“What you don’t remember
“Will be that much easier to forget.”
-Scott Wannberg, 2008
Friends, business colleagues, and poetry fans did not want to forget. And so they came to a party at Venice’s Beyond Baroque arts center on a Sunday afternoon, to salute a poet who is leaving the Los Angeles area, but whose contributions will be staying in their minds and hearts.
Scott Wannberg has been writing and performing his free-ranging, often hilarious, poetry, for 30 years, at Beyond Baroque and other venues, while working as a bookstore clerk at the former Vroman’s on the Third Street Promenade, and at the recently closed Dutton’s Brentwood. Not only did he sometimes recite bits of poems from behind the counter at Dutton’s, but he also turned customers on to his favorite movies (“Scott just knows all about movies,” said one friend), and, of course, recommended books.
In recent years, Wannberg has experienced a respiratory ailment that has at times, necessitated part-time use of an oxygen tank. Last fall, Wannberg collapsed on a movie set while playing the role of a bartender in a film starring his friend, actor/poet Viggo Mortensen. Not only did he have to resign from the film, but his health situation led him to leave his longtime gig at Dutton’s a few months before the store’s closing. He now receives disability, but the cost of living in Los Angeles has proved prohibitive.
“I’m moving to Florence, Oregon,” Wannberg told the Mirror. “I can’t afford LA anymore. My uncle lives up there and he said to me ‘You should move up here.’ I thought about it and said to myself ‘It’s the right thing to do.’ ”
The big farewell bash was organized by Wannberg’s friend S.A. Griffin, who had performed with Wannberg and four other poets as a poetry touring troupe known as the Carma Bums. Griffin hung a sign above Beyond Baroque’s entrance that alluded to the Carma Bum’s touring days with the slogan “Farewell City of Angels, 2008 Tour of Words.”
Griffin and his wife Lorraine set up a feast in Beyond Baroque’s lobby that could have fed half of Venice. Poets and other well-wishers congregated, ate, drank, chatted with Wannberg, and caught up with each other’s latest literary projects.
A poetry reading and tribute was loosely scheduled for later in the day but when some people made signs that they might have to leave soon, Griffin asked Wannberg to mount the staircase and hold forth with a few poems.
“I find myself getting all my news information from “Countdown” [on MSNBC],” said Wannberg, explaining the inspiration for his newest poems. Out of Wannberg’s rapid-fire delivery could be gleaned such lines as “John McCain sleeps in Sean Hannity’s tongue,” and “If you hit Obama with your lunch pail, do it when nobody’s looking.”
Wannberg wanted to do a poetry set every ten minutes or so but Griffin advised him to keep the spots to every half hour. So about a half hour later, Wannberg performed again on the lobby steps.
As a special tribute, another friend, Bradford Katz, read Wannberg’s poem “The War.” In this work, Wannberg characterized “the war” as if it were a person and concluded “The War is getting younger all the time. Nobody should look that young.”
By the time this article appears, Scott Wannberg will be on the road to Oregon. But he promises to return for visits whenever possible. Anyone interested in corresponding with the poet emeritus of Dutton’s can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.