Five years after his death, a tribute to the late Venice Beat Generation poet John Thomas is planned for 7 p.m. Saturday, February 17th, at Sponto Gallery, 7 Dudley Ave., Venice. Admission is free.

Thomas was one of the original Venice Beats and in the 1950s he worked at the Gas House, one of Venice’s two main beatnik hangouts. The other Beat establishment, the Venice West CafÈ, is now Sponto Gallery, the site of the tribute to Thomas.

“Sponto Gallery is becoming like the Venice West CafÈ, a hub for artists in the community,” says Nickie Black, who organized the tribute.

Black organizes a poetry, music and art fusion night in a club setting at local venues which he calls Club Mozaic.

Among the guests Black has confirmed at the tribute are Thomas’s widow and fellow Beat poet Philomene Long, L.A. slam poets and musicians including Mike the Poet, Philharmonic, Jbiz and Black Shoe Polish. Local artists exhibiting work will include Gerry Fialka, Teresa Accardi, Philip Thomas and Al Culbertson. Artist gg will be painting live. DJ Noj will also perform at the event.

Thomas and Long first met in 1968, and married in the 1980s.

“He was a huge bearded man, and he sat in his chair like Buddha, my guru, my hero my roar of light!” wrote the late poet Charles Bukowski about Thomas’s charisma.

“A lot of people knew him in this part of town,” says Black about Thomas. “We didn’t have a chance to say goodbye when he died, so in a sense, this is our getting to say goodbye.”

Black crossed paths with Thomas in the early 1980s and says Thomas’s outlook on life rubbed off on him. Thomas was known for living a modest life, based on the habits of the ancient Zen recluse poets, saying he was happy with just “Philomene, a pen, a pad, a shirt and pants.”

“Poets are pure,” says Black. “They are not gonna be rock stars. They’re not in it for that.”

Black says the artists, poets and observers attending the event represent the “new Beats,” a group of disenfranchised people striving for excellence in creativity.

Information, (310) 795-0953.