Nice, big, fat story in the Times on me today + 12 photos. Thank you, Bob Morris, for seeking me out (no press agent involved here!) and writing such a heartfelt, spirited, and happily long piece. My house thanks you too (at least the part of it that made the photo)!
So revolutionary and popular were miniskirts in the 1960’s that a plethora of accessories were made for them. This “Original Mini- Skirt Accessory” is easily one of the more insane ones. I guess the object was to remind you you were wearing a miniskirt when, clipped to the hem line, the little ball swinging from the 1-1/2″ long chain bounced or tick-tocked against your knee with each step.
The manufacturer, listed nowhere on the product or card it’s attached to, was trying to combine two late 60’s trends into one – miniskirts and peace symbols, often worn by two different groups of teenagers and young adults.
I think the nameless company needed to be a little more generous with the 1-1/2″ length of the tickler if, in fact, it was to hit the knee. The only way this would’ve reached there was with a full-length above-the-knee skirt, totally taking ‘mini’ out of the equation. I’ve enhanced the Knee Tickler to about three times its actual size to demonstrate:
It would actually take ten Knee Ticklers to reach the knee were it attached to an actual miniskirt. I mean no copyright infringement to McCalls but I’ve doctored the image to demonstrate. The Knee tickers are almost double their real size because they’d be too small to see.
I always love a product that merely capitalizes on a craze as opposed to serving any real function. And regardless of whether the little gold ball bangs against your thigh or knee, I would think it was less of a tickling effect than a bruising one after it slapped against your skin all day. It would make a better lapel pin anyway.
But then it never could’ve had such a spectacular name.
Because I spend about 80% of my day squinting at screens of various sizes and working by the glare of them at night, eyeglasses have been a permanent part of my face for years. This never bothered me as I view these artifacts as part of the self-expression arsenal, equal status if not more to any piece of clothing, shoe or hairstyle used to distinguish oneself in the world. As a consequence, only having one pair of glasses never worked for me.
I like to pick a precision match with whatever I have on, the same way that socks always matter but are given so little attention by most people.
And those are only my red/orange shades. I also like glass holders because I don’t want to take up half my life searching for a pair I’ve laid down without any thought to remembering where that is. So I have a variety of vintage eyeglass holders scattered around for easy pickings.
The phrase “Here They Are Looking At You” was apparently very popular among eyeglass holder manufacturers.
Another type of eyeglass holder lets the glasses swing from wherever you choose to pierce some fabric.
But I love the one I’ve featured today because the colors are so vibrant,…
… and it’s a travel souvenir,…
…and it looks very much like a shop project. Judging from the bottom, maybe the city of Niantic planned a little event where all the citizens took part in a night of sawing and gluing.
Over the weekend I had to go to LA Eyeworks, where I’ve gotten all my glasses since the early 1980s, to pick up a new prescription.
I went with Prudence Fenton, who also took some specs on a test run.
LA Eyeworks makes great frames for very distinctive faces.
And I collect eyeglass holders for very distinctive glasses, all of which are better to see my morning coffee with.
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.
Those are original Brown Derby portraits reflected in the top half.
They won’t fit inside the case as it’s a petite 3″ x 4″. Maybe that’s why the little 3-dimensional glitter tufts of poodle fur look and feel so good, making up in beauty and depth what they lack in stature.
This poodle is happy about her look, painted much more distinctively than most poodles of her decade. I like that her bottom lip looks like a clock hand.
If ever there was an animal created to look at its reflection in a mirror it’s this most distinctive of canines.
I’m actually thinking a lot about distinctive animals today as I’m writing a fairly twisted kids song with Bleu McCauley and Jasmine Ash for a tv idea we have. We play a porcupine, skunk and platypus. Not that any of them are as attractive as poodles but our animals are very proud that they don’t blend into the kingdom as just another animal. Just like us.
Although some poodles don’t just “blend in”:
Here’s to people, animals and artifacts that hover above the crowd, embracing their uniqueness, with no desire to head towards the over-trodden intersection of Boring and Blending In.
As I said yesterday, I’m not one to randomly collect poodles just because they’re an endearing and iconic symbol of the first totally modern decade to which I am ever beholden, the 1950’s. But it dawned on me as I adopted Fifi the wastebasket that she was a perfect mate for this Kleenex holder that’s been riding around in the back seat of my car forever, always there in my time of nasal need for at least the last decade.
I have a lot of these tin-or-whatever-metal-they’re-made-out-of Kleenex caddies but this poodle coiffeur one has always been my favorite. Somehow poodles fluffing themselves in front of mirrors has always seemed logical.
Despite this Fifi missing her rhinestone eyeball she’s still handpainted poodle-perfect.
Had I been the crafter I would’ve gone for tiny little rhinestones around her neck too. But I always admire how they never skimped on the amount of paint needed in order to portray the fur accurately. Though it seems like the bottom of the legs deserved an extra little furball too instead of leaving it at the little tongs that stick out now.
The feet on the Kleenex box itself did get that extra little bit of attention. I love the little air holes pricked into them, though I would hope that any kind of liquid spillage would occur on the tissues only after they were out of the box.
This past weekend LA was in bloom with garage sales. I’ve tried resisting these for years, especially since opening The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch at AWMOK.com, as not only do I have the thousands of items in my own kitsch collection to store but these days I’m the happy recipient of at least a few boxes a month that arrive stashed full of other peoples’ kitsch. But I was tooling down Fountain Ave. and there she was staring at me, the classic bathroom or teenagers room accessory icon of the 1950s, lovely Fifi.
I love her fur.
I’m not a big one for collecting poodles or flamingos or any other kind of animal artifact that became uber-ubiquitous in a former decade. When I see peoples’ places stuffed with these kind of things I think that they might only be collecting to have a proper 1950’s collection as opposed to just buying individual things because they love them. But Fifi was calling me so I drove my car around the block, pulled up in front of the sale and for five bucks, Fifi was mine in the space of one traffice light. She hopped in the front seat and matched her new surroundings well.
The car was a couple weeks past when it needed to be washed so as I drove home I picked up bits and pieces of things scattered around the car every time I came to a stop and fed Fifi til she was almost full. She looked so great with the two-tone green seats that I toyed with the idea of making her a permanent fixture up front. But I came to an abrupt stop when someone’s car stalled in front of me and Fifi flew up full force, hitting me in the head and dumping garbage all over me. Not at all like the neat and petite little Fifi and her lobster claw paws delicately balanced next to her flower pots.
So I realize she needs to be an in-house pet and spent much of the day yesterday walking her from room to room to see where she fit best. I’m happy to report she’s now very happy next to her same species magazine rack.
Allergy season is in FULL TILT here in LA. I never had allergies before but for the past few days my eyes have been wetter than the Mississippi and my nose is flowing like Niagara Falls. The only thing that makes me feel better is that I can reach into this lovely lady’s head to grab a Kleenex every time the river starts to run.
Fake fur hair like this used to gross me out.
Too retro repro for me. But I’ve reached into this follicle cavity so much these last few days I’ve grown very attached to her 60’s Shangri-La’s inspired ratty hair and ever-gleaming plastic face.
Yesterday, I was at the House Of Blues bright and early announcing the winners of the “Drawing Us Together” art competition, featuring kids’, teenagers through early 20’s, art work interpreting music in LA.
Thankfully, my nose pretended it was stapled together and I was able to hand the winner their prize without slopping on anything or anyone. Had I really thought about it before I left, I would’ve attached a chain to Ms. Tissue and worn her as a necklace. At least I would’ve be blowing in style had my nose not cooperated.
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.
I had just finished giving my speech on the rejuvenation of Detroit at the Rust Belt to Arts Belt III conference. We were at the reception and as I chomped down on the softest of Vietnamese spring rolls I felt something lift up in my mouth.
No, this couldn’t be happening! I was in the midst of this intense trip, filming it is a documentary, doing a ton of press, with one more big performance to go. The last thing I needed, especially after hours, was trying to find a dentist in a town where I knew none.
First, Michael Poris, called someone he knew.
But that dentist sounded too too scary on the phone.
He was exceedingly pessimistic that most likely nothing could be done despite the fact that I felt all I needed was a little glue.
Then, as if the Tooth Fairy was looking down on me, someone I met only minutes before overheard the ruckus and called her dentist.
The difference of talking to Dr. Doom and the bright and sparkly personality of the woman on the end of Kathy Huber’s phone was night and day. So me and my entourage, Mark Blackwell, Laura Grover and Denise Caruso, piled into our rented van and followed this angel of mercy to Grosse Pointe Woods…
…where Dr. Kathleen Gibney met us with her two kids and dog in tow. First of all, how great is a dentist who’s already home cooking dinner who comes in after hours for someone who they don’t even know?? This woman deserves sainthood.
Dr. Gibney not only let everyone stay in the room with me, which went miles in terms of quieting my panic down,…
…but also let us document every single inch of the procedure.
She didn’t care how close the camera came.
I’m fine in almost any traumatic situation as long as a video is rolling…
…and as long as friends are along to act as dental hygienists and stick their hands in my mouth when assistance is needed.
There wasn’t an inch of pain and Dr. Gibney preformed flawlessly.
Besides Dr. Gibney’s lively, atypical-for-a-dentist personality and excellent skills, this was the dentist office of my dreams. The colors were bright and the dental chairs were comfortable, actually a perfect match for my outfit.
The last place I’d expect to find kitsch exuberantly displayed is in a dentist office. But here it was, Photoshoped photos of stars with toothbrushes…
and bottles of mouthwash.
There were oodles of excellent dentally-correct album covers, like Lou Rawls with dental floss,…
…and these folks with toothbrushes and toothpaste:
I especially liked this title spelled out in dental floss:
There were LP covers everywhere you looked.
Even the light fixtures called my name.
As fate would have it, I had 25 pounds of candy in the back of the van that I bought for my big high school marching event coming up on Saturday. I know that a dentist’s kids are the last people in the world I should be offering an opening up of the portals of chocolate to but it seemed like the perfect capper to a most unexpected evening of fun.
So rather than being in tooth trauma, I was in absolute heaven. I’ve never had such a great time at a dentist office in my life.
Thank you Kathy Huber and Jeremy Martin, pictured here at my big event Saturday morning, for leading me and my molar to salvation that fateful night.
If anyone reading this is from Detroit or surrounding areas and you’re not completely and ecstatically in love with your dentist, I don’t care how far it is to drive, a trip to Dr. Gibney’s is just what Dr. Willis orders. I even think I’ll get my teeth cleaned in Detroit just to see her again.
As I’ve been blabbing about for weeks now, I had the extreme pleasure of conducting my high school marching band playing a medley of some of my greatest hits in the lobby of the theater I grew up in in Detroit with the cast of the musical I co-wrote, The Color Purple, singing along. I meant to post video of our performance as soon as I got home but to my horror, one of the three cameramen only shot the students from the back and the other both forgot to turn his camera on for parts of songs and babbled over the footage like he was the subject of a documentary. So it took quite a lot of editing to get something where you could even begin to see the warm, wonderful and uplifting-higher-than-the-sky feeling that permeated the theater that day.
The performance was a benfit to buy new marching band uniforms for the Mumford band. The last time they got new uniforms was in 1984 when Jerry Bruckheimer, also a Mumford grad, bought them so they could play at the premiere of Beverly Hills Cop in Detroit. I got a Grammy for Beverly Hills Cop so this entire extravaganza was tied up in one fantastically organic bow!
Also organic was my shoes and socks combo in the Mumford school colors.
I had an excellent time wearing my hat, color coordinated to The Color Purple, the matinee of which started immediately after the closing notes of the marching band. Though my hat ecstacy only lasted a couple of bars. Too wobbly on my head.
If the music was wobbly at all it’s only the charm of a high school band and a songwriter who’s never learned how to read, notate or play music despite her songs selling more than 50 million records.
That’s the innocence of youth. I hope you enjoy our youth as much as me and the kids did. It was a VERY special experience indeed.
Mother’s Day has always provided supreme opportunities for kitsch. Be it flower arrangements, stuffed animal displays in front of gas stations for last minute pick-ups, or greeting cards – store bought and handmade equally qualifying – Mother’s Day is a kitsch karousel that never ceases to go round.
Almost everything I owned growing up was thrown out when my mom passed away suddenly when I was 16 and my father remarried. Aside from a rubber doll I got for my first birthday whose head was tied on with a string and a Ben Casey bobble head with a hole in his heart, the result of me shoving a pencil through it after an unrequited love incident at 12, I had almost nothing to remind me of the sweeter life that preceded all of this. (Which is why it meant so much to me to get back into the house I grew up in a few weeks ago.)
About 20 years ago, after years of thinking these two medically deficient dolls were the only artifacts of Little Allee that remained, my brother shipped me my old steamer trunk that had been hogging a corner of his garage since I graduated college. I had always assumed it was empty but inside was a small cigar box that contained letters, post cards, hamburger recipes, and this Mother’s Day card I had made for my mom when I was God knows how old. I hope it wasn’t too old as my interpretation of the world was slightly naïve.
I have no idea what country Mekoila is right above the S. Pole and I’m happy to see that I thought California was important enough to hog the entire West side of the United States. I have no idea if I actually thought that Michigan, where I drew my happy little self in, was really the east-most state or if I forgot to leave room for it when I drew this map that looks more like a cross-section of a cow with different meat cuts in it. I hope you can see the little thumb I gave Michigan for accuracy right above my left hand. And I’m happy that I took the time to draw myself in my favorite type of pleated dress in grades 2-6:
I’m the tall one. And if memory serves, that’s actually a giant Mother’s Day rose tucked into my belt that I made out of a toilet paper roll and tissue paper to give to my mom a couple of years after I made this card. My mother’s name was Rose so that flower had a lot of significance in our family.
I definitely misspelled ‘You’re’ but I’m happy to see that I gave the rose much petal definition and that the leaves look like jubilant uplifted arms. It was a very happy rose and a very happy Rose that celebrated Mother’s Day that year. I did, however, completely cheese out on the poetry I included inside. I have no idea where I copied this from but I’m happy to see that I knew enough as a budding designer to carry over the rose logo.
Thankfully in my later years I progressed to the point where I didn’t need someone else’s words to express how I was feeling.
Never one to leave space empty for long, I ended the card with a picture of a present. Of course, my mom’s only present from me was this card but as a first grade teacher she always appreciated the effort I put into art.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. And happy Mother’s Day, Rose, wherever you may be.