Angelyne can barely squeeze into the 8-foot-wide storage room. And not just because she’s the buxom, bigger-than-life billboard queen of Los Angeles.
Boxes of printed posters and placards depicting her in glamorous poses fill the Hollywood self-storage space she is renting while she feuds with city redevelopment leaders and developers of a planned $500-million luxury project near the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.
The curvaceous blond teeters on her spike heels as she reaches into a box and pulls out a handbill.
Its full-color photograph shows her reclining voluptuously across the top of her pink Corvette wearing form-fitting pink pants, a tight, low-cut white blouse, sunglasses and a seductive pout.
But it’s the back of the handbill that Angelyne wants to show. It’s an invitation to join the Angelyne Fan Club by sending $20 to a Selma Avenue address.
Angelyne operated her promotional company from a Selma Avenue office building for 18 years until she was forced out last fall to make way for a W Hotel, upscale retail shops, condominiums and apartments.
Developers paid relocation expenses for her and about 35 other tenants who were occupying shops and offices in the path of the Hollywood and Vine project.
But they are balking at her demand that they also pay for the reprinting of perhaps 100,000 promotional and souvenir items that list her old address.
“One of the developers said that is too much. He said, ‘Honey, take me to court.’ He talked to me like I was his ex-wife,” she said, adjusting her dark glasses as sunlight streamed through the open storage room door. “I was stunned.”
The standoff underscores the changing face of Hollywood Boulevard, which is in the midst of a dramatic gentrification after decades of decline. The W Hotel is rising at the corner of Hollywood and Vine, the famed intersection that has seen better days.
While many in Hollywood support the new bars, upscale eateries and other developments in the district, there are some who fear revitalization is pushing out some old-Hollywood characters.
And Angelyne is definitely a character -- though she’d dispute the “old Hollywood” characterization. She became famous (locally, at least) in the early 1980s when a series of billboards popped up around the city featuring her in various sexy poses. Although she has appeared in several movies, she said her billboards have been shown in “hundreds” of films and TV shows.
In the 2003 gubernatorial recall election, Angelyne was one of 135 candidates. Running on the campaign slogan, “We’ve had Gray, we’ve had Brown, now it’s time for some blond and pink,” she finished 28th.
These days, Angelyne sells postcards of herself for $5 -- $10 if they’re autographed. Large posters are $25, $35 with her signature and $45 if they are signed and adorned with an “authentic lip print.” Other items, such as glow-in-the-dark Angelyne necklaces and autographed bras and panties, are also available.
She estimates it would cost about $400,000 to reprint her inventory with a new address -- a sum the developer says is way too much.Those in charge of the Hollywood-Vine project contend they have played it straight with Angelyne and the other displaced tenants. They said relocation expenses of about $6 million have been paid.
“We’ve offered her a perfectly amiable solution to her problem. We’ve offered her a permanent address on the property. She can have mail sent to her old address and we will deliver it to her each day,” said Jeff Cohen, senior vice president of Gatehouse Capital Corp., the Dallas-based developer of the project’s hotel and commercial property.
“She’s never shown us her inventory. Relocating her has not hurt her. We’ve followed every CRA rule and regulation. We’ve tried to be very fair. When somebody is making a claim we feel is creditless and we have offered a reasonable solution, we have to put it in somebody else’s court.”
“We don’t just print money in the backyard and give it away,” Cohen said.
Redevelopment agency officials declined to comment on Angelyne’s situation, citing confidentiality laws. “Our relocation department is working with Angelyne to find solutions to her business needs,” said Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency spokeswoman Kiara Harris.
The standoff is puzzling to Thomas Zia, an Aptos, Calif. real estate consultant retained by Angelyne.
“In the 35 years I’ve been involved with relocation issues I’ve never seen anything like this. Under state law they’re supposed to pay all of her moving costs and printing expenses for promotional material, business cards and stationery,” Zia said.
“Her livelihood is based on her fan club and selling her items. An actual mailing address is important.”
Despite her low-cut, polka-dotted mini-dress, Angelyne is uncomfortably hot as she stands in her storage room. She announces she is returning to her 2004 Corvette, which she has left in a nearby driveway with its engine idling and its air conditioner running. Its personalized license plate reads ANGLYNE.
She is about to embark on a new billboard campaign after an 18-month break, she says. “Everybody wants to know when it is coming. Kids think I’m a Barbie doll.”
She is coy about who pays for the outdoor advertising. Some have claimed the advertising space is donated by billboard companies or that her wealthy husband foots the bill. Angelyne, who is single, credits “investors” for financing the outdoor advertising.
She is also evasive about her age. Although some sources suggest she is 49, others insist she is older. The Los Angeles County registrar of voters lists her as 44. She is listed on voter records by her first name only.
Likened by some to an earlier era’s Paris Hilton, Angelyne became famous for being famous because of her billboards.
As for her fan club, Angelyne claims “hundreds of thousands of members, or something like that -- I don’t know.” Her website, meantime, states that club membership is about 20,000.
Although not a dues-payer, Hilton is among them, according to Angelyne -- who met the now-jailed hotel heiress once: three years ago at a Hollywood night club.
“Paris said she’s a fan,” Angelyne says before slipping into her pink Corvette and driving off.