Archive for the ‘Venice’ Tag

The Last Hurrah (for Hollywood)

Charlie Chaplin Kid Auto Races at Venice 1914 little tramp

We left LA with two final movie things to delight us and cast a glittering light on the City of Angels. First, I found out that the apartment we were staying in – apart from being on the same street Jim (Morrison) used to live on – was adjacent to the location of the first movie in which Charlie Chaplin appeared as The Little Tramp. It is now a dog park but back in 1914 it was the site of the ‘Kid Auto Races at Venice’ where Mack Sennett produced a 6 minute short directed by Henry Lehrman. My second son has Charlie as a middle name in honour of Chaplin.

Last time we were in LA together (when he was 4) we were hosted by my Paramount friends at a house Chaplin had built for his mistress. This time (he is now 15) we enjoyed spotting various Chaplin traces around Venice (mostly murals) but it was only on our day of departure I found out in detail why they were there.

The other movie moment to adorn that day was when the same son spotted a face he recognised in the place we went en famille for breakfast, a bakery called Gjusta also in Venice, located in an old boat-building factory adjacent to Gold’s Gym of Arnie fame. It had been Arnold Schwarzenegger’s birthday the day before and by chance I spotted, when out running along the beach, that his image fills giant-size the wall behind Jim’s mural ‘Morning Shot’. So after a breakfast with a bit less raw meat than Arnie would be used to (Gjusta is pretty California nutty-crunchy), Enfant Terrible No. 2 spotted this hot girl he recognised from the big screen and I had the pleasure of seeing him pluck up the courage to speak to her, plan his approach and execute it cooly. She turned out to be Cody Horn from Magic Mike. Her father is chairman of Walt Disney Studios and was formerly president of Warner Bros. so I guess “How did you get into movies?” was not worth the asking. No, to be fair, she was very warm and charming and happy to be engaged in conversation, as well as plenty glamorous so she helped bring our LA stay to a perfect, fitting end.

cody_horn_actress

We drove out of Gjusta with the LA Road Songs CD aforementioned Paramount pals made for us on our Route 101 trip 11 years ago playing loud and headed North to do the reverse trip…

highway-101 ventura california USA

Ventura Highway in the sunshine
Where the days are longer
The nights are stronger than moonshine
You’re gonna go I know

‘Cause the free wind is blowin’ through your hair
And the days surround your daylight there
Seasons crying no despair
Alligator lizards in the air, in the air

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Son of a Beach

michael shrieve woodstock santana soul sarcifice

I’m sitting on a balcony overlooking a small intersection one block back from Venice Beach in LA. It’s on Westminster Avenue. The names are European but the vibe is very much Californian. The last few stragglers coming back from the beach under the bright moon. The palm fronds swaying gently in a perfect cool breeze. A black dude with baseball cap at reverse 45 degrees is standing on the opposite corner under the Do Not Enter sign with his drum on a small trolley. That’s how a totally Venice evening got under way. I walked down to the beach with Mrs Simple Pleasures just after 6, only to hear the beat of the drums across the sand. We walked in the direction of the pulse and came across a circle of humanity, drumming together, dancing together, being together in the lowering sun. A stars’n’stripes fluttered above the Soul Sacrifice, see-through in the sunshine, adorned with an extra native American proud on his horse. A girl with waist-length curly hair in an electric pink bikini top and sheer sarong belly-danced with abandon. All manner of drums were beat with hands, with sticks, with plastered fingers. This is a regular gathering – Saturday and Sunday evenings – as the sun sets. A skinny bearded hipster danced a mad back-to-the-60s dance, moving weirdly but well, right to his shoulder joints. The sun drops behind distant hills but the beat goes on…

Mrs SP headed home, swopping places with Enfant Terrible No. 1 and we headed along the beach in the Santa Monica direction. At a stall we watched a fella scratching with languid fingers, playing the vinyl and the decks at moments with elegant flow which captured the power of that strangest of hip-hop inventions – playing the machines.

Our sunset promenade was punctuated by wafts of weed, sometimes from mysterious sources – a breath of sweet scent with no-one in range.

In search of coffee we came eventually to a cafe beside in a pub-like bar. From the bar came unexpectedly but so aptly the strains of Mr Mojo Risin’ – a Doors tribute band called Peace Frog. Another regular Sunday night happening. ET1 has got into the band in a big way in recent months so we sat&listened over drinks in the adjacent cafe, going more for an imaginative experience than a literal visual one. We discussed musicians and singers who died at 27 and he filled me in on the Amy doc I keep missing. We talked about fucking up your kids and what a good drummer his cousin has turned out to be. We strolled back with the shades of the Lizard King ghost-dancing about us. Oh, and there was a pale 12 foot long boa constrictor at one point. Camden Town-on-Sea. Everything Venice should be.

Mural by Rip Cronk (1991)

Morning Shot by Rip Cronk (1991)

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