Was it karma or just a stroke of luck that Penny Thrasher recently did a website search for her friend Dennis Jakob who lived in Venice in the 1960s? The search brought her to my Web site through an article written by Paul Tanck, a contributor to my monthly online newsletter.
Many people, residents and non-residents alike, have always been fascinated with the history of Venice. While there is much documentation up to the time of annexation to the city of Los Angeles, there is little available after that except for cultural trends such as rollerskating, bodybuilding and the artistic community.
Several months ago Kendall Rainwater, a Long Beach resident who has been coming to Venice since 1959, sent an email to the Venice Historical Society requesting background information on the Beat poets during the 1950s and on Jim Morrison, lead singer and lyricist of The Doors. Morrison was one of the most iconic frontmen in rock music history, during the 60s.
Rainwater mentioned some urban legends regarding where Morrison lived in Venice, writing that he discovered five places in his investigation, but wanted to know if his findings were correct. The Venice Historical Society sent his message to Tanck, an avid Venice researcher.
The question about Morrison aroused his curiosity and his contribution for my August newsletter was entitled “Where in Venice Beach is Jim Morrison’s house?” Tanck researched many Web sites about Morrison and The Doors, but came up empty-handed. He read about many rumors and declared that “the net is full of obscure ridiculousness.”
Even Venice historian Jeffrey Stanton said he doesn’t know for sure where Morrison lived. It has been one of the best kept secrets in Venice, he said.
Imagine my surprise when I received Thrasher’s email. She, in fact, confirmed one of the places near the beach where Morrison hung out with their mutual friend, Jakob. They were all classmates in the Theatre Arts Department at UCLA before Morrison’s first public performance at the London Fog. She said it was the home of the “famous rooftop” and was a very interesting old two-story building with hardwood floors and a skylight that flooded the atrium with light. She remembers that neither of the young men was good about cleaning up Jakob’s second-floor small room, and Morrison spent a lot of time there drinking whiskey and listening to music.
In her email Thrasher wrote, “Something saved me from Jim’s crazy spiral (beautiful as the Angel of Death) and I ended up far from Los Angeles in the New Mexico desert, living and working with First Nations people for the last 40-some years. I now live in the Northwest on the west coast of Canada and work as a clinician with children that have brain damage as a result of mothers who drank alcohol or ingested drugs during pregnancy.
“Go figure. Dennis always said you only have two choices in life – service or hedonism.”
She has rarely spoken of her days in Venice to anyone except her husband and sons, although Jakob has hundreds of photos of their group.
My next step was to contact the owner of the building that Thrasher described. Indeed, before the owner purchased it in 1987, it was a boarding house above two stores. It made sense since Jakob lived in a small room.
Thrasher suggested that I check it out on Google Earth and I saw that it is possible to see the skylight and roof deck described by her. She wonders if the current owners “have strange dreams or hear music late at night.”