed in Venice while I had been gone this summer. Being back in my familiar streets wasn't as familiar this time ... and I fear it's only getting worse. Losing Canal Club was bad, as it had its last days while I was gone, and so did Surfside. Now I'm hearing that we're losing the absolute institution that is Windward Farms! And then this just in, Tamara's Tamales is going away now too! Geez! You really have to wonder if any of our places that originally made Venice cool will be left soon, and it's really sad. I was happy, however, to see that my friend Nick Fouquet and his hats had NOT left Venice, but has moved into a new space formerly occupied by my beloved Marla's on the mellow end of Abbot Kinney, right across from the French Market (where French Fouquet and I both often frequent). And it is great.

You would never know that this bright, airy space had housed a restaurant, as it is now a posh showroom for what Venetians and celebrities all agree are THE world's coolest hats. I've written about Fouquet and his hats ever since he was an apprentice to Greg Westbrook, making hats in the basement parking garage on Abbot Kinney. Fouquet went out on his own, moving his shop up the street to a little bungalow on Abbot Kinney (that formerly housed Fioré Designs), where things really started to take off. Yes, a Fouquet hat is going to set you back, but I'm all for someone who started local and made good locally, so good for him!

The hatter then moved his shop to another little bungalow on Lincoln Boulevard, where they continued to thrive. Things have gotten so big that they needed more space, and that's when they found the Marla's space.

They have the gorgeous showroom, but they also have office space, production space, and even a chill space outside, complete with a living plant wall.

The wonderful hats coming out of here, with their trademark matchstick tucked into the brims, are now topping the heads of some of the world's biggest stars. Everyone from Gary Clark, Jr. to Gigi Hadid, Madonna to Bob Dylan ... they're all wearing Nick Fouquet hats. It all blew up when Pharell wore a Nick Fouquet chapeau to the Grammys a few years back, and now to stand in front of the wall of alphabetically sorted hat forms with client names on them is to stand before a who's who of ALL the stars, from rock to sports. I'm SO proud of what Fouquet has built, and it has been a delight to witness it all from the beginning.

I stopped in to congratulate Fouquet on the new headquarters, but he was off in Portugal or Prague or somewhere, bringing his hats to the entire globe. I did get to visit with Fouquet's right hand woman - and my friend - Ali Jenkins, and wish her well as she's about to be married this coming weekend in New York! CONGRATULATIONS to these excellent Venice friends on all the good! Cheers and much love! One of my very favorite Venice quotes ever was when I first moved here, and there was a man selling hats on the Boardwalk shouting, "Venus is in retrograde, everyone needs a hat!" The logic made some kind of sense to me then, and now, as VENICE itself is in retrograde, everyone REALLY needs a hat. And I hope for mine to be a Nick Fouquet. Lit.

Nick Fouquet Hats
2300 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Monday-Saturday 11-7
Sunday 11-5

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Happy Tenth Birthday, Venice Skatepark!

The Venice Skatepark opened on October 3, 2009 (Here's that story), and today celebrates its ten year anniversary! This true diamond in the rough of Venice has become a second home for a new generation of skaters, all looking to carry on the legend of Dogtown and Venice skaters.

There have been too many memories to count, from skate contests to film shoots to Life Rolls On events to just regular weekdays after school giving the kids of Venice and the surrounding areas a place to go to hang out and get good at a sport that is truly one of the things that defines Venice.

There is a great movie about the long road to getting a Skatepark built in Venice, called Made In Venice, and it's a must-see for anyone who cares about either skating or Venice, but preferably both. It lets you know how important Jesse Martinez has been to the Skatepark, and its maintenance, and how Los Angeles really needs to compensate the man properly, and let him do his job. This park is a wonderful GIFT to our community, and we all need to make sure it stays beautiful for many years to come. A skater friend of mine in Minneapolis told me it's the best Skatepark he's ever been to, "Because it's SO beautiful!" - and it really is. There's the ocean right there, and the most famous Boardwalk in the world right over there. It's a treasure.

Happy First Decade, Venice Skatepark! We love you.

*First photo I took today.
 *Second photo is Ray Rae I believe!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The 2019 Abbot Kinney Street Festival - A True Venice Homecoming

AHHHHHHHH. BACK IN VENICE! And just in time for the annual Abbot Kinney Festival, that I don't believe I've ever missed in 25 years, and wasn't about to start now. I got in from Minnesota the night before, and woke to a beautiful, sunny Indian Summer Venice day! I believe I didn't stop smiling from ear to ear the entire day, like my face actually hurt a little bit the next day. But WELL worth it.

There was a Vikings game on also, so I had to catch a little of that, and then I couldn't stand it anymore and had to get out in the streets to see my people again - though I did encounter another Viking in the crowd (as seen above), and we checked the score together (and that made me not think about it again that day). I had my first stop at Beyond Baroque to see the exhibit A History of Venice put on by the Venice Heritage Museum just in the nick of time, as it was its last day, and they were about to do the closing ceremony prayer.

Arranged by decade, the exhibit was awesome, and I wish I'd had more time to really give it the attention it deserved, because it was a LOT of work, and a LOT of Venice history. Just glancing around the walls, you felt the years and years of creativity and change surround you ... and made you happy that you had even some small part in it.

It was a great joy and relief to see so many friendly faces, and receive so many warm embraces from my Venice friends who know what I've been dealing with all summer with my Mom back home in Minnesota. It made me heart actually swell up to know how many people actually really do care. THANK YOU! We all went outside to the garden to hear a prayer from Mike Bravo and his Tongva Tia Angie Behrens. It was beautiful, and set a lovely tone of appreciation for the day ahead.

I dove into the sea of people on Abbot Kinney, and it might have been more packed then I've ever seen the Festival - with mostly people I didn't know. That's a kind of sad shift, as it used to be you could pick out the people you didn't know ... but it was still a blast to run into old friends every five feet or so. This year it was less about booths and music and stuff for me, as I really just wanted to see as many of my friends at once as I could. There was no real "Locals" stage this year for us to have as our headquarters, as my friend Matt Ellis who usually books it, moved to the desert. I guess the Winston House did it this year, and I'm going to have to help them with booking locals, as I'd never heard of any of them. Except the Samba School that closed it out. I always love to see them parade through the Festival, but this time they got their own headlining spot, which was fun.

It was such a blast reuniting with everyone, I didn't even want to stop to eat or drink, but one must survive. We zipped into Gjelina for a couple minutes and bites, and then I had to go check out Attaway, who was showing his art in the space out back behind The Stronghold.

The art was as good as ever, and I was happy to see one of the subjects of our film 90291: VENICE UNZIPPED (which we were also shooting for in the middle of all of this!) doing so well, and being his usual philosophic and awesome self.

You have to take breaks at the AK Fest, so we did a little time at my friend Darla's house, before the fear of missing out made me drag everyone back out there. I got my friend Stephanie back in Venice from the Valley, and it was just like old times, Man. Loving every minute of it!

The new Roosterfish was going off, but now it's full of Millenials taking selfies. Gone seem to be the days of ducking into the Roosterfish to use the bathroom during the Festival, because there was never a line for the Ladies Room. Sigh. Looked like people were having fun though, and I dug the rainbow awning, AND the new rainbow crosswalk out front!

I want to say too, that it meant SO much that so many people asked how my Mom was doing. People who don't even know here in real life really care, and it warmed my heart all day. I didn't pay much attention to the booths and stuff, as I mentioned this year was all about those people for me. It was great, however, to see so many booths still being put up by locals. Principessa, Ananda, Trim, The Stronghold, Amiga Wild, The Venice Art Walk, and of course, Dogtown and Hecho En Venice, were all out there representing, and that made it easier to find those friends too! I want a do-over of the whole day, really, just so I can see even more people and stuff.

A highlight of my Festival this year was this little hippie dude walking through the crowds selling what looked to be flower crowns. Weaving through the gridlock of bodies, he was just smiling and spreading the love ... exactly what I want to see here in Venice. Thanks, Brother!

Another little break led us almost to sunset, and some of the most beautiful lighting ever. Everywhere you looked revelers were snapping photos of how gorgeous it all was, and no one could blame them.

The Festival was winding down, but everyone had had so much fun, no one wanted it to end. People stood around in the street as tents and booths began to come down and the cops did their sweep.

The Venice Metal Works space was going off with actual heavy metal drawing a big crowd. I didn't catch the name of the band, because I too was partying, but they were good!

A little old lady was playing her tambourine along with the metal, and that was another highlight of the day for me right there.

The Brooksfest thing was happening again this year (WHY don't they do it another day?! There's too much to get to as it is!!), and we passed it by on the way to the sunset at the beach that I have been craving all summer.

It was packed in their parking lot, but that's not what we needed at the end of a packed day. We needed a sunset at the drum circle and a burger at Hinano. And that's exactly what we got.

What a fantastic day. It carried on much, much later as I had to sit by a fire and just talk forever with friends who I've missed so much all summer. I need to say a massive THANK YOU to all of Venice for welcoming back with such generous, loving, and open arms. This has always been the home I CHOSE, and every time I'm here it's clear to me once again why. I would go on much longer about this, but now I HAVE to go to the BEACH. The sun is out and I haven't been in the water since May ... but hope to see you ALL soon!

I love you, Venice.