Venice, California gave up its status as a city seventy years ago and still became one of the world´s most stubbornly independent communities. Acknowledged as a unique urban environment, Venice is the seaside playpen where trends are born, a tourist magnet rivaled only by Disneyland, and a microcosm of everything that´s good and bad about America. Half the stars of movies and music have lived there at some stage of their careers. Probably more film footage exists of the Venice boardwalk than of any other stretch of real estate.
Millions of people have seen innumerable images of Venice on TV and in movies, and visited the boardwalk, and wondered how it would be to live in such a crazy place, and even wished they dared to throw caution to the winds and move to Edge City. Most books about Venice have been pictorial, poetic, or scholarly. Call Someplace Paradise is a kaleidoscopic collection of observations from the viewpoint of an inhabitant over more than half a decade, 1978-84. Unlike the sociologists and bureaucrats who came from afar to scrutinize Venice, I had the advantage of living there.
Venice is a place where it´s worth knowing what went on there in any period, the kind of place that lives in legend, an American Shangri-la. In many people´s minds it´s the epitome of hip. Interest in Venice will only increase when its Centennial comes up in 2005.
Call Someplace Paradise is for anyone who lives there now, or used to, or ever wanted to, or might some day. It´s for people from other countries, curious about life in this almost anarchistic milieu; for futurologists, sociologists, urbanologists, economists, aging hippies, and libertarians.
It covers Venice shrines, institutions, historical sites and monuments: the Gas House, the pier, the Venice Beachhead, Tony Bill´s 73 Market Street studio, the canals, A Change of Hobbit, the street where part of A Touch of Evil was filmed, Beyond Illusions bookstore, the place where Jim Morrison made a film, the Fox Venice Theatre, the cultural centers Beyond Baroque and SPARC.
Some of the local characters and celebrities in Call Someplace Paradise: Swami X; Susan Moscowitz the Doll Lady of Venice, beatnik painter Robert Farrington, LA Fine Arts Squad muralist John Wehrle, rollerskater/guitarist/Sufi Harry Perry, Alky Bob, Uncle Bill, Jingles, Ananda the drama queen, the guy with a bullet in his spine, Hare Krishnas, landlords who give free enterprise a bad name, Greenie the stalker, Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, silent film star Mary Miles Minter, Ernie the poor little rich boy, the grocery cart bounty hunter, sex surrogate Joan Silverthorn, the Circle Man, the ubiquitous religious graffiti nut, and a ton of other weird folk, substance abusers, professional oddballs, buskers, con artists, deadbeats, grifters and street people.
Here are some other things in Call Someplace Paradise: the boardwalk and beach, vendors versus the law, skaters versus the law, the powerful senior citizens´ lobby, living at the beach whether in buildings or tents, famous rent strikes, murals, Tuum Est addiction recovery center, stolen art work, cafe life, John Lennon´s Birthday, the Hare Krishna Parade, the Kite Festival, the gentrification juggernaut, Survival Sunday, Francisco and His Cosmic Beam, gruesome hot tub deaths, drum circles, Zendiks, improv groups, body decoration, the heritage of the Beats, the archetypically senseless murder of a convenience store clerk, readings by well-known poets and aspiring nobodies.
Venice has been called the Center of the Universe, the Last Resort, the living future of contemporary American history, the living national monument to the achievement of the American dream, and the world´s largest outdoor outpatient clinic. The Sixties started there sooner than most anywhere else, and then di