King of kitsch (and self-described ‘slidebrarian’) Charles Phoenix serving as juror for LB art show


Daniel Adams
Culture Writer

Have you ever been asked, “You didn’t have cell phones back then? How did people text you?” or how about “Wait, no microwaves? How on Earth did you make popcorn?”
I have, and it still brings a shock to my system thinking how much the world has changed in so little time. Many things I grew up with no longer exist for the youth of today.
Now let us step back a bit to a time before my youth. Go back to before those new-fangled push-button home telephones, self-cleaning ovens, and 20 Priority Mail options at the post office. A time before that time… Do you remember when gasoline cost 29 cents a gallon (1955)? Do you remember when there were 12 channels to choose from on television instead of over 1,000 as we have today (1960s)? That is, of course, before UHF became a TV enhancement. You don’t remember UHF? That’s okay, Charles Phoenix does.
The Ambassador of Americana, Charles Phoenix, is coming to Long Beach. He’ll serve as a guest juror for the Summer art exhibit at 2nd City Council Art Gallery + Performance Space, 435 Alamitos Ave., and he’ll be there to greet and meet the public during the opening on Saturday, Aug. 13 from 7pm to 9pm.
Phoenix grew up in Southern California (Upland) and says that he has always had a passion for old slides. In the last 20 years, he has gone through over a million slides, and he and his “slidebrarian” have worked together for seven years cataloguing and storing the photos and slides that give us a peep back in time to our American past in a room in his home called the “Slidebrary.” He has managed to collect and save thousands of photographs, mostly from people sending them to him knowing that he collects them. His slidebrary primarily houses photographs and slides from the 1950s and 1960s in an array of authentic, nostalgic scenes of life in America during that time. Americana, as it were.
In his book, Americana the Beautiful: Mid-Century Culture in Kodachrome, Phoenix says that he had to determine what is Americana, and he came up with the following definition: “Americana doesn’t discriminate between classic and kitsch, high-tech or homespun, mass produced or one-of-a-kind, the authentic or make-believe. It draws no borders between town and country. It embraces Mother Nature and man-made, the future and the past. Americana is the essence of American culture.” And he is bringing that American culture back to us all.
You may also want to check out Phoenix’s other works including Southern California in the 50s: Sun, Fun and Fantasy; Cruising the Pomona Valley 1930-1970; God Bless Americana: A Retro Vacation Slide Show Tour of the USA, and Leis, Luaus, and Alohas: The Lure of Hawaii in the 50s, as well as my personal favorite Fabulous Las Vegas in the 50s: Glitz, Glamour, and Games.
Phoenix has appeared as a guest several times on The Martha Stewart Show and has re-created the hilariously zany “Astro-Weenie Christmas Tree” for Conan on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. You can check out videos of these appearances and much more of Phoenix’s unique brand of comedy at his website You can also “Like” his page on Facebook to see more of his photos and original recipes for creating unique foods unlike anything that you’ve seen before, such as Fried Cereal (quite tasty actually) and the awe-inspiring Cherpumple (pie-stuffed cake!) which will never be found on any Weight Watchers breakfast menu!

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