Jim Morrison’s long-lost poetry cafe


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The space that was once the Venice West Cafe, where Ray Manzarek says he and friend Jim Morrison drank coffee, dropped acid and read Camus and Sartre, is poised to become a historic-cultural monument. The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission is expected to make its decision today about the Venice Boardwalk building, which housed the Venice West Cafe from 1958 to 1966.

Update: the building was recommended for historic-cultural monument status. The nomination is subject to review by the LA City Council.


In today’s paper, Martha Groves reports:

The Beat Generation in Venice had evolved in part in response to disillusionment with the Korean War, particularly among veterans. At 7 Dudley Ave., they found an escape from established norms where they could write and recite poetry, explore jazz and generally avoid what they deemed the soul-stifling workaday existence of their peers. The movement was analogous to the celebrated North Beach Beat scene in San Francisco. ... John Haag bought the cafe in 1962 and ran it with his wife, Anna, as a haven for underground artists. Haag, who died in 2006 at 75, co-founded the leftist Peace and Freedom Party in 1967.Soon after buying the cafe, Haag was arrested for holding poetry readings without a city permit. The case was later thrown out. After the building’s owner attempted to evict the coffeehouse, Haag quietly closed it in 1966.

If the loss of the cafe made an impact on alternative culture in Los Angeles, it wasn’t all bad -- if his hangout for poetry readings hadn’t closed down, Jim Morrison might never have invested his energies in fronting a rock band.

-- Carolyn Kellogg