Book Review: Addicted to Americana

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.

Any Burning Questions?

It has been over a year since I did a Question & Answer session, so I think it’s high time to do another!

So, if you have any questions, now this the perfect time to ask me about almost anything! I say “almost” because rude or inappropriate questions will not be considered, and if any are asked they will be deleted. Your questions don’t have to be about vintage or style! Feel free to ask me anything! A friendly reminder that some questions may not be answered, as I may not have a good enough answer, or lack knowledge on a subject. Who knows, your question may spark an entire blog post!

If you have questions, please submit them via the comment section below for them to be considered! And feel free to ask multiple!

I have done two Q & A sessions in the past, so please check them out by following the links below to see if perhaps a question you have has already been answered!
2015 Q & A Session
2016 Q & A Session

Bronson Canyon – The Batcave and More

Over the years on the blog, I have made my love of two particular TV shows, Batman and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., very apparent, whether through cosplay, cons, museum visits, or filming locations. One thing these two shows have in common is the use of the Bronson Canyon and Caves as a filming location, and we recently made the pilgrimage to this famous filming spot.

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Paramount Ranch: Set to Screen

Over the last week my friend Mel (of Deela Designs) was staying with us. Mel is a fellow cosplay friend, with a passion for all things nerdy, and during her stay we had many fun adventures, including a visit to Paramount Ranch. Like me, Mel enjoys HBO’s Westworld, and after she heard about my visit to Paramount Ranch, she wanted to see it for herself. As luck with have it, her visit coincided with a unique tour of Paramount Ranch called “Set to Screen” which gave us the rare opportunity to actually step inside some of the buildings.

The tour is lead by a volunteer ranger of the National Parks, as Paramount Ranch is indeed a National Park, and takes visitors on an hour long tour of the buildings, and includes showing photographs from the various TV shows and movies that have filmed there. Unlike many backlots, which uses facades for exterior shots, and sound stages for interior shots, most of Paramount Ranch’s buildings are practical, so they can be filmed from both the outside and the inside. But Paramount Ranch isn’t without its very own sound stage as well! Which I had no idea existed, as it is inside an old barn. The sound stage was home to some of the interior sets for Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman when it shot at Paramount Ranch during its run from 1993 to 1998. During the show, it developed a westward expansion of the railroad plot, and was in need of a train station, which it built, and left. However, the church that sits in the field is not the one from Dr. Quinn, but, like the train station from Dr. Quinn, was built for Westworld, but left at the request of the park. Apparently HBO was a little reluctant to leave it, so they altered it by removing the steeple, taking off the shutters, and repainting it, so it didn’t look as iconic at first glance. I also learned more about how movies and TV shows work with already established buildings to change them to look totally different. For example, the large orange building was given a brick facade when this area was used in another HBO series, Carnivale, but was of course removed so the building could return to its western esthetic. I highly recommend taking this tour, which is free, you just have to stay tuned to the events page for the Santa Monica Mountains. The tour is an hour, and only involves walking around the western town portion of the park, which is small, with no steep inclines. If you take the tour, please remember to be respectful of the buildings as they are almost 100 years old, and just barely standing, and let’s face it, they aren’t going to get too much funding from the government who is basically having a mini war with the National Parks, but you can do your part by donating if you visit Paramount Ranch, as they have a small donation box near the entrance.

You can check our previous visits to Paramount Ranch here and here.

Outfit
Hat: Playclothes, Burbank, California
Top, Boots, & Purse: Buffalo Exchange
Tie: The Blues, Redlands, California
Skirt: Dolly & Dotty

Frontier Day

If you follow me on Instagram, then perhaps you know that I was behind the “unofficial theme day” Frontier Day that happened last weekend at Disneyland, a day that celebrates Disneyland’s Frontierland, and of course western wear was encouraged!

Dapper Day is perhaps the most well known “unofficial theme day” at Disneyland, but there are countless others, including Tiki Day, we’ve I’ve attended many times and blogged about. These theme days are “unofficial” meaning that they exist without any official approval or involvement from the Disneyland Resort. Disneyland plays no role in planning these days. They are simply organized by people who have a mutual love of Disneyland and something else – dressing dapper, tiki, pin-up, there is even a mermaid day! Typically the days consist of group photos and “ride takeovers” where we all gather to ride an attraction together.

As for Frontier Day, well, it wasn’t all me. Last year a girl decided to create a western themed day in the same vein as these other days. She called it Ranger Day, however in speaking with people I learned that many didn’t get why it was called that, even though I did. Shortly after getting the ball rolling on Instagram, the gal behind it (someone I do not know) said she had to step down due to personal reasons, and asked if anyone would like to take over. I found this out as I had many friends texting me and tagging me on her post telling me I should take it over, and I did. I changed the name to Frontier Day. I looked at other theme days as a template and created a day of ride takeovers and even trivia about Frontierland, and western Disney characters. The trivia allowed me to work with some of my favorite companies and artists to offer up unique prizes for attendees. We had somewhere around 70 people show up, which was pretty darn neat!

You can learn more about Frontier Day through Facebook and Instagram, and you can learn about other unofficial them days by following the Unofficial Park Days account on Facebook and Instagram, which tries to keep track of all of the different days that happen throughout the year.

Outfit
Hat: Redlands Galleria, Redlands, California
Jacket: Ebay
Blouse: ???
Skirt & Davy Crockett Button: Found by my dad
Davy Crockett String Tie: Junk for Joy, Burbank, California
Boots: Antique Alley, Portland, Oregon
Davy Crockett Guitar Brooch, Big Thunder Inspired Goat Brooch & Frontier Day Pin: Match Accessories

Batman ’66 Exhibit

Over the weekend some of my friends and I went to the Hollywood Museum to see the recently opened Batman ’66 exhibit. We also took time to explore the rest of the museum, which is housed in the famous former Max Factor building, a stunning Art Deco masterpiece. So, needless to say, this is a pretty picture heavy post, as it features my outfit, pictures of the Batman exhibit, as well as parts of the rest of the museum.

Being the huge 60s Batman fan that I am, I had to do some sort of themed outfit! Which included late night crafting to make an utterly ridiculous headpiece to wear. I was inspired by my favorite scene in Batman: The Movie where Batman is attempting to get rid of a bomb. The whole scene is comedic genius, and Adam West’s deadpan delivery of “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!” gets me every time. Not familiar with the scene? Watch it here!

The Batman ’66 exhibit is made up of toys from the era, a combination of screen-used items, and scree-accurate recreations, as many of the original costumes and props did not survive, and more.

Continue reading to see more of the museum, including a pair of the Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz, and Marilyn Monroe’s famous USO dress!

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Vilma the Unconquerable

Last December I had the pleasure of meeting sisters Miriam and Victoria, who I found out had quite the amazing treasure in their family. Their mother, Vilma, had been a camera girl at the legendary Clifton’s Cafeteria, as well as at other hot spots in old LA, including Chinatown and The Pike. Not only was she a camera girl, she was a colorful character, with a very active dating life, which she chronicled religiously in her diary. Growing up, Miriam and Victoria knew of their mother’s past, and even read portions of her diary, but it wasn’t until her recent passing and the re-opening of Clifton’s Cafeteria did they really begin to understand what a piece of history their mother’s diary and photographs were.

Vilma was no ordinary camera girl. She was gorgeous, never in want of a date, and came up with a very creative way to sell more photographs. She would go up to either single men, or groups of just men and ask “Would you like to take a picture with a pretty girl?” becoming the star of the customer’s photos, and she soon became the best camera girl at Clifton’s, sometimes making her quota just two hours into an eight hour shift! Her salacious and hilarious diary is now in the process of being shared with the masses by Miriam and Victoria, with their blog, Vilma the Unconquerable, a title she gave herself after quite the date. After I met these ladies I quickly spent an entire day reading the backlog of posts, and fell head over heels for this tough gal who took no nonsense from many men! Plus, her “uniform” for Clifton’s was downright adorable! It featured a peasant style top, paired with either a peasant skirt, or tropical print skirt and lei (depending on if the woman was working the Brookdale or Pacific Seas location), and then a leather corset style belt, which also acted as holster of sorts to carry around slips and extra film.

With permission, I created this collage from photos Miriam and Victoria have posted on their blog, their mother, Vilma, is in the middle. When I found out Miriam and Vilma were giving a presentation on their mother and the history of the Clifton’s Camera Girls, I decided to apply the notion of “Disneybounding” to my outfit and created a look inspired by the Clifton’s Camera Girls. As you might already know, I have quite the collection of peasant tops and flowing skirts, and not all that long ago I bought a corset style belt, although one with some extra trim on it.

Miriam and Victoria’s presentation consisted of photographs of their mother, and vintage images of Clifton’s, as well as the photo folders that customers received their photos in from the various locations their mother both worked at and dined at with her various dates. They shared their mother’s stories, including reading excerpts from her diary, which proved to be insightful and amusing! So I highly recommend reading the blog! Vilma eventually met the true love of her life while doing what she did best, asking a man if he picture taken with a pretty girl, who responded with “Only if that ‘pretty girl’ is you.” They later got married and had the two lovely women who gave this presentation, Miriam and Victoria.

It was a true joy to meet Miriam and Victoria, and look forward to where this unique journey of sharing their mother’s unique addition to Los Angeles history takes them.

You can read Vilma’s diary entries on the blog Vilma the Unconquerable, as well as follow them on Facebook and Instagram. You can also still visit Clifton’s Brookdale when you’re in LA! Visit their website here, and check our pictures from our first visit here, and when they opened their Pacific Seas inspired bar, located on an upper floor, here.

Outfit
Blouse & Skirt: ???
Belt: Elsewhere Vintage, Orange, California
Shoes: Re-Mix
Earrings: Aquanetta
Bangles: Buffalo Exchange
Purse: Red Light, Portland, Oregon