To grow up in Los Angeles is to grow up in the shadow of the personalities the city has spawned over the years. This includes everyone from KTLA’s Tom Hatten to Cal Worthington and his magical friendship with his dog, Spot. It also includes Dennis “Put Me in Your Movie” Woodruff, who's better known for his car than his acting chops, and even the nameless lady who resided in the black Lava House who would pace the streets of Melrose in bell-bottom jumpsuits, platform shoes and a high-stacked top knot.
These are folks who make up the fabric of L.A. just as much as the “real” celebrities. They're characters who add flavor, history and mystery to the City of Angels just as much as the the ones who draw in the tourists.
Perched on a pedestal high above all the eccentric street characters and local TV celebrities is Angelyne the Billboard Queen. The blonde bombshell's busty frame once graced the sides of Sunset Boulevard for all the world to see, not because she was promoting a movie or a show or any type of creative endeavor, but just because.
Angelyne is the stuff of Hollywood legend. Everyone knows about her and yet doesn’t. Solid information about her is hard to come by. Even her Wikipedia page basically says, “Meh, don’t believe what you read.” Far removed from her heyday in the mid-’80s, Angelyne is still an active figure on the H’wood scene, driving up and down Sunset in her hot-pink Corvette. Sightings are common and considered lucky among Angelenos.
A typical exchange might go:
“I saw Angelyne today at Whole Foods.”
“Buy a lottery ticket. Now.”
So when two of my most fabulous friends won an auction for a drive with Angelyne and gave it to me for my birthday, I was ecstatic. Immediately I took to social media to boast and was quickly treated to a harrowing tale of a “date” with the billboard goddess gone awry.
But from what I could tell, the "dater" went into it with the wrong attitude. I would aim to please and pander. I went with a clear mind, a pocket full of cash to buy product (I knew that Angelyne’s bottom line was merchandise and expected the hard sell), a good attitude and a friend. The plan was to charm her, friend her, let her be my guide and guide her as well…
Hi. I’m an idiot.
I arranged the meeting with “her people,” aka a guy named Scott, which took about two minutes. The plan was we'd meet at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Sunset at 3 p.m. She'd want to talk first before I got into the car, probably to make sure I'm not a lunatic. Then she'd pose for a picture and we could drive around for a bit.
My friend and I met at 2:30 and at 3 kept our eyes peeled to the road for the iconic car. To her credit, she arrived only five minutes late. As we ran to greet her with iPhones in hand, she was quick to state, “Please, no pictures at this time.”
She’s a businesswoman. I respect that. I had no intention of upsetting her within the first few seconds of our encounter, so we put our phones away.
Angelyne made her way out of the car. She wore a neon green Lycra dress (it was St. Patrick’s Day) over a gold, bedazzled leotard and platform shoes. Her makeup of heavy black eyeliner and hot-pink eyeshadow has remained unchanged since her music video days. Personally, I found it comforting. If there's one constant in the world, it's Angelyne's makeup scheme.
I’ll spare you any further remarks regarding plastic surgery or age. This is Los Angeles. Let’s just say 50 percent or more of all women over the age of 55 who are in or want to be in the industry have had work done — move the fuck on.
After brief introductions to establish that we were not sidewalk randos, Angelyne popped the trunk on her pink Corvette and got down to the business of Angelyne.
To be clear, this was 100 percent what I expected, and what anyone should expect when meeting any self-made Los Angeles celebrity. They need to support themselves. I have been with groups of people who were appalled that Hollywood Spider-Guy charged for a picture. What the hell did you expect?
I, however, had not anticipated the high cost of hanging with Angelyne. I greatly underestimated the cost per item, and that is my bad. I came with $60 in hand, ready to buy a few T-shirts and maybe a bumper sticker or two …
All I got was one shirt. And I had to borrow money for my picture.
After my purchase, Angelyne announced she was starving, so we followed her into the Coffee Bean, where her normal barista was off-duty, so she had to retrain staff to make her favorite half-tea/half-coffee concoction, marking the cup with lipstick for the perfect amount of each.
I did my best to keep the conversation light and fluffy, not wanting to upset her. Having grown up in L.A., I know that people who flirt with fame can be ... temperamental.
So I opted for flattery. A cheap ploy, but one that tends to work.
“It must be amazing to be such a highly regarded icon in such a large city,” I said.
“The world,” she replied.
OK. I stand corrected.
Angelyne then got on the subject of her art, which is her pride and joy. After sizing us up as the gothy gals we are, she quickly amended her sales pitch to fit the audience.
“I can paint skulls. It’s really quite beautiful. My paintings are of me with a skull in the background. I have sold them before to Rob Zombie," she said.
She’s quick. Gotta give her that.
It was then back to the trunk, where new wares were displayed, childlike paintings of herself in different positions and levels of nudity, some with skulls and some without, all in different sizes. She wanted us to go back to her loft to see her full-size paintings that go for “thousands and thousands” of dollars, but we had to turn down that lovely offer. I had birthday plans and my friend had a whole host of other fictional events to attend.
Then it was picture time! Angelyne was insistent about her “Chinese fan” covering her face. Those quotation marks exist because the fan is a piece of styrofoam painted to look like a fan. I thought it was a vanity move, but she was surprisingly frank about the reasoning behind hiding her face:
“It’s $20 for a picture with me with a fan. If you want to see my face, it will cost you a hundred bucks. If you want me in your movie, it will cost ya $10,000. See, I’m not going to blow my load all at once and just take a picture with everyone. That doesn’t make sense. That’s just bad business.”
When you take a pic with Lady Pink, she insists on image approval, naturally. If she hates the pic, you must delete it. It's also up to her where you stand and how you look. She told me to hold her leg. I obliged, although I really wanted a picture where my hands were on my hips. Alas, that was it. My one and only pic of me and Angelyne looks like I’m trying to help her off with her L’Eggs.
Then came the car ride. I had 10 to 15 minutes and I wanted to make it good.
Earlier that week, I had taken to the Internet to ask what folks wanted to ask Angelyne if given the opportunity. So I asked her all the questions in rapid fire ... which made me look like a crazy person.
“So, why a Corvette?”
“Because Barbie had one and that was the American dream.”
“And what is the fascination with the color pink?”
“That’s the color that makes everyone the happiest.”
“If you had won the 2004 gubernatorial race when you ran, what would you have done to make Los Angeles a better place?”
“I would have had suggestion boxes around the city and really listened to what people had to say. Then I would have instituted the most popular of the suggestions to show good faith in the people and make them happy.”
“Why aren’t you on social media?”
“Because I’m a rebel! I don’t need to be. I have fans and people who do that for me. Also, I like to remain mysterious. I don’t want to be too out there.”
In the end, I could tell that Angelyne was disappointed in me. In my attempt to not upset her in any way, she thought I'd missed out on questions. I was a little nervous and also I wanted to enjoy some of my ride in the Corvette, while Angelyne wanted to continue to sell Angelyne, which was at the top of her agenda and not mine. I forgot this.
“You should ask me about my billboards?”
“My billboards. Ask me which ones I liked the best.”
“Oh, OK. Which billboards did you like the best?”
“The ones on Sunset paid for my lifestyle. They made me who I am today. They were the big moneymakers and brought in the most for me and will always be my favorites.”
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At the end of the ride, she played “Kiss Me L.A.” a song she recorded 20 years ago and which she says is going to be released “very soon.” She also tried to sell me her previous Corvette. Considering a T-shirt was $60, I didn’t bother asking the price.
As we were parting, she waved goodbye and yelled, “Happy birthday, Sharon!”
All in all, it was an adventure. I got to ride in the pink Corvette, I got a single T-shirt for my friends to share and I got a picture holding Angelyne’s leg. I feel 11-year-old “Sharon” would be very proud.
Next year, I’m hoping that Dennis Woodruff will let me glue a miniature Oscar statue to his car. Fingers crossed.