There hasn’t been an official “town decorator” since Arthur Reese in the early days of Venice. Esquire Jauchem, known to some residents and partygoers as the producer of Carnevale! Venice Beach, is putting on a new community hat.
Residents may have noticed that there was no Carnevale in the streets this year. However, there was a Carnevale masquerade party to keep the tradition alive.
“We don’t want it to die,” Esquire says.
The economic downturn, coupled with inadequate space for the vendors last year, resulted in a lack of funds to produce a full blown event for 2010. Organizers say it has been a labor of love fraught with logistical problems since starting in 2002.
Esquire is determined to have the festivities on the beach like carnivals at other beach cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Kuta Karnival in Bali. He envisions community-wide participation so everyone can benefit and have fun.
Now, Esquire is calling on a talent previously featured in lighting effects for Phantom of the Opera, the first version of The Glory of Easter at the Crystal Cathedral and for the Dalai Lama on the night he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Before the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade was completed in 1989, Esquire was asked to decorate Main Street, and he designed and built more than 100 starfish with lights that were prominent on storefronts and in trees.
Carol Tantau, member of the Abbot Kinney Merchants Committee from the Venice Chamber of Commerce, remembers the lights, saying that in the early 1990s, palm trees were planted on the boulevard and lights were wrapped around them for the holidays each year.
“It was an enormous expenditure for temporary lights,” says Carol.
Last year, the Abbot Kinney Festival Association (formerly the Abbot Kinney Boulevard Association) came up with a plan for community grants and asked the committee to apply for one. That was when they began exploring the idea of doing a lighting project that would be permanent.
Carol knew Esquire designed the lights on Main Street and asked him to create a comparable artistic theme for Abbot Kinney Boulevard. There are about 120 palms trees and not enough money to do all at once.
“The idea is to bring more light to the street each year,” says Carol.
The first handmade stainless steel starburst lights were installed as a prototype at several locations on the boulevard at Christmas time. Eventually, there will be a solar-powered star for every tree and possibly lights strung in between. Esquire feels that having a specific look for a street is a great way to build unity in the community and recognize its unique appeal to visitors.
Originally from Ohio, Esquire went to graduate school in Boston to study theater. He got a part time job at the Opera Company of Boston under the leadership of Sarah Caldwell. Within a few years, he became associate director — producing, directing and designing special effects. During his stay in Boston he also founded the Boston Repertory Theatre, where he produced and directed.
New York was Esquire’s next stop, where he formed a company doing special effects such as fire, rain, lightning and storms.
“I burned Beverly Sills at the stake several times,” he says.
Esquire came in contact with renowned architect Frank Gehry while both were working on an off-Broadway show where Gehry designed the sets. Gehry was asked to design kiosks and the opening and closing ceremonies for the 1984 Olympics and there were discussions about Esquire’s company working with him on the special effects.
Esquire then went to Los Angeles to open a West Coast office and get into the movies.
“Little did I know that special effects are already tied up by people who do that — from generation to generation,” Esquire says. “In the movie business it is established, whereas in the theater, it wasn’t. We were it.”
And there wasn’t much large scale theatre in Los Angeles in those days, he recalls. In the meantime, the Olympics Committee thought Gehry’s designs were too weird, recalls Esquire.
“The kiosks were a school of fish,” he says. “Each fish had a person inside it. You would walk through this school of fish to enter. They rejected his designs. Today they would pay gazillions to get Frank Gehry to design the Olympics.”
When Esquire no longer had work, a friend got him a job producing a television show and he’s been producing ever since. He says he began working in reality television early on in the industry. He was a producer on “Trial Watch,” the precursor of “Court TV,” and the original “Divorce Court,” as well as on a series of documentaries including “Anatomy of a Crime” and “America’s Most Wanted” among many other shows. Last year, he was nominated for two Emmy Awards for Style Network’s “Clean House.”
Most recently, Esquire was hired to stage the tribute to Paula Vogel, the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner for her play “How I Learned to Drive” and the 2010 recipient of the William Inge Award for Distinguished Achievement in Theatre.
In 1997, Esquire produced a television show called “Strange Universe” that looked at unusual things happening around the world. He was sent with a crew to Burning Man, an annual art event and temporary community in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, and he was so impressed that he decided to return the next year to participate.
Since then, he has designed a “bubble lounge” that began with a 40-foot tower with a bubble machine shooting bubbles over the camp to a more recent 30-foot dome with a night club inside. Esquire’s ingenuity in figuring out how to make bubbles in heat and dust earned him a camp location next to the founder’s trailer in the town square.
While many artistic people can get caught up in time consuming jobs and home life, Esquire believes, “When you live some place as unique as Venice Beach, it is hard not to get inspired by the spirit of it all.
“I have a deed that shows my house was built in 1903 and owned by Abbot Kinney and partners. So somehow creating things here in Venice feels like part of a historic continuum.”