Originally published April 9, 2013 at The Los Angeles Beat
“You gotta have a little trash or people aren’t interested. The right kind of trash.” -Angelyne
Hollywood… a neighborhood in our city that is, well, just a neighborhood. But to the eyes of the world Hollywood is larger than life, mythic, the stuff of legends and dreams. I remember first moving to Los Angeles from the icy tundra of Buffalo, New York and feeling that I had sort of “made it” because I could write Hollywood as my return address. I also remember giant billboards of a Barbie Doll-like busty blonde woman on Sunset Boulevard, on Hollywood Boulevard, on bus kiosks and many other places, pretty much everywhere I went. I was told that she was “Angelyne, the Billboard Queen,” famous for her extremely prolific self-promotion and for merely being herself. She was part of my new home, my new world. A world which might look very much one way until the surface was scratched and then it was entirely something else. Sort of like the universe in Alice’s Looking Glass… Welcome to Hollywood.
“The image of Angelyne is said to be as much a part of Hollywood as the Hollywood sign”- CNN
So as I grew up in my new city, so did my idea of what makes Los Angeles unique. But one thing continued- the rumored Angelyne sightings, passed like urban folklore from friends and strangers alike. Here she was driving her cotton candy colored pink Corvette through Hollywood, there she was selling t-shirts from her trunk at a McDonald’s parking lot in Silverlake… I wondered who this enigma was, this legendary icon of Hollywood’s much lauded ’80s.
As good luck would have it I recently began hearing about Angelyne again, this time in the context of her having recreated herself as an artist. Curiouser and curiouser… Her pink, bubblegum image still stayed true, but she was now having art openings featuring paintings of her very own. After seeing a piece of her work in a celebrity “golf balls as art” exhibit sponsored by the gallery Ghettogloss and then hearing of exhibits of her work at the Burgundy Room in Hollywood, and then downtown at the Lethal Amounts grand opening, I knew that I wanted to meet her and get her story. I also became more fascinated when I heard a 45 rpm single she recorded in 1978 under the name Baby Blue. It was punk rock and it was pretty cool.
“Everybody has their seed to be a star. When they’re ready.” -Angelyne
“I cater from the president to the resident. I cater to everybody. You can apply me to anybody.” -Angelyne
So on a recent Sunday afternoon I found myself waiting in a West Hollywood parking lot for a scheduled appointment with Angelyne and her infamous pink Corvette. When she pulled up she immediately opened the trunk of her car and went straight into business woman mode, hawking Angelyne t-shirts, stickers, CDs and small works of art to a group of tourists who materialized out of nowhere upon her appearance.
“The reason I’m famous for being myself is because of my persona. Now don’t put this in a bad way, but the most terse way to say it is I’m not hiding behind a talent. Even though I have all these talents I’m not hiding behind any of them. It’s like energy. It’s like positive energy. Flooding the world with positive energy.” -Angelyne
As we walked the short distance from the parking lot to the restaurant, there were wolf calls from passing cars and people yelling “We love you Angelyne!”. She is quite popular and well appreciated in West Hollywood.
“I can hold my own as to who I am, with or without a billboard. I am who I am.” -Angelyne
Upon getting to know Angelyne, I felt a certain openness and vulnerability that belied the shrewd capitalistic exterior that she wears around town while selling her wares. She is a sweet, soft spoken woman, spiritual in a kind of “out there” sort of way that is not uncommon in show business or for that matter in the state of California. She told me that she began painting in 1998 and has completed at least 100 paintings since then. She’s sold many to famous celebrities, names I assured her would be kept under wraps. When asked about her Baby Blue days she told me that she had started singing as part of her guitar player boyfriend, Jordan Michaels, punk band which lasted from the late ’70s to about 1984. The band played the Whisky, The Palladium and other rock clubs around town and recorded one single, Rock N’ Roll Rebel/Fantasy Man which was self-released in 1978 on their own Baby Blue Records. Only 1,000 copies were pressed and it was distributed in England. It can now occasionally be found on eBay going for $300. She is interested in possibly re-releasing the record if she could find the right business partner for the job. She is also interested in future showings of her art work.
“The eyes are looking right directly into your spirit saying, “BOOM!” The look, it’s the look. I’m into positive energy.” -Angelyne
I asked her about her billboard days and whether the myth was true that a rich husband financed the various billboards around town. She assured me that that rumor was false. In fact it appears that her first billboard was financed by an investor named Hugo Maisnick in a deal splitting the profits generated by her larger than life cleavage with Angelyne herself in a 50/50 share. (ps- Hugo is now in business as the inventor and salesperson of a tape used for craft projects called Hugo’s Amazing Tape. It can be found in Walmart and on Amazon. It was billed as the “2002 Invention of the Year”).
As we chatted she told me that the billboards evolved from posters that her boyfriend used to put up around town of Angelyne advertising their band, Baby Blue. They garnered positive attention so a light bulb went off over Angelyne’s head.
“You kind of get to be a billboard junkie… Another one, another one. Bigger…Bigger.” -Angelyne
By the mid ’80s, billboards led to TV cameos, personal appearances and small movie roles, such as the 1988 film Earth Girls are Easy. She recorded an album in 1985-86 called Driven to Fantasy. This featured an iconic image of her posing on the hood of her first pink Corvette.
When asked what provoked her to choose pink as her power color she told me, “Actually, it’s a little cosmic. I got this pyramid and I put it over my bed. You have to align it north and south with a compass. So it’s a 9-foot pyramid that I aligned north and south. You have to be lucky to do this. I’ve only been able to do it one time. It actually worked for me. When you get under it it’s got so much energy you think you’ve taken speed or a drug. And I opened up the Egyptian Book of the Dead and I could read hieroglyphics.”
“I saw this Magenta Pink. It is the highest vibrating color in the spectrum. It’s very, very powerful. And right in the middle I saw this gold key. I just fell in love with that color. It is more like a comfort color. Energy”.
Our interview progressed to Angelyne’s small art studio located in the heart of Hollywood, in a location that she wants kept private. It was decorated in a pre-teen’s hot pink fantasy and covered with Angelyne’s own paintings as well as those done of her by other artists. Her work is simplistic, kitschy and childlike, but has a brilliance in that it is a true representation of the woman who created it. I have to admit that I wanted several of her pieces and actually ended up purchasing one. Most of the paintings revolve around a nude Angelyne in various poses. In some she is cavorting with skeletons and in some with aliens. “As far as I know I had telepathic communication with aliens,” she tells me. “The human race wants to go back home.” “Home to where?,” I sensibly inquire. “That’s something everyone has to figure out for themselves,” she insists.
“I don’t do just fluff. Fluff and Power. Like Class and Trash… Fluff and Power.” -Angelyne
As I get ready to leave Angelyne’s studio, painting clutched under my arm, I feel like I have made a new friend. We make plans to meet later in the week for coffee. I think about my arrival in Los Angeles, years ago, and think of the curly-que path I have followed in my own evolution here. And as I push past the tourists on Hollywood Blvd, stepping on the golden stars embedded in the sidewalk, I realize that although I wasn’t born here, I am a local now. I have met Angelyne.