6 min readDec 13, 2020


Death In Venice As “Be Nice Beachtown” by Gerry Fialka

Death In Venice As “Be Nice Beachtown” by Gerry Fialka

from the Dec 2020 issue of

How do we Venetians flip crisis into catalyst? Easy as pumpkin pie. Here are a few examples of our resilience, courage and street smarts transforming breakdowns into breakthroughs. Jump back and kiss yourselves, Venice.

Death is often thought of as blackness. Mean and cruel. Yet, the people of Venice are nice, cosmic and compassionate. We can flip darkness into light. We resonate with Thomas Mann, who wrote in the 1912 novel Death in Venice: “We artists cannot tread the path of Beauty without Eros keeping company with us and appointing themselves as our guide.” Love leads the way, homey.

The human condition may be falling and getting back up. Up, up and away. A new way. Righteous rascality rising from the ashes. Salvador Dali called it “phoenixology,” the science of reincarnation — die and rise in perpetual motion from the ashes of death.

An early example of the resurrection theme involved a woman who fed the homeless in LA. It’s a wild story. In 1926, evangelist super star, Aimee Semple McPherson, faked her drowning death after leaving her room at the King George Hotel, which is the tall building at Rose Avenue and the Boardwalk.

At this very corner, many have lived and died. Legendary BeachHead co-founder and iconic character Carol Fondiller lived and died in that building. Also, magical sage Walter, who befriended Leadbelly. Another stellar example is the great Motown bass player David Waller, a sweet and talented man who was homeless for years, living and dying at that same location in the parking lot. He played the Apollo and toured with many Motown stars, including David Ruffin, the lead voice on such famous songs as “My Girl” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” The music doesn’t stop there. Check out my film of him on YouTube called “David Waller Interview Motown Bass Player Venice CA Pixelvision”

Currently the community group known as “Venaissance,” has birthed a new social movement at that very corner of Rose and the Boardwalk. They are engaging activists working with unhoused community members to brainstorm solutions. I have talked with them. You can too, so get involved. They touch me with their dedication to love and peace. One of these folks, Noah Klein, shot these accompanying photos of the Venice Cemetery, which appeared near Navy and the Boardwalk around Halloween. This guerrilla art project stimulated a lot of discussion on various issues. The spirit of revival lives.

We are lucky to share our Beachtown with many diverse people. One woman (I think her name is HP), who sometimes sells t-shirts at this creative crossroads, told me that we have the potential to change Venice into “Be Nice.”

We all have the potential to flip Dreams That Money Can Buy into Dreams That Kindness Can Procure. Non-commodity aspirations.

Venice leaks into (and on) Hollywood, which is televising the revolution again. Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 is teaching new generations about the services of agitprop activism. Sacha Baron “Borat” Cohen stars as Abbie Hoffman, who was highly influenced by Marshall McLuhan, who broke the Finnegans Wake code with Menippean satire. Venetians have probed the Wake for over two decades reading it aloud with a group of people as a kind of comedy seance. James Joyce’s 1939 novel invented Zoom & Your Daily Dose of Internet and disguised it as a book. The Wake hoicks up this death and rebirth theme of falling down and getting back up. Indeedy do do, it is grounds for further research.

Memewhile, back to our screamplay . . . when Sorkin wins the Oscar, he should evoke his own film’s ending and say, “How much time do I have for my acceptance speech?” Then he can read the entire Paul Krassner recollection of tripping on acid at the trial. Former Venetian Krassner is the hidden ground of the political satire movement. Long live the Krass! Tune in, drop up and turn around!!!

Another preeminent Venetian is Jeremy Kagan, who directed the 1987 docudrama Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8, which examines the same event. It is currently being re-experienced online. Streaming of the living dead? No, this is alive and kicking. Kudos to Jeremy! Another character in the trial and Black Panther co-founder, Bobby Seale praised Kagan’s film, “It reminded me that we captured the imagination of America. The 60’s protest movement established a lot of constitutional rights.”

The youth of today can learn from another revolutionary pioneer of this important trial, Fred Hampton. He helped develop the multicultural Rainbow Coalition, which united various civil rights organizations.

Speaking of rainbows and the full spectrum of colors, a friend recalled this happening on November 7, 2020. He was rained (and even hailed) on early that Saturday morning right here in Venice, California. Then he heard the good news on the election and the sun broke through. A breathtaking double rainbow appeared in the sky. Another friend said “It was raining heavily this morning. Just as I found out that Biden had won, the rain turned into crazy hailstones. All I have to say is ‘Hail to the Chief.’”

I am moved profoundly by Eric Ahlberg’s suggestion to have the First Baptist Church of Venice building be a facility to preserve Venice history and become the home for a Venice Gospel Chorus movement, resonating with the inspired accomplishments of Sweet Honey in the Rock. The October issue of National Geographic magazine has brought more attention to saving this 100 year old Venice monument. Revivification!

Kudos to Eric for his dedication to helping publish this very newspaper. Mr. Ahlberg is our medium widening the message. We are grateful to him for spreading good doctrine, glad tidings, opinions, poetry and all the news that is fit to Venicize. We are grateful to the entire BeachHead crew.

The local newspaper is dying all across America. I give thanks that our own Venice BeachHead continues to give birth to new ideas, new questions and new metaphors. The first newspaper in America, Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestickwas published in Boston in 1690. Even though only one edition was published before the paper was suppressed by the government, it started a trend to enable communities to communicate.

David Brode summarized it in his 1973 Pulitzer Prize acceptance speech: “The newspaper that drops on your doorstep is a partial, hasty, incomplete, inevitably somewhat flawed and inaccurate rendering of some of the things we have heard about in the past twenty-four hours — distorted, despite our best efforts to eliminate gross bias, by the very process of compression that makes it possible for you to lift it from the doorstep and read it in about an hour. If we labeled the product accurately, then we could immediately add: But it’s the best we could do under the circumstances, and we will be back tomorrow with a corrected and updated version.”

So don’t let the bad news of human fragilities and failings get you down, flip them into rejuvenating “Be Nice in Venice” as a reawakening of rockin’ soulful solutions, like “When Death Comes A Knockin’ — Stand up and Sing!”

“Let us pry” — Shame’s Choice. And let us ring in the new yearnings with an etymological crescendo. The word “nice” comes from the Latin “nescius,” meaning “not-knowing.” Like The Firesign Theatre quipped, “Everything you know is wrong.” Duh!

But for Venice deep “see” divers, it is bottomless. “Nice” comes from ne- “not” (from PIE root *ne- “not”) + stem of scire “to know” (see science). “The sense development has been extraordinary, even for an adjective” [Weekley] — from “timid, faint-hearted” (pre-1300); to “fussy, fastidious” (late 14c.); to “dainty, delicate” (c. 1400); to “precise, careful” (1500s, preserved in such terms as a nice distinction and nice and early); to “agreeable, delightful” (1769); to “kind, thoughtful” (1830). What’s next “being nice” for Venetians in 2021?

I welcome your feedback & feedforward. Join in our Zooms on Venice Film History on Jan 23 & Venice Photo History on Jan 30, 2021. Germy FolkwayZ