Author: rahnepistor

Father of California surfing Freeth arrived in Venice 100 years ago

Redondo Beach may claim him but it’s Venice that can truly stake the claim to fame for George Freeth, the man credited for bringing surfing from Hawaii to Southern California in the early 1900s, says Elayne Alexander, a Venice historian and member of the Venice Community Trust Archival Committee. A slide show presentation on the life of Freeth and the 100th anniversary of the surfing phenomenon, which has come to be a defining image of the Southern California lifestyle, is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Sunday, July 22nd, at the Danny’s Deli, 23 Windward Pacific Ave., Venice. Admission is free. The speaker and presenter of the program is Dr. Arthur Verge, a historian, professor at El Camino College and 35-year veteran Los Angeles County lifeguard, who has researched the topic for the past five years with historians Elayne Alexander and Dave Kastigar. Freeth came to Venice on July 22nd, 1907 at age 24 and by the end of the month, it was reported in the news that a Hawaiian was riding the waves on a board on the north end of Venice. As if it weren’t enough to bring what later would become the cultural phenomenon of surfing to Southern California’s shores, Freeth is also revered as a pioneering lifeguard. Freeth was the mentor of Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic champion who is widely known as the father of modern surfing,...

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Celebration marks return of historic Venice sign to Windward Avenue

The return of the historical Venice sign that hung across Windward Avenue, a block from the entrance to Venice Beach, will be marked by a community celebration with live music, children’s activities and a dedication ceremony with local politicians and dignitaries. “All these years we’ve been tearing things down; now we’re finally putting something back up,” says Venice historian Elayne Alexander. The event, dubbed Venice Fest, is scheduled from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday, June 24th, at Windward and Pacific Avenues in Venice. Admission is free. Venice Fest has been organized by the three groups responsible for maintaining the new sign — the Venice Chamber of Commerce, the Venice Community Trust and the Venice Sign Restoration Project. Speakers at the event will include City of Los Angeles 11th District Councilman Bill Rosendahl and his Westside field deputy Mark Antonio Grant, Kendrick Kinney (grandson of Venice founder Abbot Kinney) and figurative artist Robert Graham, who will also, at the event, be dedicating his sculpture of a female torso that is now a permanent installation on the Windward Circle. The effort to bring back the sign was spearheaded by local resident Todd von Hoffmann, who helped secure a $10,000 beautification grant from the City of Los Angeles for the project in 2004 and began the Venice Sign Restoration Project. Von Hoffman estimates the total cost of the sign project to be...

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Pico represents vanishing American neighborhood to local filmmaker

The Pico Neighborhood, a historically culturally diverse neighborhood of Santa Monica, is the subject of a new feature-length film combining narrative with standard documentary footage about what filmmaker Michael Barnard calls the vanishing American neighborhood. 90404 Changing looks at the loss of the community in the area due to gentrification and corporate development. A screening of the film is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 21st, at the Santa Monica College Main Stage, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. Tickets are $25 and proceeds benefit the 90404 Changing Project, which includes the creation of a searchable on-line database of interviews with local community members and the creation of a curriculum for use by high school and college students. The event is co-sponsored by Santa Monica College and 18th Street Arts Center, where Barnard is a resident artist. Barnard has lived on and off in the Pico Neighborhood since 1972. A main driving point of the film is what Barnard describes as the corporatization of the area and the loss of community he sees taking place there. “The evacuation of family businesses is very noticeable to people familiar with the area,” says Barnard. “We filmed at the last remaining black barber shop in Santa Monica.” The loss of community and corporatization of communities is in no way unique to Santa Monica’s Pico Neighborhood, but this was the area Barnard knew best...

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Crosby joins Jackson Browne, band Venice to support the arts in Santa Monica schools

Hit songwriter Jackson Browne, a frequent performer of benefit concerts for charitable organizations, is back in Santa Monica to support arts education in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. This year, he will be joined for the first time by legendary singer/songwriter David Crosby as well as the band Venice. The benefit to support the nonprofit For the Arts committee, is scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday, June 2nd, at the Santa Monica High School Barnum Hall Theater, 601 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. Tickets are $50, $100, $175 or $1,000. “David has been friends with Venice and, obviously, Jackson Browne for many, many years and we’ve all done lots of charities together over the years,” says Kipp Lennon of Venice, explaining how Crosby came to be involved in the local fundraiser. “We called David to see if he would want to be involved in this one because we know how much he helps out his own school district up in the Santa Ynez area and how he loves to raise awareness about issues like this — having to do with the arts and public schools.” When arts education in local public schools suffered a budget setback in 2002, parents Greg and Carol Coote began to spearhead an effort to raise the funds to keep the arts alive, according to For the Arts executive director Linda Gross. The group For the...

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‘Emcee since ’63’ Bill Howard cut from Muscle Beach Venice contests

The season for bodybuilding and figure contests in Venice begins over Memorial Day weekend with the first of a series of three annual shows, but one Muscle Beach Venice tradition will not make a return to the stage this year, according to organizers Joe Wheatley Productions and the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. Bill Howard, the Muscle Beach bodybuilding champion who has emceed, organized and kept the contests alive since 1963, will not be permitted to officially participate in the shows any longer due to a rift between him and promoter Joe Wheatley, the two men say. The 73-year-old Howard, known for his feisty stage charisma and one-line zingers, stepped aside as the show’s main organizer and emcee in 2003 and began a battle with throat cancer. Since beating the cancer, he has returned energized, albeit taking a significantly smaller role in the show. This season, department officials informed Howard in a letter that he is no longer an official part of the show and will “no longer be asked to narrate the history of Muscle Beach at the show, the Bill Howard Award will no longer be given at the shows, and The Medallion Ceremony will be completed by a representative from [the Department of] Recreation and Parks” rather than Howard. In addition to winning several bodybuilding titles, Howard, who has ties to the...

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