This is a reprint from the December 1974 edition
Washington Blvd. was renamed Abbot Kinney Blvd. in 1990
By Carol Fondiller
About a year ago at a meeting between the affluent residents of the peninsula and the not-so-affluent residents of North Beach, a resident of the Peninsula looked at me with wide eyes. Walter Keane hurt, and after hearing our fears of the poor and not-so-poor being squeezed out of Venice by the Condo-Conspiracy, she reached out her well-manicured hand and timidly touched my nicotine-stained fingernails and said: “but don’t the rich have the right to live here too?” She had been reproaching me earlier for not being able to appreciate the simple values of the Waltons, i.e. Money isn’t everything, goodness of heart shall win the day over shrewdness or brain.
Several months ago I stopped in a boutique on Washington Blvd. It had a small restaurant in the back and I ordered a cup of coffee. The boutique had the quaint homey atmosphere that costs the customers an arm and a leg. There are no second-hand stores anymore. It is Memorabilia Lane – re-cycled clothes – nostalgia. It is chic to be second-hand. The man behind the counter was “creating a stew.” He told me this with a straight face … his earnest eyes looking at me with admiration and friendliness from under his carefully tousled locks.
“I used to be in Aero-Space, but I chucked it all, I was tired of selling out. So I bought some property – and now I have time to be creative. The arts are wonderful. It’s great to be creative … it’s groovy.” I liked the man, because – well, he liked me, so I bit back the reply that creativity was as much fun as a cancer experiment. But, because I liked him, we just kept mumbling creative shit at one another – just living can be an art, living art was a living and ah, la vie Boheme.
I tasted his stew. It was picturesque and exotic, lots of flair, a real fun stew.
I walked down Washington Blvd. Though some of the more necessary, scruffy shops still remained, a market, a plumbing shop and one of the few remaining junk shops, most of it had been turned into quaintiques selling things that used to be sold to the poor and imaginative for second hand necessities were now selling these same things as Metataxis for the fun set. For some reason, though, I love these shops, I began to feel hostile towards them.
A clothes store that sells imported clothes is on this street. When I first went in to buy I was told where things came from and what they were called – the last time I went in I waited and waited though I was first, while a young woman pulled out her designers discount card and proceeded to turn that nice little place into Beverly Hills by her uncenciously arrogant attitude.
A friend told me of a conversation he had with a french artist. The artist predicted that Venice would become a watering place for the Jet Set. “Venice will be gone. When the Jet Set comes into a place they ruin it. Look what they did to Saint Tropez and Puerto Vallarta. Venice is being talked about in Cannes and Niece and Majorca. I give Venice two more years.”
I read an article about Venice in L.A. Magazine, “Venice Opens Up.” It burbled to its upwardly mobile chic-in readership about the boutiques in Venice, the quaint houses and hotels being refurbished, and renovating and evicting of the quaint but not so clean or creative tenants so that Venice could become a center for the arts.
Now, I have nothing against restoration and preservation of old buildings. I am glad that Windward might be saved from condemnation and that the arches and gargoyles of Venice will remain. But I think a case might be made for preserving the present inhabitants of Venice no matter how uncreative they may be. In a way I think we should all stop “being creative” for a while just so the word doesn’t strangle on macrame plant holders. And perhaps a choice will have to be made between people who aren’t so wonderful and cute chic houses.
I met a woman who thought the Vietnam war was ghastly. She taught school in Watts. And yet when presented with the problem of walking wounded that roll down from broken homes, marriages, wars, and dreams down to Venice, where at least they can look at the ocean and think “the shit stops here” and are forced to relate to people, not sit tranqued out in a “convalescent” home where no one ever convalesces. They have to go out and get groceries and pay rent. This piece of reality is all that some of them have. And I speak for myself at times in that last sentence. Well this comfortably well off woman, this sensitive articulate human looked at me and smiled sadly (maybe she’d read Chekov) and said “You can’t stop progress.”
I was leaning out my window one quiet night and I saw a young fun couple walk by my apartment house. They walked by and yanked some flower roots and all from the flower box. Now the box had been built by the landlord, but all the tenants in the building had contributed plants and time to making things grow. “Hey, don’t do that!”, I yelled. They turned their shiny mass-produced faces towards me. Ken and Barbie in funky drag. “Oh wow, take it back,” they laughed and they threw the not so prize marguerite over the fence with easy contempt. I tried to replant it. The little shrub didn’t cost much. It was just that easy way they destroyed it.
It then occurred to me. L.A. Magazine, whose style tries to be New Yorker, aims at a particular audience – they make on the average of $29,000 a year, own at least two cars, eat out a lot, buy scotch by the case (and grass by the pound?).
They are the Afflu-Hip.
They like Venice because it’s quaint, it’s funky, it’s groovy. Artists abound. They can be far-out and study astrology. But they feel uncomfortable when they see a literally dirty old man sit next to them at the “in” place where they eat. A vague resentment when they see someone pull out food stamps in J. Allan’s Safeway.
Venice should be cleaned out and cleaned up. It should be sanitized, Bowelderized. It should be a Thousand Oaks barbeque where grass is smoked. And “creativity”? Well, isn’t that what it’s all about? But please, no troublesome art – just gentle mediocrity. Nothing to clash with the wall paper.
It’s alright if a crazy sings and throws flowers. The Afflu-Hips can relate to that. But don’t cry too often. And I like some of these people – the Afflu-Hips. Some of them are embarrassingly impressed when they find out I write. “Oh, how creative!” they moan. “I wish I could write.” “Well, so do I,” I answer. And they think I’m being falsely modest. But lemme tell ya, ya don’t count for nothin’ with them if you aren’t creative or at least a character with an ‘interesting face’.
But the Afflu-Hip still come by the gross. And the quaint streets will be widened for their two or more cars and the craftsman artist living quarters will be filled with candle dippers, furniture makers and painters of white on white canvas, and oh God macrame and splotchy tye chics. And in time parties will abound and Venice will be Laguna-ized.
The article on Venice in the October ’74 Beachhead issue says “Luxury apartments and condominiums fill every available beachfront lot … It’s still Venice though, the tenants all wear levis.”
Ah yes, the people that ruined Greenwich Village are now camping in Venice – they want to live the life of an artist or the simple life the same way a family drives to a national park and complains about the lack of toilets and electrical outlets.
Yes, the rich have a right to live here, but so do the people who’ve made a choice not to be rich, or those who have no chance at all of making it – they have never had a choice of selling out – no one wanted to buy them. The not-so-rich, the non-affluent need the ocean also, and they don’t need the gargoyles. Not only are the Afflu-Hips driving property values up, they are distorting mine. The rich need more room than the poor.
Another story. I was on Ocean Front Walk when I saw an exquisitely groomed middle age man focusing a camera on a “quaint old bum”, who was sleeping one off. I was fascinated by the fact that both men were wearing levis. The middle age man’s, however, were tailored, and he had a beautifully cut denim jacket. After shooting his shot the man walked by me. I nearly fell off the bench. Mr. Middle Age was not wearing simple denim. The suit was suede, dyed and cut to look like a levi outfit.
But you know what? He missed being funky by that much.
What the Afflu-Hips better realize is that they’d better keep all of us around – I mean who would they have to coopt ideas from if we were pushed out?
Venice might be saved from the Hell of High Rise, but the world is well lost when all we’ve gained after our struggles are refurbished historical monuments inhabited by people who could have afforded to live anywhere they wanted and yet chose to suck the sub-culture dry and throw out the husks.