Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Cootie Game

Submitted by Allee Willis July 21st, 2010
Certifikitsch Winner

I can’t remember any game more popular than Cootie when I was growing up. But forget about the game itself, I loved playing with the little plastic body parts. I’m quite positive that the full-on-plastic-soaked-saturation of the pink Cootie legs is where my love of that particular color came from.


My house is the same pink:


So was my car:


I still get a thrill when I touch any of the Cootie contents today, especially those pink legs.


I’m sure that looking at all this saturated color all day when I was a kid influenced me as an artist. Here’s my very first art piece I made as a grownup artist in 1983:


It was a 5 1/2′ x 8′ collage of made out of (primarily) pink house paint, 70’s Ebony magazine clips and 50’s TV knobs. It was called “Dialated Pupils”.

Here’s a blurry photo of James Brown sitting in front of it when we worked together in the 80’s:


None of this has much to do with the subject at hand other than my life is filled with pink and there was no bigger fan of my memorabilia collection than The Godfather. But back to Cootie:

This particular Cootie game was the victim of a flood just weeks after Mr. Brown was over when some of my underwear clogged the drain that the washing machine dumped into.


The same flood ruined the my Beatles wig…


… but that doesn’t have much to do with Cootie either.

I don’t even really remember the rules of the game – I just liked twisting the little pink legs into the Cootie bodies. But I do remember not liking the directions because they were so slanted towards the dominant sex it was assumed would play the game:


Cootie, my house, my art, my car, James Brown, my Beatles wig – this post is all over the place, just like the Cootie legs are going to be as soon as I pick this up:


As much as I loved/love those pink legs the Schaper Manufacturing Company of Minneapolis, who made the game in 1949, never mastered a tight enough fit of them into the body holes. The last time I officially played Cootie I was 10, stepped on one of my beloved pink legs and slid into a bridge table with a cup of coffee on it, the contents of which dumped on my pristine white buck shoes forever staining them just like they had been in a flood over here all those years later.


12 Responses to “Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Cootie Game”

  1. Carrie

    I never had a Cootie game but my grandparent’s had one just like that and I loved playing it whenever we went to visit. Darned if I can remember the rules either, though I recall liking to build “mutant” cooties with legs for antennae, etc.

  2. Douglas Wood

    I used to have affection for this Cootie game, but then reality intruded and now I have to admit the mere mention of the name gives me the creeps. To explain: when we moved here to Topanga Canyon, we were suddenly exposed to lots of bugs and rodents we never knew existed. One such bug was the Jerusalem Cricket which looks exactly like the Cootie bug– big head, big eyes and meaty body. They’re huge. When you walk into a room where one is residing you can actually feel its presence, like an animal. And nothing is grosser than walking barefoot and accidentally stepping on one of them, hearing a loud crunch, which both my wife and I have done. Not sure why they’re called Jerusalem Crickets since there’s nothing crickety about them. The way Allee has posed the Cootie in the second to last photo is particularly chilling– the tilted head while they scrutinize their prey.

  3. Michael Ely

    Oh I relate to this on so many levels. First, the whole pink thing. Although red is my favorite color, pink is a very close second, but as a boy, I have always had to hide that fact. Now I don’t care if the whole world knows – I LOVE PINK!!! There is just something about pink that calms my mind the way pink pepto bismol calms my stomach. I especially like milk-shake pink, so soft and inviting and easy on the eyes. In the old days, health food stores and restaurants were often painted a pale pink to relax the mind.

    As far as Cootie, I loved that game as a child. I loved all the bright colors, but I especially loved those pink legs. Did you know that finding old Cooties with pink legs can be difficult as the pink legs are the most rare color of legs?

    I still have two complete Cootie bugs (with pink legs) in my collection of things. I keep them displayed in a glass-door cupboard with my vintage Fiesta dishes.

    True, the holes were always too big for the parts, so I put my two Cootie bugs together using a tiny bit of glue from a glue gun. If you do it right, you won’t melt the parts and you can rub off the glue if you ever want to take them apart.

    Last, but not least, I LOVE your art, Allee. There is something innocent and playful and so engaging about it.

    • Allee Willis

      I had no idea that pink was the rarest of the leg colors. I thought the legs always came in pink bu someone else left the same info on my blog so I stand corrected! A Amazing as the pink legs had so much impact on my life. Does this mean that some of the cootie bodies also came in pink? I could swear I always grabbed for the pink body but my current set doesn’t have one.

      I was about to tell you that I am the master with a glue gun but then saw your comment about loving my art so you must know that. Don’t get me started on glue guns and glue sticks. There is an absolute science to it and those teeny ones they sell at craft stores are crap.

      To Cootie!

  4. Mark Milligan

    Until I saw this today I forgot there was such a thing as cooties. I can’t remember if my parents had them or if my grandparents had them, but by the time I came along my older sisters had given up cooties for boyfriends so I just remember plugging in appendages a cappela.
    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pic of your corvair. Mine was a ’63, and it was a two-door with the same wheel covers. It was an automatic with the shifter on the dash, and it was blue. Originally white, I think, because it had a red interior, which didn’t look great with the blue body. But for $35, it was a ride. I bought it in ’71, drove it around for a couple years, loved that it was different, yet Detroit. hmmmm.

    • Allee Willis

      My Corvair was originally white with a black interior. It was on the street in West LA with a for sale sign in the window. I drove it home for $400 in 1987. The interior was a complete mess and the exterior paint was really ragged so I had it painted pink and then I refinished the interior in fake fur and used it in Shelley Duvalls ‚ÄúMother Goose Rock ‘N Rhyme” HBO Special. I think I left a link to it the other day in a comment on one of your submissions. You can see it in the second photo here: and click on Mother Goose… Was yours powder blue or dark blue?

      • Mark Milligan

        Dark blue, found out later that a guy I knew with a turquoise corvair convertible (absolutely the best car to drink beer in during the summer in high school) was pillaging it for parts, having taken the muffler and I can’t remember what other part. This was a car that I didn’t drive except occasionally because I had that pink ’57 chevy belair two door for my daily driver. But for 35 bucks, Mom went along with it for awhile.

  5. MyFunCloset

    Yep, that’s the Cootie box I rememeber as a little one in the early 50’s. Seeing in brought it all back. It it possible they also had black legs? Not sure I can recall pink gams.
    Regarding your personalized Corvair. Love the pink! Went steady with a guy who drove a red stick shift, with red interior. Big deal having an engine in the back. That’s a whole other chapter in my life. Dialated Pupils. Fabulous art speaks volumes. (pun intended). The plexi glass over the angled pink mat gets the wink.