LAX last Friday morning, with people leaving for 4th of July, was like D-Day at the stockyards. My whole morning had been like that. Snappy P and I were flying to Chicago to go to friends’ wedding in Kenosha, WI. We figured we’d beat the holiday traffic and take an early flight, but by 7am. the pigs were chomping full force at the trough. I’ve never traveled on prime getaway day for  a holiday before in my life and now I know why.

The ten trillion people at the airport weren’t the worst of the problem. I woke up with a headache and was nauseous when my alarm rang at 5 am. That’s usually right about when I finally fall asleep. The peanut butter sandwich Snappy P gave me once the car picked both of us up didn’t help. She’s a health nut and used almond butter and sprinkled unsalted peanuts on top.  I’m a junk nut and if it’s not Skippy, the blasphemy of a healthy brand makes me ill.

A blurry shot I know but trust me, it’s more appetizing that way. Equally unappetizing and all too familiar, most of my Apple devices were suffering serious ailments. I’m on my third iPhone. When the battery decides to enter old age the declne is fast. I have an older one for backup that can only be used when plugged in because on its own the life sucks out of it in about four minutes. My newer iPhone 4 is already showing signs of Dementia. All made worse because American Airlines has evidently not heard that most people have mobile devices these days. There were only four plugs in a seating area that was a half a block long, and those had been permanently plugged up. I watched at least ten people screw up their electrical cords trying to jam them in the sockets. There was thankfully one Samsung charging station per gate. But that means six outlets for hundreds of people. I had to wander six gates down to find a plug and then the seating wasn’t optimum:

Once plugged in, I got an email from the bride-to-be that said there had been a windstorm in Kenosha the night before and most of the town’s power was still gone. So there was no way I could leave my “seat” as my phones, computer, and two ipads needed to be as charged as much as possible for the weather conditions we were about to enter. However, leave the terrazzo I was forced to do because there were constant gate changes. By the time the airline settled on gate 45, where we had originally started, it added an hour onto the departure time. Although I wasn’t to arrive there for another five hours, here’s what conditions were like all over Kenosha:

Once on American flight 1196, the 200+ passengers went even more nuts because the overhead compartments were the size of hatboxes. So unless you were only traveling with your Burger King bag, even more time was sucked up by everyone’s carry-ons having to be checked. And when’s the last time you were on a plane with no air vents?!

Under the best of conditions I’d still like air conditioning chips installed in my body, so the lack of those little nozzles that spray other people’s germs on you was very disquieting. Not to mention that this was my view for 3 1/2 hours:

You know what? If your head’s in this condition and your ass isn’t in a leather seat on your own private Lear jet, please have some consideration for the person 17 inches behind you and wear a hat! And I don’t want to see your hairy legs either. With all the rules the airlines are making these days can’t they add mandatory long pants t0 the list??

We finally landed in Chicago, jumped into our rental car and hit the freeway, or should I say parking lot.

Thankfully, I had just downloaded AT&T Navigator on my iPhone, which I’m happy to report is a lot more reliable than their cell service. I can’t say I’ve ever been happy with the iPhone’s map app so it was a real relief to have that talking lady lead us to Kenosha on surface roads. It was going to take a little longer but I figured we’d spot all kinds of vintage motels and diners and taking photographs of all that is my favorite thing to do. But I’m sad to report that everything has been mowed down or renovated so it looks like anywhere-just-outside-any-city, USA. The only exciting thing was that we passed the headquarters of Uline, an office supply place I’ve been ordering stuff from for at least 15 years because anything you get arrives bright and early the next day even if you don’t order it until 5 PM. I’ve often fantasized about the location of this fantastically efficient company and was sure they had to have warehouses in LA for such fast delivery. So although there’s no vintage blinking signs or architecture to write home about, at least Uline popped up in the endless miles of asphalt and tall grass.

Just as we hit the Kenosha line there was one incredible vintage architectural relic:

That’s the old drive-in theater that we were supposed to see a movie at that night but the windstorm had taken the screen out so our one shot at vintage immersion was not to be.  Signs of the windstorm were everywhere.

Nothing could destroy the mighty pillars of the one “big” hotel in Kenosha, however, The Best Western. Here’s the grand entrance:

At least it overlooked a lake.

Which is good because I wouldn’t want to have had to swim in the hotel’s pool or should I say…:

So we bypassed the poo and hit the elevator to drop everything off in the room. Snappy’s food dropped somewhere else:

No salad to munch on, we  got dressed and headed over to Villa Di Carlos across the street where a pizza dinner for the out-of-town wedding guests was being held. Even just walking from the hotel to the restaurant produced about 25 pounds of sweat so it was a relief to walk into not just air conditioning but a cheese haven of 4th of July wonderment:

I’m not sure how the Easter chick made it in but he did:

Unfortunately we were directed to an empty room downstairs where one vent spit out a sputtering stream of air if you happened to be sitting directly in front of it, which we weren’t. It was then I remembered why I left the Midwest behind so many years ago and moved to Los Angeles, where 99% of the time there’s no humidity and everything is air-conditioned anyway. Unless I wanted to be a maniac all weekend I just gave in and decided that I was going to be fine feeling like a baby’s diaper the whole weekend as most likely everyone else did too. Besides, the wedding couple, Natalie Lent and Chris Bruss, both friends from LA, were fabulous and we were there to support them and not my vintage architecture and kitsch sightings habit.

The next morning we woke up and hit Frank’s Diner, a 1928 railroad car style diner, featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

If  I thought I produced sweat the day before, it was nothing compared to the downpour that occurred inside the sweat lodge known as Frank’s.

The place itself was fabulous, the food was good but not A+ phenomenal, and the service made waiting for the flight at LAX the day before seem like the bullet train. The place is long and narrow and the line continues throughout the entire diner,…

…nowhere near a match for the two ceiling fans over the counter and vents on the floor near the booths.

The last time I looked, vents in walls or ceilings produced far better effects. But I suppose that people who only go to diners because they’re featured on television think that part of the experience is dripping into your food. It took almost an hour to get a turkey club and a tall stack. Pancakes were good and thick and the turkey club was juicy but filled with processed gobbler. I should’ve gotten the specialty of the house, the “garbage” egg concoctions:

And the next morning at Mike’s Burgers I should’ve gotten the fries:

And I guess I should’ve dressed more festively. It’s not often I’m outdone.

I can’t say Kenosha was my favorite destination point. We had a great time at the wedding and the hotel, although not opulent and featuring a poo, at least wasn’t crawling with what this house a couple blocks away was:

Yesterday morning, Snappy and I said goodbye to the bride…

We took the non-descript surface road ride back to O’Hare and I found plugs for some of my mobile devices.

We were in the air when the fireworks started so missed that but I have to say that flying on a holiday gives you a very empty airport and on-time flights, i.e. painless travel. And this time it got us LA.

This 18 inch tall plaster stewardess is a stone cold vestige of the late 1960’s spirit of flying, when both planes and the people that manned them became more then silver tubes and dark blue head-to-toe wardrobe, finally giving passengers something to look at both inside and out of the plane.

Complete with hot pants and go-go boots, this buxom stewardess sculpture is one of my favorite artifacts of that era.

I love that her little liquor cart also includes a vest should she get a little chilly.

I featured the lovely and demure “Why Yes, Fly Me” today because as we speak I’m boarding a plane to Austin, Texas to speak on a panel at SXSW.

If by any chance you’re going to be at SXSW, here’s where I’ll be:

“Indie Success: Caching in on Collaboration”
Tuesday March 15, 11:00AM
Hilton, Salon C, 500 East 4th Street

Here’s the official description of the panel: Since the web began we’ve been talking about artists having a career without a label and going directly to fans. We finally have examples of this working, so what does it look like? SXSW Veteran Heather Gold sits down with successful collaborating indie artists including: Allee Willis (September, Boogie Wonderland, The Color Purple, Theme from Friends, over 50 million albums sold), Mary Jo Pehl (Mystery Science Theatre 3000, RIfftrax, NPR) and Kenyatta Cheese (Know Your Meme, Rocketboom). The Net links almost every form of artistic making, so it makes sense that we’re in an era of increasing collaboration and creation in many forms. We’ll find out how limitations and openness serve them in an era of “personal brands”. We’ll find out how they deal with rights, friendship and creating the best space in which to collaborate. We’ll also dig into their collaborative process in making social experiences, music, video and comedy and find out how they’ve succeeded creatively and in every other way.

Things have changed a lot for artists since 1976 when “Why Yes, Fly Me” was flying.

Though not much has changed for me when it comes to traveling. I’m not a big one for air travel – not because I’m scared of flying but because it kills the whole day. I’m not one for big conferences or a lot of walking either. SXSW should be interesting…

I’ll be posting my adventures on all these things I’m not so big on over the next few days so stay tuned. In the meantime, pretend this lovely stewardess is serving you a nice little cup of  steaming nuts and pouring you a fresh glass of champagne.

That’s where I’m hoping my state of mind will be in my thankfully-aisle seat as I, who also am not one for sweating, head to ultra-humid Austin to blab on about interactivity, social media and thriving in an open, independent cyber world. That ‘s something I AM big on. In fact, as big as “Why Yes, Fly Me’s” biggest assets:

…come see me and my latest piece of technology, this 1960’s wrist transisitor radio, on the “Indie Success: Caching in on Collaboration” panel, Tuesday March 15, 11:00AM at the Hilton, Salon C, 500 East 4th Street. Here’s what me and my wrist accessory will be talking about:

“Since the web began we’ve been talking about artists having a career without a label and going directly to fans. We finally have examples of this working, so what does it look like?

SXSW Veteran Heather Gold sits down with successful collaborating indie artists including: Allee Willis (September, Boogie Wonderland, The Color Purple, Theme from Friends, over 50 million albums sold), Mary Jo Pehl (Mystery Science Theatre 3000, RIfftrax, NPR) and Kenyatta Cheese (Know Your Meme, Rocketboom). The Net links almost every form of artistic making, so it makes sense that we’re in an era of increasing collaboration and creation in many forms. We’ll find out how limitations and openness serve them in an era of “personal brands” We’ll find out how they deal with rights, friendship and creating the best space in which to collaborate. We’ll also dig into their collaborative process in making social experiences, music, video and comedy and find out how they’ve succeeded creatively and in every other way.”

Arriving in Austin tomorrow night.  See you there on Tuesday. My biggest message: As much as it’s about technology, it’s about a charming personality…


(Photo with my Royal typewriter, bought with my allowance money when I was 13, by Jennie Warren)

I love this 1950/60s clock radio so much because it looks exactly like can openers of that same vintage did. I kept it in my kitchen for years, and with as much cooking as I did often held a tuna fish can up to it looking for what I hit to make it open. I always pressed this red button expecting some magic magnetized arm to pop out.

All it did was pump out that wonderfully static AM radio sound that I’ll never get sick of.

Even with all the audio equipment I own I’m still attached to the sound of hits spitting out of an AM radio.

When you flip the can opener clock radio around it’s a clock.

I can’t believe that the numbers on it are so conservative looking and not of a more Atomic design. I like my clocks more modern and distinctive looking.

The vinyl that wraps around the radio looks like textured peacock feathers. This was a very popular trend in vinyl and leather the 1960s.

I’ve been collecting transistor radios for decades. The Zenith pedistal can opener clock radio will always be one of my favorites.


I was never into The A-Team when it came out in the 1980’s. But lately, as I flip through channels in the wee hours of the morning trying to find something to fall asleep to, I’ve gotten completely obsessed with the reruns on Centric. I love all the low camera angles as truck tires screech by and slam dirt into the camera and explosions blow up right in your face. The direction has a clear POV and things that hover near the ground get as many close-ups as the actors do. And, of course, there’s always Mr. T, whose memorabilia I’ve slowly but surely collected over the years – banks, gold chain bubblegum, coloring books, puffy stickers, lunchboxes, air fresheners, and this Mr. T radio I recently received as a gift.


I have no idea what the significance of the shape is but I love that there’s a wrist strap so Mr. T can always swing by my side.


I’m one of the few songwriter/musician types who actually loves to hear their own music coming out of something as lo fi as this. In the old days, before the mid ’90s, it was imperative to listen to mixes of your songs over really crappy speakers so you could hear them as the average person was going to hear them. Most people, including myself, had little Auratone speakers in their recording studios, all in an effort to hear which instruments and vocals were audible and which weren’t in case someone was still pumping the sound out of one of these little Mr. T-like pocket jobs. Here I am in my studio in 1981 with one of my Auratones.


To test how a record would sound out of a more expensive radio, I had my first boombox, the heavier-than-a-bowling-ball/ first-of-its-kind stereo Sony cassette player that all the guys in Earth, Wind & Fire had the day I met them and started “September”. I bought myself one the next day, a huge extravaganza as I was broke, but it felt like the musical waters were shifting and I was on the brink of my first hit so the purchase felt justified. So as soon as I’d finish a mix I’d  listen to it coming out of the Aurotones, then I’d pop a cassette of it into the fancy Sony and, last but not least, if I had any way of rigging an input into one of my transistor radios, I’d listen on that.  Just to the other side of the Auratone in the photo was my collection of vintage transistor radios. It’s not a tragedy that they’re out of camera range as Mr. T was not yet among them. These, however, were:


By comparison, my Mr. T radio is pretty down and dirty basic. It doesn’t have fancy rhinestone eye dials like the owl or a wing that lifts to reveal the speaker like the ladybug.  But it does come with a belt clip, which would be an excellent feature were it not for the fact that by using it the speaker holes would be jammed up against your body muffling what little sound this thing puts out in the first place.


These days people own Mr. T Flavorwave Turbo Ovens. I’m content with my 1983 A-Team radio and reruns.



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”.



As I cruise along the 5 and 101 freeways up north to finish three videoSongs with Pomplamoose, my trusty CBer’s Prayer Plaque is in place on the dash. Before modern technology, the CB radio leading the way in multi-vehicle communication, my  traveling life was hell. I never actually had a CB but I did marvel at how trucks could warn each other of impending Smokies or fabulous truck stops with Blue Plate Specials. Now that I have a cell phone, well, several cell phones, an Ipad and my laptop that I plug into the cigarette lighter I’m much more inclined to travel because I can stay connected. I never really had a desire to leave my life behind and now I don’t have to.

Although trucks no longer have CBs because the drivers use cell phones just like the rest of us it doesn’t stop them from expressing themselves. Native American Indians have been a big theme on the trip so far today.

truck-mural van-098

We also passed someone who plans to do a lot of riding:


And then of course there’s this:


Which makes me want to stop for this:


I don’t need a CB as I have all my regular communications paraphernalia with me.


I also have a navigator to tell me where the nearest hot dog joint is. which is great as I don’t need to wait for all the Beavers to answer me.


Thank God for modern technology.



I’ve long said that everything about and around a person is a vehicle for self-expression. I mean the way you dress, how you decorate your living space, your hair, the plaster frog family on your front lawn, everything in your personal, physical and virtual environments is a canvas on and through which you show the world who you are. The driveway at The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch at is packed with cars, campers and trucks that scream the personality of the person behind the wheel. Here are but a few examples of some such “I Am” vehicles.  Click any of them for more info.

Were I to drive a truck it would most certainly look something like this:


If I were taking a summer road trip, here’s what I’d be steering:

Screen shot 2010-08-04 at 9.01.56 AM

Were I of that persuasion and super friendly with God I’d  be pullin this down the highway:


If I were a butcher I might drive this. Then again, as far as “chick magnets” goes, this is the ultimate cock car:

Screen shot 2010-08-04 at 9.04.21 AM

If you were Angelyne you’d be tooling around the streets of LA in this living monument to cheesedom in stardom car. If you were lucky enough to be friends with Angeline you’d be tooling around with her.

Screen shot 2010-08-04 at 9.09.40 AM

If you like peas this vehicle is for you:

Screen shot 2010-08-04 at 9.12.38 AM

If you don’t like vegetables perhaps you like fruit:

Screen shot 2010-08-04 at 9.22.50 AM

Harry And David made a whole business of fruit. Here’s what they commissioned to have made in 1960:


If you’re a crafter, this muffler car might be more your speed:

Screen shot 2010-08-04 at 9.27.45 AM

If you’re really bad at directions this 1940’s coupe is for you:


Here’s a nice Sunday car:


If you need a tuneup or your teeth cleaned you might want to stop here:


And, of course,  if you don’t want to take the highway you can always fly.

Screen shot 2010-08-04 at 9.30.54 AM


Without question, these are by far my favorites of the 50 or 60 pairs of headphones that I own. Although of no use whatsoever in my recording studio as their sole purpose is to wear them to listen to the radio they still are the best looking set of phones I’ve ever seen.headphones-music-muffs_6724

I oftentimes wear these two-speaker-but-not-really-stereo Music Muffs when a collaborator is working on something that I either don’t view as crucial to the record or something I know it’s better to just let them run with without any kind of censoring from a collaborator. So rather than sit there and get annoyed or bored I just tune them out and listen to AM radio.


I didn’t bring my Music Muffs with me on my trip up north to work with Pomplamoose where I am right now racing to finish three SMASH songs as the voluminous amount of percussion instruments that I stuffed into my suitcase didn’t allow room for the precious radio headphones cargo.


Pomplamoose has their own headphones but there’s not enough inputs into their audio interface so only two people have the luxury of listening to what they’re harmonizing to.  The other person steers blind.


Most people couldnt work this way.  But this group, just like me, thrives on spontaneity and working within insane limits, all of which adds life to the music.  This always happens when one must rely on their imagination to create great sounds as opposed to their pocketbook or massive array of equipment.


Though I do wish my Music Muffs had made the trip as the hard drive that I tripped over that all the video was being directly recorded to is being rushed to the hard drive doctor as we speak. In the meantime, I’m writing this post and trying to stay calmmmmmmmmmmm without the aid and distraction of beautiful mono sound.


And we just keep on singing…

PompIMG_3308 headphones-music-muffs_2225


Although it’s all a little worn, this Panasonic Panapet 9V R-70 is one of the most popular transistor radios in history. Music boomed through it throughout the ’70s and it continues to hiss out AM reception like the day it was born. The 4″ high Panapet came in white, red, blue, yellow and green as well as a much rarer lavender and was known for having less static than other transistor radios. It fit comfortably in your palm but if you were really cool you used the handy chain to hang it on your pole lamp or doorknob.

I had a bunch of these but through the years my lust for round electronics focused more on portable hanging ball Videosphere  TVs with matching radio/8-track players. Each TV had its own matching Panapet.

panasonic-panapet_4910 panasonic-panapet-radio_4892 panasonic-panapet-radio_4897 panasonic-panapet-radio_4893 panasonic-panapet-radio_4895 IMG_4902 panasonic-panapet-radio_4898