By Dale Nickey:
The Dodgers, The Hollywood Sign, The Capitol Records Building, Canter’s Deli…
Certain things in your life are there and always have been there. Received L.A. culture. You don’t know when you first became aware of iconic places and people; they are simply the landscape of your life. So it is with Angelyne.
I remember cruising down The Sunset Strip as a horny teenager in my friend’s Ford Mustang and seeing these huge billboards occupying prime locations on the strip. You couldn’t miss Angelyne. Her trademarks were her supernaturally endowed breasts, porcelain complexion, baby doll makeup, platinum blond hair, impossibly tight spandex pants and her hot pink Corvette.
Billboards, posters and adverts blanketed Hollywood. None of the adverts bothered to divulge what Angelyne did or why. She was just there. Once you saw her you couldn’t forget her.
Many provocative rumors and stories circulated regarding her possible talents and the source of her income. But, no gossip could explain how she could maintain a sustained promotional campaign of such magnitude. After all, this was the innocent decade of the 70’s; where celebrities still had to justify their existence by being able to do something.
L…Fucking….A – 1978. I had skulked back to L.A. after having lived in the San Francisco Bay area for over a year. However, I now saw L.A. with the eyes of someone who had left and been to a better place. L.A. was a dirty, desperate, ugly, and unhappy city. I had been to the Land of OZ.
Lola and I found a hot, dank, grungy little one room bungalow in Canoga Park. I successfully applied for un-employment and Lola found odd employment as a singing telegram messenger. We were still committed to making it in the music business. However, I returned to an L.A. music scene in the throws of chaos. I reconnected with all my music buddies in L.A., and all they could talk about was a new style which had taken over the entire town. It was called Punk. They said that anybody could get in on the deal and play anywhere. No skill was required. In point of fact, musical proficiency was now deemed a liability.
PUNK ROCK: My previous year’s devotion to the craft of music making rendered me deaf to the far reaching ramifications of this new movement. My research revealed that the movement started in England around 1975 by young, dispossessed welfare recipients and squatters. They expressed their frustration with Prime Minister Thatcher’s brutal economies by acquiring instruments by any means available and proceeded to inflict their primal din on the oppressing classes. Ability didn’t count for anything. Moreover, any demonstrated musical ability was viewed with suspicion and contempt. Established groups with hard earned musical pedigree were rendered obsolete overnight. The break out Punk group was the Sex Pistols. They scored a hit with “God Save The Queen” which excoriated Britain’s monarch as an inbred halfwit. All hell broke loose; soon the punk franchise spread across continents to every major city. L.A. was just recovering from its first seismic musical event and had not yet settled down. There was a vibrant, crazy scene going on and I had just hit town.
I began a weekly ritual of scouring the music rags for news to keep abreast of what was going on in the scene. I also bought the local classified rag “The Recycler” and religiously trolled the “musicians wanted” section for that one special connection that would change my life forever.
One ad caught my eye. It was for a punk band that had gigs lined up. Female lead singer. Contact: Angelyne…naw, couldn’t be…lots of girls with the name Angelyne.
I called up the number and a girl answered. I asked straight out. Are you the Angelyne? She answered in the affirmative with out further explanation. We both knew who she was. I didn’t know she was a singer. My fantasies slammed into overdrive. My girlfriend Lola was not enthusiastic.
I showed up on time for my meeting with Angelyne. She lived in a clean upscale high rise apartment building near the Sunset Strip…of course.
She opened the door and there she was. Baby Doll makeup, jeans, silver tennis shoes and perfectly sculpted Bombshell blond coiffure. Her body was shapely and solid.
She was older than her billboards. She wanted to project early twenties. However, this was a mature woman well into her thirties. No amount of Max Factor could conceal the creases of experience in a face that was still beautiful. She looked you in the eye and gave the impression something was going on in her brain 24/7. She may have not have possessed conventional intellect, but she was not vapid or dingy. She talked business. She was charming. Instilling lust was her prime directive obviously. However, she struck me as someone I could fall in love with.
Her apartment was a one room batchlorette affair. Very nice and clean but very small. However, what caught my eye was the décor. Lots of pink accents and every inch of wall space in Angelyne’s apartment was covered by photographs… of her. Head shots, fashion spreads, news clippings, color, black and white… everywhere. Angelyne was serious about the business of being Angelyne. For some reason it didn’t seem narcissistic. There was a work ethic here. This was her war room where she was plotting the ultimate conquest of Hollywood and the world. Fine by me, that was my goal as well. It was then I noticed a young male sitting in the corner. He got up and extended his hand. He was a keyboard player. He asked me the usual preemptive questions regarding my guitar equipment, my place of residence and who I had played with. The sudden appearance of another male in the apartment chilled my spirit and I curtly asked if they had any tapes of their music. Angelyne produced a gig cassette from a Van Nuys club called Pier 7 where they had just played. The music sounded awful and poorly rehearsed. I heard snatches of melody here and there. However, Punk was a new ballgame and none of the old rules applied. We agreed to meet for a rehearsal and see what developed from there. Angelyne kept quiet for the most part. I could not detect any romantic intrigue between her and her collaborator. However, it was clear he was musical director and Angelyne’s spokesman for all things musical.
Our first rehearsal took place at Program Studios. Program was in the heart of Hollywood. Not far from Sunset and Highland. It was the gayest, poorest and most decadent section of central Hollywood. This was Angelyne’s realm. The rehearsal halls were windowless, airless affairs. Standard equipment included a bandstand, a modest P.A. with a couple of vocal mikes. Dirty carpet covered the floors and walls. At the far end of the hall was a grimy, cigarette burned couch for guests to sit and listen. Above the couch was a wall sized mirror so the band could view themselves while rehearsing. At this rehearsal the mirror was Angelyne’s alter ego and constant companion. Preening and posing was her one undisputable talent.
To my annoyance another guitarist showed up to the first rehearsal. Even if I agreed to another guitarist in the band (which I wouldn’t), you don’t try to break them in at the same time. I understood the music and detected some approving glances from our flamboyant front woman. But there was too much sonic interference from our unschooled second guitarist to contend with. They had a version of the Rolling Stone’s “Play With Fire” that showed real promise. Angelyne preened and slinked around the stage; all the while keeping a watchful eye on herself across the hall. She was wearing pink hot pants and nylons paired with a shiny, trim athletic white tank top. She had lot’s frill and sparkling detail in her clothes, make-up and hair. “Glitz” on a grand and awesome scale. She had large lovely breasts. However, she kept them under tight reign and never allowed herself to descend into gracelessness. So sad she was such a miserable singer.
We assembled in the parking lot around Mr. Keyboard’s Datsun pickup truck after the session. I not sure what was supposed to happen next. Suddenly, Angelyne asked me to sit in the truck next to her and listen to a tape. I can’t remember if it was a tape of our rehearsal or something else. I only remember sitting next to Angelyne, and it was a tight squeeze. The other musicians gazed in at us from the outside, heads cocked like curious parakeets.
The left side of my body was flush against her. She neither moved away or towards. The sudden re-deployment of blood to my nether regions suddenly made it difficult to sit erect comfortably. We chatted a bit whilst her bandleader stared straight ahead with a patient but truculent expression. Clearly, I was in the band if I wanted to be. But that issue paled in significance to the larger question. Was she attracted to me?
In the end, logistics and Lola were too overwhelming to ignore. I let it die on the vine. It was an adventure I wish I had embraced.
My life has always been about parallel realities.
There is a reality somewhere that’s different. I decided to join Angelyne’s band. I kicked the other musicians into shape and her along with them. She appreciated my professionalism, talent and non-predatory nature. She would become curious about this handsome young guitar player who always maintained a respectful distance with cowardly lips that longed only to kiss her. Eventually, the kinetic energy would become too powerful to ignore.
Would she have ever been mine? Oh the enduring mystery of a distant, different past.