Category Archives: Venice Beach People

These posts include video and written interviews with the people who make Venice Beach California interesting!

VIDEO: Moving Tribute to Venice Beach Lightning Strike Victim

Nick Fagnano Tribute 2
Friends and Family remember and celebrate the life of Nick Fagnano

Lightning strike victim 20 year old Nick Fagnano’s life may have been cut short, when a freak storm hit Venice Beach on July 27th,  2014, but his legacy lives on.

A testament to the many lives Fagnano touched on Monday hundreds of friends and family gathered on Venice Beach to celebrate his life in a moving tribute on the anniversary of his death.

His mother and father spoke to Yo! Venice of how they will forever be connected to the Venice community.



Venetian’s Podcast Inspires Authenticity

By Jess Linde

Venetian Mark Shapiro wants to help others be the best and most authentic people they can through his podcast “The One and Only” that features him interviewing successful and “real” people.

The goal of the show is to inspire people to make life changes towards personal happiness similar to those Shapiro made for himself.

“A few years ago I was facing some adversity at the end of a relationship,” Shapiro said. “I started doing transformative work and came to fully realize how much I would pretend to be a certain way around or for people. I also didn’t realize how much people could tell I was not being authentic.”

This realization as well as some encouragement from Lewis Howes, a close friend and host of the “School of Greatness” podcast, Shapiro organized a series of workshops designed to help others identify whatever was holding them back, and to move past it.

“I would ask people questions about what they wanted to do the most if they could do anything, or to rate their romantic lives on a scale, that kind of thing,” Shapiro said. “The most common thing I heard was ‘I want to do this or that, but I just do not have the time.”

Shapiro has found that “the perfect time” never comes and that people simply have to dive in and take the risk, something he knows by experience.

Taking only his laptop and some microphones and launching the “The One and Only” in April this year, Shapiro has taken a chance to reach people on a much wider level.

With the podcast at 15 episodes and interviewing people like “Mad Men” star Vincent Kartheiser, the risk seems to be paying off.

“When I contact people to interview, I try to find subjects who are successful in a unique way,” he said. “There’s nobody really like [Kartheiser] for example, so he fit in great with the title of the show.”

As a “former resident” of corporate America, Shapiro knows that success can make someone seem unapproachable or aloof, something he tries to break in his interviews.

“I try to get the people I talk to be vulnerable in our conversations, so people can really see what makes them authentic,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro has lived in Venice since 2008 and owned a home in the neighborhood since 2012.

He said he takes much inspiration from the community.

“I am so lucky to have the amazing network of creative people who support and motivate me,” he said. “Venice is the best place I’ve ever lived.”

Shapiro said he is aiming to inspire at least 100,000 people in the next 10 years.

“There’s no way to really quantify that I know, but I have a purpose bigger than myself, and just continuing to do what I do is meaningful,” he said.

“The One and Only” releases new episodes weekly, and is available on iTunes as well as via

LoveTrade: Venice Musician Launches Charity To Help Homeless

By Jess Linde

Venice musician Jef Joslin has launched a charity to help the homeless called LoveTrade, which sets out to help “less fortunate brothers and sisters” by providing them with Love Care Packages.

Each Love Care Package contains items that Joslin says provide the three basic human needs: mind, body, and soul. These items consist of hygienic products, grocery store gift cards, and a hope booklet with daily inspirational quotes, among other things.

Most people would be satisfied with a full scholarship to play quarterback at a Division 1 University, but for Joslin, this road seemed more like a detour than an open highway. Growing up in the Appalachian mountains of Johnson City, TN, football looked like the most natural choice for those who knew Joslin. But he had other things in mind.

Only a semester in, he made the choice to give up his scholarship and transfer to Murfreesboro, TN to pursue a childhood dream of making music.

Studying audio engineering and music production, he played the Nashville club scene and developed his lyrical sense and studio chops in the songwriting capital.

He taught himself to play guitar, bass, keys, and drums heavily during those years, allowing him a full range of sounds in the studio and on the stage.

After five years in middle TN, he made the transition to Atlanta, GA and very quickly caught the attention of manager, Brian Richardson of B.o.B and Playboy Tre fame.

Richardson took him under his wing, putting him to work with Grand Hustle producers and writers and setting up live performances that included a six month residency at Atlanta’s Smiths Olde Bar and an opening slot for Janelle Monae, Wiz Khalifa and B.o.B at SXSW’s Atlantic Records showcase in Austin, TX in 2011.

Eventually, a lifelong dream of living on the west coast of California came knocking and Joslin answered swiftly.

He packed everything he owned in his Toyota 4 Runner and made the long cross country haul to LA and landed in his new home Jan. 1, 2012.

He wasted no time after arriving. Within seven months, he had made more headway than most who make the plunge into the entertainment headquarters.

Besides playing the LA and South Bay club scene, Joslin spent his time auditioning for NBC’s four famed coaches on “The Voice,” acting in a national Budweiser commercial featuring Jay-Z, and a lead role in Panasonic’s “GENESIS,” a short film showcasing their new GH3 camera.

In November 2012, he opened 222 Studios, “LA’s Most Laid Back Recording Studio,” and went to work on his first full length album, “For Your Eyes Only,” an amalgamation of epic, mega hook-driven pop songs drenched in Joslin’s signature soul sound, which he released in November 2013.

Now in Venice, Joslin has truly narrowed in on his “California Soul” sound.

On any given day you can find him serenading drifters along the Venice boardwalk and see people of all shapes and sizes dancing along to his mellow rhythm.

Playing songs from his latest release, “Come Out West,” a blend of Stevie Wonder’s Motown groove, dripping with Brian Wilson-esque harmonic arrangements, he has encapsulated the feel good, California sunshine music he always dreamed of making.

When did you come up with the idea for LoveTrade?

My wife and I came up with it as an answer to the ongoing internal struggle of whether to give money to homeless individuals when they ask for it. You may want to help, but you don’t want to encourage or aid an addiction or perpetuate a cycle. Our Love Care Packages offer a solution, providing a gift card for a week’s worth of groceries, hygienic products, and a hope booklet with seven self affirmations for each day.

Could you talk a little about the name’s origin?

Honestly, I came up with name in a dream. The idea is that we trade love/joy for sorrow. It comes from a scripture in Isaiah I believe.

What makes LoveTrade unique compared to other charities and nonprofits?

I don’t really know about too many other charities. I don’t really know much about what a charity is or how it’s supposed to function even, but I know that homeless people need love and hope just like anyone else. I figured this was a unique way to use what I have to try and do some good, and possibly create a movement towards that idea.

How is LoveTrade related to your music?

I have a song called “Stand Up” that highlights the homeless individual with hopes to put a name with a face and bring to light the fact that they need someone to stand up for them. Often times they’re simply victims of addiction and isolation from friends or family, and they find it hard to find a place back into society. This is something I’ve been passionate about for a while so I try to use my music to create awareness. It’s where 10 percent of my money goes and where 10 percent of any money made from my music merchandise sales goes as well.

Has living in Venice influenced the project at all?

Certainly. There’s a massive homeless population in Venice. Some of them are drifters and are perfectly content moving with the wind. Others are isolated and need some help getting back on their feet. It’s been eye opening getting to interact with them and hear their stories. It’s pretty much out my back door so it’s something I notice everyday. When it’s your neighborhood, it becomes more real than just the occasional person you pass by on your way to work.

What do you hope for LoveTrade in the long run?

I would like to continue creating more and more packages. I’ve also started an initiative to try and create a series of videos of helping people achieve a small dream, the first of which is on my YouTube channel at I also have a vision for a monthly beach concert series devoted specifically to feeding and healing the homeless, which would involve all sorts of likeminded people in the neighborhood offering their gifts of art love and healing with an effort to help restore these homeless individuals back to a state of joy and wholeness.

For more information on Joslin and Love Trade, visit and

La Fiesta Brava: Venice’s Poster-Child For Gentrification

The future of La Fiesta Brava at 423 Rose Ave. is uncertain with the landlord in the early stages of bringing a new development to the site.
The future of La Fiesta Brava at 423 Rose Ave. is uncertain with the landlord in the early stages of bringing a new development to the site.

It is Venice’s own tale of David and Goliath, a small family-owned business fighting for survival against a wave of change that washes through the Venice streets. The buzzword is gentrification and La Fiesta Brava, Venice’s beloved Mexican hole-in-the-wall, is fast becoming a poster-child for those against the inundation of new, up-market developments and restaurants in Venice.

The Camarena family own and operate La Fiesta Brava and have done for more than 20 years, after moving to Los Angeles from Mexico. They now face having to find a new location for their restaurant, currently at 423 Rose Ave. in Venice, as a new development is being proposed for the property.

The Venice Ranch Market was also part of the property. The market, which was operated by property owner Miriam Zlotolow, has already shut its doors.

“My Dad built this place. He came here 22 years ago,” said Jasmin Camarena, the eldest Camarena daughter. “People have watched me grow up here, a lot of our customers, they’ve known me since I was 5 or 6 years old. To me they’re like family. We’d love to stay. We know that sometimes change is inevitable but it doesn’t have to be this way.”

Camarena tells of how just five years ago the family were struck a devastating blow when her father was killed in a car accident in Mexico.

“He’d gone back to surprise my Grandmother for her birthday and the car he was in was hit by another car,” Camarena said. “We got the call saying he’d been killed.”

Camarena, the eldest in the family of five children, and her mother were forced to take over running the business side of the family’s restaurant. Something that before had been her Father’s domain.
Jason Smith, a Venice resident who works in a surf store on the Boardwalk, said of La Fiesta Brava, “It’s a go to place for my friends and I.”

Of the restaurant’s possible closing he said, “It’s a sad story, especially after everything the mother and daughter went through to keep the place going after the dad died.”

Camarena explained the family was given no warning from Zlotolow other than a notice for a change in permit use posted on the door.
“I saw the sign and went up and talked to Miriam,” Camarena said. “I asked what it was about and she said ‘Don’t worry about it’ and I said ‘What do you mean don’t worry about it? You guys are applying for a permit to change from a restaurant and market to a big restaurant.’ She was like ‘Oh yeah, yeah it’s a deal that we made. It may happen, it may not happen. If it doesn’t happen, business as usual but if it happens then, you know…’ and I was like ‘You mean you’re going to kick us out’ and she said ‘Yeah, I’m sorry.’ At this point I was ready to cry, I didn’t cry but it was, you know, a sensitive matter. She said ‘I’m sorry.’ That’s all she could say. They didn’t tell us anything. No warning before, no nothing. Just a sign on the door and that’s it. It’s been a rough ride.”

Bruce Horwitz, who has been responsible for some of Venice’s favorite restaurants like Wabi Sabi and Tasting Kitchen on Abbot Kinney, is spearheading the new development and he wants it to be clear, “I am not kicking them out, the landowner (Zlotolow) wanted to realize the market rent of the property.”

“Being a landlord is not a public service, you take a great risk and on the flip side if there was a crash, community members would not be stepping in to help a landlord pay their mortgage when their space is empty and their store front is boarded up,” Horwitz said. “It’s a risk and there’s no safety net.”

Camarena said she thought her family had had a good relationship with the landlord.

“We were here before the landlord even owned the property and Miriam, the owner of the property and my Dad, they got along really, really well. My Dad loved Miriam and we just never thought we’d be in this situation,” Camarena said.

Camarena said that her father’s business relationship with property owner Miriam Zlotolow was more of a friendship. Today the family has no formal lease agreements with Zlotolow, which leaves them in a vulnerable position.

“It’s sad,” Horwitz said. “But if you have a restaurant you have a long-term lease. It’s a bad business decision not too. We all have leases, pay our rents, and when the leases are up we open our wallets and hope for the best. Hospitality is a difficult game. This is a tough business for all of us.”

Horwitz said one of his own restaurants, Wabi Sabi on Abbot Kinney, is no longer profitable and for now he bears the cost of keeping it running and keeping staff employed until the new project gets off the ground.

The tough business of running a restaurant is something Horwitz and Camarena agree upon.

“I grew up seeing my Dad build this restaurant, my cousins have worked here, my aunts and uncles have all worked here, and as we got older we started working here,” Camarena said. “It’s not easy having a restaurant, especially one you’re actually working yourselves. It’s demoralizing watching it be crushed down by someone who has more money than you. It sucks.”

Horwitz signed his lease with Zlotolow a year ago and while the lengthy permit and approval process for the new development is underway, he said he and Zlotolow have been happy to continue to accommodate La Fiesta Brava.

Horowitz even offered to help the Camarenas move their restaurant into a new space in the old Brickhouse Restaurant at 826 Hampton Dr., Venice.

The Brickhouse lease offered to the Camarena family was $10,000 a month, not unreasonable for a commercial property in Venice in today’s market, but a huge jump compared to the amount the family currently pays for the La Fiesta Brava space.

“We’re going to look for other locations and hopefully stay in this community that we love,” Camarena said. “But, hopefully if we don’t stay in Venice people will come visit us wherever we end up.”
As for a plan for the new 2,700 square foot building?

Horwitz said he’d like to create something that becomes part of the neighborhood.

“It’s not going to be fancy and expensive,” Horwitz said. “It’ll be more Rose than Abbot Kinney, a place you can wear your flip-flops.”
It’s a vision that seems to be more in line with what locals in the area want.

Ben Knox is a regular at La Fiesta Brava sometimes eating at the restaurant as many as five times a week.

“Me and my friends always come for dinner,” Knox said. “It’s really low key; it’s obviously family run, it’s really inexpensive and just obviously really good food and a great place to be with your friends.”
Knox, who is a Venice resident, has signed a petition in support of La Fiesta Brava.

Knox lives just off Oakwood Park, a couple of blocks in from Rose Ave. and said that in the four years he has lived in Venice he has noticed big changes along Rose.

“Definitely in the last month or two months it seems that a lot of restaurants, old staples, are having to shut their doors and move on. It’s not good,” Knox said. “If they could support small businesses like this staying, upgrading, advancing their ways a little bit, partnering on that front, it’d be cool.”

On April 23 there was a zoning hearing at the West Los Angeles Municipal Building regarding plans for the La Fiesta Brava location.

Representatives for applicant Horwitz requested a change of use from the existing market and deli to a restaurant with a covered patio and outdoor dining area. This new restaurant would serve a full line of alcoholic beverages within the 8 am to midnight hours of operation.

A purpose the hearing was to gauge public opinion and many stood up to speak against the development. The Camarena family presented a petition with more 1,000 signatures showing support for their restaurant. As a result, Assistant Zoning Administrator Lourdes Green granted a 60-day extension. LUPC, Venice’s Land Use and Planning Commission, has added the project to its May 26 agenda.

A big issue for locals in the area is parking. Many of the old Venice homes on the streets that run off Rose Ave. do not have their own parking spaces and more and more residents are finding themselves competing with restaurant goers for street parking.

The new restaurant development at the La Fiesta Brava location would be required to provide a total of 18 parking spaces on the site. At the hearing on April 23, those speaking in support of the project presented an alternate parking layout of 11 spaces, another four spaces credited as non-conforming, and to make up the final four required spaces, an alternative of 16 bicycle stalls was requested to be considered instead.

Another issue residents are concerned about is the effect of the City approving another liquor license in an area that is already over saturated by planning standards.

“A lot of bigger restaurants won’t operate unless they get the liquor license,” Camarena said. “We’re small enough that we don’t need the liquor license.”

James Allan of Coldwell Banker said he feels even though the gentrification of Venice as a whole and now also Rose Ave. has been a positive thing to the economy of Venice, he would love to see more of the local community, long time residents, and business owners sharing in the booming growth.

“It’s a shame to see many establishments disappear that have helped mold the character and charm that makes Venice so unique,” Allan said. “This is off course is harsh reality of capitalism and the evolution of communities as a whole and would encourage the locals of Venice giving as many of the local businesses the support they need to maintain their business in Venice.”

Horwitz said there’s an idea that if its project fails to get approvals for the new development that La Fiesta Brava will get to stay, but the landlord will lease to whoever pays the most.

“The landlord just wants the market rent for their property,” Horwitz said. “What if it was a Starbucks? There are plenty who want to get a foothold in the next Abbot Kinney.”

Camarena is upset their wasn’t more open communication.
“They’re telling people if it wasn’t them it’d be someone else but may be it wouldn’t be someone else,” Camarena said. “Maybe we’d be able to come to an agreement. It’s the fact that there was never the opportunity is what hurts the most.

“It’s got to the point where people are coming to Venice because they liked how Venice was but they’re changing everything about Venice, what it was about, what it stood for.”

Camarena said a lot of their customers are artists and they’re coming in and saying, “I’m living out of my car right now, they kicked me out of my studio.”

“People don’t realize, they think, it’s only a restaurant it’s not going to effect anybody, but it has a trickle down effect,” she said. “It effects everyone who lives here and they might not see it first hand because they may not interact with the people we interact with but it’s really sad. We have customers and sometimes I’ll give them their meal for free because they’re counting their pennies out on the table. Because of everything that’s happened they can’t afford anything. It breaks my heart.”

Camarena continues, “But now that we’re here, we love the support.”
“We didn’t think we’d have this much support but the fact that we do is very motivating in a way that helps us push through,” she said. “Because honestly, it’s a depressing situation to be in. I’m the eldest of five kids and it’s just my Mom and the restaurant’s our only source of income. How are we going to pay the house and my brothers’ and sisters’ educations? It’s just a devastating blow, especially after everything we’ve been through. It feels amazing that the community backs us up so much. I knew they liked the food, I just never knew they liked it this much.”

Wylie Wilson Aims To Give Hope That Real Venice Is Alive On Abbot Kinney

While many Venetians mourn the loss of the businesses along Abbot Kinney that made up the old guard of Venice, like Bountiful and Hal’s, and as these old favorites close their doors to make way for a slew of high-end chain stores, one woman, Australian actress Peta Wilson, is holding her own on the street as an individual business owner.

Wilson is an artist first and her brand Wylie Wilson gives hope that the real Venice is still very much alive on Abbot Kinney.

Wilson, who played the lead in the 90’s TV series La Femme Nikita turned to lingerie as a way of mending a broken heart.

“I knew I had to get back out there but I couldn’t find any lingerie that I felt sexy in, I don’t fit the standard cookie-cutter sizes, so I made my own,” Wilson said.

One day a woman came into the Wylie Wilson store with a friend. Wilson noticed that unlike her friend, the woman was not trying on bras.

“It turned out she’d recently fought breast cancer and had undergone a mastectomy,” Wilson said. “She’d really lost a lot of confidence.”

Wilson offered to make a custom bra.

“The day she came back to try on her bra, the look on her face when she realized how beautiful she was regardless, and more so because of what she’d been through, that was when it clicked,” she said. “That’s when I knew for sure that I was on the right track.”

Wilson ended up giving the woman the bra as a gift.

Being able to give is something that has always motivated Wilson. Today, Wylie Wilson donates 40 percent of profits to the Pegasus Liberty Foundation. The Foundation supports local and international organizations working on the front line around the world to free and rehabilitate slaves.

To date, Wylie Wilson has helped free 1,002 people from slavery.
“Today there are 43 million slaves all over the world and it only takes $525 to save a life, to remove someone from slavery in a mine in India, and to give them an education, that’s what makes me get out of bed at five o’clock in the morning and scrub the floors and get the store ready for the day,” she said.

Wilson has found designing lingerie not only to be a satisfying creative outlet but also a way she can support herself and her son outside of show business.

“It was important my son grew up away from all of that,” she said.
The name Wylie is a play on words – Wilson merged “why” and “lie” to come up with the name for her brand.

The idea being that a woman is most attractive when she is comfortable in her own skin, no matter what her shape, size, or style.

“I don’t look like other girls,” she said. “I like to see every single style, for every single shape. All women are different. You’ve got to have some underwear on that if you go on a hot date and you think he might be okay for a show, at about 11:30 pm at night if he’s fun, and the right Rolling Stones song comes on.

“I think a woman’s sensuality comes from nature; if men can understand the weather and roll with the beauty of the weather, that one day there’s a frightening hurricane and there’s destruction and the next day it’s beautiful. Women are more like the weather than we are anything else.

“A lot of underwear companies you can go and buy five bras, like a halter-neck bra or a cross-back bra, but you want something you can wear with a backless dress. I just made one bra that does it all. They’re beautifully made here in Venice, just up the road from the store.”

When designing the lingerie it was important for Wilson that it be comfortable as well as beautiful.

“I was trying to make bras but I didn’t like underwire,” she said. “I needed to find something that was supportive but still comfortable and flexible, I needed to ‘stack the rack.’ I asked my Dad, who is an ex-soldier in the Australian Army, my brother was a soldier too in the SAS (Australia’s equivalent of the Navy Seals), and Dad said, ‘Well my Army pants never fell down and neither did your brother’s, look at what the U.S. Marines use.’ So I did. I bought a second hand pair of pants from a U.S. Marine uniform, I cut them open, and worked out the elastic they used. You can’t see it, but the Americans are holding everything up.”

While lingerie was the beginning of the Wylie Wilson brand, in its new location on Abbot Kinney Blvd. it has expanded to encompass a broader range.

Bags, dresses, home-wears, and art all designed or curated by fellow artists who work under the Wylie umbrella.

“I’m encouraging other painters and actors and musicians to do small capsule collections,” she said.

Inspiring the Wylie Wilson store was the idea it be more of a creative space than a store, in fact Wilson will correct you if you call it a store.

“It’s not a store, it’s a salon, darling,” she said, her voice smooth yet husky like a rock star. “Think Gertrude Stein’s Parisian Salon where the artists come and get together and they conspire, they act, and they write. We welcome anyone to come in, not just to shop but to bring in a coffee, sit down, and hang out with their laptops and get inspired in the salon. It’s a great place for artists to just come and hang out, may be to write or draw. That’s the sort of thing we like to encourage here.”

Wylie Wilson is located on the corner of Abbot Kinney Blvd. and Santa Clara Ave., Venice.