Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy

Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind'

Venice tourism treatment

Click photo to go to slide.I had read about Los Angeles' Venice years before I ever visited Southern California for the first time in 1967, and since my first visit to it Venice has represented the quintessence of "the Southern California myth" to me. If Los Angeles is known for colorful characters, Venice is the colander that catches them just before they might be washed into the sea. Venice is Hollywood West, literally less than 10 miles from the historic home of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a magnet for entertainment industry stars, movers/shakers, and industry wannabes. Something is being filmed or televised along the Ocean Front Walk it seems every week, and often more than one such production is seen being worked on the same day. The 30 blocks from Washington Boulevard to Santa Monica provide an endless array of street performers, artists, artisans, hustlers, con artists, exhibitionists—something for every taste. On the town side of the Ocean Walk, there are scores of restaurants, souvenir shops, tattoo and piercing parlors, some private residences (including some homes of Hollywood celebrities), hotels, a bookstore, and clothing stores.

Click to go to slide.Now part of the City of Los Angeles, Venice began at the beginning of the past century as an independent town, developed by tobacco magnate Abbott Kinney, who envisioned it as "Coney Island West." He had canals dug for the dual purpose of draining the marshlands on which the town was being built and serving as a tourist attraction meant to rival the canals of the original Venice, in Italy. Kinney was successful until the Great Depression, when his amusement piers had to close. By then, Venice was comparable to the Wildwood, New Jersey, of today. Economic downturn resulted in the town being annexed by Los Angeles, which dismantled the amusement piers and other tourist attractions, even about half of the canals. What remains of the canal system is very picturesque, though not nearly as functional (as vital transportation arteries) as the canals in Venice, Italy.

Click to go to slide.Despite decades of decline after the Great Depression struck, Venice still had one of the largest expanses of sand beaches in Los Angeles County. By the late '50s "beats" (writers, poets, jazz musicians) gravitated to it, followed by the body builders of Muscle Beach, who put Venice back on the national radar screen by the early '60's. As seen on several of the pictures in our gallery, the most famous of those was an ambitious immigrant from Austria named Arnold Schwarzenegger who trained in Venice to compete for the title of Mr. Universe and went on to win fame beyond weight lifting. During the psychedelic rock period of the late 1960's, the Doors were a local Venice band that became international superstars. In the height (or nadir) of the hedonistic '70's, Venice had a legal nude sunbating beach district, though that has long since been reversed. The introduction in 1976 of polyurethane skate wheels brought public roller skating to Venice and this, along with a portion of an 18-mile ocean-front bicycle path opened in 1972, assured large crowds of weekend visitors to the promenade year-round.

Click to go to slide.Though there are no carnival-type rides in Venice now, clearly visible on clear days and nights is the famed Santa Monica pier, one of the few ocreanfront amusement-park type piers left in California, about two miles northwest, and just beyond Santa Monica is Malibu, now famous as having the second-largest concentration of celebrity homes in the area, after Beverly Hills.

Photos (click any to go to that slide): Top, the beach as seen from Washington Blvd. Pier. Second, public basketball courts where much of the movie, White Men Can't Jump, was filmed. Third, "the most famous street performer in the world," Harry Perry, guitar playing street musician on roller skates. Fourth, a poster-photo (framed and under glass) in a Venice restaurant, Arnold showing off his left bicep.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy


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Today's chuckle

The face in the mirror isn’t wrinkled or drawn. My house isn’t dirty. The cobwebs are gone. My garden looks lovely, And so does my lawn. I think I might never again put my glasses back on.

— Sent by Trudy Myers

Thought for today

Much of the modern resistance to chastity comes from men’s belief that they “own” their bodies—those vast and perilous estates, pulsating with the energy that made the worlds, in which they find themselves without their consent and from which they are ejected at the pleasure of Another!

C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)

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