Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – The Del Rubio Triplets and a Valentine’s Day Card for Milly
Join me and Hidden Los Angeles and send a Valentine’s Day card to Milly Del Rubio. Details below.
Anyone who knows me knows that two of the most important things in the world to me are music and kitsch. Songs I’ve written have sold over 50 million records and, to the best of my knowledge, I have the largest collection of kitsch artifacts in the world. Discovering The Del Rubio Triplets in 1985 is easily the jewel in my musical kitsch crown.
I first saw the Del Rubios in 1985 on a flyer that said “Three Gals/ Three Guitars…We play 375 different kinds of music”. I didn’t even know there was 375 different kinds of music but between that and the mini skirted, go-go booted, platinum hair helmeted madness of their photo I called them immediately and made plans to go to a party they were playing at that weekend.
My party date was Katey Sagal a.k.a. Peg Bundy. The breath was literally knocked out of both of us when the triplets opened the door to the porta potty-like shed that was their dressing room and we beheld the most magnificent vestiges of human kitsch we had ever seen. I didn’t care what they sounded like, I knew they had to sing my songs.
Out of the 375 different types of music the Del Rubios played, conspiculously missing was Rock or anything remotely contemporary. I told them that playing “today’s” music was going to be their rocket to stardom and said that if they learned my song, “Neutron Dance”, a huge hit by the Pointer Sisters at the time, I would hire them to play at a party I was throwing in a couple weeks to open a new club downtown called The Stock Exchange.
And so they preformed for 2000 of my closest friends, all of whom stood gaped-mouthed as the 65+ year old minskirted sisters gave much leg and warbled from a balcony 20 feet above the crowd.
No one had ever seen or heard anything like it before, the triplets perfectly in tune with each out-of-tune other, playing similarly out-of-tune guitars and smacking drum solos on the sides of their instruments. As they plowed into “Neutron Dance” I looked down and saw the crowd parting to make room for a mound of hair that was pushing to the front. I realized that the moment I had always waited for, the ultra smashing together of the high and low ends of music into one perfectly mangled moment of musical expression, was upon me! As the Del Rubios finished the song, Ruth Pointer, who sang lead on “Neutron Dance”, wove her way up the circular staircase and ripped into the song again. With her help, The Del Rubio Triplets had ARRIVED:
For the next few years I did almost nothing without the triplets. They performed at every single party I threw, including a pajama party where they backed Joni Mitchell.
The Del Rubios had long told me that their main competition back in the day was The Andrews Sisters. But when Maxine Andrews showed up at the pajama party it was the first she’d heard of them.
In 1987, my song, “What Have I Done To Deserve This?”, was a hit with Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield. Neil and Chris were obsessed with the triplets and always wanted to do a duet with them. The Del Rubios preformed the song when it was #2 on the Billboard charts at my “What Have I Done To Deserve This Art?” opening.
The video I made of them performing it there expired when I left it on the front seat of my Studebaker Commander in a heat wave but here’s the outro of them singing the song on the Victoria Looseleaf show a couple of years later:
In 1991, they were a complete hit at my “Smock It To Me (Art Can Taste Bad In Any Medium)” party where they entertained a plethora of show business luminaries. There’s pieces of “Neutron Dance” and “Whip It” with Devo lead, Mark Mothersbaugh, accompanying them at 3:14 here:
Once I called legendary record exec, Clive Davis, and told him I had made the most significant talent discovery of my career. I loaded the Del Rubios into a van and drove to the Beverly Hills Hotel. Clive opened the door to his bungalow, took one look at them, hugged me and whispered in my ear, ”You owe me big time”.
In 1989 there was a fairly substantial earthquake in LA. It was before I learned the beauty of museum wax to stop things from falling and hundreds of precious kitsch and Atomic 50′s artifacts lay smashed on the floor. As such, I was in a complete fog and almost didn’t hear the doorbell when it rang. I thought it was one of my neighbors offering to turn the gas back on but instead it was Eadie, Elena and Milly, replete in matching fuscha mini party dresses and their ever present white go-go boots, ready for an interview I was doing with them for Details Magazine, where I had my own column through much of the ’80s.
Throughout the years, I spent a lot of time in the Del Rubio’s mobile home.
They stayed up every night drinking one martini each and sewing their costumes, of which they had hundreds, all miniskirts or mini dresses, one nuttier and more fringe filled than the next. Every night once the sewing was done they would plan new arrangements on their trusted toy Emenee organ, the keys of which had all been stuck for at least three years when I met them, the victim of a spilled jug of martinis. I asked them why they never cleaned the keys so the organ actually made some sound and they always assured me they “could hear it perfectly fine the way it was”.
I documented much of our escapades in the aforementioned Details interview. The 27 page cut-down-to 3 page interview – the girls were excessive gabbers – helped expose them to a national audience and they went on to appear on tons of TV shows including multiple Lettermens, Arsenio Hall, Pee Wee’s Christmas Special, The Golden Girls and on and on.
The Del Rubio Triplets did everything in the order they were born. There were only 15 minutes separating each of them but Eadie was clearly the oldest, always standing on the left, Elena, born next, was always in the middle and Milly, the youngest, was always on the right. They sat in this order, ate at the table in that order, went to the bathroom each morning in that order, preformed on stage in that order and even slept in the same bed in that order.
As fate would have it, the Del Rubios also died in that order, Eadie departing in 1996 with Elena following four years later. Milly is thankfully still with us.
I’ve written and worked with some amazing singers over the years, Bob Dylan, James Brown, Aretha, Cyndi Lauper, Patti LaBelle and Earth, Wind & Fire among them. But none swept me away with as much gusto as The Del Rubio Triplets. We should all be blessed with such belief in self and joy for what we do. They never questioned their talent, never suffered a creative block, never got tired of performing for adoring audiences who greeted them with laughter, which they always said was “better than applause”.
That last photo, from their 1995 Christmas card, is typical of the Del Rubios who were freaks about maintaining order and tradition. Even though they’re perched out of their usual order, with Milly now on the left and Eadie on the right, they signed their names in the order they were most used to, with Milly on the right and Eadie on the left. I never asked them whether they knew that they were signing under the wrong triplet.
Valentines Day is coming up and I’d love nothing more than to shower Milly with thousands of Valentine’s Day cards. So please join me and Hidden Los Angeles and send a Valentines Day card to Milly Del Rubio, c/o Allee Willis, 11684 Ventura Blvd., Suite 430, Studio City, CA 91604. With all that love pouring in and Milly seeing that she’s still getting her props maybe we can get her to pick up her guitar one last time.
Categories: Del Rubio Triplets, Families, Fashion, Hair, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, Neutron Dance, Party, People, Self expression, Songwriting
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