Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Signs of an Excellent Birthday In East LA and Beyond

I’m pretty religious about celebrating one’s birthday all day from the strike of midnight through the next 24. Years that I haven’t observed this rule I’ve been miserable. If I’m stuck working I don’t concentrate on the work anyway, too resentful that I didn’t stick to what I had laid down. This year, my festivities are taking place a week late at my favorite place on earth, The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, with the little group I spend each and every birthday with, some of whom joined me on my big night last Thursday at Bar Marmont.

That was just the little hamburger teaser so the day itself, November 10, would not go un-celebrated. But Bar Marmont didn’t happen until 9 PM. so there were many hours to fill with birthday escapedom building up to it. So I spent the day tooling through East LA and beyond photographing my favorite vintage and kitsch spots, eating tacos and picking up treasures at every 98, 99 and dollar store I could find. On my way, I passed many signs like this:

I love handpainted beauty salon signs. Especially because of the portraits, featuring ‘Familiar’ hairstyles of decades gone by, evidently still sculpted inside, and very macho looking men.

I love how massive the male’s head is on this next sign compared to the diminutive female’s that’s sporting the illegitimate hairstyle child of Jane Fonda circa 1967 and me for the last 2 1/2 decades:

Even more than bad art on beauty salon signs I love when a nice Grecian pillar holds up nothing:

Especially if the windows around it lead to nothing but brick.

Windows aren’t the only thing I like painted on walls:

A nice ghoulish girl in the middle of a desert dressed in trashy lingerie sucking on a can of beer is nice too. And I always love a nice family painted on windows. This one kills me because look how perfectly the actual table outside fits in with the grill that silicon-injected mama is cooking on for her family in the mural:

I think you need a closer look at silicon-injected mama. Of course, her upper torso hogs all the attention but can we discuss the size of her thighs and how, if her entire body were painted, she would be 14 feet tall?

It’s always a nice touch when something that should be one word is split up into two. Especially if one of the syllables is ‘high’ and it’s painted to preserve symmetry so that one enters the mar-ket.

I love when letters are missing from signs:

One doesn’t have to look far to discover the mystery here. What’s missing from church is a ‘u’.

One of my favorite genres of signs are these 1950′s style ones on a stylus that contain many different signs to make up one master one.

 

This one is very faded but I love motels so much that I always like when each letter earns its own space:

In its heyday, this one must’ve been a killer:

And I always love when these sectioned signs end up in a 1960 cascade of lights at the top:

I agree that softserve ice cream is important enough to cap off this honey:

Of course, when a sign is carved into the shape of what it is that they’re selling inside it always gets extra points:

But perhaps no sign has had a more pervasive effect on the American culture and landscape than this:

The very first McDonald’s in the world, built in 1953 and featuring Speedee the Chef, is still standing and serving today in Downey, CA.

I don’t know what this structure is hidden behind the fence right next to it but I’m hoping it was some kind of gas station where burger-chompers could fill up their tanks and ingest fumes from the gorgeous 1950′s chariots they were being served in.

Now here’s something I would love to get my hands on. I’m sure Norms was no competition for the almighty McDonald’s just a block away, but this little Dutch-gone-Atomic structure with the big saltshaker tower in the middle was probably what I would have steered toward if given the option back in the day:

I passed a ton of stunning and thankfully still standing architecture on my drive, like this old movie theater very close to the ch rch a few photos back.

The new slapped-on colors are oh so wrong and it’s a shame that a construction company inhabits this instead of a projector and an incredible candy counter, but at least all the details have been preserved

I’m incredibly partial to Deco architecture because I live in such a structure. That these two buildings are still standing on Soto Street is a wonder of anti-wrecking ball nature:

Just as impressive as gorgeous architecture is gorgeous foliage, especially when carved into the shape of  what the architecture holds inside.

I’m not sure if the Del Rio Lanes in Downey is new or old. Although the architecture screams 1950s, the paint looks brand spanking new, refurbished in a way that a Marge’s or Ruby’s diner looks old but is inescapably and cheesily retro new.

The sign looks like the real thing but then there’s something again about the way it’s painted that makes me think otherwise:

None of that really matters to me because they have the good sense to keep the bushes appropriately trimmed:

When it comes to appropriate landscaping. There’s nothing I like better than a nice burger, fries and a coke up on the roof:

 

I’m not sure why the hot dogs escaped sculptural interpretation…

…but they make an excellent roofline nonetheless:

Last but certainly not least, I love a company that sells one thing but moves into a building that represents an entirely different thing in the same genre. This is where I’d want to go if I was interested in cement blocks as a fence, not chain-link.

Even better, what does the elephant have to do with anything??

Perhaps it’s there to remind me that elephants have extraordinary memories, and that I should always remember what a blessed life I have in that I understand that all these things that have crossed my eyeballs through all these years are gifts to make me smile and remember that one thing I love about life so much is that people get to express themselves in all different ways. And most of them make me happy. Which is a nice thing to experience every day but especially on your birthday.

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Categories: Architecture, Art, Creativity, Food, Hair, Health & Beauty, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Los Angeles, Self expression, Sign, Travel

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Sauna Jacket

“Perspiration motion is carried out intensively and working out of the upper half of the body!!” Well, you can say that again!

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Categories: Accessories, Bad translations, Fashion, Health & Beauty, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – The Bath Thing

One of my favorite genres of kitsch is products from China with translations that have run hideously amuck. It’s not even that the products are bad – though in this case I may have hit the jackpot – so much as the language and packaging used to promote them is so confused as to be nonsensical. In this case, the Bath Thing is a “New century Sanitarian thing”.

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Categories: Bad translations, Bathroom, Health & Beauty, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Products

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – 1950′s Poodle Compact

In the spirit of poodles this week, I may as well throw in this fantastically 50′s mother of pearl, sparkle bumped, handpainted poodle compact. I’ve never had powder packed in it but I tote around a variety of small items in the mirror lined case.

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Categories: Accessories, Animals, Health & Beauty, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Allee Willis Marches on Detroit! Part 15, The Miracle Dentist Story

I’m not a lover of dentists. Though I have one I do love now in LA, Dr. James Formaker, I’m still feeling repercussions from a butcher in Beverly Hills who not only put me through two unnecessary surgeries, one of which he didn’t even have conscience enough to check to see if the surgeon had preformed the correct one of – which he hadn’t – and all of which cost me over $25,000 and an even more severe price of walking around with a sore mouth for the last four years. His name is happily provided upon inquiry. But I had  a tooth adventure during my trip to Detroit a few weeks ago that completely restored my faith in these people who dutifully drill in your mouth in search of decay.

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Categories: Consumer Alert!, Detroit, Health & Beauty, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Medical, People, Place, Travel

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Avon Miss Lollypop Cologne Mist

Though she’s a little smudged, this early 70′s bottle of Avon Miss Lollypop Cologne Mist still smells as good as she did back in the day. Which wasn’t very good but very unmistakably Avon. Which, if you’re a collector, is very good.

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Categories: Brands, Health & Beauty, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – MACHO Sport Scent

This is the kind of product I love finding in dollar stores. So generically named it’s pathetic, a label that’s crooked and not quite centered and a product that looks more like mouthwash than after shave. Not that I have any use for MACHO Sports Scent but I feel an obligation as Minister of Kitsch to pick these things up when I see them.

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Categories: Bathroom, Health & Beauty, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – “Styled In Hollywood” Tootsie Palette

This Tootsie Palette is one of the first things I found in a thrift shop after moving to Hollywood in 1976. I was so excited I could finally have feet like the stars!

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Categories: Gadgets, Health & Beauty, Hollywood, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Lipstick Pens

Although none of these little mini pens come in the signature Mac Morange ultra bright neon shimmer orange color that I slap on my lips almost every hour of the day, they’ve been a staple in my purse ever since I received three of them for Christmas. They’re the exact size of and dead ringers for a real tube of lipstick so, as someone who always carries multiple pens because I’m forever writing myself notes, size and beauty rank these high on my list of practical kitsch accoutrements.

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Ambush Spray Cologne

More than anything, the one thing that accompanied me every single day of my four college years at the University of Wisconsin in the late 1960′s was a spritz of Ambush Spray Cologne. I should have bought stock in Dana,  the company that made it, for as many bottles of  it as I went through. The male equivalent was called Canoe. Sometimes girls wore that too but I was so attached to the scent and the shade of pink and hard rubbery shape and feel of the bottle I never made it past Ambush.

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Categories: Bathroom, Hair, Health & Beauty, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Photograph, Romance

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