All the hits you can stand to hear!!! And the last time in an architectural treasure.
New Year’s Eve, 2011. I’m coming down Sunset Plaza, a really windy road with million dollar homes right above Sunset Blvd. in LA. I’m in my Green Beetle, which is a lean and fast machine.
Sunset Plaza’s a pain in the ass to drive under any circumstance but nightmarish should you end up behind a slowwww driver, which is what fate dealt me this New Years when I was in a big hurry to get to my destination, my friends Nancye Ferguson and Jim Burn’s pad, an ultra modern built-for-Brian-DePalma-in-the-70’s house that teeters on stilts overlooking the city. Here’s the view from the balcony:
There are very few parking spaces to accommodate a small fraction of the 50 people on their way up there. If you don’t get one of those spaces you have to turn around in a teeny tiny cul-de-sac and drive a quarter mile out the little windy road with hardly any shoulder and a drop-down of hundreds of feet. And then you’re back out on the main winding road where there are about two parking spaces for every fifty people. No way am I limping back up that hill on foot! So I start leaning on the horn behind this little black car driving at funeral speed. To my credit, I only honked when there was enough room for the stupid driver to pull over so I could pass. Finally, after five minutes the car hugs the curb and I whiz past, gunning it extra hard to show my annoyance even further.
I get to the house and thank God there’s a space left. I pull in, put some lipstick on and send a few emails on my iPad before I go in. A couple of cars pass me and I don’t see them coming back down the hill, which means they must’ve found parking spots too. I finally get out of the car and trudge the last 20 feet up to the house. Standing there is my good friend, Beverly D’Angelo, with a guy I don’t know. Beverly and I go way back and I love her. She’s also an excellent party guest, a criteria I have incredibly high standards for, and has been coming to mine for years.
Just as I’m getting in hugging range I hear Snappy P yell, “Green Beetle, that must have been Allee!”. “You fucking asshole, you almost drove us off the road!!,” screams Beverly as I approach. Oh shit, I rarely misbehave behind the wheel anymore and now I’ve gone and terrorized a friend. But then it gets worse, “Meet Sid Krofft,” she says, referring to the mystery man next her, adding that she brought him to the party specifically to meet me. Now I’ve been waiting to meet this guy since the late 60’s when his puppets, marionettes and insane live action shows started ruling TV and now I’ve almost killed him. “I wanted to get out of the car and tell you what an asshole you were” he says. Thank God the Beetle was turbo-charged and he didn’t have a chance. I ate a lot of crow for the next few minutes, but it was immediately apparent that Beverly was completely right. This guy was a kindred spirit and we hit it off like we had known each other for decades.
Though Beverly had told Sid he HAD to come to Willis Wonderland, I went to his place first, now a couple weeks ago. I took hundreds of photos but I can’t show any of them because Sid’s a really private guy. But it’s as handcrafted as my place is times 6 trillion-on-steroids.
In actuality, I didn’t really get full tilt into the Kroffts back in the day when their shows were on the air because by then I was way way way deep into records and the radio. As a fan and later as a songwriter, when my radio habit lurched into twelfth gear and I lived and breathed music every millisecond of every day, I was still aware of that Sid and Marty Krofft name and that it stood for something crazy. But it really wasn’t until so many friends of mine insisted I go to an auction of their props at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1998 that I realized the extent of that craziness as well as the magnitude of its reach. As a kitsch lover, how could I have not been familiar with every single detail of the Kroffts’ career, the guys on the throne at the top of the kitsch mountain??
YouTube, of course, makes for an excellent crash course. So I’ve seen more of the Krofft brothers’ magic in the last month than I have in my lifetime. And my respect and discovery of the depth of influence their work had on me subliminally has been a revelation. H.R. Pufnstuf is probably their most classic:
I don’t like to wake up early for social visits but at 82, Sid Krofft is in REMARKABLE shape, jogging 9 miles a day + a couple hours in the gym, so he’s raring to go when the sun comes up. 10:30 bright and early a couple of Tuesdays ago he and Beverly were at my doorstep.
I even got it together to cut up healthy food for him.
This is a BIG step for me as this is what’s more likely to be on that table on a regular basis:
Sid was as fascinated by Willis Wonderland as I was of his hand-built abode. As my yard is part of my living room, we hit that first.
Although it was raining when I took the following shot, you need to see those GORGEOUS 1950’s fiberglas fish lounges sans people:
As we strolled around outside we were joined by Donny Molls, a great artist and Sid’s next door neighbor:
We stopped and chatted in every room:
My downstairs, where that shot was taken, is particularly packed with memorabilia, some of which is Krofft Brothers stuff I’m happy to say I had the good sense to collect even if I wasn’t sure exactly what it was when I bought it.
If you’ve never seen Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, double up your sedation and watch now! EASILY one of the greatest title sequences in the annals of kitschdom:
Thank god I had a few View Master disks of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl in my collection too:
Sid and Michael Jackson were great friends so I pointed out some of my primo MJ cheese:
You really need to see what I’m pointing at. Yeah, I got the doll and the puzzle like a zillion other people…
…but who else do you know who has the drink cooler?! This is easily my favorite piece of MJ memorabilia I own:
When we got to my dining room…
… Sid posed in front of Mr. Wah Wah, a stunning portrait painted by my alter-ego, Bubbles the artist.:
We spent a lot of time in my recording studio too.
Although Sid has a computer he’s not obsessed with them as I am of my 11 networked Macs. So what we really wanted to do was show him how much of his stuff is online.
And there’s gaggles of it – H.R. Pufnstuf, Land Of The Lost, The Bugaloos, Lidsville, The Donny and Marie Show, not to mention Electra Woman and Dyna Girl for starters. And no exploration of Sid and Marty Kroffts would be complete without the Brady Bunch Variety Hour:
The Brady Bunch is certainly coming up A LOT lately!
One of THE most classic and cheesiest shows EVER on TV was called Pink Lady and Jeff. 1981. I remember being so intrigued by that nutty title that I tried to catch the show whenever I could. Imagine the complete and total ecstasy-breakdown I had when I saw the Pink ladies immortalizing my song,”Boogie Wonderland”:
Watching this again with the creator of that show who was totally in on the cheese joke of it all was even more thrilling. As we were poking around doing searches on YouTube I discovered that not only did Pink Lady do that quintessential performance of the song, they also recorded it. I’m still gasping for breath:
What a day I spent with the gang. Here’s one last parting shot for the photo LP before everyone left:
I sho love me some Sid Krofft!!
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.
Just about as cheesy as you can get, Disco Dancer is a symphony of tragic mistakes. From his hairdo…
…to his little Disco outfit with the lopsided shoulders…
…to the threads hanging out and plastic body parts that don’t quite fit together…
… to his clothes that weren’t even finished before they stuffed him in the box…
… to the fact that he has no pants. Disco Dance is sheer Kitsch perfection.
I love his flat little hands.
Despite the fact that he’s obviously meant to move…
…and there’s a button to push to get him to do so…
… Disco Dancer was dead on arrival, brand new out of the box. Poor little Disco Dancer. Dispite the fact that you have your best shoes on…
…it’s time to leave the Disco and head home…
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
Of my entire immense collection of Disco artifacts this almost-John-Travolta-with-almost-Toni-Tennille disco mirror is way, way, way up there on my favorites list.
Almost-Travolta and his partner are exactly the kind of people who wouldn’t have made it into Studio 54. Quite the contrary, her little-too-late swish of Farrah Fawcett hair, drapey polyester dress and bangle bracelets make for the kind of outfit that filled up discotheques on the outskirts of towns at the sides of freeways all over the United States.
There’s so much more going on on this mirror than disco dancing it’s totally nauseating to look into it for very long.
But I would never complain too loud about a product that hangs on a wall that’s actually called “Disco Dancing”.
The footwear especially kills me:
Which is good because after staring into the mirror for too long it’s all I can do to stare down at the floor and see my own feet in order to bring my head back to a normal state. Then again, it’s a very cheap and medically safe high to look at almost-John, almost-Farrah/Toni T. and their disco floor-inspired mirror background to feel like I’m hallucinating.
Mere days after my first and only album, Childstar, was released on Epic Records in 1974, I walked on stage in front of 10,000 people to open in Boston for folksinger David Bromberg.
The only other time I had been on stage before was when I played a little fur tree in a school play when I was 8. Now here I was singing soul music, the first 10 songs I ever wrote, plus a Mary Wells medley and Brenton Woods’s “Oogum Boogum”. My band, the singers of whom would go on to become Chic, were dressed as sequined vegetables and I was in a satin suit that I’d autographed from head to toe. This is a really crappy photo of part of the costumes on mannequins but it’s all I’ve got;
Me and The Angle Babies aren’t in costume here but you can get a pretty good idea that between us and our costumes we weren’t what the folksinging crowd came to see.
I didn’t have a very good time on stage. I never could remember my lyrics and I always spent more time designing the sets and costumes than I did rehearsing or getting comfortable being on stage. After five performances on the East Coast we were booked into a lunchroom at Ohio State, the only way the college could also get Joni Mitchell to play in the main auditorium because we had the same agent. Our only audience were three people at a bridge table eating hot dogs and a psychology class being conducted in the back of the room, with the professor telling us to lower our volume after every song. I walked offstage after six songs and made the decision to just be a songwriter, where at least if I was being tortured it was in the comfort of my own room.
Through the years I’ve gotten much more comfortable performing – in my own unique way of doing so which doesn’t include singing live – mostly because I’m a big party thrower and walk around on mic the whole time.
Almost every conversation I have comes through the speakers and I’m literally directing and producing the party as I go. Throw in the thrift shop auctions and stupid party games that I lead the guests through and I’ve gotten very relaxed holding that cold metal thing in my hands.
But I still never have gotten it together to sing anywhere other than in the studio.
So the fact that in mere hours I will be up on the stage for the first time in almost four decades and I’m not sitting here throwing up is a MASSIVE ACHIEVEMENT! Me and five other well oiled songwriters will be singing our greatest hits and talking about how they were written. It’s just with a keyboard – Chris Price, who I’ve been writing and recording a song with and shooting a video all on iPhones, is accompanying me – but I’m singing and remembering lyrics and lines nonetheless.
And if I can get through the evening not thinking about soul singers dressed as vegetables, psychology professors and hot dogs I will have made a big breakthrough.
I’ll be performing “September“, “Boogie Wonderland”, “Neutron Dance”, and “I’ll Be There for You (theme from Friends)“. At least radio has regaled me with these songs thousands of times over the years so I’m hoping that for once I can remember my own lyrics and be happy I’m up on stage.
Wish me luck!
I love these kind of toy kits that are slapped together to take advantage of some current trend because the contents are usually cheaply made and wrong. This card of Disco accessories is no exception. For example, the model with the sky-bound hair looks way more trashy 80’s than stone cold funky mid-to-late 70’s, which is what anyone gracing anything that has the word ‘Disco’ on it should look like. Although I suppose her hair transcends any decade:
The scarf is a nice touch, though placement on anything other than the neck doesn’t seem optimum for Disco dancing.
And shouldn’t the model be wearing platform Disco shoes and not heels she might have worn to a tea at the Holiday Inn?! They could’ve at least found a stock shot of someone wearing appropriate footwear. Even the enclosed Go-go boots, tre passé in the the Disco era, are wrong.
And look at the different belt lengths. Is this in case of the doll’s weight gain or loss?
I guess I can understand that sizing approach in belts but not in shoes. You either have one size feet or the other.
A lovely but somewhat limited selection of jewelry is also provided:
But what on earth is this? A beach ball cover? A beach-themed yarmulke? An example of sloppy stitching?
I love that all the record titles have the word ‘Disco’ in them, lest we forget that these are DISCO doll accessories.
At least they got the Disco font right. Then again, the “D” is suspiciously like the ‘O’ so maybe not…
I was much better dressed when I co-wrote this (thankfully) Disco classic:
Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t go to concerts. I don’t like the crowds, I don’t like the walking, I don’t like someone singing next to me or standing up in front of me dancing. I understand this is the nature of concerts and I’m not out to change that so I was always happier sinking my head under a set of headphones and listening to the intricacies of the music rather than the idiosyncrasies of the crowd. This includes concerts where my own music is being performed. Of the hundreds and hundreds of songs of mine that have been cut I’ve seen maybe ten of them performed live. One of the most memorable nights ever for me was in 1979 at the Los Angeles Forum when half of the songs performed by Earth Wind & Fire were mine, including “September”, “Boogie Wonderland” and “In the Stone”. Although I’m blessed to have some of my tunes among their most popular I never saw the band perform live again. Until last Friday night when I saw a performance that blew my head off my shoulders and still has me skipping along the sidewalks of Los Angeles, a very happy girl.
On the slight chance you don’t know “September”, my first hit with the group, this will jog your memory. For “Boogie Wonderland” go here. There’s a lot more of them but that will suffice as context for this post.
About six months before “September” came out at the tail end of 1978 I started writing with Verdine White, founding member of EWF, pictured with me at the top of this post, and to this day my favorite bass player in the world. We wrote a theme song for a short-lived TV dance show called “Hot City” for a singer named Shelly Clark. Verdine married Shelly and also put me in one of my most important relationships ever, my collaboration with Maurice White, Verdine’s brother whose vision EWF was. Although I’ve seen Verdine often over the years I just saw Shelly for the first time last night since we did “Hot City”. That kind of time span will never happen again.
I wouldn’t have even been at this concert if my friend Nancy Ferguson hadn’t insisted that I go after almost every person I knew told me they were going. The one photo I didn’t take last night was of my little family group, Nancye, Jim Burns and Prudence Fenton, who I go everywhere with and who schlepped me to The Bowl on Friday. Here we are a couple of months ago at a vintage slide show:
I also hung out a lot with my excellent friend and EWF fan number one, Luenell.
Luenell, Shelly and I took excellent head shots throughout the evening.
Luenell came with Constance Tillotson. Amongst the three of us we’re known as as Twinkie (Constance), Luenell (Ding Dong) and Hostess Snowball (me).
The concert itself was astounding. It never hit me until it started that for the first time in my life I was about to hear my songs played with a live 70 piece orchestra. It was actually the first time Earth Wind and Fire heard their songs this way too.
Songwriting can be a lot of work. For me personally, many times along the way it was also a lot of trauma as when you’re a songwriter it’s oftentimes like being the attendant in a restroom; the restroom attendant is there to change the towels and service the patrons/ the songwriter is there to deliver options of music and lyrics and service the artist. I started doing art and videos and later, technology, because I was someone who needed to create all the time. Whereas much of my time as a songwriter was spent babysitting, waking up an artists’ brain from seemingly eternal sleep, waiting around for hours while they decided whether it should be an “a” or a “the” in the lyric or to go to a D in the music and me knowing it should be none of the above. But I have news for you – Every inch of blood, sweat and trauma was worth it when I saw EWF play “September” with a big mofo 70 piece live ass orchestra and fireworks going off throughout the song. I think you can tell how excited I was by this little movie I took on my Canon Elf.
People who filled the 17,000+ seats posted a zillion videos of this on YouTube. This one is shot from further back and shows all of the fireworks.
Now I know I’m about to stay up all night writing this because I keep finding all these videos shot from different seats at the Bowl. This one’s from about halfway back. As much as I’m tempted to post the at least 20 of these I’ve seen so far because I’m so eternally grateful for people around the world who’ve embraced “September” for all these years, I promise this will be the last:
About a year ago, when I first opened my social network, The Allee Willis Museum of Kitsch @ AWMOK.com, me, Luenell, Verdine and Larry Dunn, original EWF keyboard player who played on all my EWF hits, did a slightly less orchestrated and lit performance of “September” when we performed it at the opening night party in an alley playing on thrift shop instruments.
Not at the party that night but always in my heart is Philip Bailey. As anyone who’s ever listened to EWF knows, Philip has just about the most extraordinary falsetto voice as any human being ever created. Until last night at the Bowl it had been at least 15 years since we’d seen each other.
I can’t tell you how happy I was to be reunited with Phillip. Just like I can’t tell you how proud I was to be part of this extraordinary group whose message has been rock-solid-2010-spiritually-evolved since they began recording in the late 60s. Phillip felt the same way about me as evidenced in this video that unfortunately cuts off right when he gets going. (I suppose I should be grateful for having even this much of the conversation on tape though truth be told, my heart felt like battery acid was lacing through it when I saw the camera dangling from the arm of the person I had given it to to shoot as opposed to being pointed at us capturing every single once-in-a-lifetime word.)
I know it’s hard to hear so I’ve stooped to typing out what Phillip said because it meant the world to me. Phillip: “Allee Willis is one of the greatest writers who ever lived or breathed. Without Allee Willis, a lot of those songs wouldn’t be here for us, for Earth Wind & Fire….”
Luckily I only went for a photograph when I saw Ralph Johnson, the third original member still in the group. We hadn’t seen each other since the early 80s. It will most certainly not take another 30 years for this to happen again.
Even the Godhead himself and the man without whom I would never be where I am today as a songwriter took the stage for a few moments. Maurice White hasn’t performed with the group for years and the audience went insane when he walked out. He left before the party afterwards but here’s a photo of us taken a few years ago at the opening of Hot Feet, a musical featuring all EWF music in which I had seven songs. We’re with two of my all time favorite songwriters in the universe, Ashford and Simpson, and LaChanze, who won the Tony for playing Celie in my musical, The Color Purple, playing just down Broadway from Hot Feet at the time.
Now back to The Bowl. Here I am with Greg Phillingaines, the completely brilliant artist and keyboard player who also was a prominent part of my musical history, not to mention playing on every important Michael Jackson solo record and about a trillion other ones you know. Not to mention that he’s also playing on “I’m Here”, a song of mine from The Color Purple that’s on Fantasia’s new CD.
I had the time of my life Friday night but I still don’t like the crowds, the walking, the people singing out of tune next to me or blocking my view because they’re up on their feet dancing. But if anything could change my mind it was this experience of 17,000 people going nuts while the group who changed my life, a dream orchestra and easily some of the most spectacular fireworks I’ve ever seen accompanied my music.