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Feeling the Wind in Their Sales

June 06, 2004|MICHAEL T. JARVIS

The Venice boardwalk isn't always a day at the beach. While thousands of visitors crowd the strand daily for fun and games, the boardwalk is a workplace for those troubadours, minstrels and artisans who collect their pay in an open guitar case or a jar. We asked some street artists and performers to take us backstage.

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David Alexander English

46, Artist/painter

Venice

How long working here?

I first came here about 12 years ago. Around the time of Rodney King, it got really restrictive. I gave it a break for a couple of years. About six years ago, I came back, and it had become more liberal, which is kind of an unusual direction for it to go.

How did you begin painting?

I started by hand-painting T-shirts 16 or 17 years ago. I taught myself to paint. I found I had a passion for taking an idea from the ethers and putting it on canvas. The care and feeding of an idea. There's nothing more wonderful than that.

Most you've made here in a day?

There are days that are epic. It is going to be a good day when you break $100 before noon.

Is this a job or a vocation?

No, man. It's a passion.

What would you do if not art?

See, you keep focusing on occupation, man. It's not about what occupies the time. It's really about, "What's my passion?" and "What am I here for?"

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Greg Wodzynski

28, Sand artist

Los Angeles

How long working here?

Since 1994.

How would you describe your work?

Sand sculptures. Sand creatures. This is Fluffy. It's a dragon.

Most you've earned in a day here?

I consider $160 a really good day.

Worst heckling you've received?

I did mermaids for like eight years. [People would say,] "Why don't you do something else? I'm sick of the mermaids."

Is this a job or a vocation?

It is a job because this is how I make money.

Your dream creation?

My final one is going to be the "The Simpsons" family sitting on the couch. I'm a humongous "Simpsons" fan, and I've been doing this for years. I'm on my way out.

What would you be doing if you weren't a sand sculptor?

Who knows? Act, write, screen-write. I kind of fell into this.

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Harry Perry

53, Roller-skating guitar player

Los Angeles

How long performing here?

This is my 30th year.

Do you do this for a living?

Sometimes I get commercials.

Sometimes I get movie spots. Before I came here, I played in "Hair."

I was in the same cast as Meat Loaf.

Best part of your act?

I do lots of original songs. People know I sing "Too Much Steak and Chocolate Cake." And they request that song.

Worst heckling you've received?

There's a couple of comedians that go, "Hey, there's the human Q-tip."

Would you keep the skates if you toured with a band?

Definitely. Roll out onstage?

I've done that. I opened for Jane's Addiction at Universal Amphitheatre. Thank you, Perry Farrell.

Is this a job or a vocation?

It's a lifestyle.

What does this have over movie stardom?

The director doesn't say, "We really have to do it this way."

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Vivianne Robinson

46, Rice artist

Santa Monica

How long working here?

Ten years. It's supposed to bring you good luck--your name on a grain of rice. It's an ancient art. It's profitable.

Most you've earned in one day?

It varies from $10 to $100. You just never know.

Any drawbacks to working here?

Just on Sundays sometimes, when you get gang problems. They've had shootings. It's very seldom, but it has happened.

Benefits to working here?

You can dress how you want. You can dress crazy and be crazy. You can be yourself at Venice Beach.

What would you be doing if you weren't painting on rice?

Well, I was a recreation major at Cal State Long Beach. I used to work at a senior center. I'd probably still be working with seniors, being creative in that way, planning activities, planning trips.

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