Willis Wonderland, Allee Willis’ home, to be museum for songwriters

Prudence Fenton wants to preserve Allee Willis’ spectacular North Hollywood residence — a pink, 1937 Streamline Moderne house she called Willis Wonderland — as a 21st century museum that will support and educate songwriters and multimedia artists from underprivileged communities.

Willis had a passion for mentoring diverse songwriters and multimedia artists and wanted to ensure a future for them, especially due to the persistent decline in funding for the arts, Fenton said.

Fenton and Willis were life partners when Willis, 72, suddenly passed away on Dec. 24, 2019. 

Willis was a renowned and prolific songwriter who penned numerous hits, including the theme song to the sitcom “Friends” and Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1979 smash hit “Boogie Wonderland.”

“When I got together with Allee in the early 90s, she said, I want my house to be a museum. I want my legacy to live on,” Fenton said. “Allee also wrote in her will that, if it’s possible, she would really like to see her house become a museum.

“Of course I was going to do that,” Fenton said. “My dream would be that this house, and what it has to offer and what her legacy offers, remains for 100 years.”

Willis Wonderland will offer mentorships, seminars, lectures, and podcasts, as well as artist-in-residence programs, Fenton said.

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

Willis Wonderland fundraiser

Fenton will help host a fundraiser for Willis Wonderland and the Willis Wonderland Foundation on Sept. 21 at Valentine in downtown Los Angeles.

The host committee includes RuPaul, Lily Tomlin, Luenell, Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman), and Jenifer Lewis.

The evening will include a live auction of some of Willis’ most notable collectibles, including exclusive memorabilia and art.

Known as the “queen of kitsch,” Willis kept one of the world’s largest collections of pop culture kitsch in Willis Wonderland, which she purchased from her first “Boogie Wonderland” royalty check.

A fashion parade of pieces from Willis’ trailblazing wardrobe collection, which will be modeled by some surprise famous faces, as well as a sing-a-long of some of Willis’ award-winning tunes, will also take place.

Allee’s legacy

Willis, whose compositions sold more than 60 million records, was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.

Her catalog includes hits such as the Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance,” the Pet Shop Boys’ and Dusty Springfield’s “What Have I Done to Deserve This?,” Maxine Nightingale’s “Lead Me On,” and the theme from “The Karate Kid,” “You’re the Best.”

Before her passing, Willis had been working with rapper Big Sean for the past few months. Willis shared a photo of the two of them inside her Los Angeles area home studio in October 2019 on Instagram, expressing her excitement.

The intergenerational Detroit natives had met at Motown’s 60th anniversary celebration.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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