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The 'Kitsch' effect

September 14, 2009 |  3:15 am

Allee_willis2 Concrete pink flamingos.  A TV-shaped salt and pepper shaker that moonlights as a photo holder. A hot dog cookbook circa 1968. And a straw purse in the shape of a crab. Yes, they all exist in their kitschy glory. Not convinced? One need only visit songwriter-artist-video director-designer Allee Willis’ blog, Kitsch of the Day, for a daily sampling of kitschy-ness from her massive private collection.

But for the kitsch lovers who wish to share their own kitsch treasures, you’re in luck!

The Allee Willis Museum of Kitsch opens today. There’s no entry fee. Crowds won’t be a factor.  And photography is encouraged. This museum lives online.

The virtual depository -- see it for yourself at www.awmok.com -- gives social networking the kitsch effect. A selection of items from Willis’ colossal private collection will be showcased. Taking the virtual experience a step further, visitors can submit digital images and descriptions of their own kitsch treasures, which Willis will curate and add to the museum’s collection. And over at the aptly titled “Kitschenette” section, kitsch aficionados can interact with other like-minded kitsch lovers including Willis, live from her home, or the “kitsch command center.”

Her Valley Village home is a visual wonderland that is so overwhelming it requires double — sometimes triple — takes. Willis, whose compositions range from Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland” to what she calls the "very kitschy" “Friends” theme song, purchased the 1937 MGM “party house” in 1980 after her first hit record “September,” another Earth, Wind and Fire diddy. Multicolored bowling balls lie in the cactus garden. In the downstairs rec room are a Bobby Darin and Scripto pen promotional set (four songs, eight ink cartridges and one pen for $1.39) and a quartet of talking Monkees dolls.

“I just always loved old stuff,” Willis said. “I loved the fact that stuff was owned by other people.... I’m more interested in what the object does to the person than I am in the object itself.”

You can read more about the museum here. In the meantime, keep reading for a list of contemporary items Willis deems worthy of induction into the kitsch hall of fame (or is it shame?):

1. Snuggie, a fleece blanket with sleeves: “I think a lot of people said ‘that’s ridiculous’ … and then they really thought about it the next time they went to reach for the remote and their hand was freezing.“
2. Flowbee Hair Cut System, a hair-cutting tool attached to a vacuum cleaner-like contraption: “That thing fascinated me because who needs a vacuum cleaner near their ear? It sang ‘kitsch.’"
3. Strap Perfect, a plastic clip used to adjust bra straps. “It’s an idiotic piece of plastic … that fell out of the bottom of a bank or something and someone thought, ‘Well, here’s a great use.’”
4. Dust Mop Slippers. They look as they sound: slippers with a mop bottom. “That’s when I said, ‘OK, this has definitely crossed over into kitsch status.’”

--Yvonne Villarreal

Photo: Allee Willis. Credit: Lawrence Ho / Los Angeles Times

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