Jazz shaman and bandleader Sun Ra talked about it not being his story, it is “my story.” In our own hometown, we celebrate our story. Not just his story, we include her story and everyone’s story. Inclusivity . . . in toto . . . all together now. We are the atomic dogs pulling back the curtain to reveal the hidden psyche effects. As Caroline Casey howls on her Visionary Activist Radio Show, “Woof, Woof, Wanna Play?” As George P-Funk Clinton barks, “Nothin’ butt the dog in me . . . Bow-wow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah . . .Bow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah.”
Of course, James Joyce nailed it: “Let past times become pastimes” – Finnegans Wake (1939).
As a rebellious freethinker, his words presaged our probes: “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” So all you Venetians, Wake up, and celebrate our community. Arf !!!
Two happenings are jubilating our past, present and future. “Venice Beats” on Sept 11, and the Venice Heritage Film Festival from August 13.
On September 11 please join us at The Venice West to celebrate “VENICE BEATS,” including the spirit of legendary artist/curator Mark “Sponto” Kornfeld, who nurtured the creative and Love community for 24 years at his 7 Dudley Avenue. This location was the very same home of the infamous Venice West Cafe from 1958 to 1966, one of the birthplaces of a free-spirited literature and art movement. The Beats shared themes of spirituality, environmental awareness and political activism. Sponto felt the sacred ground bubbling up from the Beat roots, and extended it. We are calling out a S.O.S. = Summer Of Sponto, which evokes the bebop tune “Now Is The Time,” by Charles “Yardbird” Parker, who shares the same birthday with Sponto: August 29.
Mark “Sponto” Kornfeld (Aug 29, 1949 to Dec 28, 2008) greeted folks with the vivacious “Yo We.” The “We” took his Spontolicious sing-songy slang into the “We are all oneness” realm. He hybridized “spontaneous” simultaneity with that feisty “pronto” punch, reinventing the spirit of the Beats. His Spontopolis operated in the inclusive realm, not in the “guilty until proven rich” exclusivity – a direct democracy utopia of participatory involvement. He often employed houseless people, one of which declared “They’ll never get him out of there now.” Spontoneers and Spontonarians unify in the Spontopolitan Bohemia. Daddy-Oz . . . the Wizard of Us
Abbott Kinney invented Venice and Sponto reinvented it. Soon after Kinney died, the pier burned. Soon after Sponto died, the Gallery may close, but we’ll be burnin’ the Sponto light forever. Bustin’ the bardos loose. “It’s all good, Sponti.”
Jack Kerouac, author of ON THE ROAD, introduced the phrase “Beat Generation” in 1948 to characterize a perceived underground, anti-conformist youth movement. Venice West Cafe at 7 Dudley Ave in Venice, California was one of the origin cornerstones grooving out of public repression. Free your mind and your ass will follow. DIg that Lord Buckley hung out dare. The coolio lyrics of Slim Galliard and Babs Gonzales filled the air.
The Venice West Café was the hang-out for many creative people including artist Wallace Berman, photographer Charles Brittin, underground film star Taylor Mead, jazz shaman-comedian Lord Buckley, photographer-filmmaker Leland Auslender, artist Earl Newman, photographer Harry Drinkwater, Robby Kreiger & John Densmore of The Doors, musician Bob Romeo, songwriter Eden Ahbez (writer of Nat King Cole’s hit Nature Boyand be sure to visit https://www.edenahbez.com/ with previews of the upcoming film by Brian Chidester, who presented events at Sponto Gallery. His pal Dominic Priore was there probing history deeply. Be sure to check out his excellent essay in the book BEATSVILLE, “your ticket from squaresville to the world of the cool, the way-out and the offbeat.”), prop designer-mad scientist Larry Albright, artist Eric “Big Daddy” Nord, sculptor Ron Boise, Ed Cassidy (drummer for Spirit), jazz icon Art Pepper, Larry Lipton (author of The Holy Barbarians), comedian Mort Sahl, drummer Tambu, author Clifford Irving, artist George Herms, author Charles Foster, politicians Al Matthews & Jack Hampton, and social worker Paul Smith.
This important historical venue was a nurturing stomping ground for many poets including: Susan & Stuart Z. Perkoff, Tony Scibella, Frank T. Rios, John Thomas, Anna & John Haag, Aya, Saul White, William Margolis, Clair Horner, Danny Propper, Maurice Lacy, Jack Hirschman, MC Ford, Larry Lake, Bob Alexander, and Kenneth Rexroth, who is often credited as being the first to have live jazz back up his poetry readings. We have now learned that ruth weiss was the first. She attended Venice West Cafe. https://www.ruthweissfilm.com/
Numerous groundbreaking poets and artists drew their inspiration amongst the group, including John Altoon, and Philomene Long. It’s rumored that Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lenny Bruce, Leonard Cohen may have hung out there too.
Jazz shaman and influential comedian Lord Buckley held court at the Venice West Cafe. He summarizes our feelings with two quotes:
“People, yes people are the true flowers of life and it has been a most precious pleasure to have temporarily strolled in your garden.”
“Laughter truly is religious. It gives off vibrations from the subconscious. When a person is laughing he’s illuminated, he’s illuminated in the fully beauty of a human being. You’re thinking love, you’re vibrating love. It’s a prayer. It’s a beautiful thing.”
In the 1959 book The Holy Barbarians, poet Lawrence Lipton detailed the Beats in Venice: “The names they give their gangs are indicative of their hunger for social status. In Venice West it’s The Doges. Some of them pronounce it “dogs” but they know it means something like The Man of Distinction. (Wasn’t “putting on the dog” once a slang synonym for distinctive?) If one gang names itself The Counts, the gang in the next block goes it one better with The Dukes. Such pretensions are abhorrent to the beatnik.” https://kennywilson.org/2016/08/10/holy-barbarians-by-lawrence-lipton/
Was he presaging “Dogtown” and the homogenizing of subversive culture? And Dog Latin is a humorous device mocking scholarly seriousness. Let us have fun in our playground. Can we be serious about being not serious?
The remarkable Venice Heritage Museum hosted their Film Festival on August 13. It was a grand gathering of community celebrating history with film clips from 1917 to the present. One highlight was the montage of beloved photographer Frank Talbott’s stunning images from the bohemian 1960 & 1970s featuring the song “Dogtown” by The Dark Bob from his 2006 album “Stoked.” A must listen on Youtube:
Major loving kudos to Kristina von Hoffmann and Michael Murphy for their inspiring and inspired dedication to telling our tale. Their thoughtful oral history project is extremely important. I was deeply moved by hearing and seeing Joan Huff intimate being a descendent of one of the first Black families of Venice. Major kudos to VHM’s relentless commitment.
All these efforts to preserve Our Story, HerStory, history are rooted, not retro.
Beat poet and environmental activist Gary Snyder said: “My task as a poet entails the work of seeing the world without language and then bringing that seeing into language.” Marcel Proust expands: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.”
Much like James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, we are generating a new essence. Transporting information, as we transform it. Standing on the shoulders of our ancestors, we can seek new visions, new metaphors and new questions.
Jack Kerouac’s motive was “to make a try at a spontaneous Finnegans Wake with the sounds of the Universe itself as the plot and all the neologisms, mental associations, puns, word-mixes from various languages scribbled out in a strictly intuitional discipline at breakneck speed.”
It takes time . . . because . . . “Walking on water wasn’t built in a day.” — Jack Kerouac.
How can we reword these maxims? like . . . “Venice is not a place, it’s a poem.”
“Love my label as myself”- James Joyce. Love thy story as thyself ?
Gerry Fialka host a celebration of the Beats in Venice with Suzy Williams “LA’s Diva Deluxe” with Brad Kay, Kahlil Sabbagh, Carol Chaikin, and from The Bonedaddys – Mike Tempo, & Rick Moors. Delve deep into Venice West Cafe & Sponto history, live stellar poets, songs by Jack Kerouac, Philomene Long, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and all the local cats. Featuring Flo Lawrence (from the film MANK) doing “Nature Boy” by Eden Ahbez, as well special guests Michael Jost, Pegarty Long, & Paul Orso. I predict that Eric Ahlberg doing George Carlin’s Modern Man will blow the roof offa da sucker.
Gerry’s podcasts are on Youtube “I’m Probably Wrong About Everything.” Laughtears.com
UPCOMING: SUNDAY, Oct 16, 2022, 6pm-live music, 7pm-films at Beyond Baroque –
An Evening of Music Films with Mark Cantor: “I’ve Just Gotta See It But It Ain’t On YouTube Blues”
Cinema historian Cantor screens jazz, blues, folk music, Western Swing and just plain “pop” films drawn from the Celluloid Improvisations Music Film Archive. These rare film clips cannot seen on YouTube, or found on commercial DVDs. Featured on screen, in a full two hours of music on film, will be such artists as Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan, Dinah Washington, Phil Woods, Dakota Staton, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Archie Shepp, Louis Armstrong, Lee Konitz, Gerald Wilson and many more. http://www.jazz-on-film.com/