December 8, 2022 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

A New Normal for Venice Beach?

 

Venice’s famous Bearded Lady met her “gorgeous hunk of thing” through the Freakshow.

by Melanie Camp

When the founder of the Venice Beach Freakshow, Todd Ray, first stumbled across a two-headed turtle “it blew my mind” he told Yo! Venice.

Ray said at first he thought it was something completely out of the ordinary. However, as he researched he discovered it was common “but people would put them down thinking they can’t be happy or healthy.” The realization that a two-headed turtle was not as unusual as he’d initially thought, further solidified his belief that there is no such thing as normal.

“Normal is dead,” said Ray. “We had a funeral for normal. Thousands of people showed up. We wanted to perform a funeral so people could see normal doesn’t exist. We put normal in a casket and buried him in the sand out the front of our building.”

Today, Ray’s two-headed Turtle is a happy and healthy 12-year-old, about to leave the place it has called home for the past 11 years.

Hundreds crowded the Venice Boardwalk on April 30th, 2017. The throng of fans booed as Ray explained why the Freakshow was moving out of their space at 909 Ocean Front Walk. “We have lost our space to corporate greed and development here in Venice Beach,” he said.

Venice Freak Show Patrons
Christy, Don, and Lyric the dog came all the way from Canyon Lake.

Overall, thousands passed by throughout the day to bid farewell to the Venice Freakshow. Christy, her husband Don, and their blue dog Lyric had traveled all the way from Canyon Lake “for the last hoorah.”

Jessica Burlingame works for the Freakshow as Venice’s famous Bearded Lady. She told Yo! Venice, “The Freakshow is my life.”

Teased at school and raised tagging along with her parents to Renaissance Fairs, Burlingame said she always knew she was different. The Freakshow was a place that showed her there was no such thing as ‘normal’ and that it was OK to be different. Just the thought of having to leave the Freakshow space in Venice “…rips my fucking heart out,” she said.

Of those pushing the Freakshow out, Burlingame said, “They will never understand, and they will never know how much this life has taught us and how much this community means to us.”

Burlingame met her husband through the Freakshow. “He was the roommate of a fan of the show and he himself had admitted to me that he had a crush on me,” she told Yo! Venice. The Freakshow’s last day was bittersweet as Burlingame and her “gorgeous hunk of thing” married before the crowd.

3. Freakshow
Keeping Venice freaky.

Burlingame said she didn’t want to think where she’d be without her Freakshow family. “There are many dark places one can go, but the one place of light is this foot on this step,” she said pointed to her foot on the stairway that once led to the Freakshow’s front door.

The Venice Freakshow farewell festival was one part party and another part protest.

The Venice Dogs, a group of Venice locals who oppose Snap Inc’s spread throughout the neighborhood, stood on Ocean Front Walk with flyers, and a petition. They yelled through megaphones and collected donations to fight the tech company, fueled by the rumor that Snap Inc was responsible for the Freakshow’s move.

Tourists on the Boardwalk spread the information. “Snapchat is kicking them out,” one told another.

As much as some in Venice love to hate Snap, so far, Snap’s connection to the Freakshow losing their lease is only in the coincidence of a name.

Beverly Hills-based Snapshot Partners LLC owns the lease to all the ground floor space at 909 Ocean Front Walk. The Venice Freakshow paid their monthly rent to this company.

Word on the street is Snapshot Partners are renovating the entire ground floor. Yo! Venice learned one of the potential new tenants had been a well know ice-cream chain, but that deal is not going ahead.

Without going too far into Los Angeles Municipal Codes; aside from where the Mellow Act protects existing residential use, the Coastal Commission prioritizes visitor-serving use, that is retail or restaurants, for all ground floor property along the Boardwalk. So unless Snap Inc plans on opening another Spectacle store, this makes the chance of them moving into the Freakshow space even more unlikely.

More fuel to the conspiracy Snap Inc is somehow responsible for the ousting of the Freakshow, was news the tech company is staying in the building. The reason for this is, even if Snapshot Partners wanted Snapchat out, they nothing to do with the tech company’s lease. Snap Inc sub-lease their third-floor office space off Jerde Partnership, an architectural firm.

A Snap Inc spokesperson told Yo! Venice the day before the protest, with future expansion into Santa Monica on the cards the company has no plans to spread beyond the office space they already have in the 909 Ocean Front Walk building.

Snap Inc have gone on the record denying any connection Snapshot Partners LLC. All evidence so far shows no link between the two companies. However, this did not deter The Venice Dogs.

A member of The Venice Dogs, Mark Rago, told Yo! Venice he hopes he is mistaken thinking Snap Inc are responsible for ousting the Freakshow. “I’d rather be wrong now and deter than have it get worse,” he said explaining why he continued to protest.

For Ray, it didn’t matter so much who was responsible for his beloved Freakshow losing it’s Venice home, for him it was more about the greed gentrification has attracted.

“Money is like ‘normal.’ Just a made up concept. We give it value but is it more valuable than people? Beyond money and real estate there are things that are good for a community,” he said.

As of midnight on April 30th all trace of the Freakshow had to go.

“If they can root us out they can change the whole way this place grows,” Ray said encouraging neighbors to “speak up from now on when they see something happening like this in their community. When they see them trying to change the vibe like they are, they should speak up and they should be loud about it. Because we tried to defend ourselves against them and it was impossible.”

Ray said it was important to understand the value of what the Freakshow represented. Explaining that when people visited the Freakshow, and he’d hear them say they felt sorry for the two-headed turtle  “I tell them the turtle feels sorry for them, ‘it’s very hard that you have one head’ I say, flip it around.”

From challenging “normal,” to changing someone’s view on how life might be with two heads, the Freakshow may have to stop shows in Venice, but Ray will never stop encouraging people to consider perspective.

“It’s all perspective,” he said. “Even the way these business people are. They’re men who grew up thinking money was more important than people. It’s all perspective. Maybe they’d do a little better if they came and took a look at a two-headed turtle.”

1. Freakshow

The Venice Freakshow says “goodbye.”

Related Posts

Column: Will New Political Players Offer More Effective Local Government for Los Angeles & Venice?

December 5, 2022

December 5, 2022

Bass, Park could become unlikely allies in fighting homelessness, rising crime and the quality-of-life issues that plague both Angelenos and...

Column: Erin Darling Concedes Race to Traci Park to Succeed Mike Bonin in LA’s CD-11

November 18, 2022

November 18, 2022

The close contest between two Venetians ends with Park garnering 53% of the vote to Darling’s 47% By Nick Antonicello...

Column: How Long is Too Long?

November 16, 2022

November 16, 2022

Why is it taking this much time to tabulate who won and who lost for LA Mayor, City Council? By...

Cancer Cartel Provides Financial Help To Cancer Patients

November 16, 2022

November 16, 2022

Cancer Cartel is helping cancer patients focus on their treatment, not the financial stress of living with a diagnosis. Learn...

Column – Gas Gougers Beware: California Is Onto You at Last

November 11, 2022

November 11, 2022

By Tom Elias It has taken more than 50 years of on-and-off gasoline price gouging, but at long last California...

$87,581,047.01: Candidate Rick Caruso on Pace to Smash All Spending Records in His Bid to Become Mayor of Los Angeles

November 4, 2022

November 4, 2022

Caruso overwhelming Bass nearly 10-1! By Nick Antonicello According to the LA Ethics Commission as of October 31st, billionaire developer...

“Ten Takes” to Watch as CD-11 Hopefuls Park & Darling Close out the Campaign in a Mad Dash to the Finish Line!

November 4, 2022

November 4, 2022

By Nick Antonicello And after some sixteen months of posturing, positioning and intensive campaigning be it door to door, shaking...

Column: Who’s the ‘True’ Democrat in CD-11?

October 30, 2022

October 30, 2022

So who is the true Democrat in this race to succeed Mike Bonin in CD-11? While the campaign for city...

Column: Tenant Support Could Tip the Political Scales in CD-11 Council Race

October 29, 2022

October 29, 2022

Darling pushes advocacy of renter’s rights over Park in tightly contested battle to succeed Mike Bonin! By Nick Antonicello In...

Column: Money & Messaging That Is Persuasive and Memorable May Just Make Rick Caruso Our Next Mayor!

October 25, 2022

October 25, 2022

Moving away from direct mail, Caruso saturates broadcast television with a more disciplined message that is resonating with an angry...

Column: The Flower Avenue Debacle: Five Years of Government Inaction & Failure!

October 25, 2022

October 25, 2022

Exhausted by Mike Bonin’s indifference and LA City incompetence, tenants & homeowner look to incoming councilmember to end encampment! By...

Column: Excess School Lands for Teacher Housing?

October 22, 2022

October 22, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist Do voters want more teachers living in their communities, even if it means a little more...

Column: Sparks Fly at South Brentwood Residents Association Council Forum

October 21, 2022

October 21, 2022

In one of the more animated and interesting forums in the race to succeed retiring Councilman Mike Bonin, the gloves...

Column: What Next for LA?

October 18, 2022

October 18, 2022

By Nick Antonicello The ongoing racism scandal that has engulfed and swallowed city government whole could be an opportunity in...