Modernism Week Cheat Sheet: The Charles Phoenix Retro Slide Show

Posted By: Matt Link Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An estimated 35,000 people flocked to Palm Springs for last year's Modernism Week, and this year’s event is poised to break that record attendance. From February 14th to 24th, over 100 events celebrating Mid-century Modern architecture and style will occur all over Palm Springs. Most Modernism Week events sell out before their date, so if you happen to miss the crowd favorite Charles Phoenix Retro Slide Show at 10 AM on Feb. 16th at the Palm Springs Art Museum, here’s your essential absentee cheat sheet of the event.


A self-proclaimed “retro daddy” and lover of all things Mid-century Americana, Charles Phoenix is a performer, humorist, chef, and author of seven books on vintage American kitsch, including Southern Californialand: Mid-Century Culture in Kodachrome.
Charles is well-versed in all things Palm Springs, having grown up in nearby Ontario (in a 1955 custom-built ranch home with a big weather and fake bird house on top of it). Charles fell in love with fin-tailed classic cars at the used car lot he father owned.


In the 1990s, Charles’ life changed forever when he found a shoebox full of vintage Kodachrome slides in a thrift shop marked “Trip Across the United States 1957.” He became fascinated with the captured moments of camp featuring these strangers of a forgotten America. Soon friends and contacts were donating vintage slides to him by the dozens, and now his “Slibrary” archive is in the thousands. Charles’ rip-roaring narrations over his public slideshows are side-splitting, but also daft and revelatory regarding the fashions, buildings, infrastructure, and lifestyles of the 1950s and 1960s. His slideshow on Feb. 16th focuses on slides from his collection showcasing Palm Springs and the California desert.

Here is a sample slide and Charles’ take on it all:

"I love a beautiful family portrait! But never more than when the family is posed in front of a canned ham trailer and least two of them are dressed alike. In this case its his and hers Hawaiian print shirts. Truly inspired!"
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“I can distinctly remember as a child entering the city limits of Palm Springs, and even then, I could feel it was a distinct and special place, I knew it. All of the sudden you became more sophisticated than you really were. At least that’s the way I felt.”

“I want to see through the layers of time, and in Palm Springs, I do. Palm Springs is a stomping ground for people who love nostalgia. A lot has been saved here. The quality of individual homes being restored is so smart and so good. It’s exciting. Palm Springs is like a big, beautiful village. It’s like a theme park. It’s a playground for the rich and famous, and it always has been. The legacy of legend here is rich.”

For more information on Charles and to peer through his slide collection with commentary, go to


  • Ron Orion Tuesday, February 5, 2013 13:53 PM

    Love the Photo...

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