Mar Vista throws a party in memory of Bill Rosendahl

By Gary Walker

Local muralist Hector Gardea tries to capture some of Rosendahl’s effervescent personality on canvas. Photo by Mia Duncans

Local muralist Hector Gardea tries to capture some of Rosendahl’s effervescent personality on canvas. Photo by Mia Duncans

(Click here for photo essay.)
Some of those who knew him well said Bill Rosendahl couldn’t have scripted his own goodbye party any better.

Saturday’s community tribute to the public affairs broadcaster turned Los Angeles City Council member, who died on March 30 after an extended battle with cancer, was not the kind of somber affair that often marks the end of a person’s life.

In Mar Vista Park there was music, food, lots of laughter and even live chickens — a nod to the several chickens Rosendahl raised in the backyard of his nearby Mar Vista home.

The Del Rey Community Jazz Band and Del Rey-based Koshin Taiko Drummers opened the ceremony, followed later by the Venice-based Jingle Bell Rockers (because Rosendahl would listen to Christmas songs year-round). In honor of L.A.’s first openly gay councilman’s advocacy on LGBT issues, the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles sang a rendition of David Bowie’s “All the Young Dudes.”

It was a party, and that’s how his friend and mentor would have wanted it, said Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, who had been Rosendahl’s chief of staff.

“Bill wouldn’t have wanted anyone to be sad today,” Bonin said.

Dubbed “Great! Great! Great! A Celebration of Life” after one of Rosendahl’s favorite exclamations, the afternoon event drew hundreds of locals from the Westside communities he represented from 2005 to 2013.

Those who spoke publicly about Rosendahl’s legacy included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, actor and activist Mike Farrell, LA Times columnist Patt Morrison, radio host Lila Garrett, community activist Sherri Akers, City Hall gadfly David “Zuma Dogg” Saltzburg and Venice poet Pegarty Long.

“Bill was like a cult leader that you couldn’t say no to,” Garcetti said of Rosendahl’s contagious energy and oversized personality.

Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe leader Robert Dorame performed a traditional Native American blessing for Rosendahl, who successfully fought for the re-interment of ancestral remains exhumed during construction of Playa Vista.

Alison Hurst, founder of the Venice nonprofit Safe Place for Youth, spoke about Rosendahl’s donation of his leftover campaign funds to the group’s efforts to assist homeless teens.

Organizers encouraged attendees to make donations to Safe Place for Youth, New Directions for Veterans or the Jeff Griffith Youth Center at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center — three groups Rosendahl strongly supported — in lieu of flowers.

As Venice community activist David Ewing put it, “Bill would have been smiling if he’d seen this.”