33-YEAR RESIDENT, GRANDMOTHER AND CANAL HOMEOWNER IS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT VENICE’S FUTURE!
By Nick Antonicello
VENICE – Alley Bean (also known as Allison Mills) has a contagious love for Venice and staying engaged in the community is part of what she is truly all about.
Two years ago, she was the overwhelming top vote-getter in the race for Community Officer and probably served in the most difficult of times with the COVID-19 pandemic in a rage coincided by the homeless crisis in and around Venice.
For the times have been tough, and Alley Bean was tougher as she served with a sense of offering a voice when many believed no one was really listening.
Bean graduated Magna Cum Laude from Yale University in 1973, the first class of women which did not go unnoticed as a tremendous accomplishment by her late husband, the television personality Orson Bean who she met in her last season with THE WONDER YEARS, as they were married when the show ended its run and she relocated from New York to Venice to begin a new marriage with the love of her life.
She is proud of the fact she is in “skateboard distance” of her six grandchildren who also live in the historic Venice Canals.
Bean loves the theater, and after attending drama school in London she decided to come to Los Angeles in 1978 and landed a lead in a Jim Brooks TV series opposite Martin Short entitled The Associates.
According to Wikipedia, Bean appeared on a special “Celebrity TV Moms” episode of the Anne Robinson version of The Weakest Link, in which she was the second contestant eliminated.
Bean also had a recurring role in the television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman as Marjorie Quinn, Dr. Michaela Quinn‘s sister. She had previously appeared in the series as a saloon girl.
In December 2006, Bean joined the cast of The Bold and the Beautiful under contract as Pamela Douglas, the estranged sister of Stephanie Douglas Forrester. But in March 2007, after making only a handful of appearances, her character disappeared from the show. Bean reprised the role on a recurring status in 2007 and 2008, and by December 2008, was added to the opening credits as a contract player.
In October of 2022, Bean replaced Robin Mattson as legacy character, Heather Webber on General Hospital.
Alley’s late husband was author, film, television and stage actor Orson Bean who was a well-known and long-term celebrity panelist on the iconic television show To Tell the Truth and Match Game.
As Alley thinks about her service past and present, I asked her a few questions about Venice, the VNC and her career in stage, film and television:
- I was a always a big fan of THE WONDER YEARS as it reminded me of my time as a child to teenager. How did you land the part and what were your best memories of those seasons on the air?
What was so wonderful about THE WONDER YEARS was the writing touched so many different people’s lives spanning a wide socio-economic and racial divide, which always surprised me! In terms of how I landed it, when I first read the pilot script I had never been married and was really far from a housewife type in my real life, but the writing was so good and I had grown up with my best friend’s Mom who was so much like Norma that I just instinctually knew who she was. I knew this woman wanted family harmony at all costs, that she wanted everyone to be happy and would do whatever bending needed to get there. My fondest memories with the kids at our kitchen table in so many scenes comes to mind. Fred Savage was only 9 years old and they needed to play like kids, have some fun and not just work all day. We were really like a real family, and this was the six whole formative years of their lives.
- Your husband Orson was one of Venice’s most revered and respected residents. He was a true advocate and how does your public service compare and contrast to his activism in the community?
Back in the 1970’s when he moved here from New York, he simply loved everything and everyone Venice and helped I think make it a cool place to live back then by bringing attention to what a great artistic community it was, talking about it on The Tonight Show and frequenting the old Venice haunts like Hal’s and 72 Market, then James Beach with other locals like Tony Bill, Dennis Hopper, Laddie Dill and Robert Graham. He also championed the Area D Alternative School as he’d run his own alternative school for years in New York. When we married we began doing things in the community together such as helping people go to school, get housing and other needs. We loved our neighbors and opened our yard to canal events such as garden tours for Venice Community Housing as well as help build the Pacific Resident Theater. We were awarded the Spirit of Venice Award for our contributions to the creativity of and uniqueness of Venice. Orson was a people person and loved to help people. He would say meetings gave him a benign cyst. While he did not enjoy meetings because it took time away from him, he told me before he died he was secretly proud of me.
- Talk about the Venice Canals. What challenges does this neighborhood face and do you see yourself as a protector of their interests, goals and objectives?
We have several issues facing the Canals right now, but I’d say the major one is the Dell Median Project which will go before the Coastal Commission very soon. I have been fighting many aspects of this project from its onset years ago alongside what is now Safe Coastal Development, from its cost per unit to its massive scale, to its denying a CEQA review and have been holding information meetings and fundraisers in my yard for years, so although I am all for more affordable housing, and I mean that sincerely, I am a staunch believer that it cannot just be development at all costs with no community input or transparency.
- As you seek reelection what do you believe you’ve accomplished and what were some of your disappointment as well?
I think everyone on this last VNC would agree that it’s been a disappointing two years. We’ve only been able to meet on ZOOM, never had a live get together as a board to get to know one another, and maybe because of that atmosphere of division really from the start has been truly disheartening. Of course people are going to disagree on issues in a community like Venice, that’s expected and its healthy. We never established a spirit of respect for stakeholder opinion or board input. I think we let Venice down. I am proud of meeting with homeless advocates like Andy Bales outside the VNC to brainstorm solutions which was exhilarating for me and hopefully bear fruit with Mayor Bass. Hosting events for Councilwoman Traci Park and City Attorney Heidi Feldstein with my neighbors were also positive in changing our city leadership.
- As we edge out of COVID, do you look forward to in-person meetings and what will be your goals and objectives in a second term?
I think the in-person meetings are crucial. We need to come together as a community of human beings in the flesh for sure to talk about what concerns us, really hear our residents live. We have been on the computers too long and its taken a toll. My goal is to focus on listening to our constituents, having respectful, kind, and lively discourse. We need to retain the character, diversity, and history of Venice. For me, Venice has a rich history such as architectural character, and part of it is humanly diverse. That means not evicting people from existing affordable buildings. I always want to remember Venice’s unique character and be very careful not to erase it.
- As you know we have 13 elected Community Officers and 37 candidates running for these slots. But stakeholders can only select a single candidate. Would you support amending the voting guidelines so that voters can vote for all thirteen?
I absolutely support amending those guidelines. I am eager to reinvestigate voting by districts too.
- You were the highest vote-getter in 2021, Can you replicate that distinction come March 26th?
We need fresh blood on the neighborhood council, people who’d like a new fresh start for Venice and hopefully I and my daughter-in-law Julie who is also a candidate can sit side by side together! Please come out and vote in-person on March 26th!
- Are you supporting a candidate for President of the VNC? Tell us why?
I am supporting Brian Averill for President. I ran alongside Brian when he ran in the last election. I had worked with him on a homelessness issue in Venice and was impressed with his sincerity and commitment. He assisted in the boardwalk encampment removal and I believe he will run a kinder, more inclusive council with decorum and civility and nothing to gain for himself but respect. I am also supporting Helen Fallon for treasurer and Jim Robb for vice-president.
- Homelessness and encampments remain the most talked about issue here in Venice. While the VNC only recommends, what can you do to influence elected officials such as Councilwoman Traci Park to speed up the process of encampment removal, especially at South Venice, just west of the Library?
We are turning the corner in a very difficult road towards solving the most difficult problem here in Los Angeles. So bravo for first steps. The recent Inside Safe removal of encampments by Mayor Bass was a great first step for Venice, but of course we know we’re miles from a solution. We’re seeing a spike in break-ins with this encampment and the Council Office is well aware of it. I’m confident new solutions are implemented with Councilwoman Traci Park. I’m praying in the meantime.
- What is your vision for Venice? What can be done to bring back commerce, tourism and people back to Oceanfront Walk?
I see a vibrant Venice coming back like many of us who campaigned alongside our new council member, and there’s a feeling of new hope that we have a caring ear. And she has expressed an ear for bringing back local Venice commerce post pandemic, and she will chair the tourism committee on the LA City Council. I envision Oceanfront Walk being cleaned up for sure, and new ideas towards tourism along with the Olympics in 2028. I would like to see Windward a beautiful walk street with trees and café tables. I’m feeling it!
Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian covering the 2023 VNC elections. Have a tip or take on the race? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org