Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – 1960′s Church & Funeral Fans, Wienerschnitzel and The Color Purple

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I bought my first African American church fan in the late 1970′s but my collection really kicked into gear after I worked with James Brown in the mid-80s. He always told me my music was so hot and picked up the fan to “cool himself down”. So after that I always bought the fans when I saw them cheap enough. But the collection blasted into overdrive when I began writing The Color Purple musical in 2001. The very first time Alice Walker, the author of the original book, came over I gave her her choice of over 50 fans.  I used them all the time with Brenda Russell and Stephen Bray, my music co-writers, but sadly can’t seem to find any photos of us cooling ourselves. But anytime anyone came over to hear any of the music they always listened with church fan in hand. I think we had just finished one of the Church Ladies’ songs when this group, including Alfre Woodard, Lorraine Toussaint, Stephanie Burton, Peter Hastings, Roderick Spenser and Maggie Wheeler (Janice on Friends), came over.

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As often as they came from churches, the fans were also a hot promotional item given out by funeral homes. They usually portrayed a gorgeous, dressed in their Sunday best, peaceful looking, happy family. The fans I’m featuring today aren’t necessarily my favorites so much as I love that they all feature white hats. This first one comes from the Brown & Robertson Funeral Home in Picayune, Miss. According to the back of the fan, they offer “A Dignified Service in a Sympathetic Way”.

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This next one comes from the Jones-Gaines & Sons Funeral Home in Topeka, Kansas, “Serving Topeka Area Families With Over 51 Years of Courteous and Efficient Service”.

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This one’s courtesy of the Dykes Funeral home in Covington, VA. “Consideration for the Living–Reverence for the Dead”.

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And finally there’s this one from John Q. Adams of Victoria, Texas that says simply “Ladies Hose & Shoes”. I’m assuming that that does not refer to a selection in the funeral home so I guess the fans were available to any business that wanted to hand them out.

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I took a fan with me last night when I crawled along the 101 to Thousand Oaks to see the Second National Tour of my musical, The Color Purple. After 2-1/2 years on Broadway and a three-year First National Tour, this was going to be my first time seeing this all new production and cast.

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There was a huge traffic jam on the freeway for about 7 miles because of an accident on the other side.  Los Angeles has just gotten over record-breaking heat so people were a little more cuckoo in their cars than usual. I stayed cool because I had my fan and sensible shoes for driving.

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I wish I could say that the show was fantastic but I ended up staying in my car on my Ipad for most of it because an idea I’ve been attempting to massage out of my head for several weeks finally decided to spill out while I was in line at Weinerschnitzel.

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So I spent most of Act 1 pounding away in a parking lot under the glow of the yellow W neon.  Having driven all the way to Thousand Oaks though, I made myself get to the theater.

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I walked in during “Uh Oh”.

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But this idea kept smacking against the front of my brain and I couldn’t open my Ipad in the theater because the last thing I wanted to do was distract anyone in that audience from what was going on on stage. So, knowing I had tickets to see the show the rest of the week, I joined my now-sitting-in-the-car-way-too-long-to-eat Wienerschnitzel and fan and headed back home.

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Categories: Accessories, Advertising/ Promotion, Afro, Food, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Songwriting, The Color Purple

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Allee Willis’ “The 365 Days Of September” – Day 10

///sept-http-www.youtube.comwatch-v=xBiywHN29f8&feature=relatedMaybe the person shooting this video was racing back from the bathroom or had their hands occupied unwrapping candy so they wouldn’t make noise during the performance, but between the front of the song being cut off and the camera doing a tour of the wall, this version of my song, “September”, as seen through the binoculars of kitsch, gets off to an auspicious start! I’m going to also assume that the shooter is related to one of the horn players as no one else in the large ensemble is visible until midway through the first chorus. The “walk on” at :23 is really good too. Then the YouTube description says that this is performed by “one of Gramt MacEwan’s showcase bands”. I’m assuming that the shooter’s hands were also otherwise occupied multitasking when they typed that as I’m pretty sure that Gramt is Grant. When all is said and done though, this is one of the better school performances of “September” I’ve seen. Everyone’s in tune and the cowbell coming in for the last choruses is always good.

For a more through exploration of my “365 Days Of September” mission as well as details of how the song was written, go here. Until tomorrow, ba-de-ya!

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Categories: 365 Days Of September, Kitsch, Music, September, Songwriting

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Allee Willis’ “The 365 Days Of September” – Day 9

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I’m always happy when my work inspires folks to take on their own creative endeavors. But in this case, the spirit of my song, “September”, just might have inspired a little too much confidence in three college boys out to make a concept video. I get the fact that the guy in front suspects something is going on yet somehow misses that there are two (bad) dancers prancing behind him, but as storytelling goes this sinks like a tugboat loaded with cement. I especially love that the dancers often duck prematurely, even before the guy in front turns around to discover nothing. And sometimes the music just mysteriously stops. Best is once the innocent in front leaves the room so that the guys don’t have to mime anymore, one of them continues to silently mouth the song. Once it turns into a full-blown dance off, I can’t say I would be awarding any prize other than to advise them that their allowance money ought to go towards a new mic. Without question, the best part of this video is the toilet paper covering the door of the room across the hall.

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Categories: 365 Days Of September, Dance, Kitsch, Music, People, Self expression, September, Songwriting, video

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – “Soap Tunes” Musical Hand Soap and the ASCAP Love Fest

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The concept of this “Foaming  Musical Hand Soap for Kids!” is really crazy. Theoretically kids can “wash & learn” at the same time. But the biggest thing they’re going to learn is that the quality of the speaker in this thing is so poor that the only one who could possibly hear the music clearly is an insect who somehow slipped through one of the speaker holes and got trapped in the goo, forced to listen to the nearly inaudible and annoying little gremlin voice singing something about washing around your face and continuously spelling S-O–A.–P.

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Categories: Bathroom, Celebrity, Hollywood, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, Party, Products, Songwriting

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Allee Willis’ “The 365 Days Of September” – Day 8

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If for no other reason, this is fantastic for the player’s voice announcing what he’s about to perform at the top of this ’2groovy postparody :D ’ vid.  CharisC22 indeed plays a most spirited version of my first hit, “September”.  I seriously love how tinny his keyboard sounds and how heavy he lays on the pedal as if Bigfoot is in the band. The brief narration noting the shift in mood at 2:11 slays me and the 60′s-Sondheim-kind-of-staccato-ishy-little-chord-juts-that-someone-like-me-who’s-sold-50,000,000-records-should-know-the-musical-term-for is outstanding as well.

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Categories: 365 Days Of September, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, Songwriting

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Pigmy Will in “Chainsaw Hair Salon”

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For any of you reading this who might not know “Pigmy Will” because this is the first animated one of the under-60-seconds series we’ve done in quite a while, it’s a horribly drawn/ much beloved chronicle of Pigmy Will, a diminutive yet eternally optimistic being whose best friends with a palm tree named Feathers and a pineapple on a tricycle named Whiska. They’re all the creations of me and Prudence Fenton, much more heavily tilted toward the latter, who IS Pigmy Will as she possesses an unnatural ability to thrust her voice into the ozone and come out with a sound that makes dogs hide under the nearest couch. If you remember the hi-pitched voice of the flowers in the window box in Pee-Wee’s Playhouse that was Prudence (who also created Penny).  We write these, record them, voice them, score them, direct them and work with our animator, Alfonso, and engineer, Scott, to finish them. Here are two of my favorite “Pigmy Will”s:

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Categories: Animation, Creativity, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Pigmy Will, video

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Mr. T A-Team Transistor Radio

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I was never into The A-Team when it came out in the 1980′s. But lately, as I flip through channels in the wee hours of the morning trying to find something to fall asleep to, I’ve gotten completely obsessed with the reruns on Centric. I love all the low camera angles as truck tires screech by and slam dirt into the camera and explosions blow up right in your face. The direction has a clear POV and things that hover near the ground get as many close-ups as the actors do. And, of course, there’s always Mr. T, whose memorabilia I’ve slowly but surely collected over the years – banks, gold chain bubblegum, coloring books, puffy stickers, lunchboxes, air fresheners, and this Mr. T radio I recently received as a gift.

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Categories: Afro, Celebrity, Forgot to Categorize, Gadgets, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, Technology, TV/Radio

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Allee Willis’ “The 365 Days Of September” – Day 7

The kids at Fairview High do a noble job of singing and a much more ambitious job dancing than a lot of other high schools I’ve seen do “September” on Youtube. But, as the Grand Pooh Bah of Kitsch, the standout for me is the performance by the horn section.  Either someone didn’t do their homework before they came to band practice or they’re just plain tone deaf. What it really sounds like to me is that the horn players got the big riffs down after the choruses and just figured they could coast through the single note accents. Which would have been fine had they managed to find the key. Far be it for me to not encourage someone to go farther in music because they’re un-schooled. I still don’t know how to read, notate or play a note of music, including “September” and anything else I’ve written, so I’m all in favor of doing it just for the love of it. I’m just sayin’, the horns are a standout, wayyyyy stand out.


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Categories: 365 Days Of September, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Lyrics, Music, Musical Instruments, September

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Allee Willis’ “The 365 Days Of September” – Day 6

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The Bakersfield High School Chorale is much more in tune and way more in the swing than most high school groups I’ve seen who attempt “September”.  Whoever wrote the school chorale arrangement they all seem to sing felt the urge to throw in an abnormal amount of distinctively Caucasian “hey, hey, hey’s” as well as some very-suburban-no-soul-within-ear-range harmonies. Thankfully, the Bakersfield High School Chorale limit the “heys” to the intro and actually sound good despite the liberties taken with the harmonies and chords. I also love how excited the audience gets over the “ba doo doo’s” at the end of each chorus. I do have one question about the lyric though. Having written it, I know that the third verse begins “Now December brought the love that we shared in September/ ONLY BLUE TALK AND LOVE,  remember…”  yet these kids sing ” was it Jew taught me love, remember” or maybe they’re saying ” was it you taught me love, remember”? Either way it’s wrong. So I wish that the person who was hired to write the arrangement all these high schools sing would think of themselves more as a transcriber than a co-author, especially if they get the gig on another one of my songs. In the meantime, enjoy the best version of the corrupted arrangement I’ve seen so far – The Bakersfield High School Chorale.

For a more through exploration of my “365 Days Of September” mission as well as details of how the song was written, go here. Until tomorrow, ba-de-ya!

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Categories: 365 Days Of September, Dance, Kitsch, Nature, September, Songwriting

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Bagels and lox in Texas, 1979

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Every Sunday morning growing up the ritual was to go with my dad to the deli and buy bagels, lox, cream cheese, tomatoes, onions and white fish, the latter of which I never liked but all the foodstuffs named prior to it remain my favorite meal in life. The smell of bagels toasting in the kitchen, especially on Sunday, has remained intoxicating to me ever since. Had I lived in Texas in 1979 I would only hope that this would’ve been the license plate slapped on the front of my ’55 DeSoto. Seeing as it belonged to someone else I can only assume they had similar such love for the Jewish baked good by giving it such props as to adorn their car with it.

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Categories: Food, Furniture and Housewares, Kitchen, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Transportation

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