Everybody Gets Shot In L.A.

Most photographers come to L.A. to shoot movie stars. I shoot everybody else. The young and the restless. The bold and the beautiful. The good, the bad and the ugly.

A resource by Bravo Valenti

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For four years, street photographer Bravo Valenti turned his camera on the real L.A.- its youth culture and alternative lifestyles, its bizarre urban mediascape, its natural beauty. He shot the hipsters and the Hasidim, the bus stops and the homeless, the aspiring models and the burnt out vagabonds of Hollywood Boulevard. And here, for the first time, in this poem, he tells his story and the story of his city, a slice of America unlike any other, captured by an artist unlike any other:

Everybody Gets Shot In L.A. A poem by Bravo Valenti (c) 2020 All Rights Reserved. Photograph "Bad Bunny" by Bravo Valenti (c) 2020 All Rights Reserved

Hollywood Boulevard, you are my Ganges River, the pungent incense that thickens the cold night air like the cremated bodies of your tent city homeless Floating like bats suspended over freeways Lost Angeles, lost cause, lost dogs, lost wallets, lost car keys Lost lives and lost opportunities to shine like Kali or Krishna or A knish you wish you could have noshed on when you were on The Lower East Side instead of the gluten free breadline of the hungry, hopeless and hapless hippies tripping through your soundbath meditations until the homeless and the Om-less are baptized in the metallic muddy waters of your bluesy traffic jams

You are my Ganges and gas stations and garbage and go-go girls who sunset strip for me in coke-fueled fantasies, Russian dancers who squirt like childhood water guns before the days of schoolchildren spraying bullets across classrooms and class warfare that will never happen until the 99% do the math they failed in high school

Hollywood Boulevard you are my Last Tango In Tangerineland, my cinematic sine qua non of nonsense and non-being, by being so real you are surreal, a dolly shot and a Dalí shot and a Disney movie at Grauman’s and everybody got shot in LA and I shot them, I shot the sheriff, I shot the pool boy on Sunset Boulevard, wilder than Billy Wilder, Mr. DeMille I shot you, too, as cold as stone, at Hollywood Forever!

I am ready for my close-up.

The broken bottle necks whose sparkly green shards sharp enough to cut a man’s throat and probably will somewhere tonight inside a tent where no one is watching, would rather be a fingered slide on the fretted neck of a Dobro, screeching in high notes of Delta pain, “how is it in 2020 in America I am still a slave, bruh? Why am I convinced it is entirely my own fault?”

"Who can I blame, if not myself, the countless mistakes and bad behaviors that got me here, the weed I smoked, like everyone else did, just like the judge and the jury and their kids did, and the years behind bars, where I first tasted my own urge for violence and so I know it is all my fault that I had to learn the ways of survival among caged men, lonely men, angry men, tortured men, abused men, psychotic men, violent men, strung out men, White men, Black men, Brown men, American men?" Goodbye Marty, may you rest in peace. I’m sorry Edgar for never visiting you. Please forgive me for I have sinned.

Hollywood Boulevard, you are the card I was dealt, yes I must play my cards with you, Not the Pantheon with its giant third eye Oculus eternal city open to the finger of God. Not Gaudí’s glorious facades of Barça but the gaudiness of Madame Tussaud taught me how to wax poetic

Here where I shutterbug my way past the stoned goths and gawking goofy girls from Pomona, the Stonehenge of Visigoths and Temples of Jerusalem distant memories, crumbling karmic crust, recycled DNA, chromosomes gone the way of Kodachrome and Brylcreme, now everyone is a sort of reverse William Tell shooting with an Apple

Phoney photography ten stories high maybe higher, photos that defy gravity suspended above the depravity of consumerism while the victims of Iraq of drug wars of no health insurance of Republican parties of one percent solutions to their own egomania the victims of Trumpsters and dumpsters are the homes of Americans the feeding grounds of elderly the junk piles of junkies and meth addicts the refuse of the Great American Pharmacopeia that demonizes mind expansion and monetizes the destruction of human life with IPO’s made of opioids and complex financial instruments of mass destruction and distraction that fuel your 401K.

See that giant gun pointed at you from the ten story high billboard, starring your favorite Hollywood star? “OMG, I wonder what that movie’s about?” you text your friend your cousin your Tinder date knowing full well it’s about 90 minutes long and the exact same thing as the last one hundred and thirty two movies you saw that were advertised on a ten story high billboard with a star pointing a gun at you and you never asked yourself if there is somehow a link between the NRA and Hollywood, how could that be, these are the liberals the leftists the queers the Democrats that run this town, couldn’t be possible could it be that they are making us gun addicts it can’t possibly be any more, say, than that the tobacco industry ever had anything to do with the glamorous smoking stars of yesteryear whose smoke got in your eyes and your lungs, the stars the stars the stars who will one day be cemented into the sidewalk below your feet, the sacred sidewalk passageway that passes through the portal between Earth and Heaven, like that exact point where Michelangelo’s Godly finger almost touches the hand of Man, and there you are, looking up, worshipping, worshipping, worshipping, because thou shalt have no other gods before Me

Hollywood Boulevard you are my Mississippi River, an America gone with the wind, my Huckleberry friend, my Moon River, my waterway to the West, my California dreamin’, my mama and my papa, my lovin’ spoonful of cocaine

Here I am, camera ready, ready to shoot everyone, ready for my mass shooting because everybody gets shot in LA by this child of the Nile, visited by Ginsburg, by Warhol, by Vasarely, my optical nerve twisted into a knot, not because I love you, not because you scream, just because I kissed a girl behind the magazine stand selling cover after cover of stars, lives so fantabulous so fantastical, blown up, like the collagen injected lips of the girl I kissed behind the magazine stand, her lips as blown up as the wax lips we wore on Halloween, remember those? Do they still sell those? Oh oh oh do you remember Slinkys did they have Slinkys when you were a kid? What about Silly Putty? Remember Silly Putty?

I floated down the Nile once, and avoided the massacre of the first born males by the skin of my teeth, while Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs played in the background or was it Pharoah Sanders or Johnny Rivers? I can’t recall. My father handed me so many albums, so much vinyl etched with centuries and continents of magical musical mystery and the explosion of song and sound that filled my childhood with prophecies and predictions by poets and rock stars who built this city and pumped her hills with money and madness and Tuscan views and whimsy and castles and labyrinthine streets where you can buy a map to see their homes just to get to see their homes and just to get for a second to imagine to dream to wonder what it must be like to be them, but it’s not their fault that they helped carry us on the currents of radio waves and video signals and vinyl, who now meander through our lives as leafless streams, merrily merrily merrily for life is but an American dream, who broadcast our own madness, who reenact our hypocrisy, who immortalize our corruption, and even those whose fortunes were the silliness and stupidity of soap suds and sappiness, of blabber and talk and more talk and endless talk and now it’s time for a word from our sponsor, at least theirs is not the wealth of prisons and bombs and destruction, just the mindless distraction so the rest of us can somehow make it through the day and through the week and through the years and through the decades so we can save enough to come see their homes and Hollywood Boulevard and tiptoe over the tentless houseless who call this city home yet who we call homeless, like Tiny Tim tiptoed through the tulips.

Elizabeth Taylor’s mascara’d Cleopatra eyes stare lovingly at me, just a baby in a basket, in the papyrus bulrushes, if only she would hand me a crayon I would scribble on the paper I would weave from these reeds, the words “Thank you I love you,” for rescuing me from the slaughter, for they were all forgotten, all those other first born Jewish males, and only I, Charleton Heston, the Moses of the National Rifle Association, who received ten semi-automatic weapons from God at Mt. Sinai and handed them down to our children to slaughter each other, you will only remember me, and I can now rest in peace knowing I have fueled the ultra-violence that is tearing America apart while Lana Del Rey sings me to sleep, yes it is a waking dream, a lucid dream I dream, I dream with my eyes open, I shoot from my third eye camera, I look past the veil of illusion and decode the patterns of good and evil until I capture you, yes you, the young and the restless, the bold and the beautiful, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Young Americans, young Americans, I remember President Nixon, I was on the floor of the Republican convention with an anti-war sign before I was old enough to vote, before I was young enough to be drafted, and I don’t know why I didn’t join a rock and roll band, but I didn’t, or why I didn’t go to auditions, but I didn’t, or why I didn’t write The Great American Novel but I didn’t or why I didn’t become the next Martin Scorsese but I didn’t or why I never did stand-up, but I didn’t.

But I did shoot everybody in LA. My St. Valentine’s Day massacre. So fuck you. This is my town now. Everybody gets shot in LA. Fucking everybody. Now get on the tour bus, because the first house we’re going to visit is mine, and it’s being foreclosed on.

My Inspiration

As the result of a devastating mid-life crisis that culminated with a senseless homicide with a handgun I had purchased for an ex-wife who had lost her mind, our grown son- a film student at the time in Los Angeles- handed me his professional camera and a couple of lenses, when he suspected that I was a frustrated photographer after seeing a couple of interesting photos I had shot with my iPhone. Concerned that I was drifting into despair, he sought to give me an outlet, a hobby, an interest, that might take me out of my emotional rut. Handing me his camera and lenses, he instructed me to go to Santa Monica Beach around sunset - what photographers call "magic hour" - on a cool November day around Thanksgiving in 2017 and to not so much take pictures as to "look through one lens, then the other, and look towards the sun, and point the camera away from the sun, and come home and tell me if you notice anything." And so I did, and instantly, as I looked through first the wide angle lens and then the telephoto lens, I was transformed into a photographer who understood that photography was a portal to another dimension. It was as if someone had put LSD in my tea. I never looked at the world- or myself- the same again. I began posting my daily photographs on Instagram as @EverybodyGetsShotInLA and did not spend one minute away from my camera for 4 years. After a couple of year hiatus that led to an even deeper metaphysical journey through "scribbling" and painting, I looked back on my experiences as a photographer and wrote the poem "Everybody Gets Shot In LA."

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