Frank Rios - Beat Poet

Frank Rios was born in the Bronx, promptly abandoned living in a foster home, and was unable to speak until the age of 6. At 12 he became addicted to heroin, before taking to the way of the gun and eventually ending up in prison. On his way out, Rios felt "guided" to move to Venice, where he met the two people that changed his life: beat poets Stuart Z. Perkoff and Tony Scibella. The three of them were self ordained as the "Holy Three" and became the backbone of the poetry scene in Venice. Rios' life underscores the pull that Venice had, not only for artists but for social dissidents alike, and the intricate relationships shared by these groups in the 1950s.

Watch the videos above to hear Rios talk about his arrival to Venice, and his life in the beatnik scene of the 1950s-'60s.

Coming to Venice
"I was born in New York. I was a throw away, given up at birth."

The Beatniks
"The 'Beatniks,' like the Life Magazine article, they came down to the beach in fucking droves looking for the Beatnik. Beatnik was somebody who lived outside of society... it's freedom, you didn't work, vote, pay taxes, drove a car, you're completely free outside of society. The reaction is a natural reaction against the whole second World War and the whole thing of the white picket fence because in truth we knew -- I knew -- it wasn't true. I'd seen too many guys come into my house that were thrown away, beat, burned, not loved, not touched, and society didn't care."

Lawrence Lipton
"Lawrence Lipton would try to record the history, the beginning of the Beat generation on the West Coast. And he was a square, but he embraced us, and Nettie, his wife, fed us. He'd record us, we'd go there, he'd have mics hidden in the pillows, in the couches, he was always recording us and we didn't know, 'Is he recording us?' And he'd get us there and feed us, give us money to get high, and then he'd have the tape on, recording us, talking to us, trying to get us going."

The Holy Three
"Me and Stuart did time together in the federal joint, so we talked a lot, walked the yard for years, and talked about the poem, the magic, and the lady. We had a great conversations about books, and what we were reading. Now, me and Tony, we were together for almost 40 years and probably the amount of words we said to each other could fit in one hand, but we had a great telepathy thing going, we were really close friends. Words, all words are lies anyway."
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It's so hard to imagine Beats in Venice, but Frank Rios makes it come alive. What an incredible story and person he is. Thanks for providing this great interview!


"Yeah, being on the beach with your back to the world is like living a mile high and underground where 'the lady" can find you. PS: my favorite of all the Venice beats: Gayle Davis. (Tony's second wife, Elvis' girlfriend, exotic dancer extraordinaire, artist and inspiration).


Hi Ed... when we spoke with Frank Rios for this interview he mentioned the time he spent in Denver - setting up, as you say, a Denver Beat underground with the rest of the gang. Where you part of the group?


It was 1970-71 and I was 19 when I first met Frank. Tinley Park was a Chicagoland inpatient therapeutic community for heroin addicts. Frank was a counselor there - and he had a tremendous impact on my life...on my spiritual perspective. I knew then that he was very special. Coming into contact with Frank helped me question old ideas, and brought forth many new ways of thinking.
Thank you Frank.