Monday, August 8, 2011


. .Venice Blvd ..
. . . . NEXT EXIT . .  

Because Venice Beach is so unique and one of L.A.'s most popular tourist destinations, I feel it kind of deserves its own entry, separate from the other beaches.

What makes Venice Beach so special is that it is a gathering spot for pretty much every freak in California south of San Francisco. It costs nuttin' to just hang out at the beach and people-watch. Whatchoo lookin' for? A little Blues music? A mime? A dude juggling live chain saws? A space alien impersonating a human being? Chances are you'll find what you're looking for on the Venice Beach Boardwalk . . . and then some!

Winston Watson, who toured as Bob Dylan's drummer for a number of years was once asked by an interviewer: "Can you compare audiences in terms of different countries?"

Winston replied: "I would say the common denominator with Dylan fans is that they want to see him. The enthusiasm level anywhere overseas is better - you name it - any continent but the United States. L.A.? Forget it. We've seen and done it all!"

If you ever visit Los Angeles, you must absolutely schedule some time on a weekend for Venice Beach. Spend a Saturday or Sunday there, and by sundown, you too will have "seen and done it all".

And speaking of Rock stars... There have been many musical performers associated with Los Angeles, one of the most famous was The Doors. As a matter of fact, it was while spending a day together on Venice Beach that Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek got the idea to form a Rock group.

Here's a photo of The Doors strolling along Venice Beach where, for them, it all began:

Here's a video that will give you some idea what you can expect to find on any weekend day at Venice Beach:

I grew up in an economically-challenged household, nevertheless, thanks be to my Grandfather who owned it, the house in which I spent the bulk of my youth was only about a 13- minute bicycle ride from Venice Beach, so I have spent countless hours there.

One day in probably 1989 or '90, I found myself alone and taking in Venice Beach during a weekday. I decided to walk into The Townhouse bar and have a drink. In lifting my glass to my lips, I happened to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror behind the bar and it prompted this question to myself: "What if there was a guy so self-loathing that if he saw his own reflection in the mirror, he would slide over one bar stool if it meant he could avoid looking at himself while sitting at the bar?"

Over a period of time, I began asking myself more questions about this imaginary character: Why does he hate himself? What does he do for a living? What might happen to him after he's done drinking at The Townhouse and leaves the bar?

By 1991, I had completed my one and only full-length screenplay; an interracial romance between a nerdy White guy and a sassy Black girl who sings Jazz and Blues songs on the Venice Beach boardwalk for tips.

The initial question that culminated in my screenplay was asked in Venice Beach's Townhouse bar, whose nondescript entrance can be seen in the photo below:

[Inside 'The Townhouse'.]

Below is a very neat video about The Townhouse bar, which I found while looking for photos for this L.A. blog tour. Until I viewed it myself very recently, I too didn't know any of the interesting history about The Townhouse bar which is explained in this video. I accidentally picked a very cool bar to build my screenplay around. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good:

A bit further north of The Townhouse bar on Venice Beach is The Cadillac Hotel. In my screenplay, "Billy And Billie", it's here that the nerdy White boy, Billy Withers, lives. The place was later spruced up a bit, but I like the way it looked in the early 1980s better, when I took this photo, and when The Cadillac Hotel had more dilapidated character:

If all you see when you visit Venice is the beach boardwalk, you've missed something special. A lot of people aren't even aware of Abbot Kinney’s canals, constructed in 1904 (why did you think the place is called "Venice"?)

I'd sometimes spend a couple hours floating on the canals on a temporarily borrowed raft. Back in the very early 1980s, when I took the photo below, the canals were rather neglected, but they had a definite crumbling charm:

It looks like The Doors knew where to find The Venice Canals:

Whereas The Venice Canals area was once the domain of hippies in the '60s and '70s, it has since been refurbished, remodeled, and is now overrun by upscale yuppies. [Sure, the area looks more beautiful, but you can give me the good ol' run-down days, doggone it!] :

Venice Beach is famous for its many boardwalk performers. One musician who has a long and rich history of performing for visitors from all over the world at the Venice Beach boardwalk is Slavin' David. I saw the man playing his guitar and singing on the boardwalk countless times over the years that I lived in L.A.

Well, fate eventually brought into Slavin' David's Rock and Blues band, "Loose Gravel", my ol' coworker and guitar-playin' friend Larry Rosen (known more affectionately by those of us who really dig the dude, as Lelly).

Slavin' David And Loose Gravel have just recently released a new album, "Rock And Roll Road", which includes four really good songs written by my buddy Lelly.

A fine review of Slavin' David And Loose Gravel's "Rock And Roll Road" album can be found on the DiscConnected blog right HERE.

And you can order yourself a copy of it by clicking right HERE. It's so Venice Beach-authentic that the packaging may actually contain sunbeams, grains of sand, spots from spilled suntan lotion and sea gull droppings!

Here's a video of Slavin' David & Loose Gravel in action [Lelly's the big dude in the black "smile-pocket" cowboy shirt... a wardrobe idea he stole from me - regardless of how much he denies it!] :


Moving on to other beaches now . . .

Here's the famous entrance to Santa Monica Pier; you've seen it in many television shows and commercials, etc. :

Below is a photograph of me, taken directly underneath the Santa Monica Pier by my dear departed friend Kelly "Andy" Anderson, circa 1980. Behind me can be seen the water reflecting the sun between the wooden pylons upholding the pier.

If this is meant to be a "beefcake" photo, where's the "beef"?!

No, no, no! In one of my James Agee-type blue work shirts, I was going for a free-spirited, "bohemian" look. The harmonica? Yeah, I owned it, but I couldn't play a note. Always told myself I'd someday learn to play the Blues with it. Never did. [You can't even imagine the sound and the fury behind the manufactured smile!] :

The Palisades Park bluffs overlooking Santa Monica Beach. Ever seen the cover of Randy Newman's album "Trouble In Paradise"? :

As I stated in Part 1, I pretty much grew up in the shadow of Lifeguard Station #26 on Santa Monica Beach. In this next photo, you can see downtown Santa Monica in the distance to the North. My Brother, my Sister and I (and in the glorious Summer of '74, my Dad, too!) generally parked our beach towels just on the other side of Station #26 (North) and spent most Summer days body-surfing at the location seen below:

All the Summers I spent on Santa Monica Beach near Lifeguard Station 26 have come at a price: I just recently went "under the knife" in my second round against skin cancer. Yep, even carefree days at the beach ain't free!

It was rare, but occasionally we'd see a day or two when the waves were breaking extraordinarily big and it was easy to imagine yourself wiping out and breaking every bone in your body. That's when we'd say:

"Aww, who wants to go body-surfing anyway? Let's go get a hot-dog-on-a-stick, watch the old dudes play chess, and check out the cuties on the pier! You know, like, cuties on the pier?"

Below is two views of the Hot-Dog-On-A-Stick Stand on Santa Monica Beach where we'd always have lunch (if anyone had any money). Over the years, I spent so many salt-water-saturated dollars at this little joint that I ought to own stock in it! [My old friend Amy used to live in the tan apartment building to the right and behind the stand. She said the music drifting through her windows at night from the Merry-Go-Round on the Santa Monica Pier drove her batty.] :

Woo!-Woo!-Woo! It's video time again! Let's visit L.A. and Her beaches, with a pleasant little tune for background sounds:

Probably what I miss most of all is the beach bicycle path. Some weekend days I'd start underneath the Santa Monica Pier and ride it to the Redondo Beach Pier and back. People, that beach bike path is indeed my idea of Heaven!

During the week, however, I'd do the Reader's Digest abbreviated ride: I'd ride my bicycle from my house down to Venice Beach, and then along the bike path to the Marina Del Rey 'Fisherman's Village' . . .

At the Marina Del Rey 'Fisherman's Village', I'd have a light breakfast in the courtyard [see photo below], and then ride home again. Man, talk about a great way to start a work day! It wasn't until I made the mistake of moving to horrible Airheadzona that I realized just how good I'd had it. :

In the late 1970s, my buddy Big Al and I used to drive most Tuesday nights to the El Torito Mexican Restaurant on the Redondo Beach Pier and take advantage of their all-you-can-eat dinner buffet:

Moonshadows is a restaurant in Malibu. It sits right on the Pacific Coast Highway and right on the beach itself:

Look at them girls! Ain't nuthin' like 'em nowhere!

Did you really think I could put together a 6-part blog bit about L.A. without including at least one Beach Boys song? Think again! Here's a little sumpin' for the dudes:

OK, before we leave the beaches, here's one more look at Moonshadows Restaurant - this time at sunset:


Below is my buddy Muddy [the subject of my children's book manuscript] enjoying a day at Sleeping Beauty's Castle in Disneyland, "The Happiest Place On Earth" :

At one time, I actually liked The Disneyland Hotel almost as well as Disneyland itself. Then the company, in its ever-ongoing pursuit of more Almighty Dollars, ruined everything by creating the monstrous "Downtown Disney District". Nevertheless, one of the cool things that remains are the waterfalls that you can walk between. Yes, there's a narrow, curved path you can walk along while waterfalls cascade next to you on either side. in other words, you would find yourself walking behind this . . .

Knott's Berry Farm is America's first themed amusement park. In a way, it's sort of the White Trash version of Disneyland, but being proudly White Trash myself (and loving the cowboy heroes of my childhood), I've always been a big Knott's Berry Farm fan! :

At Knott's Berry Farm (and free to the public, unlike anything Disney-related), is an exact replica of Philadelphia's Independence Hall - except that it's built to 3/4ths scale. I've visited the genuine article and been to the Orange County copy, and other than the size, I couldn't tell the difference. :

The Universal Studios Tour is an amusement park built right on the grounds of an actual working movie studio:

Next is a photo of MacArthur Park, not far from downtown L.A. If you go there, don't leave your "cake out in the rain." :

Below is Echo Park with downtown L.A. in the background. Don't be fooled by the seeming beauty and serenity of the picture - stray beyond the park and you are in a very urban and somewhat dicey neighborhood. You'll survive, but stay alert and keep your wits about you:

Here's Warren Zevon, a musician rightfully associated with the L.A. music scene, performing an excellent rendition of his song "Carmelita". It's about L.A.'s Echo Park, a Pioneer Chicken stand, a radio station in Ensenada, Mexico, and pawning your typewriter to buy a fix. I can relate to this song for a variety of very personal reasons, but I'd think it was a fabulous song even if I couldn't:

The Griffith Park Observatory in - you guessed it - Griffith Park! Famously depicted in the classic 1950s teen angst film 'Rebel Without A Cause' starring James Dean. It's been said that it was James Dean who gave a voice to young people. [By the way, also to be found in Griffith Park is the tunnel that served as the entryway to Toontown in the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit".] :

Another place in Griffith Park:

Up Pacific Coast Highway is Malibu Beach and Malibu Creek State Park. Hike back into the park a little ways and you'll come to the location where all of the external shots for the TV series .M*A*S*H  were filmed:

Below is a rusting remnant at the site of the 4077th M*A*S*H Unit. The war is over, but some of the dead remain unburied:

And now that we've touched upon television and the fantasy factory, let's move on to Hollywood, home of "The Industry" - the rather pretentious name that some insiders use in referring to L.A.'s Film Business.

Transport yourself to Part 4 by clicking here: The DeLorean With A Flux Capacitor

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.


Jessica Bell said...

I remember you telling me about that screenplay. What happened to it in the end? You still got it?

WOW, that transformation of the Venice Canals it nuts!

Shit! You’ve had skin cancer TWICE? I hope they got the sucker completely out. Sheesh, totally clueless I am. When did this happen? Did you say anything on you blog at any time that I missed? Oh man, I’m so sorry.

And ANOTHER reference to Mexican food. Can you cut me some slack already? I’ve been craving a chili tortilla for days …

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

AlliAllo ~
Yeah, I still have the screenplay. What happened to it? Well, let's just say it ain't coming to a theatre near you anytime soon.

No, I never mentioned the skin cancer on my blog. I have a difficult enough time acquiring readers as it is without writing blog bits about something as pleasant as THAT.

Yeah, the pathology report says they got it all. No big deal, really, just a scar beside my right eye to add to my growing collection of scars. (We all carry our reminders, don't we? A scar simply says: "Life wuz here.")

Ha! You'll find yet another reference to Mexican food in Part 5. Hey, what can I say? I digs me some enchiladas 'n' stuffs.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Arlee Bird said...

Of all the places you mentioned, Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier are the ones I've visited most since these are places I always take out of town guests--Venice Beach is so darn weird and if you're there you might as well go to Santa Monica Pier.
In my 20 years here I've been to the Magic Kingdom once and Disney's California Adventure once--too darn expensive and worse it's too much of a hassle to deal with the lines and pay so much to do it. I've been to Downtown Disney several times since it's free.
Went to Griffith's Observatory about a month ago only to discover it's closed on Mondays due to budget cutbacks. It's closed more days when it's not summer. It's still a nice place for a view though.

Tossing It Out

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Yeah, I'm in total boycott mode when it comes to anything Disney. And I agree with you, the park is now way too expensive and way too crowded.

Back in the day, before Eisner took over and rebuilt the Disney Empire, it was so nice for us local folks. I used to have a Yearly Pass, which cost about $50. to $70. dollars, and I'd go to Disneyland on weekdays when you could literally walk right on to almost ANY ride with no waiting.

At worst, you might have to wait 5 to 10 minutes to get on the Matterhorn or Space Mountain.

Damn! Those were some great days! I always used to tell whomever might be with me: "Pick out one stranger and watch for them the rest of the day. You will see them again in the park at some point, and maybe even see them multiple times."

Nowadays, the place is so crowded every day of the week that such a thing is almost unimaginable.

Incidentally... do you know where the Venice Canals are? Have you ever taken your out-of-town visitors to see the Canals? (You ain't really an "Authentic Angeleno" until you know how to find the Canals, Brotherman.)

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

DiscConnected said...

I would argue that there's girls like them CA beach bunnies at the Jersey shore, but you know what I did not see any of in that clip?

The ugly people. There's plenty of us at the Jersey shore, too!

I guess the mutt-faces are left on mountaintops to die in LA (or they're conscripted into pool or lawn service and banned from the beach).

I love the first line of "Carmelita."

Doesn't it give you an immediate mental image of an old-time radio and you listening in your room long after you were supposed to have shut everything off?

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

>>...I would argue that there's girls like them CA beach bunnies at the Jersey shore

I was just quoting Randy Newman from "I Love L.A."

However, yeah, you're probably right that there are California-like beach bunnies at the Jersey Shore. But none older than 17. Because as soon as they're "adults", they're off to Hollywood to become movie stars.

>>...I guess the mutt-faces are left on mountaintops to die in LA

Nah. They move to Phoenix.

>>...the first line of "Carmelita." Doesn't it give you an immediate mental image of an old-time radio...?

You know it! I've thought the same thing so many times, because I can still remember "the tubes" that "glow in the dark"!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Sheboyganboy VI said...

Wow, dude. I learned a lot in THIS blog. Not all of it good. I am surprised that you'd not mentioned it to me privately. Well, you know how I understand you to be, and pray to know that you are.

I still enjoy Disney stuff(s). I know your view on it. I've not read the book explaining their dark side, and frankly I try to avoid hearing about it as much as possible because I am tired of all these damned fools screwing up EVERYTHING I love in every department of life. Is NOTHING outside of their clutches? Well... no, it isn't. But I can still stick my head in the sand on Disney if I wants to! Go between Thanksgiving and Dec. 15th and you'll have almost no crowds.

After your Knotts Berry Farm blog a couple of years ago (as you know) I visited it with the family. It was "fun", but knott nearly as much fun as when I was a kid. We happened to go on a day when several rides were closed, and plus I am not a huge coaster fan anyway. I don't think I will ever go back. Disney? I'll still be back many times before I stop going anywhere.

I DID very much enjoy the Independence Hall re-creation at Knotts. I've been to the original also and thought it wonderful and remarkable that it would be reproduced in LA. What a great way to spend your money!!!

As for the area just past Echo Park: you got to watch the street, keep your feet and be on guard.

I really wanted to see those girls in the youtube vid you posted. My web connection is SO bad that it took 2 1/2 minutes to get to the FIRST girls on the video (maybe 10 seconds in). So I stopped. VERY sad again!

Stephen T. McCarthy said...


>>...I am surprised that you'd not mentioned it to me privately.

For several minutes I couldn’t even figure out what you were referring to. The skin cancer, right? Aww, nuttin’ to it, “it’s life, and life only”. It’s not like it was a tumor or anything. Nuttin’ that a scalpel and a bottle of Grand Marnier couldn’t fix.

>>...Go between Thanksgiving and Dec. 15th and you'll have almost no crowds.

That’s how it used to be every day in the early/mid-‘80s when I had an Annual Pass. Man, it was SO GREAT then! You could literally walk on to most any ride (might have to wait 3 to 5 minutes for a seat on Space Mountain though).

>>...It was "fun", but knott nearly as much fun as when I was a kid.

Ha!-Ha! Hey, that’s MY kinda shtick! You knock that off! Speak softly and carry YER OWN shtick!

But, yeah, Knott’s ain’t the same anymore. It’s no longer family-owned, as the Knotts sold it to some amusement park mega-corporation that has been removing all the things that once gave KBF its own character. They’re basically just adding one thrill ride after another and turning it into another Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Ironically, what remains of KBF’s “old flavor” is now available more on the outside than the inside . . . and the outside is free – the little shops and the bakery, etc. I too have my doubts that I will ever buy a ticket to enter the park again.

>>...I really wanted to see those girls in the youtube vid you posted. My web connection is SO bad that it took 2 1/2 minutes to get to the FIRST girls on the video (maybe 10 seconds in). So I stopped. VERY sad again!

Oh, man, that’s a real drag, because the landscape was OK.

But actually, if you ever get things straightened out, I suggest you return and check out the video about The Townhouse Bar on Venice Beach, because I thought that was especially interesting. Also, the videos featuring Warren Zevon in Part 5.

But yeah, the Beach B’s are fun in the sun.

~ D-FensDogg
‘Loyal American Underground’

farawayeyes said...

Very cool video of the 'Townhouse'. So, what was it, 'once you've been there you never get completely out'.

You know me, I still think you should pursue Billy & Billie. It appears that you really 'nailed' the place. The canals look magical (even in their run down state). I've been to the beach, but never seen the canals.

Not to mention that sexy picture of your what? eighteen or nineteen year old self in the work shirt!

Still working my way through these posts, for right now, I've got to get back to work.

farawayeyes said...

I went back for some reason and saw that I had missed the year of that 'sexy' picture before. Apparently you were 21 or at least close. So glad I wasn't making a comment like that about 'jail bait'.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Yeah, that IS a very cool video about The Townhouse bar! (Thanks for returning here to view it.)

>> . . . I went back for some reason and saw that I had missed the year of that 'sexy' picture before. Apparently you were 21 or at least close.

Yeah, I think I would have been 20 or 21. At any rate, old enough to roll in the hay without my teacher being charged with statutory rape.

>> . . . You know me, I still think you should pursue Billy & Billie. It appears that you really 'nailed' the place.

I wish I shared your confidence in Billy 'N' Billie. But you're right, I did nail Venice Beach. Growing up a 10-minute bike ride from the place, I'd have needed to be deaf, dumb, and blind NOT to nail it.

Did the 'Cadillac Hotel' look the way you imagined it while reading my screenplay?

>> . . . The canals look magical (even in their run down state).

A very magical place that even most Angelenos have not visited. In the blog bit I wrote this:

"I'd sometimes spend a couple hours floating on the canals on a temporarily borrowed raft."

Hopefully that rang a bell for you. 'Billy 'N' Billie' was a clear case of "art imitating life". Or, to put it another way: "Billie Clayton imitating Stephen T. McCarthy."

Incidentally, believe it or not, the "goose" bit in 'Billy 'N' Billie' was ALSO partially based on real life:

I was alone one day at the Venice Canals in the early 1980s, and just walking along one of the canals. In the front yard of one house was this goose, apparently the family pet, and the goose was loose.

I was just walking beside the canal, attempting to walk past the front of this house, when the goose charged me. I backed up. Then I tried again. And again. And again. Same result every time: that S.O.B. goose would NOT let me walk past that house without a fight.

So finally, I just walked back to the bridge I'd crossed over, recrossed it, and went back the way I'd come.

Q: Why did the human cross the canal?
A: He was chicken.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

farawayeyes said...

I believe you, cause only STMc could be accosted by a loose goose.

Yes, I would have to say you nailed the Cadillac as well. Definitely a look of despair about it.

George Vreeland Hill said...

Great site.
Love the photos and memories.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Thanks, GEORGE.
Why does your name seem so familiar to me?

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'