Re-awakening the wonderland of Allee Willis

Architecture & Design · Music

Allee Willis. Heard of her? She was a woman of color in so many ways. Born to a Jewish family in Detroit, she grew up loving Black music. Not too many years later, Willis made an awfully lot of people happy as the composer, or co-composer, of marvelous, burbling, and dance-able pop tunes of irrepressible rhythm and message. Most memorable for my worn-out dancing shoes was “Boogie Wonderland,” recorded by mega-band Earth, Wind & Fire. Not to brag, but I danced to it at Studio 54. How do you ever forget that? I haven’t.

Her “September,” another quintessential magic carpet of joy for dancers, has an enigmatic opening lyric,

Do you remember
The 21st night of September?

Love was changin’ the minds of pretenders
While chasin’ the clouds away

allee’s pink palace

In an act of clever planning — a lot of smart people are behind this event, including Emmy Award-winner RuPaul, legendary actress Lily Tomlin, comedian Luenell, actor Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman), and actress/singer Jenifer Lewis — the “Night of Wonders” will take place on “the 21st night of September.” It’s slated to include a live auction of notable collectibles including collectibles from Willis Wonderland and exclusive memorabilia and art. A fashion parade of pieces from Willis’ trailblazing collection will be modeled by some surprise famous faces, as well as a Sing-A-Long of some of Willis’ award-winning tunes. Cocktails, food, a DJ and other surprise interactive performers and games will round out the “Night of Wonders.”

The foundation supports diverse artists through mentorships, seminars, lectures, and podcasts, as well as Artist-in-Residence programs at Willis Wonderland, Allee’s classic 1937 William Kesling-designed Streamline Moderne home in North Hollywood, that houses one of the world’s largest collections of pop-culture memorabilia.

Willis Wonderland “Night of Wonders” | the 21st night of September

Dance critic Debra Levine is founder/editor/publisher of arts●meme.

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