What A Thill!

How I didn’t know about this dynamo drummer and firecracker of a spirit named Jerrie Thill when she’s led her own all female bands for over 60 years is nuts. Especially given my proclivity for being attracted to distinctive characters like The Del Rubio Triplets or “Shagman” Seymour Heller, Liberace’s manager for 37 years, who forge their own way where no way has existed before. The sheer force these people exude to manifest whatever vision they have of themselves is a trait I’ve aspired to emulate ever since I realized I had a mutant career that didn’t follow the normal Hollywood path to success. It would be up to me to pave my own orbit if I wanted to ever combine everything I did – music, art, video, technology, collecting, entertaining, et al – into one fiery ball of art expression. Jerrie Thill, NINETY ONE AND STILL SMACKING THE SKINS, propelled herself into a similar orbit drumming and singing her way from The Great Depression to The Might As Well Be Great Depression upon us today.

Jerrie isn’t happy unless two sticks are in her hands and high heels are on her feet tapping the bass drum like a steady heartbeat. Her body language is a study in HAPPINESS, her little arms flapping like birds as if the sticks lift her off from the drumheads. For the past 4 months she’s been attached to an oxygen tank. It’s slowed her down some, just for the sheer pain in the ass of having a tank as a third arm. Not to mention those tubes that connect it to your nose. But I’m so into the quirkiness of a 91 year old drummer, female no less, that the oxygen just becomes an interesting fashion accessory and makes the overall intensity of what I’m seeing and hearing even better.

My neighbor, songwriter Alison Freebairn-Smith, introduced me to Carol Chaikin, Jerrie’s younger sax sidekick, at our block party this summer. Carol’s been playing with Jerrie since 2002. Alison documented them for her just-about-finished documentary of all girl bands which, by the way, did not start with The Go-Gos, but has been alive and flourishing in the US since the 1920’s. Jerrie’s led or been in tons of those bands including the famed Dixie Belles, who I saw on Johnny Carson in the late 80’s and almost needed oxygen myself.

These days Jerrie and Carol and whoever else feels inspired to join them play Sundays at El Cid, a gem of a vintage Mexican eatery in LA. But their most important stop is right here at Willis Wonderland where we’re recording a song I wrote in her honor, “Hey, Jerrie”. Jerrie came over last week and smacked out the drum track in one take. Her kick drum sound is the best I’ve ever heard, 60 years of high heel grime and funk on the ones.

We’re almost done with the record, also featuring a 6 year old drummer and 11 year old Blues and Jazz guitar virtuoso. Then I just need to whip a video together and you’ll hear it. Hopefully that won’t take the usual 7-9 months my other videos have taken. I got to move as fast as Jerrie!

I just won SIX W3 Awards. I wasn’t 100% sure what these awards were when I entered two of my videos but as an independent artist whose only distribution outlet is the Internet I felt I should take any and all shots to kick up some dust. Here’s what I won:

“Allee Willis presents Bubbles & Cheesecake – Editing Is Cool” – Gold – Music category
“Allee Willis presents Bubbles & Cheesecake – Editing Is Cool” – Silver – Animation category
“Allee Willis – https://www.alleewillis.com” – Silver – Personal Website category
“Allee Willis presents Bubbles & Cheesecake – It’s A Woman Thang” – Silver – Innovative/Experimental category
“Allee Willis presents Bubbles & Cheesecake – It’s A Woman Thang”– Silver – Music category
“Allee Willis presents Bubbles & Cheesecake – It’s A Woman Thang”– Silver – Animation category

I won in every category I entered. I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth – I’m always happy to win! – but it seems I’ve stumbled onto something more significant than snagging the prize – an Internet business that’s guaranteed to bring in more cash than the records, videos and other web delights I’m chained to my desks creating, remuneration for which is zero or just above it in this day and age where such creations are viewed as public domain.

Check out this racket, um, strategy of the W3’s. Charge a hefty entrance fee. Create enough categories so it’s confusing which one your work should be entered in. If a music video has animation and you put it up on YouTube is it in the Music, Animation or Viral category? And don’t forget the Innovative/ Experimental category if your work is anything above average. Better enter all four categories to cover your ass. The triple digit entry fee multiplies faster than the number of times McCain spits out “my friends”.

A couple of months later I receive an email saying the deadline for the Awards has been extended. This means that either these are puny Awards and not enough people entered or these are greedy Awards and not enough people entered. But the email dangles that award carrot so I enter alleewillis.com in the personal website category, resisting the urge to cover my ass again and enter it in all the categories it qualifies for.

I forget about everything until the letters start arriving. “Congratulations, you have won…” (see above). I’m happy for a millisecond until I see that proof of winning each of my six awards will cost $175 a pop plus shipping and handling for a certificate and a statue. I check the W3 website. Nowhere, not even in 1 point type, is there mention of the fact that if you win it will cost you more than what it cost to enter.

This is SO offensive to me. At the very least how about the piece of paper for free and then a nominal fee to cover the price of stamping out the statues? I still think the latter is tacky but it’s better than nothing, which is what you get when you win a W3 and maybe want to buy food before an ugly paperweight.

I’ve thankfully won many awards. No one else ever charged me to be honored. Oh wait, I used to have to pay for my gold records when certain artists forgot that had it not been for the songwriter they would have had no song to sing.

I’ve spent days trying to decide which W3’s to fork out the dough for and which to ignore, but it sickens me to pick a favorite among my babies. So as soon as I finish this I will reluctantly write a check and tell my After Effects artist not to come in for a few days so I can afford to be honored. I’m also thinking I should cancel all the records and videos I’m currently working on and just dream up some Internet Awards so I can live off the entry and awards fees. How about the “Most Unoriginal Website Awards? I could make a fortune.