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The LAist Interview: Charles Phoenix

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"Histo-tainer" Charles Phoenix dazzles audiences with images and stories that would otherwise be lost to the landfill and the winds of time. An avid collector of slides, photographs, and other historic memorabilia, Charles generously showcases his archived treasures of Americana with the public. The side-splittingly hilarious narrated slide shows provide fascinating insights into our regional experience. They also serve as the best visual vehicle for learning the histories of those two hallowed Southern California institutions: the Rose Parade and Disneyland. While Charles's collection is heavily based on the lives and (mis)adventures of Californians, his Retro Vacation Slide Show Tour of the USA covers the rest of the nation.

His performances and slide selections improve with time, a fact to which Charles's fans who attend multiple performances every year can attest. Charles's sense of humor is one-in-million. Yet his ability to treat the subjects of his slides with the utmost dignity and respect earns him props.

And who else but Charles has the incredible power to transform Downtown Los Angeles into Disneyland?

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He’s also the author of numerous books, including the recent Southern Californialand: Mid-Century Culture in Kodachrome (Angel City Press, 2004) and Southern California in the 50s: Sun, Fun, and Fantasy (Angel City Press, 2001).

If you haven't seen a Charles Phoenix show yet, LAist advises you run, don’t walk. Be prepared to laugh your ass off (pardon the crude phrase, but it's something we all need to do) when you go see the Retro Slide Show of Southern California at the Egyptian Theater this weekend. If you're already booked, you can catch up with Charles during his Retro Holiday show stint starting later this month.

1. Age and Occupation:

41, author and showman

2. Where are you from?

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Ontario, California

3. How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and what neighborhood do you live in?

I moved to LA 22 years when I was 19. I’ve lived in the same apartment in Silver Lake 17 years.

4. After years of collecting other people’s slides, how did you finally get your Retro Slide Shows started?

One almost seven years ago one night while I was having a slide show in my living room a friend suggested that I do a show at the California Map and Travel Center in West Los Angeles. When I went over there and talked to the owners about showing other people’s old slides they insisted that no one would ever be interested in looking at other peoples old slides. I’ve been doing retro slide shows ever since.