.

.

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

.

On May 8 and 9, 2012 I had one of the greatest experiences of my career performing my Super Ball Bounce Back Review at King King in Hollywood. It not only was only the second and third performances I’d done since jumping off the stage in the middle of my own show in 1974, but was an attempted – and I’m happy to say TOTALLY TRIUMPHANT – comeback after one of the worst experiences of my career seven months before when 90% of the technology my first attempted comeback show was dependent on failed. But I knew that I had to get back up and practice what I preach: From some of the worst situations come the greatest miracles and I had proven to myself time and time again that, if nothing else, I was someone who had the courage to make lemonade out of big, fat lemons.

So I’m happy to report that I have risen from the ashes and had two of the greatest nights of my life bouncing back as a performer in a major way. I can’t thank everyone who came enough. And I can’t thank everyone who worked with me on the show enough.

So I leave you with a whole lotta photos from both nights, videos to come and a big, loud Badeya-say-do-you-remember there never has to be a cloudy day as long as you have sunshine inside. ENOY THE SHOW!!

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!


This is the kind of gem I pray pops up every time I enter a 99¢ store. It’s perfect kitsch – cheap, ratty sounding, filled with misspellings and bad translations, completely over-art directed, and way too much gold. There’s even gold on gold, making the title of the product hard to read.

Which is a shame because it has absolutely nothing to do with what’s written around it. (White paper inserted as reading aid.)

But wait… Is Discretion the name of the Musical Jewelry Box or is it Pianissimo Piumosso?

And what exactly is the logo? Is someone with an Afro blowing a candle out? And look at the finger smudge on the candle.

The clunky plastic floral spray against red velvet is another excellent touch. And when you open the piano lid, a red light flashes while Fleur-De-Lis plays, at least I think that’s what the ear wrenching tinny notes are stringing together.

I have long confessed that I have absolutely no idea how to play an instrument despite the fact that music I’ve written has sold over 50 million records. But even I know that nowhere on a keyboard do three black keys occur next to three black keys. As far as flats go, there’s two of them, then three, then two, then three. But not on the Discretion Pianissimo Piumosso!

I’m going to assume that the makers of this fine musical instrument were attempting to incorporate the term “prologue” as the make of the piano, prologue being that section of a song, musical or story that sets up the main attraction that’s to come after it. Spelling it wrong however, “prolog” is “a general purpose logic programming language associated with artificial intelligence and computational linguistics.

From a kitsch perspective, the spray-painted flower on the side is an excellent touch. As if enough wasn’t going on on this piano already, the thought of leaving a solid color along the edge was just too much for the manufacturer. The top left petal just made it on.

The one on the other side didn’t fare as well:

Just imagine the poor person whose job it was to spray these things on as they rolled down the assembly line. High from paint and molded plastic fumes, it’s a wonder anything made the instrument at all.

Speaking of manufacturers, the maker of this grand piano music box is listed nowhere on the packaging or product itself, leaving only China to blame.

But perhaps the most astounding thing about this product is that despite being clearly marked as a Musical JEWELRY BOX, no compartment is provided for the jewels. Sorry, music box only.

Tomorrow night, I’ll be singing live on stage for the first time since I walked off one in 1974, vowing to concentrate solely on songwriting so I didn’t have to get paranoid about losing my voice, a band member flaking or feeling self conscious in front of thousands of people as I did back then.

My only hope is that when I get on stage at “ The Songs of Our Lives” Concert” in LA tomorrow night, I will appear to be at as high a level of musical brilliance as this Pianissimo Piumosso Discretion ProLog Musical Jewelry Box.

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.

Tues., April 5, started at 7 am. (Kill me now; that’s the middle of the night for me.) Thank God there was a Yum Yum (my dictation software just typed that as Young Dumb) Donuts open in Southfield, the suburb of Detroit where Fox News is located. So I hit Young Dumb for a quick sugar infusion and rolled up the street to Fox in time to be on the morning news. Thank God the Green Room, one of the few actually painted green I’ve been in, had a nice, squishy couch. The donuts hadn’t quite kicked in yet.

The lighting in the studio definitely woke me up…

…though unfortunately, not quite enough.

The anchor interviewing me, Anqunette Jamison, was really nice and definitely had done her research. Nothing worse than waking up two hours after you’ve gone to bed to be interviewed by someone who wished that Reese Witherspoon was sitting across from them.

Driving back we passed this sign on a building, which emulated the discombobulated feeling I still had from being up before the crack of dawn and having to sound coherent.

We also passed vintage gems like this. I love that the pigeons have checked in.

I love any and all Deco/Streamline Moderne architecture.

Other than that second story looks like an add-on. Way too boxy and wrong kind of windows.  But excellent color scheme and at least the occupants had the good sense not to knock it down.

This wall killlllled me:

I took photos next to everyone and then it was on to Mumford, my high school and the main reason I was in Detroit that week, to conduct the marching band playing a medley of seven of my greatest hits with the cast of my musical, The Color Purple, that was playing at The Fox, the theater I grew up in.

My best friend from high school, Sherry (Erman) Stewart, went with me. Which was completely appropriate as it was Sherry I wrote my first song for at 15. She was running for class secretary and I wrote her campaign theme – “Oh vote for Sher-ry/fur (erman is a mink-like animal) sec-re-tar-ry”, kind of to the tune of “This Land Is Your Land” but not really. (Even in those days I thought about copyright infringement.) Here we are standing over the plug that was our mark to position ourselves over on stage for that most auspicious musical debut.

I hope someone saves me that plug when the wrecking ball hits the school next year (don’t get me started on wrecking balls hitting gorgeous Deco buildings…). I art-directed Sherry’s campaign as well.

It’s shocking looking at that from five decades ago how little my style has changed…. Sherry, btw, won the election!

Next it was watching the marching band, pom pom girls and twirlers rehearse for our big extravaganza coming up at The Fox on Saturday.

I was shocked (and awed) at how together they were.

Then John Wilkins, Mumford’s band conductor and arranger for over 20 years, asked me to come up and conduct the band.

First I warned the kids that despite selling over 50,000,000 records I still had no idea how to read, notate or play music.

Then we swung into action playing “September”, “Boogie Wonderland”, “Neutron Dance”, “Stir It Up”, “In the Stone”, “I’ll Be There for You (theme from Friends)”, and “The Color Purple”, the songs we’d be preforming.

Here I am with the Pom Pom Girls and Twirlers. This was, of course, what I always wanted to be when I was in high school. But this photo is as close as I ever got:

I know you’re going to ask me what “GRAMMI” is. I don’t know. Perhaps a misspelling of Grammy, which I misspelled constantly myself – Grammie – after receiving one for Best Soundtrack for Beverly Hills Cop, the film that I not only had songs in but that immortalized my high school after Eddie Murphy wore a Mumford Phys Ed shirt throughout the movie, linking Mumford and I forever.

As we drove back to the hotel I finished the Young Dumb donut from this morning, though I was tempted to stop here, which I hear are the best donuts in Detroit:

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

When I grew up in Detroit I went to the zoo on 10 Mile and Woodward at least a couple times a year. Although I got this particular chapeau on Ebay, I’m certain I had one exactly like it as I never went there without something separating me from the sun. I was quite fond of theme hats as a kid.

I’m not sure exactly what animal is on my zoo hat.

I suppose that’s a bear. Though it looks inbred with a beaver and Golden Retriever. It never made any sense to me that with a baseball team named the Tigers and a football team named the Lions that one of those didn’t get top billing in felt.

At least a tiger made the supporting cast. As did another animal that actually looks more like a bear than the beaver/Golden Retriever or maybe otter mystery animal in the starring role. I’m not going to worry about that though as there’s so much else beautiful that came out of Detroit. Like cars, Vernor’s ginger ale and Sanders hot fudge, the latter two of which remain staples in my refrigerator to this day.

I’m sure I was consuming both the last time I walked around the zoo, which was at least four decades ago.

The Detroit Zoological Park wasn’t the only thing I loved about Detroit. You can read all about my love affair with the city here.

Someone else who was born and grew up in Detroit still feels the love too.

Lily Tomlin and I have been friends since 1984 when we were introduced by Paul Reubens a.k.a.Pee Wee Herman. Lily even used my head to insert her own into for her character, Kate, in her Tony Award Winning Broadway show, Search For Signs Of intelligent Life In The Universe.

Both of us still love Detroit and are looking for something to do together there on a permanent basis.  We don’t know what that is yet but it will most certainly revolve around the arts as coming from the big D had such an enormous impact on what we both do. It also made my once alter-ego, Bubbles the artist, the artist she was, whipping out copy paintings of Lily’s character, Ernestine, like they were on the Ford assembly line, which the star would then autograph so a few more dollars rolled into my coffers.

Now we want a few more dollars rolling into Detroit, where I’ll be heading in April, perhaps with Lily in tow, to figure out what we can do there together. My specific mission is delivering the closing keynote speech at the three day Rust Belt To Arts Belt conference, exploring ways and mental states to turn decaying American cities like Detroit into cities of the future, which I’ve long held my home town can be if it rises from the ashes with both heart and conscience. I’m also going there to conduct my high school marching band playing a medley of my greatest hits in the lobby of the Fox Theatre before a performance of my musical, The Color Purple.

Despite the fact that I can’t read a note of music, including my own, I became obsessed with conducting last October after I was asked to conduct the 350 piece marching band at my college alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, when they played my songs at the Homecoming football game.

You can see the details of the excellent Priority Mail envelope hat I wore then here. Conducting the Mumford band with The Color Purple cast singing along will also give me a chance to wear another excellent hat:

Although I now collect marching band hats –  I’m up to over 30 different color combos though still missing the maroon and blue of the Mumford Mustangs –  my little hat from the Detroit zoo remains one of my favorites. I may not know what kind of animal sits on my head but I know a great city when I see one!

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

It would have been most appropriate to bring my Ubangi Club clapper Saturday night when I went to see Alan Paul, member of Manhattan Transfer, all members of which I’ve known for a trillion years and co-wrote “SHAKER SONG” for.

Here’s the other side of the Ubangi Club SHAKER:

There are a zillion versions of “SHAKER SONG” on YouTube but, sadly, none by the Transfer, the group that made it famous. Here’s a version by Jazzanova Band that features a fancy little cha-cha by the lead singer:

But back to the Transfer’s Alan Paul and the excellent SHAKING he did Saturday night upstairs at Vitellos, a restaurant infamous for the Robert Blake shooting extravaganza and now equally as known for the nightclub that sits upstairs above the plates of still-on-the-menu Fusilli Minestra alla Robert Blake and the kitschy murals of Italy that coat the walls below.

Here I am at Vitello’s with Alan and  Bob Garrett, who I’ve known since 1974 when I worked at Reno Sweeney’s, a cabaret in Manhattan where the Transfer often appeared, and who Alan has known since he originated the part of Teen Angel in Grease on Broadway, a role Bob took over after Alan left.

Tim Hauser and Cheryl Bentyne of Manhattan Transfer were also at the show.

I think I’d only seen Tim once since my Borscht Belt Birthday party in 1985 to celebrate my being named one of the most subversive people living in the United States by Pravda, the official newspaper of the Communist party. Here we are at the party with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, two of the most prolific songwriters in history.

All four of us have used many SHAKERS in our songs. Here’s another one from my collection:

And the flipside:

Sunday night I was back at Vitello’s to see my friend, Maxine Lapiduss‘s hysterical comedy act, “Mackie’s Back In Town”.

I co-wrote a song for the show, “Scared About Life Without Oprah”, with Max, Mark Waldrop,and Michael Orland, who also led Max’s band. Here we are at the moment of conception:

And here I am with Oprah, though not at Max’s show, but my show, The Color Purple, which Oprah produced.

Here are are Michael and I Sunday night at Max’s show:

As Max is a bongo freak, our Oprah song contains many SHAKERS. I won’t let this one leave Willis Wonderland  but I believe it’s on our demo:

And the flipside:

Also at Max’s gig was my good friend, Tim Bagley.

I actually liked this photo of me and Tim better but can we discuss THE AMOUNT OF LIPSTICK ON MY TEETH?? I don’t remember sucking the tube but something of that magnitude obviously happened:

Also present were perennial Match Game panelists and comedy greats, Mitzi McCall and Charlie Brill.

As you can see, the lipstick is still on my teeth but has disintegrated into a more tasteful stripe. This is the good thing about being me. Even when something as hideously embarrassing as walking around with a tube of lipstick smeared on your front teeth happens people think it’s intentional. At least it matches my glasses well.

Thankfully, by the time I said goodnight to Max along with Prudence Fenton, the lipstick had left the building and my teeth returned to their normal sparkly (yellowish) white selves.

Max is doing her show twice more in March. For tickets go here. And check the mirror before you take any photos. And please bring your SHAKER!!

I love drums and I love crafts so what’s not to love about this handpainted stunner of a conga drum? Made in the 1950’s and covered with Ricky Ricardo inspired hands poking out of frilly cuffs and playing Cha Cha keyboards, I’ve slapped this skin with my hands so many times I can’t tell you. A lot of times I strike it with mallets. It’s got a nice fat djembe sound and when I use soft mallets on it that I wrap in sweat socks it doubles as a tympani.

The conga lives in a kind of corner of my recording studio where it’s constantly knocked over. The spills seem to work for it. Despite hundreds of tumbles, not a spec of paint has ever chipped off and the tone just gets richer and richer.

If you really want to go the whole way Ricky Ricardo when you play it, the conga has a shoulder strap.

I’ve tried to wear the conga while I play it but it constantly feels like the strap is going to break when you beat it. If it came with a shoulder harness instead like my vintage marching drums it would be way more practical to play in the wearable position.

So playing this conga is strictly a sitting thing.

But more than anything, it’s a pretty thing: