by Jim Smith, Venice Chapter of the Peace and Freedom Party

Carol Berman died January 9. She was known to Beachhead readers as Carol Fondiller. By whatever name, Carol was a true Venetian. She was a writer par excellence, a poet, a thespian, and a political activist whose caustic wit made more than one politician and landlord tremble.

She was found around 4:30 pm in her small unit in the 5 Rose Avenue apartments after friends grew worried about her not answering her telephone. The cause of death is unknown at this time, but Carol had been in poor health for the last several years. However, she seemed to be recovering from a month-long bout with the flu.

Carol came to Venice in the early 1960s and hung out at the Venice West Cafe where she met John Haag, Stuart Perkoff and the other Beat poets and artists. As the sixties progressed and became more political, Carol was an activist in the Free Venice movement, including the Venice Survival Committee and the Free Venice Theater Group, which put on plays at the Venice Pavilion. Carol was one of the last of the leaders of the sixties movement in Venice.

She was a founder of the Free Venice Beachhead. Nearly every issue since 1968 has borne her imprint. She served on the Beachhead Collective more times and longer than any other person. She wrote more articles for the Beachhead than anyone else. Carol could have had a media career with much larger newspapers or magazines but she choose to focus on her community, Venice. The current Beachhead reprinted an article by Carol, entitled The CRUD Conspiracy, which was originally published January 1970.

Carol was involved in every aspect of her adopted city. She was arrested several times for standing up for free speech, including the right to distribute flyers on the Ocean Front Walk. She once ran on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket against Tom Hayden for state assembly. A couple of years ago, Carol was crowned "Queen of Venice" by her friends. She said she had mixed feelings about the monarchy, but accepted the title in deference to her friends.

The issue dearest to her heart was low income housing. Carol believed that poor people had the right to live in decent homes near the beach. At the time of her death, she was a member of the Board of Directors of the Coalition for Economic Survival. For several years, she served as the CES representative on the National Alliance of HUD (Housing and Urban Development) Tenants.

She was appointed by Councilmember Ruth Galanter to a committee to review development proposals for Venice. Carol succeeded to reducing the size and/or including low income housing in many buildings throughout Venice. She also was instrumental in stopping other developments that she believed were unsuited to Venice.

At the time of her death, Carol was working on an article on preserving low income housing at the Holiday Venice apartments in Oakwood.

Carol Berman Fondiller
June 22, 1936 - Jan. 9, 2010
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