The Publicist

Venice Beach goes typically wild in promoting centennial

Venice Beach goes typically wild in promoting centennial

Apart from Hollywood, nothing else generates more publicity for LA than the bohemian environs of Venice Beach.

The boardwalk's colorful images of sand, surf, sunbathers, skaters, and sidewalk vendors epitomize the California dream. Throw in a few tattoo parlors, bodybuilders, snake charmers, glass walkers, preachers, and musicians, and it's hard for Midwest tourists to stay down on the farm after they've seen all that.

I live only a block away from Venice Beach, and have grown familiar with the "characters" who hock their wares on the two-mile stretch of commercial and artistic freakdom stretching north to Santa Monica. On a sunny summer day, you'll see visitors from around the world, particularly Russians, who've adopted the town as their own. ("Sergei Sergeivich, you must to put this fresh orange in your vodka. It is excellent.")

And now Venice is turning 100. City officials and community leaders have been "organizing" for the past year a promotional campaign commemorating the centennial. But this being Venice, a hive of fiercely independent and self-absorbed souls, the program has been as patchy and scattered as the vending stalls lining the boardwalk.

I've witnessed denizens arguing over patches of sun, so I'm not surprised that it's proven to be a bit tricky to get all the players to pull on the same rope. (The first argument, I'm sure, was over what kind of rope it would be.)

In fact, an aide to the councilwoman who represents Venice recently told the LA Times that the centennial planning committee has not been playing together very nicely in the sandbox.

"It was supposed to [help] heal what was going on there," the aide said. "It didn't turn out that way."

With such diverse ethnic, economic, and religious groups represented, it has been difficult for the council to determine what sort of image it wants to project. Some prefer glitzy, celebrity-driven glamour. Others favor showcasing the eclectic, quirky aspects of the town, founded by visionary Abbott Kinney in 1905.

An ambitious marketing plan proposed by a local promotions company fizzled, resulting in an improvised quilt of summer celebration activities that are as free-flowing as the community itself. A little of this, a little of that. As it should be.

Tired of hanging around the cineplex this summer? Come join the beach party. We could use the money. You could use a tattoo. Just don't park in my spot.

Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

Apart from Hollywood, nothing else generates more publicity for LA than the bohemian environs of Venice Beach. Apart from Hollywood, nothing else generates more publicity for LA than the bohemian environs of Venice Beach.

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