By Elliot Stiller
It’s a unique publication in a unique community, and after 46 years the presses continue to roll.
The Free Venice Beachhead celebrates its 400th issue on Sunday with a free (naturally) music and poetry party at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center.
A mix of columns, essays, art and poetry produced by a volunteer collective of Venice locals, the Beachhead launched in 1968 and was published regularly by an ever-changing cast of contributors until briefly disappearing in the late 1990s. Venice resident Jim Smith revived the paper in 2002, and it has published monthly ever since.
A 1979 Los Angeles Times profile of Westside non-daily newspapers — there were 26 of us at the time! — discussed a not-always-friendly relationship between The Argonaut, focused on more objective community news reporting, and the Beachhead, which even then was geared toward opposing gentrification.
“Loosely written, the Beachhead interprets rather than reports — and mostly that interpretation is that Venice is being ruined by pro-development interests,” the article reads.
Espousing a point of view remains the mission today, said Greta Cobar, a Beachhead contributor for six years. Cobar emerged as the paper’s main catalyst after Smith retired in 2012 and maintains a leadership role within a core collective of about seven writers, though community contributors also play a major role.
“I’m driven by our ability to make a difference and change things for those that have the least representation and power in society,” Cobar said.
The Dec. 1, 1968, inaugural issue of the Beachhead — set on a typewriter — declared on page one: “This paper is a poem for the people.”
Then as now, the nonprofit Beachhead is funded by sustainers who donate to cover publication costs.
“Just like a community cannot exist without a newspaper, so too the Beachhead cannot survive without the support of the community. It’s been the support of the community that has kept it going for 46 years,” Cobar said.
Her words echo those of Beachhead contributor Olga Palo in the Times’ article from 35 years ago: “If Venice survives, this paper will survive.”
The Beachhead’s 400th issue celebration runs from 6 to 11 p.m. Sunday at Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice. Musical acts include the Venice Street Legends, the Nicknamers, Suzy Williams, Michael Jost and Carol McArthur. For more information, visit venicebeachhead.org.