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”.



This game felt especially fitting because it’s supposed to teach you how to play by ear. Not only did I never learn to play by ear but I never learned to play period. Which makes the fact that my songs have sold over 50 million records a very kitschy thing indeed! I don’t suppose this game will help me, though, as there are no instructions included. I was never good at following instructions with anything anyway which is why just about everything I do is so spontaneous and free form. Which is what I loved about Pomplamoose when everyone started sending me links to their version of my song,“September”.   I sent them a message and asked them if they wanted to write something together, something I never do, but I thought they were so fresh and casual and inventive that it would be a good match. From the looks of their videos it looked like they already knew what this game had to teach.


A few weeks later in late December, 2009, Jack and Nataly, a.ak.a. Pomplamoose, drove down from  Northern CA. and we knocked out the healthy beginnings of six songs, shooting footage for the videos as we recorded.


We spent three more days together up north in June and are in the midst of a whirlwind day and half as we speak.  We have three videoSongs about ready to pop out of the oven, all of which I’m very excited about. They’re a fantastic blend of the similar in spirit yet very different styles we have.


If we took any breaks, which we don’t, I might try and figure out how to play “Maestro The Musical Bingo”. But I’ve always been able to keep up just by banging pencils together and humming into one of the four digital recorders and two cell phones that are always on me and singing higher than the illegitimate child of a BeeGee and a chipmunk.


One of the greatest kitsch aspects of “Maestro The Musical Bingo” is that in one place it says it was made in 1939 and in another 1940.


I find trying to learn anything that involves any kind of math memorization hard enough without starting off with a teacher who is so confused as to not know their correct date of birth.  But I can deal with this inconsistency because I’ve done pretty  well not going by hard numbers or knowing the rules.  So I think my involvement with “Maestro The Musical Bingo” is just to admire how pretty it is and let it sit here staring at me in my recording studio…


I will concentrate much more on writing great songs and doing great videos and, in the case of our first Pomplamoose with Allee Willis release, “Jungle Animal”, designing a spectacularly cagey and musical online music game and contest that will launch right before “Jungle Animal” comes out. This will hopefully be within a few weeks, whenever we can finish enough to put the puppy, or lion as it were, out there.


In the meantime should I find a spare a second I might try moving a few markers around and attempt to learn the names of the keys that my fingers fall on as I poke out tunes that come into my head. I doubt that I will make it far into the jungle known as musical theory but the important part is that whatever little animals I hum turn into songs and find their own way out of the jungle. Thus far I have led a pretty successful Safari, with or without a guide to assist me.



I can’t remember any game more popular than Cootie when I was growing up. But forget about the game itself, I loved playing with the little plastic body parts. I’m quite positive that the full-on-plastic-soaked-saturation of the pink Cootie legs is where my love of that particular color came from.


My house is the same pink:


So was my car:


I still get a thrill when I touch any of the Cootie contents today, especially those pink legs.


I’m sure that looking at all this saturated color all day when I was a kid influenced me as an artist. Here’s my very first art piece I made as a grownup artist in 1983:


It was a 5 1/2′ x  8′ collage of made out of (primarily) pink house paint, 70’s Ebony magazine clips and 50’s TV knobs. It was called “Dialated Pupils”.

Here’s a blurry photo of James Brown sitting in front of it when we worked together in the 80’s:


None of this has much to do with the subject at hand other than my life is filled with pink and there was no bigger fan of my memorabilia collection than The Godfather. But back to Cootie:

This particular Cootie game was the victim of a flood just weeks after Mr. Brown was over when some of my underwear clogged the drain that the washing machine dumped into.


The same flood ruined the my Beatles wig…


… but that doesn’t have much to do with Cootie either.

I don’t even really remember the rules of the game – I just liked twisting the little pink legs into the Cootie bodies. But I do remember not liking the directions because they were so slanted towards the dominant sex it was assumed would play the game:


Cootie, my house, my art, my car, James Brown, my Beatles wig –  this post is all over the place, just like the Cootie legs are going to be as soon as I pick this up:


As much as I loved/love those pink legs the Schaper  Manufacturing Company of Minneapolis, who made the game in 1949, never mastered a tight enough fit of them into the body holes. The last time I officially played Cootie I was 10, stepped on one of my beloved pink legs and slid into a bridge table with a cup of coffee on it, the contents of which dumped on my pristine white buck shoes forever staining them just like they had been in a flood over here all those years later.



I never really watched Murder, She Wrote during its run on CBS from 1984-1996. I was in a very heavy songwriting and technology phase and although I always had the TV on – or should I say TVs as I had 28 of them at the time, one against every wall in each room so I wouldn’t miss a moment – I never had the sound up. All I ever watched then anyway were comedies. I didn’t have the patience for any of the more complex murder shows. To appreciate and understand what was going on in them I would have needed the sound up and once that happened it became more about me listening to the score and looking at the hairdos and fashions than actually following the plot. Following the intricacies of a murder case demands concentration. Just like trying to figure out how to play the Murder, She Wrote game does:


I know the rules are too hard to read this small but I devoted 500 pixels to trying to make them readable and, in my opinion, anything that’s supposed to be played for fun should not demand this arduous of focus.

I also don’t like boardgames or books or any other kind of memorabilia based on something that began as a TV show when you don’t get an actual photo of the star.


Although this illustration kind of looks like a (Paint-By-Number) Angela Lansbury it also looks like 3 trillion other women who didn’t start using skin cream early enough and have always kept their hair in a convenient and generic bob.   I should know as I’ve seen the real deal Jessica Fletcher up close and personal when I was up for a Tony in 2006 for The Color Purple.


In 1995, Murder, She Wrote met its demise when CBS moved it to Thursday nights where it crumbled faster than a lame alibi against NBC’s reigning behemoth, Friends.  Normally I wouldn’t be happy to see someone as iconic as Angela Lansbury slide down the tubes but seeing as I wrote “I’ll Be There for You” (the theme from Friends) if someone had to win I’m glad it was who was paying me royalties and not the series that spawned this board game.

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Yesterday, iconic TV host Art Linkletter passed away. Even as a little kid Art seemed a little square to me but there’s no doubt that he pioneered many of the formulas of today’s TV shows with segments like celebrity guests, cooking, talking to kids and audience quizzes. His big two hits which between them ran from 1952 to 1970, House Party and People Are Funny, were massively popular. This ‘party game with cards’ spun out of the latter and continued in people’s living rooms what was so popular on Art’s shows –  getting everyday people to do dorky stunts like trying to cash a check written on a watermelon and make fools of themselves, oftentimes ending up with a pie in the face for failing. It’s obvious that Linkletter’s tactics are still very much alive on TV today.


As simple as the concept of the TV show was, the instructions for this 1954 game made by Whitman Publishing Company, known mostly for the books they made of popular TV shows, are exhaustive. I would’ve been tired from reading them and gone to sleep without starting the game.


But I think the gist is that one card describes an aspect of your character, the second your occupation, the third a hobby and the fourth assigns an attribute to all of it.


Then something like Charades happens. I swear I’d be in the kitchen baking brownies as I have no patience for long instructions OR Charades.


A little known fact about the TV show People Are Funny is that it pioneered computerized dating in 1956, matching up couples who answered questions from a Univac computer.


In the late 60’s, Art made this commercial for ‘Circus-Vac-In-A-Box’ Circus Nuts with his daughter Diane.


They also recorded this message about the necessity of clear communication between parent and child:


In 1972, Diane jumped out of the window and met her demise six stories down. Art then became a crusader for the perils of LSD.


I guess most people would show you a classic Art clip from his most famous tv segment on House Party, “Kids Say the Darndest Things”, but as an avid aKITSCHionado I must fast forward to 1990 and show you Art and his chairs.


So, Art, your time has finally come…


Your People Are Funny game caused people to think about themselves in different ways and try new things and I’m always in favor of that.


R.I.P. Art Linkletter.



I was already onto more sophisticated teenage fare like Hullabaloo and Shindig by the time Green Acres, a hokey journey into the countryside by two rich city slickers, came on the air in 1968.  But the hokier still theme song always stuck in my head so I was well aware of it. And there evidently was more to that theme song then there was magic glue or whatever it took for these “stay-on” clothes to stick to Eva Gabor/Lisa Douglas and Eddie Albert Jr./ Oliver Wendell Douglas (no garments for Arnold the pig) cuz they sho ain’t stickin anymore. Despite the directions, no amount of rubbing will get any of the 36 costumes that drop like dead flies as soon as you remove your hand to “stay-on”.


Everything in these Not So Magic Stay-On Dolls remains intact other than the plastic scissors and stand included in the original kit.  Apparently those worked better than the clothes or they’d still be in the box today as only two costumes were cut out before the original owner apparently lost interest.


Green Acres spun out of the success of country bumpkin shows like The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction and ran on CBS from 1965 to 1971. Eva Gabor ran a lot longer with kitschifyingly wonderful products like this:


More “Stay-Ons”:


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Well, the obvious tunes I would name are “September”, “Boogie Wonderland”, “Neutron Dance”, “What Have I Done to Deserve To This?” and I guess “I’ll Be There for You”. The rest of my favorite tunes are here.  But if I have to credit an early source of inspiration for being in the music business and then becoming a songwriter it would have to be the TV show, “Name That Tune”,  upon which this game is based and which I watched  religiously as a wee nip.

There’s nothing more I like in a game from a Kitsch perspective then if it’s convoluted to play. On the other hand, I love the early  attempt at  injecting multimedia interactivity into it. Made in 1959 by Milton Bradley, you play “Name That Tune” by the player elected to be “Disk Jockey”  spinning the dial three times, calling out the numbers on which the arrows stops each time and then spinning the enclosed 78 on which actual TV host, George De Witt,  introduces himself, calls out a number and “plays” a tune.


From here on in I don’t understand the instructions. But maybe you do as there’s still a foot of them to go through:


“Name That Tune” ran from 1953 to 1959 on CBS with De Witt as the most popular host until it came back  from 1974-’81 with Tom Kennedy and later with Jim Lange. The game show became the template for a continuing slate of copycat shows as well as ones that borrow from it heavily including current fare like “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” and “The Singing Bee”.

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The only thing I really understand about this game is that Shari Lewis and Lambchop have absolutely nothing to do with it beyond appearing on the cover.  Perfect on the Kitsch scale but less than satisfying as a “game” as there are no instructions enclosed (another excellent sign of Kitsch).  I guess you hold the cards up and try and get the answer but if you’re unsuccessful you place the cheap little piece of plastic with holes punched in it over the card and it miraculously reveals the answer.shari-lewis-gameME_2809

Although the Bar-Zim company of Jersey City, New Jersey managed to stuff about 30 cards into the compact little box, many of the edges look like they were hand cut.  Maybe the person in charge of cutting  got a little slaphappy and haphazard as his brain numbed from the monotony of the “game”.


This is the best way a celebrity appearing on a product or endorsing it can achieve Kitsch: Make sure the product has absolutely nothing to do with the celebrity, produce it in the cheapest way possible and don’t include any instructions. Kudos to Shari Lewis and Lambchop Magic Answer Cards for scoring a perfect 10 in all categories!

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There were many versions of this game based on the popular TV series pitting two two-people teams against each other to guess words based on clues given by one teammate to another. The original show starred Allen Ludden and ran from 1961-’67 for a total of 1555 episodes. There were almost that many versions of this game as newer versions of Password having been on TV through 2009. Each version added new words except for later anniversary versions where they got lazy and used words from previous sets.

Made by Peak Productions for the Milton Bradley Company in 1962, this set is complete with two sets of password cards, two leatherette holders, a spinner and score pad.


I love the little leatherette holders with the clear red windows with magic powers that reveal the secret word which can’t be seen if you’re just looking at the card without the case.

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The original Volume 1:


Password, 1962, with Dick Van Dyke:


Password,1966, featuring Angie Dickinson and her fabulous hairband:


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With 2010 only inches away I wouldn’t mind a little psychic vision as to what the coming year will hold. Would love a few more coins dropping in the pocket, a few more hits rolling out of the brain and a whole lot more kitsch kluttering up my life.

I don’t know why I didn’t buy this board game during Warwick’s ’91-’98 run with the Psychic Friends Network. I guess the infomercial was on so frequently I just never thought it would go away. As much as I enjoyed the massive cheese wheel served up every night, I was glad it tanked as Warwick made such historic records in the 60’s and they were all but forgotten under a mountain of psychic slop. But I do wish that I had a little bit of the slop to remember this Warwick phase by, namely this board game which I will now content myself with enjoying at The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch.

This Kitschtastic item is the winner of the prestigious Classique d’ Camembert award, the highest honor bestowed upon an object submitted to The Allee Willis Museum of Kitsch at I thank aKitschionado Jason Mecier for his excellent and discerning taste.