Thursday, June 26, 2014

Flippin' Our Wig (Wam): The Charles Phoenix Wig Wam Pow Wow

Many times have we hailed the weird, roadside wonder of San Bernardino, CA's magnificent Wigwam Motel (est. 1949).  From road trip adventures, to birthday parties, to holiday wigwam lightings, we have become regulars amongst the teepee set.  Last weekend we were heap happy to attend the Charles Phoenix Wig Wam Pow Wow at what is quickly becoming our home away from home.

The whole lot was filled with classic cars, vintage trailers, and roadside enthusiasts.

We weren't there as spectators alone; we set up a pop-up hat shop in one of the Wigwam Motel rooms.

Charles, Mary, Zack, Fabian, and Mr. Tiny

After seeing some of the hats I had made for Mary, Charles kindly asked if I could bring
enough hats to sell.  Quarters inside the well-appointed wigwam were a little tight with all
of those hats but it made for a cozy (and blessedly active) selling space!

One of our pals, Cherie, was on hand and became one of the first people to
Put A Lid On It!  We were thrilled to see her (and her awesome, homemade Route
66 dress) before she leaves us for the more verdant environs of Portland, OR.

While I did take a break to dance along to some of my favorite tunes (ahem, "Mashed Potato Time") spun by the killer DJ, I spent most of the afternoon inside the wigwam hocking my wares.  Although, I have been assured that the event was chockablock with the most enjoyable activities, from showing off cars and trailers, to swimming, to weenie roasting, to s'mores toasting, to fireside sing-a-longs.

Two poolside fashion shows, hosted by Dave and Sabino of
Clever Vintage Clothing, were filled with spectacular ensembles.
They were even nice enough to include one of my sun hats!!! 

If I was a more ruthless kind of a person and capable of making a quick getaway, there were plenty of cars for which I would have gladly ditched all of those hats and started my life of crime - beginning with grand theft auto!

The cars were great but the real show-stopper was our friend's completely-
restored 1957 Airfloat trailer in gleaming gold!  I was so awestruck that
I only captured a peek through one of the porthole windows. 

Brian Potvin, the master "Ballusionist," created a
wigwam out of balloons and set it afloat in the pool!

The main event began at sundown; we were lucky enough to be a part of it!
Tiny & Mary opened the show for the incredible troupe from the Bob Baker 
Marionette Theater  and the always-enthralling Charles Phoenix Big Retro Slideshow!  

You might recognize some of those puppets from their big-screen 
appearance in Walt Disney's Escape to Witch Mountain (1975).

Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)

If you can't escape to Witch Mountain, be sure and make the escape to the Wigwam Motel - to sleep-ee and to peepee in a teepee are most underrated and completely unparalleled experiences!  We would be remiss if we failed to acknowledge the graciousness of the owner and conservator of this irreplaceable landmark, Kumar Patel.  He and his family have committed themselves to not just their own motel, not just their own city, but to the entire Route 66 community and to the lovers of all things wacky tacky!  A big thank you to our inimitable host and emcee, Charles, for including us in this very special celebration!

Wigwam Motel
2728 W Foothill Blvd
San Bernardino, CA


Mr. Tiny

* The day has finally come!!!  Put A Lid On It Sun Hats are now available for purchase in our Etsy store, Mr. Tiny's South Side Market.  We will continue to bring you new designs, new colors, and new hat inspiration on a regular basis!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sew What?! Putting the "WOW" in Pow Wow!!!

Yipes!!!  Two weeks sure flies by when you are not having any fun.  Okay, okay, I had a little bit of fun but mostly my head was down, toiling away at my latest hat-making venture and preparing for the Tiny & Mary performance at the Charles Phoenix Wig Wam Pow Wow (much more on that to come).

I was flattered when Charles asked me to bring as many hats as I could muster to sell at what is sure to become a signature event for him.  Depending on Mary to be a walking advertisement for my pop-up hat shop, I had every intention of making her some thematically-appropriate headwear - and leaving the rest of her outfit in her hands.  Oh, the best laid plans...

The custom TeePee Topper!
Inspired by the paint scheme of the earliest Wig Wam Motels, I recreated the iconic
serpentine stripe with red ric rac.  I painted dowels for the tent poles and gathered a
Marimekko remnant as a stand-in for the planter that surrounds each wigwam motel room.

Unfortunately, when one makes such a specific accessory, the fundamental elements of a coordinating ensemble are somewhat elusive.

Digging through the fabric stash, I was surprised to discover just two
scant yards of a Native American novelty print, featuring, flowers,
teepees, horses, and warrior braves.

Completely unaware of the fabric's origin, I almost sent it back to the bottom of fabric mountain for its lack of sophistication and unrefined design.  However, if lack of refinement and sophistication immediately consign one to the bottom of the heap, I would never be allowed in polite society.  Denying the natural hypocrite within me, I intended to make the most of this fabric.

This is much more indicative of what my sketch pad looks
like than some of the other illustrations I've shared.  A small
amount of time and a small amount of fabric meant that the
outfit would need to be equally brief.  Weary of making bra
tops, I made a simple play suit consisting of a cropped peasant
top and a short, gathered skirt; I used every inch of that material!

Accessorized with just a few red bangles and a '68 Cadillac Coupe de Ville,
Mary and Fabian took the outfit and the car out for a spin!

I guess we won't be winning any awards for cultural sensitivity with this one, but we consider the outfit and the Wigwam Motel to be true celebrations of Americana!  Have you ever slept in a wigwam?


Mr. Tiny

p.s. Put A Lid On It Sun Hats from Mr. Tiny's Workshop will be listed soon!

Monday, June 9, 2014

One Man's Trash: The Treasure of the Watts Towers

Complacency and apathy are two pejoratives commonly associated with members of my particular generation.  I wish I could offer myself as a faultless rebuttal, refuting those generational jabs.  Sadly, I am probably the poster child for the insulting, if sometimes accurate, stereotypes.  It is my goal to celebrate the wacky tacky wonder of sites historically significant.  Nevertheless, I am guilty of taking for granted landmarks so firmly entrenched in the collective consciousness of our community that I often fail at my goal.  As it turns out, I am pathetically apathetic.

Apathy was certainly not a condition from which Simon "Sam" Rodia suffered; for more than thirty years he worked obsessively on building his dream.   In as many years, I never once made time to immerse myself in the genius of what is undeniably Rodia's and Southern California's greatest folk-art installation, the Watts Towers.

"The Towers" (1957)

Built on a residential block on a pie-shaped lot in decidedly-working-class Watts, the grandeur of Rodia's towers belies the humble surroundings.  Although his skills were masterful and his actions purposeful, it remains unclear as to whether there was a master plan when in 1921 Rodia began his masterpiece, "Nuestro Pueblo."

The technique was established early on.

James, our incredible tour guide, and Mary

James recounted growing up in the area when the towers were used
(officially and otherwise) as playground, community space, wedding
chapel, and water park; he explained how Rodia looked long and hard
for an ideal plot of land along the Red Car track that would bring a
steady stream of people - and their garbage (the very materials used
to build the towers) - to the site of his life's work.

Meant in part as an homage to the pilgrimage of his hometown's patron saint
(and the towers erected there in his honor),  Rodia's work also achieves the weird
 and wonderful heights of Antoni Gaudi's seminal work, La Sagrada Familia. 

With similar spirit as the notable folk architects behind Tio's TacosNitt Witt RidgeGrandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village, and the Mystery Castle, Rodia found beauty in repurposing utilitarian objects, dramatically transforming scrap metal, broken pottery, and discarded soda bottles into sky-scraping, skeletal towers.

Worthy of appreciation on many levels - architectural, artistic, historic - our deepest respect for the Watts Towers
is in the fact that it is fundamentally a giant trash castle!  Seashells, broken Bauer Pottery, Malibu Tile rejects, glass shards, used pop bottles, cracked porcelain dinnerware, and jagged jadite (things considered garbage) were given a second, and beautiful, life as part of Rodia's singular vision.

Behind gates since 1994's Northridge earthquake, it is difficult
to capture the scale of the towers.  James showed us how to exploit
the panorama feature on our phones in order to get a tower-to-toe
photograph of Mr. Tiny and the full height of the 99.5' tower.

In 1955, with little explanation, Mr. Rodia decided his magnum architectural opus was complete and deeded the land and structures to his neighbor.  After being slated for demolition in 1959, a group of USC students combined their resources to save the towers.  Now property of the State of California, The Watts Towers Arts Center is operated by the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Los Angeles.  Continuing very much in the tradition of Sam Rodia, no apathy is allowed at The Watts Towers Arts Center.  With active after-school arts and music programs, artist residencies, concerts, and festivals, the center has become the centerpiece of the community.

Norma, Mary, and Noemi

 Norma oversees the community garden and turtle sanctuary (bottom left).
Noemi, one of the center's brilliant tour guides and resident historians,
took a good deal of her time to show us the grounds and share her personal
experiences of growing up across the street from the towers; she said that
through the Watts Riots of 1965 and the scariest days of the LA Riots (1992),
the Watts Towers remained free of vandalism and, to this day, there has never
been a need to remove graffiti!  She also admitted that as a child, she used to
bathe her dog in the Towers' baptismal font! 

Activism and community support keep the Watts Towers alive.  I was definitely changed and enlightened by our visit and by the well-informed staff.  If you are ever anywhere near Los Angeles, be sure to check your apathy at the door and experience the Watts Towers! 

The Watts Towers Arts Center
1727 E 107th St
Los Angeles, CA


Mr. Tiny

Thursday, June 5, 2014

wacky tacky Tunes: Scoping Out Scopitone

If you had a hammer, what would you do?  Would you hammer in the morning?  Would you hammer in the evening?  All over this land?  Would you?  Really?  Or, would you put on a beaded-chiffon cocktail dress, pin on your best hairpieces, and start dancing?!!

"If I Had a Hammer" - Debbie Reynolds
The lyrics kind of take on their own new meaning 
if one thinks of the nasty Reynolds/Fisher/Taylor triangle.

Presumably not the vision Pete Seeger had when he penned his 1949 anthem  of social justice, this mid-1960s Scopitone video featuring the unsinkable Debbie Reynolds, is a glittering bit of musical-mash-up genius.  Yes, Seeger and the folkies probably saw this incongruous extravaganza of set design, costuming, choreography, and rearranged folk music as a glaring miscarriage of social justice.  We, however, can only mete out wacky tacky justice and we find in favor of the Scopitone!

A Scopitone Machine

Scopitone machines, a short-lived technology, were essentially video jukeboxes found in barrooms, diners, nightclubs, and anywhere else an early-adopting proprietor would see fit to place one.  While similar devices abounded (see Cinebox, Colorama, et al.), Scopitone pulled ahead of the pack first in Europe and then in America where, for mere pocket change, fans could enjoy the likes of Herb Alpert, Paul Anka, and Della Reese performing their greatest hits - talk about being "Touched by an Angel!!!"

With roots on the continent, several of Scopitone's biggest
stars were European; this Scopitone machine features those
wacky tacky wunderkinds, The Kessler Twins.
Many of the videos are available to view online but ever since my brother lent me his three-volume compilation of Scopitones one week ago, I have been watching little else.  I love these videos not only for their second-tier stars and silly subject matter, but for their complete lack of polish; the Our Gang Follies had higher production values, for Petey's sake!  It's just lucky for them that we love lip-syncing and low quality productions.

"Daddy" - Julie London

"Wheel of Fortune" - Kay Starr

"Small Potatoes" - Gale Garnett

Scopitone videos often give the impression that late-night access to an unlocked soundstage was acquired by a loosely-associated film crew.  Inspired by whatever scenery and props happened to be lying around, they quickly developed what can best be described as sexy, if scattershot, story lines.  With a greater emphasis on commitment and strong facial expressions than on accuracy and synchronization, a small cast of unacquainted singers and dancers was assembled.   Overall, the motto appears to have been, "Let's get this in one take...before they catch us."  Some of the best examples of the American Scopitone ethos feature that buxom, platinum-haired starlet, Joi Lansing.

"Web of Love" - Joi Lansing

Well, my brothers and my sisters, I have a bell - a bell called Scopitone.  I'll ring it in the morning.  I'll in it in the evening all over this land.  I'll ring out danger.  I'll ring out a warning.  I'll ring out love (of Scopitone) between you all over this land!  Now where did I put my hammer?


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sew What?! PACKING a Wallop!!! has become apparent to me that our subconscious suburban safari has been extended, with us managing to trek even further into the sartorial Serengeti.  You'll soon see what I mean....  

I've been on a sewing/crafting kick that is showing no signs of stopping and that is something about which I will not complain.  I'm getting a lot of satisfaction out of creating things that I feel are a better representation of my design sensibility and an opportunity to hone my skill set.  

The last thing Mary needs is more options in her full-to-bursting closet but when I get the itch to create, she is always happy to make the trip to buy more hangers.  With yet another example of Mr. Tiny's "Put a Lid On It" sun hats and a matching frock, Mary had a nice, new ensemble to don for the sun-soaked, grand opening of the Anaheim Packing House (est. 1919).

Anaheim Packing House - Anaheim, CA

Well, I guess that technically it was the grand re-opening.  First opened in 1919 as the central location for the processing and packing of Anaheim's abundant citrus crop, the Packing House has endured the ups and (mostly) downs of Anaheim's old downtown.  With a history that also includes life as a semi-questionable, less-than-savory living space, the Packing House has been completely rehabilitated with a definite eye toward historic preservation.  It is now a community space that houses multiple cafes, bars, and vendors of artisanal foods.  Things are looking up in downtown Anaheim!

As one might expect, it was a packed house at the Packing House on opening day.  Fortunately, from patios to park space to a cozy backyard, the Packing House offers plenty of charming outdoor space.  With friends, we escaped the crowds for some fresh-air photo ops.

Now do you see what I mean about our extended suburban safari?
I don't know why it didn't occur to me immediately, but this fabric print, an African
print (duh) from one of my favorite discount stores, screams mid-century safari!

Prints can be tricky for me (I usually dream in solid colors) but the
simplicity of the dress' silhouette required a print that packed a wallop -
perfect for a day at the Packing House!!! 

I redrafted a halter pattern to include a peek-a-boo, triangular cutout in the back bodice.
It really is just a peek-a-boo; those ties ended up being pretty concealing.
I hadn't sewn a proper dress in a while so I decided to attach the fully-lined bodice to a 3/4 circle skirt.

I've always been a fan of repurposed buildings; the idea of living in an old firehouse, post office, church, or barn is very appealing.  There must be a great thrill in bringing bustling new life to a space that has fallen into disrepair.  The revitalization of the Packing House is a true inspiration; it is definitely the crown jewel of the new downtown Anaheim and we have high hopes for its long-term success!

That's a funny way to squeeze orange juice...
Packing House at The Anaheim Packing District
440 S Anaheim Blvd
Anaheim, CA


Mr. Tiny

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Waking the Dead: Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery

See Breeze Pet Cemetery - Huntington Beach, CA

Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery & Crematory is Huntington Beach, CA's premier destination for pet burials and cremations.  Without diminishing its stellar credentials, a rather perfunctory scan of the Yellow Pages reveals that Sea Breeze is the only pet crematorium in Huntington Beach.  Nevertheless, Sea Breeze has been faithfully serving bereaved pet owners since 1961.  Calling our lighthearted cemetery jaunts "Waking the Dead," visiting a pet cemetery is generally a novelty for us; understanding the solemnity of the grounds, however, we do our best to be respectful and follow the rules.

The rules.
Is it wrong to love the sign-painter fonts as much as I do?

In flagrant violation of bullet-point number five, we saw plenty of "standing decorations."
It is always a surprise to see pet cemeteries so lovingly tended and so flush with flowers
in stark comparison to overgrown people plots that so often look completely abandoned.  

Please don't think that the absurdity of the neighboring businesses has escaped me - that's a fast food joint next door.
"Where pets go to die and people go to eat!"  Is that a tag line or a deterrent?
And why do all of Sea Breeze's promotional materials proudly state, "We're Carl's Jr. adjacent!" (okay, not really)

As we wandered the manicured rows of lovingly-maintained markers, I decided to see if there might be some celebrity pet graves at Sea Breeze (we'd seen more than our fair share at Los Angeles Pet Mortuary).  Disappointed after finding no leads, I quickly perked up when I heard a distant voice mention, "two famous stars."  My mind raced wondering which celebrities would have their pets memorialized forever in Huntington Beach - Studs Terkel?  Una Merkel?  It took a moment before I realized that what I was hearing was the Carl's Jr. (Hardee's for those of you east of the Rockies) drive-thru where the "Famous Star" hamburger is a rather cruel joke for celebrity-hungry grave hunters.

We did happen upon one dog who achieved fame in his life;  Old Sarge was a highly-decorated US
Marine Corps dog who received the Purple Heart after saving the lives of nine marines during WWII.
Now that's a celebrity pet worth celebrating!!!

We didn't see the pets of any Hollywood stars but we did see the pets that left stars in the eyes of their owners.  The pet names which humans spend so much time and thought determining are always good for a chuckle.

Sometimes they are ridiculously precious.

And sometimes they are a little "on the nose."

The names can be funny but the breeds can be even funnier.

Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought guinea pigs
and rats were relegated to backyard shoeboxes.

Based on the engraved portrait, I think we're left to assume
that "Coors-Z" was a well-behaved, if bedraggled, Skunk??? 

My favorite grave markers are always those that strike me as odd.

Whether it's a slightly deluded view of the situation ("just asleep"), an alliterative epitaph, a questionable pet-human relationship, or a portrait of a demon cat that looks like it's ready to come back from the grave to eat my face, I never fail to get a kick out of the fascinating choices owners make when it comes to memorializing their pets.

Thousands and thousands of dearly-departed pets have been laid to rest on the grounds of See Breeze Pet Cemetery, but just like Disneyland's Haunted Mansion...

"There's always room for one more."
What?!?!!  Precious Poopy needs an otherworldly playmate.

Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery & Crematory
19542 Beach Blvd
Huntington Beach, CA


Mr. Tiny