Belle of the Billboard
If ever there was a poster girl for L.A., it’s Angelyne. She’s the nexus of fashion, fame and four-wheeling in a city that loves all three. Her self-promoting billboards are roadside landmarks, but it’s her Barbie doll style that stops traffic--and the bombshell is living proof that sometimes packaging is more important than the package.
Her fame probably could not have happened anywhere else. In L.A., you are what you drive. So she customized her image of Hollywood glam around a candy pink Corvette with personalized “Anglyne” vanity plates. Then, instead of waiting to be discovered, she bought the best exposure money can buy in a city that spends much of its time behind the wheel.
Since the 1980s, billboards have gone up on the Sunset Strip, La Brea Avenue and other famed corridors advertising Angelyne’s name, canyon-like cleavage and phone number. If curious motorists call that number, they’ll reach Angelyne Management, where she has several full-time employees dedicated to selling the sizzle to her steak.
An actress with a handful of screen credits, including “Earth Girls Are Easy,” Angelyne has become an L.A. icon through her billboards. They have had a better film career than she has, appearing in “Get Shorty” and “Volcano” as well as TV’s “The Simpsons,” “Moonlighting” and “Futurama.” She claims a fan club of more than 22,000 and has appeared in magazines from National Geographic to People. Angelyne is also an occasional pitch woman for the La Brea Chevrolet dealership, which sells Corvettes. It’s where she recently bought her 2002 model.
Spotting Angelyne racing around town has become a recreational sport. For the uninitiated, a sighting could be a brief blip of pink on the radar or a glimpse of a blond topknot in the rearview mirror. But for the Angelyne aficionado, it’s a sublime slice of the Southland sitting at a stoplight-- the L.A. equivalent of seeing Bigfoot.
Angelyne understands better than anyone the importance of dressing the part. She pulls up in back of the Roosevelt Hotel wearing a leopard-print spandex dress that barely reins in her colossal bust, Day-Glo pink mules and a furry animal-print bolero that makes her appear as if she is wearing a cat toy. Her lips and fingernails are a shade of pink that would make Schiaparelli blush, and her eyes are heavily painted, Egyptian-style. Her pantyhose look as if they came from a plastic egg and are a wee too dark for her ashen skin.
It’s hard to pin down her age. She doesn’t look old so much as worn. She describes herself as “ageless,” attributing her physique to a daily fitness regimen of splits. But from her taut face and perky Michael Jackson nose, it looks as if she may have had some help. When asked directly about plastic surgery, she says only, “I like anything that’s high technology.”
She adores all things pink, from her car to almost every accessory she owns. “The color vibrates on a higher level mentally,” she says. “Different shades of pink are like different colors to me.” She carries a powder pink marabou purse and a Barbie knapsack that reads, “Anything is possible.” The Barbie comparison is not without merit: Angelyne’s clothing has the same fetishistic quality as the 11 1/2-inch doll’s, and it’s easy to imagine packing the living doll’s skimpy wardrobe into a pink vinyl carrying case to take on a sleepover.
“The truth is, Barbie wants to be me,” Angelyne says without a hint of irony. “She wants to grow up and be human.”
Her sausage casing-like clothes scream off-the-rack Trashy Lingerie, but all of her pieces are custom-made. For part of her wardrobe she relies on Heathyr Lawrence of the Newport Beach mail-order company Punk Kitty. Lawrence designed the fluffy pink bikini with cat ears that Angelyne wore on her most recent La Brea billboard.
She doesn’t own a single pair of jeans or sweatpants. “I figure if I own it, I might have to wear it” she says. (Besides, no one but Billy Blanks ever got famous wearing sweatpants.) She claims purses are her weakness. One look in her trunk, and you know she’s telling the truth.
Her car-cum-closet is a fixture in the fire lane outside Rexall Square Drug at La Cienega and Beverly. “I could spend hours there,” she says. “And I do.” She buys cosmetics and bubble bath mostly. She can’t remember the name of her favorite brand but knows “it’s imported.” For Angelyne, getting dressed is a creative pursuit. “I feel like I’m a walking painting. When I got dressed today, I tossed aside eight dresses that were all fighting to get on me,” she says. In fact, in 1999 she mounted an exhibit at the now-defunct Artluxe Gallery in Hollywood that featured acrylics of herself. One of her paintings, “All American Angelyne,” is reproduced on a billboard at Selma Avenue and Vine Street.
Angelyne has been indulging in her own brand of performance art since she was a child, whenever and wherever that was. She coyly skirts the issue, saying she’s saving those details for her memoirs. But she offers, “I used to get sent home from school for wearing outrageous things.” Her racy style hasn’t changed much. But somewhere down the road, even Angelyne and her iconic billboards must age. Will she do things differently? “I’ll probably have new clothes,” she says.
In the meantime, Angelyne plans to stay in the fast lane, occupying that rare niche where fashion, cars and kitsch converge.
Booth Moore is a Times staff writer who covers the fashion industry.