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!!
So Charles and I are driving down Van Nuys Blvd. in search of this 1950’s diner named Beeps that neither of us have ever heard of. We both find it hard to believe that if it were THAT good one of us wouldn’t have been aware of it. So we had low expectations until we turned a corner and saw this:
I would’ve stopped anywhere the occupant of that gold sparkle Chevy stopped to eat but I knew from the original Beeps neon that we hit the jackpot, Chevy or not.
All the signage at Beeps is pretty great:
Though some of the signage placement could’ve used a little more thought:
I wish that palm had settled in front of James Dean instead. I hate all that 50’s repro crap, especially when this place actually existed at that time.
Inside, there’s very little room for signage. However, every inch is covered with more 50’s repro madness. I HATE WHEN DINERS DO THIS, not when they should be preserving and relishing the authentically vintage naugahyde, chrome stools and formica covered tabletops they ripped out to make way for it in the first place. Unfortunately, Beeps is a victim of such “modernization”. But thankfully, I can still appreciate it from a kitsch POV as there’s such an overload of new crap everywhere:
Every surface is jammed, even where there’s barely any room, like this wannabe Elvis stuck in the “bar” area.
Even the ceilings are smothered with stuff:
I would suggest bringing a phone or a good book so you don’t have to look at the walls with every repro light-up diner poster ever made, like this one:
Same for the neon guitar:
In contrast, the restroom key is very minimalist. Although perhaps there could have been a more appetizing choice for a restaurant key fob than a drain pipe:
But all of the decor is tolerable because of this::
The menu is massive, far beyond the reach of this photo:
We were very lucky that Valentines Day was approaching, adding to the beauty of the food selection:
Both Charles and I had cheeseburgers.
The french fries were nice and crispy. I was very happy with this action ketchup shot:
I would suggest any burger or kitsch lover head down Van Nuys and make your stomachs (if not your eyes) very happy.
Happy dining until we drive again…
Bright and early the Sunday before last, my #1 day-trip accompanist, Charles Phoenix, and myself tooled down Van Nuys Blvd. looking for a 1950’s diner we heard about called Beeps. For neither of us to know about a place of this nature that’s remained authentic is unheard of. In order to get to it we drove down the main drag of the Valley, Van Nuys Blvd.
No question Van Nuys is pumped full of Arbys, KFC’s and McDonald’s, but thankfully there are quite a few vintage buildings left as well as some newer cheese palaces that make our hit list. We hit the boulevard at Magnolia because there was no way I was going to miss one of my favorite rooflines in the city:
The vintage streetlights look so happy with their taller brother palms:
Tall palms accompany many of the vintage buildings on Van Nuys Blvd.
Although mostly 1960’s and later, older Deco gems pop up too…:
…as well as Deco wannabes, in this case vintage 1975:
There are many great murals along the way, like this one under an overpass,..:
…and this one on a dying building where it’s nice to see life…:
….and this one where it’s nice to get money.:
There’s also a lot of art like this lining the boulevard:
Then there’s buildings like this that are art itself:
And then there’s a type of ‘artful’ building way down at the other end of the tip, like this superstore that looms like a Mayan ruin:
Though not quite as towering as that ‘ancient’ Mayan statue. this is even more impressive to kitsch seekers such as Charles and myself:
A chicken dressed as a cowboy standing on top of a building is one thing. But a store name on top of a building that can only be seen from one side of the street and only in full from a fairly far distance doesn’t seem like the most effective signage. Especially with an ‘I’ that looks like a ‘T’ and an ‘S’ that’s hidden by a tree:
The color palette on these two buildings is pretty great:
You probably think it’s the pink building with the 70’s supergraphic relief that I like most.
But it’s the ancient Greek ruin next to it that makes my kitsch heart spin like a drunken roulette wheel:
Ancient Athens is also alive in this statuesque motel sign down the street:
This building may not have Greek columns but that fake wall is pretty classic:
I love round buildings when they come with a matching car:
That scalloped fence would make a nice companion piece to this rooftop:
Normally I would be pointing out the features on the 1950’s motel in back of me but all I can see is the crazy position my lips are in, as if someone Photoshopped them on:
Let’s pull in tight on that:
I’m assuming there are a fair share of lips in weird positions at The Godfather Gentleman’s Club too, just down the street.
And finally, there it was, Beeps, the 50’s diner neither of us knew about until hanging a left off of Van Nuys at Sherman Way and spotting this pulsating pillar of pinkness:
Double cheeseburger, fries and kitschtastic interiors coming up tomorrow. See you then!
It’s rare I have a weekday that’s not stuffed with work, a mish-mash of songwriting, blogging, curating, working on my next live Super Ball Bounce Back show, etc., etc., etc. But last Friday was one such day and I spent most of it at one of my favorite still-standing places in Burbank, Chili John’s. This is such a serious chili pad I even took the Wienermobile there a few weeks ago:
Chili John’s started in 1900 and is still going strong in Green Bay, Wis.
Chili John’s Burbank, the only offspring, was erected in 1946. All they serve are dishes topped with SERIOUS chili.
The prices are a little different than back in the ’60’s:
As usual, Mark Blackwell documented my culinary experience:
I spent a lot of time documenting the decor:
The entire restaurant is a U-shaped array of formica and bright orange vinyl:
Even the light switches go way back:
In the center of the counter there are vats of different strength chili:
The neon clock over the entrance to the kitchen is classic:
LOVE the fake flower pots and the ‘Chili John’s’ that rim the walls as they meet the ceiling all the way around the restaurant:
But nothing kills me more than the wall mural that runs along the entire east side of the restaurant:
As photogenic as the decor is, I spent most of my time photographing the food:
And what food it is! The chili dogs, with varying-degrees-of -spiciness-chili are INSANE…::
…as are the Sloppy Johns:
The chopped onions add a crispiness to make for a cornucopia of textural wonderness.
You can get a glimpse of other dishes here. All the foodstuffs are definitely a two-fisted job:
Mark and I started with the excessively wonderful and creamy lemon pie, pictured below but solo-photo-of-which I forgot to take, and then dove backwards into the main course. As you can see, the take home cartons were already poised to be loaded:
Here I am in the kitchen to check out how the secret seasonings are brewed:
Owner Alec Loguercio pours the fixin’s into a giant grinder:
Then it’s all tossed into a pot that’s so big it’s stirred with an oar:
Chili John’s is a family run joint. Alec…,
…and his mom, Debbie,…
…who was there the day we pulled up in the Wienermobile.:
Sue Mell, family friend, also pitches in:
It’s no secret that I love hot dogs. I don’t care what’s in them (though Chili John’s offers a choice of beef, chicken or vegetarian dogs). They’re health food for the soul.
Put that hot dog under a bed of homemade chili and then put that chili dog in a setting like Chili John’s with a seriously friendly staff and the smell of simmering garlic tickling your membranes and you’ve got one happy chilin’ Allee Willis!
A few weeks ago, on the dawn of Hanukah, me, Snappy P a.k.a. Prudence Fenton, and Wendy Goldman-Rohm hopped into the mustache van and headed north to Snappy’s family pad in Monterey. We stopped at my favorite place on earth, The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, for a little Christmas shopping on the way.
We also bumped into a friend, Isabell Freed, who stopped at the inn for some french fries and pie on her way back down to LA:
Once we got to Monterey we stopped at Whole Foods for supplies, including these lemons. Yes, I said lemons.
All being writers, we treated our stay as a 5-day writing retreat.
Monterey is very quiet, condusive to this type of activity. Though the view out of the window next to us was very inviting I stayed glued to my computer.
A lot of friends stopped by to say hello:
Although beautiful, it was really cold.
Lots of great food was cooked.
It was, after all, Hanukah:
Wendy and Prudence attended to all the culinary duties:
Wendy’s apple pancakes were KILLER:
Our friend, Sally Rosenthal, drove down to meet us from Palo Alto just in time to sample them:
Sometimes we ate out. The soup at Cassanova was especially good:
Every day started out with a walk:
Notice that I’m not in any of those photos. I prefer my exercise to take place in a nice easy chair in front of a TV. Though I did manage to venture out once:
I only had to walk about 100 feet from the house to get a great shot of the golf course it sits on:
Every day included a lot of writing. I had to finish my Wienermobile post as well as two songs and a new outline for my live show slated for May 8 and 9:
On the last night we hit Carmel Beach as the sun was setting.
Snappy, Wendy and Sally, of course, went for another walk.
I stayed in the car and photographed the sunset…
All in all, Monterey yielded a most restful and productive few days. But alas, it was time to wrap up the latkes, jump into the mustache van and head back to LA for the holidays.
If you’re just jumping aboard The Wienermobile, please exit through the rear and check out Part 1 of my adventure with Susan Olsen,a.k.a. Cindy Brady, and Charles Phoenix, without which Part 2 lacks context. Wagging the tail without the (hot) dog as it were.
Now, assuming you’ve fully digested part 1, join us aboard the Wienermobile as we head east from the Brady Bunch house…
…to another iconic wiener in the neighborhood, Larry’s.
The Wienermobile ate up quite a lot of real estate in this four- table parking lot eatery.
So we turned the vehicular wiener towards another vintage hot dog-related gem a few blocks away:
Isn’t this where you would go if you were a hot dog?
We knew Chili John’s has very early hours but we jumped out anyway, praying the chili palace still might be open:
If you haven’t been to this place, spit out your food and head there now. It’s as authentic as the day it was born in 1941:
The counter is (perfectly and beautifully) makes up the entire restaurant.
You can see the handpainted mural that runs the length of the restaurant better in this shot with Charles:
Up close it’s apparent that the artist, Mr. Chili John himself, captured each and every crevice of the exploding Vesuvius terrain as possible. Perhaps this was to illustrate the constant lava-like flow of chili that runs through his namesake establishment daily.
While we were there, there was an incredible photo opp for The Wienermobile:
With hot dogs and chili under our belts, it was time to move on to burgers. Very few food symbols are as iconic as The Wienermobile, but surely the Big Boy at Bob’s a few blocks away on Riverside has an equal place on the mountaintop.
The sheer magnitude of these two sculptural icons together was overwhelming for kitsch lovers such as ourselves.
So we took lots of photos:
But, alas, the sun was starting to set and there was one place we knew we had to hit while The Wienermobile was still under our control:
The Circus Liquor neon clown, on Burbank Blvd. just west of Chili John’s, has been in countless movies and tv shows, not to mention I’ve dropped coin in there every time I need a bottle of anything, just so I can visit the clown.
The height of the Wienermobile was an INSANELY perfect fit. If only the clown were permanently mounted on top of it.
With the evening approaching fast we headed back to Willis Wonderland,…
…already upset that our Wienermobile afternoon would soon be but a memory, albeit one grilled into our braincells forever.
When we dislodged from The Wienermobile we got some parting gifts:
Some Wienermobile whistles, some of which were glow-in-the-dark, a plush toy Wienermobile, as well as this larger plastic one:
It was like we had all been dropped out of a time capsule. I’m someone who likes to have a good time but once I’m done with an activity I gotta clear the house and get back to work. But it was as if we all knew that when we separated we would somehow have to settle back into reality, hopefully just little bitty pieces at a time, that’s how strong the magnetic pull of the Wienermobile was for all of us. So was only natural we sat down to a hot dog dinner to extend the wiener coma we were all in.
The dogs were cooked, as I said in part 1, on my newly acquired 1958 golf ball barbecue:
It was comforting to have such statuary in the yard, softening the blow of the departed Wienermobile as it disappeared into the night.
Thank you, Hot Doggers Traci and Yoli. You drove the Wienermobile like it was a delicate little Smart Car and put up with three drooling adults for longer than anyone deserves to be in ecstasy.
And thank you, Mark Blackwell, for documenting the trip, and I mean Trip.
Susan, Charles and myself are forever grateful to have such a childhood and adult dream fulfilled, especially one that provided such insanely magnificent photo opps.
And we are grateful for the joy of celebrating a junk food that was a building block of nutrition throughout most of our lifetimes. Truth be told, although it has killed me, the foolishness of subsisting exclusively on such foodstuffs is starting to be rectified in my old age. But even Martha Stewart enjoys munching on a good wiener every now and then.
The Wienermobile experience was pretty heavy.
But alas, all things must end.
We love you, Wienermobile. Until we meet again…
I’ve only waited a lifetime for a ride in the famed Oscar Mayer Wienermobile and last Wednesday, December 14, my dream came true!! Susan Olsen, a.k.a. Cindy Brady, the youngest of the B. Bunch, Charles Phoenix, Mark Blackwell and I hopped aboard and rode the wiener to some of our favorite kitsch spots in the San Fernando Valley. When one is onboard such a vehicle, photo opps are not to be missed!
It’s hard to look bad in a photo with The Wienermobile. So there’s going to be A LOT of them in this post, probably enough to serialize the adventure so check back later in the week or beginning of next for more. With that in mind I’ll start slowly, like how we all color-coordinated to look as fabulous against the backdrop of the transportational hot dog as possible. I threw my outfit together last minute but was happy with my choices, picking up all the essential colors of hot dogs, mustard, relish and mayo.
Here’s a closer look at my vintage Legionnaires shirt, made from that kind of expensive 1950’s satin that feels like you’re going down a cashmere slide:
I know there’s no Oscar Mayer at KFC but it was the closest thematically of any shoulder bag I had. My T-shirt was much more on the nose…
… as were my shoes:
The first thing I did once I was dressed was to roast some wienies. It gave me a perfect excuse to test out my recently acquired 1958 golfball barbecue:
I cooked up sixteen dogs so we could stuff ourselves throughout the day. Here’s the first one, literally, on the grill:
First to arrive at Willis Wonderland for our big wiener ride was Mark, who documented us throughout the wiener day:
Next was Susan, appropriately dressed in wiener red:
And then Charles arrived, dressed in a dead-ringer Wienermobile matching suit and carrying a banner bearing our favorite brand’s namesake.
This also doubled as a fashionable cape.
We took many such proof-of-concept photos:
There are so many obvious ways one wants to pose against such a stunning background:
When the Wienermobile first pulled up I wept with joy. I had forever envisioned it in my driveway. Alas, the wiener was too plump to actually fit so it rested nicely in front until we boarded.
Before stepping into the vehicular hot dog we ran inside for a quick wiener ingestion:
They don’t actually serve food in the Wienermobile so we brought the leftovers with us. But we were so excited to finally board the hot dog we had all been dreaming about since we were born that we forgot and left them on top of my car:
Our Hotdoggers, college interns who serve a full year driving the wiener wondermobile, were Yoli Bologna and Tailgatin’ Traci:
You could literally hear an audible gasp from each of us as we entered the Wienermobile for the first time.
It’s got six seats, a mustard floor,…
… an appropriate floor mat…
… and a sky roof.
The seats were LITERALLY the most comfy car seat any of us had ever sat in. Plush yet solid, with armrests that made you feel like you were waiting in a highchair for a jar of hot dog baby food. We didn’t stop yapping about them the entire afternoon.
We especially loved the embroidered Wienermobile on the back of each seat.
None of us could figure out if the hot dogs on the dash had any purpose other than an as an exceptional decorative touch.
We thought we only had a half hour in the Wienermobile so we headed to Ventura Blvd., the street where we thought there’d be the most foot traffic so we could wave to the masses like beauty queens on a float. Charles mentioned that the real Brady Bunch house, the one used for the exterior shot that pops up in every episode, was probably only blocks away. Not only did I have no idea it was in the hood but Susan – an actual Brady – said she had never even seen it herself! How could this be??! Cindy-I-mean-Susan explained that as a wee star she couldn’t compute that a house that was clearly two stories…
…was in reality only one.
So the Wienermobile, a deceptibly agile vehicle, whipped a U-ie and headed east toward Dillon St. As the top of the A-frame house poked into sight we started going nuts.
And we SO weren’t the only ones. There were already some sightseers there, dying that not only were they at the Brady house but now the Wienermobile had entered the picture AND a real Brady emerged out of it! Only God could have put a blessed tourist here at this moment.
Needless to say, we took a lot of photos.
With Susan’s 35 year identity crisis rectified, our Hotdoggers, Yoli and Tracy, told us we could drive around for as long as we wanted.
Elated, we immediately discussed iconic snack food related establishments in the immediate area to best frame us and the Wienermobile. First we headed to a hot dog,:
followed by some chili,…
… a hamburger,…
…and a little something to wash it all down with.
But, alas… I have Christmas shopping to do, three song deadlines to hit, an outline overdue for my new live show, a contract to read, a cat scratcher turntable to assemble, a portrait commission to paint, a bunch of publishing crap to get together, not to mention that I’m supposed to be on vacation in sunny Monterey. So Part 2 of our Wienermobile adventures will appear in a few days.
Until then, eat lots of hot dogs as you kick off the holiday season!
Proceed to Part 2
As many times as I’ve stopped at The Madonna Inn, I’ve never stayed overnight until a trip to celebrate my birthday a couple of weekends ago. I’ve always fantasized about staying there. How could I not with each of the 109 rooms uniquely designed and insanely themed, with names like Love Nest, Old Mill, Kona Rock, Irish Hills, Cloud Nine, Just Heaven, Hearts & Flowers, Rock Bottom, Austrian Suite, Cabin Still, Old World Suite, Caveman Room, Elegance, Daisy Mae, Safari Room, Highway Suite, Jungle Rock, American Home, Bridal Falls, and more? I picked the floral crested Madonna Suite, which was personally decorated in the late 60s by the Inn’s Grand Dame, Phyllis Madonna.
The first thing that hits you when you walk in is that signature Madonna Inn carpet:
Next, the generous amount of seating choices:
It’s hard to tell from the photo but that’s monogramed light pink pony skin on the chair backs:
And those are rock stools in front of a working fireplace:
Those are right round the rock from the bed that was way too messy to shoot every time I went to take photos of it. So here’s a close-up of the bespread just to show that none of the lust for pink was lost in more subtle areas of the room.
There’s also a lot of mirrors.
Those angels are all over the Inn. This one hangs over the bed:
This chandelier hangs over the dining room table and pink cowhide chairs…
…illuminating the Madonna Inn ice bucket and branded glasses…
Some other water is branded as well, at least until you lift the lid:
As you can see, I love pink, which reminds me of home:
All the doors, walls and ceilings in the Madonna Suite are pink too:
This door leads into the bathroom:
….that’s lit by nice, simple pink rose lights:
…over a nice, simple rock sink…
… with electrical outlets perched periouslously close to running streams of water that zip through every crevice in the rock:
Everything is embedded into rock, including the Kleenex box…
…and the light switches:
All of this is across the rock floor from a waterfall rock shower:
It’s impossible to see detail here but right above the showerhead a waterfall splashes down from rocks that jut out above it.
I acquired quite a stash of Madonna branded freebies…
…collecting every bag, napkin, pen, soap container, toilet sanitation band, and info sheet the place had to offer.
Though it still didn’t stop me from going a little nuts in the gift shop:
I’m very attached to The Madonna Suite so will probably end up always bunking there whenever I stay overnight, but here are a few other choices I’m toying with for next time:
Barrel Of Fun:
How could I go wrong in any of them?!
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…