(This is a re-print from the December 1983 Beachhead 15th Anniversary issue)
By Carol Fondiller
Write about the Free Venice Beachhead. Easy, I thought. Well, it hasn’t been. Something inside me skitters toward the subject and then flits away.
“I felt as if everyone on the staff was fucking each other and I was the only one who wasn’t getting fucked,” said one ex-Collective member. And it is like that when one joins a small group of people who have been working together for a long time. I feel like that right now, having come back to the Beachhead after being away from it for a while. It’s true! It’s true!! It’s always been true! I’ve always felt like that with one or two exceptions when I’ve been fucked and fucked over. And oh, the stories I could tell if I didn’t want to live in this town any more! The little tensions and eruptions of ego! “Tell that paper that Werner Scharf is wrong,” said Anna Haag. “I haven’t changed. I still believe in what I believe. I wanted to make a living (at the Venice West) but he stopped me. He said I sold dope. Maybe I should have. I’d be as rich as he is.”
Werner Scharf and Anna Haag. Werner and Anna have always been around in Venice. One time as Anna and I sat in Hinano’s, she told me “I might love a man, but I love Venice more.” My sentiments, exactly.
One night in 1968, we were at the Peace and Freedom office wondering how to get the news out about the Master Plan and Venice. As I remember it, every paper and media outlet either ignored us or they portrayed us as a band of hippies, or as if they listened to Curt Simon, Werner Sharf and other speculators, we were commies intent on destroying the American way of life.
Jane Gordon, myself, John Haag, Anna Haag, Jay Jamieson, and I think Rick Davidson and Phil Chamberlain were there. John Haag said, “Why don’t we start a paper?” Anna Haag organized fund raisers and I helped. During the ’60s and ’70s, I learned how to witness police sweeps. The LAPD’s crack team was called the Metro Squad. I found that some of the police thought the presence of a person with a pencil and paper more threatening than a person with a gun.
The Beachhead has always been a renters’ paper. Always in search of a place with a large workspace. As rents rose, space grew more cramped. So, there’s always been an air of suspense about the paper. Some people, looking at this gypsy paper, would say, “I can do better than that,” and would proceed to show those uptight politicos how to do it right. For a while, their periodicals would show up beautifully printed and laid out on good stock, with color and lots of advertising. After a few months, despite the stylish print sock-’em-out layout, these papers would disappear and that ugly, flimsy rag whose pages turned yellow in the sun after one hour, would still be slogging along.
I set the record straight for Anna Haag, I might as well get something off my chest that’s been bugging me for years. I know that this has nothing to do with the fifteenth anniversary of the Beachhead, but when has a lack of relevance ever stopped me? I’d been working on one collective for about five years when all of us decided we couldn’t do it any more. We were getting rigid. We were taking longer and longer at paste-up. We couldn’t stand the thought of taking the paper to the printer. So we wrote an editorial titled “Beachhead Up For Grabs” requesting that those who were interested come on over and take it on. And they did! Imagine our surprise when we read an article in the Los Angeles Times about alternative press on the West Side, that stated that we broke up because of feminist issues. No way! At that point, the people working on the ‘Head happened to be women. Most of us were and I believe are, feminists, but we put out a community newspaper. This funky, grubby paper chock-a-block with grumpy, idiosyncratic opinions, letters, poems, and reprints from other alternative presses, doesn’t belong to a soul, and therefore, has a Soul bigger than all its pages put together. It belongs to no one, therefore to everyone. We have no editor, therefore, everyone’s an editor. I feel that for all the
nitpicking, backbiting, snarling and insanity that goes on in the secret meeting place of the collective, that all the collectivites past and present feel they don’t own the paper, they only take care of it. The community, and when I say “community,” I mean those of us who don’t have the ear of the media or the government. Those of us who are sleeping in cars or who are one step away from sleeping in our cars, which means anyone who makes less than $30,000 a year and “owns” or rents their homes.
The problems that faced Venice in 1968, that brought the Beachhead into being, are still here.
As a matter of fact, the Beachhead speaks to everyone who doesn’t own their own businesses, isn’t white, is older than 40, younger than 21, isn’t male, doesn’t have adequate health insurance, is a single parent who is still living in Venice because “ambiance” hasn’t been discovered on their street, and does not think life begins and ends with how many people you have the power of eviction over. The Beachhead is for people who believe that they have a right and an obligation to make decisions about their destiny in the community they choose to live in, even though they are thought of as expendable and undesirable by City Hall and speculators because they can’t afford the outrageously inflated rents. They have chosen Venice as a place to live. Not a place to leave when things get rough and return to buy up the place when the Olympics are coming.
The Beachhead is YOURS. USE IT.
Che Wah Wah!