So revolutionary and popular were miniskirts in the 1960’s that a plethora of accessories were made for them. This “Original Mini- Skirt Accessory” is easily one of the more insane ones. I guess the object was to remind you you were wearing a miniskirt when, clipped to the hem line, the little ball swinging from the 1-1/2″ long chain bounced or tick-tocked against your knee with each step.

The manufacturer, listed nowhere on the product or card it’s attached to, was trying to combine two late 60’s trends into one – miniskirts and peace symbols, often worn by two different groups of teenagers and young adults.

I think the nameless company needed to be a little more generous with the 1-1/2″ length of the tickler if, in fact, it was to hit the knee. The only way this would’ve reached there was with a full-length above-the-knee skirt, totally taking ‘mini’ out of the equation. I’ve enhanced the Knee Tickler to about three times its actual size to demonstrate:

It would actually take ten Knee Ticklers to reach the knee were it attached to an actual miniskirt. I mean no copyright infringement to McCalls but I’ve doctored the image to demonstrate. The Knee tickers are almost double their real size because they’d be too small to see.

I always love a product that merely capitalizes on a craze as opposed to serving any real function. And regardless of whether the little gold ball bangs against your thigh or knee, I would think it was less of a tickling effect than a bruising one after it slapped against your skin all day. It would make a better lapel pin anyway.

But then it never could’ve had such a spectacular name.


This Tootsie Palette is one of the first things I found in a thrift shop after moving to Hollywood in 1976. I was so excited I could finally have feet like the stars!

Well, at least toes like the stars if I ever got it together to slide my tootsies into this awkward little gadget with the adjustable toe dividers.

Thank you to the as-requested-unnamed foot model for this little demonstration:

As the package says, you can even romp around in your Tootsie Palettes while your little tootsies are drying.

But that means you have to slip into the “portable” Tootsie Palettes also included.

And that means only half of your foot is given support should you choose to change locations while your little piggies are drying. But not to worry as the instructions make it clear they won’t fall off your feet because the black velvet ties “Hold With a Single Turn…NO KNOTS Necessary.”

For anything to demand that many capital letters I would expect a revolutionary, newly patented fastening method. But as you can see from the rhinestones and their quite normal backings, if you don’t knot the straps not only will you get blisters on the bottom of your feet from the half-only palette but also risk skin burn when you rip the tape off your feet you’ll need to hold these things on.

But despite straps that are barely long enough to knot and a piece of hard plastic that causes arch pain if worn long enough, it’s hard not to get excited about a foot beauty product that’s this excited about itself:

Although I love the little Toosie Palette logo, the shape could have easily been adapted into both a palette and a foot. From this…

…to this:

But aside from whatever deficiencies it might have, I think the “Styled In Hollywood” Tootsie Palette is about as great a Hollywood inspired kitsch product as there is.  Why aspire to be great, to be gifted in the creative arts, to win an Oscar, to rise above all the obstacles in your path to achieve greatness when you can just have beautifully polished toes?

I was so excited to use my new Japanese-by way-of-China Banana Slicer I ran to rip the package open as soon as I got it home.

But not before I enjoyed the rash of bad translations I always look forward to seeing on these kind of products that flood dollar stores here in the States. The cautionary bullet points on the back of the package are usually very helpful.

I promise not to use the Banana Slicer for anything other than slicing bananas. It doesn’t seem to be especially practical for use as a comb. I will not put the item on the side of a fire but how about in a fire? I also won’t bring it close but close to what? And what is a government divis? And the last time I had a brain in my head I interpreted “please keep this package” as the same thing as “without throwing it away”. I promise will have no trouble keeping the package without throwing it away.

I’ve never heard of a salad crêpe before. Seems like it might get a little soggy.

Is a crêpe the same as a crape?

I love how “Banana Slicer” is translated into so many different languages in case the banana shape of the slicer and the sliced bananas below the translations don’t make its purpose clear enough.

Now on to the actual artistry created with the Banana Slicer. First, position the comb I mean Banana Slicer over the banana.

Apply pressure and slowly push the slicer through the fruit.

Keep pushing.

Once penetration has been achieved, flip your Banana Slicer over to reveal the slices.

One would hope that the slices would just roll free but go wash your hands now as you must prod the fruit free from the teeth.

Look at the lovely banana slices!

Now, wash the Banana Slicer and keep it with your Portable Banana Keeper.

Thank you, aKitschionado windupkitty, for your generous contribution of one Banana Slicer to the personal collection of The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch.


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.



I used to love back scratchers as a kid, the long skinny brittle plastic kind that the hand snapped off of if you jerked them along your back too fast. I always loved the little lifelike looking clawed hands, fingers curled for maximum scratching action. I remember the first time I saw one of the battery-operated ones. I had already been made aware of similar looking battery-operated things though those didn’t have aluminum arms and teeny little hands attached to them. And none of them were near as elegant as this tiger skinned vibrating gadget.


One of my favorite things was that the little hands and fingers had such incredible detail to them. From a Kitsch POV, I like this one even better because in order to make it look like a tiger paw, the fingers have taken on the look of little kernels of corn and the palm looks like it has a big blister in the middle of it.


Once assembled, the tiger paw back scratcher is almost 18 inches long.


The base of it is really heavy, making it uncomfortable to scratch yourself for too long.


I haven’t interacted with my vibrating cordless electric Tiger Paw in quite a few years. I really only stumbled across it because I was combing through my decades-old-and-counting Kitsch kollection looking for jungle themed items to go along with my just released “Jungle Animal” song, video and game with Pomplamoose that’s racked up over 80,000 views on YouTube in less than two days.


I’ve spent the last few months working on this thing, hunched over my desk, breaking my back. So the Tiger Paw is going to stay close at hand now and keep me company as I can definitely use a good scratch every now and then.



Most people have a laptop or desktop computer and, if they’re lucky, a few terabytes of storage. I have 42,000 terabytes, the ever-growing result of owning one of the first networked houses in LA and being terminally digital dependent. I put the network in in 1991 when I connected all of my then three Macs and got online. This was still in the day when 97% of  the world’s population and 99.9% of the entertainment industry either never heard of the Internet or thought it was the dorkiest medium possible and would “never catch on”.  But I was clear that for me it was the road to ultimate self-expression, a way out of  being under the thumb of media conglomerates who controlled when and how I could express myself via my career. I was always a vociferous documenter and archivist so once that network went in my house it grew by leaps and bounds to this very day when my “laptop” looks like this:


As such, I oftentimes long for the simple days when the Coleco “Quiz Wiz” Answer Game was the only commercial computer around. Although even this gadget intimidated me when I got it in 1981 so I have no idea what gave me the confidence to attempt to maintain 42,000 TB and counting. But for the past 20 years I’ve been a slavish enabler to this gangling system that could run a country. And, in fact, the country known as Willis Wonderland ground to a screeching halt when the backup battery failed last night and shorted out the whole network leaving me with no connection to anything –  my files, the Internet, i.e. my life.


The “Quiz Wiz” only required that multiple choice questions be read out loud from the quiz book that accompanied it, and  answers by up to four competitors be given by pressing the big fat A, B, C or D buttons. This is what I call easy computing.

As an answer to question number 906, the hottest part of the earth last night was in my server room, known affectionately as The Submarine because of its tin covered walls and lit portholes, because when my network hit the dust so did the air-conditioning.


As the correct answer to question number 615, based on the fact that a backup battery could cause the failure of the system it’s plugged into to protect,  my answer is “all”.


Although I’m not a sports enthusiast I know the answer to question 508.


And I have all of these answers down cold:


The Coleco “Quiz Wiz” represents the kind of computing that my overstuffed brain hallucinates about me embracing again. I know that will never happen and at least things like my iPhone, iPad, and maintaining a blog give me some freedom from the machinery I’ve hitched my star to since buying my first Apple Macintosh computer in 1985 and paying my secretary to to copy and paste things into it that I meticulously typed out for her to enter because I was so scared of it. By the time I bought my first PowerBook 170 the day it came on the market in 1991…


… my life and pocketbook were already being run by my network. Sometimes I wish it were being run by the Coleco “Quiz Wiz”.



In 1973 when the Ronco Miracle Broom sprung on the market half of the households in America started vacuuming their shag with this revolutionary cordless electric vacuum cleaner.  That’s reason enough to collect it now but with products like this, especially those made in the 70’s and especially in the genre of products sold on TV – the Miracle Broom was among the first of hard-sell filmed TV commercials hawking new and unique products birthing what would later be known as the infomercial – oftentimes the box was as good as the product that came in it. Not to say that this Streamlined Moderne-meets-70’s-modern looking gadget isn’t great in and of itself but the graphics showing suggested uses of the product are even better. Blown out color, cheesy furniture and excellence in hand modeling being some of the pillars of that greatness. Here’s one of my favorite shots:


The crumbs are SO over-exaggerated. I’d like to know who eats toast leaving crumbs this big and in this formation? Only a chipmunk or someone without teeth was capable of creating this mess.

For this shot Ronco spared no expense on the tablecloth. Then again, they wanted you to concentrate on the crumbs. Seems to me they should’ve called the toothless person back to create better crumbs though as these don’t seem that serious.


I love how the ashtray is overturned in this next one. Even more, I love the pattern on the tie of the man wielding the Miracle Broom. Even more, I love that Ronco was evolved enough to have men doing some of the cleaning.


I can’t figure out what spilled on the following car seat. It’s somewhere between Red Hots, vomit or that crumbled fauna stuff you buy at craft stores to make little trees out of.


The Ronco Miracle Broom was the stuff of legend in the 1970’s, a massive lunge forward in the revolution of products designed with style, convenience and innovation in mind that began in the post-World War II Atomic Age. I may have shed the shag carpeting over the years but the double D’s are always on hand to pop into my Miracle Broom whenever I’m too lazy to completely chew my toast.



Without question, these are by far my favorites of the 50 or 60 pairs of headphones that I own. Although of no use whatsoever in my recording studio as their sole purpose is to wear them to listen to the radio they still are the best looking set of phones I’ve ever seen.headphones-music-muffs_6724

I oftentimes wear these two-speaker-but-not-really-stereo Music Muffs when a collaborator is working on something that I either don’t view as crucial to the record or something I know it’s better to just let them run with without any kind of censoring from a collaborator. So rather than sit there and get annoyed or bored I just tune them out and listen to AM radio.


I didn’t bring my Music Muffs with me on my trip up north to work with Pomplamoose where I am right now racing to finish three SMASH songs as the voluminous amount of percussion instruments that I stuffed into my suitcase didn’t allow room for the precious radio headphones cargo.


Pomplamoose has their own headphones but there’s not enough inputs into their audio interface so only two people have the luxury of listening to what they’re harmonizing to.  The other person steers blind.


Most people couldnt work this way.  But this group, just like me, thrives on spontaneity and working within insane limits, all of which adds life to the music.  This always happens when one must rely on their imagination to create great sounds as opposed to their pocketbook or massive array of equipment.


Though I do wish my Music Muffs had made the trip as the hard drive that I tripped over that all the video was being directly recorded to is being rushed to the hard drive doctor as we speak. In the meantime, I’m writing this post and trying to stay calmmmmmmmmmmm without the aid and distraction of beautiful mono sound.


And we just keep on singing…

PompIMG_3308 headphones-music-muffs_2225


I can’t tell you how many of these little sewing gadgets I bought throughout my teenage and young adult years. The ads in the back of magazines for these always made it look like you’d be sewing like a fiend in no time. In actuality, all I did was constantly poke holes in my fingers and make incredibly messy seams and hemlines in all the clothes that I ended up ruining trying to use one of these things.


Just getting the thread in was trouble enough let alone attempting to do the fancy stitches it promised to magically do.


I had no idea what  most of these were supposed to look like in the first place but I’m sure they weren’t supposed to make the fabric pucker and snag the way my projects always ended up looking.


I actually never minded the mistakes because I always loved what these Magic Stitchers looked like –  part fishing lure,  part rocket  and part medical device –  so I ended up saving all of them and eventually used them in some kind of sculpture or art assemblage.


This one was bought from the J.L. Hudson Co., THE department store in Detroit when I was growing up.


Although this wasn’t one of mine but, rather, was acquired more recently on eBay, I remember this box well as Hudson’s is exactly where I used to purchase the multitude of Magic Stitchers that tore up my fingers and had me almost flunking Home Ec.

Magic-Stitcher_2174 Magic-Stitcher_2171


This is one of the few food related items that John Lloyd Young didn’t jewel at my place last Sunday when The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch & APLA hosted “Food for Thought”, the first ever exhibition of his brilliant Pop Kitsch art interpretations of iconically kitschy komfort foods. Had I remembered where I put it I may have used my Velveeta camera to take some fabulous photos that day.  Lucky for us I didn’t as you can actually see the work and the beautiful Pop Kitsch guests like RuPaul who came to view it much clearer then my little Shells & Cheese Dinner baby is capable of popping out.


John Lloyd’s eye-popping work costs somewhat more than the three Kraft box tops and dollar shipping and handling one had to send in to get this Velveeta Camera when it was made in the 1980’s. The 110 Kodak film cartridge is still inside…


…just as fresh as John Lloyd’s ever-glowing can of Spam.


Of course, my preference would be to dump the Kraft Shells & Cheese Dinner cam and go for John Lloyd’s Kraft Mac & Cheese “Dominoes”. It’s hard to a tell from this photo but he jeweled 100 boxes of it and toppled them out on a 16 foot serpentine table.


In 2006, the musical I co-wrote, The Color Purple, lost the Tony to Jersey Boys of which John Lloyd Young was the star and for which he won the Best Actor Tony.


We hadn’t seen each other since the round of award parties back then but a few months ago he e-mailed me out of the blue and asked if I was interested in writing some music with him. When he came over to talk about it he brought me a gift that he had just made, a jeweled box of Triscuits.


I went completely nuts for the box and encouraged him to keep on jeweling. What I saw over the next couple of months I considered brilliant works of Pop Kitsch art and I decided that presenting John Lloyd’s work would make an excellent exhibition as the first artist officially sanctioned by The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch.  My Tony loss to him already made a perfect set up for Kitsch. I also thought that his Pop Kitsch sensibility would inspire mine and make for some excellent party props like this sign I painted interpreting the junk food John Lloyd chose to honor in his work.


We both were hard at work up until the last minute before the guests arrived.


And arrive thank God they did as all proceeds benefited AIDS Project Los Angeles. Those who dug deep included Stu James (Harpo in The Color Purple), Lesley Donald (Buster in The Color Purple) and Jai Rodiguez,


as well as Mito Aviles, Chadmichael Morrisette and Tiffany Daniels (Squeak in The Color Purple) posing with John Lloyd’s very first jeweled piece, “Virtue” (not edible!)…


…and a couple hundred more folks who you can see you right here.

When it came to food there was delicious Moms BBQ House soul food versions of John Lloyd’s delicious jeweled food.

kfc peas

Here’s Charles Phoenix modeling the chicken, peas and mac & cheese with me, Sonny Ruscha Bjornson and Mark Blackwell:


“Food for Thought” was also an unbelievably great excuse to order the world’s largest home delivered pizza…


… and to float individual servings of cotton candy in the pool for guests to snack on.


Here’s a lovely display of Spam that accompanied John Lloyd’s bejeweled Spam…


… and the artist vouching for its edibility:


I must say that despite my lifelong dedication to junk food I never tasted Spam until I spiked a cube here. Not surprising to anyone who knows me I found it very tasty. But I digress.

All in all, it was a wonderful day both as a party host and as a conceptual artist. John Lloyd’s and my work melded into one big kitschified fondue and despite the fact that rain was threatened all week the heavens held up so our eyes and stomachs were able to ingest beautiful works of art that my Velveeta camera only dreams of capturing in their full glory.


For full documentation of the bejeweled food fest go here.

To see how the Los Angeles Times enjoyed it go here.

Photos: Melissa Manning for the Look Partnership LLC