But with Charles Phoenix in charge, that all changes. This L.A.
is a prism into the labyrinths of local memory, a '50s time
machine, a family reunion under glass, an exposé of tender
and hilarious if not downright unsafe family customs, a damn
fine way to spend a couple hours at the theater.
It's a wonderful show, warm and indigenous, called God Bless
Americana. But when you see it, you feel
charged less with patriotism than with an emotion that says,
shaking your head softly, flushed with recognition, I can't
believe all of that's gone because I was there, and
they told us this was it!
So far there's been the Southern California summer edition
and also the Holiday Show. Each induces its own therapeutic
resonation with every summer
trip and holiday gathering you either enjoyed or endured.
Though Phoenix salvages his slides from dozens of sources
(he is an "addict," and we are his "enablers"),
there is inside these candid shots an uncanny coherence between
folks who don't know each other a society as homogenous
(and chalky white) as dairy-fresh vitamin D milk. Good God!
Found art, recovered art, uncanny dioramas of local life
salvaged at thrift stores and garage sales call it
what you want. It works for me, just as long as you add the
dry-martini wit of Charles Phoenix, putting just the right
spin on the pains of adolescence lived out on the stage of
the new holiday wardrobe, or on the telling gag-photo of a
kid with a cow-lick sticking up his baby sister with a genuine
nickel-plated .38. Ah, suburban life.
Then there's those ruffled lamps, shadowing Phoenix at every
turn like Javerts on the trail of Jean Valjean. From
Hermosa to Hollywood, Long Beach to Pasadena, it appears there
are three constants in the Angeleno Cold War era: smokin',
drinkin', and crimes against fashion mainly in the
form of ruffled lamps.
You know, here at Hollywood Five-O, we're always striving
to regain that Boss '70s feeling we learned to associate with
"reality," so for effect on this piece I was thinking
of using the headline "Operation Phoenix." Except
people might confuse it with the Operation Phoenix in Viet
One is an ingenious monologue and slide show that I declare
to be the antidote to today's most pronounced entertainment
The other Operation Phoenix? Civilian massacres, but hey!
the Pentagon pinned a medal to future Senator Bob Kerrey's
chest for that hair-raising act
of valor before he confessed the truth decades later.
Anyway, the Senator's bloodbath is a fit subject for another
day, so squash the creepy horror themes and cue the pizzicato
of neighborly strings. This Phoenix project, inside the Spielberg
Theater within Hollywood's Egyptian, is a family exhibition,
although in both events you are forced to confront the atrocities
of the Sixties for Charles Phoenix they come in the
form of ruffled lamps.