DOWNEY - If you haven't heard of Charles Phoenix, you're not alone. But if you've watched the Martha Stewart Show or listened to NPR over time, you've most likely seen or heard the 'classic and kitsch humorist and author' (as he describes himself) share his passion for American culture via vintage, even retro, stuff.Growing up in Ontario in the 60s and 70s, he discovered, among other 'oddball detail' curios and things, thrift shops as "museums of merchandise and the perfect place to study the underbelly of our mass consumerism culture." Moving to Los Angeles in 1982, he was, successively, fashion designer, vintage car collector and trader, and retro slide show producer. His slide show performances are said to draw SRO audiences across the nation. He has performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall's Redcat Theater, Getty Museum, Pepperdine University, Skirball Cultural Center, and American Cinematheque/Egyptian Theatre. In 2009 he was the grand marshall of Pasadena's Doo Dah Parade. Phoenix's 'hip and highly original take on American life and style' has even extended to conducting bus tours. This Sunday he leads a 6-hour walking & bus tour he calls his "Disneyland" Tour of Downtown Los Angeles." Beginning and ending at Union Station, the tour is scheduled to take in Old Chinatown, OIvera Street, Clifton's Cafeteria, Bob Baker Marionette Theater, Walt Disney Concert Hall, etc. Phoenix sees this 'heart and soul' of Los Angeles "just like a big theme park." Because of this, he says Southern California "doesn't have one Disneyland-it has two!" But of more immediate interest is his 5-hour (12-5 p.m.) "Charles Phoenix: 'Up with Downey' Tour" scheduled on Saturday, March 27. The tour, which will begin and end at Bob's Big Boy Broiler on Firestone Blvd., will include visits to the Carpenters' Home where Karen lived and died (plus 'Close to You' and 'Only Just Begun' Apartments); "Space Ship Factory" (Downey Studios) - cradle of the Apollo Mission; a no-host lunch at the 'oldest McDonald's on earth' at Lakewood and Florence); the Downey Historical Society ("the city's oldest house," etc.); SoCal's "great unknown ghost town, the 1880s thru 1920s remains of the LA County 'Poor Farm'" (Rancho Los Amigos); and "the world's greatest drive-in Hop coffee shop, originally Harvey's Broiler and now Bob's Big Boy Broiler." "I've been studying American pop culture all my life," Phoenix said, "and Downey's is an incredible story. I want people to know it's there, with all its many wonderful historical sites and so on." The package tour includes meeting Miss Downey, "and much more." Cost of ticket, according to WHS' George Redfox, is $75. For more information, look up http://www.charlesphoenix.com/category/tours/.
********** Published: March 26, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 49