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Finally!! Get out the ol’ YouTube and enjoy this sneak peek at “The D”! (This is NOT the music video or film; just a sneak peek at what you can expect!) You can play this now or read a little more as I will kindly provide you with the link 30,000 times before the end of this update.

As we speak, I’m in my studio rolling my chair from one workstation to another as we simultaneously mix the 4000 vocal and instrument tracks for the record, and edit the 2000+ hours of footage into a music video, assorted trailers and a hybrid–documentary–but–not–really feature film. Normal life has ceased and no matter what other needs may need attending, work never stops!

In the nearly 2 years since I began working on “The D” there were times I was just inches away from pulling the plug because the financial and practical odds of getting thousands of Detroiters to sing a song and be in a film about human spirit on no budget just seemed too enormous. But make it to Detroit we did, in September – a magic month for me for obvious musical reasons – and again at Thanksgiving when I was such an exemplary float personality greeting the crowds as a block of ice being hauled down Woodward Ave., Detroit’s main drag and first paved road in history, in the Thanksgiving Day Parade:

As usual, massive thanks and eternal gratitude to those of you who have already donated or participated in the making of “The D”. Now that everyone else can finally get a hint of what we’re doing I hope many of you reading this will follow suit and help us finish by adding some gas in the tank.

If you like what you see please please please spread the link to this “D” sneak peek around: http://youtu.be/4rkbTpZdxy8
If you want to donate go here: http://www.gofundme.com/3btivk
For complete info on “The D” go here: http://www.wesingthed.com
And If you know some nice rich person or place with excellent taste and a whole lotta soul who might make this next part of our journey a little easier in the way of coin, please email me immediately!

I can guarantee you “The D” is a view of Detroit you’ve never seen before. I can guarantee you it’s an accurate one. And I can promise you it will make you smile. When it comes to soul – SERIOUSLY – there ain’t no place like the Motor City!

My “D” best,
And, by the way, have you seen this excellent sneak peek of “The D”?

Allee

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 in Detroit 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 naive.

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 in that photo with my two cousins, Sue and Marjorie Singer. 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 as 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 that year 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 now.

Elvis is alive and well as Amelia Earhart on the corner of Tujunga and Magnolia in North Hollywood, CA. Carrying a propeller blade instead of a guitar, everything else about this Amelia screams the King, like her pompadour hairdo and bell bottom aviator pants.

I’m not nuts about that kind of feathering technique where it looks like a slasher took his aggression out in clay. The statue is quite large, Amelia herself least 10 feet tall, so the sculptor slasher really had room to go to town.

A little too foreshadowing for me as per Amelia is the circle of propeller blades that surround her bronzed clayness. For my money, it looks like she’s being circled by shark fins, which was most likely her fate.

I would’ve rethought this had I been the knife wielding sculptor.

Amelia was a proud resident of North Hollywood, where her statue is docked.

I used to make fun of the statue until I became friends with the teen idol I most swooned over as a kid, Fabian. I once gave him away as a prize at my Night of the Living Négligée pajama party.

I made a short film showing where Fabian would take the lucky winner of the “Win A Dream Date with Fabian” contest. The Amelia statue would be the first stop on their romantic landmarks tour.

Sorry the photo is so low res but it was 1989 and I had an excessively cheap and rarely working camera. If you think that’s low res, you should see the film we made.

I was carrying on about how bad the sculpture was until Fabian’s manager told me he was was great friends with the artist and not only did the city pay a hefty price for it/her but there’s another exact Amelia at the Burbank airport.

I know most people would never make the connection between Amelia Earhart and Fabian, let alone Amelia Earhart and Elvis, but that’s what makes life interesting through these eyes. I’d still ditch the shark fins had I been Ernest but I’m happy that Amelia is still standing tall, mere blocks from her home in beautiful North Hollywood.

Bright and early the weekend before Thanksgiving Prudence Fenton and I hopped in the mustache van and drove up the coast to San Luis Obispo.

If you’ve never been to The Madonna Inn there, drive, fly, walk, bike, whatever mode of transportation it takes, and go there NOW!

I don’t care where you’ve been to see your architectural kitsch, this is one stop shopping of infinitesimal magnitude. I’ve blogged about this place many a time before but one post, even a hundred, could never cover the staggering detail present on the 2200 acres that appear mirage-like on the side of the 101 freeway.

The whole place was designed by this guy

…. for this lady:

Alex Madonna, a construction magnate and entrepreneur who among other things built the section of the 101 the Inn sits next to, built this palace in 1958. These portraits of Alex and his wife Phyllis’ hang right outside the main dining room.

You need a closer look at that mother of all grape lamps in between them. Eight feet of barrel and the most magnificent assemblage of resin grape clusters anywhere:

This hangs right across the cave from this stairway, one of the subtler ones at The Madonna Inn:

Every time I drive up north taking the 101, I stop at The Madonna Inn to eat. Usually I’m in a hurry and just have time to hit the coffee shop. By the way, coffee always tastes better when the sugar is in one of these two forms, available only here:

The pink crystals and rock formations look especially good on the all copper counter and tabletops…

…which are surrounded by all copper decorative trim…

…which makes sense as this is the name of the coffee shop:

But if I’m not in a hurry to get where I’m going I try to park myself in the main dining room, The Gold Rush Steakhouse. I think you can see why:

Here’s another reason:

That’s one big ol’ slab o’ beef! As an animal lover I  don’t like to think about this but the beef is grown mere feet from the restaurant.  Here I am posing at midnight with the subject of my meal:

I always love a restaurant that starts you off with a relish plate:

Far from the usual celery and carrots and olives, this one has salami and a big brick of cheese thrown on top.  Also thrown in for my birthday festivities was Nancye Ferguson, who drove up to join us.

When it’s your birthday at the Madonna Inn your table is marked with a balloon:

Tables with balloons get free cake for dessert:

I had seen the 9″ high pink champagne cakes in the coffeeshop earlier…

So I got a big hunk of it:

Cake always tastes better when it matches the decor.

It’s even better when the decor is decorated for Christmas.

At this time of year, any place there’s room to stick a Christmas tree at The Madonna Inn there is one:

Angles guard over every table:

Some of the most famous rooms at the Madonna Inn are the bathrooms. The most famous is the men’s room. I finally got the balls to sneak in with Jim Burns, a.k.a. Sgt. Frank Woods in Call Of Duty-Black Ops, who also joined us.

Although the giant clam shell sinks are fantastic…

…the legendary waterfall urinal is the main attraction:

Though sans waterfall, the ladies room next door has its own unique charm:

In another bathroom off of the coffeeshop, little girls get their props.  You can’t tell the scale from this photo but the toilet is teeny tiny tot sized…

…and matches the mini little girl sink in the middle of the big gal facilities:

All of this pales next to the bathroom in The Madonna Suite, where I tended to the needs of my roast-beef-sugared-champagne-caked body.

Here’s a little closer look at the sink, though it’s hard to see detail amidst all the rock. Water trickles down all the troughs dug out of the rock.

A full tour of The Madonna Suite tomorrow…

Several things about this glass have all the earmarks of Kitsch with a kapital K. First of all, it’s from a piano bar restaurant. Second, the name Lenny Dee is a perfect name for a player at a piano bar. Third, there’s Lenny himself, festooned in the perfect polyester outfit, visible through the oval peekaboo window on the front of the glass. Fourth, the piano keys go all the way around the glass as opposed to just in the front.

I’m not sure what’s happening on Lenny’s ultra long 70’s pointy collar polyester shirt but it’s the perfect design complement to the piano keys above him. Lenny’s comb-over and especially hairy hands are also excellent graphic touches for a drinking glass.

In case you can’t get a clear shot of Lenny once your glass is filled with liquid, there’s a non-peekaboo photo of him on the back.

I’m assuming the ‘O’ around Lenny’s head is a record and not a halo:

Then again, maybe it’s an ‘O’ and his last name is O’Dee and not Dee.  This led me to google Lenny.

I found out that Lenny no-O Dee made a few records and was an awesome organist. Just listen:

He was quite the talker too:

Treasure Island, Florida appears to be the perfect place for Lenny to be doing his magic.

According to Wikipedia, “Treasure Island got its name after several property owners attempted to boost sales of the properties by first burying and then “discovering” a couple of wooden chests on the beach. After claiming the chests were filled with treasure the news of the discovery quickly spread and people began calling the island Treasure Island.

I think Lenny Dee is the buried treasure (he passed away in 2006). I’ve had this glass staring at me in my kitchen for years but only now decided to see who Lenny actually was. His organ sound slays me – he worked hard getting all that reverb – and I shall forever enjoy drinking out of him!


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.

I know… I promised that Part 3 was going to be about finally getting into the house I grew up in on Sorrento Ave. in Detroit after trying for the last 46 years. But, as someone who’s conscious of her evolution and creative process every waking moment, this finally-going-home experience was BIG for me. Also, it’s not like I can go posting detailed photos of someone else’s stuff, which is inevitable if one is photographing a room. So this isn’t so much about documenting the actual house as it is about what I felt like being back in it.

I remember when I finally went to Disneyland for my 50th birthday, after I had only been there once when I was 14, I was shocked that everything was so small. The same thing, of course, happened when I walked into the house I lived in from 5 to 16 years old last week. It was like walking into a dollhouse. Like here’s me with the banister that in my head was a giant slide, down which I rode every morning en route to breakfast:

The house now is, of course, filled with other people’s stuff and taste, but it still had the same soulful vibe I was aware of even back then. Here’s the living room corner in 1961:

And here it is in 2011:

Thank God I finally got out of those heels and into more comfortable shoes.

My shoes were also very comfortable in this photo taken in my driveway around 1957. I remember testing my penny loafers on my pink and gray Columbia bike against other shoes I had for the firmest peddle grip.

Albeit slightly worse for wear, the driveway remains intact today.

This is the Magnolia tree that was the subject of one of my earliest songs, “I Fell Out Of The Magnolias”.

No one ever released it but it was one of those songs that impressed all of my singer and songwriter friends back in 1974 when I cowrote it with David Lasley (who I would later write “Lead Me On” with) and one of those songs that when I bump into any of them they still sing a little of. Forget about “September” or the Friends theme, “Magnolias” is the classic. Here I am back in the ‘Magnolia” days:

When I first  set eyes on the house I live in now in LA back in 1980, my realtor had heard about it at a dinner party the night before we went house hunting. I didn’t want to live in the Valley but after looking at and hating a bunch of square boxes in Hollywood I decided to drive over the hill and see the house described in the brochure as a miniature Hollywood Palladium. This was a day before it officially went on sale. There was a party going on in the backyard but the back gate was open so I just ran in and raced up the stairs into the house, with the owner chasing behind me. My realtor caught me just as I entered the living room but I remember turning my head and not only seeing a curved wall in the living room that reminded me of a curved wall in the living room on Sorrento but I was dying at the bathroom, just off the living room, because it was filled with gorgeously aged vintage maroon tile. Here’s the bathroom floor as it was that day:

I didn’t know what it was about the tile but looking at it made me dead certain this was MY home. So I almost died when I walked into the bathroom on Sorrento to see the exact same tile there. I had totally blocked it out of my memory but there it was with that deep almost orange hue that only hugs tile that old.

Another unbelievable thing is the people who live in the Sorrento house. First of all, it’s the same folks who bought the house from my father in 1965. Second, their last name is Broadnax, a name I’ve  only heard once before because it’s the name of one of the characters in my musical, The Color Purple, and one of the only characters’ names mentioned in song. As soon as I walked in, the Broadnax’s, both Reverends, told me that my mother, who passed away very suddenly when I was 16, was still in the house. They hear her walking down the steps, and growing up their kids often told them there was a white lady in the house. In my youth, I may not have believed this but when  my co-writers and I first started working on the musical, Alice Walker, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning book, told us that it was all she could do to keep her hand moving fast enough to scribble down the thoughts in her head she was certain her ancestors were dictating to her. The book was written in one quick draft. Alice told us her ancestors would be contacting us. I swear to God, there were times when I would just move my mouth and words or a melody would tumble out, as if someone else was dictating them. It happened to me, Brenda (Russell) and Stephen (Bray) throughout the four years we were writing the show. So I definitely believe that my mom could still be hanging around Sorrento. I hope she was home when I came over.

One last little bit of synchronicity, throw in that the person who sang the “Magnolias” song demo was the only old friend of mine cast in The Color Purple, Charlo Crossley, former Bette Midler Harlette and Church Lady Doris on Broadway. She’s been talking about that Magnolia tree for decades now.

Friday night, the Broadnax’s sat next to me at The Color Purple, where it was playing over the weekend at the Fox Theater.  I totally got a vibe that my mom was there.

It’s pretty overwhelming to be in spots where you have very specific memories and to see it through adult eyes. Especially for me, as I have so few photos and zero movie footage because all of it got tossed after my father remarried. Which I’m sure is why I so obsessively document now. I don’t ever want my past thrown away again. And now at least I can visit it more often.

Here’s where I’ll be this coming weekend conducting the bows music to my musical, The Color Purple, and then on Saturday morning from 11-12:30 sharp conducting my high school marching band playing a medley of my greatest hits in the GORRRRRGEOUS lobby of the historic Fox Theatre with the cast of The Color Purple singing along.  I don’t read music (despite writing all we’re playing), and just imagine what the 60 piece Mumford marching band, 20 member pom pom squad, 25 member Color Purple cast, me and 250 attendees singing along will sound like in here… To kitsch!

https://www.alleewillis.com/mumfordinvite

My postings may be erratic this week as I’m shooting the whole week as a documentary.  I’m also the closing keynote speaker at the Rust Belt To Arts Belt conference about the rejuvenation of Detroit on Thursday. http://www.rustbelttoartistbelt.com/about/. I’m making numerous trips to my high school, going on a lot of tours of the kitschiest places in the city, seeing high school and grade school friends, attending three performances of  The Color Purple, and did I mention that my family planned my aunt’s memorial right smack dab in the middle of the day of my marching band performance and two performances of the show??!

Hopefully I’ll be posting little travelogues daily but no promises to what condition my brain will be in at the end of each day. Off to Detroit and we shall see!

When I, along with Hidden Los Angeles, put out the call a few weeks ago that for Valentine’s Day we wanted to bring as many V-Day cards as possible to Milly Del Rubio, the last surviving Del Rubio Triplet, I was hoping that at least a few of you would put pen to card and help amass a stash. I’m happy to report that hundreds of cards have been rolling in!

Every single card is wonderful and beyond appreciated. Some of you went beyond the call of duty and created extra special wonderfulness:

If you haven’t sent a card in already please show Milly the wuv and send one to her NOW c/o me, 11684 Ventura Blvd., Suite 430, Studio City, CA 91604.

Here’s Milly at a Valentine’s Day dance a couple of years ago:

So Milly won’t be sitting alone this year, I’m bringing all your cards to her nice and early this coming Monday morning, Valentines Day itself. Here’s the Valentine’s Day card The Del Rubio’s sent me in 1996:

Here’s what I sent back to them:

Anyone who ever went to one of their shows can tell you that The Del Rubio Triplets made you feel like every day was Valentine’s Day.

Here’s to a golden V-Day for Milly and for you too!

And, once again, it’s Milly Del Rubio, c/o Allee Willis, 11684 Ventura Blvd., Suite 430, Studio City, CA 91604.