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Birth of Venice:
old-time magazine

Venice in Films

Venice and Theater

Actors, Filmmakers and Writers in Venice live or lived

Actors, Filmmakers and Writers in Venice
hung out

Program of the 1978 Venice Festival at the Fox Venice Theater

The Fox Venice Theater

Tale of the Fox
(from Free Venice Beachhead)

1981 Resistance Celebration Schedule

1981 Resistance Celebration Articles

The Rhythm of Venice Beach

To See Venice Is To Live - opening day slogan

University of Venice


Beats film

Venice - Ocean Park

Showbiz Comes to Venice

Spoken Word

Annual Events


Institutions, Organizations, Foundations

Publishers etc.

Centennial 2005

Vector Supercar

Paul Tanck on
Venice-related films

The Venice Walk

JJ for President


Ceramic artist Patty






......his lavishly illustrated book


This wonderful memoir of life on the road, Rainbow Gatherings, hippie enclaves, and struggle against conformity was gestated in Venice. RomTom had been writing it for years, but it was only after a series of meetings with publisher Marc Madow, in 1991 and '92, that the project really took off. They parlayed at the old Van Gogh's Ear coffee-house, and much of the book was written there too.



Back when I lived in Venice, the strange and fascinating vehicles that occupied its streets, parking lots and alleys were, to many residents, a source of ceaseless irritation. In fact, vehicle dwellers are still a huge object of contention. The non-traditionally housed are hated and feared as much as the homeless, and face legal penalties just for having the nerve to exist. They're called outsiders, "questionable people," A-holes, "vantasticks," who throw trash around and live in smelly motor homes creating squalor and urban blight.
Some new parking permit rules were proposed or passed but were criticized because they just move the undesirables from one part of Venice to another without ever really getting rid of them.
"When allowed to congregate, they form the framework for an "encampment"" one outraged householder complained in a letter to the editor. Others make the accusation that vans have been used for drug sales, prostitution, and fencing stolen property - the horror! And of course we know that people living in houses never do those sorts of things. One resident complained in a local newsletter that one motor home and two cars with people sleeping in them were 200 feet from her front door! Around the corner, at least three more vehicles were being lived in. "So far there have been no reported adverse occurrences, and based on my experience, these sleepers are harmless," this person admitted. But…….. "What will be there tomorrow?".


In a 2006 interview, artist Emily Winters remembers the truck gypsies of a bygone Venice era, when things were a bit more loose. "The people who lived in their trucks would hook up to our electricity. Nobody had much money. We helped each other." Not much of that spirit remains today.


Familiar faces in remarkable documentary

Rubber Tramps is a unique documentary that explores the lives of people who savor the scenery of the open road, in search of an authentic life. These nomads and gypsies make their homes in converted buses, vans and cars. In his last major media appearance, counterculture icon Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) comments throughout the film, linking today's rubber tramps with the famous bus trips he and the Merry Pranksters made during the bygone hippie era.

Ken Kesey on his farm

Director Max Koetter traveled as a very young man to the U.S. in the late 1990s and fell in love with the open spaces and the road people he met in the course of his own wanderings. First he thought of doing a book, but during a spell back in England, was advised that on return it would be a good idea to take a camera. Someone turned him on to the Canon XL1, which became his camera of choice. His father suggested connecting with Ken Kesey, so that became a goal. Returning stateside, he met Kenny Rosen, who took on the production duties, and they formed Just Passing Through Productions. Sam Taybi ran the video camera, and Brett Beardslee kept track of things in his journal and also translated the magic of wanderlust into the musical medium.

Videographer Sam Taybi

The crew's 2001 odyssey, in a van called Juicy Lucy, began in Venice (where, coincidentally, Kesey once lived) and moved on up the coast to Pleasant Hill, Oregon. All the way, they recorded the lives and words of people whose most important possessions are their wheels, winding up with a movie that is a distilled essence of the Sixties spirit as it has survived into later decades.

Brett Beardslee, Max Koetter in Kesey's barn

In Juicy Lucy, a 1958 VW van, the film crew spent 40 days and 40 nights traveling and filming. Intermittently joined by still photographer Jamie Trueblood, the crew actually lived as rubber tramps themselves while filming their subjects. For the interior scenes, Coleman lanterns were useful to provide illumination brighter than normal, yet still preserving the intimate ambiance of vehicular existence.

Indian Lee, videographer Sam Taybi

Two well-known Venice locals are featured in Rubber Tramps. Conga drummer Ibrahim Mihammai has been harassed by the police innumerable times for playing music on the west side of the boardwalk. Ceramic artist Patty has run afoul of the rules governing sales on the boardwalk. (Although individually handmade, her creations are said not to be eligible - while mass-produced, imported junk is allowed.) During the filming of Rubber Tramps, Patty's home on wheels was destroyed by fire, and the filmmakers came to her rescue, giving her one of their buses. RomTom, also in Rubber Tramps, has spent plenty of time in Venice during his travels, and wrote a good portion of his book Comporting Roadwise in a local cafe.

Still photographer Jamie Trueblood

A first cut was made and shown to some people to get a rough idea of what they had. The picture ended up being 82 minutes in length. (Later on, another version was edited to fit in the 1-hour confines of a cable TV show.) Topanga Canyon artist Jody Roberts, a vehicle-dweller himself, spent a month and a half painting a 1955 GMC bus named Gypsy Storm. The interior was remodeled into a screening room, and in it the Rubber Tramps crew set out for the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. (This was the same year the Venice-based Dogtown and Z-Boys won top awards there).

Center: Jody Roberts, who decorated the Gypsy Storm bus for the Sundance expedition

The makers of Rubber Tramps had planned to use their bus as a theater, but that was forbidden by a local law. The city fathers restricted free speech in a big way, as the Park City municipal code forbade filmmakers from handing out flyers or even talking to the public about their movies. Max Koetter received a citation for engaging in "a promotional discussion." The crew joined with other frustrated artists to protest.

Juicy Lucy and the film crew on the road

Today, anybody can watch this wonderfully-reviewed movie via DVD. Visit the Rubber Tramps website to see the Film Festival Trailer and the Internet Exclusive Trailer and visit Rubber Tramps on MySpace for extra photos and interesting news.

Producer Kenny Rosen, Sam Taybi, and Further 2

The filmmakers interview Frog



On YouTube, the Rubber Tramps Trailer

Rubber Tramps at
Movies Are Only a Life

Observations on Vehicular Residences in Venice from
Call Someplace Paradise and Ghost Town: a Venice California Life in the years 1980-1984

The Rodriguez family recently got a pickup truck with a camper top. After about a month the camper shell was taken off the truck and placed in the yard next to their house. Carla says two of Dulci's cousins live in it.
Ghost Town - spring 1980

On Vernon Avenue just about at the corner of Lincoln there's a house entirely surrounded by high impenetrable foliage and a formidable gate. A couple weeks ago a big funky old bus that says Whale Museum showed up in front of the place and has been parked there ever since.
Ghost Town - summer 1980

On the boardwalk a new (to me anyway) group showed up called Ecolibrium Alliance, whose home ground is Big Sur or somewhere equally remote. They travel with several animals in a large bus trimmed with purple and they all wear purple. Their weird medieval-looking odd-shaped handmade instruments were laid out on a carpet spread on the pavement. A banner said "Ecolibrium Survival Show." A sixtyish man played a wind instrument with many stops, and a dark-haired woman played a keyboard. Their music was eerie and strange.
Call Someplace Paradise - fall 1981

Tara suggested a mechanic named Jack, so I went over to his place of business on 3rd Avenue between Rose and Sunset. All along that block a caravan of strange vehicles park, and I think people live in them. An Anaheim school bus with non-matching curtains on all the windows. A flatbed truck with a plywood structure mounted on it. A van where I glimpsed a woman in white thermal longjohns moving something inside. And so on.
Ghost Town - winter 1981

At the Safeway there has been a camper truck in the parking lot for a couple of weeks. It has a platform on the back. A refrigerator and a bag of golf clubs are on the platform with For Sale signs on them. A middle-aged woman came out, did something up front of the truck, then went back in. Apparently this is her home. Also in the lot there was another camper, the type with a sleeper over the cab, and lights were on inside it.
Call Someplace Paradise - fall 1982

On the way home I saw a school bus in the parking lot of one of the local light industries. The body was still yellow, with "Heavy Metal" painted on the side in silver, and flowered curtains in all the windows.
Call Someplace Paradise - fall 1982

There's an article in the Herald Examiner about all the people who live in cars, especially in Venice, where they estimate 100. They interviewed a couple named Jim and Lisa who live in the Rose Avenue parking lot. They take cold water showers and someone stole their car radio. Every morning when I go by the Safeway back parking lot there are half a dozen people waiting by the dumpster for the spoiled food to come out.
Call Someplace Paradise - spring 1983

At the Rose Avenue parking lot there are twenty vans, buses, trucks and campers which are residences. One of them has a wheelchair parked outside it. About the same number of cars probably have people living in them, or else what are they doing here at 6:30 a.m.? The decorative pilings are very tall now, since the sand has shifted drastically on that part of the beach. Ten or so sleeping bags full of people are clustered around them, and another group of at least that many sleep farther along by one of the concrete ramps.
Call Someplace Paradise - spring 1983

At the beach this morning, the Whale Museum bus was just pulling into the Rose Avenue parking lot, which looks more than ever like a village. Reaganville-by-the-Sea.
Call Someplace Paradise - summer 1983

This morning there were almost no vehicles in the Rose Avenue parking lot. Seasonal departure, or LAPD cataclysm? What kind of people end up living in a parking lot on the Pacific? I once put a cast on the arm of a heavyset, red-haired woman who came here from Brooklyn with her husband and two kids. Everything they owned was in their car. They spent their last $400 on an apartment. Both the adults had jobs lined up, and a babysitter, then the real tenants of the apartment showed up. The real tenants had sublet to someone else, and the subtenants had scammed the woman's family. They spent one night sleeping out on the beach and another in the car. On the way to an interview for an apartment manager job, the brakes failed and they hit another car that belonged to "a working guy who saved so long for that car," the red-haired woman said. On top of all their other problems and her brand-new broken arm, they felt obligated to pay for the damage to the other man's car. Of course their own car couldn't be driven, and they got a ticket for leaving the disabled vehicle on the street where the accident happened.
Call Someplace Paradise - fall 1983

In a vacant lot on the next block there's a pickup truck, pretty well wrecked and undriveable-looking, with a wooden shelter built on top. A dog sits next to its open door.
Ghost Town - fall 1983

I asked Dimitrios about the people with the Whale Museum bus we've seen parked there. They're originally from Amsterdam and are going back to Europe soon.
Ghost Town - fall 1983

On the other side of Electric Avenue, on a weedy patch of vacant land, a truck was parked with a big home-made structure built into it. On the back door someone had painted ART ROD ARK and FLY-IN SEED. I pondered those inscriptions for a moment, then noticed in the back window ledge of a nearby parked car a book whose title was eerily appropriate: Another Roadside Attraction.
Call Someplace Paradise - fall 1983

On Rose Avenue a green bus was parked - the Green Tortoise Line, which is the outfit our neighbor the videographer made a documentary about. A man in a mechanic's jumpsuit had the back end open and all his wrenches spread out. The destination on the side of the bus said Shreveport and the one on the top front said Paris. A motto painted in flowing script: "The only trip of its kind." The wall in back of the grocery has a new slogan in bold white paint: THERE ARE ALTERNATIVES TO WAR.
Call Someplace Paradise - summer 1984

The back part of a house burned like crazy, along with a truck/camper that's been parked next to it in the vacant lot for a couple years. Fire trucks were there and an astonishingly huge crowd, with more people arriving from all directions every minute.
Ghost Town - summer 1984




© 2004 - 2012 Pat Hartman
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