Last week in Hollywood there was a party at the Museum of Digital Art (MODA) kicking off an exhibition featuring paintings by the curious person known as Angelyne, who made a weird splash in the 1980s with her self-consciously tacky persona, her obsession with the color pink, her mediocre musical career, her quite obviously artificially enhanced décolletage, and her ubiquitous billboards (ubiquitous at least in Los Angeles).
Wikipedia lists no year of birth for Angelyne, but her current age is probably around 60. If you’re too young to remember Angelyne’s first go-round with the arbitrary fame machine, well, you didn’t miss very much. It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so I figure it’s best to just leave you with these snapshots of the MODA event and a couple related shots (which include a few glimpses at her paintings, which are exactly what you would expect Angelyne to paint).
All over Los Angeles in the mid-1990s were high-hoisted billboards in tribute to a pneumatic blonde named “Angelyne,” who peered over sunglasses to her admirers below. This was when I first visited the city in fall of 1994 and found that no matter where I traveled there was always a giant monument to Angelyne, the billboard queen—or as I thought of her, Our Lady of Los Angeles. When I asked who and what and why? no one knew much other than to say in that kinda laid back Angeleno way, “Oh, that’s Angelyne—she’s famous for being famous,” as if this somehow explained everything.
Famous for being famous?
I suppose it did in some kind of a way make sense and captured something of the hope people have for the great American dream, where anything or everything is supposedly possible. And in an unconsidered way, she seemed an appropriate metaphor for LA and Hollywood. For many years Angelyne’s billboards were LA landmarks, even earning her a cameo (via one of them) in the opening to the 80s TV series Moonlighting with Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd.
Angelyne is an actress and a model and a singer and an artist and… she even ran for governor of California in 2003, where she polled 2,536 votes. She still sometimes appears in movies and exhibits her childlike portraits in galleries across LA, but no one really seems to know any more about her than they did back in 1994, or even 1984 when those giant pink “Angelyne” billboards first blossomed over Sunset. (For instance WHO was footing the bill for these billboards?)
In 1995, a young filmmaker named Robinson Devor made a short film about Angelyne. Devor is a highly talented, genuinely brilliant maverick filmmaker whose work includes the movie The Woman Chaser and the disturbing award-winning hybrid documentary Zoo about the death of a man after intercourse with a horse. But long before all this (and sadly many other unrealized projects), Devor shot a grainy B&W documentary on Angelyne, which looks almost like a taster tape for a longer doc—but still its five minute + running time probably says all that needs to be said about Our Lady of LA, Angelyne.
At one time she was impossible not to notice around the City of Angels: Angelyne the billboard queen, famous for being, uh, “famous” and for having large outdoor billboards of herself plastered all over Los Angeles (Her billboards quasi-qualified as LA “landmarks” just like smog, the Hollywood sign or palm trees; one of them even made the opening montage of Moonlighting, something later parodied in the Futurama credits). For decades she has been a well-known sight, driving around town, as she still does, in her shocking pink Stingray Corvette. She sells Angelyne tee-shirts and merchandise from the trunk of her car.
Although she seemed to have no talent, no real career and no visible means of support, there were rumors for years—Angelyne is notoriously tight-lipped about her “mystique”—that her boyfriend owned the outdoor advertising company that festooned her doughy features across Los Angeles County. Angelyne would say only that she had “investors.” Her signs were everywhere. In 1996, the height of it, probably, I counted fifteen large ones, some of them in prime places—such as Hollywood Blvd and overlooking the 101 freeway near Universal, the very same location that inexplicably kept up a sign for Terminator III: Rise of the Machines before, during and even after the Governator’s term in office—but the LA Times estimated that there were as many as 300 including bus shelter ads. I’d guess that the total cost per year was well in excess of a million dollars. These days there aren’t any that I am aware of, although a new one popped up briefly when they were shooting the Tom Cruise movie Rock of Ages.
Angelyne seems to be a loopy sort of gal. In 2001, I wanted to do a TV piece about Angelyne for UK TV (she had an art show at the time that consisted entirely of self-portraits) but she demanded a ridiculous amount of money per minute—it wasn’t even a round number, something weird like $2242.00 per half-hour—and she just would not budge (I’ve read of producers going up against this same issue, but getting her to finally agree to an interview for $20 worth of candy).
I’m pretty sure that her album came out in 1984. I wanted to post this one a while ago, but all of the versions I could find online were pretty ratty. Here, at long last(?) is Angelyne’s “My List”:
Get a look inside of Angelyne’s tastefully appointed pink Malibu condo: Angelyne the Billboard Queen Sellin’ Short in the ‘Bu (Realestalker)