It’s always fun to slide back in time

by John Weeks, Staff Writer

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.

But I am nothing compared to Charles Phoenix. He is the real hero here, because he does far more than simply enjoy old slides. The Ontario-born and raised entertainer has turned old slides into a quirky pop culture empire that includes live shows, tours, books and regular TV appearances.

Phoenix roams Southern California thrift shops and yard sales in search of old slides from the 1950s and ’60s that portray old-fashioned Americana at its very best and most hilarious. He uses the slides to create live onstage picture shows that serve as wonderfully entertaining and nostalgic journeys back in time.

Phoenix is both a pop historian and an irrepressible comedian who peppers his picture shows with non-stop commentary. For example, he’ll show a slide from July 4, 1953, showing an El Monte family lighting fireworks in the yard, and he’ll say, solemnly, “One man, two women and two little boys gather ’round to enjoy the defining moment of our most patriotic holiday. Yes, we Americans just love to gawk at explosives mass-produced in China. It’s our way of saying Happy Birthday USA!”

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