I’ve laid in bed two days now nursing my just-operated-on knee back to health.  As someone who literally never sits still, I’ve been a fairly model citizen since the surgery to repair a torn meniscus on Tuesday. Portable electronics certainly help and my love of bad television has been an excellent babysitter. But, most of all, I have excellent friends who have come to visit me and partaken in some spectacular photo ops:

(L-R) Nurses Prudence Fenton and Charles Phoenix and patient Willis.

Nurse Maxine Lapiduss also came by and dropped off some excellent homemade Moraccan stew, unfortunately not featured in this photo but very much featured in my stomach last night:

Don’t ask me what’s going on under my blanket to give it such peculiar formation. Perhaps one of the cats was snoozing under there at the moment this was snapped. I certainly don’t want anyone to think I’ve expanded to the following from munching on Saltines, Ritz crackers and applesauce these last couple of days:

But, back to matters at hand – my beautiful 1960’s Ben Casey and Dr. Kildare daily diarys. Both this blog and the aforementioned portable electronics have dispensed with the need to keep track of my progress in an old school diary, as well as those innermost thoughts that come when one loses all the privileges of physical freedom. When I was 12 years old and had my first surgical procedure, the removal of an ingrown toenail by Dr. Smellsy (would you choose to be a foot doctor if that was your last name?!),  I wrote all about it in my Ben Casey diary.

Were this my actual diary from my youth I would show you what I wrote inside, probably wishing that the boy I had a crush on because he was one of the only people taller than me in school would come visit me in my toenailless state.  This diary, however, was purchased a couple years ago on eBay where I also found its perfect mate, a Dr. Kildare diary.

Dr. Kildare was on TV the same years as Ben Casey, 1961-66. There was a clear-cut division between Casey lovers and Kildare lovers, the former doctor being brooding, dark and handsome and the latter clean-cut, blonde and smooth. Although at the time I definitely preferred the Type A personality, brunette Dr. Casey – he looked more Jewish –  I’ve definitely rescinded my vote in recent years and hopped over to the Kildare side.

Let me tell you, Dr. Kildare, a.k.a. Richard Chaimberlain, is still rockin the smooth. So much so that I would’ve loved to take him into the operating room with me. It would’ve given me so much to write in my diary about!

But for now, I’m just excited that Dr. Stetson, my excellent knee surgeon, did such a good job. He may not have had his own television series and things like diaries, walletspencils and cufflinks made in his likeness, but ultimately I’d rather have a functioning knee than a functioning Thumpy any day!

As a collector of kitsch for decades now with a particular love for popular television shows, there’s nothing better than having the real thing who made the real thing in your presence. Such was the case when Susan Olsen, a.k.a. Cindy Brady, the youngest, cutest, blondest Brady in the Bunch, walked into Willis Wonderland last Friday afternoon. And she came bearing one of her signature Christmas cakes, which is how we came to know each other in the first place as she posted her kulinary kitsch koncoction in The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch over Christmas.

Susan spent over a month (extra kitsch point #1) making these rum soaked (extra kitsch point #2) fruit cakes (extra kitsch point #3). And her description of them was hysterical too. It was an even better sign when I saw the way she prepped her photos. In the land of kitsch, detail insets are most impressive:

I got especially excited when I saw all the snowy peach fuzz that surrounded Susan’s elves:

But the elves on the cake she brought me needed no such extra set decoration as they got down to enough business on their own:

I was actually introduced to Susan by my Facebook friend and most dedicated aKitschionado at The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch, Denny McClain. We made sure to give him his props before we did anything else:

Our hooking up was also facilitated by another Facebook friend, Steven Wishnoff, who accompanied Susan to Willis Wonderland. I immediately offered them a snack as I had something amazingly fitting for this most kitschous of occasions:

Any of you smart and dedicated enough to subscribe to my blog will recognize that we’re holding a piece of King’s Hawaiian Bakery Rainbow Bread that I bought a loaf of last weekend on my Sunday drive with Charles Phoenix. This is possibly my favorite food discovery of the century so far.

It was perfect as Susan actually came dressed matching the bread:

We were all most anxious to see what happened to the color swirls when the bread was toasted, hoping they would get even brighter with a little bit of heat. We were sorely disappointed:

But that didn’t stop us from slopping on some peanut butter and jelly and enjoying a delicious grill stripped rainbow mini meal.

We spent a lot of time walking around Willis Wonderland as Susan and Steven had an excellent sense of kitsch.

I had much Brady Bunch memorabilia out…

…but I stupidly forgot to ask Susan to autograph anything. Luckily, before we met she mailed me a copy of a book she co-wrote about the making of one of the most exquisitely cheesy television specials ever made, The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.

If you’ve never seen it, RUN to YouTube now!!

Thank God, Susan autographed the book so I didn’t feel tooooo bad about the missed opportunities for my aforementioned Brady treasures.

All in all, we had a most Brady day!

I’m hoping next time we get together Susan will make me one of her signature Flufftinis.

Afterall, there’s SO MUCH we see eye to eye on.

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.

I loved me some Ben Casey when I was a kid. I had Ben Casey diaries, wallets, cufflinks, bobble head dolls, anything and everything that had that kind-of-smile-but-not-really brooding look that Vincent Edwards, who played the handsome doctor, knew how to give with amazing regularity. Here he is as a cufflink with the same intent look:

He even had ‘the look’ on the cover of Look:

The only time I ever saw Ben Casey not have ‘the look’ was at The Playboy Mansion where I was lucky enough to be New Year’s Eve,1991, and as everyone was yelling “Happy New Year!” I turned to kiss the person next to me and there he was, Ben Casey, YES, Vincent Edwards in the flesh!  And he was smiling! This was back in the prehistoric days before digital cameras and before I knew enough to carry one, digital or otherwise, with me. So, alas, the only place that smile is is in my memory bank.  I even forgot to ask for an autograph.

But at least I have my pencils to wrap my fingers around when I dream about ‘the look’.

I have no idea how they arrived at 34 cents to sell this for. Seems like Dr. Casey’s winning bedside ‘look’ is worth a lot more than that.

I wasn’t going to do anything for my birthday this year. Too overworked and no extra coinage to throw around. But word leaked out and spread and all of a sudden these people, most of whom I’ve spent every birthday and momentous occasion with for umpteen years, showed up at my house:

Bottom row (L-R):  Diva Zappa, Lisa Loeb, me, Prudence Fenton and Michael Patrick King.
Middle row (L-R):  Jane Wagner, Lesley Ann Warren, Bob Garrett, Lily Tomlin, Pamela Des Barres, Karen Levitas, Gai Gherardi, Gail Zappa, Nancye Ferguson, Stan Zimmerman and Jim Burns. Top row (L-R): Ben Bove, RuPaul, Tom Trujillo, Roey Herschovitz, Jimmy Quill, Charles Phoenix, Sonny Ruscha Bjornson, Mark Blackwell and Jack Nesbit.

Though all of my friends may not practice kitsch like the religion I do, their lives and occupations are consumed with pop culture and they all bring unique individual style and vision to everything they do. None of us are color-in-the-lines people. Which means that when it comes to birthday presents, it’s fantasyland overload as their sensibilities collide with mine in harmonious gift wrapped chaos! For example, here I am with perennially great gift givers Nancye Ferguson and Jim Burns:

Jim is looking very happy because the video game he stars in, Call Of Duty Black Ops, was released the day before and set the opening day record for ANY type of entertainment,Is he is grossing $320,000,000 by the time he reached my house. Maybe that’s why they got me 14 gifts. Though Nancye and Jim are always reliable for a smorgasbord of age-inappropriate-unless-you-happen-to-be-me offerings like this magnificent 1950’s mother of pearl poodle pocket mirror/pill box:

… and this convenient land line phone ear piece for my iPhone:

They also gave me this wonderfully famous Enid Collins owl box purse…

…and this fantastic 50’s fold up wallet with plastic coin holder inside like the Good Humor ice cream man used to wear on his belt to give people change:

They also threw in this 1960’s Wilma Flintstone bathing cap.

Here I am with Pamela Des Barres, the world’s most famous groupie, and Diva and Gail Zappa, who came straight to my place from the airport after being honored at a Frank Zappa festival in London.

Pamela is a fabulous writer and also travels a lot for her work. Which is lucky for me and the rest of her friends as she hits thrift shops wherever she goes and picks up stuff for us all year round. She makes these finds for pennies and stacks them up so she can arrive like Santa Claus on any given occasion. These “On The Wagon’ coaster and snack trays she gave me are just about my favorite bar accessory ever!

I love when snacks are referred to as ‘Tid Bits’, especially when what is normally a single word is broken up into two separate words as stamped into the belly of the wagon.

This nightshirt could be the heaviest gift of the evening. It’s hard to see all the 1960’s pop culture graphics and slogans in this photo and I’m not sure who the characters on it are but there were more than a few vintage clotheshorses at the party, certainly including myself, and we all agree that Pamela’s $2 purchase would easily go for $500 in the right store.

Then there’s this early 60’s Make-Up Mask that you pull over your bouffant to protect the Max Factor from rubbing off your face when you pull your angora sweater over it:

Pamela graciously modeled it for us throughout the evening.

Her excellent gift giving instincts have definitely rubbed off on the other Des Barres in attendance, Michael, who reliably gives me fantastic African swag.

At one point there was a girl’s conference in the bedroom.  Here I am with (L-R) Lily Tomlin,Prudence Fenton, and Jane Wagner:

Prudence not only cooked an incredible dinner for everyone but made the excellent “Crackerature” portrait of me that’s between our heads in the photo above.

Lily and Jane gave me the most ridiculous-in-the-best-kitsch-sense-of-the-word-ridiculous gift of the night:

He’s only about 3″ high, his little arms are made out of bobby pins and his body is some kind of overcooked Sculpy or baking soda concoction. The card that accompanied him was just as kitschy.

The Diller is Phyllis Diller, which adds a few pounds on the kitsch scale for this gift. The note Jane and Lily wrote me make the cheese wheel even weightier:

Joining Lily and I here is Stan Zimmerman. We all grew up in Detroit.

Stan added a little class to my gifts with this 1950’s signed Sasha Brastoff ashtray.

Here’s Lily and I with RuPaul. Both of them have added greatly to the kitsch cache of my alter-ego, Bubbles the artist, as they are the #1 and #2 collectors of her art, each owning over 20 pieces.

Michael Patrick King, seen here with Pamela Des Barres’ lovely feet, brought me some of my most Americanized presents.

He brought my gifts back from Dubai when he was there filming Sex and the City II. First, this green shopping bag featuring a carefree Michelle Obama:

And then this brain-numbing Muslim Barbie shoulder bag:

I got one more bag, actually a Kitsch Emergency Kit, from Karen Levitas.

It’s nice when your friends give you a healthy snack of sardines to enjoy while you read cheesy poetry from the 70’s:

Here I am with Mark Blackwell, who’s also a November 10th birthday baby, and Sonny Ruscha Bjornson, Lisa Loeb and Roey Hershkovitz:

Lisa and Roey gave me some quality reading material:

Maybe I will learn to make beautiful cakes like this one on page 110:

But when it comes to baking, there’s only one Supreme Master and I’m pictured with him here:

Just a few days before my party Charles Phoenix was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal with his signature “Cherpumple” cake, one of which he baked for me.

A Cherpumple is three Sara Lee cherry, pumpkin and apple pies stuffed inside three Betty Crocker cakes and frosted as one happy stack of sugary ecstasy:

Here’s my friend, Lesley Ann Warren, indulging in some. Perennially skinny and always eating healthy, she hit the Cherpumple as an extreme gesture of kitsch on my birthday.

Lesley was my first friend when I moved to Hollywood in 1976. She was also the first person ever to sing one of my songs on TV when she did the third song I ever wrote, “Childstar”, on Johnny Carson.

Some people went back for seconds of Cherpumple. Each plate weighs 2 lbs.

Gai Gherardi and Rhonda Saboff shared their Cherpumple:

They gave me an excellent pair of glasses from LA Eyeworks, which Gai co-owns and where I’ve bought all of my eye coverings for the last three decades.

When RuPaul arrived he brought me another birthday cake.

It was delicious but everyone had already gorged on too much Cherpumple.

Which means that everyone went home in sugar shock, the condition they’ve had much practice existing in as they’ve all been over to my house a trillion times before.

I didn’t have far to go as my bed was only feet away from the remains of the Cherpumple. I went to sleep with my crown on and had sugar sweet dreams anticipating a very good year to come indeed!

More party photos can be seen here.


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.



The title of this post is somewhat misleading as although I really did go to the largest exhibition of Marilyn Monroe’s personal artifacts ever I assumed it wasn’t cool to take photos inside the Hollywood Museum where it took place so I only took my camera out to snap a few personal photos of my own.  As I was driving home I was kicking myself that I didn’t break the rules and at least sneak a shot of Marilyn’s gigantic 1961 Cadillac Fleetwood limousine with her gloves and purse still lying on the back seat and the cap owned by the chauffeur, who owns the car to this day, still on the dash.  There were checks written by Marilyn, personal notes, clothes, scripts, magazine covers including huge original photos of her Playboy spread – she graced the cover of the first Playboy ever – and anything else you could have ever hoped to see of Marilyn’s. The star, of course, was not here to celebrate with us having left the planet over 40 years ago but look who was wearing a gown that Marilyn wore to entertain the troops in Korea in 1951:


Our hostess for the evening was the lovely Ester Golderg:


The rest of my crew was (L-R) Chadmichael Morisette, Mito Aviles, (me, Marilyn), LaToya London, American Idol alumni and Nettie in my musical, The Color Purple, and Tiffany Daniels, Squeak in TCP.


The Hollywood Museum is in the old Max Factor building on Hollywood and Highland.


Max Factor was THE preeminent makeup artist and manufacturer during the Golden Age of Hollywood. There are still rooms in the building filled with the possessions and makeup of the stars who inhabited them like Joan Crawford, Judy Garland and Lucille Ball.


Well…Ok…I snuck one shot of Lucille Ball’s dressing table…

Ok, maybe two.  This is Cary grant’s Rolls-Royce:


Some of the rooms are still named for the color of hair a star had with the corresponding makeup:


All in all we had a great evening and saw a lifetime of Marilyn but I’m soooo late for a meeting and need to get out of here so I need to end now or I won’t have time to put on makeup.



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.



These little hard plastic record coasters were all the rage in the 1950’s and 60’s when 45’s and 33-1/3’s were blasting from hifi’s all over the world and Tom Collins, Manhattans and Hi Balls were resting on them as everyone did The Jitterbug and Stroll, topping it off with The Twist.   Some of the coasters were just cheesy versions of records featuring hit drinks:


Others used them as an advertising tool:


All of them came in handy little record jackets:


They were cute and practical as water rings no longer ruined blond wood kidney shaped tables and other groovy Atomic furniture the drinks were set upon.

I had a set of these last night with me in the recording studio so I didn’t leave rings on the mixing console. Although we’re not holding our drinks or displaying our coasters they were there in full force. I wanted my mind in peak enjoyment mode as I got to hear/produce Fantasia recording my song, “I’m Here” from my musical, The Color Purple, LIVE with a 40 piece orchestra.

fantasia,aw,im-here_6984(L-R) Frank Filipetti (engineer), Brenda Russell (my co-writer/ co-producer), Stephen Bray (co-writer/ co-producer), Joseph Joubert (arranger, conductor), Fantasia, Greg Phillinganes (keyboard player extraordinaire) and me (co-writer/ co-producer).

I’ve been collecting these coasters long enough that I could have brought one for everyone but the night was about making music and not decorating so the bulk of my stash stayed safely at home awaiting the next cocktail, Slurpee or Vernors to be placed upon it.

record-coasters_5863 record-coasters_5864 record-coasters_6181


This is an amazing movie find, especially for a stamp collecting movie nut (which I’m not but I can appreciate the passion).  Sixty pages of  blank squares, each ascribed with the name of a 1920’s – 50’s star, from Academy Award winners to TV stars, “The Young Set”, International stars, World-Famous Women, Animal stars, Shootin’ stars (Western), Symphony stars, Singing stars, Comedians  and every other category that Hollywood could possibly subdivide itself into.

The Screen Stars Photo Album was made in 1955 by the Harlich Manufacturing Co. of  Chicago and approved by the National Poster Stamp Society with “All Rights to Screen Star Stamps and Stamp Albums fully protected by Hollywood Star Stamps, Inc. in cooperation with the Stars, Studios And Motion Picture Relief Fund, Inc.”.

Screen-Stars-Stamp-Album_6071 Screen-Stars-Photo-Album_6080 Screen-Stars-Stamp-Album_6074 Screen-Stars-Stamp-Album_6069 Screen-Stars-Stamp-Album_6078 Screen-Stars-Stamp-Album_6066 Screen-Stars-Stamp-Album_6068 Screen-Stars-Stamp-Album_6075 Screen-Stars-Stamp-Album_6077 Screen-Stars-Stamp-Album_6065