Monday, July 21, 2014

Bowl-O-Rama: Gage Bowl

"Shop in Huntington Park: More shops than a shopping center"

What every city needs is a catchy slogan that takes less to time to dream up than it does to paint on the broad side of a five-story reservoir.  "More shops than a shopping center???" - brilliant!  If only the Huntington Park, CA Chamber of Commerce would do the PR for wacky tacky, we would be well on our way to super stardom...or at least solidly on our way to our own city charter.

Exploring local cities that get easily passed over for their brighter, shinier neighbors is a favorite pastime that almost always yields always a wacky tacky treat or two.  Realizing we hadn't devoted any time to Huntington Park, CA, I made the short journey, drawn mostly by the promise of a lovingly-preserved bowling alley, Gage Bowl (est. 1960).

Gage Bowl wacky tacky
Gage Bowl - Huntington Park, CA

Having recently enjoyed an earthy, full-color facelift, Gage Bowl is the city's go-to destination for bowling leagues and birthday parties.  As with most of these mid-century alleys, the scoring technology has been modernized from overhead projectors to digital monitors and some of the decor/carpet/artwork has been "updated."  It may not have the grandeur of bowling temples like Covina Bowl, but the tidy 22-lane operation still offers a glimpse into bowling's heyday and provides an ideal place to reflect on the epicenter of consumer culture that is Huntington Park.

wacky tacky bowlorama
Bowling, billiards, a barroom, and breakfast, the amenities at Gage Bowl 
provide a cozy round-the-clock experience; we would never have to leave!
We love the vintage lockers and the cases of endless bowling trophies!

wacky tacky neon sign
Thankfully, Gage Bowl has their signage on lock!
Starbursts, neon, and googie letter blocks are speared
together by a fluted, boomerang beam that has been
towering above Gage Blvd. for over fifty years!

Open 24 hours a day and serving the community for the better part of six decades, Gage Bowl makes me think that I've got a new one for you, Huntington Park; how about, "Bowl in Huntington Park: More bowls than a bowling alley!"

wacky tacky bowlorama
Gage Bowl
3477 E Gage Blvd
Huntington Park, CA


Mr. Tiny

Thursday, July 17, 2014

wacky tacky Tunes: Fung Bo Bo-A-Go-Go

Far be it from me to toot my own proverbial horn, but it is not entirely uncommon for people to tell me that I am a good dancer (what else am I supposed to believe, having won my 5th-grade dance contest?!!).  It occurs to me, however, that there exists a slight possibility that I cut people off with an awkwardly-aggressive "thank you" before they can complete the thought; in hindsight, I'll concede that the likely conclusion to these compliments of my terpsichorean talents is, "for a white fella," or "for someone your size," or "for a guy suffering from your disorder."  That being said, I think enthusiasm counts for a lot, and I am nothing if not an enthusiastic dancer.

I'll really never know if I am a good dancer; until the terrorists capture me, forcing me to watch an endless loop of me hurling myself about the dance floor until I lapse into a psychedelic freak out à la Victoria Barkley in The Big Valley, I refuse to even think about what I look like in motion (my mom says I'm poetry personified).  I much prefer watching footage of legitimate dancers; this clip of one of Hong Kong cinema's biggest stars, Fung Bo Bo, might not be a psychedelic freak out, but it does give me everything I want from a choreographed, mid-tempo, 1960s, Eastern, movie-musical dance routine.

I think it's love!

There is something about summertime that brings me back to my first and true dance love - 60s party dances/go-go.  Giving all due credit to Candy Johnson and the perfection of the AIP beach party movies, summer makes me want to do my thing, be it Mashed Potato or Shing-a-ling!

Or even the Watusi!!!

Do you like '60s dances?  Is your dance style dictated by the season?  Are you the enthusiastic one who always gets the dancing started only to later realize that you're a real-life Elaine Benes?


Mr. Tiny

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hollywood House Hunting: Double Indemnity

There are none so disillusioned as I after my first screening of the ultimate film-noir classic, Double Indemnity.

Double Indemnity (1944)

Having grown up with Fred MacMurray as the genial eccentric/teacher/scout-leader/father-figure featured in The Shaggy Dog, The Absent-Minded Professor, Bon Voyage!, Son of Flubber, Follow Me Boys, The Happiest Millionaire, and My Three Sons, I was totally unprepared to confront the murderous anti-hero of Billy Wilder's opus of sin and seduction, Double Indemnity.  How could Disney's all-American good guy have been so bad?!!

I knew and loved the brainy Professor Brainard NOT the nefarious Walter Neff!

It didn't take long for me to forget flubber and embrace old Fred as the flawed everyman strangled by his own lust, greed, and hubris - the film is pure genius!  Many years and many viewings later, Double Indemnity definitely ranks among my favorite movies of all time.  It is a wonder then that it took so long to go and find the Dietrichson residence, a true Hollywood Hills dream home!

"It was one of those California-Spanish houses everyone was nuts about ten or fifteen years ago; this one
must've cost somebody about thirty-thousand bucks...that is, if he ever finished paying for it." - Walter Neff

On a recent adventure day with the wacky tacky adventure team, we made sure to include the Double Indemnity house on our architectural tour.   In the film, the location is described as "near Los Feliz Boulevard" and technically it is; but after wending one's way along the narrow, winding roads to the top of the hill, the house feels a world apart from the lowlands.  With two movie buffs in the wacky wagon, an unwitting passerby might have thought we saw a spaceship landing - awestruck is an understatement.

The Dietrichson house then & now.
Aside from some slight changes in landscaping (and casting -
Fred to Emily), the house is very much as it was during filming.

The garage doors were wide open when we visited as there were several crews working at the house on that day.  We were definitely conflicted between respecting the fact that it was a private residence and wanting desperately to go on a self-guided tour of the property.  Luckily for the homeowners, the highly-professional workmen kept these wannabe trespassers at bay (no harm in asking, right?).

I like to think that this little balcony is where Phyllis Dietrichson
(Barbara Stanwyck) was sunbathing in nothing but that "honey of an anklet."

Are you a nut for old Hollywood?  Do you count yourself as a Fred fan?  Have you ever house hunted for film locales?  Are you an admirer of Double Indemnity?  Have you ever committed adultery, murder, and insurance fraud all at the same time?  Wait a minute...don't answer that!

The Double Indemnity House
6301 Quebec Dr
Los Angeles, CA


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sew What?! Looking Our Gift Horse in the Mouth

Where do we come up with these crazy phrases, phrases like, "Never look a gift horse in the mouth?"  I have never found a single occasion to look any standard-issue horse in the mouth, let alone a benevolent gift horse.  I must admit that until very recently I hadn't given much thought to this particular barnyard idiom.  In actual fact, whenever the phrase was uttered I couldn't help but picture a nattily-dressed thoroughbred rapping at the door with a beautifully-wrapped gift box in hand hoof.  But who was this horse and on what occasion would he be obliged to give me a gift?  I kind of assumed that this was vestigial phraseology, lingering long after the demise of some ancient culture whose venerated horse figure, "Father Equus," - very much akin to our Santa Claus - once a year blessed the good, little children with a bounty of gold, and frankincense, and myrrh (if it's good enough for Him, it's good enough for me), and hay.  However, the question remained, why would I look in his mouth?!!  

Upon reflection, I suppose the real sentiment is that when given a gift (in this case a horse), it is decidedly bad form for one to appraise the quality and value of the gift (in this case inspecting the mouth of said horse).  Instead, one should simply be thankful for the generosity behind such a spectacular gift - I mean, who at some point in his life hasn't wished (in vain) for a pony?  This was a full-grown horse!  

tiki fabric 50s playsuit
Our gift fabric...or is it our fabric horse???

Not so very long ago, our pal, Charles Phoenix, gifted us with roughly two-and-a-half yards of the most brilliantly-colored, vaguely-tiki (maybe rustic, mid-century Scandinavian folk?) printed material, exhorting me to turn it into something great.  The yardage turned out to be a decent-sized, vintage tablecloth.  As a collector of vintage tablecloths, I am typically one to "let sleeping tablecloths lie," unless they have completely outlived their use as such.  This tablecloth happened to be in excellent condition; nevertheless, Charles had issued the gift with a specific challenge.  Not wanting to appear the equine equivalent of the Grinch, I figured the best way to honor our great Gift Horse was to give his tablecloth a brand new life (and avoid even a fleeting glance into his mouth).

Proof that not all of my sketches skew blonde!
Letting the fabric be my guide, I opted to make Mary a three-
piece, tiki-inspired playsuit (shorts, top, and cover-up).

put a lid on it sun hat etsy
With a matching Put A Lid On It Sun Hat, of course!!!

It was an outfit that seemed ideally suited for the scorching heat of the Viva Las Vegas car show and for her Ponyboy Magazine photo shoot.

50s tiki playsuit
I thought it was a bit cheeky to feature the large flower pattern on the
bra top which also features traditional shoulder and halter straps.
(Photo courtesy of Alexander Thompson/Ponyboy Magazine)

vintage fabric vintage sewing
After making a fully-lined top and shorts, the tablecloth fabric was running low.  To subsidize it, I used a coordinating cotton in solid yellow for the body of the cover-up, binding the center front and side vents in tablecloth remnants.  There was just enough material left to make patch pockets and a sash (finished with those signature yarn pom poms).
(Photo courtesy of Alexander Thompson/Ponyboy Magazine)

vintage sewing
I trimmed the "Put A Lid On It" sun hat with coordinating yarn (vertical stripes and the obligatory pom pom) and bound it with the fashion fabric.  Isolating a couple of flowers from the design motif, I machine-appliquèed them onto the headscarf.  The sunglasses were an acquisition made during our trip to Japan last year.
(Photo courtesy of Alexander Thompson/Ponyboy Magazine)

In the end, by examining the fabric, measuring it, and determining its worth as a garment, I suppose that I am guilty of the very behavior I was so earnestly trying to avoid - looking a gift horse in the mouth.  The thing is, I like what I saw and indeed it made me all the more grateful for the gift...or the horse.  I really think this whole thing could be cleared up with some simple rewording; "Never look a horse gift in the mouth."  "Never look in a horse's gift mouth?"  "Never gift a horse's mouth without looking in it?"  Shoot, when someone gives you a gift, just say "Thank you."  Thank you, Charles.

vintage sewing
These pictures are a bit of a bonus because they are probably my favorites from the Ponyboy style editorial by the generous and talented photographer, Alexander Thompson.  Of course, my favorite photos feature an outfit of which I only really made half.  The entire outfit is vintage, but the simple, dirndl skirt was made by me from a length of vintage material that was also a gift from Charles.  Teal and white dahlias/spider mums highlighted in gold - they just don't make exciting border prints like they used to!!!
(Photo courtesy of Alexander Thompson/Ponyboy Magazine)

Replace "Ed" with "Tiny" and it all makes so much sense...

So where do you stand on the gift/horse/mouth issue?  Have you ever looked a gift horse in the mouth,  yea or naaaaaaaay?  Did you like what you saw?


Mr. Tiny

Monday, July 7, 2014

wacky tacky Tunes: Reg Kehoe & His Marimba Queens

For as much time as I fritter away writing this blog, I am actually terrible at using the internet to its full, time-wasting capacity; I can maneuver decently within the three or four websites on my bookmarks bar (which I only learned how to use within the last year) but the full possibilities continue to evade me.  It is a sad fact that I relate all too well with that senior citizen on the insurance commercial who saves time posting things directly to the wall of her living room and "unfriending" people face-to-face.  I regularly stare at the Google home page at a complete loss for what to do.  Furthermore, unless a newsworthy item or interesting bit of information appears in the "Top Stories" of my Facebook newsfeed, I am liable to stay completely uninformed.

Lucky for me, I had seen this little gem (part of a musical film short) as it made the rounds on social media; when a friend posted it directly to my wall, however, I knew I had to share it here.  Without even listening, I could see that between the maracas, the bevy of matching '40s gowns, an enthusiastic bass player, and a whole mess of marimbas, this was a surefire hit!  I needed a pick-me-up this week and this definitely did the trick!

"A Study in Brown" - Reg Kehoe & His Marimba Queens get HOT!!!
(See the entire film short here.)

Reg Kehoe & His Marimba Queens was a Pennsylvania-based novelty band that spent nearly two decades touring in the midwest and eastern United States.  After watching this video about one-thousand times, I was, of course, dying to find more.  Unfortunately, it appears that this performance of "A Study in Brown" was the only remaining film footage of Reg and the gang.  Well, thank heavens that it does remain - and thank heavens for internet-savvy friends!

I was so thrilled by the Marimba Queens and the frenzied, bass-slapping stylings of Frank DeNunzio, that I made a promise I really couldn't keep; I swore that I could listen to this song all day, every day, for the rest of my days.  Surely, I wouldn't want to be held to that promise; I need more than the magical musicality of the marimba.  Nevertheless, along with "Holiday for Strings," "Jaan Pehechaan Ho," and the works of Leroy Anderson, Reg Kehoe's "A Study in Brown" really rounds out the wacky tacky soundtrack-y! 


Mr. Tiny

Friday, July 4, 2014

Kitsch-en Kounter: I Heart Independence Party Pie!

In this age of wine snobs, cheese snobs, beer snobs, and serious gourmands whose only culinary credibility stems from countless hours spent watching "Chopped" marathons on The Food Network, I have happily embraced the credo, "I'm a fatty not a foodie."  It isn't that I lack appreciation for quality ingredients prepared in a skillful manner, it's that I've never encountered an artisanal, house-made catsup that can stand up to the classic, everyman's ketchup.  Put simply, "foodie" is highbrow and highbrow ain't my brow.

Okay, so maybe this makes me a ketchup snob???

I knew I was a hardcore fatty after a recent reminder that in high school the currency in which I dealt was hamburgers.  When I needed a ride or a favor, there were at least three people I knew who I could easily bribe with a 99¢ fast food hamburger.  Even out shopping I could more easily determine the value of something by forgetting dollars and cents and asking myself, "Is this really worth ten value-menu hamburgers;" it very rarely was.  Fortunately, my tastes have matured and fast food has all but been eliminated from my life.  Nevertheless, I feel that the brilliant tutelage I received from my internal economics professor left me with the understanding of the true value of a, dollar.  It is no small wonder then that my keen sense of food and home economics encourages the regular utilization of a wacky tacky foodstuff that provides more bang for the buck and more bounce to the ounce than any other paltry pantry item, namely Jell-O!

Coming at you in True Stereo 3Dimension!!!!!
It must be said that I am not a fan of anything blue-flavored
(who's ever heard of a blue raspberry???) but, when making a
4th of July dessert, one must adhere to an extremely-rigid color code!

Our Betty Crocker ColorVisioCake, our Tricky Dick's St. Patrick's Day Trifle, and our Lobster Gelatin Mold all made the most of Jell-O's signature flavor, color, and jiggle!  With America's Independence Day upon us, it was up to me to make a dessert that would celebrate all the history of our great nation and all of my homespun, fatty sensibilities; there was no question that Jell-O would be involved.  When I stumbled upon a vintage recipe for "Stained Glass Cake," I knew that with a few minor adjustments I would have a firework-level flavor explosion worthy of the 4th of July!

The first adjustment was to the name of the dessert; a graham cracker
crust filled with a creamy Jell-O confection definitely read more pie
than cake.  This was an Independence Party Pie!  The second adjustment
was the shape of the dessert; I love America and the only way to show it
was with a heart-shaped springform pan...or maybe the circular springform
that was lurking in the furthest recesses of the cupboard was rustily singing,
"'Spring' Will Be A Little Late This Year"....

For as simple as Jell-O seems, it can actually be a tricky medium in which to work when multiple colors and textures are involved.  Furthermore, this recipe called for pineapple juice, which any Jell-O aficionado knows is a big Jell-NO!  I learned that, when heated beyond a certain temperature, the naturally-occurring agents in fresh pineapple/pineapple juice that inhibit the gelatinous properties of Jell-O become inactive - crisis averted!  And still, this Independence Party Pie required much more tempering, folding, congealing, and general babysitting than most Kitsch-en Kounter food experiments; removing the whole thing from the heart-shaped springform pan was actually the easiest part!

Independence Party Pie!
It looked pretty good but was it worth the effort?

As usual, my food styling skills leave a little to be desired, but it
received a rating of five sparklers out of five from the National
Pyrotechnic Food Rating Council of America (not something I made up...
Look it up; it's totally real).  All I can say is that the NPFRCA and
the folks around here had  better enjoy it while it lasts because I
won't be making Independence Party Pie for at least another year!

Are you a fan of Jell-O? How are your Jell-O skills - molding, layering, etc.?  How do you spend the 4th of July (I know we have plenty of wacky tacky turkey necks outside the US; please feel free to chime in)?

Happy Independence Pie Day!!!


Mr. Tiny

p.s. No catsup was harmed in the making of this Independence Party Pie.
p.p.s As it turns out, the NPFRCA (National Pyrotechnic Food Rating Council of America is NOT real.  The editors regret any confusion.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sew What?! Red, White, and NEW!

I often get sentimental thinking of my grandparents - particularly during holiday celebrations (the 4th of July being no exception).  Although it has been many years since their passing (as romantic as it seems, they did not have The Notebook ending; they died quite separately and years apart), I find myself wanting to visit them, to bask in the warmth of their gentle, old-timey, unconditional, grandparental love.  As much as I appreciated having them as such an integral part of my youth, I find myself craving their love and counsel even more as an adult.

Leona & Bob
(Read more about them here and here)

And so I do visit them.  As well as visiting their "final resting place," when I am in the area, I also make a habit of driving past the home in which they lived out their last days (Neighborhood Watch is on high alert).  I've even eaten at the local coffee shop they frequented, confirming that the food is just as terrible as I remembered.  It brings an immeasurable amount of comfort to revisit some of their old stomping grounds, including their local thrift store.  It was there that I nabbed a length of tricolor, floral seersucker for the bargain price of $3.00 (I like to think it was grandmotherly providence; she was both thrifty and a sewing fiend).

As an inveterate fabric hoarder, rare is the occasion when I know
exactly what form the fabric will assume; usually I just hoard and hope for
the best.  Because the amount of fabric was limited, so were my options!

In the end, short supply and color palette dictated that this would be a fun, 1940s-style sun suit comprised of a ruched bikini top and a short, semi-circle skirt with attached bloomers.  Mary would have a red, white, and new outfit for the 4th of July!

I'm going to try and continue including my sketches in an attempt at
practice making perfect - both in drawing and silencing the nagging
voice inside that says the drawings are never "good enough." 

In spite of what I like to believe, my sewing skills are also rather amateurish.
Hoping to expand the breadth of my abilities with each new project, I try to
challenge myself with some easy but new-to-me techniques.  This time,
I drafted my own pattern for the fully-lined, elasticized bikini bottoms/bloomers
and made a shaped hem-facing for the skirt from the fashion fabric.  

Luckily, my efforts made the cut for Mary's Las Vegas shoot with the photography phenom, Alexander Thompson, for a style editorial in Ponyboy Magazine.

wacky tacky vintage sewing playsuit
Capturing simple beauty is a task I think often more difficult than documenting
"grittiness" and "edge" - not that there is anything wrong with grit and edge.
I just know that our grandparents would have truly appreciated the simplicity
and loveliness of this photograph.
(Photo courtesy of Alexander Thompson/Ponyboy Magazine)

Feeling the pressure of last-minute holiday preparations, I am grateful that this ensemble was completed with a few months to spare!  I am also grateful for the talents of Alexander Thompson and Ponyboy Magazine, without whom we would not have these great photos - THANK YOU!!!

Do you hoard fabric with the intention of making themed, holiday outfits?  Were your grandmothers sewing fiends like mine?  Do certain sounds, sights, or smells remind you of your loved ones?  Are you a sucker for seersucker?

While you are pondering these questions, we hope that you have a safe, sane, and Happy 4th of July!!!


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sew What?! Spot, the Pet Zebra!!

Call it too many viewings of The African Queen and The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, but I can't seem to escape the unwitting inspiration of my latest sewing projects.  I have never seriously considered a trip to the African continent but after our "Rick-y Rack-y Safari" and "Serengeti Serenade" ensembles, all the subconscious arrows are pointing in that direction.  This most recent look is yet another indicator as to the location from which the next stamp in my passport might come - zebra territory!!!

Question: What did the blonde call her pet zebra?
Answer: SPOT!

A quick Google search of zebra-themed jokes devolves quickly from kindergarten domain to the terribly vile and profane.  Knowing that head-to-toe animal print is often relegated to the jokey end of the fashion spectrum, I thought I would attempt to instill my "pet zebra" with a serious touch of 1940s resort wear.

Among other things considered to be a joke is my pitiful lack of photography skills; if there is a way to get every angle wrong and treat lighting like a non-issue, I will find it.  Our photography woes were all but driven to extinction when Mary was recently shot by that talented man behind the golden camera, Alexander Thompson, for a music/fashion feature in "Ponyboy Magazine."  I knew that in his capable hands, these photographs would be no laughing matter!

"The Mary Simich Look"
(Photo courtesy of Alexander Thompson/Ponyboy Magazine)

So the question must be asked, is there such a thing as too much animal print?
If there is, we haven't found the cutoff; I almost forgot that I had made a matching handbag!
(Photo courtesy of Alexander Thompson/Ponyboy Magazine)

Mary has both a long torso AND long legs (I know, cry me a river) but at approximately
4.5' long, the whole of this six-gored, floor-length skirt couldn't be contained in the frame!
(Photo courtesy of Alexander Thompson/Ponyboy Magazine)

Were I to remake this outfit, there are definitely a few tweaks I would make.  I would try to cover the bare midriff just a touch by widening the bra top's bottom binding and possibly raising the waistband of the skirt.  I would also spend time redrafting the sleeve to minimize the fullness at the shoulder seam and add even more fullness at the cuff.  As is, it all can go so quickly from 1940s screen siren to...

Full-on Fly Girl realness!!!
Mary is too young to remember In Living Color,
but I couldn't help but think of it!

Do you walk on the wild side with extreme animal prints?  Do you think that there is a line one can cross into animal print overload or is too much never enough?

We extend a heartfelt "THANK YOU" to Alexander Thompson  and Ponyboy Magazine for this incredible feature on Mary.  You continue to prove that photography is definitely a fine art and you've given a whole lot of credibility to Mr. Tiny's humble workshop!


Mr. Tiny