More than anything, the one thing that accompanied me every single day of my four college years at the University of Wisconsin in the late 1960’s was a spritz of Ambush Spray Cologne. I should have bought stock in Dana,  the company that made it, for as many bottles of  it as I went through. The male equivalent was called Canoe. Sometimes girls wore that too but I was so attached to the scent and the shade of pink and hard rubbery shape and feel of the bottle I never made it past Ambush.

Here’s what I looked like when I first started wearing it at the tail end of high school:

For as laquered as my hair was it might appear that I may have coated that with Ambush too, but that was all about Aquanet. My Aquanet hairspray kept my hair helmet so firm I never had to worry about it getting crushed when the amount of Ambush I sprayed on myself put me in many situations like this back in college:

Thank you, Ambush, for making me smell good then and for that astounding pink bottle still lighting up my eyes today.

Unfortunately, my bottle of Cher perfume, given to me as a birthday present one year by Elvira, is long empty. Just like Burlesque, the film that opened this week that Cher and her once great face that no longer moves stars in. But in the case of Burlesque, I wasn’t expecting emptiness so much as a big fat Thanksgiving turkey gloriously stuffed with kitsch. I’d been whetting my lips for a year and a half since the insanely done-to-death-27,000-times-over storyline was revealed to me when I, along with God knows how many other songwriters, was asked to submit a song for the film. My co-writer dropped the ball and never handed in any of the three we did  – I’ve yet to even hear a mix…..Earth to Steve…..but often when my songs haven’t made it into a film it saved me from being stuffed into too many cinematic turkeys. Unless, of course, you count Howard The Duck, which I co-wrote five songs for with Thomas Dolby. But that was just about writing with Dolby and George Clinton as, despite being excited about being in a George Lucas produced film, I knew it was headed for the turkey farm my first time on the set when Howard, a little person stuffed into a costume that looked like a pillowcase with feathers glued on, ran in.

I was so excited to see Burlesque that I even organized the first public outing of my film club, L’Chien Du Cinema, The Dog Cinema, to leave my living room and see a film at an actual theater for the first time since 1983 when we were lucky enough to have two turkeys in the same season, Pia Zadora’s monumental Lonely Lady and Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone’s immortal Rhinestone.

But, alas, Burlesque isn’t so much a turkey as one big, long, never-ending lump of white, packaged mashed potatoes. No gravy, no cranberry sauce, not even any turkey; just constant servings of the same bad blue lighting on Cher, the one forlorn look from Christina Aguilera, the same numbing beat of predictable songs and we’ve-seen-it-before-Pussycat-Dolls-with-a-hit-of-Flashdance choreography, a story as predictable as jelly slopped on top of peanut butter, and all of it hitting with such regularity that your eyeballs go numb. An endless, bombastic pile of nothing. At least my empty bottle of Cher perfume has enough in it you can still smell some brilliance of what once was.

Which is a shame as all the bad film faithfuls that came to see it with me had high hopes Burlesque would be a contemporary classic of Showgirls proportion. I even got out the old the ol’ doggie bags and filled them with gold sprayed Milk-Bones, as the tradition of L’Chien is for everyone to throw down their bones and rate the films, a 5-boner being the biggest dog and a 1-boner not even worth the price of the ticket.

Here I am walking in with RuPaul:

And here I am at dinner after the film with more of the party faithfuls where we discussed and rated the noisy pile of mush we’d just seen. (Clockwise: Christian Capobianco, Craig Fisse, Michael Patrick KingGail ZappaDiva ZappaLaLa Sloatman, Bob Garrett, Charles PhoenixmePrudence Fenton and Pat Loud, the matriarch of the first reality show family ever.)

It was a sad night for Burlesque as far as our boner ratings went:

Out of a possible 55 bones from the eleven of us, Burlesque only got 9 and 1/32nd. It would have been 9 and 1/64th but a 32nd was the smallest bit of Milk-Bone any of us could break off.

Back to my Cher perfume, the silver paint on the cap has curdled away:

I guess that’s what Cher thought was happening to her face when she started shooting it full of whatever she shoots it full of to be left with a face that’s as immobile as a rock. It may look pretty but the only real emotion you could detect from her in Burlesque is when her eyes teared up. Twice. But I don’t want to be mean to Cher. I love Cher. It’s just that you can’t feel anything from something human that doesn’t move. And when you throw that into a movie that’s all surface/no heart or soul and shakes at the exact same frequency for two hours straight it makes you want to check your cell phone or do whatever else you can do trapped in your seat until the slop ends. My friend Diva always brings her knitting with her in case of just that.  Here’s how much she got done during Burlesque:

Even this bottle of Cher perfume has a little actual something in it:

It may all be stuck in the spritzer thing but at least it’s there and you can still smell it. I was hoping Burlesque reeked with kitsch classicism, bursting with so much flavor of self-importance that I’d never be able to get the stench out of my nose. Instead it was nothing, just a big plastic inflatable turkey:

Big budget movies offend me to begin with. And one that throws so much in your face and you don’t even feel the splat really bums me out. What a nothing experience. And, by the way, how do you put Cher and Christina Aquilera in a movie together and not have a duet?! What a waste of Cher.

But I’m not here to give a movie review. I’m just here to show you a bottle of perfume.

Now the only question is what do I do with all the Milk-Bones?

One of the main reasons I love Thanksgiving is that I get to pull out all my holiday themed dinnerware. Not that I cook or that my house is the one everyone comes over to but the turkey accessories in plain view still keep me psychologically tweaked for the season.

The gravy boat is missing its spoon but it doesn’t diminish the beauty of the lifelike bird:

The SA&P’s look like tiny hens.

All three items serve an important purpose, to assist in the taste of food, as opposed to this beautiful, lifelike yet useless inflatable turkey that sits in the center of the table every Thanksgiving as well.

The top also doesn’t also pop off the inflatable bird so you can fill it with tasty turkey gravy like the ceramic bird is purposed for.

I hope the nasal cavities of  anyone prepping their turkeys or any of its fixin’s today are filled with the same gravylicious smell that my overactive imagination is filling mine with right now as I gazed at my ceramic birds.

I loved me some Ben Casey when I was a kid. I had Ben Casey diaries, wallets, cufflinks, bobble head dolls, anything and everything that had that kind-of-smile-but-not-really brooding look that Vincent Edwards, who played the handsome doctor, knew how to give with amazing regularity. Here he is as a cufflink with the same intent look:

He even had ‘the look’ on the cover of Look:

The only time I ever saw Ben Casey not have ‘the look’ was at The Playboy Mansion where I was lucky enough to be New Year’s Eve,1991, and as everyone was yelling “Happy New Year!” I turned to kiss the person next to me and there he was, Ben Casey, YES, Vincent Edwards in the flesh!  And he was smiling! This was back in the prehistoric days before digital cameras and before I knew enough to carry one, digital or otherwise, with me. So, alas, the only place that smile is is in my memory bank.  I even forgot to ask for an autograph.

But at least I have my pencils to wrap my fingers around when I dream about ‘the look’.

I have no idea how they arrived at 34 cents to sell this for. Seems like Dr. Casey’s winning bedside ‘look’ is worth a lot more than that.

I absolutely loved The Fifth Dimension. I loved Jimmy Webb and I loved Laura Nyro, the songwriters who wrote some of their biggest hits, both of whom were major influences on my songwriting career and the latter of whom was one of the first artists I worked with when I got a job at Columbia and Epic Records fresh outta college. Nyro wrote songs like “Wedding Bell Blues”, “Stone Soul Picnic” and “Save The Country” while Webb wrote The Fifth’s first major hit, “Up Up and Away”, as well as “Carpet Man”and my favorite though slightly more obscure Fifth song, “Paper Cup”.

My 7-Eleven Slurpee cup may not be a paper cup but it’s plastic and lasts forever which seems like it would have been a more appropriate kind of cup for Jimmy Webb to write about crawling into and wanting to live forever.

The likenesses on this plastic Slurpee cup bear little resemblance to the real persons.  For example, here’s Billy Davis, Jr. in plastic next to Billy Davis, Jr. in real life:

They didn’t even get his signature pencil-thin-mustache-that-turns-into-a-goatee and certainly shortchanged him on his Afro. 7-Eleven did a better job on some of the other 1970’s rock star Slurpee cups I’ve collected:

Though neither Smokey Robinson nor Grand Funk seemed the types to merchandise themselves by aligning with a convenience store, especially as this kind of stuff was rare in the 1970’s, but maybe they liked Slurpees as much as I did. The Fifth Dimension seemed a more likely choice because of their sugary and delicious pop sound.

As Thanksgiving week is upon us I will never forget the trauma of being invited to Luther Vandross’s Thanksgiving Day dinner and having to leave before the smothered turkey was ready, only to arrive at my next destination and having a plate of salmon plopped in front of me. NEVER  put a fish in front of a Thanksgiving guest unless you warn them first if you ever want to see them again! In that particular case, I developed a sudden headache and left just as quinoa and tofu were about to hit my plate and headed back across town where the table was flooded with the best holiday soul food fixins my stomach ever had the pleasure of ingesting. I bring up this story not just because I’ve learned to make sure the menu is Thanksgiving appropriate before I accept an invitation but because Luther and I often discussed the fact that Mahalia Jackson had a cookbook and how great it would be to make a total Mahalia Jackson meal.

In 1972, cousin Bennie thought so too.

Unfortunately, the only turkey in Mahalia’s cookbook is for pot pie.  But many other festive recipes abound.

All the photographs are fantastic, none of the actual food itself but, rather, of Mahalia  performing cooking tasks in excellent outfits.

We  even learn how to turn the oven on…

… and open the oven door.

The excellence of Mahalia’s bouffant is clearly evident in the photo above. As such, I wish Mahalia’s head was lit better in this photo so it didn’t look like it was part of the kitchen cabinet:

Mahalia also offers some kitchen tips, though I’m not sure how much I would trust the cook who’s concerned about either of these while cooking:

I have a lot of work to do today. Otherwise I might spend it trying to find the perfect recipe to make for the person who force fed me salmon one Thanksgiving. Maybe this…

This is a very sloppy version of the kind of ‘sexy’ joke signs that became popular around the early 1960s and hung in many a wood paneled rec room somewhere in the vicinity of a ping-pong table and beer keg. I especially love this one because the Knight looks more like a Harlequin getting ready to play hockey.

I also love how completely off center all the text is:

The two ‘King’s line up but ‘Always’ juts way out to the left. A decent art director would have centered these two lines. The same goes for “Once a Knight’ and ‘is enough’. But off-center and Knights that look like Wayne Gretzky is exactly what this kitsch lover looks for in a sign. The two eyeballs on the back don’t hurt it either.

I’m not sure how toilet ashtrays became so ubiquitous in the novelty ashtray department but they did. I guess because they’re a natural place to set butts and the basic design offers so many opportunities for storage – the bowl for ashes and the tank for smokables, though I stick everything in there from Post-its notes to paperclips. The back of the tank has a hole to hang it on the wall. I always like my toilets at eye level.

Having been made in the 1950’s it’s amazing that any of the little sticker remains.

In pristine form the sticker would read, “Little John, A Cigarette Set – To complete your bathroom and add to your comfort”. I’m not sure how this size toilet bowl adds to one’s comfort but I’m willing to go with it.

If I ever were to get a new toilet I would want it to be the perfect 50’s pink that the Little John is. Though it would take an earthquake knocking my current toilet off its base to make that happen as it was installed when the house was built in 1937 and it ain’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, my cat Nibbles struck a toilet pose next to the toilet ashtray. I couldn’t have directed it better myself.

I’m so NOT the type to wear a ring with a G-clef on it or have one of those cheesy license plates like GR8T BEAT. My gold records don’t hang in the living room so they’re the first things you see when you walk in and my clothes aren’t Bedazzled with musical notes. But this ring is so stone cold handtooled 1960s my finger had to have it.

I bought the ring about 10 years ago on eBay from someone in Memphis. I can feel a heavy barbecue-grease-guitar-picking vibe every time I slip it on. It also weighs a ton, quite a surprise as it looked like a cheap plastic gum ball machine prize ring in the photo online. So I end up wearing it a lot. Like I did Saturday night when I went out with my friend, Stan Zimmerman, though the hand I’m holding up in this photo unfortunately isn’t the one my fabulous music ring was on.

As unlikely as I am to have musical notes pasted all over my personal accouterments I’m just as unlikely to show up at a party where singers and songwriters take turns singing their own songs. I’m around music and singing all day; I don’t want to be around music and singing all night. Plus, despite my musical proclivities I don’t play an instrument so the possibility of me even being able to plunk the opening note of one of my songs at a party like this is nil. But there were the ring and I and Stan at a party that featured just that, thrown by voice coach to the stars, Eric Vetro, and songwriter/producer to the stars, Desmond Child. So many of my friends were there though that me, Stan and the ring had a great time despite not participating in the main event.

I go wayyyyyyy back with the first folks I saw, from (L-R) Rick Nowels, Maria Vidal, (me), Toni Basil, and Desmond Child.

Soooooo far back that I was practically in diapers when we met. Desmond and Maria were in a group called Desmond Child & Rouge who, in the mid 1970’s, sang at Reno Sweeney, a cabaret in Manhattan where I was the person who walked around the city by day nailing up fliers of upcoming performances. I saw them sing every night because in addition to my $20 a day salary I got to eat at Reno’s for free. Maria married Rick in the late 80’s. Between me, Desmond and Rick we’ve sold somewhere around 500,000,000 records and have had just about as many great times together. What we all had in common was also Bette Midler, the biggest thing to come out of the New York cabaret scene and the biggest jewel in our show biz clique. Even back in the 70’s Toni Basil was Bette’s choreographer. She was also one of my first friends and collaborators when I moved to LA in 1976. Here were are in 1982 at a party I threw for her when “Mickey” went #1.

Here we are Saturday night with singer Sarah Hudson and X-Factor’s Storm Lee thrown in.

Maria and I also spent a lot of time in a corner chatting with Frances Fisher.

Another friend from my 1970’s NY days at the party Saturday night was Allan Rich, who sang at Catch A Rising Star, the big comedy club where I was the hatcheck girl at the time. Allan got his big break when he was a shoe salesman and gave Barry Manilow a tape of his songs when he sold him some shoes.

I spent a lot of time talking to Michael Orland, the Music Director at American Idol and with whom I’m about to start writing tomorrow.

I’m completely sick of not being able to sing my own songs at parties like this so, just like an American Idol, I’m also going to rehearse a little medley of my hits with Michael so when Eric and Desmond throw this party again next year I can get up and sing instead of chatting through everyone’s songs because so many of my friends are there.  Like songwriter extraordinaire, Diane Warren.

But despite how much musical talent was at the party there was clearly one star that shone brighter for me than any other and that was THE BEAVER!!!

Jerry Mathers, The Beaver, who I watched incessantly as  a kid…

The same Beaver whose memorabilia I’ve faithfully collected all these years…

The same Beaver who’s going to come over in a few weeks and autograph all that memorabilia!! If I collected memorabilia from anything as recent as Desperate Housewives I would also invite Marc Cherry, seen here waiting for his car with me, Stan and The Beav.

All in all, it was a great night for me, Stan and my funky l’il music ring!