by Jon Wolff
There was once a movie theatre in Venice. It was called the Fox Venice Theatre and it was right there on Lincoln Boulevard and Vernon Avenue. The Fox Venice showed full length feature movies. They showed classic movies, foreign films, cult films, rock movies, and horror movies. Sometimes, the actors or filmmakers would be there in person to speak to the audience. The Fox Venice put out a calendar of screenings for each month. Every refrigerator in Venice had a Fox Venice calendar stuck on it. Admission in the 1960s was fifty cents. The price went up over the years but, if you knew someone who worked there, you could get in for free.
The interior of the Fox Venice Theatre was of the classic, ornate movie house design. There were Art Nouveau murals on the inside walls of the auditorium depicting giant women crouching, rising, and dancing. The ceiling was a huge, illuminated purple oval with a texture like satin.
The Fox Venice Theatre lasted into the 1980s but it eventually closed down and became an indoor swap meet mall. The exterior still looks like a theatre. But it is changed.
Also, on Lincoln Boulevard, there was a toy store. It was called Jumbo’s Toy Store. It was big and overcrowded with children’s toys. It had cool toys and not the lame toys of today that are produced overseas and are made of cheap dull-colored plastic. Jumbo’s sold monster toys and metal toys and toys with electrical plug-in heating units. All their toys are collector’s items now.
Jumbo’s Toy Store eventually closed down. It became Builder’s Emporium for a while and now it’s a Ross Dress For Less. The building is still there but it is changed.
Everyone has enjoyed Cafe ‘50s on Lincoln Boulevard. Some may not know that, before it was a ‘50s “style” diner, it was an actual ‘50s diner. It used to be called Java Time. The clock over the entrance told you that it was “time for java”. Right now, Cafe ‘50s is closed for repairs. We hope that it opens soon. We wonder if it will change.
Many in Venice remember the pier between the Venice Pier and the Santa Monica Pier. It was called Pacific Ocean Park, or P.O.P. It had amusement park rides and seal tanks and high-dive acts. P.O.P. was closed down and fenced off and, for years, it just sat there with its rusty old rides and a man-made mountain on the end of it. Occasionally, in the summertime, P.O.P. would catch fire. You’d get a phone call from someone saying, “Hey, P.O.P.’s on fire again” and everyone would go down to the beach in the evening and watch the flames accompany the setting sun.
P.O.P. was eventually torn down. At first, it was only cut off below the surface of the water and motor boats wrecked themselves passing over the pilings. Later, the job was completed and now photographs are all that remain. It changed.
Over on Main Street, just south of the Trading Post Liquor Store, there was a mini mall. It had a dry cleaners. It also had a neighborhood hardware store owned by a guy who was kind of mean, until he got married, and then he was very nice. Next door to that, There was a laundromat. An actual laundromat was right there just one block from the Boardwalk. It was called Supersuds Laundry and it was managed by a tough but nice woman named Ruby. She had a short black crewcut and she wore black plastic frame glasses and a pocket chain.
Eventually, the mini mall was torn down. Now, there’s an ugly office building on the site with a wall and a fence around it. It is very much changed.
There are numerous other examples of the changes that Venice has endured. But you get the point. It seems that one thing is always being replaced by something else and, too often, by something worse. When was the last time you saw an ugly gray building get torn down and a beautiful colorful one get built in its place? And why do evil developers come to Venice to change everything good into something bad?
Why do the police and, soon, private security officers come to Venice to harass people who don’t have the money to fight back? Why do tech corporations come to Venice to push people out of their neighborhoods and break up communities? Why does the City of L.A. allow all of this to happen?
Well, who says that the bad stuff is any more permanent than the good stuff? Bad stuff has come to Venice in the past. There were plans long ago to build a freeway through Venice and those plans were defeated. There were maps and designs for turning Venice into another version of Marina del Rey and those designs never worked out. The L.A.P.D. used to bring their riot gear to Venice to bust up gatherings and, today, there are still people gathering in Venice for music and political demonstrations. Venice has endured worse. Venice isn’t ending any time soon.
The same processes that change Venice can act upon those who come to harm Venice. A political change could make developers who flout the laws and convert apartment buildings into hotels face criminal convictions this year. The tech corporations that now operate in Venice could see changes in the internet culture that cause them to fail and go the way of others of their ilk. Their names could fade from memory and their buildings in Venice could change into low-cost rental units for families and young artists. The coming economic downturn could change the property values in Venice. Smart speculators would do well to get out of the market now and the owner of a prominent real estate company in Venice could find herself on the bottom floor when it all comes crashing down. Who knows, a change in the weather could create the conditions where a guy who’s dedicated himself to criminalizing the unhoused gets hit on the head by a meteorite. It happens.
Maybe someday, twenty, thirty, a hundred years from now, a kid playing bongo drums on Venice Beach will read these words and not know of any of the bad things listed herein. And he or she will say, “Nothing changes.”
Categories: Culture, Development/Gentrification, Jon Wolff, Venice
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