I knew something special was happening the minute I saw the large goat being led by a wild Radical Faerie thru the jammed streets of Venice Beach with the throbbing music of DJ Victor Rodriguez filling the gathering space and a huge conga line including a dancing dog snaking thru the large crowd.
You won’t find that in WeHo! I was right at home in Venice Beach
In spite of the cool misty evening, something remarkable happened June 3 as the first-ever Venice Pride Celebration and street party rocked the Venice Circle and the iconic Venice illuminated sign was unveiled in its full rainbow glory for the very first time.
For more than a hundred years, Venice Beach has held a special place in the psyche of Los Angeles County. Part gritty urban sex-guru and part New Age shaman, Venice has been where L.A. takes its clothes off and gets a breath of fresh air for decades.
Growing up in L.A. County, Venice Beach was the first place I ever saw a naked person in public (when I was a kid during the much too short period when Venice was a nude beach in the 70s). It was the first place I ever saw a naked gay man.
It was the first place i ever saw two naked men kissing which almost blew my gaskets at fifteen.
I have lived in Venice for almost thirty years and when I first landed here in the late 80s the world-famous gay beach- the Brooks Beach or Speedo Lido as it was popularly known- would be chock-a-block with queer folk.
Times and fashion change; the bathing suits came back on and the boys moved north a bit to Will Rogers Beach. But with the recent closing of the last gay bar on the Westside the Roosterfish in Venice, it was looking like Venice Beach queer salad days were over.
But then some local queer Venetians had another idea on how to keep making LGBTQ space in Venice.
Grant Turck – who organized the event along with filmmaker George Francisco and Daniel Samakow of restaurants James’ Beach and Danny’s- welcomed the packed crowd jammed along Windward at the Venice Circle and spoke of why Venice really matters, “For 100 years Venice has welcomed LGBTQ Bohemians, beatnicks, poets, artists, hippies, surfers, body builders, musicians, actors, designers, film makers, and all of us who simply expressed our own sexual and gender Identities.
So as we still struggle for equality it is appropriate that we celebrate our uniqueness, here in Venice Beach, a place that celebrates differences!”
Openly gay L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin was in fine form as he playfully asked “Anybody here used to hang out at the Roosterfish? Anybody here used to have too much to drink at the Roosterfish? Anybody here hook up at the Roosterfish? Anybody here meet a significant other at the Roosterfish?”
There was loud acclimation to every question except the last one.
Then, Councilman Bonin reminded the crowd of the great loss L.A. had recently gone through with the death of much loved former Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the first openly gay man elected to the Los Angeles City Council representing the Venice area and who had a strong love for Venice Beach.
Bonin promised that the beach from Brooks Ave. to Windward Ave. – historically the gay beach in Venice- will be named The Bill Rosendahl Beach.
It isn’t enough for us to mark the history and put up a plaque; the visionary organizers of Venice Pride along with Councilman Bonin are doing their best to make new history.
The naming of the queer beach for Bill Rosendahl can revive this lost gay space, the gathering places like Danny’s and James Beach can be the post-beach watering holes that the Friendship bar in Santa Monica was back in the day when Christopher Isherwood and gang would gather after Will Rogers.
The event really made me imagine the possible future LA Pride.
Venice Pride may be the beautiful spark for a renaissance of queer L.A. Pride that is more community-based, creative, non-corporate, and world changing. Hopefully, of course, there will be goats and dancing dogs in the mix too!
Tim Miller is a solo performer and author of the books Body Blows and 1001 Beds. www.TimMillerPerformer.com