My trip back to my hometown, Detroit, in May of 2008 was the 'I'll come back and show 'em!' trip everyone dreams of when they're growing up. My hit Broadway musical, The Color Purple, was opening at The Fox, the theater I grew up seeing Motown Reviews in, the shows that gave me hope as a teenager and beamed a direction for me to move in for the rest of my life. Now I was taking thirty family members and friends to see this piece I'd worked on for five years that triumphed the importance of family and friends in defining who you are.

I was also going back to my high school, Mumford, for the the first time in 43 years, the school that became my family when my mother passed away right before my senior year, the school made famous when Eddie Murphy wore a t-shirt bearing its name throughout "Beverly Hills Cop", the movie soundtrack I won a Grammy for with my songs "Neutron Dance" by The Pointer Sisters and "Stir It Up" by Patti LaBelle. I was also receiving Official Commendation from the City of Detroit for "inspiring young people everywhere".

It wasn't just the mindblowing particulars of these events that made the trip so phenomenal. It was that I also had a video camera following my every step to preserve this most precious of trips forever. Not to mention I was going to use the footage in a reality show pilot I was making called "Launching Allee".

I was so excited to put up a Detroit page on as soon as I got home. I raced to digitize the footage but within seconds realized I'd need a paramedic to continue viewing it. Though the trip was beyond triumphant the memories of it were anything but. Twelve tapes of nothing but headless people, floors, and dark grainy shots that shook so much it looked like the camerawoman was on her third day of detox. Impossible to even comprehend how this much footage at this inept drinking-binge-inducing-Vertigo-with-a-quick-stop-for-a-lobotomy quality was shot without attaching the camera to her asshole and letting it make all the decisions.

It was especially heartbreaking as I didn't shoot any stills - unheard of for me - confident that I could pull plenty of shots from the video. Thank God one of my friends shot a few photos but otherwise all I have is documentation of the shoes everyone was wearing.

What should have been on tape was me going back to Mumford with my brother Kent, sister Marlen, and two best friends from back in the day, Sherry (Erman) Stewart and Judy Pearlman. This school was/still is a block long Deco mound of baby blue limestone with burgundy accents, a color scheme that stays with me to this day other than I've dialed down the burgundy to a baby pink.

I really just wanted to go in the school and see what it looked like, praying that by some miracle everything was exactly as I remembered it. A month before, when I had called the principal, Linda Spight, to tell her who I was and asked if I could come and if she wanted me to speak to any of the student, she was casual to the point that I wasn't even sure she was going to remember I was coming. So all I could think of as I walked through the doors was 'Thank God I have video capturing all of this!" Everything was exactly as I had remembered it except now the halls were covered in handmade 'Welcome Allee Willis!" posters and anything that could be swathed in purple was.

When the choir, ballroom, band and modern dance classes each performed tributes to me I just keep staring at that camera, not believing my luck that I had someone shooting every love filled minute of it, aware that when big things happen to me many of the details of the enormity of the moment escape me when I try to recall it later. That would not happen this time!

My little ten minute, not-so-planned speech turned into a ninety minute blow-by-blow account of what happened to me once I left Mumford to get to where I am now. The joy of having this captured was overwhelming, especially with my brother and sister and two best friends from high school sitting there in the auditorium where, at 15, I sang the first song I ever wrote, "Oh Vote For Sherry For Secretary" a campaign theme written for the aforementioned Sherry sitting mere feet away from me now as my legs dangled over the same electrical socket I told the audience was the only thing I remembered to do correctly - position myself over that socket - when I performed that song 44 years ago.

The surprise lunch cooked by the Home Ec teacher, Sharon Davis, for 150 people in the library with a special purple table set for my family and friends blew me away. For me who has documented every significant moment of my life since the advent of handheld video cams in the 70s, this footage was going to be the cherry on my documentary sundae.

HA HA HA! The bodyless dancers, the Allee with four chins shot as the camera was aimed at the moon, the people whose voices are on tape but whose bodies were below camera level, the band's feet, the hundred audience members who weren't of as much interest to the camerawoman as the empty seats - this is what I have to remember my triumphant return home by. Not to mention the obscure and ever-twitching camera style everything else was documented in - my two houses I grew up in, The Color Purple cast backstage at the Fox Theater, my relatives and friends, the City Council meeting where Councilwomen Joanne Watson and Martha Reeves - Martha of Martha & the Vandellas, my favorite Motown singer growing up - read the testimonial bestowed upon me by my beloved once-taken-for-dead-now restored-and-popping city, not to mention the panorama of Detroit itself - none of this was captured in any fashion that I could string together even one minute of decent footage. NO LIE. It has taken me eight months to even deal with this, despite me promising everyone we took footage of that the page would be up within a week of my return to Los Angeles. (It’s now 2011 and I’m only now finding the strength to post this.)

So I apologize, Detroit, for taking so long to honor you the way you honored me. I'm putting up the few photos my friend Judy managed to take, and a couple of grainy stills pulled from the most lucid moments of the skitzophrenic footage. I had intended to put up miles of video but now can't even paste a video icon on the page as there's nothing to select from. I made such a big thing about using this footage for my proposed "Launching Allee" reality show but will have to take another, less glamorous trip back to get anything usable.

I know that's it's not in the best psychological health to focus on what went wrong after a trip that went so right so I will now drop all my hostility that makes me want to rush at this person I hope to never see again faster than a speeding Cadillac fresh off the Detroit assembly line. I am deep enough in my own evolution to know that catastrophic disasters can lead to huge breakthroughs, new paths chosen that never would have identified themselves had some other option not been forced upon you. That has become a familiar part of my creative process by now. So I hope you can see from the little on this page how truly spectacular these four days home were for me. That's A LOT to be said for someone who hardly ever went home since they graduated high school. Next time someone tried and true will be holding that camera, I guarantee you that. And I'll stay up all night viewing the previous day's footage rather than letting the tv and hum of Woodward Avenue lull me to sleep. Onward!