Rest in Power, Allee Willis — Queen of Kitsch

Allee Willis with psychedelic Fluffernutters

It's never fun to report that someone in our tribe has passed. That's especially true when that person is also someone you know and love.

Allee Willis, Happy Mutant Extraordinaire, died just after 6 p.m. on December 24 of cardiac arrest. She was 72.

My friend Heather was in tears when she phoned me to tell me the news. It was 10:15 p.m. on Christmas Eve. She had just read about Allee's sudden and unexpected death in Variety. We were both shocked and deeply saddened. We pondered together on the call, "How is it possible that she's gone?"

I first met Allee back in the February of 2011. Friends of mine here in Alameda, Jessica and Mel, introduced me to her. "You HAVE to meet her!" they insisted. At that time, a TV show called Clean House was filming the decluttering and redecorating of their home. Their excess stuff was soon to be sold in a televised public sale. Since they are well known for their massive collection of pop culture kitsch and, being the Queen of Kitsch, Allee was compelled to drive up for the sale. And because their house was out of commission for the show's filming, I offered up mine to host a party in Allee's honor, not entirely sure what I was getting myself into or, honestly, grasping the full understanding of who she was. But I was game. I invited a group of local friends, all self-proclaimed kitsch lovers. Read the rest

Boys dressed as Earth, Wind, & Fire perform medley of their hits

It's nearly the 21st night of September, so here's a video clip of three Filipino boys -- dressed as Earth, Wind, & Fire members -- performing a medley of their iconic songs to celebrate.

Do you remember when these kids dressed up like mini Bee Gees to perform on the TV Show Your Face Sounds Familiar? Well, The TNT Boys, as they are known, returned to the stage to perform truncated versions of EWF hits "September," "Let's Groove," and "Boogie Wonderland." It's just as weird as the other video. You have been warned.

Previously: Ba-de-ya, the 21st of September will always be special to songwriter Allee Willis Read the rest

Ba-de-ya, the 21st of September will always be special to songwriter Allee Willis

"Do you remember... the 21st night of September?"

This September 21st, and every September 21st, will never be forgotten by my dear friend-in-kitsch, Allee Willis.

If you aren't aware, Allee co-wrote the song "September" for Earth, Wind, & Fire. When it quickly climbed to the top of the charts at its release, it forever changed the course of her life for the better.

A few years ago, she shared a funny story about the song's "Ba-de-ya" lyrics with NPR:

The story of the song begins in 1978. Allee Willis was a struggling songwriter in LA — until the night she got a call from Maurice White, the leader of Earth, Wind & Fire. White offered her the chance of a lifetime: to co-write the band's next album. Willis arrived at the studio the next day hoping it wasn't some kind of cosmic joke.

"As I open the door, they had just written the intro to 'September.' And I just thought, 'Dear God, let this be what they want me to write!' Cause it was obviously the happiest-sounding song in the world," Willis says.

Using a progression composed by Earth, Wind & Fire guitarist Al McKay, White and Willis wrote the song over the course of a month, conjuring images of clear skies and dancing under the stars. Willis says she likes songs that tell stories, and that at a certain point, she feared the lyrics to "September" were starting to sound simplistic. One nonsense phrase bugged her in particular.

Read the rest