Dream Machine

The episode opens on a close-up of Angelyne laying on her back on a bed adorned with red sheets. She is repeating to herself “I am not a woman, I am an icon. I am not a woman, I am an icon,” like a mantra. Rick is outside her bedroom, knocking. “Angelyne?” he inquires. “Read it,” she says, forcefully. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea —” Rick says, before Angelyne interrupts him: “Read it.” Rick says, resigned: “Okay.” He reads the title of a magazine article: “’The Mystery of LA Billboard Diva Angelyne’s Real Identity Is Finally Solved,’ by Jeff Glaser, of The Hollywood Reporter. ‘Way before Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, the enigmatic blonde bombshell was famous for being famous, perpetually driving the streets of Hollywood in that pink Corvette, but her true identity has remained secret all these years, until now.’” Angelyne’s reaction is anxiety. Her breathing is labored.

Cut to the opening title screen: ANGELYNE, in giant pink letters, covering the entire screen. On the soundtrack we hear the opening strains of “Evil Woman” by Electric Light Orchestra, setting the tone. (I would have sworn that this was a sound-alike track by no-name studio musicians. This is a trick you see a lot in television, since sound-alike tracks are much cheaper to license. But no, it appears to be the real thing.)

Cut to a helicopter shot, panning over Los Angeles. The shot is overlaid with pink characters: “1981.” Replaced by “or 1982.” Then “Depending on who you ask ...” The helicopter shot is now focused on a billboard advertising the Universal Studios “famous studio tour.” Cut to a flatbed truck driving along a street, carrying billboard segments. The truck comes to a stop in a parking lot underneath the Universal Studios billboard. The driver gets out, shutting the truck door behind him. Cut to the driver, standing below the billboard, holding a large printout that depicts how the billboard segments fit together. He is flanked by two other men. The driver is looking up at the billboard, contemplating how the billboard segments on his truck are going to be installed. One of the men inquires of the other two: “Who is she?” None of them seem to know.

We see several quick cuts of the men using a crane to remove the segments of the Universal Studios billboard, then replacing them with segments of a new billboard featuring a provocative photo of Angelyne. The last segment to be installed is in the shape of Angelyne’s head, perhaps eight feet wide, placed atop the otherwise rectangular billboard. Bystanders on the street are shown staring up at the newly-installed billboard, curious.

Cut to a talking head on a television. “Mysterious billboards are popping up around the city, featuring the striking image of a blonde with a single name: ’Angelyne.’” The television program shows several different billboards, all depicting Angelyne. The talking head continues: “Raising the question for millions of Angelenos: Who is Angelyne? And what exactly is she advertising?”

Cut to person-in-the-street interviews. An interviewer is holding a microphone up to a female Los Angeles resident, asking her about a billboard, who answers: “What do I think she does, by looking at it?” Cut to a different person, speculating: “Actually I did hear that she was trying to be a star. And that she bought all these billboards. Trying to be a star. Am I right?”

Cut to Angelyne herself, portrayed by Emmy Rossum, in footage that has been made intentionally grainy so as to appear period-correct, in her pink Corvette, with the driver’s side door open. An interviewer is holding a microphone up to her face. “Angelyne, why are you famous?” Angelyne answers, saucily: “I’m famous for being on billboards.” The look on her face says “As if that wasn’t obvious.”

Cut to a scene of Angelyne driving a pink Corvette, model year 1976 or so, along a street in Los Angeles. This might well be archival footage of Angelyne herself, rather than new footage shot for this show. Someone is yelling her name: “Angelyne!” The voice of an offscreen commenter: “I see her sometimes. I saw her ride by in a car.” Cut to the man who is speaking, who continues: “... and she was just paying maximum attention to the people on the sidewalk. Just, you know, showing up.”

Cut to a different scene of Angelyne, in a different Corvette, parked next to a sidewalk. She is surrounded by possibly a hundred fans, some taking photos. Based on the model year of the Corvette, this must be much later than the 1981 or 1982 framing date we were shown, likely the late eighties or early nineties. Once again, I suspect that this is archival footage of the real Angelyne in her actual Corvette, rather than Emmy Rossum.

Cut to a shot of Angelyne on a television show. She is sitting cross-legged on the hood of a 1976-era pink Corvette, parked at a beach. She says her catchphrase: “Ooooooh!”

Cut to a talking head: “The one, the only, Angelyne!” Cut to Angelyne as she walks onto the set of a talk show, sits down, and kicks up one leg. This time it is definitely Emmy Rossum, in footage made to look grainy and period-correct, set in 1986 or so. Cut to the audience, who are going wild for her.

Cut to another talking head on television. “Angelyne finally decided all those billboards weren’t enough. So she put up this ten-story-tall mural of herself at the corner of Hollywood and Vine.” Cut to a shot of the mural in question. Cut to a grainy shot of Angelyne on the hood of a pink Corvette, posing for fans who are taking photos. Cut to the talking head, who has more details about the mural: “It was there for six months, and cost more than fifty thousand dollars.”

Cut to another grainy shot of Angelyne on television, in close-up on her face. A talking head is speaking: “The mystery of Angelyne has become a media obsession.” Cut to a shot of the talking head, with Angelyne’s face framed behind him. “... though she outright refuses to tell you anything about her past.”

Cut to a black screen, covered by pink characters: “2019 (definitely).” “Evil Woman” is cut off right in the middle of the song, abruptly and prematurely.

Cut to a scene of Angelyne sitting on a pink loveseat. Behind her, on the wall, are paintings of Angelyne, painted by Angelyne herself. The room is festooned with Angelyne-inspired artwork and other artifacts from her long reign as a celebrity. This is almost certainly set in Angelyne’s own home. She is speaking to an unseen interviewer.

The interviewer speaks. “People have a lot of opinions about who you are. How would you describe yourself?” “I’m a rorschach test,” Angelyne says. “In pink.” She gasps in mock surprise and says her catchphrase: “Ooooooh!”

Cut to a close-up as Angelyne continues to speak. “An innocent little doll. Or a whore. Or a porn star.” Pause. “People see ... what they see.”

Cut to a scene of Jeff Glaser, sitting on a couch, identified as a journalist for The Hollywood Reporter. “I love Angelyne for all the same reasons I love Los Angeles. The extremes, the weirdness, the glamour, the enigma ...”

Cut to Angelyne on her pink loveseat. “There’s something sexy about a mystery. That’s why everybody wants to know my story.”

Cut back to Jeff. “Back then you could still disappear, or reappear, as someone else. You can’t really do that anymore. Angelyne existed at a point in American history when that was still possible.”

Cut to Rick, sitting at his desk in Angelyne’s home. A nameplate that reads “RICK” is front and center on the desk. Behind him is a pink bookcase filled with VHS videotapes. “Everyone wants to interview her. They’re doing a story about the history of Los Angeles, they’re doing a story about the greatest sex symbols of our time, they want to interview Angelyne.”

Cut back to Jeff, in a wider shot. We now see he is sitting in front of a window, in an office in a tall building, high above the Los Angeles skyline. “Who is Angelyne really? What’s her story, where is she from? That’s what I set out to learn.” Cut to a close-up. “And I was successful.” Jeff looks pleased with himself.

Cut to Angelyne. “Jeff Glaser turned out to be ... a liar. And I hate liars.” She plays with her hair. Her expression says she is exasperated by him. “He was just ... biting at the ... chum ... whatever you call it ... to get the story ...”

Angelyne’s offscreen interviewer speaks. “So the story isn’t true.”

Angelyne looks down, hiding her eyes. She opens her mouth, poised to speak, but doesn’t.

Cut to Jeff Glaser’s cubicle at The Hollywood Reporter. We hear office chatter and a distant ringing phone. Pink letters inform us that the year is 2015. We see post-it notes stuck on Jeff’s cubicle wall. Jeff’s hand places a post-it that reads “1981,” to the left of another that reads “1982.” Just below the year notes, smack dab between the two, he places a post-it labelled “First Billboard.” Underneath a post-it that says “1988,” there is another that reads “Shoots ’Earth Girls Are Easy.’”

Cut to a wider shot of the office. “Hey Jeff, here are those photos you asked for.” Jeff’s assistant passes a stack of photos to Jeff, over his low cubicle wall. “Of Angelyne.” Jeff takes the photos appreciatively. “Thank you,” he says, heartfelt. “Yeah, she was in a band called Baby Blue in the seventies. That guy’s name right there is Cory Hunt.”

Cut to a close-up of a black-and-white photo of Cory and Angelyne. This is the photo sleeve for a seven-inch 45RPM single, “Rock ’n’ Roll Rebel,” backed by “Fantasy Man,” from 1978. This was Baby Blue’s one-and-only released single. The photo we see onscreen is a painstaking recreation of the real thing, with actors from the show posing exactly the way Jordan Michaels and Angelyne did, back in 1978.

Cut to Angelyne on her loveseat. “Cory?” she asks, incredulously. She stares off into space, trying to remember him. “Oh.” She sighs dramatically, rubbing a pillow near her lap. “Cory’s dead.”

Cut to Cory Hunt, identified as the lead guitarist for Baby Blue. He is sitting in a room in his own home, which we will later learn is somewhere in New York state. He points to himself and says “I am not dead,” emphatically. “Of course she would say that, man. You know why she would say that? Because I created Angelyne.” He gestures dramatically, trying to frame the scenario as of his own making. His demeanor changes to one of uncertainty. “Does uh, does she know that you’re, uh, you’re talking to me?” (Angelyne is famously litigious. She has a habit of suing anyone who says or does things she does not approve of.)

Cut back to Angelyne. “Did I say Cory was dead? Well, he doesn’t live in LA anymore. I sometimes get the two confused.”

Cut to Cory. On the soundtrack, Yoko Ono’s “Mindtrain” is fading in quietly. “God’s honest truth? This whole Angelyne story starts with me,” he says, pointing to himself with both thumbs. “She was nothing before me.”

Cut to a shot of the sign above the Starwood nightclub in Los Angeles. We see three band names on the marquee, Baby Blue being the lowest and last, clearly not the headliner. Pink letters inform us that we are in the “1977 (ish)” timeframe. “Mindtrain” has gotten pretty loud.

We pan down to the sidewalk, the camera following behind a pair of guys wearing leather jackets. From out of the distance, we see that Angelyne is walking toward them. As she walks past, the guys turn to get a better look at her, but Angelyne doesn’t even acknowledge that they exist.

Angelyne turns to her right, screen left, to get a look at the signs on the wall outside the club. Her expression says “eh, not super-promising, but whatever, I don’t have anything better to do,” so she walks into the club. The camera pans up to a crudely hand-lettered poster taped to the wall, advertising Baby Blue’s show that night, alongside the poster for another band.

Cut to Angelyne in 2019, sitting on her pink loveseat. “Mindtrain” is abruptly silenced. “He’s probably gonna tell you some story,” she says, referring to Cory, “about how he ... saved me, or discovered me, and if that’ll make him happy he can do that,” she says, dismissively. “But the truth is when I met him I was already quite busy modeling, and acting. But, the characters weren’t reflective of who I am, on the inside. So. I had a different plan.”

Back to 1977-ish, inside the Starwood. Baby Blue is on stage, playing a song called “Palm of Your Hand,” Cory singing. Regretfully, I don’t know if this was a real Baby Blue song from their repertoire of that period or something that was made up for the show.

Angelyne sits down at the bar in the Starwood, looking over her shoulder at the band onstage. Voiceover from 2019 Angelyne: “I was looking for a thing ... that wasn’t going anywhere. One that I could mold. That’s how I discovered him.”

Back to Angelyne in the Starwood in 1977-ish. She briefly turns to the bartender. “Coca-cola please,” she says, then looks at the band again. Voiceover from 2019 Angelyne: “They were nothing much to look at. But that’s okay cause no one was looking.” Sick burn!

Back to Baby Blue onstage at the Starwood, Cory playing guitar and singing. He is having the time of his life. Voiceover from 2019 Cory: “I will never forget that night. We had a residency at the Starwood. We were already gaining a ton of buzz. There’s cosmic energy in the air that night.” Cut to a brief shot of the audience. It does indeed appear that the band is being received well.

The song ends. Cory announces triumphantly, “We have been, and we will always be, Baby Blue! Thank you! Yeah!”

Cut to Angelyne at the bar. She has lost interest in the band. She is digging through her handbag, looking for something.

Cory jumps off the stage triumphantly. A tall pretty girl is star-struck, showing a lot of interest. She hands him a beer. Cory talks to her, briefly, along with another girl standing beside her. These two don’t hold much interest for him, because Cory has just spotted Angelyne sitting at the bar.

Voiceover from 2019 Cory: “And that’s when I discovered her. This divine creature from outer space ...” he says, as Angelyne holds a makeup mirror, applying lipstick.

“I’ll be right back,” Cory says to the two girls he is talking to. (Spoiler alert: He won’t be right back.)

Cory walks unsteadily towards the bar, where Angelyne is sitting, holding his beer and a lit cigarette. “I never saw anything so beautiful,” says 2019-Cory.

Cory lays eyes on Angelyne, sitting at the bar, still applying lipstick, ignoring him. Cory struggles for something to say. “The, uh, so what’d you think of the band?” he asks, gesturing towards the stage. A suave lady’s man, he is not.

“What band?” Angelyne asks, not taking her eyes off of her makeup mirror. “Mine,” he answers, sheepishly. “We were just on stage.”

Cut to Angelyne’s face reflected in her makeup mirror. “Oh, was that you? I wasn’t listening. How’d you do,” Angelyne ask casually, not interested in the answer. “We were incredible,” Cory answers, as if that were so obvious that he’s a bit put out that he even has to say so.

Angelyne finally looks at him. Her expression says she does not necessarily agree. Cory sheepishly backs away from his earlier statement. He looks back at the stage, making a new assessment. “We were fine,” he amends.

“If you’re aiming for ’just fine,’ you’ll probably end up just missing it,” Angelyne says, setting her lipstick tube on the bar. “You gotta aim higher!” She gestures towards the sky, emphasizing her advice.

Angelyne is smiling now. It appears Cory has gotten her attention.

“I know ... this place is ... not bad, but we really should be playing the Whiskey,” Cory says. (He is referring to the Whisky A Go Go, a famous Los Angeles venue that still exists to this day.)

“Then you gotta play every show ... as if it’s the Whisky and one day,” she says, snapping her fingers, “it will be.” Said as if this is a fait accompli.

Angelyne is smiling an optimistic smile at Cory that says she really believes this, and that she really believes he can accomplish this dream. It is not hard to see why he would be so smitten with her.

“Can I buy you a drink?” Cory asks, putting his cigarette to his lips. “I don’t drink,” Angelyne answers. She plucks the cigarette out of his mouth and stubs it out in an ashtray on the bar. “Or smoke,” she adds.

“Who are you?” Cory asks, trying to get a sense of her. “I’m Angelyne,” she answers. It looks like things are going pretty well.

Cut to a few hours later. The bar has mostly cleared out. Cory is sitting next to Angelyne, drinking a beer. Angelyne is listening intently. Her body language says she is quite interested in him now.

“My, my dad, he’s got this whole Soviet work ethic, where you just work ... your whole life and you expect nothing. But I say, what’s the point of living if you aren’t following your dreams ...”

Angelyne also says “following your dreams,” at the same time Cory is saying it. They nod at each other in agreement. “Yeah, so I said no, I’m not gonna live like that,” Cory adds. “So I packed up all my shit, I flew to LA, started a band ... I mean, I’ve played every club around here. Actually, I’m gonna play the Whiskey. And I’ll prove him wrong, you know?”

Angelyne takes a moment to contemplate this. “Fathers can ... ruin your life,” she says. (Foreshadowing!)

“So what about you, are you close with your dad?” Cory asks. “Oh, I never knew him. He died when I was a baby,” Angelyne answers. What was that she said earlier about liars?

“Oh gosh, I’m sorry. Your mom?” Cory asks. Angelyne doesn’t like this line of conversation, so she changes the subject. “What’s your sign?” she asks. “Aquarius,” he says. Angelyne gasps as if this information is important. “No wonder you’re a rebel,” she says.

Angelyne gets up to leave, walking briskly towards the door, suddenly paying zero attention to Cory. It’s obvious who is in control of this situation.

Cory whips around in his seat and calls after her: “Wait, where are you going?”

Angelyne turns to him long enough to say “Home. Of course,” and then continues her brisk walk towards the door. Cory gets out of his seat and follows her out.

Cut to 2019 Cory, sitting in his home. “She will occasionally share things about herself to gain sympathy, but when it comes to the actual truth, about her past ... she never, went there.”

Cut to the sidewalk outside the Starwood. Angelyne is walking briskly, her heels clacking on the sidewalk. “Hey, hey, wait up! You know how many freaks and weirdos are out here?” Cory asks, hastily putting on a jacket as he follows her. “You could get your head chopped off.” “Don’t worry, Daddy. I’m stronger than I look,” Angelyne answers, giving him a crumb of attention.

“You ... you, shouldn’t be walking,” Cory says. “I work at a garage, I could help you get a cheap car, if you want?” “Oh I don’t want just any car,” Angelyne answers. “A car is supposed to be an extension of you, your being. I want something fast. So I can get away if I have to.”

“What are you trying to get away from?” Cory asks. “Anyone. Anything. I have to know I can escape. That’s why I’m saving up to buy my dream car, my very own Star-vette.” (Yes, Angelyne really says “Star-vette.” Perhaps she just coined a portmanteau.)

“Star-vette,” Cory repeats. “Um hmm. Tha’t’s what Barbie calls her Corvette,” Angelyne says. “Her dream machine.” “Barbie, the ... the, doll?” Cory asks. “The Americon Icon,” Angelyne says, correcting him. “I’d love to be like Barbie.” “You’re already blonde and beautiful,” Cory notes. “Oh, she’s so much more than that!” Angelyne says. “She lives a painless existence. You can stick her with things and she won’t cry, it doesn’t hurt. Wouldn’t that be nice, never to hurt?” “Yeah, I would never let you get hurt,” Cory says, creating a role for himself in her life.

“C’mon Aquarius, we don’t want to get our heads chopped off,” she says, pulling him by the jacket. Angelyne and Cory walk to Angelyne’s apartment, exchanging small talk.

Cut to the interior of Angelyne’s apartment. “I came to Hollywood to follow the dream. I had to leave everything behind, in order to become what I knew I needed to become,” Angelyne says, as she lights one candle after another in her darkened apartment.

(to be continued)