If I were to ever write a sequel to my first book “Lost Horizons Beneath The Hollywood Sign”, there is one personality that would top my list of self styled celebrities who never quite realized their dreams. That would have to be the walking cartoon known as “Angelyne”. Her legend began as a billboard that could be seen above Sunset Boulevard and then at various other strategically placed locations around Hollywood. She was of course a clone of the late Jayne Mansfield who also sought the star maker machinery with a vengeance, the only difference being Jayne was a bona fide movie star and made enough films to secure her place beneath and above the Hollywood sign.
Angelyne was a full-scale Barbie doll come to life, not unlike Anita Ekberg's epic star turn for Fellini in his delightful short film The Last Tempataion of Dr. Antonio. In that film Anita comes to life at night to torment a bigoted sexually repressed doctor. She towers over the landscape of his apartment complex posed in such a way to offer any man the ultimate seduction. When she finally descends from her billboard he is powerless to ignore her and finally loses all control.
Another film comes to mind when thinking of Angelyne and her self promotion is the late Judy Holiday's star turn in the fifties comedy It Should Happen to You where she plays a working girl who decides to rent a billboard to lander herself a husband with the usual comic results including landing the man of her dreams Jack Lemmon.
I always wondered if Angelyne ever saw that film since her life seemed to be a collection of B-movies at best. The most famous example of a larger than life woman came to us courtesy of the 50's science fiction classic howler Attack of the 50 foot Woman starring cult queen Allison Hayes as the 50 foot woman who wants nothing more out of life than to keep her wayward husband at home and away from the mantrap that is Yvette Vickers.
It is with Attack of the 50 foot Woman that my story really begins, because it was on one of those countess drives I used to make on Sunset near the Chateau Marmont that the idea first came to me: Angelyne was destined to play the 50 foot woman if Hollywood ever decided to do a remake.
The more I thought about it the more I realized this was not only inspired casting but it was doable because this lady was as of 1989 already a Los Angeles institution, with an cameo appearance in Earth Girls are Easy and a couple of self produced music videos showcasing Angelyne’s best assets; her giant cosmetic boobs which bounced more often than any beach ball ever did over at AIP during the Frankie and Annette craze of the 60's.
Since I had been an agent as well as a personal manager I set about to met this iconic woman in the flesh. On most of her billboards there was always a contact number, which then lead you to a voice mail and perhaps if the goddess of all things pink felt you were worthy then you might actually get your call returned. I left a message telling the divine one that I wanted to meet with her or her representation to discuss a film project. Now my original idea was to raise enough money to make a trailer showing Angelyne as the 50-foot woman towering over Sunset Boulevard and then going on a rampage through Hollywood tearing down Capitol records and other landmarks in her wake.
Around 1989 I was seeing quite a bit of Yvette Vickers who seemed to always be working on a project, in hopes of returning her to the place she once held in the film business, a perpetually potential starlet. Yvette was quick to learn that her fan base was almost entirely based on her appearances in two grade B horror sci-fi flicks, the aforementioned Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and The Giant Leeches, sometimes referred to as Attack of the Giant Leeches, which was sold as a companion piece. Yvette had a treatment for 50 Foot Woman that gave her former character of “Honey” a bit more screen time. I called Yvette and explained my idea and she thought it was a fantastic way to get the film off the ground because Angelyne had already created a buzz in Hollywood and she seemed tailor made for such an over the top debut…at least that is what I assumed.
I finally received a call from Angelyne herself explaining that she was mulling over several projects and film offers but she would love to hear my idea. So we decided during that first call that she should come by my Beverly Hills apartment to discuss the project and to arrange a meeting with one of the stars of the original film. I am a little vague on details at this point as over two decades have passed since that evening when the project hung in the balance. As I remember it Angelyne arrived in her flawless pink Corvette, parking on the Oakhurst side of Beverly Boulevard looking every inch the billboard queen come to life, I was already in silver screen heaven watching her walk, if you can even call it that, since every movement was calculated because she instinctively knew I was watching her arrival. This performance of hers caused me to fantasize the opening night premiere of the our new Attack of the 50 foot woman as our star Angelyne turned the red carpet pink just for her now impending super stardom on this, her special night.
Angelyne in person for me was like being Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? This woman was simply not real and yet there she was in my living room cooing phrases like, "Oh I like this, it is soooo Hollywood" or, “You’re too handsome to be a producer David. Most producers I've met look like hungry old bears." My apartment was always rather under lit and I liked it that way for parties, and if anyone wanted to have more light they could always go in the kitchen. At some point I suggested we sit in there to go over the treatment and as she came closer to the dining room area she noticed just how bright it was and started backing away as if she realized this was not a good showcase for her image. I now began to realize that Angelyne was most definitely a fantasy but not just for the spectator, she was her own Norma Desmond forever trapped in a time warp that could never age her perfection or youth. The bulk of her time in my apartment was spent in my bedroom. Before you jump to any conclusions the bedroom was where I kept the television and VHS player. Angelyne had brought with her a "showreel" which consisted of two music videos both displaying her giant boobs in repose and then bouncing to the disco beat. These were self produced affairs at best and I knew that if she had any business sense beyond having billboards of herself around town then this was time to go to the next level.
Yvette did not respond well to Angelyne that evening since she made the error of assuming Yvette had actually played the 50 foot woman and open discovering otherwise lost interest in even trying to stay focused on Yvette so the two divas stayed away from each other. I also realized that Angelyne was perhaps only made for billboards and the recognition that they afforded her. My concept however clever and well timed was not meant to be and perhaps this was another Lost Horizon for me and I didn’t even count it in the mix. A few years later Daryl Hannah would assume the role of the infamous 50 foot woman and another younger actress would play "Honey" the role Yvette Vickers played back in 1958. The end result was lackluster to say the least so perhaps in time another reboot will make its way into either cable or multiplexes of the future.
As I was preparing this piece I discovered online that Angelyne had not aged too well and was by now a rather ghostly and forgotten presence both in Hollywood as well as on the internet, her Malibu home was sold in 2010 for a modest $560,000 and her whereabouts are unknown except she does appear in her still flawless Corvette only now she pulls her bumper up to the gay bars of West Hollywood to open her truck to hawk some postcards, baseball caps and other memorabilia for the Angelyne collectors she hopes will turn up among her still loyal gay following.
Angelyne has always reminded me of something out of a Fellini film and never more so than now. I can see her as the sad and fallen showgirl of 8 1/2 begging Guido for just one more chance to shine in his eyes. Her feathers may be tattered and torn, her make-up is too heavily applied, and her eye liners runs down her cheeks like black tears yet she is still a star still desirable to men. Perhaps fate has taken pity on Angelyne and the madness that always lurked in the shadows has finally come forth to envelope her.