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A Fantasy Named Angelyne

There is a sad, desperate quality to the woman who calls herself Angelyne, like a clown still performing long after the circus has closed.

I say this despite the playful manner in which she displays herself as a Hollywood sex kitten with a Betty Boop cant, flouncing down the street in a zebra-striped mini-dress with a decolletage that borders on burlesque.

She becomes a caricature, rather than a real person, as tenuous as the murals and billboards she buys all over town to create her own fame.

“I am,” she once remarked, “famous for doing nothing.”

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To see her in person and talk to her at length is to see and talk to someone who, through whatever means available, has achieved the status of character-- always intriguing but rarely compelling.

One is drawn by the audacity of an orphan girl from the Potato State to be the Angelyne she has contrived on her own, but at the same time made uneasy by the excessive nature of the creation.

“Did you see that?” men say as she passes. They stare at her aberrant, hip-swinging presence much longer than they would at most women, but more in incredulity than admiration.

They scan that implausible zebra dress, the wildly-bouffant blonde hair, the excessive fuchsia makeup and the manner in which she presents her ample bust line the way one watches a parade go by.

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There’s noise and color, but what’s the point?

It should be painfully apparent to anyone who sees my work that I like characters, and the town is full of them.

They hang by their ankles from tall buildings, form kazoo bands, dress in chicken costumes and jump up and down half-naked on street corners shouting, “Look at me, look at me!”

Any big city attracts them, but L.A. especially, because they want to be in show biz, and this is where show biz is.

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Angelyne, therefore, is a perfect metaphor for those who strive with limited talent and staggering ingenuity to be seen.

But she’s too bright, in that intuitive way merchants are bright, to simply sing her song on a street corner.

Angelyne has sold pieces of her career to finance murals and billboards that present her puckered-lip, baby doll face to the world with a single name in glaring pink letters. Angelyne.

It all began almost 10 years ago, and since then she has become a kind of icon of silly Hollywood, wearing outfits too preposterous to be enticing for a persona too obvious to be ignored.

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She boasts 250 media conquests (251 now, I guess), both print and electronic, and has appeared as herself in five movies in, as one director describes it, “lean-in parts.”

Her latest is a short scene in a Steve Martin film, “L.A. Story.”

“I play a famous person in a posh restaurant,” she says. “There’s an earthquake and my chest starts shaking"--she demonstrates--"but I don’t notice. I just keep talking as though nothing has happened.”

She sees the quizzical expression on my face and says, “It’s OK to make fun of my chest.”

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We met at Larry Parker’s 24-hour Beverly Hills Diner, where so many of L.A.'s characters gather, hoping to have their names affixed to an item on Parker’s extensive menu.

Angelyne is both No. 721, the grilled whitefish, and No. 455, the broiled hamburger patty. I don’t know why. Neither does she.

Much is unknown about this self-styled “love goddess,” including her age. It’s somewhere over 30. When I ask why she calls herself a love goddess, she replies, “Because I love God,” and giggles.

Angelyne claims to be from Idaho. She says she was raised by foster parents after her own mother and father died.

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“Maybe,” she says when I ask, “that’s why I want attention. No one gave it to me when I was a child.”

Perfect. The waif from a nowhere place, orphaned in childhood, struggling to make it on the streets of a town too tough to cry. Who cares if it’s true? It’s Hollywood.

Angelyne (she won’t give her true name) was a beauty queen in high school and, though a self-proclaimed prude, sees nothing evil in the garish physiology of her creation.

“The Bible says when feminine aspects come to light, it will be a better world,” she explains in a voice that manages to be alternately squeaky and whispery. “Well, maybe not the Bible, but I read it somewhere.”

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What next? She’s writing a movie about a movie that opens with Angelyne placing her bust prints in pink cement.

But that’s only a means to an end. Someday she’d like to play Juliet and make enough money to build her own laboratory.

As we part, she says, “I’ve always wanted to be a genetic scientist. Well, ta-ta.”

Right.

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