Venice of America

In a USA TODAY article written by Laura Bly, she discusses Venice, CA and it’s celebration of 100 wonderful years, Venice’s centennial.

She wrote, “When tobacco magnate Abbot Kinney set out to transform an unsavory swath of Southern California marshes and dunes into a tourist and cultural mecca like its Italian namesake, critics blasted the idea as “Kinney’s Folly.”

A century later, most of Venice’s seaside canals — where an adjacent empty lot now goes for at least $1 million — have been filled in. The gondoliers were long ago supplanted by bodybuilders (Arnold Schwarzenegger pumped iron at an outdoor gym called Muscle Beach), scruffy bohemians (iconoclasts have found a haven here since the Beat Generation), and skateboarders (local teens who made the sport famous in the 1970s are fictionalized in the new movie Lords of Dogtown).

“Venice is at the leading edge of where post-modern, creative spontaneity reinvents itself,” former resident Rip Cronk declares. The artist has painted about a dozen murals in town, such as a send-up of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (with a Venus on roller skates) and a portrait of another former Venetian, rocker Jim Morrison of The Doors.

And starting this weekend, the Los Angeles enclave honors Kinney’s dream with a summer-long celebration that plays up its offbeat past and present.

The action kicks off Saturday on Windward Circle, two blocks east of Ocean Front Walk (aka Venice Boardwalk), a 3-mile stretch of preeners, gawkers and occasional chain-saw jugglers that ranks as one of the state’s biggest tourist attractions. Along with entertainment by a fire-spinning and drumming ensemble from Nevada’s Burning Man Festival, organizers plan a classic and custom car show and a costume contest. Nudity is officially frowned upon, but pushing the envelope is not: “I’ve heard some people are spray-painting themselves,” organizer Esquire Jauchem notes. “Whether that qualifies, we’ll have to find out.”

As for the remaining, now-spiffed-up canals, don’t look for a fleet of tourist gondolas anytime soon: Most water access is by small, resident-owned boats.”