When people ask me “Who inspires you?” they are usually wanting to know who my style icons are. While style icons are great and all, there are some people who really, truly inspire me on a much deeper level than just clothing, and those are the people who are dedicated to historic preservation. Perhaps one of the persons who inspires me the most is Charles Phoenix, the Ambassador of Americana, especially with his books, and he just published a new one, Addicted to Americana.
Charles Phoenix has perhaps one of the biggest personalities I have ever come across, along with being incredibly passionate about history, specifically mid-century America, and that is what makes him so incredibly fun and amazing. While Phoenix is a man of many hats, he is first and foremost a historian, but does it in the most creative of ways, with slide shows. Yes, you read right, slide shows. In his slide shows he shares various images from his vast collection of vintage Kodachrome slides, and if something from one of those slides still exists he tracks it down and goes there. He then shares pictures from these experiences in his slide shows, talking about what it was like to find the location or item, and the people he met along the way. Addicted to Americana follows this same format, making it like a published version of one of his slideshows.
Phoenix’s first book was called God Bless Americana and was inspired by his “Retro Vacation Tour Across the US” slide show, and was filled with images from his vintage Kodachrome collection. With the exception of one book, Americana the Beautiful (another published collection of Kodachrome slides), his next six books were location based, including Las Vegas, Southern California, and Hawaii, which included a combination of vintage images and ephemera. Addicted to Americana is a little different.
Addicted to Americana is a little more personal than Phoenix’s previous books. Phoenix starts out the book with a little background on himself, including his childhood spent at his dad’s used car lot and how he got started collecting vintage slides. The pages that follow are a kaleidoscope of both vintage images of locations from coast to coast, including theme parks, hotels, tourist traps, bowling alleys, World’s Fairs, restaurants, and the wild, futuristic modes of transportation that were dreamed up in the 50s and 60s, while also including contemporary photos of the places and things he has discovered in his slides. Many of these contemporary photos include Phoenix, basking in the mid-century glory he has just found. Phoenix has a masterful way of seeing a vintage image of something and then “playing detective” and tracking it down. His enthusiasm, even in text form, for these places, signs, and cars is contagious, and it instantly makes you want to hop in your car and go to every one of the still standing locations mentioned in the book. Additionally, there are hilarious little anecdotes that showcase Phoenix’s delightful personality, and his unique flair for preservation (my favorite is perhaps his saving of a vintage Sears sign.) These tales make the book all the more personal and enjoyable.
Not only is the book an excellent read, it is a very quick read. I read it cover to cover in one sitting, and the large pictures, and text of varying sizes make for a fun read.
If you love Americana, and are perhaps planning a road trip in the near future, I can’t recommend Addicted to Americana enough. I also highly recommend attending one of Charles Phoenix’s slideshows and buying his other books. You will not be let down in the slightest! You can learn about his upcoming events and buy Addicted to Americana, as well as his previous books, on his website.
Disclaimer: I was not approached by the author or publishers to do a review Addicted to Americana. I wrote this review of my own accord.