This is one of the few food related items that John Lloyd Young didn’t jewel at my place last Sunday when The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch & APLA hosted “Food for Thought”, the first ever exhibition of his brilliant Pop Kitsch art interpretations of iconically kitschy komfort foods. Had I remembered where I put it I may have used my Velveeta camera to take some fabulous photos that day.  Lucky for us I didn’t as you can actually see the work and the beautiful Pop Kitsch guests like RuPaul who came to view it much clearer then my little Shells & Cheese Dinner baby is capable of popping out.


John Lloyd’s eye-popping work costs somewhat more than the three Kraft box tops and dollar shipping and handling one had to send in to get this Velveeta Camera when it was made in the 1980’s. The 110 Kodak film cartridge is still inside…


…just as fresh as John Lloyd’s ever-glowing can of Spam.


Of course, my preference would be to dump the Kraft Shells & Cheese Dinner cam and go for John Lloyd’s Kraft Mac & Cheese “Dominoes”. It’s hard to a tell from this photo but he jeweled 100 boxes of it and toppled them out on a 16 foot serpentine table.


In 2006, the musical I co-wrote, The Color Purple, lost the Tony to Jersey Boys of which John Lloyd Young was the star and for which he won the Best Actor Tony.


We hadn’t seen each other since the round of award parties back then but a few months ago he e-mailed me out of the blue and asked if I was interested in writing some music with him. When he came over to talk about it he brought me a gift that he had just made, a jeweled box of Triscuits.


I went completely nuts for the box and encouraged him to keep on jeweling. What I saw over the next couple of months I considered brilliant works of Pop Kitsch art and I decided that presenting John Lloyd’s work would make an excellent exhibition as the first artist officially sanctioned by The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch.  My Tony loss to him already made a perfect set up for Kitsch. I also thought that his Pop Kitsch sensibility would inspire mine and make for some excellent party props like this sign I painted interpreting the junk food John Lloyd chose to honor in his work.


We both were hard at work up until the last minute before the guests arrived.


And arrive thank God they did as all proceeds benefited AIDS Project Los Angeles. Those who dug deep included Stu James (Harpo in The Color Purple), Lesley Donald (Buster in The Color Purple) and Jai Rodiguez,


as well as Mito Aviles, Chadmichael Morrisette and Tiffany Daniels (Squeak in The Color Purple) posing with John Lloyd’s very first jeweled piece, “Virtue” (not edible!)…


…and a couple hundred more folks who you can see you right here.

When it came to food there was delicious Moms BBQ House soul food versions of John Lloyd’s delicious jeweled food.

kfc peas

Here’s Charles Phoenix modeling the chicken, peas and mac & cheese with me, Sonny Ruscha Bjornson and Mark Blackwell:


“Food for Thought” was also an unbelievably great excuse to order the world’s largest home delivered pizza…


… and to float individual servings of cotton candy in the pool for guests to snack on.


Here’s a lovely display of Spam that accompanied John Lloyd’s bejeweled Spam…


… and the artist vouching for its edibility:


I must say that despite my lifelong dedication to junk food I never tasted Spam until I spiked a cube here. Not surprising to anyone who knows me I found it very tasty. But I digress.

All in all, it was a wonderful day both as a party host and as a conceptual artist. John Lloyd’s and my work melded into one big kitschified fondue and despite the fact that rain was threatened all week the heavens held up so our eyes and stomachs were able to ingest beautiful works of art that my Velveeta camera only dreams of capturing in their full glory.


For full documentation of the bejeweled food fest go here.

To see how the Los Angeles Times enjoyed it go here.

Photos: Melissa Manning for the Look Partnership LLC


There it is this morning, right there on the homepage of the LA Times – the Sound Of Soul celebration at Willis Wonderland, the  physical extension of The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch, to honor all things Soul – historic audiotapes and my collection of whacked out Kitschified Soul artifacts:,0,2371356.photogallery Movin’ on up!



.                               Me and RuPaul

I go through this after every party I throw. I work for weeks and sometimes months doing everything from fixing my house up to handmaking invitations, building displays, making mix tapes, signs, planning theme food and drinks, games, lighting the place like it’s Disneyland, basically doing anything I can to make this the most amped up party atmosphere on Earth.

I’ve long viewed my parties as my ultimate art form so I put every ounce of strength and sweat I have into it. I want to have the greatest time of my life and unless my guests feel the same way it doesn’t work for me. I not only host these things but emcee, produce and direct them as they evolve throughout the evening.  All of this means I end up being a verrrrrrrrrrry tired little girl once they’re over. So as much as a great hostess should be conscious of posting photos in a time sensitive fashion befitting of the web, the only thing I saw yesterday, the day after the party, was my bed and the tail end of the evening’s performance of The Color Purple at The Pantages.  So I apologize for the now 36 hour delay…

The Sound of Soul party this last Monday night, February 22, 2010, was one of my favorite AW extravaganzas ever. In commemoration of Black History Month and the fact that my baby, The Color Purple musical I spent five years co-creating, is in town for the very last performances of the First National Tour, it seemed ripe to tie the occasions into the bi-annual fundraiser I do with Pacifica Radio Archives to raise money to digitize never-before-heard, historic 24 track African-American audiotapes and get them into schools. This stuff is heavy duty like Rosa Parks’ first interview after getting out of jail, Alice Walker’s first ever reading of The Color Purple and Coretta Scott King reading the speech Martin Luther King was to deliver the day he was assassinated to 30 of their closest friends in Central Park 3 weeks after the assasination.  The only other time that was heard was when Pacifica digitized the tape and sent it to Mrs. King’s funeral. This stash includes incredible speeches, casual conversations and performances by every major Black figure of the 20th century including Martin Luther King, W.E. B. DuBois, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Malcolm X, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Marcus Garvey, Mohammed Ali, Angela Davis, James Baldwin, Miles Davis, Dorothy Dandridge, Fannie Lou Hamer and hundreds more…  An apt cause to celebrate, which we did… heavily.

I’m  just beginning to feel my legs attached to my body again. I wanted to throw some captions on the photos but I don’t want it to be 2011 by the time I finally post them.  Just know that I enjoyed having all these beautiful, handsome, happy, uplifted, talented and generous folks here at Willis Wonderland and we did, in fact, raise lots o’ cash to get these tapes into many of the schools that my guests went to.  And as if that wasn’t enough,  thank you, Colt 45, for those 15 cases.

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Here’s the whole party!


Mr. Wah Wah,  the prized work of Bubbles the artist, has become the symbol of the Sound Of Soul fundraiser I throw every year in conjunction with Pacifica Radio Archives. This year it’s tomorrow and I’m going nuts trying to get ready for 300 people storming my house to eat outrageous soul food from Mom’s Barbecue House, peruse my collection of Pop Soul artifacts that the Godfather himself, James Brown, encouraged me to  turn into a museum when he first saw it in the 1980s, and to celebrate the end  of the first national tour of The Color Purple.  (Second national tour begins in two weeks  with a brand-new production and cast.)

As anyone  knows who’s ever been to a party over here, I treat the whole place like it’s a big set and hand make signs, displays,  games, prizes, the works.   As if that’s not enough work, with all the rain that’s been dousing LA I need a Plan A party, the real deal, and a Plan B party,  the striped down version that happens if it rains and I’m forced to squeeze everyone inside, a physical impossibility that demands extraordinary hive-inducing, Valium-popping-if-I-were-the-type measures.  So I’m a  paint covered, music making busy little beaver today, half in a good mood and half having spilkes because I know powers greater than I are at work to collaborate on the evening.   But with all the hostess concerns that I have Mr. Wah Wah  is still looking good and ready to party!

By far the most popular photo in the 19, count them, 19 photos of my house in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend was this one of my laundry chute: 


This makes me very happy as a porthole carved into my bedroom floor is a testament to my life philosophy of ‘if stuck with a weakness, turn it into a strength.’

In 1980, when I moved into my pink Streamline Moderne birthday cake of a house, built in 1937 as the party pad for MGM or Warner Bros. depending on who you listen to, all the floors were covered with thick beige shag carpeting. Now I who worship at the throne of kitsch do not mean to demean shag carpeting. Had it even been a little less crusty it would still be under my feet today. But I could tell by the way my pets hoovered it that many discretions had been committed upon that shag. So at precisely 8:00 am. August 1, 1980, the second I took official ownership, I was on my knees de-shagging the pad.

The wood underneath was the original hardwood floors, the kind of thin blond strips they don’t make any more. Never cared for or waxed and riddled with nail holes along the sides, the floor as a whole still looked pretty good except for where the aforementioned pet activity or overwatered potted plants left huge black stains. Most of these I could cover with my collection of vintage-suplemented-with-Ikea Atomic-rugs. But there was a spot in my seven sided bedroom where the wall turns 22 degrees every three feet where a carpet couldn’t lay in any kind of natural way so I just accepted the big black stain though it depressed me every time I looked at it. 

This the kind of Deco home where you know there’s a porthole looming somewhere. I have 3 of them downstairs in my paneled rec room with the singing sea life linoleum floor.


There are three more portholes outside:

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All of these came via Ebay from either a 1951 US Naval cruiser or a 1952 Criss Craft boat. I bought another one that looked great in the photo but when it arrived wasn’t anywhere near as sturdy as the other ones and had little shards of mirror stuck between the brass sides. Who knew that portholes were such a big item in the world of mirrors?  The porthole sat idly in a box for years. And the only thing that covered the big black stain was my dirty clothes as they piled up on the floor because there was no laundry chute to deliver them downstairs to the washer and dryer.

I am one to use found objects in less than normal ways. Like I oftentimes use steering wheels for table legs:


So when I decided in 2002 that I couldn’t take looking at that big black stain anymore it made perfect sense to cut it out of the floor and use the once-mirror-porthole as the portal to the laundry chute. It was no surprise to me that of all of the photos in the LA Times the one of the chute garnered the most attention.  It makes me very happy to share my chute with the world now!

OK. I reallllly should be writing a detailed blog about the party I threw last Thurs. night here at Willis Wonderland to launch the new Bubbles & Cheesecake video, “Editing Is Cool”, and to debut my first official painting collaboration with Bubbles the artist, the Print Painting series, featuring canvas prints of five of Bubbles’ most popular images that I hand embellished with paint and vintage found objects. That sounds pretty ho hum, a party to promote something, but anyone who knows me knows I’m a hostess with mucho mostess and stiff is at the north pole of oppositeness of what went on here.

In order to do this party justice I need to go through 14 hours of video footage and this is not a job to do when you’ve slept for 21 hours total the previous week and your brain mass is still dripping through a strainer trying to get back to any semblance of normal. So I’m slogging through all of it as fast as I can but know if I drive myself nuts to finish in the timely fashion bloggers are wont to do I won’t enjoy any of it. So please know that the merriment of the “Launching Allee” party is forthcoming – you can look at a few photos from it in the meantime – and instead this blog is about how I took my own advise as offered in my brand new shiny video, “Editing Is Cool”, and got through the party without killing someone.

An example of “Editing Is Cool” philosophy at work: It’s 102+° in LA all day/all night last Thursday. You know you’re a sweating and potentially smelly party hostess and that all your guests are equally uncomfortable other than when they hug you and you accidentally spill your drink on them which coincidentally cools them off. Your choice of psychological mental states is either I’m a sweaty, smelly, sloppy party hostess or the funky jungle is alive with wild sweaty natives and I’m the effervescent jungle captain. I EDITED out pathetic choice #1 and opted for #2.

For months now my server has been going nuts. Files get corrupted and disappear, the network is so constipated it crawls like a turtle with corns. All in the midst of me getting ready for this party – finishing the video, redesigning my website, making speed movies of the 23 hours of video I took documenting every second of creating the 45 paintings in the Print Paintings series, designing and printing signs, order forms, name tags, artist’s statements, bios, size charts of all the paintings, cards to hand out and that’s not even a quarter of the list. I’m working off of eleven different external drives as the ones on the server choke. I’m overwriting files faster than I can create them I’m so confused trying to keep track of where everything is. My internet access is fluttering on and off and the backup DLS goes down.

And through it all I’m still trying to figure out how to conceptually tie together everything I’m presenting at the party so the theme is cohesive – 45 new paintings, the first ever I’ve done by printing the image on canvas and embellishing on top of that as well as the first time Bubbles and I have openly collaborated on paintings. Plus a new video that happens to not only be my most ambitious work but one that more than anything I’ve ever created embodies my personal philosophy on Life. I cannot say I remained cool throughout the neverending cascade of technical disabilities but I didn’t lose it like I would have in the old days. I EDITED out that part of my personality that is exceedingly skilled at maintaining misery so that at least a few moments of peace pop through.

Which is good because the night before the party a bridge breaks in my mouth and I can’t open it without feeling like razors are dragging across my gums. So less than seven hours before 300 people knock at my door I have oral surgery. The anesthesia from which leaves me hallucinating all day as I work outside in the blasting, scorching sun with 25+ people in various degrees of non-readyness tweaking everything I turn on, hang up or create on the spot.

Then at 2 pm. the impossible happens. Someone forgets to shut the water off and the pool overflows and FLOODS the backyard. And then the pump breaks. And then the back-up pump breaks. So mere hours before show time one crew is filling up buckets while others stomp on every clean towel I have trying to soak up the water that’s saturated the grass as mud wrestling is not on the party agenda. It takes every ounce of mental strength to not go completely psychotic as all my red button panic issues have been fully engaged – medical emergencies, technical failures, flooding. But I remember that EDITING IS COOL so I take a deep breath and decide to move on to something easy like hanging paintings.

3 pm. One side of the yard is finally in shade so we bring half of the paintings out and start to hang them on palm trees all over the yard. But it is SO hot that all the objects I’ve glued on to them start sliding off. So we climb back up the palms, take them down and store them back inside. Which then makes it impossible to clean any of the rooms they’re stacked up in. I re-glue everything and keep repeating the mantra, “EDITING IS COOL”.

The heat continues to pound even as the sun goes down so we wait until the last possible minute to re-hang all 45 paintings. Less than half are up before the first guests arrive. This kind of stuff makes me CRAZY. I’m an efficiency freak and have been planning this schedule for months. How could this be happening?! But I know my options are complete hysteria = horrible party hostess or just hang on for dear life, plug whatever holes in the dyke you can and keep smiling. I EDIT out option #1.

But that’s when the real challenge begins. Starting four days before the party the air conditioning in the submarine where the servers are shuts off every 20 minutes turning the room into an instant inferno. Every millifiber of information re my life and career is on those servers. Fire is no good. Only two years old, this piece of shit Soleus unit was installed by a company that knew it was “overly sensitive” and constantly shut off but never told me or offered to do anything about it other than try and sell me a new unit when I finally confronted them. Oh, wait…. Bubbles is insisting I tell you that if Nicholas Aire Systems of Santa Clarita, CA. knocks don’t answer the door.

So the ac is going down every 20 minutes. That means 48 times a day multiplied by four days so please picture this process 192 times as you continue to read and remember to multiply that exponentially for how many times since then it’s happened until today when a new unit was finally installed by a new company for half the price. And don’t forget to factor in that I haven’t gotten more than 15 minutes of sequential sleep for 11 days now as I have to reset the Soleus shit box to keep it going for another 20. One hour before the party I call Nicholas of Nicholas Aire and say to him, “You know what’s involved in turning this unit back on and know I have to do it every 20 minutes and you’re telling me this is what I have to do while the I’m hosting a party that’s introducing some of the most important work I’ve ever done in my career?!” He says, “yes”.

So here’s the drill: First I have to pull out two racks of equipment that each weigh over 1000 lbs. in order to get a clear shot at the sensor button on the Soleus with the remote. After five or or six body bending tries – the room is only four feet wide – the hot air spitting unit shuts off. Then I have to carry a 25 foot ladder to the front of the house, CLIMB UP ON THE ROOF, pull this scary looking electrical thing out of this scary looking black box, hang out on the roof in the blasting sun or dewy moon for 5 minutes before thrusting it back in, climb back down (more scary than going up), return the 25 foot ladder to the backyard so as not to provide incentive for anyone wishing to break into the house, race back inside and down the stairs, body bend again to turn the unit back on and wait in the inferno for 5 minutes to see if cold air actually kicks in. Then I have 15 minutes until it all begins again.

It’s ten minutes until the party starts. This Nicholas guy has made me miserable for months, ever since I found out he knew he installed a unit that wasn’t fit for the job it was supposed to do. When “the best he can do” is send someone out in the morning and I’m stuck hiring a party guest to sit at the side of my house and race up on the roof every 20 minutes I tell him where to stick it and feel completely liberated. Now I’m in a great mood because I’ve EDITED the Nicholas out of my life!

Jerks must be EDITED from your life. Calamity must be EDITED from your life. It gets easier every time you make a cut. Exercise your power and EDIT your life. Because EDITING IS COOL.