Last weekend, me and Snappy P, a.k.a. Prudence Fenton, jumped into the mustache van and headed up north on a cat reconisance mission after AWMOK‘s own (human) windupkitty sent an email blast from Palo Alto about a very special (feline) kitty in need of adoption. Normally I try not to read these things as I already have a fairly dysfunctional fur family running around Willis Wonderland, but this time, also-AWMOK’s own Snappy P in Los Angeles had been looking for a very special cat who embodied the spirit of her recently departed tripod puss, Harpo, and windupkitty’s description that the kitty in need of a home had an extra wide head, gigundo paws and a few other physical and mental quirks put him squarely in Harpo territory. So off we rolled up the 5 in search of the perfect cat.

Any of you who have ever driven the 5 know that once you’re past Magic Mountain you might as well be tooling through middle America. Other than the too-steep-for-me Grapevine, it’s flat as a pancake most of the way, cows and sheep the only signs of life lest for copycat franchise food and fuel stops completely devoid of the vintage truck stops you wish were still there if you have a bone of taste in your body. For someone who’s thrilled to be in a car because of the potential to spot thrilling kitsch, the 5 is punishment. The good news is that to get to Palo Alto you have to cut over Highway 152 to connect to the ubiquitous 101. And 152 is a fabulous highway, my favorite in California, just long enough to not get antsy and filled with fantastic vistas like this:

You don’t even mind when the road narrows down to a single lane because that’s when cherry stands start to pop up out of the ground like dandelions after a torrential summer rain:

The Bing wasn’t open so we hit one of the other ten or so “pit stops” within a few miles.  I hope this one is pronounced Mamie’s and not Mammy’s:

I really wanted to stop at this place for ice cream, especially if the person making it is the same person who made the sign and decided not to finish off the “L” so it looks like gariic ice cream is for sale.

Once we hit the 101 it was smooth sailing despite a disappointing lack of kitsch.  However, the snacks awaiting us when we arrived at windupkitty’s in Palo Alto more than made up for it.

Rice Krispie Treats are infinitely better if laced with M&Ms. And a car ride is also enhanced if it occurs in the Batmobile, parked outside our hotel when we had (a non-Rice Krispie Treat) breakfast the next morning.

I’m happy to report that the reason for our trip, the cat relocation program, was indeed successful. Here’s a photo of me, Snappy P, windupkitty and the as yet still unnamed new member of the Fenton family right before we piled back into our (non-Batmobile) mustached van and headed back along the flat 5.


In the spirit of poodles this week, I may as well throw in this fantastically 50’s mother of pearl, sparkle bumped, handpainted poodle compact. I’ve never had powder packed in it but I tote around a variety of small items in the mirror lined case.

Those are original Brown Derby portraits reflected in the top half.

They won’t fit inside the case as it’s a petite 3″ x 4″.  Maybe that’s why the little 3-dimensional glitter tufts of poodle fur look and feel so good, making up in beauty and depth what they lack in stature.

This poodle is happy about her look, painted much more distinctively than most poodles of her decade. I like that her bottom lip looks like a clock hand.

If ever there was an animal created to look at its reflection in a mirror it’s this most distinctive of canines.

I’m actually thinking a lot about distinctive animals today as I’m writing a fairly  twisted kids song with Bleu McCauley and Jasmine Ash for a tv idea we have. We play a porcupine, skunk and platypus. Not that any of them are as attractive as poodles but our animals are very proud that they don’t blend into the kingdom as just another animal.  Just like us.

Although some poodles don’t just “blend in”:

Here’s to people, animals and artifacts that hover above the crowd, embracing their uniqueness, with no desire to head towards the over-trodden intersection of Boring and Blending In.

As I said yesterday, I’m not one to randomly collect poodles just because they’re an endearing and iconic symbol of the first totally modern decade to which I am ever beholden, the 1950’s. But it dawned on me as I adopted Fifi the wastebasket that she was a perfect mate for this Kleenex holder that’s been riding around in the back seat of my car forever, always there in my time of nasal need for at least the last decade.

I have a lot of these tin-or-whatever-metal-they’re-made-out-of Kleenex caddies but this poodle coiffeur one has always been my favorite. Somehow poodles fluffing themselves in front of mirrors has always seemed logical.

Despite this Fifi missing her rhinestone eyeball she’s still handpainted poodle-perfect.

Had I been the crafter I would’ve gone for tiny little rhinestones around her neck too. But I always admire how they never skimped on the amount of paint needed in order to portray the fur accurately. Though it seems like the bottom of the legs deserved an extra little furball too instead of leaving it at the little tongs that stick out now.

The feet on the Kleenex box itself did get that extra little bit of attention. I love the little air holes pricked into them, though I would hope that any kind of liquid spillage would occur on the tissues only after they were out of the box.

This past weekend LA was in bloom with garage sales. I’ve tried resisting these for years, especially since opening The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch at AWMOK.com, as not only do I have the thousands of items in my own kitsch collection to store but these days I’m the happy recipient of at least a few boxes a month that arrive stashed full of other peoples’ kitsch. But I was tooling down Fountain Ave. and there she was staring at me, the classic bathroom or teenagers room accessory icon of the 1950s, lovely Fifi.

I love her fur.

I’m not a big one for collecting poodles or flamingos or any other kind of animal artifact that became uber-ubiquitous in a former decade. When I see peoples’ places stuffed with these kind of things I think that they might only be collecting to have a proper 1950’s collection as opposed to just buying individual things because they love them. But Fifi was calling me so I drove my car around the block, pulled up in front of the sale and for five bucks, Fifi was mine in the space of one traffice light. She hopped in the front seat and matched her new surroundings well.

The car was a couple weeks past when it needed to be washed so as I drove home I picked up bits and pieces of things scattered around the car every time I came to a stop and fed Fifi til she was almost full. She looked so great with the two-tone green seats that I toyed with the idea of making her a permanent fixture up front. But I came to an abrupt stop when someone’s car stalled in front of me and Fifi flew up full force, hitting me in the head and dumping garbage all over me. Not at all like the neat and petite little Fifi and her lobster claw paws delicately balanced next to her flower pots.

So I realize she needs to be an in-house pet and spent much of the day yesterday walking her from room to room to see where she fit best. I’m happy to report she’s now very happy next to her same species magazine rack.

Burk’s Igloo in Hamtramck, the once Polish center of Detroit, not only has KILLER ice cream but is famous now for being in the opening titles of HBO’s Hung.

The menu is excellent:

So is the signage:

Here I am enjoying an excellent Igloo caramel swirl sundae with historic architecture preservationist Rebecca Binno Savage, who took me on a tour of the neighborhood.

I almost got this:

That kind of symmetry is hard to achieve. But the ice cream lady steered me the right way.

I would suggest everyone steer to 10300 Conant St, Hamtramck, 48212 for the ultimate stomach and eyeball experience.

Now onto Lafayette…

If you’re from Detroit or you love hot dogs and have visited Detroit, you undoubtably know of the war going on between who has the best Coneys, the institutional Lafayette Coney Dogs or American Coney Island next door.

I must preface all of this by saying that I’ve never even walked into American because it looks like one of those Johnny Rocket type retro places that recall the 1950’s in entirely the wrong way with a sparkling red, white and black soda fountain decor that has none of the soul of what it was really like in a diner dive back in the day. I know it’s been there even longer than Lafayette but I’ve always walked into 118 and not 114. I suppose American’s been redecorated but that’s blasphemy in and of itself when it comes to authentic junk food places. Lafayette, on the other hand, hasn’t changed an inch. And for that alone, the place deserves my hot dog loyalty.

I’m always going to go for the authentic looking place. It’s got soul that no amount of investment in brand spanking new shiny chrome and wrong shades of vinyl can ever produce. It’s also got lightning fast service performed by at least one waiter who’s not only been there most of his life but who delivers a spectacular array of magic tricks along with the dogs.

I hope you can see that the fork is hanging mysteriously in the air. It’s actually balanced on a toothpick that’s placed into a hole in a pepper shaker that’s stacked on top of a glass, with another fork also swinging on it.

This defies the laws of physics. So does this:

The challenge was to hang twelve nails off of the long screw poking out of the wood base.  I don’t care how long I stare at that photo or the fact that I saw Ali Faisel, the waiter, do it in front of my face.  I still can’t figure it out.

There’s one more trick on the table, right next to the toothpick fork structure.  Ten toothpicks, just laid out on the table, that come together as a star with the help of a little water:

Notice the vintage formica tabletop.  That’s what I love about Lafayette, that everything is seasoned with 70 years of chili, dogs and fries with no thought of changing anything that works. It’s because the dogs have that perfect snap,…

…the chili recipe doesn’t change,…

…and the waiters multitask.

That’s why I’ve always stuck with Lafayette.  But I understand it’s not fair to proclaim Lafayette the winner without ever having downed an American dog. So the next time I go to Detroit I’m going to wear sunglasses so the sparkly sheen of the new chrome doesn’t offend my eyes and sneak into American for a chomp down. God forbid anyone from Lafayette sees me I’ll never be able to show my face in there again. And, God knows, I’d never want that to happen.


Rarely do I celebrate someone getting their head blow on off but the jubilant mood around the world heralding the demise of the long skinny one with the poisonous manners is begging to be celebrated with the best patriotic crafts that kitsch has to offer. Here’s a small sampling of what’s available for sale as we speak on places like Ebay and Etsy. In most cases I’ve used the exact names the artists have given their work.

The Liberty Bell:


Flip Flop Sandal BEADS with Tiny Feet Handmade from Polymer Clay:

Patriotic Flip Flop Magnet:

Patriotic Pins and Beads Queen:

1966 patriotic Barbie patterns:

Overstimulated Patriotic Picture Frame:

Flag Saftey Beautiful Pin:

Drink-Holder—Red,White and-Blue:

Patriotic Dryer Lint Art:



Uncle Sam Mickey Latch Hook Kit:

American eagle bottle cap ecklace featuring unique night-glo:

Liberty Bell Pot Holder:



Independence Day decoration:

Patriotic American Red White Blue Pom-Pom Scarf for Indepence Day Memorial Day Photography Prop Adult or Infant:

Patriotic Horses:

Patriotic Clown:


Ceramic Bisque Uncle Sam Bloomer Bear, Flag included:

Go America!! Go Kitsch!

These are without question the mangiest chicks ever, that is if these feathery creatures are, in fact, “chicks”. Hard to tell in this little display diorama, whose elegant mirrored-inside swoop made the original owner kitschingly ecstatic when they bought this, most likely in the 1970’s or 80’s. Except people who buy things like this have no idea that something is so tragically off. They view it, instead, as a thing of beauty. The “chicks'” owner probably didn’t even wait for Easter to display them but, rather, kept them out all year, they were THAT beautiful to them.

In the 1950’s and 60’s there were little mink earrings and keychains that looked like the “chicks”. Little black dot noses and made of real mink.

The minks look suspiciously like the Easter “chicks”.

You could also make the argument that the “chicks” are French Poodles. After all, a tongue is a lot more appropriate for a dog than for a chicken.

But still, these were clearly sold on eBay as “Easter chicks”.

If you look really close you can see how sloppily the “chicks” are made.

I know, the shot is very blurry. But after trying to shoot it 25 times I gave up. The “chicks” defeated me. But you can still make out the dark bowling pin shape in the mirror behind the “chick”. The Gin Chaio company of Japan didn’t even go to the expense of  wrapping enough material around them to finish the “chicks” despite the fact that they’re mounted in front of a mirror! But I can understand that a person who thinks these “chicks” are beautiful enough to be encased, and that they’re, in fact, “chicks” to begin with, would miss something so basic as their bare backs. It’s enough that the “chicks” are beautiful. And that it’s Easter!

Happy Easter to all and may your chicks all be beautiful! (And actual chicks.)

We – Mark Blackwell, my ready steady videographer and “Allee Marches On Detroit!” planning partner – landed back in LA at 1 AM Sunday night after taking two planes from Detroit, the second of which was over an hour late getting out of Chicago. My body feels like it’s broken into 12,000 pieces – at least it’s down by a thousand from yesterday – because of the pace we raced at over the prior 168 hours of giving speeches, conducting marching bands and Broadway musicals, visiting family, school friends and meeting a whole load of soulful folks on the street who take great pride in the city they live in. But it’s one of those great broken feelings where you know you had a once-in-a-lifetime experience and are so grateful for fate tossing that your way, no matter how much you feel like a convoy of Mack trucks have run over you, every single ounce of oomph exerted is worth the present inertia. I feel like I have to stew in a hot bath for a week and then be pickled in a jar of lavender oil for a couple of days to feel like everything in my body is glued back together again. But the Dee-troit spirit running through me is so high I could walk on air without legs. Which is good given that my knees performed way beyond the call of duty given their relatively recent medical fate.

Everyone knows I have a love affair with my hometown.

Not only do I still see it as the Soul capital of the world, I see it as the potential model city of the 21st century. The whole world is feeling the ever-closing grip of a failing economy. I think Detroit, already on its knees because of greedy politicians and the stubbornness of the automobile industry to see the future more than a decade ago, has the potential to rise from the ashes in glorious fashion should the powers that be decide to peer out of artistic eyeballs as opposed to ones that only focus on bottom lines. That was the subject of the speech I gave last Wednesday at the Rust Belt to Arts Belt conference held in Detroit, something I’ll publish in this blog in a few days. But for now, back to my never-ending support of the underdog, or in this case, the overcow.

That exceptional roof ornament is but one of many astounding vestiges of Detroit past I saw tooling around the city this past week. Given my proclivity for photographing anything I see that’s interesting, I came back with thousands of photos. I meant to post something every day I was there but my schedule was too overwhelming and I didn’t want to break the holy spirit that melted down on me every day to the point that I would come back to my hotel room feeling like a boom box had been inserted inside me and the bass was threatening to blow my skin off.

So starting tomorrow I’m just gonna start on last Monday, the 4th, my first day in Detroit, and take you through day by day… actually, not even. I gave myself one day, yesterday, to decompress without reminding myself that if I’m to get anything done after a week that exhausting/exhilarating I have to start integrating my every day work life back into my days or it will all become too overwhelming. So I’m just going to take you through chunk by chunk over the next couple of weeks and eventually we’ll make our way through Detroit…


I have quite a collection of large framed vintage mosaic pieces and this massive 19″ x 33″ poodle is unquestionably one of the best in breed. First of all, with all of his gaps and glue blobs he’s obviously someone’s crafts project:

I also like all his bulbous tufts of fur:

I do wish he had little pink or red fingernails on his paws though. One splash of accent color always helps a visual.

I have a lot of other large framed mosaics, among them this homage to the World Of The Future that’s mounted on one side of my bedroom dresser:

Then there’s this homemade homage to orange tones that I use as a table top:

I used to use this hulking 20″ x 60″ blue and gold tile piece as a table top but I like it better sunken into the face of the counter that’s built over the foundation of my house downstairs in the rec room:

There’s also this fantastic bar tableau:

It’s the front of a homemade (not by me) bar I found for $5 at a thrift shop about 10 years ago.

There’s also this 9″ x 24″ musical instruments mosaic that hangs in my recording studio:

All beautiful, though it’s hard to compete with the personality of a well groomed poodle.

Especially this one that greets anyone who walks into my kitchen:

At that point in history, the 1960s, no more swag had ever been created for an American Presidency than for the first couple of Camelot, John and Jackie Kennedy. I have much of it, including busts, porcelain plates, copper plates, ashtrays, keychains and the like. But most of that is buried away and I’m too lazy to dig it out on a holiday. Here’s one that’s handy of a porcelain plate using the exact same image as on the creamer but for a new chair:

Here’s another of the exact same plate I have where the Kennedys have been replaced by a camper:

Many people would argue the Kennedys have never been replaced as a Presidential couple.

As you can see, the plate as American presidency was made in Japan.

My creamer, however, was made in the good ol’ USA. Squint and you can see it:

Here’s an idea of how tall the Presidential creamer is:

May we all stand tall this President’s Day (and have as nice of hair as the Kennedy’s)!