Last night I ate at Street with (L-R) Nancye Ferguson, Buck Henry, Prudence Fenton, me, Susan Feniger, Irene Ramp and Jim Burns. For those of you who might not know who Buck Henry is he’s an hysterical actor who wrote things like The Graduate and Get Smart, which he also created with Mel Brooks.


Last night we Got Full. We ate Kaya Toast, Lamb Kafta Meat Balls, Japanese Shizo Shrimp, Argentine Ricotta Noquis, Graaskaas Aged Gouda Salad, New Jerusalem Bread Salad, Albacore Sashimi, Moroccan Spiced Winter Squash with popcorn, Sautéed Black Kale with Refried White Beans, Sri Lankan Fried Plantains, Moscow Eggplant, Black Bean Soup, Beef Tenderloin Schnitzel, Tatsutage Fried Chicken and the Toffee and Cookie Plate. And once again, I did not Get Smart when it came to proper documentation of our meal as I was talking too much…


… and I forgot to take photos.


Earlier in the day, however, I Got Smart and took a photo of my favorite hot dog in LA:


And my one of my greasy fingers Got Smart when it’s slipped on my camera and shot this photo of lunch:


I was slightly distracted because I was looking at these signs at the restaurant:


What I was really trying to get was a photo of  this 1957 Chevy Bel Air being towed in front of Excitement Video, Psychic and …Eria across the street.


Had I’ve been carrying my vintage Get Smart lunchbox I could’ve taken all the day’s spoils home and been munching on them right now as I write this post.


On this bright, sunny Sunday may you all Get Smart and have a fantastically full day!


Photo credit: Prudence Fenton, me


Ten years old and Italian, this diver plunger is only about half the size of a normal one but performs his duties ably. Although I’m not about to plunge it into a toilet because of its diminutive size, it rests under the bathroom sink where my cat, Niblet, loves to drink water and waits patiently for hours until I dole out a few drips. As cute as that is, her fur eventually clogs the pipes and it’s then I reach for the diver, always perfectly poised to make the plunge. He delivers every time!

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This pink spool of thread topped with a silver thimble has probably been empty for decades but still reeks of the one ounce of Avon Cotillion Cologne that once filled it.  3-1/2″ tall, the thimble is made of chrome finish plastic and the bottle is milk glass. I opened it about an hour before I started writing this post and the room still smells like the cosmetics aisle at Woolworths in 1975.

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Anyone who knows me knows that getting me to eat celery or anything else green is no small feat. I’ve always thought that I’m prone to Kitsch because my brain has been tweaked by decades of glorious junk food ingestion. But I’ve been trying to make an effort to at least dunk my toes into the waters on the other side and pulling the stringy-green-stuff-that’s-much-better-for-me-than-a-Twinkie out of something that looks like this is the first step toward reformation.


This anthropomorphic celery is 7″ high and only holds about four healthy stalks.  Which is about as much as I can take. I fill it up every morning in hopes of it stopping me from scooping up a handful of M&Ms like everyone else who walks through my dining room does and so far it’s working.  I always respond better to things when they are aesthetically pleasing.

I found this guy on eBay. At that time he had an asparagus brother. I was outbid at the last second on that one. I HATE when vintage sets are broken up so wasn’t happy with the seller or the stealth bomber who didn’t have enough sense to go for both of them. But Mr. Celery is very happy here with all his other ceramic friends and I thank him for keeping me very healthy (and mature).

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This goldplated bejeweled hunk of plastic air freshener is without question the greatest of its ilk I’ve ever seen.  I, thank God, had the presence of mind to buy the entire stock of two when I saw them at a Pic ‘N Save in the mid-90s and one rode around on the dash of my ’55 Studebaker Commander until I just couldn’t take the glut of sticky sweet strawberry fumes any more.  Which was a blessing in disguise as I almost killed myself several times when the glare from the sparkling gold multifaceted fist almost blinded me.


Made  in Taiwan by Allison Industries, this “powerful car and home air freshener” is activated by holding the wrist with one hand,  unscrewing the fist with the other and exposing the openings in the bling to adjust the amount of fumes I mean fragrance you want choking I mean filling the air.


One jewel was missing from both fists though on different fingers and no jewel was loose shaking around in either box.


It’s amazing to me that someone would pilfer a jewel leaving these beautiful fists behind but I’m sure glad they did or I wouldn’t have their beauty (and stench) to behold today.

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I’m not much of a golf buff but I love kitschy golf accessories, especially those designed around my favorite hole, the 19th.  Although I’m sure that the golf ball dome lid gets screwed off of this 10″ high plastic refreshment vessel long before the green is spotted on the long-awaited hole. Which is good because the glamorous leatherette cover is so cheap and bunchy on the bottom it tips to the left like the leaning Tower of Pisa so the contents would be watering the green instead of your gullet by the time you reach 19.  Happy Masters!

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I’m assuming this happy fellow is a pear although I’m not the world’s biggest fruit and vegetable eater and he does look wayyyy too green. But he’s too shapely to be a green pepper, too smooth to be an avocado and too leafy to be a lime so I’m sticking with pear and hope that any of them that happen to slide down my gullet are a little riper at point of entry.

I love anthropomorphic anything but especially vintage chalkware fruit as they’re always so happy. I especially love this guy because he’s so obviously homemade – lumpy, sloppily painted and bad teeth.



Last night I went to the launch party for the new season of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters at Street, the restaurant I co-own in Los Angeles and home base for one of the competing TCMasters, Susan Feniger.

I met Susan in 1984 when my second art show ever, “Wear the Right Clothes Even at Home”, was at LA Eyeworks, the first store ever to make outrageous, personality filled eyeglass frames, and the tiny restaurant next door, City Cafe, later the original Border Grill, where Susan and Mary Sue Milliken were the chefs. The food was as outrageous as the eyeglasses and without question this was THE hot spot on Melrose back in the day. My art was pretty good too, including the unveiling of my motorized art version of my hit song, “Boogie Wonderland”.


The next year Susan and Mary Sue opened City, my all time favorite restaurant ever in the world, on La Brea and 2nd. I had my own column in Details magazine at the time, “Some like It Smog”, a diary of my daily life, and every column included the fact that I was sitting at City writing a song, meeting someone or throwing a party there like my big 4-0 that included Luther Vandross singing me Happy Birthday accompanied by my latest talent discoveries, the octogenarian go-go booted singing sensations, The Del Rubio Triplets.


City was my home away from home and the first and last time that octopus was ever my favorite dish. I never got over when it closed in the early 90’s and longed for the day when I had another restaurant to hang out in like that.

Every time Susan and Mary Sue opened another restaurant after that they asked me to invest. I was usually coming off a big hit but oftentimes the money that trickles down to the songwriter is so much less than legend has it it can induce cardiac arrest.  So one by one I had to pass.  They opened up a much larger version of Border Grill in Santa Monica and later in Las Vegas and in 1998 opened Ciudad downtown. All these restaurants were fantastic, exceedingly  experimental and creative in their world vision of food. Susan and Mary Sue were also among the first chefs ever to have their own show on the Food Network, “Too Hot Tamales“.  Finally, when Susan went out on her own to raise money to open Street, my musical, The Color Purple, had just opened on Broadway and I was IN!


Street opened in March, 2009.  It’s fantastic, a total food adventure and usually where I am if I’m not at home.

Now back to last night and Top Chef Masters…


The party was totally happening, especially because Susan and her partner, Chef Tony Mantuano, won BOTH challenges and will be back to compete in the finals starting May 5th!


But I made a pretty basic mistake for someone who’s gonna blog about food. I forgot to take photos of any of it we were served as I was so busy trying to get shots off the screen with my camera constantly hiccuping as it tried to adjust to the light and fast-paced editing.  Most of my shots look like they were taken from a roller coaster. I got numerous photos of my pants when the shots changed to other competing chefs and the flash finally went off as I lowered my camera under the table accompanied by a volley of audible “motherf*&#ker!”s.


However, herein lies the advantage of writing a blog called ‘Kitsch O’ The Day’. It’s the ULTIMATE Kitsch to miss so many photo opportunities not to mention forgetting to photograph the very thing you’re blogging about, food. So I’m at least proud of the fact that I lived up to my blog’s name. I also forgot to shoot overhead shots of the 350 people jammed into the restaurant that normally only seats 100. I was too full and, as LA is in the grips of the worst allergy season in memory, my head too swimmy to remember such basics as these. So try to imagine constant choruses of “oohs” and “ahs” as neverending trays of Street specialties like Paani Puri, Lamb Kafta Meatballs, Brazilian Acaraje and Japanese Shizo Shrimp were passed around with little bottles of signature Street vodka drinks. On the patio, tables were the laden with a family style sit-down feast that folks busted into like pigs at the trough. Here’s the menu (in lieu of the forgotten photographs):


The last dish, Malaysian Clams & Capriotada Bread Pudding, was the dish that Susan won the second challenge with, swapping clams for shrimp as Whole Foods, where the teams shopped, only had two clams in the entire store.


Insanely blurry I know. Blame it on the vodka with a hit of allergies.

The first Quick Fire challenge was one I could have nailed. The chefs were driven to Chinatown only to pull into a gas station to shop. This is a food palette I’m quite familiar with, non-chef/fast food junkie that I am. Susan and Tony did us proud with their top scoring Maple Bread Pudding With Caramelized Bananas.


Susan narrated the evening standing on a windowsill that divides the inside of the restaurant from the outside patio.


What’s so fantastic for me is that Street embodies all of the creative tenets I live by. It’s casual and serious at the same time, ever evolving, spontaneous and so far out of the box the sides aren’t even in sight.

I had lots of friends there and we all left equally stuffed.

Barbara McReynolds, me, Susan Feniger, Karen Levitas, Rhonda Saboff:top-chef-eyeworks_6367

Prudence Fenton, Jordan Vadnais, me, Ryan Hartigan:top-chef-jordan_6368

Me and Vicki Randall, from the Tonight Show Band:top-chef-vicki_6371

All proceeds from the night, both at the restaurant and from Top Chef Masters, went to Susan’s favorite charity which she’s been working with for 25 years, the Scleroderma Research Foundation. You can make a donation now too:  Make sure and say your gift is in honor of Susan Feniger. 100 clams or or more will get you an autographed cookbook. $500 or more will pop you in a seat at the May 25th “Cool Comedy – Hot Cuisine” event in LA featuring Susan’s food and appearances by Ray Romano, Bob Saget, Bill Bellamy, Craig Ferguson and other special guests.  I’ll be there too (unless I’m chugging away at Street).

Photo credit: Prudence Fenton, Allee Wills


I have three of these insanely beautiful vintage portholes off of a 1952 Chris-Craft boat. I found them in three separate eBay auctions a few years apart.

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I love all portholes but especially these with the chrome fins across the glass.


My studio is a classic Streamline Moderne boat looking structure built as the MGM party house in 1937 and although there were no portholes when I moved in it was screaming, no BEGGING, for me to pop a few in.


As much as I love these they’re not my favorite porthole around here. That honor is reserved for my $11 used-to-be-a-flimsy-brass-mirror porthole that I sunk into the floor and now serves as my laundry chute.


My laundry chute porthole was featured in the Los Angeles Times twice last year alone. When I get completely frustrated writing, painting, making films, curating and everything else I fill my time with I always think I could go into the business of selling porthole laundry chutes.

Studio photo: Maryanne Bilham