Cheap rents in Venice attracted post-war European immigrants and the "Beat generation" of the 1960s who brought the kind of counter-culture celebrated by this drum circle on the beach. The city fell on hard times during the Depression of the 1930s, revived during World War II when it became popular with sailors and soldiers, but sank again in the 1950s.
Venice Beach – Been There

Roots of counter culture in Venice Beach

Photo by Richard Wong

Venice Beach – Been There Roots of counter culture in Venice Beach

While Venice Boardwalk may draw tourists to see the weird and wonderful street performers – like the man who spends hours dancing on broken glass – art and culture are still a central part of the beach town’s spirit.

Marissa Charles
Marissa Charles Travel Writer

Venice Beach, after all, was home to seminal performers such as Jim Morrison from The Doors and Dennis Hopper, the actor and prolific painter who died in 2010 and whose legend looms large over the canals. It was also the haunt of Beat Generation poets Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. So it has long been a magnet to which creative people are drawn, even if just to soak up the atmosphere.

A photographer I know used to visit Los Angeles and Venice Beach in particular in the early 1970s with pals such as Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones and the late Gram Parsons. She told me: “People just used to hang. That’s what you did.”

“Back in the day, when it used to be called West Washington Boulevard, Abbot Kinney was lined with old Craftsman houses,” says body painter and massage therapist Star Oakland over a cup of coffee. She first came to Venice for short stays in the 1980s when she was a flight attendant from Chicago. Three decades, two children and one grandchild later, she looks back on those days with fondness.

“The artists would sit in their yard and paint in the mornings,” she says. “Then in the afternoons they would have an open house where you could come in and go through their homes and look at their art. “That was my dream – to have people come to my house and look at my art.”

That's it, take me to LA!

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Venice attracted a generation of writers, poets, artists and musicians in the 1950s and 1960s when it became a west coast magnet for "weirdos". It still has a reputation for counter culture but there is concern that the recent rise in housing prices will drive out the alternative scene. Photo by Sergio Pitamitz / Alamy

Sergio Pitamitz

Sergio Pitamitz

Agency
Alamy

Venice attracted a generation of writers, poets, artists and musicians in the 1950s and 1960s when it became a west coast magnet for "weirdos". It still has a reputation for counter culture but there is concern that the recent rise in housing prices will drive out the alternative scene.

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