A few weeks ago, while on the productivity-sapping vortex of endlessly clickable links also known as Buzzfeed (Greatest Things That Ever Happened On Tumblr? Yes please! Mitt Romney in Disneyland? Sure it'd be rude not to! Some excuse to show a whole bunch of Mean Girls gifs? DON'T MIND IF I DO) I ended up reading a list of 35 Signs You Grew Up in Los Angeles in the 90s for some reason. Even though growing up in the middle of nowhere but quite near Dungarvan in the 90s is probably as far removed from L.A. in the 90s as you could possibly get.
(Goddammit, about 20 minutes have passed since I typed that last sentence, because I've ended up on Buzzfeed AGAIN reading about things that Taylor Swift said this one time. HELP. ME.)
Anyway. One of things on the L.A. in the 90s list was the following:
Angelyne? Who IS she? Is she a real person? That hair! That rack! Is it an ad for a strip club? WHY WON'T THIS BILLBOARD TELL ME ANYTHING?
So off I went to find out more about this mysterious woman, as I'm sure was the exact point of the sign in the first place. It turns out that Angelyne is something of a cult icon in L.A. and commonly known in the area as The Billboard Queen. She's actually a model-slash-actress-slash-singer, but became famous for the self-promoting billboards of her in varying bodacious pin-up girl poses that popped up all over the Los Angeles landscape throughout the 1980s and 90s.
What's interesting, considering that she's primarily famous for being famous (locally, at least), is that not much is actually known about her. She mostly refuses to answer questions, but when she does, gives contradictory information, so there's all this mystique surrounding her, which is kinda awesome. She's even listed on the Los Angeles County registrar of voters as simply "Angelyne". Because Angelyne don't need no surname.
There were rumours that the billboard companies or a millionaire sugar daddy paid for her giant ads when they went up, but she has credited investors with the financial side of things in the past, as well as claiming that it was all her own doing. The initial idea behind the billboards was to promote the rock band she was in at the time (called Angelyne, naturally) but once the signs went up, Angelyne the Billboard Queen was born.
Over the years, she's been known for driving around L.A. in her hot pink Corvette with a vanity plate that reads ANGELNN and there are websites dedicated to sightings of her, but not in a creepy way, in more of a "oh my God, there she is!" kind of way. It's like she's a mythical creature from the city's gritty, sleazy past, a time before any idiot could be a star through the means of reality TV and YouTube, a self-made cult heroine.
Angelyne still drives around the city, reportedly selling t-shirts and merchandise out of the boot of her pink car to her fans. She's a much older woman at this stage, but has resolutely maintained her human Barbie doll brand, normally head to toe in eye-watering pink and leopard print. Recent pictures of her are all either unflattering paparazzi shots, or fan photos where she'll strike her signature pose with her leg raised and coquettishly hold a magazine with her as the cover girl over her face. I find her quite endearing, and while her outfit choices may be debatable, well that's her look and by god she's sticking to it.
While she never quite got her big break, she had bit parts in a few different films, one of which was 1988's campy and fun Earth Girls Are Easy, which starred a rather young Jim Carrey, Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. The director decided to give her a walk-on part, or rather, "a lean-in part", as he felt that she was "the Patron Saint of a certain side of L.A."
She released a song some time in the early 80s called My List, and made a music video that featured her driving her pink Corvette around town. Considering some of the videos from this particular decade, I think hers holds up pretty well. I mean, it's SUPER EIGHTIES, but it's fun and cute and the song is actually pretty catchy and when she smiles around the 1:50 mark, she looks really beautiful.
Angelyne's billboards have appeared in an estimated thirty five films and tv shows, including Get Shorty, Volcano and the title sequence of Moonlighting. Her signs have all disappeared at this stage, but they were such an iconic part of the Hollywood landscape, that a replica of her first one was built as part of a recreated Sunset Strip for the filming of the Eighties-set movie version of Rock of Ages.
She ran for Governor of California in 2003, the year that Arnold Schwarzenegger won, finishing 28th out of 135 candidates and has claimed in interviews that she's an alien being from another world. (Which makes me wonder what the deal is with human Barbie dolls believing that they're aliens, as Ukrainian woman Valeria Lukyanova appears to have similar beliefs. Maybe they're on to something?)
She's become so ingrained in L.A. pop culture, that she's had a robot based on her in Futurama (Remember Angle-een? That's her!) and Fergie dressed up as her for Halloween last year. The pink Corvette bag was a nice touch. She was also featured in the video for Moby's We Are All Made Of Stars in 2002, along with her billboard, obviously.
There are great (although fairly brief) interviews with her here and here, if you want to know more about Angelyne. I for one can't get enough of her, I just find her so fascinating for some reason.
A pink unicorn out and about in downtown L.A.