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June 4, 2018

Classic SoCal: Striking Black and White Photographs of Venice Beach Eccentrics in 1984

In 1984, Brazilian photographer Claudio Edinger documented the rainbow of oddballs who called the countercultural Southern California beach neighborhood home. The photographs he took of the denizens of Venice Beach in their natural habitat: a bodybuilder in the surf, a roller skater soaring over an aging skateboarder, beachgoers showering off after a day in the sun.
“It was a transition period where there were a lot of artists living in studios near the beach, all sort of eccentrics performing on the boardwalk, and many gangs on the Eastern part of town. I would get up and walk the boardwalk, catch the homeless waking up, and meet all sorts of interesting people all day long.” – Claudio said.
He started with photography in the 1970s and hasn't stopped since then. Since 1983 he has released an amazing number of monographs covering images of the famous Chelsea Hotel (1983), Venice Beach (1985), Brazil's Carnaval (1996) and São Paulo (2009) amongst others.

Today Claudio works with a large format camera. He uses selective focus and an experimental use of color. With this technique he has focused on architecture, landscapes, cityscapes and portraiture. He has created impressive portraits of Paris, the Amazon region, homeless people sleeping in the streets and recently on Downtown LA. Claudio has received the Leica Medal of Excellence twice amongst many other awards.

Natasha Hankle and John Hayden: She is an ex-Playboy Playmate, and he is an actor. His most notable role was in Valley Girl. John wants to continue in acting, and Natasha would like to go into word processing. They've been together since high school.

Tony Braithwaite: A sound engineer, he believes that hanging upside down is the secret to a long life. "It changes the force of gravity on your body; it strengthens your back, fortifies your organs, and helps stop sagging and aging," he says. "And you see the world in a better perspective."

Kay Baxter: She was voted the best Woman Body Builder in the World from 1979 through 1983. "I want to remain young forever," she says. Her motto is, "If you don't use it you lose it."

Linda Albertano: Her first night in Venice, she discovered that a former school chum had been strangled on a nearby beach. She calls Venice a "slum by the sea," but appreciates the reduced rents. A former jam singer, she wrote the music for Sam Shepard's play The Unseen Hand. She lives in a 13-room home bought with a student loan.

Eliot Rosen: A Sikh, Rosen admits that his parents are not happy with his lifestyle. "They wish I'd drop this Eastern Guru thing and become a nice Jewish boy again. I told them, 'Don't hold your breath, folks.' " He now prepares raw-food meals for cancer patients, writes for health-oriented magazines and plays the drums for a belly dancer.

Venice Beach, LA 1984.

"In 1977 the first roller-skates store opened in Venice, and with polyurethane wheels the skaters multiplied all over the boardwalk — Venice became the rollerskating capital of America." —Los Angeles Times

Hispanic family at the Boardwalk showers.

Terry Hershey: Trained as a nuclear engineer, he has been building pyramids on the beaches of Venice every Saturday for the last 10 years. "I like Venice because people here appreciate my work." He began building pyramids after seeing the King Tut exhibit.

Rad Ish: Ish is a leader of a rock band named R.I.P. "Love Venice because people here are weirder than me — so I am sort of incognito," he says. His name means "radically selfish," and his goals in life is to shock people. "I'm not sitting here passively," he asserts. "What are you doing?"

Jeff Howe and Gigi Rene: He's 21 and eats about eight meals a day. The current Mr. Arizona, Jeff owns a suntanning and body wrapping salon in Phoenix. Gigi has been a Barely Legal Calendar Girl, Miss English Leather Bikini, and she won a trip to California as a prize in a Pony Express bikini contest. She's also a dental assistant and is trying to be a firefighter. Both are registered Republicans.

Muscle Beach: "Most of all, Venice's acceptance-of-all philosophy helps all types stop pretending to be someone else and to begin being themselves." —Sweet William, author of Venice of America

Liz Bevington aka Skateboard Mama: This grandmother is a manager of an apartment and skateboards through the boardwalk regularly. She also participated in the Senior Citizens Olympics and won three gold medals.

Kenny Johnson: A mechanic, he says he likes to come to Venice because of the girls. "I come to watch the bodies; I love to work on bodies." It took him over eight months to refurbish his ’61 Chevy. "With this car," he claims, "I get new girls every week."

Tom Sewell: This former art director, gallery owner and salesman of Fuller brushes invented the "Pickle Mobile." He covered his old Studebaker with polyurethane, "and it looked like a pickle." He also has been a painter for topless dancers and sold a photo essay to Life magazine depicting the delirious adventures of a mistaken deposit of $500,000 in his checking account.

(Photos © Claudio Edinger)



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