No Foolin’ the Venice Vulture
Passersby often approach me on the street and inquire “Say, hep guy, I dig your writings. Is this your first gig?”
“Neup,” I respond. “I was once a part of a semi-quasi-underground local assemblage of Venice artists that put out a monthly - every full moon - publication entitled the Venice Vulture.”
It all started in the summer of “great ‘78” when Marcy Rarick and I were coming back from the beach. After joints and some wine, we started riffing on the whole character of the times, how every place you went you found xeroxed fanzines, and thought maybe we could put one out. With the great help of co-founder Link, we drew up a quick, small comp layout, developed a surfing vulture logo, and decided to go forward.
The whole insane venture lasted 21 issues, and were collected in a book entitled “This Is The Venice Vulture.” The introduction was lifted from some review by Raoul Moon, and the basis for the whole enterprise was presented thusly:
Hatched in the summer of great ‘78 as another option to a public-ation
Bred to reflect our environment
to satirize our reality
to give glimpses of ideas which you then formulate
WHEN YOU’RE NOT SURE WE BECOME OBSCURE
anything nasty wild drunk cosmic artsy surreal is vulture
strung together, they’re like an abstract calendar of the times
Complete weather details and smog forecast in Part IV, Page 5.
Issue #1 blasted the headline Two Deep On Wrong Beach. It turned out to be a truly influential guide, yet totally off-the-wall, with incoherent observations, all rendered by hand in a finished typographical tightness. The format was legal size, and no mere xeroxing was good enough; each issue was litho printed. And by that September, a takeoff had appeared, entitled Venezia Vultura, by the art staff at G.A.F., the Oar House company. Our influence was underway.
Issue #2 featured presstype for the headlines, a big technological advancement. “Vulture Format Discussed” saw DEVO comments, a Stuff Magazine promo, a fire in the mountains hand colored, and the following editorial: “The purpose of our position on the justification of the proposition is juxtaposition!” Link couldn’t have said it better.
Of course, this was immediately aped by a Britt Ehringer composition called the Venice Vultul… It even reprinted sections of our second issue. Under the headline “Nothing Here To Read Now!” it stated “See you next full moon so go on! Getta Outta here. Who loves you baby? The Editors.”
And the volunteers came out of the woodwork, trying their hands at their own Vulture. Ron Glover drew the whole third issue “Male Pregnancy,” stating “Why should a fool ask for the price of wisdom when he has no mind?” I don’t know, but this whole Vulture idea could have been mistaken for just common gibberish and falderal, so common at the time. But somehow it was taking off.
So out of nowhere arrived issue #4, the skateboarding vulture. It was mainly a teen music issue, done by Hollywood Bored Teenagers, in a graphic design of, I’d say, a 6th grade level. With a nice poetry corner, and a continuation of the wired photo, featured since issue #1. Who are these kids, how did they know about the Vulture, and how did it get back to us? Lost to the ages…
And then again out of nowhere comes The Cowtown Chronicle, a Venice Vulture Subsidiary - sister publication. This one was dated December 1978, and all the articles were datelined Columbus, Ohio. Also, it featured the Smith quints. What? Who did this? How did it reach Venice? I have no idea.
Somehow, there was no issue #5. Go figure.
So then arose the 6th annual deadline issue titled “Your Momma.” This was another Britt media collage, and it looked like it was a 5 minute effort. Featuring a pornographic story, it billed itself as “Astonishing taste.”
Issue #7 was titled “Vult Cult Gono to Colo.” This was also from December, 1978, I think, because that’s when we all headed out for some skiing and work in Colorado. It was mainly a visual collage with advertising riffs, reflecting our time. “Rathm spasm rhythmic spismic” says it all.
Issue #8, Bring Down, was about winter ennoi and the death of punk. It was all editorial collage, with an editor’s note: “Late. So?” It did, however, present the new, classical logo, in complete contrast to the bummer, mal du pays material. Photon of the month: Albert Einstein.
Things rebounded with Spring Slinky Rules, issue #9. This was a return to life, printed on pink paper, based on an actual drinking event. It obscurely outlined the game of dropping a slinky over a wine glass on a 1/2 gallon wine bottle. “Special thanx to Paul Tanck, Venice Calif. for a perfect score.”
Issue #10, Space Junk Disaster, was once again a reflection of the times. It warned everyone “Do not attempt to catch space junk.” It contained also the first of many upcoming Fun With Science columns, modeled after a Science In Action column from issue #2.
“Mowers On Vacation” was issue #11, from the summer of ‘79. It was Virginia based, and reflected the national gas crunch and featured a skylab memorative silver dollar. It also updated the logo to a new neo-classical version. Very folksy.
The first anniversary issue, #12, proclaimed “Insiders Denounce Vulture.” It was about the artists’ revolt, ignoring assignments and scoffing at deadlines, yet featured a plug for the old Xart Gallery. “Ambient énamor was nowhere to be found.” How true.
The due date for issue #13 was 9-22-79, and it was a comic “Skating Through Life” themed compendium. There were 5 1/2 strips, in the classic funny pages style. Just another wacky presentation, with all the comics kind of sticking to the then overwhelmingly popular local pasttime.
“To The Meat” was the end-of-the-year issue, #14, all about dietary holiday thoughts. It was a great mix of graphics, editorial and sarcasm, with cross-the-board involvement. There was a great article on a corpulent Santa Claus,with a shout-out by International Kathie, who had appeared as the latest victim in issue #10.
Issue #15 was an all visual triangular new wave-influence collage. It sported the latest right-corner logo, and examined the critical stages in a woman’s arousal. Talking Heads’ David Byrne skanking at Digby’s was also mentioned.
#16 was a typeset (oh, the progress!) “Copying Bill” issue. It seems to be about too much thinking, too many topics, Debby Harry ripping up her Vulture shirt on the video Atomic (oh, the horror!), with a beach commentary comic by Britt. By the way, Bill refers to Bill Weiner, of his own Venice Magazine fame.
“Sorry It Took So Long” was the title of Vulture #17. In a collage documentary format, with photos ranging from guys wearing signs saying Let’s see some tits! to a Cadillac blowing up the stage at a Plasmatics concert, it featured a 127 word review by Ron Ravitch. “We get some surrealist views, and then some heavier senes.” No kidding.
Skipping onward to January 1981, issue #18 was all about telling the real stories of everybody’s “First Kiss.” With red stamped kiss-marks, 19 contributors told their personal anecdotes, with one in cartoon style - by Link, again. This became the most popular of all the Vultures, and had everyone guessing whose kiss and tell was whose, in 81 words or less.
Issue #19 was themed “Ready For War,” a popular feeling at the time. It featured a more diminutive logo, and was the first, and only, 4-page Vulture. We were going big time by then, with a half-page cover illustration by world famous artist Gary Panter. The big guns did indeed talk all night!
Time marched on, full moons passed, and then out of nowhere came issue #20, “Situation Perfectly Ordinary.” Dated December ‘81, this Vulture offered clips of real-life incidences and a 9 question TeleVoidtest. Noone was actually graded, although there was advice for girls on “How to Win and Hold a Husband.” Richard Meltzer was also question possible answer.
Issue #21 was the final Vulture, being about “Strategy! Affect.” Totally incomprehensible as a collage with words and pictures, it boasted a “pictorial reading vertical Vulture about discovery and reaction.” Some of the photos featured the Kipper Kids, the Dead Kennedys, and a topless woman.
The collected issues book ends with a final strip-tease addendum. Punk dancing - I guess it’s called slam dancing - against another naked girl slowly losing her towel. It all ended with “…and… …rest.”
Ah, those were the pre-computer times, all right. Thanks immensely to Link, Britt, Marcie, Ron Glover, Paula Wilkes, Carol Cromwell, Ted Lindsey, Marcia Stone, Bill Wiener, Maxine George, Gary Panter, Danielle Greco and Ron Ravitch for letting us take a glimpse back into what some of these crazy Vultures looked like. A feast for nasty wild drunk cosmic artsy surreal eyes. No foolin’