Pushed to the Edge of the Continent

We've all seen her - the aging Marilyn Monroe with the lopsided wig on Hollywood Boulevard. She charges a dollar for tourists to take a photo with her, and they do. But she makes a killing not for the costume, but the kitschy sadness of it; she's got wrinkles in her face deep enough to be a standing card catalogue, bless her heart.

Hollywood is filled with audition rejects, the almost famous, the almost has-beens and all sorts of delusional and dejected souls in between. Rejection wears on you, and as you continually get beaten down by casting directors or the open guitar case that never seems to collect any change, you start inching away from Hollywood. You start to believe that Hugh Grant is sneering down at you from his lofty perch on the billboard in the sky. You back up further and further west, all the way to the edge of the continent. Last stop? Venice Beach.

The acts in Venice Beach have quit Hollywood and the idea of being discovered altogether. Once you're in Venice, you'll settle for any attention whatsoever. And if you retreat any further West, you'll simply drown in the Pacific. The streets teem with gang members, aging ex-hippies, freeloading kids on semi-vacay from their privileged homes, white trash and out-of-towners.

There's the dude in a thong who stands on a bucket and holds a fake wooden snake. Or the guy who outlines giant butterflies on the sidewalk with pennies. Or the singers who screech into microphones, blaring feedback into an annoyed audience. The beach-side hippie drum circles with vegans that reek of vegetables and sweat. The really bad breakdancers who always seem on the verge of spinal injuries as they spin atop flattened and ratted up cardboard boxes.

Some acts do pretty well. The dude (pictured top) with the swami headgear is showcased in many movies, including Casey Niccoli's cult classic, Gift. The guy gets so much cash, that he literally skates around with an ATM machine strapped to him, in case you'd like to make a donation but lack the immediate funds. At this point, he's getting paid for being famous. And within the Venice community of cut-throat-yet-lazily-stoned street performers, he's famous for getting paid.

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