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.

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

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

Sparkle

Happy New Year! Over the years I have celebrated New Year’s in a variety of ways, but this year, for the first time ever, we hosted a New Year’s party. We decided to combine our housewarming party with New Year’s Eve, and it ended up being utterly amazing. With good food, good company, and Disneyland midnight fireworks right outside our front door. Yes, that is true. In case you don’t follow me on Instagram, we have an insanely good view of Disneyland’s fireworks from the front yard of our new house, which inspired me to host a NYE party.

I originally planned to snap photos before everyone arrived, but due to the large amount of food prep we had to do, we tragically and horrifically clogging up our kitchen sink! We had to call a plumber just two hours before guests we slated to arrive, and were unable to get any pictures before the party started! These photos were honestly snapped at 2:30 this morning after everyone had left, so my hair and my make-up are a little worse for wear, but I just had to share my ensemble!

I’ve had this dress in my closet for going on three years now, and have never worn it, despite it being one of my all time favorite dresses! Like many amazing garments, I often want to wait for just the right occasion to wear something for the first time. I also baby this dress, as it is a Luis Estevez! You can read more about the spectacular designer here. This dress fully represents what I absolutely love about 1950s clothing; it utterly epitomizes the space age influence, and I wish I had more garments that were this dramatic and atomic-esque. Plus it reminds me of Jane Russell’s gown in the infamous dinner club entrance scene in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

We are a shoe-free household, which meant it was the perfect opportunity to wear another items that rarely gets wore – a pair of vintage Daniel Green slippers! If I had it my way I would own every pair I come across in my size and live in of them, but I know that is rather unpractical, so I just have three pairs that come out every once in awhile for house parties.

A few thoughts on New Year’s…My feelings and attitudes toward New Year’s have fluctuated over the years. When I was younger it never meant that much to me, especially when I was in school. It wasn’t a “new year” to me. That didn’t really happen until September, with a new school year, when the summer gave you a chance to explore and develop. Now that I am older, I find New Year’s a rather refreshing time period. January, for me, represents cold blues, crisp air, and trees that are gorgeously skeletal against a bright blue winter sky, all of this represents clean starts to me. A bare tree is one of the more beautiful things in the world to me, and it helps me remember we can shed things from the past and grow something new. I don’t often like to look back at the past year (which is why I rarely do yearly recap posts), instead I like to look ahead. While many of my fears from the last year continue to be very real for me and others with this current political climate, I recognize there is a lot of good and happiness still in the world, and I want to focus on that, being thankful, and trying to do good for myself, family, friends, and where I live. I don’t believe in accepting what you can’t change, because I believe (nearly) everything can change (there are a few rules of physics and science we are bound to y’all). You can be speak up, march, protest, and be a part of a larger movement that can change the world for better.

Outfit
Star Crown: Elsewhere Vintage, Orange, California
Dress: Simply Vintage Boutique, Portland, Oregon
Slippers: Buffalo Exchange
Jewelry: I can’t remember where any of this stuff came from!

Christmas in Frontierland

Like spending Christmas Eve at Knott’s Berry Farm as become a tradition, spending Christmas Day at Disneyland is also one for us. It’s one of the few places open on Christmas, and while it’s usually very busy, we always enjoy ourselves. I thought it was also a perfect opportunity to wear my vintage Guatemalan Weavers skirt, as it features red and green (okay, it’s more olive, but that’s still green). Guatemalan Weavers was a shop in Adventuerland that sold wares from, you guessed it, Guatemala! The shop lasted at Disneyland from 1956 to 1986. You can spy the shop in the background in this picture from the blog Stuff from the Park and you can see a picture of the label here from a previous time I wore it.

I hope all of you who celebrated had a wonderful Christmas! And here is to the New Year! We are combining our house warming party with New Year’s this year, so we’ve been busy gearing up for that. I do hope to at least share pictures of what I wear for that!

Outfit
Jacket: Thrifted
Sweater: I honestly can’t remember!
Skirt: Ebay
Mocs: Minnetonka

Rootin’ Tootin’ Christmas Eve

Last Christmas Eve we spent it at Knott’s Berry Farm, or Knott’s Merry Farm as it is called during the holiday season, and decided to make it a tradition, so this Christmas Eve found us once again walking along the beautiful lighted streets of Ghost Town, and enjoying all of the unique holiday offerings. I also took the opportunity to wear some one of my fancier western wear shirts and string ties.

I’ve had this vintage California Ranchwear (the west coast label for H Bar C) tucked away for awhile, because it had some issues, but I finally got around to fixing them. While western wear is sturdy, I treat this garment as if it were made of lace, as the floral/leaf details on the yoke and cuffs are made of leather, as is the fringe on the cuffs. I normally shy away from western wear that features leather detailing (you must have them cleaned by a professional leather cleaner), but this is just one more of the many gems my dad has found for me other the years!

Outfit
Hat: Redlands Galleria, Redlands, California
California Ranchwear Shirt: Found by my dad
Skirt & Boots: Buffalo Exchange
Belt: ???
Barrettes: Knott’s Berry Farm
Christmas String Tie: Joyride, Orange, California
Earrings: Back in Time Antiques, Redlands, California
Gloves: Red Barn Antique Mall: Beaumont, California

Last Minute Christmas Shopping

Sorry for the lack of posts, let alone festive outfit posts! This holiday season has been hectic with the new house, multiple birthdays, and a cold, which has left little time for fun outings to wear holiday inspired ensembles, so I had Patrick snag the camera when we went out to do some extremely last minute Christmas shopping last week.

As weird as it may sound, I have odd feelings about this outfit…it’s a good outfit, perfect for the holidays, and I love this shade of red…a more cranberry if you will. But I just felt too much like my old self…my Portland self. Like this outfit was a step backward in my personal style journey. I didn’t give too much thought though to my personal style when I got dressed on this day…I just thought “You’re getting over being sick, it’s a wee bit chilly, so go for something comfy, cozy, but festive” and this was the result. The only things I really adore about this outfit are the shoes and the hood of this coat (I’ve realized I really only dig the dramatic stuff of the 40s and 50s the most, plus any hood like this reminds me of Lynn Bracken of LA Confidential, so it’s a given that I’ll like it). Like, if this coat didn’t have a hood, I likely would have parted with it long ago. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good sweater set, as they are the comfiest things I own, but overall this outfit is rather uninspiring for me. While I have moved on in my style from more direct era inspired outfits, it is nice to have old standbys in the closet for those days where you are more about functionality over style. Do any of you have feelings like this toward some ensembles you put together?

I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas had a lovely Christmas yesterday. Stay tuned for my Christmas Eve and Christmas Day outfits!

Outfit
Coat & Tights: Buffalo Exchange
Sweater Set: Antique Alley, Portland, Ore.
Belt: Nordstorm
Gloves & Ice Follies Brooch: ???
Shoes: Faryl Robin
Purse: Lux de Ville