California Obscura: Josh "Bagel" Klassman

Our friend Josh "Bagel" Klassman has been documenting Venice Beach since the early 80's. In an era that was formative for the Surf, Skate, and creative scenes, Bagel wasn't just documenting what was happening at the time he was very much a part of the culture himself. We asked him to share with us some of his favorite memories along with a few words of that moment in time. The good times captured here would go on to influence industries and cultures worldwide for generations to come. At a time where the beach community was undergoing rapid change the timeless authenticity that came from here would forever leave its mark on the world.
Jay Adams (RIP) and Jackie Pucci. This was taken in 1988. It was the first time Jay and Jackie met, two Venice icons. She gave him the ticket and Jay fully accepted it and laughed with her. Every store and restaurant that was in this photo are no longer there.
Scott Oster skating the Venice Pavilion in 1988. Scotty was known for his style both on a board and for fashion. He’s the only person I know that could wear a Venice Beach tank top from one of the vendors at the boardwalk and make it look cool. Converse Chuck Taylor’s and socks were the main things we bought from the boardwalk vendors cloths wise. We never wore the touristy shit they sold. Scotty was either in need of a tank top right then and there, or he did it as a fashion statement faux pas on purpose and knew he could get away with it. I’m not 100% on this, but I would guess either one was the case.
Jay Adams (RIP) and Mark Ngoho. I love the diversity in this photo. The kids in the background. The graffiti. 1988.
Joey Tran-Vo. Joey had the most solid smooth style with so much power for a guy his age. He was already skating like a man by the time he was a teen. This was the Pole Jam in 1989.
This is the legendary band the Horny Toads playing a local gig at the Venice Pavilion in 1993. There were gigs there during the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. It seemed like there were a lot more gigs when I was kid and pre-teen in the 70’s and early 80’s.
It’s either 1987 or 1988. It was more a rite of passage in a way to do graffiti but not everyone was good at it. I was horrible with it, I was sloppy. Some people were incredible with a can. That style of lettering was pretty meticulous, most guys were able to do that around here.
This was a pool party in Santa Monica in 1994. That’s Jesse “The Mess” Martinez. He busted his knuckles up that day. He was skating so incredible this day. But then again he always does to this very day.
Alex “Flaco” Lora, Joff “Gamera” Drinkwater, Jay “Zipperhead” Adams (RIP), Eric “Pony Boy” Dressen, Scott Oster, and some lop. They were taking a break from skating and hanging out. It’s either 1987 or 1988.
Eric “Tuma” Britton, 1987.
Adam “Penguin” Villa, 1988. This wasn’t staged. I had just loaded the film into the camera and was taking a shot of just Adam and the cop came up out of nowhere and did what he’s doing in the photo and said “Don’t tell him until you get the film developed”. Or course I told him immediately. Bronze Age was an old Venice born clothing company that mixed gangster, surf, skate culture all together in their clothing. They use to have a skate and surf shop at the Venice Circle called Circle Skate & Surf. That’s where we were hanging out at when I took this photo.
Ghost, Lefty, Jimbo, Slugo, Venice Suicidal / Venice Punx. 1988.
This is 1988. Hosoi at that time was the best of the best. He was flawless with so much power, style and flow.
Jay Adams (RIP) and Chuck Katz getting pulled over on Venice Way on the way to skate a pool. This was Chuck’s second ticket this day. He got one on the way down to meet us. 1988.
This is a photo of two cops about to fuck with an old school Crip minding his own business. That wall you see in the background is now the Venice skatepark.
Eric “Tuma” Britton, Joey Tran-Vo, Eric “Lil Man” Garber. Underage smokers smoking a joint at the Venice Break Water / Venice Pavilion, 1987.
My friend Brian Zarate Dahlheimer (RIP) and I came up with that in 1989 when we were 19. That’s the old VBWL wall where the Venice skatepark is now. We were just starting to really feel the attitude of entitlement that was moving into Venice at that time. We were mad at the fact that people loved to purge our culture, and took from it, and then tried everything to sterilize it, clean it up, and claim it as theirs. We don’t do clean in Venice. We hated the people that moved in and lived there for a few months and met a local or two, kissed their asses, and then they thought that their shit didn’t stink and that they were from Venice all of a sudden, they felt entitled, and they got ran out and would burn out rather quickly, all of them. We loathed the people that moved in and would talk tons of shit to the locals and act all big and bad, but then would run to the authorities the second they were called out and threatened in return, so what was ok for them wasn’t ok for others, that is a very entitled way of thinking. Ugly box houses were going up in place of cool old original buildings and houses. They wanted to doll up the grit and funk that made Venice beautiful to begin with. I understand that you can’t stop progress, but I also understand that it’s asinine to strip away the very foundation that gave an area its character in the first place. All people and businesses have to do is flow with the community and people will embrace them, but when they don’t they create an Us vs Them situation. I have so many friends that moved into Venice from other places over the years that fit right in and flowed, they came in respectful and became people that we had mutual respect for and they became local. Same with certain business that gave to, helped out, and became a part of the community, their names became synonyms with Venice. So I told Bri, “This has to be about everyone, not just some surfing thing. Write just because you pay rent here doesn’t mean you’re a local”. Bri took the can and put up his handy work massive on that wall. It was in a spot that you couldn’t avoid seeing it. We knew it would make people uncomfortable. Making people uncomfortable get’s their attention in a way that makes them have to ask “Are they talking about me”, and or it makes them think “Dam, they’re talking about me”.