Following is the first in a series of longtime Venice resident John O’Brien’s recollections, reflections and riffs on life in Venice. Pictured above is Venice Beach Pavilion, which stood at the site of what are now the Venice Art Walls. – Doglord
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my parents were beatniks. I knew that things were somehow looser in my household – that people were tolerated and welcomed there that weren’t welcome in the homes of most of my schoolmates. We moved to Venice in 1960, when I was 10 years old – I’d spent most of my life in rural East Texas. Venice in 1960 was a snapshot in L.A. culture. The Marina hadn’t been built yet, and it was still poor, and bohemian. Most of the buildings were still run-down Victorians and Craftsmen. It was softer and funkier than today’s Venice — with more muted colors.
Parents weren’t so restrictive in my day, I guess, and I was out on the street and getting socially and politically involved by the time I was 14 or 15 or so. Young people were starting to be accepted, as the beats started to give way to the hippies. Venice has changed and stayed the same, through all this. I want to tell about some of the things I saw, and some of the people I knew. I guess everyone does, sooner or later.
Sometimes, all it takes is a picture. Seeing this old shot of the Venice Beach Pavilion really takes me back. In my sixteenth summer, they had a series of free concerts there. It was new then, and hadn’t fallen into disrepair, and could seat several hundred people. That summer I got to hear Taj Mahal, Kaleidoscope, Love, Spirit, and a dozen other seminal L.A. bands that are legendary now. They were more like mini-love-ins than concerts — people dancing in their seats and the aisles, beating on tambourines, the whole deal. At the time, I don’t think I realized that I was witnessing a part of the birth of a new consciousness. At the time, it all seemed very natural and self-evident. I was lucky to be in Venice then, and I am lucky to be here now. It’s a very special place – and a lot of magic has happened here.