Although I’m not a massive fan of actual peanuts, I’ve always loved classic 1950’s plastic Mr. Peanut memorabilia. I love how the plastic glows with depth from the richness of the classic 50’s colors he came in, in this case perfect baby blue.

I also love the sound of coins dropping into Mr. Peanut’s all too small empty plastic gut.

The only other Mr. Peanut memorabilia I collect is also made of plastic. I have this cup in pink, yellow, red and the bank mate, baby blue.

I also have Mr. Peanut salt and pepper shakers. I love them for their diminutive stature compared to the bank and cup, but they stay too close to traditional peanut color and I like things that break more out-of-the-box.

I love Mr. Peanut’s stance.  He’s so casual.

I especially like his little thin legs and rolled down socks.

And he always looks so self-assured.

For all these reasons I like having Mr. Peanut and his multiple selves around my kitschen.


I don’t usually like mugs with serious faces on them but “The Gertrude Stein” mug made by Fitz & Floyd in 1976 is a rare one featuring legendary and first-outta-the-gate lesbian life partners, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Gertrude actually looks like Gertrude while Alice looks like a mushroom person, the kind of  poisonously sweet little gnome-like being that ceramicists were somehow infatuated with in the late 1960’s and 70s.


Stein, an American writer living in Paris in the first half of the 20th Century, was ultimately known most for her “a rose is a rose is a rose” saying and for coining the term “Lost Generation”, while Toklas is revered for a brownie recipe with a little something extra she published.  They were also known as spectacular party throwers for the salons they hosted that attracted the “mugs” of great artists and thinkers of the day, including regulars Ernest Hemingway, Thornton Wilder, Picasso and Matisse.

As gay women who are out and throwing parties go, #1 progressive morning radio show host and Larry King regular, Stephanie Miller, threw a spectacular one Saturday night.  After years of being an outspoken supporter of gay rights, especially as regards the repeal of Caifornia’s Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage, Stephanie announced her gaiety on her radio show last month and then threw this combo Birthday/Coming Out bash to celebrate.

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Stephanie’s “mug” looks an awful lot like this 1964 Republican Vice Presidential candidate’s. That would be because William E. Miller was her father.


Stephanie being a staunch liberal Democrat, their “mugs” are as far as the resemblance goes. My “mug” doesn’t look anything like Mr. Miller’s but it would have been stupid to have been this close to his in his daughter’s house and not popped off a shot.


There were a lot of  fantastic “mugs” at the party, the kind that sit on top of your neck and smile as opposed to ceramic ones like Gertrude that you sip something out of. Here I am with three excellent ones, Jane Wagner, Rep. Maxine Waters and Lily Tomlin.


My compadre, Julie Brown, was also there…


…along with Prudence Fenton


…and this “mug” who I was very excited to meet, George Schlatter. His show, “Laugh In” changed my life, not to mention introduced the world to Lily Tomlin.


I die for Rep. Maxine Waters. She speaks her mind and is right on target. I’ve always loved her for her mojo and spirit. She has an amazing personality for a politician.


I only saw the “mug” of attorney Gloria Allred from afar.


Although Stpehanie’s “mug” appears out her cake, it’s her starts-with-j-and-rhymes-with-mugs that are used to best advantage on it.


A big blow-out Happy Birthday & Coming Out to Stephanie Miller!!



This is one of the craziest and most spectacular products I’ve ever seen. It’s a Mayonnaise Case, made in Japan. You flip the little monkey head up by lifting the banana latch which is actually a little spoon to scoop and spread your mayonnaise with once opened. I’ve never heard of anyone carrying around mayonnaise, not to mention that a thimble would hold more than this case does, so I’m not sure what good spreading a dime sized dollop of mayo is going to do anyone anyway.  And I sure wouldn’t want it living in the bottom of my purse for a week, where it’s certain to fall because of its diminutive size.


Some people get freaked out by mayonnaise. I love it. It’s the glue that holds so many sandwiches together.


I know know that many of us here in America eat like pigs but honestly, the amount of mayonnaise contained within covers maybe too dainty bites. Thankfully, the package holds two mayonnaise cases.


Lucky for us who are less familiar with mayonnaise cases, the manufacturer, Daiso industry, includes handy instructions though I personally could use some instructions for the instructions.


I get not putting it near a fire or not using it in the oven but I wouldn’t even know how to use it “with” the freezer.  I perhaps might be tempted to use it “in” the freezer, though frozen mayonnaise has never appealed to me. And common sense tells me I would “never give it to the baby” though I would think that the danger would be the baby trying to eat it by mistake as opposed to “drinking by mistake”.

In a few days, I fly to Madison, Wisconsin to conduct the marching band at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, when they play several of my songs at the Homecoming football game. I always take some food along when I travel and that usually includes a sandwich or two. I must admit that sometimes I sink my choppers into a tuna fish sandwich and think, “Gee, I wish I had more mayonnaise”.  So I think these two little monkeys might just accompany me to see the UW Badgers. Of course, the big food in Madison is is bratwurst, sometimes referred to as “Wisconsin Soul Food”. I don’t suppose that spreading a little white stuff on them will diminish any of the funkiness.



Every Sunday morning growing up the ritual was to go with my dad to the deli and buy bagels, lox, cream cheese, tomatoes, onions and white fish, the latter of which I never liked but all the foodstuffs named prior to it remain my favorite meal in life. The smell of bagels toasting in the kitchen, especially on Sunday, has remained intoxicating to me ever since. Had I lived in Texas in 1979 I would only hope that this would’ve been the license plate slapped on the front of my ’55 DeSoto. Seeing as it belonged to someone else I can only assume they had similar such love for the Jewish baked good by giving it such props as to adorn their car with it.

These days their license plate, acquired on Ebay, hangs in my kitchen over the toaster and has lots bagel friendly kitchen utensils to bond with, like this bagel knife and cream cheese spreader.


I don’t know why bagels always look so fake on bagel themed items. Like what’s the yellow ooze melting out around the cream cheese?


I’ve always thought that the bagels on this oven mitt look burnt, more like bagel chips than their legitimate older brother bagel self.


I think my matzoh oven mitt looks much more realistic.


I’m so completely exhausted by the activities of the last week, which included not only the release of my thankfully amazingly viral video, “Jungle Animal” by Pomplamoose and Allee Willis, but rehearsing conducting an imaginary 300 piece marching band in front of 82,000 imaginary people to get ready for my trip in a week and a half to my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, where the real 300 strong marching band is going to play three of my songs, “September”,  “Boogie Wonderland” –  both hits in 1979 when this BAGLS license plate hung on a car from which these songs were most likely pouring out of the radio – and “I’ll Be There for You (the theme from Friends)”, as I conduct them in front of 82,000 real people at the Homecoming football game. You would think that this would come natural to the writer of the songs, and bouncing around to them certainly does, but I don’t read a stitch of music, and marching band versions differ from the records, and I’m going to conduct them two separate times, first at the tailgate party and then inside the stadium to kick off the show. So I intend to spend a large chunk of the day today making sure I have all the accents down cold.


As my normal Sunday stay-at-home routine is either to hunch over my computer barely moving as I catch up on work, or to lie in bed watching TV, even thinking about the amount of exercise I’m going to get from conducting makes me hungry.  So I’m going to do warm up exercises –  I’m going to stand up, stretch, walk into the kitchen and work my upper arm muscles by sawing through some bagels, stretch my arms by reaching for the toaster and give my lats a workout by using the fake bagel looking cream cheese spreader to smooth a layer of the white stuff across insides of the bagels once they’re toasted, and then repeat the entire exercise again. Then I’m going to take what will probably be a long hike around my house to find the two missing bagel salt shakers that go with these two loyal bagel pepper shakers.


It’s going to be a bagel kind of day.


One of the most festive nights of the Jewish year is the ‘breaking of the fast’ meal after Yom Kipper, a veritable smorgasbord of chopped liver, corned beef, brisket, potato latkes, noodle kugel and whatever else there’s room for on the table.  Trust me, after not eating for 24 hours the Chosen People are hungry! Although this “kosher” sign hangs happily at Willis Wonderland, mine is not the house that one wants to eat at on a night such as this.  As such, I’m very lucky that I have a Break-The-Fast itinerary that I stick to like schmaltz (chicken fat) every year and head over to four hamish (friendly, folksy) friends whose houses are are stuffed with machers (big shots) and even some meshugehs (crazy, nuts people) to schmoose with (talk socially, network) while we nosh (eat) like chazzers (pigs).

For our first stop, Prudence Fenton and I hit Marla and Jeff Garlin’s house. You know Jeff from Curb Your Enthusiasm.


Sadly, I have no photo with Marla, probably because I was too busy fressing (pigging out) every time she was around. It is so NOT KOSHER to only take a photo with one of your two hosts…


Sometimes the baleboosteh (mistress of the house) serves you bagels and lox and sometimes there’s some nice deli platters. But if Az a yor ahf mir (you should be so lucky) to be invited over to the Garlins to replenish your pupik (stomach) after it’s 24 hour lockout, the shtetl (village or small town) sitting on their dining room table includes corn beef, roast beef, turkey,  three kinds of noodle kugel, mac and cheese – thank you for that extra goyish (not especially Jewish) bonus – bagels, lox, cream cheese, cream cheese with chives, three kinds of sliced cheeses, tomatoes, onions, dill pickles, black olives, whitefish salad, tuna salad, egg salad, fruit salad, salad salad, coleslaw and that’s just how far I got down the table before my plate was full.


More noshes (snacks) were still coming out when we had to leave after a couple of hours because we had another simcha (joyous occassion) to schlep (get) to.

The next amazing nachas (extreme joy or pleasure) food fest was at Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s, two of the most balebatim (people of high standing) songwriters on the planet. Being with them makes a songwriter such as myself kvell (explode with joy). As songwriters go, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil are EXCESSIVELY KOSHER.


Not only are they real mensches (people of integrity and honor), they’ve written some of the biggest gelt (money) earning songs in the eretz (land). For forshpeiz (appetizers): “You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” – the #1 most played record of all time, – “On Broadway,” “We Got To Get Out of This Place”,”Uptown” and hundreds of more titles everyone would agree are HIGHLY KOSHER.


In 1992, Barry and Cynthia were over at my place for a distinctively non-kosher meal when they came to a simcheh (joyous occassion) where I asked guests to come dressed matching their potluck food. They brought and came oysgeputst  (dressed up) like Blackeye Peas.


Although I was already too stuffed from the tsegalt zich in moyl (melts in the mouth, delicious, yummy-yummy) meal over at the Garlins, I did manage to kibitz (fool around with) with another songwriting maiven (expert, connoisseur) at Barry and Cynthia’s, Mike Stoller.


Mike Stoller is truly a KOSHER TO THE MAX songwriter, a choshever mentsh (elite and respected man of worth), one half of the rock ‘n roll dynasty team of  Lieber and Stoller.  If you’re going to write songs and you’re not Barry and Cynthia and you don’t want to chop your hair off on one side and be me I would suggest being Mike Stoller. A few of his early megillehs (big deals) include chachkes (little things) like “Hound Dog,” “Kansas City,”“Stand by Me,” “Charlie Brown,” and “On Broadway”, written with Barry and Cynthia. Mazel Tov (good luck has occured)!

All in all, I had a very frallech (fun) Breaking of the Fast and rolled home feeling like a big happy kishka (stuffed intestine).  We didn’t dance the Hora (traditional joyous Jewish dance) but we carried on like we were boogieing in the Borscht Belt (Hotels in the Catskills with Jewish entertainers and clientele) on the ultimate KOSHER evening of all kosher evenings and one from which I’m still plotzing (exploding from excitement, as in “You got us tickets for Barbra’s comeback concert?? I’m plotzing!)




When I was young, “Connie Francis Sings Jewish Favorites” spun on the hi-fi every Jewish holiday. I loved Connie F., especially for her song “Teddy”, a lesser-known Francis spin but one of the first songs where I noticed how important a sweeping melody could be to a record. As a kid, music was like religion to me. Whereas RELIGION always felt so serious. So the fact that there was a Pop influence infiltrating the holidays in the Willis household was of great comfort to me. That Connie Francis was Italian and so far away from being Jewish did not deter me at all. The first paragraph of the liner notes was good enough for me:


I wish that all it took these days to satisfy and amaze everyone was an impeccable Jewish accent.


I only knew a few of the songs Connie chose to sing and am not quite sure how the “Anniversary Song” got in there but back then it was rumored she was dating Bobby Darin so I was fine with whatever she wanted to sing.

Last night I was hitting Jewish high notes myself when I partook in the Rosh Hashanah feast at Street restaurant, my favorite haunt be it Jewish holiday or not. I came dressed for the occasion.


Just as Connie Francis wasn’t on the playlist at every Jewish household during the holidays, Rosh Hashana at Street wasn’t the usual latkes and macaroons fare either. Although my favorite, Gefilte Fish, wasn’t on the menu Matzoh Ball Soup was. It was seriously THE BEST Matzoh Ball Soup I have ever tasted.


We also had Whitefish Salad with Apples, Celery and Bagel Chips. Though I never liked whitefish as much as I liked Connie Francis.


The killer food of the night was the Brisket.


It was served with carrots, onion and fresh herbs and Noodle Kugel.


Sorry for the blurry photo. I was too excited to eat once I realized the kugel was topped with Sugar Frosted Flakes. The Feniger-tweaked food slid down the throat of this Chosen Person faster than freshly skimmed schmaltz.

When I went to pay for the meal I realized that some of my accessories may have been slightly inappropriate for the evening.


I cannot attest to being the world’s greatest practicing Jew but I’m always happy to honor the holidays in above manner.  And I would hope that “Connie Francis Sings Jewish Favorites” would always be on the menu.



I’ve never been on a cruise.  I’ve gone sailing twice. I’ve been in a motor boat maybe 10 times. But make no mistake about it, I love boats. I love the sound of the water lapping up against them when you’re in them, I love what they look like. I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise – between the buffets, lounge acts and seafaring decor what’s not to love? But for now, I content myself with ship artifacts like this 1940’s plastic salt ‘n pepper shaker.


I have a lot of help around my house creating a perfect atmosphere for the ship salt and pepper shakers as it abounds with portholes. These particular ones came off a 1952 Chris-Craft boat.

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I turned this porthole into a laundry chute.


When I had to spend tons of time in New York between 2002 and 2007 during the writing and production of my musical, The Color Purple, I insisted on staying at the Maritime Hotel. This is one of the most gorgeous buildings in the world as far as I’m concerned. Built in 1969 as the National Maritime Union, it’s 12 stories of pristine one inch white mosaic tiles with a four foot metal rimmed ship’s porthole in every room, of which there are are twelve on each floor.


The rooms are decorated like a ship’s cabin – dark wood, curves including the ceiling and laid out meticulously other than  the contortions one must get into to operate the TV remote from bed. The lobby has  stone reliefs of maritime activites and the floor echos the giant portholes in the rooms. But I’m not here to give a hotel tour and I’m not in New York and God knows if I’ll ever get my ass on a cruise. But when I look at this little seafaring salt and pepper shaker, its gorgeous red and white perfect 1940’s plastic self, it chills out my brain as if it were riding the waves instead of racing to post this blog.



In a couple of hours I’m speaking on a panel called “In The Biz In LA – For artists who act, direct, produce, edit, write, or administrate” led by my pal Barbara Deutsch, who I’ve been friends with since we were both secretaries at Columbia and Epic Records in 1969. Here’s what I was told to prepare: “If you were to only give the audience 3 pieces of advice that you have learned personally for the industry or life, what would it be? Feel free to be profound or silly.” There are many big deal  tv and film directors and producers, casting directors, managers and agents on the panel. Everyone’s got big fat credits. When I’m on panels like this I find a lot of people giving very practical information.  Despite the fact that I too have those big fat credits much of my career has been on the outskirts of the entertainment behemoths, self funded to insure maximum creative freedom so I could do what was in my head, usually a combo of “profound and silly”, and not spit out works by committee and become a depressed albeit wealthy artist. I’ve always had a lust to combine “hi” and “lo” aspects of art within the same work and this doesn’t usually fly when creating by committee.


When I first started out it was absolutely taboo to be a multi-media artist if you were a behind the scenes creator. Anything outside of songwriting that I did like art, furniture design, set design, early social network design in 1992, really anything that didn’t involve solely music and lyrics, was viewed as a little hobby by the industries I did them in. It took into the new millennium for industry folks to see that the new and most vital kind of artist was, in fact, a multi-media artist who could combine all traditional art forms into one big ball of expression and execute in both traditional linear mediums as well as in all existing digital ones, hopefully integrating them as opposed to slapping assets from the traditional ones onto the new virtual medium, the Internet, as if it were a giant billboard.


I don’t expect to stand out like a sore thumb on this panel the way I used to on traditional showbiz panels. (BTW, the sore thumb is a great thing to be on panels as audiences are most appreciative for alternatives points of view.)  My thing has always been to screw the rules if the rulemakers aren’t going for what you do and then do what you need to do by any means necessary. But now that it’s  overwhelmingly accepted that we’re living in revolutionary/evolutionary times I expect everyone on the panel to come through with some version of this same message.  Though I certainly don’t expect anyone else on the panel to own a napkin holder as lovely and  inspirational as this one before you now.


Though It looks like it’s made of cheap plastic, the message is actually stamped in metal and mounted on a heavy marble base. It’s that perfect combination of “hi” and “lo” art that I love.

A few minutes ago I emailed Barbara Deutsch to see if I could bring a guest to the panel. She immediately wrote back and said yes but informed me that the panel was, in fact, yesterday… I obviously didn’t “Do it now” yesterday.  That would have been a very “lo” part of this experience but, as luck would have it, there’s another panel today. I have absolutely no idea if the topic is the same but my ‘Do it now, do it good and by any means necessary’ message sure is.  And by all means, show up when you’re supposed to as opposed to polishing your napkin holder so it looks pretty in photos. You’re bound to get farther in the world.



I’ve never actually chomped down on a hunk of Luer Pure Lard but it sure comes in a pretty box. Not only is the box coated with enough wax to make you feel like you’re actually picking up a fistful of lard but many important lard ladden foods are illustrated in glorious color on it.

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I especially love this graphic of the chocolate cake:


I’m not sure how much the lard had to do with it but the way the cherry pink frosting is positioned on that cake knife hovering in perfect symmetry above the crumbs of chocolate is picture perfect.

I’m also not sure how ‘Luer” is pronounced but I have a feeling it’s not a perfect rhyme with “sure” as they’ve implied.


It’s a good thing that whoever came up with that was writing slogans and not lyrics. Always better with a perfect rhyme in songs though I can’t tell you how many songwriters throw that one out the window.

I never understood the use of these kind of boxes to package lard. Not that I ever bought any to know for “sure” but wouldn’t the product goop out of the sides and top and be more appropriate in a tub? I’m just glad that none of it slopped on this box before I got to it.

Manufactured by Luer Bros. Packing Co. of Alton, Ill. sometime around 1950, I have a feeling that the boxes were actually more popular than the lard inside. A search on Google turns up enough of these 2-1/2″ x 3″ x5″ honeys to paper a path from Manhattan to LA.



Thank you, aKitschionado Ginger Durgin, for your generous contribution of ten Luer Lard boxes to the permanent collection of The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch!


It’s always a good sign of kitsch when right off the bat the packaging describes the product wrong.  On the top of the package it very clearly states that I will be getting one Felt Coaster Love Type. But a few inches lower it clearly says that I will be unwrapping two Felt CoasterS Love Type. Perhaps the designer of the label was too excited at the hearts leaping out of the coffee cup to go for accuracy in the product description.


The back of the package states “Please do not put IT near the fire”.  Does that count for both its, as in two coasters, and in that case shouldn’t it be “them”?


On the back of the package there are several warnings the user of the Felt Coaster Love Type must heed.  Especially important is “Please don’t wash it in the hand”. Which of the hands should i not be washing it in?


The directions also clearly instruct not to use your Love coaster as a hot plate. At least I think that’s what this means:


Then there’s this somewhat distressing warning:


Is the Felt Coaster Love Type full of nickle, lead or battery acid or something?  I’m not sure I want anything like that in the vicinity of anything hot OR human.

I do love the look of these things. Nice bold letters looking like they would in a nice heavy letter sweater.


The letters are actually the best feature of the Felt Coaster Love Type though their specialness isn’t even mentioned on the label. All the letters pop out.


I can’t imagine the purpose of the pop out letters. You certainly can’t balance a glass on one of them though they probably could  handle the last bite of toast.

There’s a couple more things that are outstanding about the Felt Coaster Love Type.  The leaping heart coffee cup and slice of cake are sitting on two different size coasters yet there are only two 4″ square coasters in the package.


The red “coaster” that the cake is sitting on isn’t even rectangular, which means that two of the “coasters” couldn’t be stuck together to make one larger “place mat”, not to mention that the package contains two different colored “coasters” so they could never be combined to make the larger one the cake’ sitting on.  It’s nutty in the first place that a piece of cake on a plate would have to sit on top of a coaster. And even if this were an optical illusion and this were, in fact, a coaster, the plate  that would fit on it could only be 3″ round, which means that the piece of cake is only about a tablespoon big.  And even if it’s a little teacake I don’t like eating off of doll dinnerware.

The Felt Coaster Love Type was produced in China for Daiso, Japan. I will faithfully follow the instructions and promise to never use it “for purposes other than originally intended”.