By Joe Piasecki

Who needs a tree to celebrate the holidays?
Venice residents welcomed the season in their own way Friday night during the second annual Venice Sign Lighting, with actress Anjelica Huston and Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin flipping the switch to change the Windward Avenue landmark’s colors from white to red and green.
Huston, a Venice resident, encouraged the crowd of more than 1,000 people who gathered at Windward Circle to bask in local pride.
“I think one of the best decisions I ever made was coming down to live in Venice 20 years ago. I was hidden behind my gates in Beverly Hills, you know, becoming inhuman. And all of a sudden I came down here and it was the opening of a great many doors for me. I made so many friends in the community, and I think that’s what the Venice spirit is all about,” Huston said.
“I’m so happy to celebrate our Venice sign, to be able to celebrate who we are,” Huston said. “My husband always used to say this is the one place that’s totally unpredictable in Los Angeles. This is outside the limits — we are who we are, and we’re allowed to be who we are. We all understand that. There’s a great harmony in this community. It took me very little time to recognize the fact that I was safe here in this place everyone said was so dangerous.”
Huston’s late husband, sculptor Robert Graham, erected the female torso that stands in Windward Circle about 18 months before his death in 2008.
Bonin said Huston “represents the artistic spirit of Venice.”
The Venice Sign, a near-exact replica of the original lighted banner installed by community founder Abbot Kinney in 1906, went up in 2007 — a milestone for the revitalization of Windward Circle, local businessman Daniel Samakow said.
Samakow, a Venice Chamber of Commerce board member who owns the Canal Club and Danny’s Venice, hatched the idea of a ceremonial sign lighting last year in hopes that the sign would become “more than just an historic symbol,” he said.
Sponsored by public agencies, local businesses and the chamber, Friday’s event also included performances by the volunteer Venice Symphony Orchestra, itself not much more than a year in the making.