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There Will Never Be Another Angelyne

I dial Angelyne’s number; it rings once. “Who is this?” she barks. No hello, no pleasantries. “WHO IS THIS?” she repeats, louder. The franticness of her tone makes me drop the phone. When I place it back to my ear, she’s already hung up.

Her franticness is to be expected. A Hollywood Reporter article uncovering her true identity, a secret she has doggedly protected over the three decades in which she has been famous for being famous, just went live, and it is going viral. I am surely not the first person to have called.

Angelyne is, or should I say was, an enigma by design, a wholly self-created entity. An actress, singer and model, a Los Angeles institution best known for her propensity to purchase billboards featuring her own likeness. Her refusal to divulge her origin story, to reveal anything about her life B.A. (Before Angelyne), only added to her mythology—her “mystique,” as she puts it. And now that the world knows her truth—formerly Renee Goldberg, the Polish-born daughter of Holocaust survivors—the agency she once had over her identity, agency she made great pains to have absolute control over, has been stripped.

I call back.

“Who is this?” she asks. I tell her. I tell her I read the Reporter piece, and that I feel bad for her. “Don’t feel bad for me, sweetie,” she replies. “I have a billboard on Cahuenga right now.”

It’s easy to feel bad for Angelyne. Because, in a single afternoon, a secret she spent her entire career protecting has been revealed. She is the human embodiment of mystique—for her, persona is legend. The life she lived before she transformed into Angelyne seems incidental; writing about her past seems tantamount to CNN doing a story about how Santa isn’t real.

Gary Baum, the writer of the Reporter piece, disagrees. “Angelyne is a public figure,” he tells me. “And I’m a journalist who writes at the Hollywood Reporter. She is a Los Angeles institution, and part of the cultural fabric. It’s perfectly allowable for her to decline to participate in our coverage. I offered multiple opportunities to discuss [it], and she declined to do so. But that does not mean she’s allowed to opt out of conversation about what she’s put into the world. You don’t get to have that much control over the way the world sees you when you’re a famous person.”

Baum is, of course, correct, and, in writing the piece, was simply doing his job. While there has always been an interest in the private lives of public figures, the rise of the internet and its encyclopedic collection of information has turned celebrity information into a publicly traded commodity. …

This post is from vice. Click here to read the full text

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