Arnold Springer & Fred Dewey

by Gerry Fialka

We die with the dying
See, they depart,
And we go with them
See, they return
and bring us with them

  • excerpt from T.S. Eliot, 4 Quartets
    I know nothing
    I live in the Eternal
  • George Santayna

Arnold Springer and Fred Dewey are turning heads in heaven. We will miss their stalwart Venice presence. They both helped preserve our history, nurture the arts, stimulate new thinking and spread love. Their spirits live in Venice and keep us fresh and diverse.

FRED DEWEY – I always cherished long discussions with Fred Dewey, writer, teacher, editor/publisher, former director of Beyond Baroque. He was/is a very good friend. My long interview with him at the Unurban is in the UCSB archive. When it is catalogued and available to be heard, I will let you know. I was honored when Fred wrote: “My interview with Fialka was both a rollicking journey into the heart of deep thought and some sort of hard core, cosmic tennis match. He uses quotes to spur new thought more than old thought. It was truly ‘far out.’ I am grateful.” And, right back at you, Fred. I am grateful to you. I appreciate all you taught me over the years. Sharing lots of laffs, too.

Many years ago, when I first asked him about Suzy Williams possibly playing a concert at Beyond Baroque, he said that she already plays all over the place. This rejection became a redirection. I turned the breakdown into a break through. It made me brainstorm the birth of THE LIT SHOW, which celebrates its 16th annual show in the fall. I devised a musical event that emphasizes the venue’s forte. She does songs that were written by poets and authors, like Dorothy Parker, who wrote a song that Billie Holiday sang. Tennessee Williams wrote a song that Marlon Brando sang as a rambling troubadour in The Fugitive Kind. Lonely House was written by Kurt Weill and Langston Hughes. Jack Kerouac & Allen Ginsberg wrote Pull My Daisy with musician David Amram. The LIT SHOW was born thanks to Fred Dewey.

When Sponto died, 7 Dudley Cinema needed a new home. I first started showing films at Beyond Baroque because Fred Dewey supported our experimental and political curation. During the discussion after the screening of Mary Jordan’s documentary of iconic artist Jack Smith, Fred said that Jonas Mekas was CIA. Most would consider that ridiculous, but Fred knew Jonas and that whole NY underground cinema scene. So think again, I found Fred’s idea to be grounds for further research. Consider “HOW THE U.S. GOVERNMENT IGNORED AVANT GARDE FILM” – This is the title of a chapter from the book Hollywood and The Culture Elite by Peter Decherney. “Nelson Rockefeller supposedly once told Franz Kline (‘jokingly’) that the only reason collectors bought art was to keep artists from becoming revolutionaries. For a while in the sixties this strategy stopped working.” – Lucy Lippard. Examine the book Who Paid the Piper – The CIA and the Cultural Cold War by Frances Stoner Saunders, who explores CIA connections with the Abstract Expressionist movement. Fred was even going to teach class on Marshall McLuhan in Pasadena at the ArtCenter College of Design. Fred was a deep thinker and resonated with a McLuhan quip: “The avant garde no longer exists. It’s the media themselves.” Fred’s passion was being inclusive and open to all people, new metaphors, and new questions – the big picture.

Fred was always helping raise awareness. I wrote about Fred’s book The School of Public Life in my essay- (“The rise of cinema echoed the rise of … global, uprooting of people and world.”). He studied Hannah Arendt, who stated, “Political questions are far too serious to be left to the politicians.” Just last year, Fred organized the post-Rodney-King-uprising Neighborhood Councils Movement in Los Angeles. He talked with Pete Davis and workshop participants about Hannah Arendt’s understanding of the political and (re)locating power on July 2, 2020. Search youtube for “Power & Place: The School of Public Life” – Fred Dewey, Pete Davis – Eutopia Workshop. You can experience Fred’s enthusiasm for deep thinking.
Dorang Pineda wrote a thorough obit in the LA Times 6-9-21: “Fred’s idea was that Beyond Baroque could become a kind of public, active, vibrant countermodel to Hollywood and the art world,” which he considered a “colonization of the imagination,” said artist Jeremiah Day. Dewey believed Beyond Baroque could be the heart of “an active, poetic engagement with our real human condition.

And indeed it was.” And still is, due to many, especially Fred Dewey.

More from the LA Times: “He believed in art and poetry and painting,” said artist Lucas Reiner. “He believed that artists and people could really make a difference in the world. Part of his mission was to help empower people.” . . . “People are more willing to talk … when they’re sharing something deeply meaningful with each other,” Dewey said at the time. “That’s why poetry becomes the foundation of a new kind of dialogue.”

Check out the Fred Dewey interview in Beachhead #310 – August 2007

“Fred made sure Beyond Baroque benefited all Venetians.” – Sweet William, whose memoir on the 60’s is due soon, entitled “JFK & RFK Made Me Do It: 1960-1968” by Sweet William (c) 2021 Peace Corps Writers.

Drawing on two decades of interventions in politics and culture, Fred Dewey’s 2014 book “The School of Public Life” records the author’s efforts to revive and rethink public space from Los Angeles to Berlin and beyond. Drawing on manifestoes, lectures, letters and experimental texts, the book chronicles one person’s efforts to secure a space for public reality, culture, appearance and power. From helping to found neighborhood councils in Los Angeles to directing Beyond Baroque, a public space for poetry, art, sound work, publishing and debate, featuring discussions of the 1992 LA riots, Black Mountain College and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dewey recounts a lived experience of self-government face to face with the rise of manufactured reality and an unknown political history. How can we answer the falsehoods of economics, parties and a new slavery of constructed powerlessness? Working from the examples of Hannah Arendt, poet Charles Olson, writer John Berger, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, Dewey’s account of life experiences and thinking, public gesture proposes a new kind of school, one powerful enough to address all our conditions-a school for the people and their life.–Alcalay Ammiel “Bomb Magazine”

Thank you FRED! – Gerry Fialka,

FRED DEWEY – Here’s more recollections:

Richard Modiano: The lease with the City for Beyond Baroque’s occupation of the Old Venice City Hall was up for renewal in 2008, and Fred was determined not to yield any more space in the building to L.A. Theater Works. There was a meeting scheduled where both BB and LATW would make their cases before Bill Rosendahl who then represented CD 11. Fred asked me and Amelie Frank to attend the meeting in our capacities as officers of BB (Amelie was Secretary and I was Treasurer.) Before going to Bill’s West L.A. office we had a powwow at Cafe 50s and strategized. At the meeting we arrived only with our good intentions and Fred’s determination. Jerry Manpearl was there to provide legal counsel, and Suzanne Thompson was also present to lend a voice in BB’s favor. LATW’s representatives were armed with a slick brochure describing all the physical improvements they would make in the building, even illustrated with an architectural rendering. We saw this and Fred paled, gathered his strength and made a heartfelt argument in favor of keeping BB in the building without giving up any more space to LATW; Jerry sealed the deal in BB’s favor by pointing out that Beyond Baroque had years of serving the local community (a condition of the lease) that LATW couldn’t match. The synergy that Fred ignited with his obvious commitment to Beyond Baroque and the community it served and Jerry zeroing in on the heart of the matter — community service — won the day. I saw Fred at his finest that day.

Mary Jane: Fred!! Beyond Baroque (founded and run by for decades, among his litany of stellar accomplishments, THE George Drury Smith, in 1968) may have saved his life for the many years he worked with it, and he did love it! He also even, dare i, more joyously, fell in love with THE Philomene Long, and her GLORIOUS works. She of the BEATS and the TEMPLE of MAN ( the temple is within you!) artists!!!

ARNOLD SPRINGER – I presented a special Venice History event at Sponto Gallery many years ago with Arnold Springer. He was a professor of Russian History, European Intellectual History, Methodology and Philosophy of History. He always was delving deep into Local Venice History. His video tape collection and printed matter at CSULB Library’s Special Collections is essential for our community. I had an amazing afternoon riding in Arnold’s jeep. He insisted that I go to his college and prescreen the film Venice, California: Feeding the Sparrows by Feeding the Horses, coproduced by Peter Kaufner and Moritz Borman, who worked alot with Oliver Stone. I already knew that I would show it, but enjoyed the adventure. Spending hours in conversation, we actually bonded as friends. I appreciate his eccentricities, and down-to-earthness. His dedication to the community inspires me. Thank you Arnold – Gerry Fialka

Frank Lutz and Linda Albertano: Dear Arnie, what a great person you were, and still are in our way of thinking. We’ve known you since 1970 when we were all together on Wavecrest and Breeze Avenues in Venice. You and Jutta, Gary and Cydnee, and others in our group of interesting friends. You were always vital with energy and fun to talk to, even as the years went by. Seems I just spoke to you at the Post Office a couple of weeks ago, Arnie. We will miss you a lot now that you have passed on to your next dwelling, and I am happy to say that your spirit will stay alive with us.

LJ Albertano: I often saw Arnold, bearded and pony-tailed, in his elegant full-length Mongolian gowns, robes, earrings, bracelets and pendants at the Post Office or Whole Foods or simply walking down Speedway, and I’d be instantly transported to a more enchanted place and time. He travelled often to Mongolia. Ulan Bator is the sister-city of Venice, and, as I think about Arnie now, I wonder if he had something to do with that. His home was an oasis of peace and serenity. Among his works of art was a vast collection of Mongolian headwear prominently displayed. He was an ardent fan of Venice and created outstanding works of history on her behalf. We have lost a great intellect and a unique individual who perfectly represented the spirit of our community.

Mary Jane: Arnold! He, of quite privileges that fed his perfect integration of Academia for his non-profit, yet fully career profitized via his Professor Life. His paper back, large book of Venice details from other compilations and his recent Huge Hard Bound Book, also of compilations are of importance For References of Venice History, here, as it also fulfils his, dare i say, exceedingly full ego of his nonprofit promotions ! His, also fully includes the years of work by his litanies of classes/students at Long Beach State! The Library has the early one and should have the new one, also, 2020!

Carolyn Rios: I met Arnold Springer in the late 70’s during the Hay day of the Venice Town Council. the Venice Town Hall was radical, combustible and the most fascinating group of people I had ever met.
Most of them including Arnold were part of the Free Venice Beachhead collective. I wrote several articles about the VOP food coop, and about the coming commercial exploitation of children’s sexuality.
In all these years Arnold always talked TO me, listen TO me. He always respected my voice and my opinion. I got to know him better after I retired and got involved in the Venice Neighborhood Council in 2006. In particular, I used him for advice and explanation so that I could make good choices when voting on LUPC items.
He was the master stroke when we were brainstorming at the Oakwood Rec Center about something we could do to try to bring the different elements of the Oakwood neighborhood together. We knew we needed music and food to get people together. He is the one who said. “let’s close off 7th Avenue and have a block party.” That comment got our committee formed, and 6 months later, in August of 2007 we had our first Oakwood Community BBQ festival. 350 people showed up from all segments of the community for music from Venice locals, a pot luck, a BBQ cook off, and lots of raffle winners for local stores and restaurants. This was a tremendous success which eventually grew to 1300 people the year of Carmaggedon when everyone was virtually stuck in Venice. I was always grateful for Arnold’s simple thoughtful inspiration and his constant support of our efforts. Arnold finally retired from teaching maybe 10 years ago, and I retired from any political activity. but we kept bumping into each other at Ralph’s and would have long impromptu conversations in the produce department. Also in classic Venice fashion, His jacked up Red truck was very noticeable and he drives down my street to get just about anywhere. I wave, he honks, but frequently he just pulls over, and we just talk for 10-15 minutes. I will sincerely miss these conversations as they were not necessarily about Venice, or politics. we just talked about our life, our aging, our joy to be in the world and living in Venice.I will miss you sorely Venice. I honor and thank you for your years of devoted service to Venice. Much love, Carolyn Rios

Categories: Culture, Gerry Fialka

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