Magical words of calm from L.A.’s own fairy godmother as the L.A. icon works on a documentary and NBCUniversal debuts a series based on her life.
Quarantine Coping is our series about how local creatives are filling their time — and shelves — in the wake of COVID-19 isolation.
Angelyne is Los Angeles’ very own fairy godmother, showing up all across town in poofs of pink and platinum blonde. Seeing her bubble gum-colored Corvette cruising the streets is considered a good luck sign by locals. And for those with a few bucks, she’ll likely let you snap a photo with her or take a T-shirt emblazoned with her name out of the trunk of her car.
Angelyne is an L.A. legend for a reason. Beyond her enigmatic bombshell presence, she was self-made before the word “influencer” became part of our lexicon. She became a local icon in the ’80s by putting up billboards all over town bearing her buxom image, her name, a phone number and nothing else. A bonafide L.A. woman, she models, acts, makes art and sings. Oh, and she ran for governor in 2003. (Her slogan? “We’ve had Gray, we’ve had Brown, now it’s time for some blond and pink.”)
She kept her mysterious backstory masked for decades — a feat of genuine performance art — until an investigation by The Hollywood Reporter a few years ago dug into her past. The article, which has since been dismissed by Angelyne’s representatives, said she was born in the 1950s to Polish immigrant Jews who survived the Holocaust. It reports she went to high school in the San Fernando Valley, where she sported auburn hair, her familiar lustrous bangs and was called Renee.
Like our constantly evolving city half-built on fantasy, she remade herself. The Valley girl recast herself into a Barbie doll-like starlet complete with blonde locks, a penchant for pink and a new name: Angelyne.
It’s also the name of a new series on NBCUniversal’s soon-to-be launched streaming platform, Peacock, based on the self-made pop icon’s life starring Emmy Rossum as a pink-clad Angelyne. The trailer for the series debuted this week. It features a cleavage-heavy, doe-eyed Rossum. “I am a bright, pink light here to inspire joy,” Rossum announces in the clip.
“I have the latitude to facilitate inspiration to the world.”
Angelyne recently spoke to me over the phone while she drove around town picking up “necessities” as our city remains under lockdown due to COVID-19. The elusive icon was more interested in talking about her own documentary project and music-making than the NBCUniversal series but the genesis of joy — like in the Rossum-starring trailer — was top of mind.
“I actually had to go to the bank just now, and when I stopped at the bank a policeman came up and wanted to take a picture with me,” she says, cooing. “So I took a picture with him.” She notes that in her documentary there will be many photos featuring her with policemen. “They’re really sweet to me … They’ll say, ‘Hey, Angelyne, come meet my partner.” They’ll say, ‘Hey Johnny, this is Angelyne. She owns this town.'”
As L.A.’s unofficial mayor of Hollywood dreams and whimsy, the lockdown hasn’t slowed Angelyne down. But she is spending time making art, music and finishing her film project from home.
“I have the latitude to facilitate inspiration to the world, especially now I think people need to keep their spirits up,” Angelyne says. “So I’m trying very quickly to make this documentary happen so we can launch it during this time.”
According to the pop icon, she’s been working on the film project for over a year and it’s an avant-garde glimpse into her life and film career. She says it has a similar tone to the 1995 black-and-white short documentary, “Angelyne,” which is as elusive as the pop icon.
“When I saw it done, I couldn’t stop watching it. And I usually don’t watch things on me because I do so much,” she says, admitting it takes a lot to keep her attention. “It’s really good.”
“The power of the mind is where we should all tune into and calm down and tune into our power.”
The restless Angelyne plans to keep busy during the pandemic partly by making new songs. “It’s music to get people thinking on both sides of their brain, their left side and their right side,” she says. “Do you like that? I just made that up.”
Her musical catalog includes a 2019 album titled “Eargasmmm” and song titles like “Kiss Me L.A.,” “Sex Goddess,” “Driven to Fantasy” and “Angelyne Candy.” The upbeat tracks evoke a saccharine — occasionally moaning — Debbie Harry. “I like a lot of punk, heavy metal. I like the ’80s stuff. I love classical music,” she says. She often listens to Beethoven and the French composer/pianist Ravel. “The balance is good for me.”
She sounds balanced on the phone, calm. Unlike much of the country under lockdown — myself included. “I don’t really panic over these things,” Angelyne says. “I haven’t stocked up on anything in particular … The markets are open, they’re supplying food every day and I love fruits and vegetables and chocolate, so they’re never going to be out of that.”
Angelyne says she would rather make a new track or work on her film than cook and muses on the power of meditation over panic-buying rolls of toilet paper. “The power of the mind is where we should all tune into and calm down and tune into our power,” she says.
For her part, Angelyne’s power may or may not be cruising in her pink Corvette, sending good fortune to those who cross her path. Or at least granting those who see her an invitation into a Hollywood fable, rather than a once-in-a-century pandemic. But for most of us, her documentary — and peeks of the Rossum “Angelyne” series — offers a stand-in for the L.A. icon until we’re back on the streets.
Until then, our fairy godmother doesn’t want cabin fever to get the best of Angelenos. “I would love everyone to rise to the occasion of their greatest self,” Angelyne says. “I’m a billboard queen, but I don’t want to be queen over a bunch of unhappy people.”