November 29, 2017 at 1:52 pm PST | by Robert Williams
Promoting LA’s newest icon is a priority for Venice Pride

Venice Pride has created a groovy little icon. (Photo by Robert Williams)

Venice Pride has created souvenir model kits of the Venice Pride Flag Lifeguard Tower to be sold at LAX and other retailers by January, and available now at venicepride.org. Proceeds of the $35 model kits, which are made in Venice by Studio eQ, will benefit Camp Lightbulb, a nonprofit that hosts magical, week-long sleep-away camps for LGBT youth ages 14-18.

Venice Pride and General Admission hosted a party to celebrate the launch of the model kits on #GivingTuesday at General Admission in Venice. Representatives from Venice Pride and Camp Lightbulb spoke of the tower’s message of acceptance and the positive impact Camp Lightbulb has on queer youth as attendees to the ticketed event sipped cocktails and listened to beats by DJ Glen Walsh.

The Tower, located at the end of Brooks Ave on the recently-named Bill Rosendahl Memorial Beach, was transformed from its traditional baby blue color into a rainbow pride flag by local artist Patrick Marston and husband Michael Brunt to celebrate diversity and commemorate Venice Pride in June of this year.

“Dubbed the most Instagramable lifeguard tower in the world, its universal message of acceptance and saving lives is empowering people and communities everywhere to be ambassadors for social good and advocate for equality,” Venice Pride’s website says about the tower.

It’s instagramable. (Photo by Robert Williams)

Venice Pride chose Camp Lightbulb to benefit from the model because Camp Lightbulb’s Winter Camp is based on the Westside of Los Angeles and provides a needed resource to gay youth and their families.

“Growing up gay in Ohio there were very few places with resources for gay teens,” Venice Pride founder and president Grant Turck told the Los Angeles Blade.

“It’s amazing there is an organization out there like Camp Lightbulb offering a place not only for LGBT youth, but also for parents to send their kids to a camp. There was nothing like this when I was growing up so to have something like this now is a huge opportunity,” Turck said.

Camp Lightbulb, now in its fifth year, currently has a summer camp in Provincetown, Mass., a spring break camp in New York City, as well as its LA-based winter camp.

Gina Bettinsole’s son attends Camp Lightbulb camps and says the camp changes lives.

“Camp Lightbulb gave my son an opportunity to be himself for the first time ever,” Bettinsole, who is on the board of Camp Lightbulb, told The Blade.

“Before he came out to others, he had a week at Camp Lightbulb and was able to explore who he was and meet kids who are like himself. When he came home from camp he was the happiest he had been since the 4th grade. Camp gave him the courage to come out to his friends because he realized he was ok just the way he is,” Bettinsole said.

Camp Lightbulb founder Puck Markham says the model kits are important because of the visibility they bring the gay community.

“For Venice Pride to turn this lifeguard station into a new landmark with the rainbow colors is extremely key for visibility. The fact they are using it as a springboard to engage the community on the Westside is fantastic,” Markham said.

“And, that is what we do at Camp Lightbulb – its about visibility and creating community,” he said.

Puck Markham (L) and Grant Turck. (Photo by Robert Williams)

Turck and George Francisco, a local film producer, came up with the idea to paint the tower like a rainbow flag as a way marry two iconic symbols – the California lifeguard tower and the Pride flag, a symbol of LGBT freedom. It has since become the Hollywood sign of the Westside.

Venice Pride has sought to restore the beach town’s once fading gay allure.  In addition to establishing Venice Pride in response to closure of an iconic community gathering spot, the legendary Roosterfish Bar, the board of Venice Pride has acted aggressively to increase LGBT visibility on several fronts and to ensure financial viability for itself.

Last summer Venice Pride bought the name “RoosterFish” and licensed it to a local restaurant and bar owner who reopened and now operates the legendary gay bar, providing an evergreen revenue stream for the organization. They played off establishment of the Bill Rosendahl Beach, a beachfront area in honor of LA’s first out gay office holder, and successfully obtained permission from LA County to permanently alter a LifeGuard Tower with rainbow colors.

For more information on Camp Lightbulb, visit camplightbulb.org.

© Copyright Los Angeles Blade, LLC. 2017. All rights reserved.