Until Wednesday, the identity of the woman who “single-handedly created … a modern myth of L.A.” was a secret.
Then, Gary Baum, a writer at the Hollywood Reporter, broke the news: Angelyne, known in the 1980s Los Angeles for her billboards and her bright pink Corvette, was once Renee Goldberg, a Polish immigrant and child of Holocaust survivors.
AirTalk host Larry Mantle and former Off-Ramp host John Rabe spoke with the self-proclaimed icon this morning about her thoughts on the story.
“I’m not a woman; I’m an icon," she said at the start of the interview. It was her first public response to the revelation of the identity she had worked to keep under wraps for such a long time.
When asked whether Baum's story is true or not, Angelyne wavered.
“There are a lot of inaccuracies,” she said at first. “When I became famous a lot of people just wanted to be part of it so they’ll say anything.”
She called it “vindictive," but added that the technicalities of what was or was not accurate are “too voluminous to address” and “take up too much time.” She had said the same of her life story to Baum back in 2015: “It’s just a long story… I don’t want to get into it.”
According to the Reporter story, immigration records confirm that Goldberg came to L.A. around age eight with her family in 1959. Across the country, this post-war generation of Jewish immigrants was working hard to assimilate, anglicizing names and renouncing religious practice. Angelyne was no exception. By the early 1970s, Goldberg changed her name, at first distancing herself from her Polish roots, and eventually leaving behind any semblance of a Jewish past.
Without accounting for the early part of her life, she explained Thursday that regardless of identity, she has not changed.
“I was born with mystique,” she declared. “And I still have it.”
The details, she maintained, don’t matter.
By the early 1970s, Angelyne was making appearances in several films under her new name, starting with a porno in 1974. Her first billboard went up on Sunset Boulevard in 1984, declaring “Angelyne Rocks.” In 1995, a documentary called Angelyne was released; by then, Los Angeles was home to more than 200 Angelyne billboards.
But she rejected the Hollywood association Thursday.
“I’m not an actress,” she told Mantle and Rabe. “I inspire people. Somebody could do me in a movie which I would hate because nobody has that kind of energy.”
Instead, she is, as many have pointed out, the original “famous for being famous,” an '80s antecedent to Paris Hilton and the Kardashians.
And how did she afford the billboards?
“Well I slept with everybody in town!” she explained. Then, she added, “just kidding.”
While shaky on the details, Angelyne is sure about one thing: she has never failed to have an impact on other people.
“Even at 4 years old, the whole neighborhood would follow me around," she said. And now? “I inspire everybody in this city.”
This story has been updated.