When the post I wrote for Time Magazine‘s wonderful Detroit Blog was published yesterday, my love for Detroit escalated even higher than the sky-high affection I already had for the city I grew up in that still inspires just about every move I make. Despite whatever you might think of Detroit for anything you may have heard about it’s slow and agonizing demise over the years, it’s still the Soul capital as far as I’m concerned and a city that has the potential to lead us into the future this century as it did much of the last. As anyone who’s half evolved knows, when things fall apart it becomes a ripe breeding ground for rebirth in new and magnified ways.  The revolution is coming and it’s already arrived in Detroit. My love letter to my city is here.


I’ve always collected kitsch souvenirs from Detroit. I have everything from custom painted Detroit bottles to can openers, pot holders, funeral fans, miniature cars, notebooks, pencils, rolling pins and more. But this little unassuming shoe has always been one of my favorites.


As small as this souvenir high heel is, only 2 1/2 inches long, it’s as giant in stature to me as the old 25′ x 30′ x 20′ stove that sat out in front of The Michigan State Fairgrounds for years on Woodward Avenue. I used to drive by it every day and wonder if I would ever learn to cook. The answer remains no.


And then there’s the giant tire that started life out as a ferris wheel at the ’64 New York Worlds Fair and was then moved to the side of I-94 where it still sits to this day. I’ve had better success with tires than with cooking though not as much as with shoes.

Detroit is a city that many may have lost faith in, a shrinking blip on the map, no longer looming above the horizon of hope like a massive stove or tire. But the naysayers should remember that spirit and strength are qualities that lie inside and, when nurtured, can bloom in the most unexpected places and ways. All it takes is the brains and balls to stay the course, and the belief that change is the one constant in our life and that it can be steered like a big giant-finned Caddy to a better place if enough people just believe that can happen.  People from Detroit have always dreamed and given the world some amazing gifts – cars and Motown for starters.  So I have faith that whatever comes of the ashes of Detroit will be great. It may just look like baby steps now – afterall, the shoe is tiny – but get outta the way because wheels are turning and the footprints that will be left are BIG.



When the first four Holiday Inns were built in 1953, this was the ashtray that was sitting in the rooms. Heavy glass with raised lettering and cigarette rests, the shape is perfect 1950’s, the font iconic. I don’t go out of my way to collect Holiday Inn artifacts, but through the years I’ve amassed cups, matches, ashtrays from all the decades, postcards, playing cards, ice tea spoons, room keys and more.  I even have this sign from a Holiday Inn somewhere in California. It’s rusty but you would be too if you baked outside for the last 60 years.


I’ve always loved the concept of Holiday Inns, the first roadside chain motel founded on the concept that if you knew what you were getting you would feel as comfortable as if you were home. The rooms were all basically the same – clean,  family-friendly and  really easy to get to because signs like this were in clear view of the highways. And in the 1950’s everyone was on the road.  The war was over, the cars were massive and beautiful, and the American middle class mindset was such that they thought they might soon be vacationing on the moon. I didn’t own this Studebaker until the 1980’s but the parking lots of Holiday Inns were all stuffed full of eye-popping gems like this so that as soon as you turned into them you were psychologically prepped to enjoy your stay.


This was taken in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn in 1986. I got a room one day to write because I couldn’t concentrate at home.


I never smoked in my car so it remained as pristine and lovely as one of the rooms in a Holiday Inn. If I had smoked though, I might have lifted this from my room so my ash was deposited in something as stylish as my car.

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But, alas, I bought it on eBay along with this postcard, longing for the days when life was this beautiful, convenient, stylish and cheap.



As someone who loves leftovers, especially if they’re Chinese, and especially as someone who spells cooking ‘d-e-l-i-v-e-r-y’, how could I not be instantly attracted to this purse?! Though I can’t say that I haven’t actually used the real deal iconic food box as a purse before.  In my coming-up-as-a-songwriter days I resorted to using a cardboard one as a fashion accessory when my regular purse got too tattered and I really needed something with personality as a sub. There’s no question this plastic coated zippered version is more practical though. It’s always nice to pull out money that doesn’t smell like Moo Goo Gai Pan.

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In a couple of hours I’m speaking on a panel called “In The Biz In LA – For artists who act, direct, produce, edit, write, or administrate” led by my pal Barbara Deutsch, who I’ve been friends with since we were both secretaries at Columbia and Epic Records in 1969. Here’s what I was told to prepare: “If you were to only give the audience 3 pieces of advice that you have learned personally for the industry or life, what would it be? Feel free to be profound or silly.” There are many big deal  tv and film directors and producers, casting directors, managers and agents on the panel. Everyone’s got big fat credits. When I’m on panels like this I find a lot of people giving very practical information.  Despite the fact that I too have those big fat credits much of my career has been on the outskirts of the entertainment behemoths, self funded to insure maximum creative freedom so I could do what was in my head, usually a combo of “profound and silly”, and not spit out works by committee and become a depressed albeit wealthy artist. I’ve always had a lust to combine “hi” and “lo” aspects of art within the same work and this doesn’t usually fly when creating by committee.


When I first started out it was absolutely taboo to be a multi-media artist if you were a behind the scenes creator. Anything outside of songwriting that I did like art, furniture design, set design, early social network design in 1992, really anything that didn’t involve solely music and lyrics, was viewed as a little hobby by the industries I did them in. It took into the new millennium for industry folks to see that the new and most vital kind of artist was, in fact, a multi-media artist who could combine all traditional art forms into one big ball of expression and execute in both traditional linear mediums as well as in all existing digital ones, hopefully integrating them as opposed to slapping assets from the traditional ones onto the new virtual medium, the Internet, as if it were a giant billboard.


I don’t expect to stand out like a sore thumb on this panel the way I used to on traditional showbiz panels. (BTW, the sore thumb is a great thing to be on panels as audiences are most appreciative for alternatives points of view.)  My thing has always been to screw the rules if the rulemakers aren’t going for what you do and then do what you need to do by any means necessary. But now that it’s  overwhelmingly accepted that we’re living in revolutionary/evolutionary times I expect everyone on the panel to come through with some version of this same message.  Though I certainly don’t expect anyone else on the panel to own a napkin holder as lovely and  inspirational as this one before you now.


Though It looks like it’s made of cheap plastic, the message is actually stamped in metal and mounted on a heavy marble base. It’s that perfect combination of “hi” and “lo” art that I love.

A few minutes ago I emailed Barbara Deutsch to see if I could bring a guest to the panel. She immediately wrote back and said yes but informed me that the panel was, in fact, yesterday… I obviously didn’t “Do it now” yesterday.  That would have been a very “lo” part of this experience but, as luck would have it, there’s another panel today. I have absolutely no idea if the topic is the same but my ‘Do it now, do it good and by any means necessary’ message sure is.  And by all means, show up when you’re supposed to as opposed to polishing your napkin holder so it looks pretty in photos. You’re bound to get farther in the world.



Yesterday, all 31 palm trees that surround my house were trimmed. I’m used to this being a total nightmare. As much as I love my Palm trees, 29 of which are the babies of the original two planted when my house was built in 1937, trimming all of them at the same time has traditionally been hell – expensive, messy and dealing with a bunch of tree trimming shysters.  All of which makes me long for a simpler approach to fauna, perhaps this little miracle tree growing out of a seemingly dead tree trunk and the traffic cone set on top to protect it.  And trust me, it’s really growing. Right on Tujunga Ave. in Studio City. I even got out of my car and tried to pull it out. It’s real.

The fact that freaks of nature like this exist, the little twig that could, busting through a stump and reaching for the sun as if it were God, which I guess it is if you were a tree, makes me wonder if the trauma of maintaining 31 palms is worth it.


Palms are my favorite kind of tree in the world and my grove is, after all, family. The two original trees are close to 80 feet tall. They spit out enough seeds when it’s windy to populate all of Los Angeles with its kids.  My entire front lawn is shaved palms that long ago took over where grass used to grow. They look exactly like grass blades except that when you get down to their level you see the blades are oblong and not straight.


The babies even grow through rocks:


Let me tell you, for what it costs taking care of this massive palm family as it grows these trees may as well be going to college. But thank God I finally found an honest, neat and reasonably priced tree trimmer. I’m used to being held hostage for days by companies who promise me they’ll take care not to poke thousands of holes in the trunks as they shimmy up them with metal spiked heels, not to crush all the plants and flowers below and not to leave my house looking like this overnight:


I know it doesn’t look that bad in the dark but there are palm fronds, seeds and ripped plastic covering everything, not to mention a massive shovel and ladder left out to make it convenient for anyone who wants to to break in.   I usually have the happiest house on the block but when the A&M tree company took over it looked like the most haunted house on the block not to mention the dirtiest. Here’s what it looked like during the day despite the fact that the  clean-up was “almost done”.


A&M even wanted to leave it like this over the weekend. I insisted on next day cleanup but that didn’t stop them from leaving a 25 foot truck parked out in front of my neighbor’s house for four days before they got it together to pick it up.

Once you have this many palm trees you really have to keep the trimming up because they start growing things that look like shafts of wheat (if I really knew what wheat looked like).


And those growths start throwing up all over everything below them so that a once pristine table and chairs now looks like this all the time:


It doesn’t look so bad in the photos but some of this stuff gets really sticky and also if you sit down on a bunch of it it pokes you in the ass.

I’m happy to report that I found a fantastic tree trimming company this time, Manuel’s Tree Service. They don’t mess up your trees with those hideous cleats. They don’t bitch about not leaving jagged frond ends hanging 60 feet up in the air. They’re not too lazy to put the equipment away at night if they don’t finish in the eight hours they swore they would be finished in.  They don’t whine about covering everything below in plastic and even brought a roll of their own, something that no other tree company ever did unless you call two little tattered 10 foot tarps enough to cover a nice big lawn and three cars enough. And they don’t burn out entire sections of your plants like the Thrifty Tree Service did when they parked their Chipper only inches away from my 12 foot high wall of horsegrass and burned a 5 foot hole in the wall.


At Manuel’s they finesse those trees with skill.   This guy swung from tree to tree, and I’m talking about 80 feet high in the air, never leaving a mark and clipping the tops just so.


In the end,  all my trees have nice new haircuts and the lady of the house spent a nice, trauma free day out in the sunshine watching an artist do his work.


Now I have a nice trauma-free six months before the whole thing starts up again.  But at least I no longer am at the mercy of  companies like A&M and Thrifty, both of whom also repeatedly showed up on the wrong day because they were trimming other trees in the neighborhood and thought they could save on truck rentals. Thank you, Manuel, for turning what was once a nightmare into a pleasure. I no longer have to consider a little tree growing out of a tree trunk and traffic cone as a plausible alternative to maintaining my grove.



I’ve never actually chomped down on a hunk of Luer Pure Lard but it sure comes in a pretty box. Not only is the box coated with enough wax to make you feel like you’re actually picking up a fistful of lard but many important lard ladden foods are illustrated in glorious color on it.

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I especially love this graphic of the chocolate cake:


I’m not sure how much the lard had to do with it but the way the cherry pink frosting is positioned on that cake knife hovering in perfect symmetry above the crumbs of chocolate is picture perfect.

I’m also not sure how ‘Luer” is pronounced but I have a feeling it’s not a perfect rhyme with “sure” as they’ve implied.


It’s a good thing that whoever came up with that was writing slogans and not lyrics. Always better with a perfect rhyme in songs though I can’t tell you how many songwriters throw that one out the window.

I never understood the use of these kind of boxes to package lard. Not that I ever bought any to know for “sure” but wouldn’t the product goop out of the sides and top and be more appropriate in a tub? I’m just glad that none of it slopped on this box before I got to it.

Manufactured by Luer Bros. Packing Co. of Alton, Ill. sometime around 1950, I have a feeling that the boxes were actually more popular than the lard inside. A search on Google turns up enough of these 2-1/2″ x 3″ x5″ honeys to paper a path from Manhattan to LA.



Thank you, aKitschionado Ginger Durgin, for your generous contribution of ten Luer Lard boxes to the permanent collection of The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch!


For someone like me who likes to have the right purse for any possible theme this 13″ long plastic peanut seemed like it was perfect. Excellent as a summer BBQ fashion, it would also appear to be the perfect vessel to house the plethora of electronic gadgets I carry around with me which includes two cell phones, two digital recorders, two cameras and multiple batteries for all. I’m a firm believer in ‘two’ for any vital electronic gadget. Whether it’s dead batteries or service providers not working in certain areas, I learned long ago that dependence on a single electronic gadget is not the life for me. So I was elated to find a purse as cute as the peanut that could house all my paraphernalia and lined up in an orderly fashion no less. But a dead battery would have been a lot better than the dead phone, camera and recorder I experienced when I opened my peanut for the first time on a subway platform only to watch a train crush all three after they spilled out of easily the stupidest purse I ever carried. Though I suppose it was me who was really stupid. Anyone who wasn’t so carried away with the aesthetics would have realized that the way the two sides of the peanut were attached wasn’t really going to serve anyone well as a purse.


In my past, I oftentimes overlooked functionality for style. I was very taken with my peanut because I loved rubbing my fingers over all the little indented peanut textures. This is not how a normal person would judge a purse.


One also might’ve thought that aging would curb my propensity for walking around with a purse in the shape of another object. But that would be said by someone who didn’t know me very well.


These days, as my electronics arsenal grows, I carry a more practical purse and the peanut stays very close to home where it’s got lots of other peanut friends to keep it company.



It’s always a good sign of kitsch when right off the bat the packaging describes the product wrong.  On the top of the package it very clearly states that I will be getting one Felt Coaster Love Type. But a few inches lower it clearly says that I will be unwrapping two Felt CoasterS Love Type. Perhaps the designer of the label was too excited at the hearts leaping out of the coffee cup to go for accuracy in the product description.


The back of the package states “Please do not put IT near the fire”.  Does that count for both its, as in two coasters, and in that case shouldn’t it be “them”?


On the back of the package there are several warnings the user of the Felt Coaster Love Type must heed.  Especially important is “Please don’t wash it in the hand”. Which of the hands should i not be washing it in?


The directions also clearly instruct not to use your Love coaster as a hot plate. At least I think that’s what this means:


Then there’s this somewhat distressing warning:


Is the Felt Coaster Love Type full of nickle, lead or battery acid or something?  I’m not sure I want anything like that in the vicinity of anything hot OR human.

I do love the look of these things. Nice bold letters looking like they would in a nice heavy letter sweater.


The letters are actually the best feature of the Felt Coaster Love Type though their specialness isn’t even mentioned on the label. All the letters pop out.


I can’t imagine the purpose of the pop out letters. You certainly can’t balance a glass on one of them though they probably could  handle the last bite of toast.

There’s a couple more things that are outstanding about the Felt Coaster Love Type.  The leaping heart coffee cup and slice of cake are sitting on two different size coasters yet there are only two 4″ square coasters in the package.


The red “coaster” that the cake is sitting on isn’t even rectangular, which means that two of the “coasters” couldn’t be stuck together to make one larger “place mat”, not to mention that the package contains two different colored “coasters” so they could never be combined to make the larger one the cake’ sitting on.  It’s nutty in the first place that a piece of cake on a plate would have to sit on top of a coaster. And even if this were an optical illusion and this were, in fact, a coaster, the plate  that would fit on it could only be 3″ round, which means that the piece of cake is only about a tablespoon big.  And even if it’s a little teacake I don’t like eating off of doll dinnerware.

The Felt Coaster Love Type was produced in China for Daiso, Japan. I will faithfully follow the instructions and promise to never use it “for purposes other than originally intended”.



Bowling is easily the sport that has rained down hardest on Pop Culture in terms of artifacts emulating its shape, spirit and efforts to capitalize on the good clean brand of social interaction the sport promotes. Though I go a little farther than the normal person in terms of their love of the sport. I should clarify that it’s not actually the sport itself I love so much as the accouterments associated with it. You name it and there’s some bowling derived interpretation of it. I have bowling can openers, decanters, tables, lamps, brushes, floors, shirts, shoes, dishes, cups, glasses, trophies and then some.  Sometimes I even turn the trophies into door handles.


I’m sipping decaf from a bowling ball cup right now.


I clean my clothes with a bowling pin brush.


I work by the light of this bowling pin lamp.


Sometimes the lamp sits on one of four bowling tables I got from the famous Hollywood Star Lanes when they closed their doors in Hollywood in the late 90s. I use them as desks.


I have bowling balls planted in my garden.


I even have a bowling ball carved into my kitchen floor.


Yesterday I extracted coins from my bowling ball coin purse and bought these bowling shoes.


When I got home I popped open a bottle of Bubble Up.  I had a choice of two bowling pin bottle openers.


Alas, my bowling bag coin purse is not going to be opened for any more bowling memorabilia for a while.  As I’m a totally self-financed artist, my pennies need to be pinched for all the projects I’m working on. That would be depressing but when it all comes down to it my favorite place to be anyway is home. If I’m bored I can always go bowling in the sand.



When it comes to naming your company I’m always fascinated when people come up with the most seemingly inappropriate names possible. I can think of a lot of things I’d be calling myself if I were being transported in this Medical Transportation vehicle but I doubt one of them would be “lucky”. This is the last place you would be if you were, in fact, “lucky”. Maybe the name has great psychological impact as the patient steps or is wheeled in through the doors. And I’m certainly not one to diminish the power of positive thinking. But I think I would want the driver or any personnel on board to be a little more connected to the reality of the medical situation.  “Lucky” enough to hitch a ride, yes!  “Lucky” to be in the van, no.