Criminal defense attorney Kenneth Kahn, a Venice native who served as the official spokesperson for an effort proposing Venice cityhood in the early 1990s, has died. He was 66.
Kahn died Wednesday, May 27th, as a result of injuries he sustained from a fall while climbing at Machu Picchu, Peru, friends said. He was living in Santa Monica at the time of his death.
Kahn lived in the South Bay during the 1980s but he returned to living in Venice along the canals and to practicing law in the 1990s. In 1992 he became the official spokesman and a board member of the Venice Cityhood Organizing Committee, which formed after an opinion poll at the time indicated over 75 percent of 1,200 Venice respondents favored re-incorporating the City of Venice, said his friend William McNally.
Since retiring from his full-time law practice earlier this year, Kahn chose to fulfill a dream of traveling to South America including Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru.
Kahn, who was born June 17th, 1942 near Santa Monica’s Ocean Park, spent much of his childhood on the midway at the pier, an amusement area. His father was a carnival hustler. Kahn wrote about his carny lifestyle and an array of bizarre characters in his 2005 book “The Carny Kid: Survival of a Young Thief.”
In 1954, the family moved to East LA’s Ramona Gardens housing projects. While attending Lincoln High School, Kahn was inspired by a social studies teacher to get a higher education. He worked his way through Los Angeles City College and UCLA, and later graduated from UC Berkeley Bolt Hall School of Law in 1965.
Kahn became a highly-regarded criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles, where he served for 40 years.
In addition to thousands of courtroom appearances and speaking engagements, Kahn also tackled an even greater task — performing stand-up comedy — with his unique, sometimes “Kahn-troversial” style, friends said.
Kahn performed as a headliner at The Laugh Factory, The Comedy Store, The Ice House and The Improv in Los Angeles, as well as Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco, Giggles in Seattle and Stand-Up New York in New York City. He had the distinction of becoming the first-ever working attorney to perform in the main showroom of the Las Vegas Riviera Hotel, friends said.
“He was a lawyer with a smile and a big heart who wasn’t afraid to laugh at himself as well as the personalities and bizarre characters making today’s headlines,” said Bob Mazza, Kahn’s long-time public relations consultant.
Longtime colleague Robert Shapiro added, “Kenny was a unique blend as an attorney and comedian. He had a horrific childhood, but managed to become an extremely successful and respected attorney. He will be missed by everyone.”
Tom Gross, one of Kahn’s closest friends for 35 years, said, “Kenny roared through life living every day to the fullest.”
Kahn is survived by a brother Ricki Kahn and sister Cookie Kahn-Wright, as well as step- daughter Kym Buford and step-son Chris Buford.
A “Celebration of Kenny Kahn’s Life” is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 17th at Danny’s Deli, 23 Windward Ave., Venice. Parking is available at an adjacent lot. Danny Brookman, a local attorney and longtime friend of Kahn’s, is the master of ceremonies for the event.