As many of you know, one of my favorite things in the world to do is to take rides with my BFF, Charles Phoenix, and go to places in and around LA that most people don’t know about unless they live in that part of the city. One of my absolute favorite things about LA is that there are so many different sections of the city. But the shame is that so few people who live here venture east of downtown. Charles and I, on the contrary, always venture east and, trust me, it never disappoints. If you’re heading south on the 101, make sure you drive farther than this building (and not just to get off to go the Music Center, Disney Hall, or MOCA).

In our particular case, our drive occurred in Charles’ brand new Dodge Challenger. New as in just hours old and now we were taking it on it’s virgin voyage. The new car smell added to the adventure.

One of the great things about having a friend who you share such keen interests with, coupled with the fact you’re both considered authorities of sorts on the topic – incredible vintage and/or kitsch architecture, signage, cars and the like – is that you can be fascinated almost anywhere you go. Charles and I only had a couple of hours so we headed for a quickie run down Whittier Blvd. Seriously, unless you’re blind, elitist or have absolutely zero kitschEsthetic genes in your body, Whittier Blvd. is breathtaking. So here’s our ride in the order it occurred…

We overshot our exit on the 101 so got off at Seventh St. and wormed our way back to Whittier Blvd. Which was fine as we wouldn’t wanted to have missed this spectacular hot dog roof:

Always special is this dinosaur and soda cup diorama, neither object of which has anything to do with the business underneath.

We always take First St. to get to Whittier Blvd. as one of our favorite houses in the city is there. But I’m dismayed to report that the vines have been plucked on the formerly eye-boggling ‘grapes house’ which used to look like this…

… but sadly now looks like this:

Don’t start me…

Thank God, further down the street some old movie theaters with original neon still survive.

It took all our strength not to stop and see what the Valentine’s Day decorations looked like inside Unique Dollar but we had limited time so kept driving.

I absolutely love store names like this:

Here we are at Whittier Boulevard. As soon as you turn onto the street you know you’re in for an excellent time warp experience.

Perhaps you should have the great 60’s guitar anthem, “Whittier Blvd.” by Thee Midnighters, on as a soundtrack while you tour the street with us. Press the following if so:

Charles and I were starving before we even left the house. We almost stopped here at the ‘they-don’t-resemble-Shaq-and-Kobe-other-than-they’re-big’ Bionicos food truck:

But luckily, Charles knew a “great Mexican restaurant full of pigs” just down the street.

The photorealistic food on all the windows was beautiful but all the rest of my window shots had too much glare to post.

Porky’s was definitely filled with pigs.

The menu was thrilling and pig filled too…

… though neither one of us ordered any of that particular animal.

I was especially impressed that the salad Porky’s served Charles consisted solely of radishes and lemons. I say save time in the kitschen and leave it at that.

When we left we would’ve stopped at the dress shop next door…

…but we were too excited to get across the street and go here:

There’s lots of excellent merchandise like this inside Whittier Crafts:

There’s also an abundance of carefully crafted and spelled signage:

Speaking of signage, there’s vintage overload in this part of LA:

There’s also incredible architectural detail like this 1950’s cement block facade…

… and this excellent 1960’s tile motif which I wish you could see closer than this photo I took. It’s like an explosion of vintage flooring but on a building.

Whittier Blvd. is definitely known for the automobiles that cruise it.

These were all within a two block radius of each other:

I wonder where the people who rented this limo were going?

I’m going to guess A. Torres Tuxedos as starting at :34 that’s where all the action took place when this classic car parade was shot.

Just a few blocks from A. Torres is this 1930s tamale shaped building. It used to be a Mexican restaurant.

You can see how the tamale ends twist at the sides of the building:

Whittier Boulevard has quite a few incredible old Deco buildings like this:

At the other architectural end, I love when business facades don’t quite live up to their names.

But even more, I like when a business is named one thing on one sign and something else on the other.

And even more than that I like when a store’s displays have nothing to do with what their awning says they sell.

Although this isn’t on Whittier Blvd. we passed it when we headed back to the freeway. In a city where spectacularly detailed murals abound, this is the one that makes our kitsch hearts sing:

Maybe you can appreciate it more if you see it closer:

Although we usually like to stay out past dark to catch all the neon, both Charles and I had places to go Saturday night so we headed back  early. Although I wish I could end with the penultimate kitsch shot, there’s absolutely nothing kitschy about this one other than the brains of the occupants.

I’m not sure what goes on in Dyersville, Iowa but I sure hope it’s not a factory that specializes in turning out coffee mugs as this is one of the most seriously ugly ones I’ve ever seen. And, trust me, as a purveyor of kitsch I’ve seen a lot of them. If this is truly “Where Dreams Come True”, I hope that at least one Dyersville citizen is dreaming about a new coffee mug design.

The trees are in relief so your fingers bump up and down as they rest on the cup. There’s a layer of nice green ones that are then mysteriously covered over by a layer of brown and dead looking ones. It actually looks like there was a more intricate design underneath but the bowel brown trees apparently appealed more to the artisan.

Okay, I just googled Dyersville and I think the mystery is solved! According to the Chamber of Commerce, Dyersville has a population of 4000 and is known as the Farm Toy Capital of the World.  I would suggest the next run of mugs should feature miniature tractors and the like but that will never happen because of this: “Dyersville is also the home of the Academy Award nominated film, Field of Dreams.” Which explains the over-forestation on the coffee mug. Though I believe that a field consists of a patch of cleared land. Next time I hope someone mows the mugs before they hit the shelves.

As a devoted kitschmeister supreme, I can think of no greater honor than to be captured as a foodstuff and enjoyed as a most scrumptious meal. So thank you, devoted aKitschionado Denny Mclain, for molding me as a meatloaf and cooking and eating me Sunday night for dinner!

Denny has excellent taste in kitsch and has submitted literally thousands of precious pop culture artifacts to the Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch at We met for the first time last summer.

For anyone else who might want to enjoy me in ways other than through my music, art, videos, friends or other more normal avenues through which to experience an artist, here in Denny’s own words is his blow-by-blow recipe for engaging with me as a meatloaf.

“I decided to immortalize Allee Willis in the form of a meatloaf made with low fat ground turkey.”

“I started with a blueprint.”

“Low fat ground turkey is a meat we eat all the time in my house but this is the first time I ever tried treating cooking as an art form. Here we have some primary ingredients such as feta cheese (which gets mixed into the meat), Lipton Soup Mix (thrown in for a bit of flavor!!) the meat itself, some bread crumbs and pesto sauce. All of the ingredients here get mixed into the meat.”

“Musco Family Olives used for Allee’s glasses and eyes (for the pupils). Just take a handful and chop them up but not too fine!”

“The brussell sprouts are used for Allee’s eyes. Take two, cut in half and use the rounded halves for the eyes. The zucchini you see here is used for Allee’s hair. Take a veggie shaver and shave long strips to lay on top of the meatloaf to simulate the folicular goodness that is our Queen of Kitsch’s trademark do.”

“A bit of egg thrown in to help it stick together. The baby carrots were used for Allee’s lips. Take your veggie shaver and shave the carrots and in the meantime, try not to drop several on the floor in the process. Then when the meat is mixed together, gently shape and mold the meat into whatever person you want to eat…”

“…in this case , our Queen of Kitsch, Allee Willis!”

“Please note the chopped olives used for Allee’s glasses and pupils.”

“Stick Allee into the oven and cook her at 400 for about 40 minutes.”

“And voila! Presenting The Queen Of Kitsch, Allee Willis!”

“Serve on appropriate vintage Atomic 50’s dinnerware, in this case Royal Star Glow China.”

Thank you aKitschionado Denny! I am most honored to be preserved  and enjoyed as a meatloaf. I pride myself on always looking tasty and appealing but you have taken me to new heights and temperatures and for that I am ever grateful (and hungry).

I’m always amazed how all these pickled vegetables end up perfectly arranged in a bottle let alone in a glass high heel shoe. I never understood how ships were stuffed into bottles so I certainly don’t get how perfectly dissected relish foodstuffs end up stacked as precisely as Busby Berkeley dancers in glass enclosures. This high heel needs to be a segment on the Science Channel’s “How It’s Made”.

Weighing in at 4 lbs. this is no delicate little ladies foot!

Although the detail of the pearl ankle bracelet is quite the feminine touch:

In fact, all the details on this fashionable hors d’oeuvre stuffed foot are pretty fantastic. I love that they even allowed extra glass for the sole:

But why wasn’t this a pearl onion and caper stuffed heel?

Although that would’ve taken away from the perfect arch of the vegetables:

And how long did it take to hand stuff all those pimentos?

My whole life I’ve pretty much gone through phases of only wearing a certain type of shoe for a period of years and then flip to something completely different. From tiny tot through my teenage years my fascination was with penny loafers, white bucks and patent leather T-straps.

I know it’s hard to see that that’s a penny loafer but trust me, it was.  With a dime inserted into the penny slot, never a penny. Every now and then, saddle shoes would creep in.

But the big saddle shoe phase didn’t really hit me until I started writing songs in the 70s.

I believe “September” was written in those very shoes. They were red and white. I had every possible combo of saddle shoe – red and white, brown and white, blue and white, black and white, white on white, brown on beige, many in suede as well as leather, and all as vintage as possible. I still have big plastic boxes filled with at least 40 pairs of them that I wore exclusively from 1974 through ’79.

The only time I ever really wore high-heels was when I went to school dances. My feet were always as uncomfortable as I was, toting around the gallons of hair piled on my head.

For the last decade or so I’ve been obsessed with Nike Zoom Flights like these:

Only one of my shoe phases have ever included high heels, beautiful vintage 1950’s ones, but if forced to wear them again, a pair of these hearts of palm, carrot and pimento ones would be what I would wish for.

I’m happy to report that my own recently operated on left  knee is finally allowing my leg to return to its natural state such as modeled by this fantastic “First Leg ‘O Trip’ Washington souvenir pen. Although my own appendage is not as shapely and slim as this perfectly poised on-point gam, it’s just about at the point of where it looks more like an ‘I’ than a ‘V’ and is allowing me to hobble around rather than setting up permanent camp in bed.

I have no plans to go to Washington but, rather, to Detroit, the trip that I suspect sent my knee into hyper-gear and caused my meniscus to rip. Not known for my disciplined exercise regimen, in April I’m heading to the Motor City, my hometown, to conduct my high school band playing a medley of my greatest hits in the lobby of the historic Fox theater before a performance of the musical I co-wrote, The Color Purple. In efforts to bounce around as if I were four decades younger, I got a little overaggressive as I rehearsed, conducting every TV commercial that came on and threw my knee so out of whack it was a lesson blaring in neon signage that one can never let themselves turn so fully into a couch potato that they’re more likely to grow sprouts before being able to function as a fully exercised human being.

Why, you might ask, was I rehearsing to TV commercials when I’ve actually written the songs that are to be performed?  That would be because I never learned how to read, notate or play a stitch of music so even if the Mumford marching band arranger scanned his arrangements onto my skin I’d have a better chance of deciphering Chinese than the musical notes and rhythms before me.

So long ago I developed my own technique of being able to jump on a note and rhythm at the first milliseconds of its sound so that it might appear I know what I’m doing. I’m the same way with melodies. Nine times out of 10 I can sing along with something despite never having heard it before. It’s a weird skill I know but I can’t say it hasn’t come in handy:

But back to the leg at hand:

I love my little leg pen and, if I remembered where I put it after I shot these photos, I would have most definitely had it at bedside to psychologically aid in my recovery. That’s one of the beauties of being a collector. The objects around you aren’t just there because that’s what ought to be sitting on an end table or where there’s a chair there’s also an ottoman. The objects and you are one, all manifestations of energy in a world that’s largely up to you to create. Now it’s my job as a diligent patient, and one who has a marching band to conduct to boot, to manifest having a left leg as strong and shapely as my souvenir Washington leg pen and to stay on point forever.

Thank you all for taking this weeklong knee/leg journey with me. It actually made it feel like fun and that’s a lot to be said for surgery! This is, indeed, the ‘last leg’ of this journey.

I’ve been blessed this past week to have great friends grace my bedside and nurse me through knee surgery, dressing up as nurses themselves for my amusement. Nancye Ferguson was one such nurse in training as I took my first steps a couple of days ago:

As nice as Nancye’s medical uniform is – a shower cap from the 99¢ store and paint mask and gloves from Home Depot – it’s nowhere near as up to code as nurse Jean Craig’s:

But as up to code as nurse Jean Craig’s education may have been to earn a graduate degree, there’s actually very little mention of it or anything else medical in this book. In fact, most of the time at Gallop Memorial Hospital Jean’s eyes are focused more on romance than on a heart monitor:

In fact, one of the only prominent mentions of illness is on Page 1:

Some of Jean’s time in Elmhurst, Conn. was spent drawing:

I wish there were more drawings in this book but sadly, in 1950, the World Publishing Company of Cleveland and New York only sprung for graphics on the cover and one across from the title page:

Even the back of the book is vacant of Jean, though there is some medical specimen from the book’s previous owner present:

Luckily, no strange medical specimens have impeded my progress and I’m happy to report that I have been hobbling around sans crutches for most of the day yesterday and today. My knee is an almost open and shut case for speedy recovery!

With a mind to sanitary conditions, Nurse Jean and her fellow graduates wore nice, long uniforms that covered their knees.

Which means they never had to worry about having a knee that looked like mine this past week:

Thankfully, Nurse Jean and Nurse Nancye’s services are close to never being needed again as my left leg is looking forward to returning to its former lovely self within days!

I’ve laid in bed two days now nursing my just-operated-on knee back to health.  As someone who literally never sits still, I’ve been a fairly model citizen since the surgery to repair a torn meniscus on Tuesday. Portable electronics certainly help and my love of bad television has been an excellent babysitter. But, most of all, I have excellent friends who have come to visit me and partaken in some spectacular photo ops:

(L-R) Nurses Prudence Fenton and Charles Phoenix and patient Willis.

Nurse Maxine Lapiduss also came by and dropped off some excellent homemade Moraccan stew, unfortunately not featured in this photo but very much featured in my stomach last night:

Don’t ask me what’s going on under my blanket to give it such peculiar formation. Perhaps one of the cats was snoozing under there at the moment this was snapped. I certainly don’t want anyone to think I’ve expanded to the following from munching on Saltines, Ritz crackers and applesauce these last couple of days:

But, back to matters at hand – my beautiful 1960’s Ben Casey and Dr. Kildare daily diarys. Both this blog and the aforementioned portable electronics have dispensed with the need to keep track of my progress in an old school diary, as well as those innermost thoughts that come when one loses all the privileges of physical freedom. When I was 12 years old and had my first surgical procedure, the removal of an ingrown toenail by Dr. Smellsy (would you choose to be a foot doctor if that was your last name?!),  I wrote all about it in my Ben Casey diary.

Were this my actual diary from my youth I would show you what I wrote inside, probably wishing that the boy I had a crush on because he was one of the only people taller than me in school would come visit me in my toenailless state.  This diary, however, was purchased a couple years ago on eBay where I also found its perfect mate, a Dr. Kildare diary.

Dr. Kildare was on TV the same years as Ben Casey, 1961-66. There was a clear-cut division between Casey lovers and Kildare lovers, the former doctor being brooding, dark and handsome and the latter clean-cut, blonde and smooth. Although at the time I definitely preferred the Type A personality, brunette Dr. Casey – he looked more Jewish –  I’ve definitely rescinded my vote in recent years and hopped over to the Kildare side.

Let me tell you, Dr. Kildare, a.k.a. Richard Chaimberlain, is still rockin the smooth. So much so that I would’ve loved to take him into the operating room with me. It would’ve given me so much to write in my diary about!

But for now, I’m just excited that Dr. Stetson, my excellent knee surgeon, did such a good job. He may not have had his own television series and things like diaries, walletspencils and cufflinks made in his likeness, but ultimately I’d rather have a functioning knee than a functioning Thumpy any day!

I’m happy to report that I’m making a swift recovery from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in my left knee yesterday. I still have all the festive bandages on that were my medical souvenirs, but within a week or so all will be removed and I can scale back to the dainty little strips that normally cover cuts and scrapes.

Back in the 1950’s when this Band-Aid box cranked off the assembly line, it was important to be stylish at all times, even when dressing gushing wounds. This box made going to get a bandage in the bathroom a very cheerful and almost glamorous journey.

Even the packaging of the individual bandages made it look like having a cut was some reason to celebrate. If only that artwork were on the bandages themselves…

Band-Aid boxes were great back in the day, made out of that pristine white metal that always made you feel like a starched white nurses uniform was hanging in the room. Not the thin, ratty cardboard wrappers that surround such products these days, the old stock was meant to aesthetically comfort anyone who had the need or bleed to dip inside, happy families made even happier that a Band-Aid was currently in use amongst them.

Made, of course, by Johnson & Johnson, Band-Aids have always ultimately won my heart. I still experiment with other brands as one of the most thrilling things in the world to me is standing in the medicine aisle of a big drug emporium and trying to find sizes and shapes I don’t have so that I’m prepared for any foreign object or circumstance that may befall a body part. But when I need a sure-fire hit it’s always J&J.

At present, the bandages on my knee are substantially larger than any contained in this box of sheer strips:

The good news is that I have excellent nurses on hand to swap out the ice packs over my bandages every half hour: Nurse Charles Phoenix, who came bearing a hand brace wrist corsage for my sprained wrist (yes, two injuries!)…

… 24 hour nurse Prudence Fenton

… and nurse Niblet who’s about to nibble my wrist corsage:

And excellent news is I’m told that in just a few days I’ll be back (gently) hopping around and all I’ll need are a few tiny Band-Aid sheer strips!

Today I’m having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in my left knee. The operation, a relatively quick outpatient job, was supposed to occur on my right knee but after putting the surgery off for over a year and a half I favored the good leg so much that literally the day I finally scheduled the invasion the good knee went eeewwwrrripppp!!! and snapped just like the other one.  Calling Dr. Casey!!!

My doctor should only be as comely as Vincent Edwards, a.k.a. Dr. Ben Casey!

I know my injury occurred because I finally got into exercise mode a few months ago when I was invited back to my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, to conduct the 350 member marching band in a medley of my greatest hits at the Homecoming football game last October.

I got even more aggressive in my exercise routine when I found out I’m going back to Detroit to conduct my high school marching band playing my greatest hits in April at the historic Fox theater before a performance of my musical, The Color Purple. My high school was made famous in Beverly Hills Cop when Eddie Murphy wore a Mumford High T-shirt throughout the film.

I also received a Grammy for Best Soundtrack for BH Cop so my songs, “Neutron Dance” and “Stir It up”, are inextricably linked to my high school forever. As someone who’s main exercise has always been walking back and forth to the refrigerator, I went into overdrive conducting every tv commercial that came on, every YouTube video of any school band doing one of my songs, anything that could help raise my stamina so I’d be capable of jumping around and flailing my arms for 20 minutes straight. But I guess I just got too excited and ripped my other meniscus in the process, thus proving what I had told myself my whole life: exercise is the devil! (despite me being on the cover of the very first Richard Simmons exercise album, which I also co-wrote and produced. How kitschy is THAT?!!)

This previous no exercise philosophy of mine allowed me to sit on my ass much of my life, which allowed me to watch much television, which in turn allowed me to obsess over Dr. Ben Casey.

My knee surgery will probably be over by the time you read this and Vicodin will be swirling around inside, enhancing my enjoyment of Keeping up with the Kardassians, King of the Hill and all the other TV pacifiers I’ll  no doubt be sucking on once home. Too bad no one has thought to air reruns of Ben Casey.

I always thought that Dr. Casey’s mentor, Dr. Zorba, was very wise, albeit very shrivelled.

I’m glad that ol’ shriveled Dr. Zorba is still watching over Dr. Casey’s shoulder, though he looks ever more attractive now that he’s drenched in so much shadow:

I always loved when the man, woman, birth, death and infinity symbols were drawn in the opening titles of the show:

I’m happy to see that Dr. Zorba’s handiwork made it onto the wallet too:

I haven’t had a chance to clean the wallet yet. It looks like some biological specimens may have been left over from the former owner.

As such, l will most certainly not be carrying my Ben Casey wallet with me to the surgery center. I hadn’t planned to anyway as we all know that operations aren’t cheap and there’s only enough room for a few dollar bills in this wallet anyway.

I’m hoping that both Dr. Casey and Dr. Zorba’s spirits will be looking over my doctor’s shoulder when he goes to work on my knee. I hope my doctor has as excellent surgical skills as the young and dashing Ben Casey as I’m looking forward to having my knee back and doing spirited marching band formations around my living room very soon.

A happier leg makes for a much happier Allee!!

As a collector of kitsch for decades now with a particular love for popular television shows, there’s nothing better than having the real thing who made the real thing in your presence. Such was the case when Susan Olsen, a.k.a. Cindy Brady, the youngest, cutest, blondest Brady in the Bunch, walked into Willis Wonderland last Friday afternoon. And she came bearing one of her signature Christmas cakes, which is how we came to know each other in the first place as she posted her kulinary kitsch koncoction in The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch over Christmas.

Susan spent over a month (extra kitsch point #1) making these rum soaked (extra kitsch point #2) fruit cakes (extra kitsch point #3). And her description of them was hysterical too. It was an even better sign when I saw the way she prepped her photos. In the land of kitsch, detail insets are most impressive:

I got especially excited when I saw all the snowy peach fuzz that surrounded Susan’s elves:

But the elves on the cake she brought me needed no such extra set decoration as they got down to enough business on their own:

I was actually introduced to Susan by my Facebook friend and most dedicated aKitschionado at The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch, Denny McClain. We made sure to give him his props before we did anything else:

Our hooking up was also facilitated by another Facebook friend, Steven Wishnoff, who accompanied Susan to Willis Wonderland. I immediately offered them a snack as I had something amazingly fitting for this most kitschous of occasions:

Any of you smart and dedicated enough to subscribe to my blog will recognize that we’re holding a piece of King’s Hawaiian Bakery Rainbow Bread that I bought a loaf of last weekend on my Sunday drive with Charles Phoenix. This is possibly my favorite food discovery of the century so far.

It was perfect as Susan actually came dressed matching the bread:

We were all most anxious to see what happened to the color swirls when the bread was toasted, hoping they would get even brighter with a little bit of heat. We were sorely disappointed:

But that didn’t stop us from slopping on some peanut butter and jelly and enjoying a delicious grill stripped rainbow mini meal.

We spent a lot of time walking around Willis Wonderland as Susan and Steven had an excellent sense of kitsch.

I had much Brady Bunch memorabilia out…

…but I stupidly forgot to ask Susan to autograph anything. Luckily, before we met she mailed me a copy of a book she co-wrote about the making of one of the most exquisitely cheesy television specials ever made, The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.

If you’ve never seen it, RUN to YouTube now!!

Thank God, Susan autographed the book so I didn’t feel tooooo bad about the missed opportunities for my aforementioned Brady treasures.

All in all, we had a most Brady day!

I’m hoping next time we get together Susan will make me one of her signature Flufftinis.

Afterall, there’s SO MUCH we see eye to eye on.