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Pop goes the house

February 21, 2009|Audrey Davidow

For an unsuspecting visitor, the bubble-gum-pink Valley Village home of songwriter and artist Allee Willis is a winking, delightful shock. Out front there's a bowling ball garden. And the lawn? It may look like grass, but it's actually hundreds of baby palms that are mowed down to teeny-tiny blades of green every week.

The William Kesling-designed property was commissioned by MGM in 1937 as the studio's party house. Willis bought the place in 1980 and has carried on the revelry ever since, throwing much-publicized bashes with regularity -- the kinds of affairs where you might find Moon Zappa chugging Pixy Stix on a shaggy pink sofa with "Sex and the City" executive producer Michael Patrick King.

The home and recording studio have been dubbed Willis Wonderland, not only for the theatrical soirees but also for the way the place has been decorated by its owner, whose credits include Earth, Wind and Fire hits, the theme for "Friends" and the Broadway musical "The Color Purple." Candy-hued vintage decor mixes with funky furniture that Willis made from old car parts and other found objects. It's as if the Jetsons hired Willy Wonka to be the interior designer.

Downstairs, in the under-the-sea-themed rec room, you'll find the Detroit native and self-described Motown freak's staggering collection of pop culture memorabilia from the '60s and '70s, including a Harlem Globetrotters coloring book and every issue of Jet magazine from 1971 to '75. She also has a thing -- a big thing -- for Afro picks. She has collected hundreds of them, and she recently bought out a closed Minneapolis barber shop. She plans to sell 5,000 vintage picks in conjunction with a video series she's about to launch online.

"I feel like I have a duty to collect," she says, surveying her stash. "I never get to 'Enough is enough.' "

An expanded photo gallery at latimes.com/home shows more -- the pink bed, the linoleum floor artwork, the coffee table made from a steering wheel. Here, in her own words, the queen of Willis Wonderland shares the story behind a few corners of her castle.

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