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Visit the Venice Electric Light Parade for a COVID-19 escape

Visit the Venice Electric Light Parade for a COVID-19 escape 2020-09-18Leave a comment

electrical bike Go to the Venice Electrical Gentle Parade for a COVID-19 escape

It’s Sunday nearing sundown and the each day carnival that’s the Venice Seashore Boardwalk must be winding down, besides right here at Windward Plaza Park extra individuals are streaming in than heading for his or her vehicles. They usually’re all on wheels.

Sebastian “The Gentle Man” Butler (“Get lit or get hit”) is in his standard Sunday spot, promoting $40 strips of LED lights and serving to prospects with set up. Close by, a lanky man with shaggy silver hair and in-line skates is using a bicycle in circles across the park, weaving out and in of the gang, his skates balanced awkwardly on the pedals. And a glamorous girl with lengthy, auburn locks is frantically tying one more material butterfly onto a bicycle so laden with purple and pink wings, lights and streamers it’s exhausting to inform there’s a motorcycle there in any respect.

Lisa Mitchell of Los Angeles waits with her electric unicycle for the start of the Venice Electric Light Parade on Aug. 16.

Lisa Mitchell of Los Angeles waits together with her electrical unicycle for the beginning of the Venice Electrical Gentle Parade on Aug. 16.

(Christina Home / Los Angeles Instances)

Close by, surrounded by music at chest-thrumming quantity, James Lightning, a tall, imposing man greatest often known as Mad, stands quietly by his black electrical bicycle that’s towing a trailer with an enormous speaker on the again and an iPad connected to the entrance so he can simply management his tunes and his lights. He’s dressed all in black, from his helmet to his masks to his dishevelled jacket and pants, and other people talk about him reverentially as a result of he’s a Venice legend, the person credited with making in-line skating an artwork on the boardwalk within the Eighties and lauded in a documentary about that point referred to as “Roller Dreams.” Awestruck folks level him out in whispers, giving him extensive berth, and Mad, who’s pleasant to anybody who approaches him, in any other case lets his music do the speaking.

Extra bikes with sound programs arrive, blaring R&B and salsa, together with folks on skateboards carrying elaborately lit-up backpacks. Because the sky darkens, the lights get flashier, and the din makes all conversations shouted.

And within the midst of the cacophony strides maybe the one man with the facility to summon the Gentle Man and Mad and almost 300 different folks from throughout Southern California on this Labor Day weekend. He’s carrying spherical light-up glasses that twirl with colour and fluorescent exercise garments in a colour he calls highlighter yellow. Even the soles of his footwear are flashing fluorescent.

That is the Captain, recognizable by his lengthy, white dreadlocks woven with beads and hair jewellery that signify the issues he loves — horses, bushes, fish and, in fact, bicycles. The Captain, a.ok.a. Marcus Gladney, 46, is the founding father of this 5-year-old weekly descent into joyful insanity, the Venice Electrical Gentle Parade, which takes place every Sunday at nightfall, open to anybody with wheels and a want for enjoyable.

Gif of light-covered wheels

(Ana Gómez Bernaus / For The Instances)

As sundown approaches, the voices and music merge right into a quieter hum; we’re ready for the sign to start out. Dozens of individuals on one, two and 4 wheels are turning on their lights and searching expectantly towards Gladney’s huge seaside bike, Massive Crimson, which seems to be prefer it’s been dipped in LED lights — 5,000 to be actual — wrapped across the spokes and handlebars and each inch of body. Like Mad, Gladney has a trailer connected to his bike to hold his audio system and a battery to energy his lights. In contrast to Mad, Gladney’s bike is just not motorized; he has to pedal and preserve on the entrance of the pack.

The sign comes about 7 p.m. Gladney performs the parade’s theme tune — “Sundays@Sunset” by his girlfriend’s daughter Meilin Chen Fefee and William Barry — as folks jostle towards the entrance of the gang, after which Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” blares from Gladney’s speaker, one of many official begin songs for the parade. Gladney flips on his lights, making Massive Crimson glow like a celestial being, and there’s a momentary, dumbfounded hush. Then he’s off, using west on the bike path towards the Santa Monica Pier, with not less than 100 different dazzling riders whooping and zooming in his wake.

The Electrical Gentle Parade, arguably considered one of L.A.’s least recognized and most beloved traditions, is Gladney’s brainchild, and he tends it faithfully each Sunday. The one occasions it’s been canceled had been for rain or for a couple of months this spring, when the seashores had been closed as a result of coronavirus.

Gladney stated he was 40, proprietor of a carpet-cleaning and water-extraction enterprise, when he left his hometown of Kansas Metropolis, Mo., to maneuver to Los Angeles in 2014, partly to observe a then-girlfriend’s Hollywood desires and partly to discover a area of interest for himself.

After six months, she’d had sufficient and went house.

“I’m nonetheless right here,” Gladney stated.

When Marcus Gladney lights up the 5,000 LEDs on his bike "Big Red," it glows like a celestial being.

When Marcus Gladney lights up the 5,000 LEDs on his bike, Massive Crimson, it glows like a celestial being.

(Christina Home / Los Angeles Instances)

These first few months after their breakup had been lonely, Gladney stated. He didn’t know anybody. However daily, all day, he spent his time at Venice Seashore. “I used to be having fun with the tradition, the boardwalk, the folks, the music, the incense burning. … Venice Seashore is my coronary heart.”

He wasn’t bicycling at that time; he hadn’t since he was a child. And daily, he’d depart the seaside at sundown, “as a result of everybody stated, ‘Don’t be in Venice after sundown; it will get loopy.’”

However house was lonely — a small condo with nothing to do — and after a number of weeks, Gladney stated he obtained curious. “I made up my thoughts to remain on the seaside and see what occurs at night time. And that’s once I began seeing all these folks using bicycles with lights on their wheels. It was a tremendous sight. I requested a man, ‘The place do you get these lights from? And he stated, ‘Sebastian the Gentle Man.’ And the subsequent day, I purchased a motorcycle and began using.”

Then he discovered Butler and spent $20 that night time on two 7-foot strings of LED lights to wrap round his wheel spokes. Extra vital, Gladney had discovered a buddy, hanging out with Butler as he offered his LEDs and finally serving to him set up lights on prospects’ wheels. Butler used his personal light-decorated bike to lure prospects, and Gladney quickly realized the Gentle Man had a following amongst native celebrities who most popular to journey their bikes at night time, below cowl of darkness.

Sebastian  "The  Light Man" Butler outfits a bicycle with strips of LED lights before the Venice Electric Light Parade.

Sebastian “The Gentle Man” Butler outfits a bicycle with strips of LED lights earlier than the Venice Electrical Gentle Parade.

(Christina Home / Los Angeles Instances)

“I used to be amazed in any respect the celebrities he knew,” Gladney stated. One night time, three males in fits requested how a lot it might price to lease their bikes for a scene in a brand new late-night speak present. “I checked out Sebastian and he stated, ‘$100 apiece.’”

The next night at Windward Plaza a British man stepped out of a black Mercedes-Benz. “He launched himself as James Corden and stated he was beginning a brand new present referred to as ‘The Late Late Show,’” Gladney recalled. “I stated, ‘Who’s going to be as much as watch it?’ And he stated, ‘Hopefully everyone, mate.’”

Corden got on Gladney’s bike, and the plan was for him to journey it in circles across the plaza for the cameras. “He was using in these hard-soled costume footwear, his ft slipping off the pedals, and I used to be considering to myself, ‘Please don’t wreck on my bike.’”

After the Corden encounter, Gladney stated he started to see many extra LED prospects. He put a number of strands of lights on his wheels and body, mixing pink and yellow “so the bike appeared prefer it was on fireplace.” Folks reacted with delight, Butler obtained extra gross sales, and Gladney had an epiphany.

“These lights make folks glad. They made me actually glad once I first noticed them,” he stated, “so I requested Sebastian, ‘Has anybody ever began an organized biking occasion with lights?’ And no one had, as a result of no one had the imaginative and prescient.”

Marcus Gladney, founder of the Venice Electric Light Parade, wears eyeglasses decked with lights.

Marcus Gladney, founding father of the Venice Electrical Gentle Parade, wears eyeglasses outfitted with lights.

(Christina Home / Los Angeles Instances)

And that’s how the Venice Electrical Gentle Parade started in November 2015: Gladney using his bike within the Venice nightfall, inviting others to hitch, free of charge, each Sunday at sundown.

The primary group had about 60 riders, nevertheless it didn’t take lengthy for the numbers to develop. Now it’s usually 100 to 150 riders, he stated, and on Labor Day weekend the quantity swelled to 300.

“I stated, ‘I’m going to start out a bicycle parade for everybody, and I’ll be like Willy Wonka and the Pied Piper mixed,’” he stated. “Willy Wonka is my favourite, my absolute favourite, with all the colours and magic and making folks really feel welcome. … I’m speaking the Gene Wilder model now, the opposite is simply too darkish.”


Using within the parade is each thrilling and terrifying, all these glimmering bikes jockeying for place on a path that feels too slim to accommodate us all. Bystanders holding cellphones line the path, grinning or gaping on the passing present, and as soon as once more it’s exhausting to know the place to look, on the noisy, glittering line of cyclists or the myriad faces as we whiz previous.

All of it appears so surreal that Gladney’s Willy Wonka obsession abruptly makes good sense, particularly the 1971 film’s title song, which begins:

“Include me and also you’ll be
In a world of pure creativeness….”

Cyclists flash by in the Venice Electric Light Parade on Aug. 16.

Cyclists flash by within the Venice Electrical Gentle Parade on Aug. 16.

(Christina Home / Los Angeles Instances)

It doesn’t take lengthy to succeed in Santa Monica Pier, the place we journey beneath and into the car parking zone, weaving previous startled drivers and drained beachgoers trying to find their vehicles. It’s each stunning and absurd. Households with excited youngsters wave and name as we head again to the Santa Monica boardwalk after which, a brief distance from the tony Shutters lodge, we go a unadorned girl writhing to some music solely she will be able to hear, seemingly oblivious to the snickering folks close by or the stream of lighted bikes.

The music of the parade modifications relying on the place you journey, since each fourth bike appears to have its personal sound system. For those who gawk an excessive amount of, you fall behind, and Pablo Nieves, considered one of Gladney’s many parade highway displays, gently encourages you to maintain up.

Nieves describes himself as a disabled veteran who boxed for the U.S. Military and earned titles because the European champion. He’s 64 now and will get Botox pictures each 30 days to assist relieve his horrible complications. However using his bike each Sunday is an enormous assist too.

“I assist Marcus. Marcus is my buddy,” says Nieves. “And I’m right here each Sunday at sundown. I inform folks, it’s the place to be anytime you need to get out of your head.”


All of it appears lighthearted, however for Gladney and his partner-girlfriend, Sherry Fefee, Sundays are lots of work. There’s no cost to be within the parade, however a couple of years in the past short-term rental corporations advised Gladney that their tenants needed to hitch the parade however couldn’t discover bikes to journey. Most seaside rental outlets shut at sundown, so Gladney made the plunge: He bought 15 bikes, wrapped them with lights and rents them out for $80 an evening. He and Fefee reside in downtown L.A., in order that they lease a big storage unit in Venice, a few mile from the boardwalk, and preserve all their bikes there.

Marcus Gladney commissioned a Muppet-style puppet of himself to help promote the electric light parade on social media.

Venice Electrical Gentle Parade founder Marcus Gladney commissioned a Muppet-style puppet of himself to assist promote the parade on social media.

(Marcus Gladney)

Establishing takes time and effort. They arrive in Venice a few hours earlier than the parade begins to examine in renters and get them snug on their bikes.

Gladney calls Fefee the “spine” of his parade, and their Sunday routine is ready like clockwork. Fefee additionally works 12-hour shifts as a nursing director in Orange County. In the course of the top of the pandemic she was getting 15 to 18 calls an evening about COVID sufferers, he stated, so whereas the parade is figure, it’s additionally remedy. “She wants the parade to clear her thoughts.”

Gladney markets the parade and the bike leases on social media, and even had a Muppet-style puppet, full with white dreads, designed in his picture to assist entice eyeballs. He’s additionally began designing and constructing autos for Burning Man, a nine-day arts-and-community occasion within the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, the place fanciful LED-encrusted bikes are de rigueur. “At Burning Man, he who has the brightest bike will get probably the most ladies … or most guys,” he stated.

Some cyclists in the Venice Electric Light Parade have devices that project light and shapes on the pavement as they ride.

Some cyclists within the Venice Electrical Gentle Parade even have units that undertaking gentle and shapes on the pavement as they journey.

(Christina Home / Los Angeles Instances)

The pandemic shut down Burning Man this 12 months, however Gladney has even greater objectives. “I’ve been doing the parade for 5 years, and I do know I can’t do it endlessly.” Ultimately, he’d love to guide night time rides in different elements of town, to advertise secure biking at night time, however greater than something he’d prefer to create an animated tv present primarily based on the Venice Electrical Gentle Parade.

“It could function us in actual time, in actual life, using below the Venice signal, after which change to live-action animation the place all of us flip into little youngsters on bikes, selling secure biking at night time, educating us how you can be good folks and fixing issues, like discovering a misplaced canine or serving to a cat caught up in a palm tree.”

He envisions a healthful present like an old-style Saturday morning cartoon, one which teaches accountability and values, “that even homeless individuals who could have made unhealthy selections are nonetheless people deserving of our kindness, and that cops are actually our pals.”

Gladney stated he aspired to be a state trooper earlier than he dropped out of faculty, and he has an in depth buddy who works as a police officer. He’s watched the protests exterior his downtown condo, however he hasn’t gotten concerned. The Black Lives Matter motion troubles him “as a result of all lives matter to me,” he stated. “I’ve a comfortable spot for folks as a result of I do know everyone has a mother, everyone has a dad.”


Marcus Gladney and his bike, Big Red.

Marcus Gladney and his Massive Crimson, an oversize seaside bike wrapped with 5,000 LEDs.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Instances)

In contrast to lots of the folks wandering the boardwalk, most parade members begin the parade carrying a masks, however we rapidly be taught it’s exhausting to bicycle any distance carrying a masks, particularly with glasses on. They get so fogged up it’s inconceivable to see the highway forward, so many individuals who began with a masks at the moment are using with faces free to the wind. We’re separated sufficient that it feels secure, till we cease and crowd collectively ready for a light-weight. We’re nonetheless pretty separated by our bikes, however some folks fumble for his or her masks as we wait.

A fast whirl across the site visitors circle at Windward Avenue and we’re heading again to the boardwalk, this time towards our closing vacation spot, the top of West Washington Boulevard in Marina del Rey. After all of the fantastical lights of the bikes, the conventional lighting exterior the block’s eating places and bars appears garish and a bit unhappy. Gladney walks by way of the gang, telling everybody it’s the official finish of the parade, however he can’t linger right here. Some folks will keep to drink and socialize, however he and Fefee and all their bike rental folks must journey a couple of extra miles again to the storage unit.

Everybody’s drained and a bit subdued by the point we arrive. Gladney arms out a memento shirt to one of many renters because the others limp to their vehicles. However this can be a candy fatigue, and the exhilaration of the journey lingers.

“That is about folks having a very good time,” Gladney says, “and loving each other.”

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