Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Never Too Much Madonna Inn

Heading out of LA last Thursday on the 5 was a mess.  An overturned 20-wheeler heading south spilled oranges, lemons and an entire tank of fuel, cloggin up both sides of the freeway like cholestrol in arteries. My travel mate, Snappy P, and I almost had an anuerism baking in the 106 degree sun at a standstill on the fuel-with-lemon-zested highway. So we cut over on 126 to the 101, which added a couple hours onto the trip but also took us past one of the most blessed sights in California, The Madonna Inn, in San Luis Obispo.

If you haven’t been there, the Madonna is a wonderland of kitsch with a kapitol K, with over 100 themed-to-the-nines-and-then-some rooms and a dining area that would bring Liberace to his knees.  I’ve blogged about this place before, but were I to write a book on it there still wouldn’t be enough room to shower enough praise on this architectural and decorating masterpiece. So please enjoy this tip-of-the-kitschberg look around and, without question, if you’re ever on the 101, The Madonna Inn is mere miles from Hearst Castle and, if you’re reading THIS blog, it’s where your tour really should take place.

It’s easy to spot the 20 foot high sign from the freeway:

We didn’t pull in until after 10 PM so unfortunately it was too dark to adequately photograph the exterior. But you can certainly see from this that a little something special is going on:

Just to the left of that fountain is the entrance to the dining rooms:

Go through those doors and you walk into this:

My eyes are  always too busy attempting to take in everything in the main dining room, The Gold Rush Steak House, to focus much on the food, which happens to be excellent.  Take a look around while I munch on something now.

Here’s the reservation desk:

There’s even a dance floor and live band:

And LOTS of mirrors:

And an excellent selection of 50′s chairs if you just want to sit and drink.

If the sugar is this color at The Madonna Inn you can only imagine what the drinks look like:

If you decide you want to do a little clothes shopping during your meal you can hit the stairs to hit the racks:

Despite being loaded down with about ten pounds of prime rib, it’s worth making the climb because of clothing like this:

Let’s take a closer look at that bedazzling:

I would, however, suggest taking the stairs across the room:

They feature these banisters…

…that pass by this door…

… and these portraits of the owners that are nested on either side of the most astounding grape light in history:

Those portraits are a good five feet high so imagine the grandeur of that giant barrel that the resin grapes are tumbling out of as the cherub blesses the wine on the other side of the rock wall. I would say it couldn’t get any better except that at the bottom of the stairs is a penny crushing machine:

Of course, you could have always chosen this stairway:

But then it wouldn’t have led to this bathroom…:

…with this ceiling…

…and these stall doors…:

…and this pink marble and (unfortunately not flocked) gold and pink wallpaper.:

It’s always nice when the bathroom is conveniently located next to the wine cellar:

God knows, there’s miles more to see at The Madonna Inn, like the coffee shop next door to The Gold Rush:

But I’ve got to save something for next time. For as many years as I’ve stopped here to eat and relieve myself, I’ve never stayed overnight.  Which means that I’ve never actually stepped into in any of the rooms. From what I’ve heard and googled, these make the dining area look like the kitsch minor leagues. One day this will happen, especially as I’m thinking of having my birthday party there this year. And when it does, I’ll probably be celebrating in The Caveman:

Or maybe the Old Mill…

Or maybe the Vous:


E vous?


Categories: Architecture, Art, Bar accessory, Bathroom, Furniture and Housewares, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Place, Self expression, Travel

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4 Comments

  • Ellen Bloom says:

    OMG! Allee!! Please invite me to your b-day party at the Madonna Inn! We LOVE that place! Last time we were there we bought the wine goblets (pink and green) for our dining room!!!!

  • sam says:

    oh please, please pick the ‘vous’ for your special overnight stay. the cheese-factor of the entire place is stunning and i am waiting with baited breath for details on the rooms. i mean, can you really pass up the chance to sleep in a round bed??? how many sets of sheets have they set aside for that? (or maybe you don’t want to know)

    • Allee says:

      Vous is certainly an excellent possibility. Though under normal circumstances I have an aversion to that shade of blue. But under the circumstances of being in the Madonna Inn, I’m not above leaning toward Vous. I would bet that’s not the only room with a round bed there though.

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