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Arts + CultureMusicHot-pink billboard queen Angelyne is 'Driven to Fantasy'—and knows...

Hot-pink billboard queen Angelyne is ‘Driven to Fantasy’—and knows her power

The self-made icon met our writer at Denny's to chat about fame, passion, and the re-release of her sexy second album.

Angelyne drove into Denny’s parking lot on Sunset Blvd. in her signature pink Corvette with business—not food—on her mind.

There were interviews to do that Friday afternoon, but something even more urgent took precedence.

Exiting the car, the voluptuous model in the form-fitting dress with the bleach-blonde bouffant and visor sunglasses went straight to the rear of her sleek sports car (complete with vanity ANGLYNE license plate) and popped open the trunk. 

Inside was a treasure trove of autographed copies of Driven to Fantasy (recently reissued by San Francisco’s Dark Entries Records in Angelyne Pink vinyl, as part of the Tenderloin label’s 15th anniversary) and branded t-shirts to sell.

“All this money I’m making is going toward my movie,” she says. “I’m independently producing, and I’ve already spent hundreds of thousands on it.” 

After completing a sale, the grand dame of the Grand Slam® sauntered into the chain restaurant—one of her favorite Hollywood haunts, just steps away from the Hollywood Palladium, Sunset Gower Studios, and Netflix. Greeted with smiles, hellos, and compliments from the staff and diners, she clacked her heels to the back room.

It’s fair to say that there is no greater representation of the glamour, decadence, and showmanship of ‘80-era Los Angeles than Angelyne.

Appearing on dozens of flashy billboards across the city starting in 1984, she captured the public imagination like no other. 

The stirring ad campaign, sponsored by Angelyne’s then business partner, display printer Hugo Maisnik, made her one of the first icons to be what journalist Malcolm Muggeridge dubbed as “famous for being famous”—decades before Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, and Kim Kardashian held that honor.

The pinup’s space-age specs hid her eyes, never letting the viewer into the window of her soul.

“It makes them want to know more about me,” says Angelyne, between sips of coffee.

As much as she exposes, the notoriously reserved celebrity, who’s been reticent to reveal much autobiographical information, also conceals. When asked how she balances her public persona with a private life, she succinctly answers, “A fast car.”

“I’m not kidding,” adds Angelyne. “I could not manage this without it because I could just wave and ‘Ta-ta.’ Otherwise, people try to keep me there and talk to me.”

She often wears a veil to discourage paparazzi from taking unsolicited photos of her. She has a point. Why give it away when she can sell it?

“How do I get my money if they take pictures?” she asks, rhetorically. “Paparazzi will always try to take photos, and I’m gorgeous so I can’t have a bad shot.” 

Looking back at her ‘80s and ‘90s images—like her first major billboard, featuring the model in a tightly fitted off-the-shoulder top and spandex pants, posing suggestively atop her pink Corvette—it’s hard to imagine poor photos of her existing.

In the decade that spawned such aspirational films as 9 to 5Flashdance, and Working Girl; TV shows like “Dynasty,” “Rags to Riches,” and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”; and pop songs like “Material Girl,” “How To Be a Millionaire,” and “I Wanna Be Rich,” the sight of Angelyne, hovering over the city on a sign or speeding around in her “fast car” was a beautiful symbol of the money, success, fame, and glamour doggedly pursued by the Me Generation.

Her billboards became establishing shots for LA in the opening credits of the ‘80s mystery series “Moonlighting” and in ‘90s blockbusters Get Shorty and Rush Hour. In one particularly memorable scene from 1996’s Escape from LA, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) traverses a ravaged Hollywood Blvd. to be welcomed by a pristine Angelyne billboard. The message was clear: Angelyne is above everything—even an apocalypse.

In the mid-’90s, she was on hundreds of billboards in and around the city. Today, she’s on 10 including one in West Hollywood above the My 12 Step Store at 8730 Santa Monica Blvd, promoting the Driven to Fantasy rerelease.

Her name even sounds like Angeles, making her a quintessential civic representative.

“It’s very befitting of who I am,” says Angelyne. “I represent the glamour, fun, and possibility of success for anyone. If I can make it, anyone can make it. That’s what I stand for.”

She says she could exist in a city like San Francisco but could never escape from LA.

“Well, I might, and then word would get around to Hollywood and they’d have to transport me back,” says Angelyne. “So any way you look at it, all roads lead to Hollywood.” 

More than a pretty face, her work in Tinseltown has been varied. She’s appeared in numerous films (Phantom of the ParadiseThe Wild Party, Bay Area legend Robin Williams’ debut, Can I Do It… ‘Til I Need Glasses?Gene Wilder’s The Frisco KidEarth Girls Are Easy, and The Disaster Artist ); self-released a handful of albums and compilations, most famously 1986’s Driven to Fantasy; showcased original paintings at several LA galleries; and ran for city council (later expanding her political aspirations as a candidate in the 2003 and later the 2021 gubernatorial recall election, beating Caitlyn Jenner).

“I’m known for my persona, my power, and being an inspiration to the world,” she says. “That’s what people feel about me.”

Her music might be her greatest passion and she’s eager to talk about the Driven to Fantasy rerelease.

“Josh [Cheon, Dark Entries’ owner] wanted it,” she says. “I didn’t plan it strategically. But I could make up something. Do you want me to make something up? Well, it was destiny! The good-luck gods and music fairies wanted it now.”

The catchy collection features eight New Wave tracks—fusing gritty SoCal punk with sexy synth-pop and flirty Terri Nunn-style vocals—supplemented by a two-sided poster showcasing lyrics. 

What sets the record apart from her other releases is its subject matter: dating, romance, sexuality, and magic.

“Each of those songs was inspired by a lover,” admits Angelyne. “It’s an eargasm—straight to the point.”

Since Driven to Fantasy, she says her voice has only improved.

“I have a five-octave range and it’s gotten better,” boasts Angelyne. “I’m still doing music. Have you heard the latest song, ‘Bubble Bath America”? 

She’s also working on a new track called “Sex Machine,” which has nothing to do with the Godfather of Soul’s signature track. 

When told the title is reminiscent of the soul singer’s widely known hit, “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” she’s caught off guard.

“Who’s James Brown?” she asks in all sincerity. “Oh, James Brown! I didn’t realize that. I don’t pay attention to other artists. OK, so ‘Pink Sex Machine.’ It’s going to be a big international hit. It’ll be trending, I’m sure of it.”

Angelyne has always had tunnel vision when it comes to music, mostly concentrating on her own. It wasn’t clear whether she even recognized her creative contemporary Flea, who was shooting an episode of John Mulaney’s “Everybody’s In LA” for Netflix, just a few tables over.

But the celebrated bassist sure knew who she was. Upon seeing her, he broke from his script, ad-libbing the lines: “I’m at the cultural center of Hollywood, CA. Angelyne is here. That’s all I’m saying.”

She seemed unfazed as the sinewy musician nervously approached her in his Bad Brains t-shirt, identifying himself and recalling the early days in LA when the two were on the rise—he with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and her with her billboards and burgeoning music career.  

Like Flea, Angelyne has changed with the times, adding Facebook and Instagram pages to her marketing toolkit. But unlike the red-hot bassist, she believes billboards are still her best bet for self-promotion.

Instagram is instant gratification and isn’t as rewarding as what I do,” says Angelyne. “It’s fine if somebody needs that quick hit of popularity for whatever. But I’m an icon and legend.”

Not wanting anyone to steal her thunder, the billboard queen delivers a stern warning to today’s young artists and performers looking to establish their brand: Stay off her airspace.

Asked about her legacy, the woman who launched a thousand billboards turns the conversation to her upcoming biopic that she hopes will set the record straight after Peacock’s 2022 limited series about her life starring Emmy Rossum got a lot wrong.

“My legacy is … pure bliss and energy,” says Angelyne. “I have raised the consciousness of all living beings in the universe, from amoebas to aliens, and they become my disciples and find freedom—the highest vibration. How do I intend to do that? My movie.” 

Needless to say, in Angelyne’s eyes, no Hollywood actress could portray Angelyne but Angelyne herself.

“Of course, I’m playing myself,” she says without missing a beat. “Have you seen me?”

Pick up Angelyne’s Driven to Fantasy here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Joshua Rotter
Joshua Rotter
Joshua Rotter is a contributing writer for 48 Hills. He’s also written for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, SF Examiner, SF Chronicle, and CNET.

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