Books: Chris Epting’s Pop Culture Dispatches
Chris Epting is the real deal.
And, if you love the study of Popular Culture half as much as I do, you need to add a few of his books to your shelves. The only challenge may be choosing among them.
Epting has penned seventeen pop culture landmark guides for multiple publishers (including a handful of Arcadia Publishing’s sepia-toned historical photo volumes), but he is more than just a writer of books. Among many other roles, he is the national spokesman for Hampton Inn’s “Save-A-Landmark” program, hosts the weekly syndicated radio show, The Pop Culture Road Trip, and regularly dons the mantle of “Pop Culture Guru” on National Public Radio, the E! Channel and Access Hollywood.
His books, however, remain the most accessible pop culture fix for most fans. Even limited exposure to this fun and fascinating body of work leaves the impression that Epting himself could be parachuted blindfolded into any tiny corner of the United States, and–after taking a moment to get his bearings–teach the locals a few things they didn’t know about their own hometown.
Of course, his past work has not always been about famous people. Like Paul Simon, he sees “angels in the architecture,” and can often wax as lyrical about the history of buildings, landmarks and trees as he can about the rich, the famous, and the infamous.
Epting just knows stuff.
The tales he spins, however, are more than just book knowledge or a bunch of unrelated facts memorized off of out-dated Trivial Pursuit cards. For the past four decades, he’s enjoyed amazing first-hand experiences with some of the biggest sports, musical and pop culture icons of recent generations, and he generously shares many of them in his most recent work, Hello, It’s Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie, just published by Santa Monica Press.
Make no mistake. Epting gets around. Like Johnny Cash, he’s been “everywhere, man.” He’s Zelig without Photoshop, Forrest Gump without the special effects. From an early age, he’s posed for more “grip & grin” photos than any three Presidents. Dude’s a walking Kodak moment, but with a soundtrack to match.
He knows baseball. He knows music, film and television. And he may be the only man who could have negotiated a truce if a group of WWII veterans ever accidentally wandered in to CBGB’s back in the day.
I worked alongside Epting a decade ago at a mid-sized Orange County advertising agency, and can attest to his creative energy, sense of humor, and voracious appetite for all things pop culture. But despite his marketing background and knowledge of the ad biz, his books are chock-full of entertaining and enlightening paeans to his passions. He doesn’t write about baseball and rock and roll because it will “sell.” He writes about these and other topics because he genuinely loves them. Writing from a point of passion is certainly a road less traveled in the book business these days, but, for Epting, it makes all the difference.
The personal, passionate tone of each tale included in Hello, It’s Me adds to the telling. For the first time, Epting is a character in each of his mini-plays. And don’t assume that the “pop culture” he covers ends with the 1990s. Although the book begins in the early 1970s, the last few chapters are as timely as the requirements of the printing press will allow. The most recent, a moving chapter on the family, life and tragic death of Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, drummer of the popular hard rock/metal core band Avenged Sevenfold (which grew out of a series of columns he wrote for Huntington Beach Independent), is not to be missed.
Hop in the shotgun seat alongside Chris Epting for a radical ride-along, either with Hello, It’s Me, or one of many other works. You won’t be sorry.
His available titles include: James Dean Died Here, Marilyn Monroe Dyed Here, Elvis Passed Here, Led Zepplin Crashed Here, Vanishing Orange County, Roadside Baseball, and many others.