photo: Tryg Hanson

Conclusion of our Epic Chat with Venice Denizen Gerry Fialka. Read Part One Here.
See Gerry’s Upcoming Events below.

Tell us about your time with Frank Zappa.
“I worked for Frank Zappa for nine and a half years as an archivist and with Barking Pumpkin, his mail order business. Of all the musicians Frank worked with he could get out of them what they didn’t know was in them. I learned a lot from Frank because I do that with people I encounter. Give them the opportunity to shine in their own way with whatever ability they have but don’t necessarily see in themselves.” Later, former Zappa guitarist Steve Vai tapped Fialka to run the stage lights in his early LA club days. Fialka also helped nurture the talent of then-budding guitarist John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Plus he worked for comedian George Carlin who lived in the Venice Canals.

You’ve got your hand in a lot of events, what motivates or drives you?
“Don’t have a choice; it’s the way my parents raised me, DNA. Driven to learn, laugh and love. Its community, camaraderie and friendships, go to the source of it all; Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. It forms a living organism of people together. It exists because you have to read it out loud with a group of people. It really boils down to community. My motivation is just to get people together. They don’t have to be like minded. It’s to spawn or nurture independent thinking. Let people think for themselves. Thinking is over-rated too. When we show films we (don’t) ask what you think, but ‘how does it make you feel?’”

Fialka created the McLuhan-Finnegans Wake Reading Club for the notoriously hard-to-read novel; meeting once a month for over 18 years. “I host a reading club but I was not ever a great reader. People ask ‘what page are you on? Can I catch up?’ (laughs). No it’s a different kind of reading group. You don’t have to know anything about Joyce or McLuhan.”

Marshall McLuhan’s famous quote is: the medium is the message.
“Pretty misunderstood. People say TV is the medium and the message is you’re watching TV. But the medium is not TV; it’s the environment the TV creates. You shape your tools then they shape us. We can become aware of the hidden psychic effects of our inventions and learn how to cope with them. That’s the main thing McLuhan learned from Joyce’s neuroscience.”

You reference McLuhan a lot. Is he your guru?
“No, he’s an important guy. It goes like this. I’d say Joyce is important but Finnegans Wake is more important. McLuhan broke the Finnegans Wake code. Then Robert Dobbs broke the McLuhan Finnegans Wake code. Joyce came out of the Symbolists and Edgar Allen Poe before him. They also spawned Patti Smith, Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison. You can’t live in Venice and hate Jim Morrison but I hate Jim Morrison.  Now I don’t hate him but The Doors represent The Velvet Underground, what I call ‘junkie rock.’ Now it’s a stupid bias but when you’re young you form biases based on what you like. But it doesn’t mean he isn’t an important lyricist in rock.”

I’m sensing some recurring themes; community, inclusion, group participation.
“Yeah community is the main thing. I want people to get involved so they don’t just think ‘I go to an event and sit there.’ You can participate or bring up ideas. I’m always open to people’s input.” True to his word he invited me to read one of my poems at the upcoming James Joyce Bloomsday events.

Mon June 10, 6-10pm: Documental – James Joyce Bloomsday – McLuhan films. UnUrban 3301 Pico Blvd Santa Monica CA 90401 310-315-0056 Free.

Sun June 17, 7-10pm 7 Dudley Cinema – Lit Show Film Festival & James Joyce films. Beyond Baroque 681 Venice Blvd Venice, CA 90291 310-822-3006 Free.

For information on Gerry Fialka events visit

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