A 'Histo-Tainment' Take on the L.A. County Fair The Los Angeles County Fair is the largest in the country, and it takes a big personality to cover all the fun... Self-proclaimed "histo-tainer" Charles Phoenix visits the fair in search of extraordinary livestock, deep-fried Twinkies, and a high-stakes bean bag toss.
NPR logo

A 'Histo-Tainment' Take on the L.A. County Fair

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6160010/6160011" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
A 'Histo-Tainment' Take on the L.A. County Fair

A 'Histo-Tainment' Take on the L.A. County Fair

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6160010/6160011" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Mr. CHARLES PHOENIX (Historian/Entertainer) Okay, we're talking about the Los Angeles County Fair, which is absolutely an institution of the highest order.


Charles Phoenix, self-proclaimed histo-tainer - that's historian and entertainer. He is back on our program to share his obsession today with the Los Angeles County Fair. It's going on right now. The L.A. County Fair is the largest in the country. It's been held on the Pomona Fairground since 1922 - 84 years. Charles loves it because it's a window into the past - living history. Take it away, Charles.

Mr. PHOENIX: It is a treasure trove of vintage architecture, neon signs, exhibits, displays, demonstrations, contests, food, rides, races. There's so much to see here. We are going to be here for a while, you know.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PHOENIX: Hi, my name is Charles Phoenix. We're with National Public Radio. You know, NPR? Yeah. What is your name?

MICKEY: Mickey.

Mr. PHOENIX: What are you doing here, Mickey?

MICKEY: I'm supposed to represent a pioneer woman playing pioneer games. This is a - I guess you could call a button-spinning game. Then we have this beanbag toss, where you throw a beanbag up in the air and try to toss it on the other side in the can. Why don't you demonstrate, Adam.

Mr. PHOENIX: That takes some skill, to throw a beanbag between two cat food cans.

MICKEY: Go ahead and try it.

Mr. PHOENIX: No, I love that. Let me try, let me try. I'm very good at stuff like this. Watch.

MICKEY: Oh, good. Oh, almost.

Mr. PHOENIX: Sorry, never mind.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PHOENIX: I was never good at sports.

Unidentified Man #1: Here's why we sell so many of them. We've been here for 20-some years. Not your carpet...

Mr. PHOENIX: So yeah. The people doing the, you know, all the demonstrations and trying to sell you the miracle carpet cleaner and the no-stick cookware and all that stuff? It's incredible. It's living theater. It's something we should cherish. These people, they're like entertainers. They're actors, they're salesmen.

Unidentified Man #1: ...the dirt can't hurt and the fiber's good for you.

Mr. PHOENIX: Wait, excuse me. If you spill, like, your martini in the carpet and then you soak it up with this miracle shammy...

Unidentified Man #1: Recycle it.

Mr. PHOENIX: ...you literally put it - squeeze it right back into the martini glass?

Unidentified Man #1: You got it. You pulled it all the way off the floor. The soda's in the towel. Just go back and wring it off. Better yet, whoever knocked their drink over while they're not looking, a couple fresh ice cubes, they never knew they dropped their drink.

Mr. PHOENIX: Would that be a dirty martini?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PHOENIX: Okay, now we have just entered the big livestock barn, and quite frankly it smells in here. So this has to be the biggest cow on earth. It is so gigantic. I'm not sure. I'm wondering if it will moo for us. Moo. No, it's not going to do it.

Sir? We're trying to get a sound effect of the cow mooing. We're on National Public Radio. Would you moo for us so we have the sound effect? Because my sound effect is not going to work. Maybe yours will. Could you moo, please?

Unidentified Man #2: Sure. Moo! Did that work?

Mr. PHOENIX: No, that wasn't very good. Can you try that again, please?

Unidentified Man #2: Mooooo!

Mr. PHOENIX: That was incredible. That was much better.

(Soundbite of trumpet)

Mr. PHOENIX: Hi, sir. We're with National Public Radio, and we're going to bid on a horse, but we don't know how to do it. Can you help us?

Unidentified Man #3: Sure.

Mr. PHOENIX: Mambo Dancer, Number 6.

Unidentified Man #3: So do you want win, place or show? You'll get paid all three prices.

Mr. PHOENIX: Okay, well if we - we're going to come back to you just to figure out if we won, period.

Unidentified Man #3: That's a deal.

Mr. PHOENIX: Because otherwise we're not sure we're going to know.

(Soundbite of race announcer)

Mr. PHOENIX: Go, go, go, go. Hurry, faster, faster. Oh, he won. We won! We won! Our horse came in first place.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PHOENIX: I'm so excited. That is so much better - winning is so much better than losing, let's face it. Okay, let's go collect our money. So we more than doubled our money.

Unidentified Man #4: Yes. You get 7.60 profit.

Mr. PHOENIX: Well, you know what that little profit of the winning is going to buy, don't you?

Unidentified Man #4: Oh yeah.

Mr. PHOENIX: A big, juicy deep-fried Twinkie.

Unidentified Man #4: There you go. Where do you get those?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PHOENIX: That's what I'm trying to find. I thought there were deep-fried Twinkie stands everywhere, and I haven't found one of them yet.

Unidentified Man #4: I haven't seen any.

Mr. PHOENIX: Well, I'm a little disappointed that I was never able to find the deep-fried Twinkie stand, but otherwise my imagination is completely inspired. I know it doesn't really seem like it fits in in L.A. County, but you know what? It's amazing to come and experience all things that are the Los Angeles County Fair in the fair city of Pomona. You know, Pomona was the Roman goddess of fruit, right?

BRAND: That's histo-tainer Charles Phoenix. His new book is Americana the Beautiful: Mid-century Culture in Kodachrome. For more of Charles - and you know you want more of Charles - and pictures from the fair, go to our Web site, npr.org.

(Soundbite of music)

PESCA: Wow, Madeleine. The cow wound up not mooing after all.

BRAND: Didn't moo, Mike. Never a sure thing.


BRAND: Well, except for this: There's more to come on DAY TO DAY.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.