All pretty self-explanatory here – Shalom, hope you’re enjoying this stretch of Hanukah, sit back and have a nice smoke with your Mogen David, wash it down with a matzoh ball and open another present.

There are no manufacturers marks on this vintage Shalom ashtray but I love the handpainted looking cigarette that looks more like a baton or African rain stick with delicate little curlycue smoke coming out of it.

I don’t encourage you to smoke but if you do at least park it where the Chosen People wish you well.

Happy present #5, 3 more to go!

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.

Last weekend I drove to Riverside to see a performance of The Color Purple, the musical I co-wrote. I tend to pick and choose the performances of the show I see based on how good the thrifts shops and vintage architecture is in the cities it’s playing in.

Riverside is only a little over an hour east of LA and has at least two blocks of nothing but thrift shops so that being a target city was pretty obvious. Besides, it gave me a chance to go to one of my favorite barbecue joints on the planet:

It’s always a good sign when your favorite joint is pushing your show as hard as the deep-fried turkeys and hams.

I discovered Gram’s Mission Bar-B-Que Palace, at the time in its original location two blocks west of where it is now, the first time I ever went to Riverside in the late 1980’s. Paul Rubens, a.k.a. Pee-wee Herman, and I took my van for a weekend thrift shop extravaganza. We stayed overnight at the famous Mission Inn, an architecturally historic hotel where Ronald and Nancy Reagan spent their honeymoon, and then, starting in Riverside, we hit every significant thrift shop between there and LA.  My bed at The Mission Inn was directly under an astronomically huge stained-glass window of Jesus Christ. I woke up about 8 am. with Jesus’s light raining down on my body, which now itself looked like a stained glass Jesus. This felt somewhat blasphemous as a Jew so I ran to a open window across the room to get some air and there, rising like a miracle before me directly across the street, was a big ass barbecue smoker with plumes of rib greased smoke billowing out of it. I can’t even tell you how fast we bolted down there.

The only thing better than the ribs, fried chicken, catfish, meatloaf, yams, greens, mac ‘n cheese and cobbler we inhaled was the bridge table next to us that was covered with an extra long shag fake fur chessboard and foot tall handcarved chess pieces. I know I have a rib grease stained photo of it somewhere but all I can put my hands on right now is a photo of the cover of the menu.

All categories of chewables featured on the cover are excellent at Gram’s.  By now, after all these years of coming here, I think I’ve only missed one thing on the menu:

Back to this trip, I left Gram’s stuffed like the pig that used to be attached to the ear and hit the thrifts. This spectacular 1950’s pushbutton ashtray was one of my more significant finds, especially as it was only $16 and I already own the matching desk fan and calendar.

Here’s Riverside on the ashtray:

For $1 I also got this incredible 1950’s beer and parfait glass.

Fish were a very popular design motif in the 1950’s.

Thank God, a few other things from the 1950’s abound in Riverside like these incredible vintage neon signs:

This sign isn’t neon but beautiful and 50’s nonetheless:

The matching restaurant is even better:

Thank God it was dark by the time I got back to the theater…

… because I parked just across the street and changed in the back of my van. I like having a van because not only does it accommodate any size of  thrift shop purchase but it’s a portable dressing room as well. This would not have been the case had I been driving this vehicle that whizzed past me on my way back to the theater:

All in all, my day was fantastic. The show, the food, the sights, the thrift finds, all fantastic. So what’s not to love about a day trip to Riverside? Especially when everything but a Pigs Ear awaits me.

The only thing green this vintage 1970’s terrarium has ever been home to is if some candy happens to come in a green wrapper. It’s never housed any plants, little rock gardens or anything else that one might find in a planter but, rather, has been a big, fat bowl of sweets its whole life. One might assume this only happens around Halloween but this candy bowl may as well be cemented to the floor as you enter my dining room for as popular a piece as it is.

No one has ever accused my house as being a haven for the health conscious. Candy abounds as sugar charged brains fit the mindset of Atomic design, not to mention a house that was built to be a party house year-round as mine was when it was built in 1937 as the party house for MGM. But one thing I can tell you about candy, unless a doctor has given you a skull and crossbones prescription for no sugar, even the staunchest vegan can’t pass up this candy bowl without dipping their hand in.

It doesn’t even look full in this photo but it can hold up to 25 pounds of candy with the lid on. I can’t take a photo of it overbrimming now as everything has been dumped out of it and put in little bags all ready to hand out for Halloween. I don’t dare leave the terrarium out on my porch as I can’t risk that some clown, avatar, angel or cowboy has a developed enough design aesthetic to know that the terrarium is the real treat and not the candy and takes that home instead.

Happy sugarcoated, caramel filled Halloween!

Revered as much for his marriage to cuchi-cuchi girl, Charo, as for his spreading the gospel of bouncy  Latin music and rhythm, Xavier Cugat led the band at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel and toney resorts around the world with his signature batons, one of which was real and the other of which was his pet Chihuahua. Cugat was a multimedia artist before his time, a musician, painter, cartoonist, movie star, business man and ladies man, husband of five steamy women, including the lead singer of his orchestra at its height, Abbe Lane.

Legendary enough to be mentioned in the third scene of A Streetcar Named Desire, his name frequently sprinkled throughout I Love Lucy, and even a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor named after him in an episode of The Simpsons, “Xavier Nougat”, Cugat  brought such exuberance and flair to a performance that his signature Tango, Rhumba and Merenge rhythms will forever be recognized, as will his self portrait caricatures.

You gotta love a guy who leads a band with a Chihuahua…

… and marries this:

Cugat was a happy man.

And I’m toasting him today.

There’s absolutely nothing right about this insanely cheesy Kahlúa “Udderly Delicious”plastic glass which, unfortunately, there’s no way of taking a photo of and showing all the brilliance of at once. At first glance, it’s just an incredibly cheap cup with the Kahlúa logo and some cow spots painted on it. Plus the excellent “Udderly Delicious” slogan. But then you peer inside and see the creature that the udders belong to with a nice frosty drink on its head and two toy bottles, one of which is unmarked, which makes no sense for something that’s a promotional item, rattling around inside on top of it.

As beautifully kitschy as this cup is, one sip from this thing and I would be over the novelty quick as plastic knocks against plastic every time you take a swig, making for an all too loud clunking sound happening way too close to your ear, not to mention that it looks like the bottles are going to fall into your mouth. All of which makes for a perfect kitsch drinking experience should you be up to the task.

Thank you, aKitschionado Denny McLain, for sending this Kahlúa kitsch my way. You are all the more “udderly delicious” for it.

I’ve always been intrigued with label design, especially when appearing on cans, as the designer has to take the roundness into consideration as well as the inescapable fact that only a portion of the design is going to be seen at any one time. But then imagine having to stack the cans so they become something else. The label still needs to retain its power but must also give power to whatever structure you’re using it to make. This weekend I had the honor of judging and announcing the winners at the Los Angeles Canstruction awards, a design contest that takes place in over 100 cities where designers compete using canned food as the building blocks to make a variety of giant objects.  After the contest, all of the food is donated to local food banks, so the quality of the meal provided in each structure is a very important criteria in judging its worth.

At first glance it might look like someone just plopped a bunch of cans on top of each other, but the four categories each object is judged on speak to the intricacies of building such a design. There’s also a winner in each individual category.

1) STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY – This is a killer category because all structures must be self-supporting. You can’t use 2×4’s or anything over half inch plywood to support the cans. The only materials permissible are quarter inch or less foam core or plywood, cardboard, Masonite or plexiglass, and those can only be used for leveling or balancing and not for load-bearing. As far as attaching things to each other, you can only use Velcro, clear and double sided tape, rubber bands, fish wire, wire, plastic ties and magnets, none of which can be visible. And absolutely no glue is allowed. So these things are really feats of engineering.

The winner in Structural Integrity category was “Cancave/ CANvex”, built by HMC Architects and Buro Happold Engineers. This structure used none of the aforementioned items to hold it together but rather, each row of cans was supported by the weight of the next to hold together.


The wave, however, was a little light on nutritional variety. It consisted solely of cans of Dole pineapple.


2) BEST MEAL went to “Not So Hungry Hungry Hippo” by RTKL Associates.

The hippo included lights and had the most appetizing collection of food: whole peeled tomatoes, cut green beans, mixed vegetables, ravioli, tuna, lychee jelly and Pringles.

3) BEST USE OF LABELS – The most creative use of graphically strong labels went to “CANucopia” by Perkins & Will.

It’s hard to see from the angle of that photo but brown cans of crushed tomatoes formed the shape of a cornucopia that food including my favorite, pork ‘n beans, spilled out of.


4) JUROR’S FAVORITE – This award went to the canstruction that best combined all of the above categories. The winner was “Can-on, Picture a World without Hunger” by Gensler and Arup, a giant Canon camera built out of black beans, peas, green beans and tomatoes. This design was really intricate. As I rely so much upon my Canon Elph to capture the images I feature every day here in Kitsch O’ The Day, I can tell you they got every little feature on the camera.

canstruction-camera_2722 canstruction-camera_2723

The structure also integrated technology. Two screens featured a  live streaming video of people looking at it as well as a presentation of images of people who will benefit from the food donations.


I don’t have that many vintage cans of food in my Kitsch collection. Of the few that I have, I’m most attached to my canned ham and my can of Popeye’s Spinach.

I had two cans of Popeye’s but used one in 1988 in my motorized art piece I built to match my song sung by Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield, “What I Done to Deserve This?”.


This piece is over 9 feet long and weighs close to 400 pounds. That’s because of all of this on the back:


You can actually see it moving here. You can see a nice close-up of the spinach can here.  You can see everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the art and music of “What I Done to Deserve This?” here.  But this post is about cans of food, not motorized pieces that I only have really crappy photos of. And it’s certainly about cans of food that held up better than the Popeye’s can I still have.

I have to assume that it’s the spinach itself that seeped through the tin and attacked the label. When you pick the can up it’s packed so tight the lids are convex at both ends. I know that’s not the way the spinach originally came when it was made back in the 1960s or 70s as I found this photo on the web of someone who actually measured how much spinach Popeye was packing. A full third of it was liquid.

I’m confidant that the food making up the Canstruction entries was all nice and fresh and not the kind that could blow the roof off of your house.


I was never into The A-Team when it came out in the 1980’s. But lately, as I flip through channels in the wee hours of the morning trying to find something to fall asleep to, I’ve gotten completely obsessed with the reruns on Centric. I love all the low camera angles as truck tires screech by and slam dirt into the camera and explosions blow up right in your face. The direction has a clear POV and things that hover near the ground get as many close-ups as the actors do. And, of course, there’s always Mr. T, whose memorabilia I’ve slowly but surely collected over the years – banks, gold chain bubblegum, coloring books, puffy stickers, lunchboxes, air fresheners, and this Mr. T radio I recently received as a gift.


I have no idea what the significance of the shape is but I love that there’s a wrist strap so Mr. T can always swing by my side.


I’m one of the few songwriter/musician types who actually loves to hear their own music coming out of something as lo fi as this. In the old days, before the mid ’90s, it was imperative to listen to mixes of your songs over really crappy speakers so you could hear them as the average person was going to hear them. Most people, including myself, had little Auratone speakers in their recording studios, all in an effort to hear which instruments and vocals were audible and which weren’t in case someone was still pumping the sound out of one of these little Mr. T-like pocket jobs. Here I am in my studio in 1981 with one of my Auratones.


To test how a record would sound out of a more expensive radio, I had my first boombox, the heavier-than-a-bowling-ball/ first-of-its-kind stereo Sony cassette player that all the guys in Earth, Wind & Fire had the day I met them and started “September”. I bought myself one the next day, a huge extravaganza as I was broke, but it felt like the musical waters were shifting and I was on the brink of my first hit so the purchase felt justified. So as soon as I’d finish a mix I’d  listen to it coming out of the Aurotones, then I’d pop a cassette of it into the fancy Sony and, last but not least, if I had any way of rigging an input into one of my transistor radios, I’d listen on that.  Just to the other side of the Auratone in the photo was my collection of vintage transistor radios. It’s not a tragedy that they’re out of camera range as Mr. T was not yet among them. These, however, were:


By comparison, my Mr. T radio is pretty down and dirty basic. It doesn’t have fancy rhinestone eye dials like the owl or a wing that lifts to reveal the speaker like the ladybug.  But it does come with a belt clip, which would be an excellent feature were it not for the fact that by using it the speaker holes would be jammed up against your body muffling what little sound this thing puts out in the first place.


These days people own Mr. T Flavorwave Turbo Ovens. I’m content with my 1983 A-Team radio and reruns.


Asian mariachi version titled “HALF OF CHEWING GUM BAND INSTRUMENTAL” by Nino, Chino and Paulo. They actually play it great despite the fact that a song consists of more than an intro. If it were me I’d squeeze in one more stringed instrument and move on to the verse and chorus. I always love when musicians play the melody in their head and assume the audience can hear it.

For a more through exploration of my “365 Days Of September” mission as well as details of how the song was written, go here. Until tomorrow, ba-de-ya!