I really meant to be doing far more of these updates but the schedule is thankfully and gratefully so packed here in Detroit that I can barely get into bed before it’s time to get up and start singing again. The participation here has been insanely enthusiastic and wonderful.
We’ve also been blessed with a lot of press including this piece that ran on NBC News here last night in Detroit last night:
If you’re in Detroit or know any Detroiters who are here there are two open to the public sing-alongs. The first is this Sunday at 3 PM in front of the House of Soul at the Heidelberg Project. The second is September 25 at 3 PM at the Detroit Historical Society. All are welcome though you are encouraged to learn the song before you come. You can get it here: https://www.alleewillis.com/WeSingTheD/
Here’s some photos from some of the sing-alongs we’ve done so far for “The D”:
My graduating class at Mumford High School:
Motown! (with Paul Riser, Funk Brother and arranger extraordinaire, Paul Riser Jr., the original Motown engineers who literally built the studio, and the family of legendary Motown bass player, James Jamerson):
Ebenezer Baptist Church:
I’m sure that Floyd Cardoz is a magnificent chef and I should’ve seen his win coming from that constant coming-in-second storyline all season. But having spent at least half of my adult life eating Mary Sue Milliken’s food, I went into the Top Chef Masters finale openly prejudiced that she would reign supreme. But alas…
The true true winners last night were Mary Sue’s friends, gathered at Border Grill to watch the finale with her and eat the food she made onscreen amidst the skyscrapers downtown.
Mary Sue won more challenges this season than any other chef. We couldn’t believe she lost, especially as we were sitting there chomping down on the food she competed with. Nano-seconds after Floyd was crowned she was gracious as always, despite guests like me screaming she was robbed!
But I’m here to tell you Mary Sue’s final challenge dishes were INCREDIBLE. Not only were we were served all of them during the finale as they were served to the judges onscreen, but a whole round of other tongue-numbing treasures were passed around during the final elimination show Bravo ran the hour before.
My apologies in advance to Mary Sue for the following descriptions as I undoubtably short-change everything by not being able to describe every ingredient or name the dishes by proper title. I am NOT the next Food Network star! (Though let me loose on diner fare and that’s a different story.)
First came ceviche:
Then cheese empanadas with guacamole:
I know that’s not the way to photograph a foodstuff when one is trying to impress the quality of it upon the reader. The guacamole should be neatly dabbed on top so the empanada doesn’t look like it’s been dragged through the guacamole as one would use a scraper to remove ice from a windshield. Here’s a better, pre-guacamole view:
Quinoa fritters came next:
I THINK the following is avocado tacos coated with sesame seeds and quinoa, but I heard someone at the next table fawning over ahi tuna something. So it could go either way. I just know it was crunchy and good. I also know the photo is blurry, but when it comes to Mary Sue’s cooking it all deserves to be seen.
Finally it’s 7 pm. and the actual finale show begins. For their final challenge, the chef’s had to cook a three-course meal-of-a-lifetime based around food memories. Course #1 was a dish inspired by their first taste memory. Mary Sue made Asian steak tartare.
The second course had to represent a dish that inspired them to become a chef in the first place.
Mary Sue made crab and shrimp salpicon with shrimp and chervil mousse stuffed rigatoni:
If you’ve never been to Border Grill, that’s a MUST. Really, your tastebuds will be thanking you forever.
Long live the Queen!
I always love this time of year in LA because the Christmas parties really kick into high gear. There aren’t as many of them this year because all pennies are being pinched but there was a killer one last night at a house RuPaul is renting for the month for just such holiday festivities. The added bonus last night was that it was our mutual friend, Tom Trujillo’s, birthday.
There’s nothing especially kitschy about all of us – except me I guess – but we all embrace our vast love of kitsch in the way we live and entertain. In Ru’s case, the house he rented takes appreciation of the genre to staggering heights.
First, some of the attendees and then, more photos of the kitschtacular edifice itself. Here’s a closer shot of Ru, me, birthday boy Tom, and Prudence Fenton.
Here I am with Santino Rice, of Project Runway and RuPaul’s Drag Race fame:
I love my soul sistas and sisters in real life, Scherrie Payne, formerly of The Supremes, and Freda “Band Of Gold”, “Bring The Boys Home” Payne.
Here’s me and five-time Grammy-winning composer, producer, conductor, arranger, and songwriter, Mervin Warren.
(L-R) Mito Aviles, Prudence, me, ChadMichael Morrisette and RuPaul.
Now onto the co-star of the evening, the house, mansion, palace or whatever you want to call it. First of all, it was massive. From the street it just looks like a long bush but from the back, if you put the following three photos side-by-side, it’s a hunka hunk o’ burnin’ living space:
The entire outside of the house is distressed so you constantly felt like you were whizzing through Europe.
There are three floors that I know of, possibly more, but we had already walked so much I was going to have to hire a car to take more of the tour. Most of the ceilings look something like this:
Many of the ceilings twinkled:
Most of the walls gave lots of time to the women:
The walls that weren’t giving props to the ladies had screens embedded in them with moving images of exotic places:
All of the staircases are very rustic yet ornate:
There are tons of little seating areas like these:
And lots of statues everywhere:
That statue overlooks the pool which overlooks the city of LA…
… and leads to a disco complete with a stripper pole downstairs:
I don’t know what I was thinking not taking a photo of the unbelievable pole dancer from Jumbo’s Clown Room who came to entertain Tom. I guess I was too busy running around taking photos of myself next to all the statues.
Pound for pound, it was a wonderful night with wonderful friends inside a wonderful wheel of brie house. I’m sure I’ll be back before Ru’s rental is up…
Anyone who knows me knows I love Reality TV. Of all the contestants on all the nutty dating shows I went especially nuts over Chance and Real, aka Ahmad and Kamal Givens aka The Stallionaires, real-life brothers and finalists 2 and 3 on season one of VH-1’s I Love New York. I liked them so much that I co-wrote and co- produced the theme song, “Does She Love Me”, to their spin-off VH-1 show, Real Chance of Love, with them and younger brother, Micah.
As trillions of young girls will tell you, Real is known for his long silky locks.
So much so that last week he launched his Real Silk line of hair care products at the salon that bears his name in Long Beach.
After an hour of tooling up and down Lakewood Blvd. trying to make sense of the googlemap directions I finally made it to the salon minutes before the opening was over where I was meeting my fabulous friend and Borat hooker, Luenell.
Normally I would have been pissed arriving this late anywhere but I was very happy to find this giant bunny building while I was busy being lost.
These are four of the funniest people I know. And we all have great hair.
You can too if you pop down the coin for a bottle of this:
I’m not a drinker but I love vintage bar accessories and drag the best of them out when I entertain on weekends. Nothing is more popular than these pipes that hug a bottle and through which the liquid drains when it’s tipped.
Made in 1961 by Poynter Products Inc. Cincinnati, Ohio, Plastered Plumbers’ slogan is “The whiskey goes ’round and round and round and r…”. This scores an extra notch on the Kitsch belt not only for excellence in concept and slogan but because the the first ’round has an apostrophe in front of it while the rest of them remain bare. Not to mention that the first roun is missing a D. Perhaps diminished capacity on the part of the art director after sampling the product accounts for the diminished punctuation.
Here I am with James Brown in my studio in 1984 as we peruse one of my favorite Kitsch books, How To Sing For Money. The Godfather and I used to joke that it should have been called ‘How To Write For Money’ as there were so many ways songwriters got screwed out of royalties and credit, a situation that befell both of us numerous times.
I thought this would be an appropriate Kitsch O’ The Day post in view of my post yesterday on behalf of jilted songwriters everywhere. The book, only the top quarter of which is visible in this photo from Billboard magazine, was published in 1945. Maybe the advice worked back then but it’s irrelevant given the oil slick music industry of the last thirty years.
I was, thank God, Reality TV before Reality TV existed as I filmed almost every significant moment of my life since I owned my first video cam in 1978. Here we are seconds after we read the book, writing an ode to my dog Orbit, a plain brown baked potato who Mr. Brown loved and let sleep on his mink coat whenever he came over.
Anyone who knows me knows I love reality tv. I am SO not ashamed to admit that. Just like I wasn’t ashamed to admit I LOVED the internet in 1991 when everyone around me thought it was dorky and useless. I like reality. I’ve dedicated my life to trying to live the best one I can.
I love reality shows about creative process like Project Runway and Top Chef. But bottom feeders like “I Love New York” seriously steal my heart. I loved loved LOVED that show and its star. And I loved loved LOVED two contestants on it even more, Chance and Real, the two brothers who came in 2nd and 3rd on Season 1.
Soft spoken Real and firecracker Chance were fascinating because even as as they were vying for the heart of a lunatic the love and respect between them was always apparent. And they were hysterical. But trust me, any time one of them brought up their band, Stallionaires, there wasn’t a brain cell in my head that thought it would be anything more than ok.
I live for combining hi and lo culture. I have no interest in the middle, the safe zone where mediocre talent whose of-the-moment work clogs pop culture like sludge from the Exxon Valdese. I love to take the very top levels of art, music, technology and design where style and innovation live and jam them together with what’s happening at the bottom, where passion, guts and a bizarre take on art rule. Many people think reality tv falls into the lo category. Maybe that’s why I love it. And maybe that’s why I jumped at the chance to meet Chance and Real when my friend, Steve Lindsay, who I met in 1985 when he asked me to co-write the Dance Fever theme, told me he was managing them.
I would have written with Stallionaires if they were the worst band in the world just to meet them. But guess what, they’re FANTASTIC! As is brother #3, Love, who joins them on their spin-off ‘Real Chance At Love’ that debuts on VH-1 in November.
I haven’t been this happy with collaborators in a long time. Not only are they just as rough and tumble, spontaneous and untrained – i.e. fearless – as I am, they are incredibly musical, hooky and full of spirit to boot. And interested in news ways of doing everything – from the music itself to the mediums it will live on. And they’re very, very fast. No nudging notes around on a grid until everything snaps into place as stiff as a corpse. It’s not about precision; it’s all feel all the time, just the way I like it. And we’re all indie, which means no pansy ass decisions by producers or entertainment conglomerates to dictate our fate. We live or die by our own sword.
And then there’s this. When Love, Chance and Real were 11, 12 and 13 they were discovered by Paulino DeCosta, the percussion maestro of Earth Wind & Fire, the band that discovered me when I wasn’t much older than Stallionaires are now. My obsession with percussion came from watching Paulino. They’re equally obsessed with percussion because of him.
I wish I could leak the record we just finished, “Does She Love Me?”, but it’s the first single and theme song to their VH-1 series so I have to play by the rules and wait til the show airs. It’s an eternally happy song like “September”, my first Earth Wind & Fire hit. You’re in a good mood from the downbeat and you can feel the writers’ joy in every beat.
I know some people won’t understand how I went from The Color Purple to this reality universe. But for Bubbles & Stallionaires it’s all about people being all they can be and experiencing genuine joy as they do it. It’s the same basic story.
I’m not the type who stays on a ship that sails the same course every time it sets out to sea. I get bored, I fall asleep and I’m outta there. Thank you, Stallionaires, for slipping me a big, fat happy pill because I’m way onboard.