By: Judy Shields
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 4/18/2018 – “Everywhere I go, I look at what’s unique about that town, what makes that town special. I have a theme park sensibility, so I look for the attractions, the talking points. The hidden treasures, collectables, where is the “there, there” there. What makes these towns unique. This book basically represents the highlights of all of those,” Charles Phoenix told The Hollywood Times today during a telephone interview.
The Hollywood Times (THT): “What have you been up to?”
Charles Phoenix (Charles): “I just got back from Austin, Texas. It was really, really fun. I mean this is a town that has completely embraced the Americana ascetic, the very vintage, retro and classic roadside American style. I called it “ramshackle roadside relic sheek” it’s kind of it. There is a music thing played everywhere, it’s a very indoors/outdoors kind of restaurants and old honky-tonk. They really embrace their lore there. They put it up on a pedestal and I love that. I love when towns treat themselves like a theme park.”
THT: Did you have a road show there?
Charles: “No, actually I had a book signing there.”
THT: So you were out promoting this amazing, wonderful and addictive book?
Charles: “Thank you, I’m glad that you like it. I am very proud of it and worked very hard on it. It was 25 years in the making, literally. All the travels, all the collecting of other people’s Kodachrome slides, which I started to do in 1992. This whole book is a combination of my travels and my collections of other people’s old slides and the stories that came along with them.”
THT: Talk about your live shows:
Charles: “I have an enthusiastic delivering of the material when I am live onstage talking about it. I have covered many elements of mid-century American culture, then and now. I think what people really love about my show is my enthusiasm. I think enthusiasm is a very saleable commodity and I have the enthusiasm for it! I have the info to back it up. I have been doing my retro slide show live onstage for over 20 years now and I have many topics and subjects, depending on what city I am performing, and the shows have various names. I always try to include stuff from the city that I am in, either vintage images or new images of vintage places, Mom and Pop shops, unsung local landmarks and maybe unnoticed local heroes and local foods. I also cover shopping malls, which is certainly on the change now, which makes them kind of interesting topic. There is a lot in this book and I am kind of shocked looking at it myself, frankly!”
THT: Talk a little about the history of your new book.
Charles: “This whole book represents treasure hunting. Looking for Americana, is what it is in search of. I go in search of it on two levels, both physically, by going out in the world and finding it and finding vintage images of it. In my case, I collect vintage Kodachrome slides and I have been collecting them since 1992. I first stumbled upon a collection in a thrift store in Pasadena and it was a little blue shoebox that I spotted and it said “Trip Across the United States 1957, which was on the side of it. I was originally attracted to the box, because it was an old-looking shoebox. I picked it up and there was a whole box full of some families slides from the trip across the United States in 1957. I held a few up and I knew immediately that this was a treasure with my name on it. So I was completely smitten from that moment on and I haven’t stopped collecting other people’s old Kodachrome slides since. I call my collection the “slibrary,” and I have a “slibrarian.” She has basically been organizing the entire thing for about 15 years now. This is in part the reason how I was able to do this book, because I have a lot of really unusual rare images. I take great pride in my territorial skills both out in the field and going out to find what is interesting and what isn’t.”
THT: You are like an investigator.
Charles: “I love playing detective to find the stuff, I love going to a town and having a hunt for something. There is always some treasure that has gone missing, a car, a vintage neon sign or something that needs to be portable in some way that deserves to be found. Occasionally I wind up going in search of some treasure that has been misplaced or no one knows where it went. Sometimes I recover them and occasionally they’re gone for good.”
I asked Charles if he had photos from when he was young and he said very few, because nobody in his family was a photographer. “I have to rely on other people’s photos, not my own,” Charles said.
Charles also has a line of his and her clothing called Sir Charles of Phoenix, which are retro inspired. Check it out here: https://www.pinupgirlclothing.com/pinup-girl-clothing-brands/charles-phoenix-for-couture-for-every-body.html
THT: Do you have any live stage shows coming up?
Charles: “Yes. I have one coming up in Las Vegas this weekend at the Orleans and another one in June called Catalinaland. A show all about the story and the glory of Catalina. It is going to be held inside the epic art deco theatre which is inside the legendary iconic casino building there on Catalina. That is going to be a rare threat to get inside that casino building and into that art deco theatre. That is coming up June 10th.”
“What I am covering is uniquely American, for the most part and it’s a part of our culture that isn’t fading away but is fading away, but not completely! That is why I am covering it. I think it is really an underrated time in our history and the type of stuff that I am covering is very underrated in the scheme of things and very under covered historically. It was made in the USA.”
“What a great idea, a book to share with your children and grandchildren. Get this book and share it with them. Make it a point to take a vacation to find these treasures, create your own memories with your children and grandchildren. What wonderful gift to give to your parents/grandparents, so that they can share memories of some of these places they may have seem in their early days. A great Mothers Day gift. This is such a colorful book, and belongs on everyone’s coffee table in every living room across America. We need a book like “Addicted to Americana” in our lives, color, nostalgia, American history and it’s fantastic,” The Hollywood Times.
Here is my favorite picture from the book:
Charles Phoenix is a showman, tour guide, food crafter, and author. He is known for his live comedy slide show performances, madcap Test Kitchen videos, “field trip” tours, and colorful coffee table books, all celebrating classic and kitschy American life and style. On TV, Charles has appeared as a judge on Food Network’s Cake Wars: Christmas. He’s also guested on Storage Wars, Jay Leno’s Garage, Conan, and Martha Stewart, and is often heard on NPR. The Los Angeles Times says, “Call him the King of Retro,” and LA Weekly anointed him “the Kodachrome King.”
Growing up in Ontario, California Charles was educated at theme parks, shopping malls, and his dad’s used car lots. As a teen he discovered thrift shops, which led to a lifelong vintage shopping spree. He calls thrift shops “schools of style, museums of merchandise, and the perfect place to study the underbelly of our mass consumerism culture.”
After moving to Los Angeles and enjoying careers as a fashion designer and classic car dealer, his life changed forever — in a thrift shop — when he discovered a shoebox full of vintage Kodachrome slides marked “Trip Across the United States, 1957.” Collecting orphaned vintage slide photography soon became an obsession that inspired his retro slide show performance career, beginning in 1998.
Charles’ slide show performances are supercharged, laugh-out-loud celebrations of retro American pop culture. Fans from coast to coast enjoy his spirited story telling, gracious wit and sharp eye for oddball detail.
He covers a dizzying array of subjects and themes, projecting both vintage Kodachrome images and contemporary photos documenting his retro road trip discoveries.
No two shows are ever the same. Many performances are tailored specifically to highlight the region he’s performing in, inspiring newfound appreciation for underrated local landmarks, unique attractions, “mom-and-pop” businesses, and extreme architecture.
Charles’ popular “Disneyland” Tour of Downtown Los Angeles proves the heart and soul of the city is like a great big theme park. Touring vintage landmarks and themed environments — including Old Chinatown, Olvera Street, Clifton’s Cafeteria, Angels Flight, Bob Baker Marionette Theater, Carroll Avenue and more, he proves “Southern California doesn’t have one Disneyland, it has two!” He also leads tours of Palm Spring’s iconic mid-century modern architecture during Modernism Week.
BIG RETRO SLIDE SHOW VIVA LAS VEGAS
Big Retro Slide Show Extravaganza
April 20, 2018 & April 22, 2018
Orleans Hotel Showroom
4500 W Tropicana Ave
Las Vegas, NV
Prepare for your national pride to swell when Ambassador of Americana, Charles Phoenix, launches retro pop culture into the stratosphere! With his keen expertise, unbridled enthusiasm and eagle eye for oddball detail, Charles shares the very best of his retro road-trip discoveries and colorful kaleidoscope of found vintage Kodachrome slides from the pages of his latest book, Addicted to Americana.
This is a marvelous mashup of mid-century of stories and glories of spectacular space-age style, amazing attractions, local landmarks, roadside wonders, festive foods, crazy car culture, futuristic transportation and more galore all in glorious Kodachrome COLOR! Your imagination will be inspired and your American spirit will soar!
NOTE: each show is different. Check Event schedule for show times.
CHARLES PHOENIX CATALINALAND
June 10, 2018 at 2:00 p.m.
Live Retro Slide Show Performance Celebrating SoCal’s Enchanted Island!
Avalon Casino Theatre
1 Casino Way
Avalon, CA 90704
Click here to buy tickets: https://secure.qgiv.com/for/catalinaislandmuseumsociety/event/789390/
Catalina Island Museum presents … Ambassador of Americana, Charles Phoenix, at the iconic Casino’s spectacular 1929 Art Deco movie palace.
Be prepared for your Catalina loving’ spirit to SOAR when Charles sweeps us away on a time-travel storytelling and retro slide show adventure extravaganza exploring the island’s classic landmarks, legends and lore.
Experience the backstories and glories of the S.S. Avalon, glass bottom boat, flying fish, Bird Park, Catalina Pottery, vintage souvenirs, Casino, Wrigley family, the mysterious Catalina-shaped swimming pool, and much more.
Charles also shares his vintage guide to today’s Catalina sightseeing, shopping, dining, and where to find the Island’s hidden treasures, time warps, and what not to miss as you discover Catalina as a great big theme park!
The performance is two-acts with an intermission. Festive dress is encouraged but not expected.
Aftershow Cake & Book Signing Party
You are invited to meet Charles following the performance at the Catalina Island Museum. Copies of his latest book, Addicted to Americana, will be available for purchase.
Charles is the author of many colorful, collectible coffee table books celebrating mid-century Southern California, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Kodachrome road trips and his native Pomona Valley. His latest is Addicted to Americana!
About Charles Phoenix
Addicted to Americana, author, chef, and retro pop culture humorist Charles Phoenix celebrates classic and kitschy American life and style. He is known for his live comedy slide show performances, eye-popping “test kitchen” videos, and colorful coffee table books.
On TV he is a judge on Food Network’s Cake Wars, and has appeared with Jay Leno, Martha Stewart, and Conan O’Brian. He is often heard on NPR.
Fans enjoy his clever spin and genuine reverence for Americana and trust his guide to attractions from coast to coast.