Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Happy 4th of July Ball B-B-Q!

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Designed by William Wiggins for Shepherd Products of Toronto in 1970, this aluminum ball shaped barbecue which featured a double stack of cooking racks and a rollover cover was about as modern as you could get back in the day. The hottest of the colors it came in was a gorgeous shade of red orange which this one originally was when I rescued it for 99 cents from a Salvation Army. Here it is in brand new, pristine shape:

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But through the years of chicken juice and hot dog grease all that was left of its color by the time I found it were a few flakes that peeled off if you even breathed on it. I hate when vintage things are restored to look “brand-new”, translation: too cheesy for a purist  to even look at, so I couldn’t consider that. But the opportunity for cosmetic surgery presented itself when I art directed  a Debbie Harry video over here in 1987 and covered the B-B-Q with a coat of chrome spray paint to use as a prop. Which made it look gorgeous but even more dangerous to eat anything that was cooked in it. So through the years it’s served a variety of other functions, mostly at parties.  Sometimes I use it as a candy dish…

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A lot of times it’s used as a name tag container as I hate to be responsible for introducing everyone myself…

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At a party over here a couple of years ago when the musical I co-wrote, The Color Purple, came to LA, Adam Wade, who played Ol’ Mister, dipped into the Ball and used the flip top as a ledge to fill out his name tag.

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This is significant because decades before I met Adam I had photos of him plastered all over my bedroom because I swooned over his Johnny Mathis-smooth-as-wine-which-I-don’t-even-like-so-I’ll-say-smooth-as-Skippy-Peanut-Butter-smooth voice. Here’s what I looked at on my ceiling every night as a teenager when I got into bed:

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I can’t believe I have no photos of the bedroom I grew up in. It was decorated to the max and gave all indications of how and who I would grow up to be which is exactly how and who I grew up to be both from a decorative and musical standpoint. But me having no photos is another matter entirely so suffice it to say this is why I document everything so incessantly now. But back to the Ball B-B-Q…

My little Ball B-B-Q may not be capable of smoking with the big guys…

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…and it may not be capable of turning out food like this…

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…but as it sits in my yard this Fourth of July, probably wishing it had a big bulging steak or some burgers sweating on its grills, it just makes me happy to look at it and celebrate the fact that I had the good taste to buy it in the first place.

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Categories: Food, Furniture and Housewares, Holidays, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Party

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2 Comments

  • punterjoe says:

    That is amazing in a retrofuture kind of way. I’m sure if Dr Evil had a cookout, he would use a BallBQ! …Now I’m craving spherical burgers.

  • Zeppy says:

    Allee,
    Whenever there is a BBQ that looks like the cross of a Q-Tip and “Gort” (The Day The Earth Stood Still), it’s definitely a KITSCH hit! Lovely…absolutely lovely!

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