I got this squirrel planter last week when I was up in Sonoma recording. At least I think it’s a squirrel. Maybe it’s a gopher, or even a beaver. I’m not that up on my animals with buck teeth but whatever it is I love that it’s got two separate compartments and, as such, I will be putting it to work here at Willis Wonderland. I’m not sure if the squirrel/gopher/beaver will hold pencils in the large compartment and paper clips in the little ashtray/bowl or Q-tips in the large compartment and safety pins in the smaller one. These types of decisions are the joys of being a collector who actually uses what they collect as opposed to putting things behind glass as so many collectors do, squeezing the life out of the object whose role usually grinds to a halt because of such practices. Though as a whole I find that very few collectors of kitsch actually relegate their artifacts to imprisonment in glass jails. Kitsch lovers usually put their objects right to work.  There’s a utilitarian pride in collecting such a genre, making this squirrel/gopher/beaver about to be very happy in its new home.


Speaking of new homes for squirrels, I have long been the enabler of fine living among the species. I apologize for the graininess of the following shots, all grabbed from videos at least 15 years old. This particular squirrel is enjoying a corn cob at a miniature picnic table and chair I erected for him/her to dine at.


Before I bought the squirrel his/her own patio set, he/she used to snack at my table:


A few times the squirrel dined in a fashionable 1950’s wrought iron planter:


And oftentimes when he/she was full he/she relaxed on the head of a statue that James Brown himself removed from my backyard when we wrote together in 1985 and he combed my collection for any mammys and Sambos and sent them packing.


After a few years I had to close the squirrel cafeteria because it just got too messy as every squirrel in Los Angeles eventually heard about it. As much as I miss all the activity in my backyard, this goofy little squirrel planter fulfills all my animal needs as he’s cute and I don’t have to feed him.

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I’ve seen trillions of sculptures of hands giving the peace sign but this is the first time I’ve seen a foot flashing the international symbol of love and harmony. As if that wasn’t kitschy enough, a cheaper made sculpture you could never find. Adorned with a flimsy paper peace sign sticker and colored to make it look like rich wood, this peace foot is made of incredibly cheap plastic, lucky if it weighs an ounce despite being 6 inches tall.  There’s no manufacturers mark anywhere on the appendage, as if whoever made it didn’t want to take credit for such a lovely and peaceful foot.

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By the number of post-its that I’ve stuck in this book, 41 to be exact, it’s obvious that I’m as much a fan of the recipes in this hallowed hors d’oeuvres bible as the typical housewife was in 1958 when it was published by Good Housekeeping magazine and the Hearst Corporation. The fact that thanks are given to companies like Frito, Borden, the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, Lawry’s, the National Biscuit Company, Ralston Purina, Swift and the Shrimp Association of the Americas should be a great indication of the junk-tipped treasures that lie within. I have long followed the advice of this book when throwing small dinner parties, well, at least small parties for me, 10 to 20 people, and if you happen to be cooking this lovely Sunday afternoon or evening and haven’t decided on the menu yet I suggest you do the same.


I don’t drink but any good hostess knows that keeping your guests in the state of mind they most like to be in, happy, one should always have plenty of these on hand:


Never forget that what you serve a dish in is just as important as the dish itself. Party moods are all psychological and what something looks like effects perception.


No plain white ones of these please:


What makes me happiest of all about the Appetizer Book is that the people at Good Housekeeping chose to call appetizers “nibblers”.  I have always loved the word “nibble”.  So much so that when a cat had two litters of kittens 55 days apart on my roof I caught her and named her “Nibbles”.


As you can see, her tail is a little “nibbled” on:


I named her daughter, who I also caught,  Niblet:


The simple truth this Sunday is that I’m on excruciating music and video deadlines so I’m going to leave you now in the good hands of the folks at Good Housekeeping. I’ll start with one of my favorite chapters:

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How could a cook book have a more beautiful centerfold than one that features fried saltines wrapped in bacon, cheese cubes with drippy white things on the toothpicks and a bowl of mixed olives decades before it became de rigueur to have one on your appetizer table?


I hope you’re all having a very happy Sunday and enjoying some of these lovely nibblers. I’m going to pet Nibbles and Niblet and get back to work, but not before I eat some of these:



Most people have a laptop or desktop computer and, if they’re lucky, a few terabytes of storage. I have 42,000 terabytes, the ever-growing result of owning one of the first networked houses in LA and being terminally digital dependent. I put the network in in 1991 when I connected all of my then three Macs and got online. This was still in the day when 97% of  the world’s population and 99.9% of the entertainment industry either never heard of the Internet or thought it was the dorkiest medium possible and would “never catch on”.  But I was clear that for me it was the road to ultimate self-expression, a way out of  being under the thumb of media conglomerates who controlled when and how I could express myself via my career. I was always a vociferous documenter and archivist so once that network went in my house it grew by leaps and bounds to this very day when my “laptop” looks like this:


As such, I oftentimes long for the simple days when the Coleco “Quiz Wiz” Answer Game was the only commercial computer around. Although even this gadget intimidated me when I got it in 1981 so I have no idea what gave me the confidence to attempt to maintain 42,000 TB and counting. But for the past 20 years I’ve been a slavish enabler to this gangling system that could run a country. And, in fact, the country known as Willis Wonderland ground to a screeching halt when the backup battery failed last night and shorted out the whole network leaving me with no connection to anything –  my files, the Internet, i.e. my life.


The “Quiz Wiz” only required that multiple choice questions be read out loud from the quiz book that accompanied it, and  answers by up to four competitors be given by pressing the big fat A, B, C or D buttons. This is what I call easy computing.

As an answer to question number 906, the hottest part of the earth last night was in my server room, known affectionately as The Submarine because of its tin covered walls and lit portholes, because when my network hit the dust so did the air-conditioning.


As the correct answer to question number 615, based on the fact that a backup battery could cause the failure of the system it’s plugged into to protect,  my answer is “all”.


Although I’m not a sports enthusiast I know the answer to question 508.


And I have all of these answers down cold:


The Coleco “Quiz Wiz” represents the kind of computing that my overstuffed brain hallucinates about me embracing again. I know that will never happen and at least things like my iPhone, iPad, and maintaining a blog give me some freedom from the machinery I’ve hitched my star to since buying my first Apple Macintosh computer in 1985 and paying my secretary to to copy and paste things into it that I meticulously typed out for her to enter because I was so scared of it. By the time I bought my first PowerBook 170 the day it came on the market in 1991…


… my life and pocketbook were already being run by my network. Sometimes I wish it were being run by the Coleco “Quiz Wiz”.



A few nights ago I had dinner at Street with Michael Patrick King.


Sex and sex appeal are topics on which Michael is an expert given that he writes about them a lot as writer and director of Sex and the City.


We’re  great friends and hadn’t seen each other since the second movie came out so there was much to talk about let alone eat. We were joined by the lovely Prudence Fenton and had our usual stuffed-within-an-inch-of-our-lives feast that one naturally expects at Street.


All of which makes our bellies very happy but doesn’t necessarily leave anyone feeling very sexy.


We started with Millet Balls, Street’s version of bread:


That was followed by Lamb Kafta Meatballs over warm Syrian cheese wrapped in grape leaves and drizzled with date and carob molasses and served with za’atar spiced flatbread:


Then came one of my favorite dishes at Street, Ono Sashimi with spicy sesame mayonnaise, yuzu ponzu sauce, smoked salt, pink peppercorns and with savvy radish sprouts. For someone who usually hates ono, sashimi AND peppercorns, that this dish is my fave is quite a feat.


I forgot to photograph the Burmese Melon Salad that came next with melons, toasted coconut, peanuts, fried onions and sesame ginger dressing but Prudence did a lovely job of hand modeling the Shrimp Stuffed Shitake Mushrooms that were tempura fried and filled with shrimp mousse with pozu dipping sauce:


The Wild Columbia River Salmon and Hawaiian fried rice made with brown rice, Chinese sausage, taro root and scallions was a little healthy for me…


… so instead I went for the Brioche Hamburger with Vermont white cheddar, homemade pickles and yuzu kosho mayonnaise…


… and the Vietnamese Corn with 5-spice pork belly, hot chili peppers and scallions…


… topped off with Smashed Potatoes with sour cream, chives and pink peppercorns.


We all had an excellent meal though the last thing anyone felt like doing afterwards was measuring themselves on the Sexometer.



Yesterday, me and Mark Blackwell, who I work with, drove back to LA from up north in Sonoma where I was working with Pomplamoose. As I had raced through the last 48 hours to drive up there with a van full of props so we could shoot our “Shbaby” video, unloaded everything, danced and carried on like a lunatic for the video for much of the time, wrapped, re-wrapped and repaired  instruments I had made out of foamcore, many of which weren’t happy taking the trip, singing and finishing tracks for another song, “R U Thinking”,  finalizing our “Jungle Animal” video, racing back and forth to the hotel where someone who weighed at least 400 pounds was very fidgety in the room above me both nights… as all this was crammed into a less than 48 hour period I was drop dead T-I-R-E-D when it was time to head back yesterday morning.


The plan was that Mark and I were going to take a very leisurely drive down a very peculiar route back down to LA so we could see all these kitsch attractions we had never seen before. But the morning started out with me discovering that my trustee MacBook Pro had finally died. Dead as in completely, totally, this-is-going-to-cost-you-a-lot-of-money DEAD. At least I still had my iPad but this too had been giving me trouble like refusing e-mails from certain of my e-mail accounts, not retaining saves after I took copious notes, and the dictation program working as if I was speaking in Chinese. I also had my two iPhones, both of which are very early versions of the phone, and if you even look at either one of them funny the batteries instantly drain. Now I am someone who is very technology dependent. I’m also a gadget freak. The only way you ever see me with one of anything is if the mate had recently died and I hadn’t had a chance to replace it yet. But here I was miles away from home with a heap of scrap metal technology with a blog to get out and a social network to attend to before we even packed the van.

After an hour delay, we were on the road, whipping through towns I’ve never heard of where the temperature was inching towards 110° in a van with malfunctioning maintenance messages flashing on the navigator every 20 minutes, not to mention I’d had very little sleep in the last 36 hours. Not necessarily the set up for Allee taking a nice, relaxing drive home. We decided to take highway 99 that intersects the 5, a fast but excessively dull drive that puts you in LA from San Francisco in five hours. The 99, on the contrary, takes a couple more hours as it swings way east. But it hits the 5 again down past Fresno so there didn’t appear to be much to lose. Other than we didn’t count on a fire breaking out on the Grapevine, a brutal section of the 5, when a big rig overturned and spilled  hundreds of thousands of carrots across all four lanes and somehow ignited a fire. Which then sent us on one of the wackiest and lonnnngest  detours I’ve ever taken, changing what could have been a six-hour trip into a 14 hour pilgrimage and putting us home at 2 AM.  Here we are passing one of the trillion or so tankers that reflected the 110° heat back to us as we made bandannas stuffed with ice cubes to stay cool:


Thank God, before we realized we would be taking a trip of such epic proportions we passed this building off the 99 which at least fulfilled our dreams of seeing some kitschy sights. Unfortunately, there weren’t many of them but this is a bulldozer building that I would love to call my own.


We finally pulled into a town called Atwater that looked like it might have some interesting possibilities after three consecutive motel signs led us to believe that perhaps the town was untouched by time.


But it hit us almost immediately that time had, indeed, marched through Atwater and there was really nothing outstanding in the way of vintage or kitsch. I’m sure the Atwaterians see this as progress but we were bummed. Especially as this city has the longest traffic lights in history. I could have done with having more to see than a Marie Callendars on the main drag where we were for all most 15 minutes after two agonizing long lights and the longest train I’ve ever seen in my life.

A waiter at Marie’s told us how to cut over to the 101, something we realized we had to do it unless we wanted to sit in a steam room breathing in carrot scented smoke in a traffic jam of  legendary proportion that is a signature of that part of the 5 – there are signs at both ends of the Grapevine that recommend you turn your air conditioner off because the grade is so steep it kills cars. So we took the 152 to jump from the 99 to the 101.


For a minute there it seemed like the beauty of the 152, passing through towns and circling a huge reservoir, was worth adding a couple of hours onto our trip. But when the 152 finally dumped us back onto the 101 it was an hour plus above Monterey, as if we’d driven in the shape of someone who was smiling hard and ended up wayyyyy north, six or seven hours still to go to make it to LA and we had already been in the car for six hours. A straight route down the 101 and 5 from Sonoma would have had me home an hour ago.

But there was one thing and one thing only that put my head in a better space. A few hours down the 101 was The Madonna Inn, a masterpiece of  kitsch. No, that’s not saying enough, the Sistine Chapel of  Kitsch, nestled right next to the 101 in San Luis Obispo.  If we drove fast enough, the dining room would still be open and sitting in the midst of this I don’t care if they served me a tin can I would be happy. We were very happy indeed sitting in the Madonna pink deliciousness and all that accompanied it.

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And after eating this classically American meal…


… I got to take my hopefully last bathroom break here before I arrived home in hopefully 3-4 hours:


Now mind you, I’ve just shown you the main dining room. There’s still the coffee shop, spa and gift shop that features items like this bedazzeled peace t-shirt…


And then there’s the 100 uniquely themed rooms, no two alike, with names like California Poppy,  Canary Cottage, Edelweiss,  Jungle Rock,  Imperial Family, Pick & Shovel and about 100 more in the hotel itself.

I would like to thank The Madonna Inn for coming to the aid of two road weary travelers after a couple intense days of incredibly great music and one day of the most circuitous trip I’ve ever taken. I would have wished for there to be more to see along the carrot/diesel-fumed detour we were forced to take but all in all it was an incredible three days. So also, thank you, Pomplamoose…


… and thank you, Mark, for driving every inch of the entire trip…


… and, once again, thank you, Madonna Inn, for adding a bit of sparkle to an otherwise exceedingly lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng, hotttttt day.


I beg to differ with the quotation “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”. I offer as proof this ungodly garish tote bag I picked up at the Mexican swap meet the other day, belted and sequined within an inch of its sow eared life and a stunning example of one of my favorite genres of kitsch –  when someone takes something so pathetically plain Jane most people wouldn’t give it a second look and attempts to make it look like something that would accompany one to a dinner at the White House, the Academy Awards or  some other such fancy dress affair.


I always love a bag with a nice belt.


The back of the bag remains completely pee yellow and lifeless.


There’s so much synthetic fabric on the inside of the bag it becomes almost impossible to get anything out without getting your hand entangled in fabric. I just pray for limb extraction without a fabric rip though the danger of a nice big scratch is ever present as whatever synthetic fabric this is so rough against the skin.


With all of its limitations I still give it an A for effort and wear it proudly.



This game felt especially fitting because it’s supposed to teach you how to play by ear. Not only did I never learn to play by ear but I never learned to play period. Which makes the fact that my songs have sold over 50 million records a very kitschy thing indeed! I don’t suppose this game will help me, though, as there are no instructions included. I was never good at following instructions with anything anyway which is why just about everything I do is so spontaneous and free form. Which is what I loved about Pomplamoose when everyone started sending me links to their version of my song,“September”.   I sent them a message and asked them if they wanted to write something together, something I never do, but I thought they were so fresh and casual and inventive that it would be a good match. From the looks of their videos it looked like they already knew what this game had to teach.


A few weeks later in late December, 2009, Jack and Nataly, a.ak.a. Pomplamoose, drove down from  Northern CA. and we knocked out the healthy beginnings of six songs, shooting footage for the videos as we recorded.


We spent three more days together up north in June and are in the midst of a whirlwind day and half as we speak.  We have three videoSongs about ready to pop out of the oven, all of which I’m very excited about. They’re a fantastic blend of the similar in spirit yet very different styles we have.


If we took any breaks, which we don’t, I might try and figure out how to play “Maestro The Musical Bingo”. But I’ve always been able to keep up just by banging pencils together and humming into one of the four digital recorders and two cell phones that are always on me and singing higher than the illegitimate child of a BeeGee and a chipmunk.


One of the greatest kitsch aspects of “Maestro The Musical Bingo” is that in one place it says it was made in 1939 and in another 1940.


I find trying to learn anything that involves any kind of math memorization hard enough without starting off with a teacher who is so confused as to not know their correct date of birth.  But I can deal with this inconsistency because I’ve done pretty  well not going by hard numbers or knowing the rules.  So I think my involvement with “Maestro The Musical Bingo” is just to admire how pretty it is and let it sit here staring at me in my recording studio…


I will concentrate much more on writing great songs and doing great videos and, in the case of our first Pomplamoose with Allee Willis release, “Jungle Animal”, designing a spectacularly cagey and musical online music game and contest that will launch right before “Jungle Animal” comes out. This will hopefully be within a few weeks, whenever we can finish enough to put the puppy, or lion as it were, out there.


In the meantime should I find a spare a second I might try moving a few markers around and attempt to learn the names of the keys that my fingers fall on as I poke out tunes that come into my head. I doubt that I will make it far into the jungle known as musical theory but the important part is that whatever little animals I hum turn into songs and find their own way out of the jungle. Thus far I have led a pretty successful Safari, with or without a guide to assist me.



As I cruise along the 5 and 101 freeways up north to finish three videoSongs with Pomplamoose, my trusty CBer’s Prayer Plaque is in place on the dash. Before modern technology, the CB radio leading the way in multi-vehicle communication, my  traveling life was hell. I never actually had a CB but I did marvel at how trucks could warn each other of impending Smokies or fabulous truck stops with Blue Plate Specials. Now that I have a cell phone, well, several cell phones, an Ipad and my laptop that I plug into the cigarette lighter I’m much more inclined to travel because I can stay connected. I never really had a desire to leave my life behind and now I don’t have to.

Although trucks no longer have CBs because the drivers use cell phones just like the rest of us it doesn’t stop them from expressing themselves. Native American Indians have been a big theme on the trip so far today.

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We also passed someone who plans to do a lot of riding:


And then of course there’s this:


Which makes me want to stop for this:


I don’t need a CB as I have all my regular communications paraphernalia with me.


I also have a navigator to tell me where the nearest hot dog joint is. which is great as I don’t need to wait for all the Beavers to answer me.


Thank God for modern technology.


It’s sweltering in LA today. I have a house full of people as I’m racing to finish the Pomplamoose video, two of my computers have broken down so 2 techs are here, the pool filter’s being fixed, some bees are being removed, my assistant at helping me pack to get ready to go up north to finish two more songs with Pomplamoose, my animator’s here and someone’s giving me an estimate on new mini blinds. Thank God no one came dressed like these guys…

This is by far one of the twerpiest LP covers ever. I don’t get the choice of how the letters were spaced across the chests. And why would a Polka group call themselves the Drifters? Especially as there’s already a classic group named The Drifters? Why are there two ‘D’s in Drifters? The only thing I see drifting is the waistline on those hideously wonderful Liza Minnelli-ish pantsuits of theirs.