I’ll be waving one of these  all day and night today as these are the final two performances of the First National Tour of my musical, The Color Purple. The  whole 4-1/2 years I was writing this with Brenda Russell and Stephen Bray we waved these church fans and others from my collection of 60 from the 1950’s and ’60’s daily. I’ve been stuck on songs before but being stuck on a song for a musical when one has to consider way more then the singer or the content of the song like the plot, which we were writing at the same time as the songs, the dialogue, whether something should be musicalized or spoken, is there dancing to it or not, does the wig guy have enough time to make the wig changes, on and ever-increasingly on…, let me tell you the sweat pours down and these church fans, totally organic to what we were writing other than a couple decades too late, came in mighty handy.

As a passionate collector, I love things to be very organic. In its simplest form, if you find a poster for an album you need to collect the album and anything else related to that group of recording sessions. I had collected my church fans for years but I never had more organic moments then when Alice Walker, the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Color Purple novel, would fly into LA  every few months to listen to our progress and curl up in a fetal position in my Chromcraft purple lounger, close her eyes and listen to the new songs, smiling as wide as a mile while waving one of the fans, a different one each time, of course.

Today I wave my final two fans, one at the matinee and one at the evening performance. I’ll say goodbye to Fantasia who made an absolutely and insanely stellar Celie (along with LaChanze, Jeanette Bayardelle and our other wonderful Celies along the way since we opened on Broadway in 2005).  I’ll say goodbye to the rest of our glorious cast, many of whom are from the original Broadway cast, not the least of which is Felicia P. Fields aka Sofia, the first actor we cast in 2003. Rumor has it that tons of actors from the original cast are showing up tonight and will be in the final show along with the tour cast. If both of my hands aren’t gripping Kleenex this is the fan I’ll be waving. One last time…


… until the second national tour begins in two weeks. That will be a total surprise as I’ve never seen the production or met any of the cast. But I’ll be sure to have my fans in tow when I do.

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I’m still incredibly bleary-eyed from my month’s buildup to my Sound Of Soul extravaganza Monday night, the recuperation after from which  I still feel numb not to mention running back and forth to The Pantages to see the final ever performances of my musical, The Color Purple, as originally conceived before it closes on Sunday and jumps to another tier of performance when the second national tour begins in a couple weeks. Honestly, I’d rather be lying in bed watching TV, my favorite sport, then running myself ragged like I was 16. But I’ve never been the type to do the former and I seem to eternally be the type to act the latter so at least it makes me smile when my drinkware matches my state of mind.


I’ve always admired cups like this, interpreting in clay what the artist feels inside.  I’ve also never been the type to practice  perfection, preferring instead to let things happen as they may, my skill being to figure out a creative way to deal with everything that smacks down into my path. Were I a sculptor of coffee cups I would naturally be drawn to this philosophy of design. If the cup isn’t perfect, crush it. Then it looks intentional. Then people like me come along and go this is just  what I feel like today and if they have the need, as I do, to make each action in their life organic and connected they have no alternative other than to pop down the coin for the cup.


This beauty has no other manufacturing marks than simply “Japan”. Of course, it was the 1960’s.

May you also see the day out of cockeyed eyes so you notice something new and wonderful to be grateful for.



There it is this morning, right there on the homepage of the LA Times – the Sound Of Soul celebration at Willis Wonderland, the  physical extension of The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch, to honor all things Soul – historic audiotapes and my collection of whacked out Kitschified Soul artifacts:,0,2371356.photogallery Movin’ on up!



.                               Me and RuPaul

I go through this after every party I throw. I work for weeks and sometimes months doing everything from fixing my house up to handmaking invitations, building displays, making mix tapes, signs, planning theme food and drinks, games, lighting the place like it’s Disneyland, basically doing anything I can to make this the most amped up party atmosphere on Earth.

I’ve long viewed my parties as my ultimate art form so I put every ounce of strength and sweat I have into it. I want to have the greatest time of my life and unless my guests feel the same way it doesn’t work for me. I not only host these things but emcee, produce and direct them as they evolve throughout the evening.  All of this means I end up being a verrrrrrrrrrry tired little girl once they’re over. So as much as a great hostess should be conscious of posting photos in a time sensitive fashion befitting of the web, the only thing I saw yesterday, the day after the party, was my bed and the tail end of the evening’s performance of The Color Purple at The Pantages.  So I apologize for the now 36 hour delay…

The Sound of Soul party this last Monday night, February 22, 2010, was one of my favorite AW extravaganzas ever. In commemoration of Black History Month and the fact that my baby, The Color Purple musical I spent five years co-creating, is in town for the very last performances of the First National Tour, it seemed ripe to tie the occasions into the bi-annual fundraiser I do with Pacifica Radio Archives to raise money to digitize never-before-heard, historic 24 track African-American audiotapes and get them into schools. This stuff is heavy duty like Rosa Parks’ first interview after getting out of jail, Alice Walker’s first ever reading of The Color Purple and Coretta Scott King reading the speech Martin Luther King was to deliver the day he was assassinated to 30 of their closest friends in Central Park 3 weeks after the assasination.  The only other time that was heard was when Pacifica digitized the tape and sent it to Mrs. King’s funeral. This stash includes incredible speeches, casual conversations and performances by every major Black figure of the 20th century including Martin Luther King, W.E. B. DuBois, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Malcolm X, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Marcus Garvey, Mohammed Ali, Angela Davis, James Baldwin, Miles Davis, Dorothy Dandridge, Fannie Lou Hamer and hundreds more…  An apt cause to celebrate, which we did… heavily.

I’m  just beginning to feel my legs attached to my body again. I wanted to throw some captions on the photos but I don’t want it to be 2011 by the time I finally post them.  Just know that I enjoyed having all these beautiful, handsome, happy, uplifted, talented and generous folks here at Willis Wonderland and we did, in fact, raise lots o’ cash to get these tapes into many of the schools that my guests went to.  And as if that wasn’t enough,  thank you, Colt 45, for those 15 cases.

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Here’s the whole party!


In anticipation of the throngs about to stroll through my house tonight for my annual Sound of Soul fundraiser with Pacific Radio Archives not to mention a celebration of the culmination of The Color Purple First National tour I thought that my James Brown whistle from the Godfather’s little known late 50s TV show, a rare item indeed, was the perfect Kitsch O’ The Day today.  I rotate my collection fairly regularly but for this particular party everything in the house is part of my African American Pop Culture stash. As I said yesterday, it was James Brown himself who encouraged me to keep collecting these Soul artifacts as there was usually no budget to market these products on a national let alone worldwide level so they were only popular regionally. Like my game of Slang-A-Lang, Black Bingo, that was manufactured in 1969 in Detroit probably never got on shelves farther away than Cleveland.

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So I’m spending the day swapping white memorabilia and otherwise for black, painting posters, moving heat lamps around – no rain in LA, yay! but still very chilly – setting out tables for fried chicken, ribs, yams, greens, peach cobbler and the like, and tweaking the house all while limping around on on a leg I wrenched a muscle in yesterday. Which means I will be blowing my James Brown whistle A LOT today trying to get everyone’s attention as we get ready for the barrage.

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Mr. Wah Wah,  the prized work of Bubbles the artist, has become the symbol of the Sound Of Soul fundraiser I throw every year in conjunction with Pacifica Radio Archives. This year it’s tomorrow and I’m going nuts trying to get ready for 300 people storming my house to eat outrageous soul food from Mom’s Barbecue House, peruse my collection of Pop Soul artifacts that the Godfather himself, James Brown, encouraged me to  turn into a museum when he first saw it in the 1980s, and to celebrate the end  of the first national tour of The Color Purple.  (Second national tour begins in two weeks  with a brand-new production and cast.)

As anyone  knows who’s ever been to a party over here, I treat the whole place like it’s a big set and hand make signs, displays,  games, prizes, the works.   As if that’s not enough work, with all the rain that’s been dousing LA I need a Plan A party, the real deal, and a Plan B party,  the striped down version that happens if it rains and I’m forced to squeeze everyone inside, a physical impossibility that demands extraordinary hive-inducing, Valium-popping-if-I-were-the-type measures.  So I’m a  paint covered, music making busy little beaver today, half in a good mood and half having spilkes because I know powers greater than I are at work to collaborate on the evening.   But with all the hostess concerns that I have Mr. Wah Wah  is still looking good and ready to party!


There’s a block of Lankershim in North Hollywood, CA that’s littered – I use that word lovingly – with square brick buildings adorned with Greek and Roman plaster columns, gods and godesses split in half and glued against the buildings in attempts to make them look like ancient Greek and Roman temples. I love this kind of architecture, especially when most of the time they’re trying to make strip joints look classy and exotic. That’s the case here.


It’s next to another edifice of similar antiquity:


I love North Hollywood!


There’s no question that Dobie Gillis, which ran from 1959-’63, was just about my favorite TV show ever! I was coming of age, wanted to be Thalia Menninger and date Dobie just like every other young nubian my age. I loved how preppy Dobbie was in his starched khakis but had the good sense to have Beatnik friends like Maynard G. Krebs. I didn’t catch Warren Beatty as the rich kid, Milton Armitage, so much but after he left the show I was heavily into his cousin, the ultra-snot, Chatsworth Osborne, Jr. And, of course, all hail Zelda Gilroy aka Shelia Kuehl, whose nerdiness paid off when she became a US senator in real life in 2000.

This comic book was put out every other month by National Comics Publications, Inc.. This one is No. 6 from 1961.  The pages were filled with teenage angst…:

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And there were ALWAYS ads in 50’s and 60’s comic books to build whimpy muscles up, in this case by emulating Joe Weider, who went on to mentor such muscle maniacs as  Arnold Schwarzenegger and also to get sued for a variety of weight loss and bulk up products that didn’t quite live up to their claims.


There were also ALWAYS ads to earn money. A very popular one is this one where you banked coins by selling popular patriotic and religious mottos,  just what every kid wanted to do.  But, most importantly, there were ALWAYS prizes to win…


Comic books offered lots of ways for an industrious kid to make money. I myself did the one showed below several times. I loved the little packets of seeds  and I was obsessed with getting the prizes. For sure I got the pocket radio but you had to sell about 4 tons of seeds to get the three speed bicycle, the full string guitar (did they also have prizes of guitars with no strings?!),  the typewriter, the movie projector or anything else that was of real value. Although I had big entrepreneurial plans most of the seeds ended up getting planted in my backyard. I think an onion grew once but that was about it.



When I was a kid I was SO into Leave It To Beaver, probably as much because of the glow from the Sylvania Halo Vision tv I was watching it on and the Velveeta sandwich on white with one thin leaf of Iceberg draped across it that was the ritual meal of my childhood. I’m sure I’ve seen every single show of the original series that ran from 1957-’63. I was also into Lassie, My Three Sons, Dennis The Menace and other series that showed life from a kid’s point of view but I always liked Beaver because he was so inquisitive and annoying.

As an adult, once I moved to California I was elated to find a very kitschy restaurant in the middle of a golf course at the end of the runway of the Van Nuys airport owned by Beaver star, Barbara Billingsley, and named, appropriately enough, Billingsley’s. It was a steakhouse built in 1969 that served blue Jell-O for desset and remained pretty much intact until it finally and sadly closed a few years ago.


I went to Billingsley’s constantly on Sunday nights because of the great Graydon Wayne, ex- Three Suns member who faithfully sang and played three organs at the same time holding court around a classic piano bar. But as much as I loved listening to songs I otherwise never would’ve listened to while munching Surf ‘n Turf and sipping drinks out of a seashell I never lost sight of what excited me most – the fact that The Beav’s mom owned the joint.

P.S. I didn’t do any of this coloring. I was the type who always liked my colors very bold so there wouldn’t have been any of this frail, lighter-than-a-feather technique in any crayon execution of mine:

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