I don’t know where this fantastic metal pipe menorah came from but it was sitting in the middle of my friend Judy Freed’s Hanukah table and begged to be commemorated on the shelves here at The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch. Had I seriously taken note of it earlier I would have photographed it with candles ablaze but I got to Judy’s late and was completely distracted by the plethora of Jewish delights that are reliably laid out at her holiday spreads. Without question, she makes the best brisket I’ve ever tasted. It’s so tender it cuts itself if it even senses utensils coming near.

The potato latkes were the perfect blend of crisp outside and mushy inside.

The noodle kugel also had the crisp/mushy thang goin’ on.

This dish was a little straight for me but I guess it was needed to counteract the Jewish starch attack:

I’ve been going to Judy’s for the Jewish holidays since the early 1980’s. I used to dress for the occasion.

I know it’s hard to see details in the photo but I’m wearing a 1950’s souvenir hat from Israel, a massive glitter Jewish star necklace and jewelry all made in Israel. The rest of my clothes didn’t have much to do with Judaism but they haven’t fit me in a couple decades so there’s nothing lost in terms of me clothing myself appropriately to go to Judy’s these days.

For dessert, Judy also made chocolate chip cookies the size of tires. But they were brought out at the moment I noticed the lead pipe menorah so I thankfully forgot to chow down a set of four because I was too busy fumbling for my camera.

The menorah is unbelievably heavy. But then again, so is the reason we celebrate Hanukkah.

So Happy Day 6 of Hanukah and may you steer clear of holiday cooks whose food tastes more like lead pipes than brisket, kugel and all the other festive food that lights up a holiday table.

All pretty self-explanatory here – Shalom, hope you’re enjoying this stretch of Hanukah, sit back and have a nice smoke with your Mogen David, wash it down with a matzoh ball and open another present.

There are no manufacturers marks on this vintage Shalom ashtray but I love the handpainted looking cigarette that looks more like a baton or African rain stick with delicate little curlycue smoke coming out of it.

I don’t encourage you to smoke but if you do at least park it where the Chosen People wish you well.

Happy present #5, 3 more to go!

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.


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.



Passover means Seder, Seder means matzoh and matzoh means crumbs. But fear not, the Matzah Sweeper is here, a convenient crumb caddy made from plastic that could not have cost the manufacturer much gelt because it’s so clunky to use.  After having decimated at least half a box of matzoh trying to get my favorite unleavened bread topping, peanut butter and jelly, spread evenly across it there were enough crumbs to make it look like my kitchen table was covered with snow.  But despite the fact that it says “press here”…


after five minutes of trying to pry it open pressing everywhere imaginable I gave up trying to crack the Matzah Sweeper open to dump the crumbs. I finally used it, full of crumbs,  as a  percussion shaker on a song I was working on yesterday. The trade-off worked out nicely.


One of my favorite things from a Kitsch perspective about matzoh is that there’s no clear correct spelling of the name. Sometimes it’s matzo, sometimes it’s matzoh and for the Rite Lite company of Brooklyn, New York it’s apparently ‘matzah’.


And now, an extra Passover bonus! Please enjoy The Temptations circa 1968 singing a Fiddler on the Roof medley. The visual quality of this clip is beyond chaluscious (sp? Yiddish for ‘atrocious’) but to hear this score sung this way will add a little pinch o’ soul to the matzo brei and gefilte fish and ensure you stay in the groove this Passover season.



I’ll be waving one of these  all day and night today as these are the final two performances of the First National Tour of my musical, The Color Purple. The  whole 4-1/2 years I was writing this with Brenda Russell and Stephen Bray we waved these church fans and others from my collection of 60 from the 1950’s and ’60’s daily. I’ve been stuck on songs before but being stuck on a song for a musical when one has to consider way more then the singer or the content of the song like the plot, which we were writing at the same time as the songs, the dialogue, whether something should be musicalized or spoken, is there dancing to it or not, does the wig guy have enough time to make the wig changes, on and ever-increasingly on…, let me tell you the sweat pours down and these church fans, totally organic to what we were writing other than a couple decades too late, came in mighty handy.

As a passionate collector, I love things to be very organic. In its simplest form, if you find a poster for an album you need to collect the album and anything else related to that group of recording sessions. I had collected my church fans for years but I never had more organic moments then when Alice Walker, the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Color Purple novel, would fly into LA  every few months to listen to our progress and curl up in a fetal position in my Chromcraft purple lounger, close her eyes and listen to the new songs, smiling as wide as a mile while waving one of the fans, a different one each time, of course.

Today I wave my final two fans, one at the matinee and one at the evening performance. I’ll say goodbye to Fantasia who made an absolutely and insanely stellar Celie (along with LaChanze, Jeanette Bayardelle and our other wonderful Celies along the way since we opened on Broadway in 2005).  I’ll say goodbye to the rest of our glorious cast, many of whom are from the original Broadway cast, not the least of which is Felicia P. Fields aka Sofia, the first actor we cast in 2003. Rumor has it that tons of actors from the original cast are showing up tonight and will be in the final show along with the tour cast. If both of my hands aren’t gripping Kleenex this is the fan I’ll be waving. One last time…


… until the second national tour begins in two weeks. That will be a total surprise as I’ve never seen the production or met any of the cast. But I’ll be sure to have my fans in tow when I do.

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shalombathrobeNot only is Barbie always stylish she’s apparently Jewish or at least celebrating the Chosen People this Hanukkah season in her custom sewn Shalom bathrobe.  I especially love that it looks like it’s made out of a  hand towel.

This fashionble bit of Kitsch 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 awmok.com. I thank aKitschionado kookykitsch for her excellent and discerning taste.


Last night Donny Osmond bagged an almost perfect score doing the Cha-Cha to my song, “September”, on Dancing With The Stars. In his former life as an Osmond he and his brothers took on my follow-up Earth Wind & Fire hit, “Boogie Wonderland”. What makes the latter performance in Provo, Utah in 1980 kwalify as Kitsch isn’t so much that Donny’s singing is uncharacteristically off, flatter than an iceskating rink in spots, but that the lyric changes made to suit Mormon sensibilities are so odd:

Original Boogie Wonderland: “You say your prayers though you don’t care. You dance and shake the hurt.” / Osmondized: “You never felt vibrations quite like this in Wonderland.”

Now, not only am I not against lyric changes when someone covers my songs (after the original, correct version is out), I’m rarely concerned with preserving the sanctity of the original record and always more interested in the individuality expressed in a new version. But I don’t understand what was so offensive about the original Boogie Wonderland lyric. I guess it was the word ‘prayers’ and the fact that you might momentarily not have faith in them when your life has crashed to the ground as the lines previous to it set up: “Midnight creeps so slowly into hearts of men who need more than they get./Daylight deals a bad hand to a woman who has laid too many bets./ The mirror stares you in the face and says ‘baby, uh uh, it don’t work…”)

Original Boogie Wonderland: “I chase my vinyl dreams to Boogie Wonderland.”/ Osmondized: “I chase my crazy dreams to Boogie Wonderland.”

I guess they thought vinyl was some kind of sex costume or toy…  I meant vinyl as in plain ol’ 33-1/3.

To Kitsch in Provo and Donny winning the prize!


Vintage 1970’s cardboard Mahalia Jackson church fan, courtesy of the Robert L. Parks Funeral Home of Cedartown, Georgia. When Jackson, the original Queen of Gospel, passed away in 1972 this fan with her likeness, made by the A. Sheer Company, flooded Black churches in America to join the rest of the church fan flock of Martin Luther Kings, sentimental portraits of African-American families and pastoral scenes courtesy of mostly funeral homes, cleaners and and car dealerships.

Church fans are still in heavy use today and Mahalia is still there waving with the best of them.

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