As we are oft to do, Charles Phoenix and I took another one of our kitsch spins around LA and environs this past weekend. We were dressed smartly for the occassion, at least from the ankles down:

Our first stop was at Johnnies Pastrami on Sepulveda Blvd. in Culver City:

Johnnies hasn’t changed a lick since it was built in 1952. Counter, stools, booths, jukebox, etc. are all original.

This was confirmed by the man himself, Bob Bass, who built and still owns Johnnies, and who has eaten lunch at his regular table every day since.

I’ve always loved restaurants that park a loaded pickle bowl before you as soon as you sit down.

Charles and I pondered the menu.

But I always go for the same thing, the 1950’s-grilled-to-soda-shop-perfection cheeseburger:

The french fries snap when you sink your choppers into them.

The cole slaw, eternally shredded a tad long, drips with creamy sweetness.

Charles and I were perfectly positioned behind the pie rack.

And although we stared at the bulging slices throughout the meal…

…we had to save room as we always make a donut shop stop on our driving trips.

Circus donuts are good…

…but I much prefer Spudnuts. Which makes sense as judging from the drink station, I think lottery tickets may be bigger business for Circus than donuts.

Next we went deeper into Torrance and hit King’s Hawaiian Bakery on Sepulveda. King’s is not only spectacular for the entrance to the dining room…

… but because of what we go there to buy.

Here I am experiencing a moment of panic upon seeing empty shelves.

You would be too if you knew this was what was inside of the packages we were looking for.

Thankfully, we got the last six loafs of the Rainbow Butter Bread.

All day long we passed beautiful architecture:

I wish all Baskin Robbins still looked like this one on Crenshaw Blvd.:

Nothing great architecturally about this IHOP but it’s spectacular that a horse is used to sell pancakes.

Though I guess it makes as much sense as a bear selling wheel alignments:

There was much beautiful signage along the way.

Although not as dramatic as the previous photos, I always enjoy a sign that employs peculiar use of quote marks:

If “On The” are the two most important words you can spotlight about your burgers, I’m sticking to Johnnie’s. Also featuring two words is the name of this Thai joint:

What a great day! Dinner, thankfully, wasn’t until 10:30 pm.


Photo credits: Denny McLain and me.

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!

I never really got into The Smurfs. That shade of blue was definitely not my favorite color and I didn’t have the patience to learn the Smurf language. I also didn’t have the patience to study Hebrew for the couple of years I attended Hebrew school at Beth Aaron, right across the street from Mumford High in Detroit, so have no idea what this Smurf is saying.

The only thing that kept me going to Hebrew School for the two years of one afternoon a week after school I went was the candy truck in the parking lot where we boarded the bus. I was bad enough at languages that use English lettering but once it came to Hebrew (or Chinese or Arabic or anything else that wasn’t the straight 26 letters I was used to) my brain turned into a quivering Jell-O mold. I hope this Smurf is saying nice to go along with the flowers he’s offering.

If only he was holding a bottle of Mogen David.

I do love that he’s speaking in a language other than his native Dutch or adopted English. And I do hope he’s not saying anything anything offensive but, rather, something like “Have and happy Passover and please enjoy the matzoh.”.

Anyone reading my blog long enough knows I’m an unabashed lover of junk food. My conscience has upped through the years but in a perfect world I would sustain myself on the Cheetos end of the scale. I learned how to make a Cherpumple and oftentimes take trips in search of the best food junk has to offer. Last weekend I took a trip up to Alameda, CA in search of real junk, both food and artifacts, when two of the most dedicated members of The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch at AWMOK.com were filmed for a segment of The Style Network’s Clean House.

If you’ve never seen that show, the people it usually features are certified pack rats who must give up the bulk of their stuff in a garage sale. But in the case of kookykitsch and Meshuggah Mel

…it was that too much junk had accumulated for kookykitsch’s small kitsch storefront and was taking over their house. I knew that with all their “junk” this was going to be a DO NOT MISS sale so Mark Blackwell and I piled into my well-groomed van and headed toward the goods.

I can’t reveal the gems I acquired until after the show airs in the summer but I can reveal some of the spectacular junk food that was made for a kitschtastic party thrown in my honor by the aKitschionados up in the Oakland area, only two of whom I’d met before.

The party took place at the home of Rusty Blazenhoff and Ken Dashner two days before Valentines Day. Knowing that I love Jell-o, Rusty was gracious enough to prepare black cherry Jell-o hearts…

…and this Cool Whip and red Jell-o “salad:

Rounding out the Jell-o smorgasbord was this vodka filled lemon Jell-o mold with “I love Kitsch” spelled out in sunken Gummi letters. Trust me, there’s always room for Jell-O and there’s always room for kitsch. There were vodka Jell-o shots to wash it down.

Good Jew that I am (my constantly malfunctioning Mac Dictate software typed “good chew that I am”, which I guess is also appropriate), Rusty surrounded Jesus with these delicious Fluffernutters on Wonder Bread hearts sandwiches:

Everybody loves Fluffernutters.

Wonder Bread was a very popular foodstuff at the party. Jenny Martens also prepared these lovely tomato and cheese and minced ham scalloped tea cakes:

As you can see in my right hand in that last photo, I was very excited that Pigs in a Blanket also made an appearance. But I didn’t see the little sign that clearly marked them as ‘vegetarian’ before I popped one of Dorinda VonStroheim, a.k.a Baby Doe’s, treats in my mouth.

I munched down on a rubbery substance that had no pig in it but I must say that it did have an excellent hot dogish taste. I grabbed another one and took a bite, excited that I liked something vegetarian. But a half an hour later someone snapped this photo of the vestiges of it crushed flat as a pancake in my hand. At least I tried.

Lucky for me, Karen Finlay brought some real Pigs In The Blanket. I was remiss in taking a photo of her dogs/pigs but that’s her in the fabulous Mexican blanket-like skirt.

Chad Martens brought several varieties of Easy Cheese and spread them on reduced fat Ritz crackers with bacon bits and tomatoes.

The Martens also brought eternal vintage party pleasers, Triscuits. By the time I got to them there was no dip left in the center of the dish.

There not being a drop of anything I’m thinking that the Martens made a concious decision to allow the beauty of the sparkle plate to shine through, skipping the dip entirely. After all, Easy Cheese is tasty squirted on Triscuits and comes in a can so no dip is necessary.

Ken Dashner brought always elegant curly Cheetos and some Pabst Blue Ribbon to wash them down.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Todd Evans made this lovely cream cheese heart smothered in jalapeño jelly.

Clubhouse crackers, still in their plastic vacuform case, are always a perfect complement.

Rebecca Evans made a very fancy dish.

The pimento loaf with small green olives, toothpick swords, and asparagus star center deserves a close-up because of its excellent art direction. The missing pieces are probably because of me.

The bulk of the desserts were made by Maggie Lewis, aka windupkitty, an Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch party faithful since the virtual doors opened in September, 2009. She made a plethora of blindingly kitschy desserts, among them peanut M&M cookies…

…and brownies with toffee dribbled on top…

Baby Doe contributed these chocolate “cake bites”.

I think it’s brilliant that someone would carve tiny bite-size chunks so one can stuff multiples of them in their mouth without feeling like they consumed a whole piece of cake. You can down more that way and psychologically it doesn’t put on any calories. I only wish that jar of Maxwell House was full to wash the bites down.

Windupkitty also cooked up some excellent haberdashery for the evening. She’s very shy and prefers to be photographed from the back.

Here’s a close-up of her Pigmy Will chapeau:

Windupkitty also presented me with the stunning felt hat that sat on my head throughout the entire evening and has hardly been off my noggin a second since I’ve been home.

We did manage to get a nice shot of Windupkitty from the front though when she brought a few of the more embarrassing albums I had songs on for me to autograph.

I don’t actually think they’re embarrassing. It’s just that when you’ve written a lot of Earth, Wind & Fire, Pet Shop Boys, Pointer Sisters, Patti LaBelle, Aretha, The Color Purple. etc., Richard Simmons and The Del Rubio Triplets are not the LPs that usually come up for me. I, of course, love that Windupkitty stuck to the theme and schlepped these to a party honoring me and kitsch.

The evening was topped off with a nice sophisticated game of Twister.

Our Clean House honorees, Jessica, a.k.a. kookykitsch, and Mel, a.k.a. Meshugga Mel, had to retire early for more Clean House filming in the morning.

Just as Mark and I were about to follow them out, I noticed a set of dishes in the dining room and commented that I had 109 pieces of the same 1940’s “Bambu” by Weil Ware pattern. Before I knew it, boxes were laid out before me and I was packing up the pieces from Rusty’s bureau to take home because she wanted to make room for new dishes

I was hyperventilating from excitement so much I forgot to take a photo of the dishes on her shelf but here they are sitting with their relatives back at Willis Wonderland:

One person who didn’t make many of the shots was Mark Blackwell, who I drove up with and who was taking most of the photos seen here. But I did manage to get this shot of him as he emptied out the 40 pound freezer bag that he had to constantly lug around and refill with buckets of ice from the hotel ice machine to keep the cold packs cold that I had to constantly slap on my just-operated-on knee throughout our stay. We were so sugared up by the time we got back to the hotel, having to let a 40 pound bag of ice pee in the shower seemed like a fitting shot to end a most fabulous kitschified evening.

When I grew up in Detroit I went to the zoo on 10 Mile and Woodward at least a couple times a year. Although I got this particular chapeau on Ebay, I’m certain I had one exactly like it as I never went there without something separating me from the sun. I was quite fond of theme hats as a kid.

I’m not sure exactly what animal is on my zoo hat.

I suppose that’s a bear. Though it looks inbred with a beaver and Golden Retriever. It never made any sense to me that with a baseball team named the Tigers and a football team named the Lions that one of those didn’t get top billing in felt.

At least a tiger made the supporting cast. As did another animal that actually looks more like a bear than the beaver/Golden Retriever or maybe otter mystery animal in the starring role. I’m not going to worry about that though as there’s so much else beautiful that came out of Detroit. Like cars, Vernor’s ginger ale and Sanders hot fudge, the latter two of which remain staples in my refrigerator to this day.

I’m sure I was consuming both the last time I walked around the zoo, which was at least four decades ago.

The Detroit Zoological Park wasn’t the only thing I loved about Detroit. You can read all about my love affair with the city here.

Someone else who was born and grew up in Detroit still feels the love too.

Lily Tomlin and I have been friends since 1984 when we were introduced by Paul Reubens a.k.a.Pee Wee Herman. Lily even used my head to insert her own into for her character, Kate, in her Tony Award Winning Broadway show, Search For Signs Of intelligent Life In The Universe.

Both of us still love Detroit and are looking for something to do together there on a permanent basis.  We don’t know what that is yet but it will most certainly revolve around the arts as coming from the big D had such an enormous impact on what we both do. It also made my once alter-ego, Bubbles the artist, the artist she was, whipping out copy paintings of Lily’s character, Ernestine, like they were on the Ford assembly line, which the star would then autograph so a few more dollars rolled into my coffers.

Now we want a few more dollars rolling into Detroit, where I’ll be heading in April, perhaps with Lily in tow, to figure out what we can do there together. My specific mission is delivering the closing keynote speech at the three day Rust Belt To Arts Belt conference, exploring ways and mental states to turn decaying American cities like Detroit into cities of the future, which I’ve long held my home town can be if it rises from the ashes with both heart and conscience. I’m also going there to conduct my high school marching band playing a medley of my greatest hits in the lobby of the Fox Theatre before a performance of my musical, The Color Purple.

Despite the fact that I can’t read a note of music, including my own, I became obsessed with conducting last October after I was asked to conduct the 350 piece marching band at my college alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, when they played my songs at the Homecoming football game.

You can see the details of the excellent Priority Mail envelope hat I wore then here. Conducting the Mumford band with The Color Purple cast singing along will also give me a chance to wear another excellent hat:

Although I now collect marching band hats –  I’m up to over 30 different color combos though still missing the maroon and blue of the Mumford Mustangs –  my little hat from the Detroit zoo remains one of my favorites. I may not know what kind of animal sits on my head but I know a great city when I see one!

I always hated these theme hats but ever since I’ve had my Kitsch O’ The Day blog I’ve found one that’s dumber than the next and that seems to serve the cause of Kitsch well. In the case of this particular Christmas tree chapeau, I hope that most people who don it bought it for themselves as opposed to getting it from under the real tree as it lives up to excessively few of its claims.  For example, the label definitely leads one to believe that the star on top lights up and stands erect as any good tree topper should:

In real life, the star flops over like a dead fish.

Although it might look like the star is lit in that last photo it’s just that I shot it in too bright of light. In fact, the wire connected to the star is clearly not connected to the battery terminal.

Inside the hat, the battery case flops around on your head like another dead fish. Should you attempt to adjust the sized-for-a-child-and-grips-your-head-like-a-vice hat on your now bruised head, the battery case flops out like the ornament that’s always too ugly to put on the tree.

So far my cat, Niblet, has hacked up six bunches of tinsel that have fallen off the tree hat. If you even look at this thing it sheds.

All in all,I think it might be less frustrating to wear a real tree on my head. I hope Fun World Div., Easter Unlimited, Inc. of Carle Place, NY by way of China is making a New Years resolution to take better care of their trees before extracting $30 for the malfunctioning stump that sits atop my head this Christmas!

Anyone who’s ever driven past Norwood Young’s house in LA knows that it’s a prime candidate for a Kitschmas smorgasbord unlike all others. Depending on who you talk to, known affectionately or despicably as the House of Davids, it has enough wrought iron to circle the White House, all of which protects the 21 statues of David that line the driveway upon which usually sits Norwood’s jewel encrusted Rolls Royce. Here’s what Youngwood Court, as it’s officially known, looks like all year except December:

I, of course, worship at the altar of this edifice and landscaping that depict a victory for self expression through statuary that has driven many of Norwood’s neighbors crazy ever since he moved in umpteen years ago.

After years of religiously driving past the corner of Third and S. Muirfield if I was even remotely in the area I finally went to a party at Norwood’s about 10 years ago. As luck would have it, he was a songwriter and a fan of my songs so in years to come I got to enter the palace many times.

Unfortunately, that shot was taken at Patti LaBelle’s birthday party this year, which was NOT held at Youngwood Court which looks much more like this on the inside:

But this post is all about the outside and celebrating the Christmas spirit in a way that only Norwood can.

Sunday night I made my yearly pilgrimage to his place for the turning on the lights ceremony, complete with performances by the man himself and real snow that somehow managed to stay frozen despite the 80° weather that day.

Norwood had on a fabulous red velvet suit. I, unfortunately, had on the same outfit I wore to Patti’s birthday party:

Despite my fashion faux pas, I documented the fabulous insanity on the front lawn as I have in all years past.

So, in no particular order, here’s a sample of Christmas 2010 at Youngwood Court.  Mind you, the Christmas models are all nude statues of David.

My eyeballs thank Norwood for this most merry Christmas tableau! I hope the neighbors appreciate their luck being this close to the West pole.

I used to hate these theme hats as they always look so dorky. But now that I have a blog and a museum that spotlight kitsch this sort of haberdashery seems to fit right in, especially when it’s on my head. And especially when it’s this awkward menorah hat on this first day of Hanukah. The candles don’t stand up straight and nine candles is kind of too wide for a hat anyway.

But wearing a hat of this sort makes one feel festive. And if there were any holiday that called for feeling festive it’s one that comes along with eight gifts, one for each night of the celebration.

Hanukah is the kind of religious holiday that kids love. I made some of my most significant childhood scores in all the Decembers of my youth. I got my very first portable hairdryer on Hanukah as well as my very first transistor radio, my pink and gray Columbia bike, an incredible light avocado green cable knit mohair sweater that I still lust for and my favorite wallet of my childhood:

So happy first day of Hanukah!  May you get something as nice as a Ben Casey wallet and eat lots of matzoh ball soup.


Once again I don the Easter bonnet I made to go to my friend April Winchell’s mother’s house Easter, 1998 where she had a smorgasbord of international foods, the unrecognizable contents of which were festooned with name tags stuck into the dishes on popsicle sticks, an excellent sign if one likes a side of Kitsch with their holidays.

This was the first Easter bonnet I ever wore, modeled with the Sears Easter Bunny in Detroit in 1952.  It was storebought and wasn’t very Eastery. I vowed to have more festive haberdashery after that.


My current chapeau is made of foamcore, eggs, chicks, peeps, bunnies, roosters, shredded cellophane, bagels and about 10 pounds of hot melt glue. It has held up remarkably well over the years .

easter-bonnet-top-angle easter-bonnet-detail easter-bonnet-side

There were recipes for “Eggs In Exciting Ways” from a vintage cookbook under the brim.


I’m wearing the hat now and having a very Happy Easter.  I hope you are too.