I also leave for Detroit on Sunday where I’ll be hosting a benefit greatest hits concert at my high school and telling stories of how some of my biggest hits were written while students perform the songs. This includes kids from the dance and drama classes, concert choir, marching band and ROTC drill team.
Don’t even ask me how excited I am about that! Plus it gives me a chance to rehearse some of the stories I’ll be telling at my live show in LA in May. I’ll also be speaking to students at my father’s high school as Cass becomes only the second high school ever to perform my musical, The Color Purple. And all this is stuffed in between 8 trillion meetings with movers and shakers, big and small, to feel out a couple of long term projects that I want to do in my beloved home town.
All of which means I’m going to be completely insane over the next 30 days, which will inevitably cut down on my blogging activities as time I may have spent writing is now going toward prep and rehearsal of those ever-important two days in May, not to mention my week in Detroit.
As a result, I’m going to try and become an interested little tweeter. I don’t know if this will work as I’ve resisted regular tweeting ever since the bird first launched. As an avid natural writer, I’ve always viewed the constant barrage of 140 characters as an invasion to my headspace. I’m also someone who likes to think about what I do, so longer than 140 has always suited me best. But, at least from where my head is right now, tweeting may save me as I try to report in tiny chunks as opposed to longer daily excursions. Here are my tweets from yesterday documenting my first steps toward the stage again:
Rehearsals for my Super Ball Bounce Back Review at King King May 8 & 9 have begun! http://kingkinghollywood.com/
Perhaps one day I’ll learn the lyrics to my own songs… Creeping slowly through Boogie Wonderland.
I know these are nothing dramatic and so far the only way I’m interested in tweeting is if I can have a photo as a punchline. I put this one up this morning, though the photo’s just a photo and not a punchline:
We’racing 2 finish horror film that opens my new show @ KingKing May 8&9. Best of horrific tech failures frm last show.
I hate typos like ‘We’racing’. That happened in efforts to cut down to less than 140 characters so a photo could accompany the tweet. In the old world I also wouldn’t have wanted to give away the fact that I was making a horror film of the most Titanic moments from the last show, but in a tweet-filled world there’s no room for secrets.
Today’s a free day at home, marking the start of the three day/three suitcase packing process. Hopefully the bug hasn’t hit me full strength just yet and I won’t become one of those tweeting fools who shows you every single thing I’m putting into those suitcases.
Of course, I couldn’t resist and just tweeted that. Now I just need to knock this down to 140 charcters:
My nimble assistants, Dina and Suellen, cut face masks and assemble souvenir multipurpose “Unisex Pendants and Keychains” made out of bubblegum charms that will be for sale at Allee Willis’ Super Ball Bounce Back Review May 8&9 at King King in Hollywood.
No one loves vintage architecture more than me, especially 1930’s through 1970’s modern. But sometimes I drive through the city of Los Angeles and my eyeballs literally cross in ecstasy when I see stunning architectural details of an entirely different ilk such as the Greek themed hunk in the photo above. I have no idea who first mounted a fake column on a building in efforts to make otherwise bland boxes of stucco into things more grand, but I can’t thank them enough for feeding this kitsch lover a massive dose of what they love best every time I pass by one of their buildings. The idea of splitting a column in half and gluing it on in attempts to make it look like the column is supporting something and to add stature and beauty to these edifices took quite the mind to create. Here’s another example just down the block from the last Grecian temple:
The Valley, where all these beauties featured today come from, abounds with such cut-in-half Grecian style:
And then there’s this approach:
Just throw everything on the lawn and cover what was once an incredible 1930’s Deco bungalow with that hideous kind of stucco that takes off layers of skin should you come in contact with it. But if you’re going for that, there was never a more noble champion of Greek comedy/tragedy than the now-debunked House of Davids right smack dab in the middle of Hollywood:
Let’s take a closer look:
Sadly, owner Norwood Young disassembled his collection and closed the doors of Youngwood Court, as it was officially named, a few months ago. The good news is that one of the Davids made it my way as a birthday present from aKitschionado Mark Blackwell a couple of months ago:
So now, even Willis Wonderland has a touch of Greece to liven it up.
The ultimate performance – both sonic and choreographic – that you will EVER see!!!
Pigmy Will = Snappy P
Feathers = Your fearless leader, Allee
Whiska = Snappy P
Made by hand with lotsa hustle love.
If I thought Indonesia could slam it out of the park as far as they shot this kitsch-krested pencil case every time they turned out another product I’d sign up for the mystery package monthly home delivery! Man, this thing is truly insane. Big, ratty cabbage patch-reminiscent heads with little tuffs of madness as limbs…
…and what looks like laundry lint for hair.
And how about that nose?! Eyes don’t seem very important to this pencil case.
Lucky for me, there were three of these tucked into the bin at Dollar Tree.
Apparently, 2/3s of the litter are elephants:
Although they only got half as much lace around the collar as their sock muffin sister, they got much fancier fabric for cuffs, or should I say arms.
I never would have pegged these pouches as pencil cases.
Although there’s a nice supply of shredded paper inside keeping the little girls/boys/unidentifiable lifeforms nice and plump,…
…the cases aren’t quite long enough to get a whole pencil in should you be starting with a brand new just-sharpened-once one. It’s an excellent sign in a kitsch world when what the purpose of an object hasn’t been taken into account in its design.
I meant to start posting my thoughts about my Soup To Nuts Party Mix show, my first live performance in 37 years at the El Portal Theater last Tuesday night, the day after the show but I could barely pick up a stylus to write let alone move my mouth in any detectible syllabic pattern because I was so tired and overwhelmed. I’m racing to get photos up, a fun yet gruesome task as there are literally thousands of them to go through. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll have them organized enough to post. In the meantime, let me tell you about this cruise on the Love Boat that mutated into the Titanic yet somehow still ended up at Fantasy Island…
Stormy seas and all, Soup To Nuts Party Mix was about the most incredible experience that I’ve ever had. Not because it went so well, but because literally 95% of the technology it was dependent on failed. It was apparent from the second I walked on stage that I was going to have to throw out the script and effects I had worked on so furiously for four months and literally ad lib my way through the evening. All I can tell you is that despite riding a sinking technological ship, I kept people in stitches, and I mean tears rolling down their faces, screaming laughter stitches, including standing ovations in the middle of the show for things I was forced to come up with on the spot.
So despite being an utter failure as far as the show I planned, it was an unbelievably cathartic moment as a performer. Like five years worth of working the act out within the space of two hours, some time of which I spent sitting down watching brilliant and charitable friends of mine takeover and help me out.
One of them was the stupendous comedienne Luenell, who has stepped it up at other parties of mine as well and Tuesday night helped a sista out during one of the 6,437,293 technical glitches that befell the stage.
But just as Luenell got to her punchline, something FINALLY popped up on the screen and I had to cut her off.
One of the best moments of the show, although perhaps not for Luenell, was when she then took a seat and the chair started rolling out from under her…
…until she plopped down flat as a log on the floor. When I asked if she needed a first aid kit she yelled “NO, what I need is a lawyer!”
I need the same lawyer for the guy at the controls. But from the jump four months ago I approached this whole thing as a party thrower, not a playwright, and a good party thrower is ready to field anything that goes wrong, even if of a catastrophic nature such as the tech sinkhole happening on stage left. I’m sure a phrase that will stick with my shows forever was born: “Get the foamcore!” as I sent my assistant, Dina Duarte, and set-collaborator, Mark Tomorsky, both on stage with me for the whole show, racing for a ratty piece of paper covered foam to hold over the main monitor every time the wrong photo, lyric for a sing-along or even worse, the tech guy’s desktop, appeared. Here they are hoisting it over what was supposed to be the lyrics to “Boogie Wonderland”, while my collaborator on that song, Jon Lind, kills time with his story about Maurice White, chocolate danishes and other things that happened the day we wrote it.
I doubt that Larry Dunn, founding member of Earth Wind & Fire who played keyboards on the records of “September” and “Boogie Wonderland” and accompanied me on those songs in the show, ever got cut off early before. But I had to yank him short as without lyrics sing-alongs can only be so effective.
Danny Sembello also came onstage for two songs he co-wrote with me, “Neutron Dance” and “Stir it Up”, neither of which were consistently accompanied by correct lyrics.
Chris Price played “I’ll Be There for You”, the theme from Friends and “What Have I Done To Deserve This?”, both of which I was forced to race through without their accompanying stories as by the time we reached them it was already the time I had planned to end the show, 10:15, and we were barely at the halfway point because of the malfunctions. Dina and Mark had the foamcore ready but thankfully the Friends theme is so short and has been hammered into the heads of every audience member a hundred times a day since 1994 so my tech guy could only wreak so much havoc.
And then we were supposed to play Bingo. How do you mess up Bingo??! But if you’re spelling K-I-T-S-C-H and not B-I-N-G-O and there are no visuals to go along with “K- Dust Mop Slippers” or “T-Flowbee”, “S- Farrah Fawcett Shampoo & Conditioner” or “H – Beatles Pantyhose”, who’s going to know what you’re talking about without visual accompaniment? As soon as it was apparent that that too tanked I just turned to the audience and yelled “Fuck Bingo! The first 20 people up on stage get all the prizes!”. You would’ve thought the Gold Rush hit California again from the way this audience stampeded the stage.
Jelly room deodorizers, soccer balls that turn into magic towels when they get wet, vintage Afro picks, matzo ball kitchen timers donated by Davida (who also contributed the packs of Kosher Kurls in the gift bags), Handerpants – underpants with finger holes so graciously displayed by Daniel Franzese in a shot below and donated, as much of the gifts were, by Archie McPhee… this was one of my favorite moments of the show. To me it’s all about interaction between performer and audience and there they all were on stage like bit players and incredible friends. It truly felt like a party in my yard, which is what I had built the set to look like anyway.
Then I threw in a montage from my musical, The Color Purple, though we skipped the sing-along.
And finally, a veritable tour de force, Pigmy Will doing “The Hustle” played us out.
Just like I never learned to read, notate or write music yet have sold 50,000,000 records, or that I didn’t know you mix paint to get different colors until ten years into my art career, I’m probably the only person in theater history who ever booked the theater before they wrote the show and then performed the show before they had a rehearsal. I am, if nothing else, consistent! It’s the spontaneous event and what happens between performer, audience, and stage, whether it’s in a theater or on my porch, that’s the art form to me. Yes, a stage manager and lighting and sound director would have been nice, as would have been a theater whose usual fare wasn’t Christmas specials and geriatric musicals. But thankfully much of the audience was peppered with people who understand the pitfalls the stage can hold. For example:
My sentiments exactly! All I kept thinking as the world collapsed around me was a) what the f&#k is going on and what the hell am I going to do next??, while simultaneously being conscious that b) this will be my most legendary performance ever because I don’t know anyone else who wouldn’t have walked off stage after 20 minutes. Through it all I just kept going and got funnier and funnier and funnier. So the tech mishaps in their own bizarre way worked in my favor. In the end, I got far more out of it than I had intended. My soul soared, and although I was nearly suicidal by the end of the show it was probably the most artistically satisfying thing I’ve ever done. At once everything was shattering around me in the worst conceivable way that anything can happen on stage, yet it was a totally triumphant evening.
Six cameras were shooting. I realize that a brilliant Waiting For Guffman times 1063 could be made out of it. That’s music to the ears of a kitsch lover such as myself, especially one who’s obsessed with learning how to make lemonade out of extremely rotten lemons. So it’s a kind of Self-Help Waiting for Guffman, or in this case, The Tech Guy. I also realize it gives me an incredible starting point for the next version of the show, which should happen by the end of January.
I will never again be afraid of adversity. I will only look at it as an annoying friend that I have to make the best of, and in the making of that a beautiful flower can bloom.
Tons of photos here!
In 1974, Allee Willis walked off stage in the middle of her own show. Now she’s finally coming back! The Grammy, Emmy, Tony and Webby award-winning and nominated songwriter, artist, singer, technologist, collector, and party thrower comes to the El Portal Theater in beautiful North Hollywood for one night only of songs, stories, and party games. Sing-along to Willis’ greatest hits like “September”, “Boogie Wonderland”, “Neutron Dance”, “What Have I Done To Deserve This” and “I’ll Be There For You (theme from Friends)”! Win valuable prizes! Watch her as she attempts to get through the evening without walking off stage for another 37 years!
Show starts at 8:00PM, Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Doors open at 7:00PM with kitschy food + drinks, beer and wine available
So reasonable it’s crazy!
$24.99 and $34.99
(tickets are limited and they’re going fast…)
or call 1-866-811-4111
El Portal Theatre
5269 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
“Ms. Willis…considers party-giving an art form” – New York Times
“Allee Willis’ parties are the campiest hot tickets in town” – People Magazine
“..A rare look inside the process of one of the most prolific and tenacious interactive media artists working today.” – salon.com
“Willis is the spokeswoman for this grand dance of junque nouvelle and vérité… as if Ozzie Nelson had acquired a sick and sudden taste for Surrealist poets. Her own interest in kitsch typifies the dichotomy that makes her interesting…The silliness, un-self consciousness, sense of whimsy and innocence are reflected in the absurd designs and bright colors (that surround her). Even the themes lack pretension… Hopeful images of a powerful America and its future.” – LA Weekly
“…A singular vision by an artist, who if not limited by building codes, would be the Simon Rodia of the 21st century.” – Chris Nichols, Los Angeles Magazine
No new aKitschionado posts until tomorrow as I have to leave early this morning to go to Milly Del Rubio’s funeral where, as I did for both of her sisters, Elena and Eadie, I’ll be delivering the eulogy. Normally this would be a very upsetting task, but as all three of the Del Rubio Triplets were fond of saying, they were “three people with one head” and never could live with the thought of the group not being together. I’m at peace that they’re finally reunited, as Eadie passed in 1996 and Eleana joined her in 2001.
I thought about dropping ‘Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day’ from the title of my post today but if ever I were to worship at the throne of Kitsch it would be at the base of three magnificent thrones with gold nameplates that say “Del Rubio”.
I should also mention that Holy Cross Cemetery, where the triplets are buried next to each other by the time you read this, is right across the street from the Fox Hills Mall, where I got this:
I constantly get complements on how gorgeous this microphone pendant is. No doubt the complement flingers think it’s real diamonds but all that bling only cost $39.99. Not that I need a funeral as an excuse to go to the Fox Hills Mall, but if anyone would appreciate fantastic music-themed jewelry like this it would be the Del Rubio Triplets.
Milly, I know how long you’ve wanted to go and be with your sisters so I’m not sad to lose you now.
I trust that the three of you are already assembled in front of glowing diamond microphones, singing the out-of-this-world harmonies you sang even here on earth, and standing in the order you were born in, stood on stage in and did everything in life in; Eadie on the left, Elena in the middle and Milly now joining on the right.
As much as I look forward to rolling out of bed every morning and choosing a fresh, new and wonderful artifact of kitsch to present, today is an absolutely torturous day in terms of what I have to accomplish. First of all, I’m driving back to LA from Monterey. It’s supposed to rain like cats and very large dogs most of the way back so I have to get an early start. Also, I have to write tons of the kind of stuff I hate to write because I’ve got to unleash a whole Facebook campaign on a death-defying event I’m attempting to pull off in 2 1/2 weeks in Detroit when I conduct my high school band in the theater I grew up in playing a medley of my greatest hits before a performance of my musical, The Color Purple, with the cast singing along. This should sound like a manageable event, but just imagine the sound of a marching band playing in the four-story high/almost block long lobby of a theater built in 1930 of solid concrete and marble, the acoustical nightmare of which has just dawned on me: What’s the point of having a sing-along if all you can hear is a bevy of brass drilling through your your eardrums?
And how do I conduct an orchestra facing one direction at the same time as a sing-along, which demands me turning the other way to conduct the crowd? These are the kind of mindnumbing challenges that someone like me, who gets an idea and charges ahead, forgets to deal with until it’s too late to examine the sanity of attempting to do such a thing in the first place. So I rely upon my ability to create good enough art and somehow combine it with everything else that inevitably reels off the railroad tracks, tipping over and spilling down the hillside into a vat of how-the-hell-am-I-going-to-pull-this-off-let-alone-raise-the-money-I-need-to-raise-to buy-the-marching-band-new-uniforms to understand that all of this makes for fantastic kitsch and I just have to roll with it.
Also today, my good friend and hysterical comedy person, Maxine Lapiduss, releases a song/video of a song I co-wrote called “Scared About Life without Oprah”, produced by Wendy and Lisa and featuring Jane Lynch. Of course, Maxine expects me, as any artist or co-writer would, to promote it on Facebook. So not only do I have one most important event to promote I have a song to push as well. So the immediate task is to to sit here on the 101 when it’s not my turn to drive and figure out some way I don’t nauseate myself by unleashing a couple weeks of vigorous begging and pleading to take note of all that is wonderful in Allee world without pissing people off I’m hawking so much. To some folks the shameless task of self-promotion comes naturally. To me, it’s razor blades in my eyeballs unless I can think of an entertaining way to do it.
All this to say I apologize for not posting fresh kitsch today but I will be back tomorrow with bran’ spanking new wonderfulness from the shelves at The Allee Willis Of Kitsch at AWMOK.com (shamelss plug #3). Please send all creative vibes my way today! And pretty please go here and support the cause: https://www.alleewillis.com/mumfordinvite. And if on Facebook please join here to follow the precarious journey to new band uniforms for the funkiest high school band on the planet: https://www.facebook.com/AlleeWillisMarchesOnDetroit
Anyone who’s ever driven past Norwood Young’s house in LA knows that it’s a prime candidate for a Kitschmas smorgasbord unlike all others. Depending on who you talk to, known affectionately or despicably as the House of Davids, it has enough wrought iron to circle the White House, all of which protects the 21 statues of David that line the driveway upon which usually sits Norwood’s jewel encrusted Rolls Royce. Here’s what Youngwood Court, as it’s officially known, looks like all year except December:
I, of course, worship at the altar of this edifice and landscaping that depict a victory for self expression through statuary that has driven many of Norwood’s neighbors crazy ever since he moved in umpteen years ago.
After years of religiously driving past the corner of Third and S. Muirfield if I was even remotely in the area I finally went to a party at Norwood’s about 10 years ago. As luck would have it, he was a songwriter and a fan of my songs so in years to come I got to enter the palace many times.
Unfortunately, that shot was taken at Patti LaBelle’s birthday party this year, which was NOT held at Youngwood Court which looks much more like this on the inside:
But this post is all about the outside and celebrating the Christmas spirit in a way that only Norwood can.
Sunday night I made my yearly pilgrimage to his place for the turning on the lights ceremony, complete with performances by the man himself and real snow that somehow managed to stay frozen despite the 80° weather that day.
Norwood had on a fabulous red velvet suit. I, unfortunately, had on the same outfit I wore to Patti’s birthday party:
Despite my fashion faux pas, I documented the fabulous insanity on the front lawn as I have in all years past.
So, in no particular order, here’s a sample of Christmas 2010 at Youngwood Court. Mind you, the Christmas models are all nude statues of David.
My eyeballs thank Norwood for this most merry Christmas tableau! I hope the neighbors appreciate their luck being this close to the West pole.