“We always started with the book, because the book not only established the visual archive, but it also established the critical argument and the cultural histories that I was trying to tell about the archive... I like to think of the book as the cornerstone of the thinking that created the thread that holds all of the activities that we did together.”
Since it incorporated September 22, 1992, Angel City Press has published more than 100 books that range from the whimsical collections curated by Charles Phoenix, to the deep dive into Wilshire Boulevard by Kevin Roderick with J. Eric Lynxwiler, to the 1940s Los Angeles that inspired Woody Guthrie to write a soul-searching ode to America. Darryl Holter and Bill Deverell turned those Woody Guthrie days into a whole book. (“You see, there is no single book that can tell the L.A. story—we've never even tried—that would be a silly endeavor,” they'll tell you from their office by the sea.)
Stories published by ACP span the California landscape, from the Monterey Jazz Festival to Twentynine Palms. Co-founder Paddy Calistro explained that Angel City Press “hopes to point a magnifying glass at Southern California by providing a closer look at all the different parts of this amazing city and at places that surround it.”
As Angel City Press enters its 25th year, it also means two of its best-selling titles are showcased. Rock ’n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip (now available in softcover for the first time) features the photography of Landau. Quoted in Smithsonian.com, Landau commented:
“Because all the record companies were in L.A. and most of the artists were living there, they were all trying to outdo each other. There were billboards that lit up at night and ones that changed over time (like a brick wall that changed brick by brick to reveal the album cover of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.) Record companies spent fortunes on the billboards, which supplemented album art and built buzz for upcoming albums.”
Angel City Press has published four books with the “histo-tainer” Charles Phoenix. The first with Phoenix (and co-author Fred Basten) was Fabulous Las Vegas in the 1950s, a book launched in a Vegas casino that imploded and disappeared shortly thereafter. ACP's 25th marks the reprint of his very popular Southern California in the 50s: Sun, Fun and Fantasy. As the Los Angeles Times wrote in 2001:
[The book] mines the landscape from Santa Barbara to San Diego for all things nostalgic. The coffee table tome, issued this fall by Angel City Press, ambles down a memory lane of dairy farm billboards and drive-in theaters in the decade when Disneyland opened for business and the region's sprawling freeway network took shape.
In honor of ACP's 25th anniversary in 2017, author J. Eric Lynxwiler says, “Angel City Press is so important to the city as it draws attention to the stories that are not often told.” The co-author (with Tom Zimmerman) of Spectacular Illumination: Neon Los Angeles, 1925-1965 continued, “Their books illuminate those histories that help us better understand Los Angeles.” We'll take a peek at many of those books in the weeks and months to come, as the 25th anniversary looms large at ACP galactic headquarters.