Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Birthdaying at the Madonna Inn – Part 1

Bright and early the weekend before Thanksgiving Prudence Fenton and I hopped in the mustache van and drove up the coast to San Luis Obispo.

If you’ve never been to The Madonna Inn there, drive, fly, walk, bike, whatever mode of transportation it takes, and go there NOW!

I don’t care where you’ve been to see your architectural kitsch, this is one stop shopping of infinitesimal magnitude. I’ve blogged about this place many a time before but one post, even a hundred, could never cover the staggering detail present on the 2200 acres that appear mirage-like on the side of the 101 freeway.

The whole place was designed by this guy

…. for this lady:

Alex Madonna, a construction magnate and entrepreneur who among other things built the section of the 101 the Inn sits next to, built this palace in 1958. These portraits of Alex and his wife Phyllis’ hang right outside the main dining room.

You need a closer look at that mother of all grape lamps in between them. Eight feet of barrel and the most magnificent assemblage of resin grape clusters anywhere:

This hangs right across the cave from this stairway, one of the subtler ones at The Madonna Inn:

Every time I drive up north taking the 101, I stop at The Madonna Inn to eat. Usually I’m in a hurry and just have time to hit the coffee shop. By the way, coffee always tastes better when the sugar is in one of these two forms, available only here:

The pink crystals and rock formations look especially good on the all copper counter and tabletops…

…which are surrounded by all copper decorative trim…

…which makes sense as this is the name of the coffee shop:

But if I’m not in a hurry to get where I’m going I try to park myself in the main dining room, The Gold Rush Steakhouse. I think you can see why:

Here’s another reason:

That’s one big ol’ slab o’ beef! As an animal lover I  don’t like to think about this but the beef is grown mere feet from the restaurant.  Here I am posing at midnight with the subject of my meal:

I always love a restaurant that starts you off with a relish plate:

Far from the usual celery and carrots and olives, this one has salami and a big brick of cheese thrown on top.  Also thrown in for my birthday festivities was Nancye Ferguson, who drove up to join us.

When it’s your birthday at the Madonna Inn your table is marked with a balloon:

Tables with balloons get free cake for dessert:

I had seen the 9″ high pink champagne cakes in the coffeeshop earlier…

So I got a big hunk of it:

Cake always tastes better when it matches the decor.

It’s even better when the decor is decorated for Christmas.

At this time of year, any place there’s room to stick a Christmas tree at The Madonna Inn there is one:

Angles guard over every table:

Some of the most famous rooms at the Madonna Inn are the bathrooms. The most famous is the men’s room. I finally got the balls to sneak in with Jim Burns, a.k.a. Sgt. Frank Woods in Call Of Duty-Black Ops, who also joined us.

Although the giant clam shell sinks are fantastic…

…the legendary waterfall urinal is the main attraction:

Though sans waterfall, the ladies room next door has its own unique charm:

In another bathroom off of the coffeeshop, little girls get their props.  You can’t tell the scale from this photo but the toilet is teeny tiny tot sized…

…and matches the mini little girl sink in the middle of the big gal facilities:

All of this pales next to the bathroom in The Madonna Suite, where I tended to the needs of my roast-beef-sugared-champagne-caked body.

Here’s a little closer look at the sink, though it’s hard to see detail amidst all the rock. Water trickles down all the troughs dug out of the rock.

A full tour of The Madonna Suite tomorrow…


Categories: Advertising/ Promotion, Architecture, Art, Bathroom, Brands, Crafts, Creativity, Families, Food, Furniture and Housewares, Holidays, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, People, Place, Self expression, Sign, Travel, Travel souvenir

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2 Comments

  • oh oh OH!! I have heard tell of this place, but am now bumping it up on the Retro Roadmap West Coast itinerary! Birthday? Wedding Anniversary? I don’t care, we just must go!!! Thanks for the pink sugar kick in the pants :-)

  • Anonymous says:

    I never dared to hope that such a place existed outside of dreams. THIS is why I became a interior designer.
    Thanks a million for sharing, and happy birthday.

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