Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Dinah-Mite and the Dyn-O-Miteness of Jenifer Lewis

I love things that are ‘off’ but born of popular trends and then spin off into their own orbit, making a firm landing on the terra firma of Pop Culture themselves. In the early 1970′s, Mego Toys, the po’ cousin of popular doll brands like Barbie, did just that, popping out one cheaply made, shabbily dressed femme fatale after another.

I love product names like “Dinah-Mite” because of their shameless attempt to cash in on other popular trends of the day, in this early 70′s case, second rate karate films starring wannabe Bruce Lees, third rate female detectives in the shadow of Coffey and Foxy Brown, and, most predominantly, J.J. Walker’s Good Times outasite colloquialism, “Dy-no-mite!”.

One lady who is certifiably DYN-O-MITE!, not at all cheaply made and most likely a karate master is my good friend and fantastic actress, Jenifer Lewis. She of close to 200 films and 60+ television shows fame and easily one of the most hysterical people on the planet. Last Friday night she whooped and holla’d – and I mean HOLLA’D – in “So Much Love – An Evening with Jennifer Lewis, A Fundraiser to Benefit Rogue Machine Theatre” at The Nate Holden Performing Arts Center in LA.

Jenifer and I go way back to when she was one of Bette Midler’s Harlettes in the early 80′s. In addition to being great friends, we’ve always supported each other in all the crazy things we both do. When my alter–ego, Bubbles the artist, worked full-time to support me while I worked on The Color Purple musical from 2001 through 2005, Jennifer was first in line with the commissions. Here’s a beautiful salad bowl that Bubbles made of her.

You can see it’s a dead ringer:

Jenifer has always been known for her mouth, which is large and always going. Another woman who was known for her skills with verbiage was the great comedienne, Moms Mabley, who Bubbles committed to acrylic the same year the bowl was made. Moms now hangs on Jenifer’s kitchen wall.

I got a shout-out at her show when Jenifer told the story of going to an audition at Disney where out of the blue they asked her if she could play an old lady. The painting of Moms flashed in front of her eyes and, as if she magically lost all her teeth, she channeled Moms and landed the role of Mama Odie in The Princess And The Frog.

Many friends came to see Jenifer perform Friday night. ‘Friends’ being the operative word as she  introduced her musical director, Michael Skloff, my Friends theme song co-writer, who performed the song, TV theme version, at the show.

Also there was Dawnn Lewis

… Vanessa Bell Calloway and Prudence Fenton

Paul Mooney

…Shangela Laquifa Wadley of RuPaul’s Drag Race 2 and 3…

…and one of my favorite tv actresses of all time, Marla Gibbs.

I have a huge collection of vintage Jet Magazines. Here’s one of them:

Dinah-Mite has Marla’s hair and they’re both wearing purple.

Also wearing purple are Jenifer and I on the opening night of my musical, The Color Purple, on Broadway, December 1, 2005.

Thank God our purple outfits fit us better than poor Dinah-Mite’s.

I should show you Dinah-Mite’s fashionable go-go boots while we’re examining her outfit:

Unfortunately, despite the fact that we both had on fabulous sneakers, I didn’t photograph Jenifer or my shoes Friday night. There’s only this chest-up shot of two Dyn-o-mite friends after one Dinah-mite evening!

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Categories: Afro, Celebrity, Fashion, Film, Friends theme, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, People, Self expression, Songwriting, The Color Purple

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Vintage Harlem Nightclub Shaker and My Weekend at Vitello’s

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not an avid club-goer. It used to be that I wanted to hear every detail of a record under headphones and didn’t want anyone standing up in front of me or humming along next to me when I went to hear someone sing. But now that MP3s and YouTube have become ubiquitous with fidelity crushed down to the size of an ant I don’t care as much about such things. So this weekend I hit one club for two acts. My only regret is that I didn’t bring my vintage noisemaker shakers along to rattle in front of my talented friends who were up on stage.

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Categories: Afro, Creativity, Discography, Hollywood, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, Musical Instruments, People, Place, Songwriting

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Drs. Casey and Kildare Diaries + Knee Progress

I’ve laid in bed two days now nursing my just-operated-on knee back to health.  As someone who literally never sits still, I’ve been a fairly model citizen since the surgery to repair a torn meniscus on Tuesday. Portable electronics certainly help and my love of bad television has been an excellent babysitter. But, most of all, I have excellent friends who have come to visit me and partaken in some spectacular photo ops:

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Categories: Celebrity, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Medical, Memorabilia, TV/Radio

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Kitschtastic Mansion and the Folks Inside


I always love this time of year in LA because the Christmas parties really kick into high gear. There aren’t as many of them this year because all pennies are being pinched but there was a killer one last night at a house RuPaul is renting for the month for just such holiday festivities. The added bonus last night was that it was our mutual friend, Tom Trujillo’s, birthday.

There’s nothing especially kitschy about all of us – except me I guess – but we all embrace our vast love of kitsch in the way we live and entertain. In Ru’s case, the house he rented takes appreciation of the genre to staggering heights.

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Categories: Afro, Architecture, Art, Celebrity, Hollywood, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Los Angeles, Music, Party, People, Reality tv, Sculpture

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – My Seriously Kitschy Birthday Gifts

I wasn’t going to do anything for my birthday this year. Too overworked and no extra coinage to throw around. But word leaked out and spread and all of a sudden these people, most of whom I’ve spent every birthday and momentous occasion with for umpteen years, showed up at my house:

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Categories: Art, bad art, Book, Brands, Bubbles the artist, Celebrity, Creativity, Food, Hollywood, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Memorabilia, Party, People

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Vintage Party Bling and The Party I Forgot To Wear It To

party-pendant_2552

I bought this Party Pendant at a thrift shop recently, brought it home, shined it up and glued little rhinestones on it. I’ve only worn it out a couple of times but people have ooh’d and ahh’d as if I’d gotten it at Tiffany’s. So I decided to make it a habit and wear it when I knew I’d be attending a hot party. I did, in fact, know that Nancye Ferguson’s birthday party Sunday night would be hot as all of her parties are at her amazing Atomic house that gives you one of those aerial postcard views over the entire city of LA. But when I got home and dumped my photos I realized that not only had I forgotten to take a photo with Nancye, the Party Pendant along with every other piece of jewelry I meant to wear had been forgotten in a drawer at home, replaced with my Color Purple backstage pass that I still had on from earlier in the day when I went to see the fabulous new cast of my musical at the Performing Arts Center in Thousand Oaks. As proud as I am to have that pass swinging from my neck, I do wish that my ratty ass cheap Party Pendant were also present as it would have been so appropriate hanging in the following photos.

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Categories: Celebrity, Fashion, Hollywood, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Painting, Party, People

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