Venice Beach

Back to Venice Beach

There has been so many bad news lately that I figured, why not distract yourself with something completely unrelated. Unrelated, but, unfortunately, just as disturbing. Sure, why not…

If you have ever wandered around the boardwalk of Venice Beach, you may have come across this one little, wholesome venue called the Venice Beach Freakshow. It’s a lovely show about regular people who just happen to have some very unusual conditions or skills which they love to talk about and show to curious gawkers like me. Like TED talks (sorta, kinda, but not really).

A bit derogatory? Sure, but hey, that’s what they do and that’s what they call the show.

First, meet Bob Heslip. He has Neurofibromatosis type 1, a condition that causes noncancerous lumps to appear all over his body. Nice man. Very informative. I had to exercise restraint from reaching out and trying to pop one those suckers because, after all, they are not pimples. I did get to touch one and yes, they are definitely not pimples. Darn.

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After that was the lovely Miss Sunshine English, 100,000 volts of electricity-immune, fire-eating extraordinaire. Charming girl.

The main attraction was of course, Morgue. And yeah… he’s got quite some skills… Skills that I prefer not to look at, but took pictures of anyway.

He even posed for me. How very accommodating of him.

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After the 5-10 minute show, you can wander off to the side to this little museum where you get to see the skeleton of a two-headed baby, two headed cow, live two-headed turtles, two-headed everything. Fun stuff, fun stuff.

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And that was it. All that for a $5 fee.

Pay at the door.

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(Oh and if you’re curious, the venue did have a TV show called “Freakshow” on AMC. I don’t think it’s on anymore, but you can still check it out on Netflix)

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Venice Beach

There once was this Caltech Quantum Physicist who also doubled as a world-traveling photographer. He had piles and piles of films and slides of places he had traveled to, anywhere from across the U.S. to South America, Asia, Europe and Africa. And amongst these photographs were pictures of people from different countries, natives from indigenous tribes. And in these photographs, the subjects were always smiling and holding in their hands a square Polaroid shot of themselves.

This, he told me, was his way of returning the favor of allowing him to photograph them. He always had a Polaroid camera handy so that whenever he asked a stranger for a picture, he would give them a copy with a Polaroid shot. Never offer to pay them with cash, he warned me. Or else you’ll only encourage them to rely on tourists taking their pictures for money. Which, of course, would take away their authenticity and start off this whole commercializing mess.

And that brings me Venice Beach, the drugged-up cousin of Santa Monica Beach.

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It’s an awesome place to take pictures. You just have to “tip” for every single, freakin’ shot you take. I don’t know how it started, if one day a tourist came across a psychedelic pothead and thought, “hmmm, that’s something you don’t see in <insert small midwestern town> everyday” and then decided to tip him a dollar for a picture and thus instigating the entire pay-me-for-pictures concept.

But I get it. I do. Some of these folks are real, hard-working artists just trying to get by, really no different from any other street artists.

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But then you do have these other ones that are just plain old tourist bait (me being one of those baited tourists, as you can see below).

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But if you look long and hard enough, you can across random things you can shoot for free.

Like these:

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This one below was an abandoned sand sculpture. I have no idea what it used to be, but hey, it still had some spiffy details and the culprit was no longer around to charge me a dollar for a shot.

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These Dia de los Muertos skull shots below weren’t exactly free. I had to purchase one these suckers just so I could shoot them.

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And finally, probably my favorite shots out of all (and the one that least likely screams “Venice Beach!”), a puppy. And it was free.

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Yep, that’s Venice Beach.