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CHARLES IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

Los Angeles Times

Charles Phoenix brings his love of kitsch to cooking

For Charles Phoenix, imagination is the magic ingredient. Hence dishes such as the Astro Weenie Party Tree or Bambrosinana.

By Noelle Carter

August 10, 2013

“The colors need to be bright, like saturated neon,” Charles Phoenix says, describing his Seven Layer Soda Pop Rocks cake. “You can’t have too much food coloring. Think Day-Glo!”

Phoenix is visualizing the elements of an ideal summer party. His ideal summer party. “A pool would be nice, because pool parties are classic summer. And there would be those motorized pool toys with remote controls for the gearheads, so they can fight in the water.” A little something for everyone.

“But I think they should be unicorns. Imagine remote-control unicorns fighting in a pool.”

Phoenix is an entertainer who is all about Americana, exploring and celebrating our kitschy pop culture past and present through his books and tours, historic slide shows and unique culinary creations. “I was born on a used-car lot,” he explains, smiling (his father was a used-car salesman), and he calls himself a child of Disneyland. “I’m very theme-oriented.”

Don’t have unicorns for your summer party? No problem. Focus on the spread.

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CHARLES IN PALM SPRINGS LIFE

Trailer Family Portrait, Palm Springs, 1955

 

Meet the Ultimate ‘Retro Daddy’

Americana expert Charles Phoenix relives road trips to Palm Springs, forays into thrift stores and date farms, and calls for the comeback of the chuckwagon.

Interview by Matthew Link

DRESSED IN A CUSTOM-TAILORED SUIT and trademark rhinestone Colonel Sanders bow tie, Charles Phoenix flips through hilarious and sometimes bizarre slides of strangers and their homes and cars and families, taking a standing-room-only audience at Palm Springs Art Museum’s Annenberg Theater through a rip-roaring Technicolor look at yesteryear.

Twenty years ago, this self-proclaimed “retro daddy” found a shoebox full of vintage Kodachrome slides in a thrift shop marked “Trip Across the United States 1957,” and his obsession with mid-century Americana was born. Today, he lives by this mantra: “Get in touch with your inner Americana, embrace it, have a sense of humor about it, and proudly share it with the whole wide world.”

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CHARLES INTERVIEWED IN THE DENVER WESTWORD

Downtown Denver, 1956

 

Charles Phoenix on Fried Cereal, the Genesis of the Cherpumple and Molded Gelatin

By Susan Froyd

If you know retro — and particularly mid-century — you know retro geek Charles Phoenix, a child of the endless car lots and fast food restaurants of Southern California who is famous across the nation for his mid-mod slide shows and modernist expertise. And you might even know about his sideshow, the most awesome Charles Phoenix Test Kitchen. In that guise, he’s appeared on Martha Stewart’s show and amazed Conan O’Brien with his spectacular Astro-Weenie Christmas Tree, but at the end of July, he’ll be doing it 24/7 in the Denver County Fair Kitchen Pavilion, where he’ll create such delectables of his own invention as Mr. Meatloaf and Fried Cereal, as well as judge such fair food categories as best Molded Gelatin Dessert and best Cake and Egg Decorating.

We chatted with Mr. Phoenix about the recipes and inspirations behind his unique retro food fetishes, and here’s what he had to say.

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CHARLES IN THE LOS ANGELES EXAMINER

An Interview With America's Pop Culture Ambassador

Knott's Berry Farm 1954

An Interview with America's Pop Culture Ambassador, Charles Phoenix

By Ryan Stabile

Growing up in Upland, California in the '70s, Charles Pheonix was privy to a hub of SoCal pop culture. "It was just minutes to the beach, minutes to Disneyland and Knotts, minutes to the mountains, and minutes from the desert. Everyone in Southern California has an incredible variety of recreational choices." He goes on to joke about how families often plan a week out of their year to do on vacation what locals do on a whim...

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CHARLES IN THE SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SUN

Fireworks

In a few short moments, a fantastic idea for a brand-new attraction at the Stater Bros. Route 66 Rendezvous, later this year, will be revealed in all its glory. First, a little set-up.I still keep my vast collection of photographic slides, and I still enjoy getting out the projector and screen and looking at my slides from time to time, which I think is quite heroic in this Digital Age that has seen the utter downfall of slide photography...

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