Long before the digital age where anyone could promote themselves, Angelyne is in many ways the first “influencer” who became famous for being famous. She achieved this by putting up dozens of billboards with her image and name all around L.A. Her fame was most intense in the Los Angeles area but spread out to the rest of the U.S. via news stories and word of mouth.
However, she didn’t turn this new brand of recognition into a music or acting career, and she didn’t have access at the time to the myriad ways influencers and creators can crowdfund themselves now. So, how did Angelyne capitalize on her influence and maintain her lifestyle?
In essence, she made merch. For decades Angelyne sold autographed photos and magazines out of her car. Sometimes crowds would gather when she showed up in public places with her recognizable pink Corvette. Other times, however, she used a different tactic.
Anecdotal reports on Reddit and other websites from people claiming to be or to know Los Angelenos, is that Angelyne would make contests you could enter to meet her and ride in her iconic pink Corvette. The trick was everyone who entered these contests would win. They were a ruse to get you to connect with you so she could give you the hard sell on her photos, clothing, magazines, and other merchandise.
A blogger from True Adventure Stories entered this contest and described his subsequent encounter with Angelyne with pure glee.
“Having been fascinated by Angelyne ever since I first moved to LA, the idea of doing a ride-along with her seemed too good to be true,” they wrote. “But thirty-nine minutes after I pressed “send,” I got an email back from her long-time assistant, Scott: ‘You won. Call me to set up the ride of your life.'”
Angelyne now shows her face on YouTube, and in a recent interview with TMZ, but for a while, she went to great lengths to hide her face with a fan. The reasoning? Her face was a precious commodity that you have to pay to see, either in real life or in a photo.
Angelyne reportedly sold the rights to her story to the Peacock series for $1 million. The show isn’t exactly a biopic, but a bit of a fantasy, just like Angelyne herself.
Angelyne has since turned her back on the project, calling it painful. In an exclusive interview with TMZ, Angelyne says that in hindsight she would have never done it. She’s currently working on her own documentary.
In 2012 Jesse Small, a film school graduate, tried to make a documentary with Angelyne that ultimately led to nothing but frustration. who sent me an e-mail that began “I don’t know where to start” and went on to note that he’d begun “making a documentary on Angelyne in 2012 and spent the better part of the last five years uncovering the story you wrote about.”
Gary Baum of The Hollywood Reporter only learned about Jesse after he uncovered information about Angelyne’s past that had never been revealed before in 2017. Jesse emailed him saying that he’d already discovered all of this years ago.
Jesse says he bought the rights to her story but ultimately abandoned the project because he felt it was draining him emotionally and financially. He said she lived up to her promise of being like “uncut heroin,” which was too much for a novice user. She also asked him for expensive gifts every time she saw him. He said these gift requests ranged from Jasmine Noir perfume and pink champagne to filling up her gas tank. Gary Baum said she also made these requests of him, and he still had a bottle of Jasmine Noir stocked up to give to her in case he ever needed to speak to her again.
Increasingly online influencers operate in a gifting economy, where live streamers perform for tips that often show up on screen in cute graphics, Twitter and YouTube have built-in tip jars, and there are multiple sites like Throne that allow influencers to set up wish lists of exactly which material items they desire. Things like paid subscriptions, memberships, Patreon and Substack allow for supporters to pay creators monthly in exchange for extra content, or just to support the public content that’s already being made. And on top of the paid-content pyramid is OnlyFans, where people can sell the most intimate parts of themselves to anyone who’s willing to pay.
Angelyne was doing something very similar to the current digital influencer/creator economy, just in the analog world where you have to be physically present to make the exchange.
Just like with everyone, the real truth of the matter is always elusive, no matter how many stories you tell.
Image credit: Peacock