L.A. icon Angelyne is the Jewish daughter of Holocaust survivors

August 2, 2017

Remember those billboards around Los Angeles in the 1990s sporting a bosomy blonde named Angelyne?  Back in the days before the Kardashians, she was famous for being famous – and for driving her pink Corvette around Los Angeles, eyes often hidden by sunglasses. For decades, her true identity remained unknown.  That’s changed today.  An Aug. 2 story broke in The Hollywood Reporter, in which writer Gary Baum reveals his odyssey tracing Angelyne back to her true roots: as the daughter of Jewish concentration camp survivors named Renee Goldberg.

According to the article, documents prove that she was born in Poland in 1950; her parents had been two of few Jews to survive the Chmielnik ghetto and endured camps including Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen. They married in a displaced persons camp in Germany soon after the war, and eventually returned to Poland – only to face continuing Polish anti-Semitism. And so they booked tickets on a boat for Israel and settled in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of B’nai B’rack. 

By 1959 they had relocated yet again, this time to the Fairfax district, in Los Angeles, where Angelyne’s mother died of cancer when she was 14.  Her father remarried another Holocaust survivor, moved the family to Panorama City and ran a liquor store in Van Nuys.  The young Renee attended Monroe High School, where school photos reveal her to have been a somber red head.

Years later, she would become one of the iconic figures in the popular culture of Los Angeles, even though she would refuse to discuss her origins.

As Baum writes, “Far from the archetypal transplant-with-a-dream, as she has tacitly long alluded, she’s the locally raised daughter of Holocaust survivors, a Jew who has found refuge in shiksa drag. It’s a fascinating, only-in-L.A. story of identity, history and a symbiotic yearning both to be forgotten and to be famous.”

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