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In CelebratIon of the 40th annIversary of the argonaut newspaper

Snoopin’ Around

The Story of David Asper Johnson and The Argonaut R e s e a R c h e d a n d e d i t e d by h e lg a g e n d e l l


Snoopin’ Around The Story of Dave Johnson and The Argonaut

Researched and Edited by Helga Gendell


snoopin’ around: The Story of David Asper Johnson and The Argonaut Researched and Edited by Helga Gendell Copyright © 2011 by The Argonaut Newspaper, Inc. All rights reserved. ISBN: 978-1-105-01546-5 No part of this book may be used, reproduced or transmitted in any manner whatsoever without written per­mis­­sion, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. For infor­mation, write The Argonaut Newspaper, PO Box 11209, Marina del Rey, CA 90295-7209. Tel: 1-310-822-1629.  E-mail: Rikki@argienews.com Web site: http://www.argonautnewspaper.com

The Argonaut and

are registered trademarks.

First Printing. Printed in the United States of America. Front cover photo by Helga Gendell. Cover and book design by Kate Doll.


Table of Contents Preface.......................................................................ix The Argonaut’s first issue in 1971 through 1975 A Publisher’s Statement........................................................................................ 1 Marina Briefs........................................................................................................... 2 Christmas Boat Parade Dec. 19th Holiday Highlight....................................... 3 Year-End Report: Marina ‘a Real Money Maker’................................................ 5 Editorially Speaking: Our Christmas Wish......................................................... 7 Restaurants Form New Association.................................................................... 8 The Marina in 1971................................................................................................. 9 Pioneer Skippers Plan to Refile PUC Request on Marina Slip Rents...........12 On The Peninsula..................................................................................................13 City Plans Bike-Tramway Down Beach.............................................................14 ‘Swingin’ Singles Pad,’ South Bay Club, Gone..................................................16 County Staff Instructed to Study Repair Yard Adequacy in Marina............17 Anchorage Street & Ocean Front Walk: Big Proposal for the Peninsula.....18 “Hello” to Playa del Rey.......................................................................................19 City Planners Suggest “No” to 13-Story Holiday Inn......................................21 Plan 560-unit $35 Million Project Along Via Marina......................................22 “Beyond Baroque”: Venice magazine discovering new forms of writing.....23 Plan Sidewalks With Via Marina Street Project...............................................24 Playa del Rey Plan Designed to Guide Area’s Future Growth.......................25 Whipping Up a Little Elk for Din-Din.................................................................26 County Official Says: Expect Higher Marina Density.....................................27 Say ‘Panic is Real’ Over Airport Suits.................................................................31 Marina del Culver?................................................................................................34 The Pot Shop.........................................................................................................36 Pioneer Skippers Again Ask County to Control Rents...................................39 The Flea Market....................................................................................................40 The Two Chambers...............................................................................................42 —v—


Preface The first edition of David “Dave” Asper Johnson’s newspaper, The Argonaut, was published on November 25, 1971. As founder and publisher, Dave planned to focus only on Marina del Rey; the business owners, the boaters, capturing the spirit of the Marina, highlighting local happenings and “fun and interesting things” going on in an area he described as a “way of life.” He chose “The Helmsman,” a statue in Burton Chace Park, for the masthead of the paper. An appropriate choice, since Dave was the helmsman of The Argonaut, steering the fledgling newspaper through the occasionally murky waters of local politics and business. He was a brilliant and witty publisher, editor and human being, savoring the events of daily life, with a constant curiosity about people, and a continued interest in community events. The Argonaut was so well received by local residents that Dave soon expanded into other communities such as Playa del Rey and Westchester, to write about Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the plans to expand usage and to begin night landings. The book focuses more closely on the first five years of the newspaper, and the stories have been selected to portray the diverse areas of interest — from the sublime to the sometimes ridiculous — that Dave chose to write about in those first years. A synopsis of the years encompassing 1980, 1985, 1990 and 1995 is included to follow the progress of many of the first year’s stories. Stories from later years include the 25th anniversary of the newspaper, and the year-and-a-half of Dave’s writing prior to his death. — ix —


Some of the issues are still present today, but Dave Johnson focused the light of public scrutiny on many of them, in his desire to inform the community about what was happening. His leadership of The Argonaut and his public persona turned the newspaper into the local source of information about critical events in the growing communities. One of the many recognitions of The Argonaut’s impact came at a local community meeting, when speakers addressed a local council on a divisive subject. One individual, clutching the newspaper in his hand, said, “I’m here to give my input at this meeting because I read about it in The Argonaut.” Dave also attracted local talent to work with him. Two vital individuals from the beginning of the newspaper — George Drury Smith, founder of “Beyond Baroque”, proofreader, typesetter and later associate publisher and CFO of The Argonaut, and Greg Wenger, noted local photographer; key writers Darien Murray, who covered the boating scene and became the first reporter and later editor; Jim Bishop, who wrote about general Marina life and other points of interest; and Tom Moran, writing about life in Venice. The women writers of The Watchful Eye Reporter of Playa del Rey and Westchester; and a number of other writers contributed their talents on numerous subjects in those communities.

—x—


The Beginning Years.. . .

The Argonaut’s first issue in 1971 through 1975


Dave Johnson laying out the paper in the early days at the Hermosa office.


November 25, 1971

A Publisher’s Statement The Marina del Rey Argonaut begins its twice monthly publication with this issue. The paper will appear the second and fourth Thursdays. The Argonaut will devote itself to Marina del Rey — and only Marina del Rey. We plan to provide residents, businessmen, and boaters in the Marina, Marina Peninsula and Villa Marina condominiums with interesting news and features and a complete report of what’s going on around the area. Because we are confining our efforts to only the Marina area, we will be able to feature items heretofore unreported — embellishments of happenings on your block. The Marina is an exciting area. So much so that students flock to our shores to see how we did it. Marina del Rey was the first — is the largest — and the finest small craft harbor established. But Marina del Rey is more than just a place to tie up a boat. It is a way of life, and the world wonders just how such “a Utopia in our time” could have been created. Was it the location…the weather…the people…that created this exciting “spirit of the Marina”? It is this spirit that we hope to capture in the pages of The Marina del Rey Argonaut. Ours will be a publication just for you natives…be you apartment dwellers inside the Marina area, tenants and home owners on the Peninsula or condominium owners in the busy Villa Marina. The Argonaut will be a “fun” paper and we hope you consider it “yours”. We feel we have more untapped talent living around us than in just about any other area in Southern California. We hope some of you weekend writers, photographers, and “good lifers” will want to share your talents with your Marina neighbors through The Argonaut. Do drop us a line about your thoughts on the Marina. We’ll see you again in two weeks — back with more news and features about Marina del Rey — the most exciting square mile-and-a-half in the world. — David Asper Johnson


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Los Angeles city attorney Roger Arnebergh rushed a report on the Santa Monica case — Nestle vs. the City of Santa Monica — to Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty and the Los Angeles City Council. Spokesman for Mrs. Pat Russell, who represents the Playa del Rey, Marina Peninsula and Villa Marina areas as councilman “really welcomes” the court decision because it may tend to clarify the fuzzy question of airport jurisdiction. Mrs. Russell has been critical of preemption of airport controls by federal agencies which have refused to accept responsibility for noise, fume and vibration damages to near-by homeowners and residents. The local councilman cited three alternatives available to the city — seek emergency state legislation making cities immune from nuisance suits; place more responsibility on federal agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration and airlines; or simply close the airport. A local representative said the lady councilman was seeking “to put the monkey on the backs where it belongs” — federal agencies, and airlines which use the airport. City officials indicated they were taking seriously warnings from city attorney Roger Arnebergh that


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his white Mercedes, his party habits, his toothpaste, and other “vitals.” But the neighbors have already been bombarded from everybody from Time magazine to our close friend and mostcapable writer, Stella-Della from The Outlook. There is always somewhat of a social slump between the end of summer and the official start of the Marina holiday party season. Somehow Segretti has gotten us through this difficult period, providing just a sufficient amount of chatter from those who now claim they knew him, and yes, he was that unusual fellow in Number 117. October 26, 1972

Marina Resident Tied to Alleged GOP Espionage A Mariner’s Village resident, Donald H. Segretti, has been named as a central figure in alleged Republican efforts to “subvert and disrupt Democratic candidates’ campaigns.” The charges were made last week in news stories appearing in Time, the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. According to Time magazine, Segretti — who now lives on Captain’s Row in the Marina apartment complex — was paid more than $35,000 from Committee for the Re-election of the President funds for espionage activities against Democrats. The magazine said the 31-year old Marina resident was hired in September 1971, by a deputy assistant to the President, Dwight Chapin, and a staff assistant at the White House, Gordon Strachan. Some newspaper reports indicated Segretti made 28 calls to the White House from his Mariner’s Village apartment. The Time magazine report said Segretti was paid $16,000 a year salary plus expenses by Herbert Kalmbach, an attorney close to the President. Presidential Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler reportedly denied any linking between the Marina attorney and White House officials. “No one at the White House at any time directed activities of sabotage, spying, espionage or activities that related to following people around and compiling dossiers on them or anything such as that,” Ziegler is quoted as saying.


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But look at the folks in the Marina and Playa del Rey who turned out to support the repeal of the antiquated marijuana laws. Proposition 19 carried every Marina precinct. And these are not long-haired hippies we’re talking about. The Marina residents who voted for Proposition 19 are for the most part Republicans. The same voters who gave a “yes” to the initiative overwhelmingly voted for Richard Nixon. Jim Hayes, Joe Busch and even preferred Republican


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professionalism showed. County authorities tell us that with the completion of the new firehouse, currently underway near Charlie Brown’s Restaurant, land and water units will be able to respond even quicker to Marina fires. We may live in crowded quarters but we apparently still have the fire service well in hand.

Canals are worth a visit Just a few blocks from the Marina is one of the most quaint areas you’d ever want to visit. Or an absolute mess — depending on your outlook. The Venice canals wrap around the Marina, extending north from the Marina’s main channel from the Marina Peninsula. On our front page we present two Greg Wenger photos of the area north of the Marina. It’s a contrast to other areas of the canal. Had Greg swung his camera another few degrees he might have captured an entirely different mood. We hope our readers will take the time to stroll along the canals to see for themselves this interesting area at our doorstep. Then as the


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controversy grows on how to develop the canal area, there will be at least a few more local residents who have visited the area in question. December 14, 1972

10 Christmas Boat Parades By Darien Murray

Sunday evening we’ll all see the Pioneer Skippers’ Tenth Annual Christmas Boat Parade. All several thousand of us, plus anyone for miles around who turns on his television. And there will be very few who remember the first boat parade — for when it circled the main basin in 1963 there were approximately 100 boats in our Marina, and almost no buildings. Twenty of the hundred boats entered the parade. Margie and Steve Bragg, now part owners of the 83-foot schooner “Sirena”, were among the first hundred Marina del Rey boatowners who formed Pioneer Skippers. They and the other charter members decided to have a boat parade “because the harbor had nothing at that time,” Margie reflects. “We thought it was a good idea, and the County was delighted. Our boat parade would advertise the Marina, when nobody wanted to come here! The Marina had just opened,” recalls Margie, “and had no breakwater, no nothing except a few docks, and very few boatowners. “In those days, the surge was so strong that it was frightening. There were times when it threw the boats up on the docks — or threw the docks up in the air and down onto the boats. Sometimes we’d all grab axes we kept handy to cut the docklines quickly, before our boats were beaten under the docks. Then we’d all anchor out in the middle till it calmed down. “We were a very close group and we had dinners ashore and


Photographs are an important part of any newspaper. This visual history of the Marina depicts the love of boating, early construction and development, Fisherman’s Village, two original restaurants in Marina del Rey, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and some surrounding community photos. Various photos of Dave Johnson, interacting with the community, are included. All photos are by The Argonaut’s photographer, Greg Wenger, unless otherwise noted.

Dave Johnson at Fisherman’s Village


Aerial of the Marina as it is being built in 1964.

Aerial of the Marina in 1971 with the Jetty.


Mindanao & Lincoln where condominiums are planned — 2,300 units are proposed for the Marina del Rey Golf Course area shown above. The photo shows the four-lane highway under construction (middle of photo) which will link the Marina to the new Marina Freeway (off the photo, to the right). Individual residents of the Villa Marina condominiums shown in the foreground, right, have expressed opposition to the 2,300 units planned on the golf course. (Dec. 9, 1971)

Marina fair in the 1970’s.


Pet dumping in the Marina sparked controversy. Dave dedicated a number of columns exploring the issue from many different view points.


Ground breaking in Burton Chace Park, Aug. 2, 1972.

“Prince Louis” (May 1977) met a similar fate as the “Heddy,” see page 159.


“The Helmsman” in Burton Chace Park that was used as The Argonaut logo. The statue was designed for the Helms Bakery on Venice Boulevard and later donated to the park.

Tall ships sailing in front of Fisherman’s Village.


Iconic lighthouse at Fisherman’s Village


Aerial view of the Marina with the Marina City Club’s three buildings in the center.

Restaurant– formerly Charlie Brown’s restaurant, currently Tony P’s Dockside Grill.


Villa Venetia apartments at Fiji Way terminus

Windsurfing in the Marina


A view of the Marina City Club buildings

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) with theme building Encounter Restaurant and air traffic control tower


Dave Johnson in Cuba

Gas prices on Lincoln Blvd. (1971) 37.9¢

Horrors — Argonaut Editor and Publisher David Asper Johnson looks over the bulky draft environmental impact report for the proposed Playa Vista project. The draft EIR documents arrived in the box, at right. (Argonaut photo by Alan Eyerly)


Sampling of the many awards Dave Johnson received for his service to the community. Photographed by T.W. Brown


Pieces of Eight was the first restaurant in the Marina, currently Shanghai Red’s

Dave interacting with the community.


The California State Legislature had designated the Marina Freeway (Route 90) as the Richard M. Nixon Freeway, and the official dedication was Thursday, March 30th. When Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal, the name was changed back to the Marina Freeway. (3-23-1973 )

The Los Angeles County Supervisors had instructed that plastic flowers and plants be used for the median on Lincoln Boulevard to “beautify” the area, much to the amusement and indignation of locals, who thought it “ugly and inappropriate.”


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Committee and the Planning Committee. The acquisition line details bring the Playa del Rey and West Westchester community one step closer to some determination of what lies ahead with regard to the Los Angeles International Airport. The airport acquisition line map is being drawn to the approximate provisions of the state noise law. Airport officials are not allowed to suggest the airport buys land for anything but airport use. But the growing threat of lawsuits by neighbors because of noise and fume pollution and the growing concern for ecology has led airport officials to become more aware of their position with regard to the surrounding neighborhood. There is no doubt but that the acquisition line has been drawn with noise factors in mind, rather than immediate airport use of the parcels to be acquired. The recent years have been stormy ones in community relations


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“Every July and every week thereafter, Dave would call and ask, ‘Do you have a boat parade press release this week for me, Debbie?’ “Now I really wish he would call and bug me about that darned press release. “I know Dave will be watching our 44th Annual Holiday Boat Parade from the skies above Marina del Rey, and we will put on a fantastic show in memory of Dave Johnson and his years of support for the Marina’s most beloved event.” Cindy Williams, current president of the boat parade, recalls how her relationship with Dave began: “My relationship with Dave started out in a wordy way. In 1999 I became involved in the Marina del Rey Tournament of Lights Parade as prize chairperson. “That year, someone wrote a letter to the editor of The Argonaut wanting to know about the boat parade and about ‘what was in it for the boaters.’ “I thought to myself, ‘Obviously that person did not see the list of all the wonderful prizes I worked so hard to get, and I will write my own letter to the editor and let the person know just what was in it for the boaters.’ I wrote the letter and sent it off. “I couldn’t wait to get The Argonaut the next week and see the letter I wrote that would ‘put that person in their place.’ “Well, my letter was there, but so were comments from Dave; ‘While the prizes are impressive, the writer should answer the question that was asked.’ “How dare Dave write what he did, as I had answered the writer’s question. I felt a little embarrassed and told myself I would never write another letter to The Argonaut. Silly me! “In the next few years, especially after I became president of the boat parade, I found out how much Dave loved this special holiday event. “He called us regularly to find out what was happening and was always asking when we were sending the next press release. “I remember one year he came back from a trip early just so he


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could be at the boat parade. He reminded me of a big kid waiting for Santa to come. “In December of last year, Dave, as usual, called me to get the latest happenings with the boat parade. “Detecting a very stressed person on the other end of the phone, Dave showed up a couple of hours later at my office and stated that he didn’t want a ‘stressed boat parade president’ and handed me a box of Godiva chocolates. “This was such a warm and genuinely caring thing for him to do and took me totally by surprise. “He definitely helped bring my stress level down every day for the next month or so as I savored each piece of chocolate. “Dave was a friend of the boat parade, and his excitement and enthusiasm will be missed.” April 19, 2011

Willie Hjorth, owner of Mare Co Sails, remembers Dave Johnson When Dave heard about the Christmas Boat Parade, he wanted to be very involved in telling the world about it in his new newspaper. My late husband, John Hjorth, was more connected to Dave because of the Pioneer Skippers’ involvement with slip rates, dock maintenance, and boat slip evictions issues which Dave was interested in. I have always attributed the great success of the 70s and early 80s Christmas Boat Parades to the help Dave gave us in publicizing the event. The cachet surrounding the parade made it a desirable public relations event for notables such as Buddy Ebsen, Joey Bishop, Ernest Borgnine, Tony Danza, Barbara Rush, Ed McMahon and Florence Henderson, among many prominent grand marshals over the year. Decorated boat participation was extremely high, as well as spectator interest. All factors I attribute to David Asper Johnson’s expertise in knowing what stirs the public and how to get them into action. The Argonaut continues that tradition in its extensive coverage of events and informative advertisements.


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Looking back to how it all began. . . By Greg Wenger

Mimi and I, and our sons Howard and Stuart, were living in a Villa Marina townhouse on Fiji Way, on the east side of Lincoln Boulevard. That Thursday afternoon we were taking our usual walk up to Fisherman’s Village, and on our way back, I started talking about the Marina. I said that we were doing quite well with my photography business (had some good clients) but I sure would like to get some business here in Marina del Rey. If only there were a local newspaper, I could make a deal with the publisher to supply him with “scenic” filler photos (with my ID by each photo), in exchange for some free advertising. As we approached our front door, I noticed a newspaper on our doormat. I picked it up and read it out loud…The Argonaut Newspaper, Marina del Rey Volume 1, No. 1, Nov.25, 1971. I looked up skyward and said “Thank you, Lord,”....and so it started.

Epilogue Carol Hector continued to publish The Argonaut until her death September 5th, 2010, at home, at the age of 62. She had been diagnosed with lymphoma in January 2010, when she began treatment, and until recently before her death, expected to recover. The cause of death was believed to be complications of lymphoma. The Argonaut, Inc. board of directors named her partner, Arlene (Evie) Ruiz to succeed Hector as publisher of the newspaper. George Drury Smith, who retired as associate publisher a decade or so before Dave’s death, had remained as copy editor until the end of January 2009, but remained as chief financial officer (CFO) until late 2010, two months after the untimely death of Hector. Smith praises The Argonaut staff’s loyalty, longevity, and the adherence to, and the continuation of, David Asper Johnson’s legacy of journalistic integrity and devotion to the local community.


Where to find The Argonaut The Argonaut is a free paper with copies left at various locations throughout our coverage area. Some are in racks or newsstands while others are left in local businesses. We have over 1,000 locations stretching from Santa Monica to Los Angeles International Airport. Our coverage area includes Santa Monica, Venice, Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey, Mar Vista, Playa Vista, Del Rey, Westchester and portions of El Segundo, Culver City and West L.A. The Lloyd Taber-Marina del Rey Library contains the entire repository of all our issues. Published every Thursday, the paper can also be viewed online in its entirety in the e-edition at www.argonaut newspaper.com. Our editorial content allows reader commentary, and we encourage feedback. The online version includes ongoing directory listings for the community not available in the print version and searchable classified listings. The Argonaut continues to renew itself and remains the premiere source of information for its communities carrying on the traditions and standards of our founder, David Asper Johnson.


About the Author Helga Gendell has lived on the Westside since 1964. She was hired as a reporter for The Argonaut in July 2002. One of her most notable accomplishments was the weekly series of articles covering the history of Marina del Rey from its beginning into 1997. The series ran for 24 weeks, giving insightful details about the politics and engineering involved in accomplishing this feat. As well as how it almost didn’t happen. Some Argonaut readers loved the series so much that they requested the series be published as a book. Argonaut readers enjoy Gendell’s Musings column that covers a variety of subjects, including Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the proposed runway configurations. Additionally, she attends and writes about the Small Craft Harbor Commission and Marina del Rey Design Control Board meetings regarding development in the Marina. She also covers the Marina Affairs Committee, one of several committees of the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce. Dave Johnson said, “not only does she have great talent, but she is fun to be with, and that is often the most important thing in life.” After Gendell began writing for the newspaper, Johnson said that even after this short time, she has quite a fan base in the community and he admired her ability to distill the essential facts from lengthy, information-filled meetings.


Biography/History

$18.95

a

n enlightening and informative story of the beginning years of Marina del Rey told through the colorful eyes of David Asper Johnson as he begins his adventures in his first issue of The Argonaut newspaper (Nov. 25, 1971). His enthusiasm for the nascent Marina and his nose for news (and sometimes controversy) jumps from the page. Through a careful selection of articles, Helga Gendell tells the story of Dave’s progress — running his paper from the back of his car, when the Marina was a hot place for singles — following the progress of changes in the Marina over the years. For additional spice, cartoons drawn 40 years ago, specifically for The Argonaut, are included. Still relevant today (and still funny). Dave covered many important issues that faced the Marina and surrounding areas that are still pertinent today. This great book is complemented by other writers that contributed to the story, as well as a few articles that Dave wrote in his last years with us.

PHoToS By GR

eG WeNGeR

The Argonaut continues Dave’s great tradition of local and only local news.


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