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Friday April 19th 2019

Travel – Los Angeles: Santa Monica & Venice 3


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Venice Beach
Venice Beach

As you head south, Santa Monica segues into its raffish sibling, Venice. And although Venice appears more informal, don’t let the hand-painted, hippyish ambience fool you into thinking this is a cosy little low-rent enclave. There are some astonishing designer houses, many fronting the boardwalk – including one which belonged to the late Dennis Hopper (330 Indiana Avenue near 4th Avenue). The wackiness of the Venice Beach Boardwalk may feel is a mite calculated these days, but its still colourful, buzzy fun.

The love-it-or-hate-it symbol of Venice is the ballerina-clown dancer sculpture (which I think is kitschy fun) towering over the western junction of Main Street and Rose Avenue.

Directly across Main Street stands the Firehouse Restaurant, 213 Rose Avenue, which is where Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) gets a coffee and chats to the doomed bus driver in Jan de Bont’s Speed. It’s on Main Street, just south of Rose Avenue, that the bus is blown up and Traven receives the sinister phone call about the bomb from the vengeful Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper).

Firehouse Restaurant
Firehouse Restaurant

Towards the seafront, the wood-frame house, now almost entirely obscured by impenetrable shrubbery, on Ozone Avenue at Ocean Front Walk, was home to Beth (Barbara Hershey), the wife of D-FENS (Michael Douglas), in Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down.

If you’re feeling peckish, try On The Waterfront Cafe, 205 Ocean Front Walk, at Ozone Avenue, in which aspiring boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) waits tables in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. It closed in December 2017, but should open under new management.

But sadly not Delizia Cafe, 2 Rose Avenue – the outdoor cafe where Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) confronts Incredible Hulk star Lou Ferrigno in amiable bromance I Love You, Man. It closed down shortly afterwards but, don't worry, it's been reborn as Venice Ale House, where you can get good, organic food and a range of craft beers.

Standing head and shoulders above its neighbours, the quirky four-storey apartment block at 417 Ocean Front Walk was home to Romy and Michele (Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow) in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.

Venice Beach
Venice Beach

Further south is the Sidewalk Café, 1401 Ocean Front Walk, which is featured throughout Richard Kelly's oddball Southland Tales. And, yes, indie bookstore Small World Books really does nestle alongside it.

John Carpenter fans might want to take a detour inland to 685 North Venice Boulevard at Pisani Place, which used to be the old Police and Fire Station of Venice – the only art deco police station in Los Angeles. It's now the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), devoted to Los Angeles’s excellent tradition of multi-ethnic public art. Murals, that is. This handsome building will be familiar as ‘Anderson Police Station, Division 14’ – the besieged police station of Assault on Precinct 13.

There’s not too much left of the grand vision that was to have been LA’s recreation of the elegant Italian city of Venice. Most of the canals have long since been filled in though, beneath the 60s-style flower power décor, the remaining colonnades on Windward Avenue, between Pacific Avenue and Speedway, may be familiar to film fans as the ‘Mexican’ border town in Orson Welles’s magnificent Touch Of Evil.

Venice Pier, Ocean Front Walk at the end of Washington Street, is a basic fishing pier and nothing like as elaborate as its Santa Monica counterpart. It’s at the end of the pier that a cornered that D-FENS finally realises that he's not the good guy he thought he was in Falling Down.

Hinano Cafe, Washington Boulevard, Venice Beach
Time to get creative – Hinano Cafe, Washington Boulevard, Venice Beach

Take time to stroll around the welcome peace and tranquility of the little square of canals between Venice Boulevard and West Washington Boulevard, with their tiny bridges, cuter-than-cute bungalows and perfectly tended gardens. It hardly feels like Los Angeles at all. 410 Carroll Canal Court was home to Natalie (Cameron Diaz) in the 2000 big screen version of Charlie's Angels.

Time to relax at Hinano Cafe, 15 Washington Boulevard at Speedway, the nautical-themed dive bar where TV reporter Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) tries to dig up the truth about the nuclear accident in The China Syndrome. Aspiring screenwriters, take along your laptops. It’s also where Richard Kelly wrote much of the script for Southland Tales. That could be a recommendation or a warning, depending on your point of view.

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