In the spring of 2012, the editors of GQ deemed the heart of the Abbot Kinney neighborhood in Venice, CA to be the “Coolest Block in America.” A year and a half later, the magazine is back in the hood and some residents struggling with the very real aftereffects of this kind of glorified gentrification are not amused.
To coincide with Saturday’s “GQHQ at The Brig” (10 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT, 1515 Abbot Kinney Blvd.), a group of residents have organized an anti-GQ event, “Welcome to Venice, Now Go Home.” It starts at the more civilized hour of noon, in front of The Brig.
The event, designed to foster discussion among residents about this complicated issue, is the brainchild of a pair of local small business owners. Among those planning to drop by is Tibby Rothman, a longtime Venice resident and journalist. She was not involved in the organization of the event, but as a longtime friend of FishbowlNY, we figured she would be very well positioned to address some of the broader, underlying issues.
“I’m speaking as someone who published the newspaper VenicePaper for close to eight years,” Rothman tells us. “Once you call something the Coolest Block in America, it most definitely will not be.”
“It’s hilarious,” she continues. “We are going to use you for your brand, but we’re going to completely misappropriate it. Look at what happens to brands once they have the authenticity sucked out of them: Billabong. Or, if you want to look at another neighborhood place, Melrose here in LA. Those places end up these sad scrappy places.”
“I’m sorry, I know what the coolest place is on Abbot Kinney right now, and I’m not going to tell you what it is,” Rothman adds. “It doesn’t have a sign on its door or people congregating around it. And they’ve been keeping it hidden, deliberately for years because that’s cool. They don’t need people to know they’re cool.”
Venice has long been battling its appropriation by richer parties and the destruction of the core Bohemian vibe. “Venice was a place in LA where there was a sense of connection and now you walk down Abbot Kinney, and it’s like spring break in Palm Springs,” Rothman notes sadly.
“The word that is so telling for me personally in the Facebook invite is ‘dispirited,'” she continues. “This dispirited-ness is widespread across the community. Not only among people who can’t afford to rent here, but also people who are upper middle class and have homes here and have jobs and they’ve just had it.”
“It’s being driven by a number of things, but one of them is locals are being told – and I hear this frequently myself – ‘If you don’t want all these changes, you’re irrelevant, you’re old, you’re a has-been. You are not cool, even though GQ was talking about you when it called Abbot Kinney the Coolest Block in America.’ It’s nasty, it’s like the Tea Party. And that’s why people are dispirited.”
GQ is obviously not the only culprit here. But as a major media outlet bracketing the current transformation of Venice, they suddenly find themselves in the bullseye.