Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Happy 4th of July Ball B-B-Q!

Submitted by Allee Willis July 4th, 2010
Certifikitsch Winner

Designed by William Wiggins for Shepherd Products of Toronto in 1970, this aluminum ball shaped barbecue which featured a double stack of cooking racks and a rollover cover was about as modern as you could get back in the day. The hottest of the colors it came in was a gorgeous shade of red orange which this one originally was when I rescued it for 99 cents from a Salvation Army. Here it is in brand new, pristine shape:


But through the years of chicken juice and hot dog grease all that was left of its color by the time I found it were a few flakes that peeled off if you even breathed on it. I hate when vintage things are restored to look “brand-new”, translation: too cheesy for a purist to even look at, so I couldn’t consider that. But the opportunity for cosmetic surgery presented itself when I art directed a Debbie Harry video over here in 1987 and covered the B-B-Q with a coat of chrome spray paint to use as a prop. Which made it look gorgeous but even more dangerous to eat anything that was cooked in it. So through the years it’s served a variety of other functions, mostly at parties. Sometimes I use it as a candy dish…


A lot of times it’s used as a name tag container as I hate to be responsible for introducing everyone myself…


At a party over here a couple of years ago when the musical I co-wrote, The Color Purple, came to LA, Adam Wade, who played Ol’ Mister, dipped into the Ball and used the flip top as a ledge to fill out his name tag.


This is significant because decades before I met Adam I had photos of him plastered all over my bedroom because I swooned over his Johnny Mathis-smooth-as-wine-which-I-don’t-even-like-so-I’ll-say-smooth-as-Skippy-Peanut-Butter-smooth voice. Here’s what I looked at on my ceiling every night as a teenager when I got into bed:


I can’t believe I have no photos of the bedroom I grew up in. It was decorated to the max and gave all indications of how and who I would grow up to be which is exactly how and who I grew up to be both from a decorative and musical standpoint. But me having no photos is another matter entirely so suffice it to say this is why I document everything so incessantly now. But back to the Ball B-B-Q…

My little Ball B-B-Q may not be capable of smoking with the big guys…


…and it may not be capable of turning out food like this…


…but as it sits in my yard this Fourth of July, probably wishing it had a big bulging steak or some burgers sweating on its grills, it just makes me happy to look at it and celebrate the fact that I had the good taste to buy it in the first place.

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