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Remembering Allee Willis, prolific songwriter & ‘Queen of Kitsch’

Prudence Fenton Allee Willis

Prudence Fenton, left, and Allee Willis were together 27 years. Willis died Dec. 24, 2019, at the age of 72. Photo: Barbara Green.

What can I tell you about Allee Willis that you won’t see in the 20,000 pages on her website, or hear as you listen to her in the hundreds of interviews she gave on TV, podcasts and YouTube videos, let alone read about in various publications online and off?

Embellish the world

First of all, Allee believed the world was a better place if embellished.

You can see in any photo of Allee her commitment to color and art direction. It was at the core of her being. You decorate yourself; you decorate the world. Colors exuded energy, and bright colors, shapes and patterns made for a happy time. There was no way to get depressed if you glanced down at your arms and saw a shirt with yellow globes or your legs with pants featuring satellites and blue golfers.

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Cars, cars, cars

She chose her cars not because of the great deal, or the comfort, but the shape and how it would look on the road. I remember driving around in her Mitsubishi Eclipse because its orbicular shape looked cool and modern. Even though it gave both of us backaches to drive it, because of its look, it was the car du jour.

She also owned a lime green, 2004 bulbous Beetle tricked out with a chrome “The Executive” glued on the side panel, and a white and red Mini Cooper with chrome rockets on the hood.

Can’t forget the Nissan van with pink touches glued to the interior, and deer scenes glued on the back ledge.

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Not one car was Bluetooth enabled. She stopped purchasing cars in 2004, because these represented the perfect collection.

Allee Willis

Allee Willis (seen in this updated photo) was known as the “Queen of Kitsch” and loved to embellish the world with color, including her wardrobe. Photo: The Estate of Allee Willis.

Impatient driver

Allee was an impatient driver. God forbid you cut her off without a blinker. Horns and Fuck You’s blazing. Even if I was driving and got cut off, she manned the horn and gave the finger.

Peripheral vision

She would drive and see the sale signs in store windows and the pattern of a dress the mannequin wore. She noticed diners and deco buildings miles ahead. She claimed that all Detroit drivers had an exceedingly excellent peripheral vision of the details in an entire street. I didn’t share that talent of hers; I had to watch the road.

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She was hopeless at pumping gas, but great at cleaning the car windows. I was often invited for a quick drive to the Mobile station just so I could fill the tank for her.

Sense of humor

She had the best sense of humor. I don’t think a day went by when we didn’t laugh at something completely basic and dumb — Chapped lips, dry thumbs, or underpants that bunched up.

Cat footage

She loved animals. She shot enough footage for a few feature films of her cats playing. It was the same movie over and over from different angles. The same star cat swatting a dangling mouse or running off with a feather. It never ever got old. She texted them to me day and night.

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She saw beauty in vacant lots, in shadows cast by giant palm trees and tiny cacti, and in how the sunlight illuminated a pitted gray wall downtown.

Allee Willis Linda Ronstadt

Allee Willis was a prolific songwriter who worked with numerous singers and musicians. Willis is pictured in 1983 with Linda Ronstadt. Photo: Estate of Allee Willis.

Soap carving party

She was generous. I could ask her for anything, and she would give it to me. One birthday, I wanted to do a soap carving party at her house. At first, Allee was horrified that soap flakes would be ground into the floor and it would be impossible to clean up. But she figured it out and directed the flow of soap carving artists with brown paper covering the floor everywhere, and provided over the top sparkles, beads, pins, and paints to embed in the soap. It was seriously one of the best parties ever. Everyone displayed their carvings on a white paper plate. I remember Lily Tomlin presented a plate of shaved yellowish soap flakes saying it was a Caesar Salad during a lettuce strike.

Allee was generous to causes especially for pets and Democrats who would beat Trump.

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Her pink house

She lived in a pink house. But a specific pink. The light pink that you see in the sky at a winter sunset in L.A. It’s delicate, atmospheric and caresses the clouds. That pink is Allee. As big as she was in personality and presence, she was also delicate. A true treasure.

27 years together

We were together for twenty-seven years, and I never ever, ever thought I would be with someone that long. And now I think of it as too short. I absolutely loved her unconditionally. I so admired how she shared herself with the world.

I shall miss her in all ways, always.

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About the author

Prudence Fenton

Prudence Fenton is an award-winning, multimedia producer. She lives in Los Angeles.

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