Category Archives: Venice Beach People

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

Amy Kaps: Earning Her Stripes One Piece At A Time

By Atlas Novack

Yo! Venice Contributor

Stripes – they’re not just for racing and horrible, pre-pubescent Frankie Muniz movies anymore. Amy Kaps is a photographer and performance artist, earning her stripes as she breaks into new territory with every successive piece she reveals. However, her magnum opus might be her work with black and white stripes, also known as Victus Versus, a loose translation of “Living Lines” in Latin.

Kaps has been a performance artist since the very beginning. Born in New Jersey in 1959 and starting with dance classes at the age of 3, Kaps eventually grew to study ballet and modern dance in college, as well as theatre, despite being a psychology major and graduating in 1981. She then moved to New York after college, then Germany in 1982, and eventually settling in Venice, California in late 1995. Kaps’ parents took their daughter to New York City often growing up, which allowed her to become immersed in the culture of museums and plays that dotted the city.

A performance artist is a very broad term, technically encompassing any endeavor that people are supposed to witness. Kaps’ piece of covering herself with black and white striped cloth and moving slowly throughout out a room of the same color is a show for the human eyes, but is also captured by a photographer for purchase as well as posterity.

“I wanted to find a way that I could give people something they could take home with them, as well as monetize my work. Performance art is temporal – if you’re not there, and you missed it, then you missed it,” Kaps said of Victus Versus.

Working with photographer Eric Schwabel, she sets up a “striped world” in whatever room is available to her, using fabric, as it is inexpensive as well as wearable and thus one giant carbon copy, in order to act out her piece. “There’s a fluidity with fabric, it’s not just a two dimensional surface,” she said.

A lot of her work revolves around perception, and loves to play with peoples’ eyes via the use of perspective and often times the human body.

Kaps’ view on performance art differs from the dictionary definition, in that she believes that it is different from theater, despite looking somewhat similar. While she has done pieces in theaters and playhouses before, Victus Versus seems to be a horse of a different color.

“This piece is sculptural, it’s very abstract,” she explained. “It’s certainly a line through all of my work, but there are other pieces that I have done where it’s theatrical. It requires lighting, projections, sound, or even speech and singing. Maybe that’s theater; but being that I come from more of a performance art background, I prefer to stick to my roots.”

Amy’s new exhibit, Continental Drift, has its opening reception this Thursday, Sept. 17, at 5 pm, going for four and a half hours at 8687 Melrose Ave, Space B226, in West Hollywood. The exhibit itself lasts until October 30.

“Each of these works are abstractionists, or at least abstract-adjacent; yet each of them maintains a special relationship with the figure and an elemental experience of place,” she said. “Specifically, all of these artists are [or were] coastal dwellers living and working right at the point where the landmass of the country begins and ends – geographically, culturally, emotionally.”

The exhibit will also be showing in the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art afterward under the name “Fashionita.”

For more information visit

Nix The Cliche Breakup Advice At Mend

By Melanie Camp

There’s a new Venice-born, online community that is helping people around the world heal their broken hearts. It’s called Mend, and founder Ellen Huerta was inspired to start the site after her relationship ended.

“Mend started with a break up. It wasn’t necessarily the worst breakup I’d gone through, but I think there were a lot of circumstances around it that made it harder,” Huerta said.

After spending a lonely night searching for some kind of support group online, Huerta found nothing useful.

“I was searching for breakup advice, heartbreak help, online. I don’t remember the exact search terms, but they were probably pretty embarrassing. It felt like a lot of the content was really generic and cliche. It wasn’t very helpful. It didn’t resonate with me. So Mend started as a really simple idea. I thought there was a space for really helpful, authentic content for people. Content that was not ex-bashing or trying to get you back with your ex, but more focused on helping you put yourself back together and move forward,” Huerta said.

On Mend you won’t find cliche advice and pink love-hearts. The site carries some heavy hitting content.

“The New York Times has this great column called ‘Modern Love’ and it has really raw authentic stories about love and that’s been my model from an editorial perspective. Because I felt like a lot of the content I had found online was so cliche. It almost made me feel worse,” she said.

While people are more often than are not willing to plan their finances, fitness, or family, Huerta said it seems people tend to step more blindly into love. “No one really thinks about relationship fitness,” she said.

Mend aims to get people thinking about this making it accessible to everyone. Glamour Magazine reported Katy Perry hired a heartbreak coach after the end of her marriage to Brand, which allegedly can cost up to $10,000 a day.

“My vision is to make emotional support accessible to everyone. Right now, if you have a lot of money you can hire a very expensive therapist, but I’m interested in making that experience available to someone who really can’t afford a $300 an hour therapist. Which is really the majority of people,” Huerta said.

Huerta also hopes Mend will help people reluctant to get therapy because they might not think their relationship issues are such a big deal.

“There’s a bit of a taboo around therapy I think. Even for me, I wasn’t quite ready to go to therapy after my break up which is why I went online and was looking for online support because there was something in my brain that was like, do you really need to see a therapist? This is just a break up, this isn’t something major. It’s not like someone died … but breakups are actually no small thing,” Huerta says, explaining that a person’s brain experiences mappable, physiological changes after a break up. “The science of heartbreak is really interesting. It’s basically like going through withdrawal,” she said.

At the beginning of Mend, “there were two things people were asking for; they were asking to talk to someone and then they were asking if there was any type of program. A lot of people are looking for some kind of structure. They want a 10-day retreat or a 5-day program. People really want structure when they’re going through a break up,” Huerta said.

Inspired to create an easy to follow day-by-day plan for the heartbroken to follow, Huerta put together a 10 day heartbreak cleanse.

“It’s a content bootcamp, and it’s mind, body, soul. It incorporates meditation, and yoga, and a bit about the science of love and heartbreak, and some personal stories, too,” Huerta said.

The other addition to the site was to connect people to support.

“I brought on three coaches, relationship and love coaches, who had experience working people through divorces and breakups. Our mission has always been to mend broken hearts” Huerta said.

Eventually Huerta saw a change in the way people where using the site. Some people just wanted someone to talk to, with or without a recent breakup.

“I realized there was an opportunity to connect people to emotional support at every stage in a relationship lifecycle not just when you’re at the crisis point and a relationship has ended,” she said.

Initially Huerta bootstrapped the company herself, but she is now at the stage to take Mend further to raise a first round of funding.

“I’m working on an app, something that is similar to Lumosity for relationships. So based on who you are and data that you enter in, you would get really customized support in the form of content, product, and service recommendations,” she said.

Mend has evolved rapidly in the 10 short months since the site was launched. But what was once about mending broken hearts has shifted. Huerta now wants to help people have better relationships, not just get over them.

A science major in college, Huerta is an alumna of Google’s Boston office but decided to leave the company in 2013 just as she was coming up on her five-year anniversary.

“I felt like I was at a crossroads. I could stay and it would be a happy life, but I kind of knew what my future would look like and there was an entrepreneurial bug in me that I couldn’t quite get rid of,” Huerta said.

Having made numerous trips down to SoCal while at Google, Huerta found she had fallen in love with Venice.

“I moved here two years ago. The pace of my life was so frenetic in San Francisco, I grew up in a small town outside of Houston and I just really loved the slower pace in Venice,” Huerta said.

Huerta also knew she had to be somewhere close to where the tech world action was.

“I think in the back of my mind I realized that if I wanted to build a company on my own, which is what I wanted to do long term, there was definitely going to be a tech component to it because everything these days has tech involved with it now,” Huerta said.

So, Huerta packed her bags and headed south for a sea change, a move more about lifestyle than about making waves in Silicon Beach – but the Los Angeles tech scene had it’s draw cards.

“Because there’s so much uncertainly and stress associated with starting a company, I wanted to be in a place that made me feel really grounded, and Venice is definitely that place for me,” she said. “Even on the worst days I can just walk to the beach and feel so much better.”

When it come to a bad day in your relationship, however, when the beach just isn’t going to cut it, there’s always Mend.

Visit to see what the buzz is all about.

War In Venice: Business Owners, Local Homeless Band Against Menacing ‘Travellers’

By Melanie Camp

It would not be surprising if Venice cafe owner, Clabe Hartley, was to say he’s thinking of taking up criminal law. This summer he’s served an intense internship into assault related crimes.

In March, 31-year-old Jonathan Lemons pleaded not guilty to biting off Hartley’s fingertip after an altercation blew up between the two men outside Hartley’s Cow’s End cafe on Washington Blvd.

Cafe patrons had helped stop the attack. Venice local Kelly Ott, who used to work as Chuck Norris’ stunt man said, “He was clawing at Clabe’s eyes. I got him in a hold from behind and then everyone, the man, Clabe, and I fell to the ground” This is when Ott noticed blood all over his arms, he looked up to see “blood spurting out of Clabe’s finger,” which could not be reattached.

Hartley now sits on a high stool at a table that runs the length of the inside window of the cafe. He prefers the advantage this viewpoint provides. Sitting to the front left, his back to the wall, Hartley watches customers approach, on guard for anyone suspicious.

Just a week before, Hartley had been attacked for the second time this year by another transient. Mark Scanlan, 44, like Lemmons had been disturbing customers seated outside on Washington Blvd. He is currently in custody on three counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon. His bail set at $90,000.

Hartley sits with five staples in his head. Another scar is  forming, a war-wound received in what is fast becoming a battle between the business owners of Venice and those that call her streets their home.

Speaking of his most recent attack, Hartley explained it began with Scanlan harassing customers and ended with the man rushing at him with a cafe chair.

“I think his attorneys, I don’t know the intricacies of it, are trying to get him out of it saying he’s not mentally well. It’s true – he’s not mentally well if he does something like that, but is it psychological or is it psychiatric?” Hartley said.

As with many of the more disruptive members of the unhoused community around Venice, mental heath is often a factor.

“It’s possible that this second guy [Scanlan] has, and I’m not an expert on this, but it’s possible that he may have real mental psychiatric problems because he’s talking to an imaginary figure. But again, not being an expert, I hear that some of these people they’re on things like meth or bath salts and they can get weird that way too,” Hartley said.

In fact, when Hartley had sprayed Scanlan with pepper spray, he found the man was not affected.

“Before he threw the chair I was out talking to him. I thought he was talking about someone else for a while, I don’t know, but he said, ‘He’s gotta die, he’s gotta die. I gotta kill him, I gotta kill him’ and then he came at me and said, ‘there’s the cancer killer, I gotta kill him.’ When he did that, I had my pepper spray in my hand, and I was feeling him, and he seemed to be really out there so I sprayed him. He got within two feet of my face before I sprayed him, and when I did he said ‘Is that all you got?’ This was strong stuff,” Hartley said.

Often in cases where someone is under the influence of a drug like meth, that person can display almost superhuman strength. One Yo! Venice source spoke of seeing six burley LAPD officers struggling to hold down a skinny man high on meth.

In July this year Jason Davis, 41, died in hospital after being gunned down by police on the patio of Groundwork Coffee Co., at 671 Rose Ave. The shooting occurred only after police had tried to subdue Davis with pepper spray and a Taser.

“Davis stood up and began to aggressively approach the officers. One officer deployed a Taser, however it did not have an effect on Davis. Davis continued his advance on officers while still armed with the knife and an officer-involved shooting occurred,” police said.

Sources told Yo! Venice Davis had been high on meth.

“I don’t want to confuse people like this – do not confuse them with truly needy homeless people,” Hartley said. “It is our obligation as a civilized society to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. We have a responsibility to help those who want to help themselves.”

There has been an influx of homeless to Venice who call themselves “travellers.” They come, sometimes for only a couple of weeks. Drawn to a Hippie-like existence that most often involves drugs, alcohol, and camping on the grassed areas along Ocean Front Walk. These “travellers,” more transient than the core group of Venice homeless, do not appear invested in the Venice community. Instead they seem to be here to take what they can get.

Long-time homeless man known around Venice as “Buddah” said he prefers the term “housing challenged.” He spends his days on a grassed area in front of Ocean Front Walk at Horizon Ave.

“I have a Venice address my birth certificate,” Buddah said.

Buddah grew up with his mother and Japanese grandparents in a home on Brooks and 6th St. when the Silicon Beach wave was not even a ripple, and Los Angeles identified Venice by the less enticing label of “Slum by the Sea.” When Buddah’s grandparents had bought their house 6th Ave. was still a canal.

War in Venice Buddah
Buddah has a Venice address on his birth certificate

With age came medical problems for Buddah’s grandmother, and the family home was sold in the late ‘90s to pay for her care. With that, Buddah was out of the Venice housing market. However he hasn’t any regrets: “I’m living the dream. What are you kidding me? I ain’t got nothing to do but worry about when I’m going to go skate in the part with the kids,” he said.

Across the grassy knoll a young traveller girl starts to yell. It’s loud. She’s screaming into the face of a fellow traveler. It’s public outbursts like these that have not just the Venice residents and business owners but also the long-time local homeless uncomfortable.

“They confuse me with that dude ranting and raving outside that window at 3 in the morning. I’m not that. I’m the guy that comes and takes that guy, escorts him to the alley, and sees him on his way. I don’t want that to reflect back on me. That’s the respect of the neighborhood,” Buddah said.

Back outside Cows End a young traveller is panhandling. His name is Divin. He had been sitting with friends on the pavement to the west side of Cabo Cantina. Strumming a guitar and holding a sign asking for cash, he’d called out to a woman passing by, “Can I get a g-string?”

Divin asks customers outside Cows End for a dollar. He seems on edge, twitching as he walks. Glaring, he fixes his darting eyes a moment on anyone who tries to avoid his gaze.

“There’s one right now, just here,” Hartley said. “He’s really pressuring this guy right now. He wants money from him, you know? He wants money. He’s very in his face. That’s a perfect example of these aggressive ‘travellers’ – they get violent. Look at his whole body language. I don’t know what he’s on. He’s on something.”

As he heads north up Ocean Front Walk, away from Washington Blvd., Divin calls out to anyone who will listen: “I was on the news for being homeless” he said. No one looks comfortable enough to stop and hear his story. Tourists scurry past, heads down.

“I guess like down there they don’t like vagrant traveling kids,” he said motioning toward Washington Blvd. “We need money, we’re just having fun and kids just go and break windows and stuff for their s**** and giggles, but it’s ruining what we do. Like we just want to have fun and drink beer, and they’re like breaking stuff and making everyone hate us and it’s stupid.”

Divin is unaware his aggressive panhandling to get money for beer makes him part of the problem he talks about.

It’s a problem business owners along Washington Blvd. are keen to clean up. Around the time of the first attack on Hartley, the wheels had already been set in motion to form the Washington Square Business Improvement Group.

A consortium of business owners along Ocean Front Walk are also well into the planning stages of setting up a business improvement district along the Boardwalk from Navy St. to Venice Ave. They have so far raised a small amount of initial capital, but ultimately annual costs are estimated to be $2 million.

While it’s early days for the BIGs and BIDs of Venice, just like the flyers that are posted in the days leading up to a Friday morning sanitation sweep, business owners are putting up notice. They want to start cleaning the streets.

So, what then of the real homeless left in between? As tensions between the homeless and business owners in Venice rise, Hartley wants it made clear that he doesn’t “blame the homeless. Some need our help. This was the work of a psycho. This is what we need to deal with.”

Buddah had a suggestion in regards to the travellers.

“I think they need to go back to where they’re from and learn how to say, ‘Thank you. May I? Please.’ It helps a lot,” he said.

Remembering Challis Macpherson

By Mike Newhouse
“Bigger than life” Challis Macpherson photo by: Venice Paparazzi

Two weeks ago Venice lost a true treasure: Challis Macpherson. While the term gets thrown around too often, Challis was truly “bigger than life.”

Of course, there were the hats, and the clothes; as colorful and creative as the woman herself. But, what a lot of folks don’t know is that Challis was an excellent seamstress, and actually designed and sewed her own clothes. In fact, she even taught sewing classes at the Venice Boys and Girls Club.

But, more than that, Challis will be remembered, and sorely missed, for her contributions to Venice civic life.

Since the early 70s, Challis was heavily involved in her community. Whether it was founding PVJOBS, which helps place at-risk youth and adults in career-track employment, or serving on the Venice Town Council, the Grassroots Roots Venice Neighborhood Council or the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC), Challis was a tireless volunteer for the betterment of our community.

I first met Challis almost 10 years ago, after I ran as a write in candidate to serve on the VNC. I knew that Challis had a reputation for being blunt, and our first meeting didn’t disappoint. Sitting in the crowd at a VNC meeting just after the election, Challis interrupted a debriefing about the election’s results, and stood up and asked, “Who’s the guy who got elected as a write in?”

I sort of raised my hand sheepishly.

Her response, “Well, I voted for you, so you better not screw it up!”

Obviously, everyone laughed, and at that moment, a friendship, and mentorship of sorts, was born.

At the time, Challis was the single most knowledgeable person in Venice I knew when it came to planning.

I would attend her LUPC meetings to learn everything I could about how LUPC and the VNC interacted with, and could influence, development in Venice.  Importantly, Challis helped teach me how identify a good project, versus a bad project.  Did the community need the project?  Was it tasteful?  Would it create jobs?  Did it have enough parking?  Was the applicant humble, and willing to listen to and at least consider the community’s input?  Together, we created a system whereby individual neighborhood were specifically alerted by the VNC as to projects that would affect their streets. Challis was a big believer in getting the word out far and wide, and making sure that anyone who cared enough to express their opinion would at least have the opportunity to do so.

Challis also was a skilled ambassador for the VNC. Challis would literally attend every Area Planning Commission meeting, even if a Venice project was not on the agenda.  Similarly, she was a constant presence downtown at Planning Department hearings, and never missed an opportunity to let the City know the VNC’s position on matters.  Challis was so appreciated and respected by planning staff in Los Angeles that by my first term as VNC President, I would routinely receive calls from Zoning Administrators seeking the VNC’s position on the rare Venice project that didn’t have a VNC recommendation in the file. In short, the folks making the decisions wanted to know what Challis and her group had to say.

And, Challis was fun! After any LUPC or VNC Board meeting, there was the nightcap at Jerry’s, and DeDe Audet, Yolanda Gonzales and Ivan Spiegel were never far. As for parties, my wife Ruthie throws great ones, and Challis and Wally were always there.  Challis could tell a great story, and she was always a blast to be around.

I know I speak for Venice when I say that our friend Challis will truly be missed.  She was a good and kind person, she gave selflessly of her time, and she will never be forgotten.

Venice Artist John Baldessari Receives White House Honor

Updated September 10 – 11:29pm

Venice visual artist John Baldessari, actress Sally Field, and author Stephen King were among 11 awarded a 2014 National Medal of Arts.

The nearly two dozen honorees were recognized by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in the Sept. 10 ceremony at the White House.

Obama said all of the recipients had one thing in common. “They do what they do because of some urgent inner force, some need to express the truth that they experience, that rare truth and as a result, they help us understand ourselves in ways that we might not otherwise recognize. They deepen and broaden our great American story and the human story,” ,” Obama said.

Baldessari, who was among a group of artists that financially supported Obama’s 2012 election campaign, will be honored for his “ambitious” body of work that “combines photography, painting and text to push the boundaries of image, making him one of the most influential conceptual artists of our time,” according to the White House.