The stars were gravitating towards Valentine in downtown Los Angeles on September 21 for the inaugural one-of-a-kind Willis Wonderland Foundation “Night of Wonders.”
In memory of the late, great and queer songwriter Allee Willis, the event launched the newly formed 501(3)c, which supports the education and advancement of songwriters and multimedia artists, notably those in underserved communities, who will perpetuate the legacy and extraordinary creative vision of the beloved Grammy/Tony/Emmy/Webby winning/nominated Hall of Fame songwriter. The event host committee included Emmy Award-winner RuPaul, legendary actress Lily Tomlin, comedian Luenell, actor Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman), and actress/singer Jenifer Lewis.
Tomlin, RuPaul, and Luenell were in attendance at the “Night of Wonders,” along with actor Tim Bagley, American pop culture humorist & chef Charles Phoenix, Emmy-nominated actress Mindy Sterling, actor Christopher McDonald, actress Rose Abdoo, actress Nicollette Sheridan, actress Lesley Ann Warren, actress Kate Flannery, actress Jackee Harry, actress/singer Telma Hopkins, actor Daniel Franzese, guitarist Wendy Melvoin, singer-songwriter Brenda Russell, writer/producer Jenji Kohan, songwriter-producer Stephen Bray, Willis Wonderland Foundation and Grammy-winner Prudence Fenton, and more.
With a passion for mentoring diverse songwriters and multimedia artists, Willis wanted to ensure a future for them, especially because of the persistent decline in funding for the arts. After her sudden death on Christmas Eve 2019, her longtime partner Prudence Fenton created the foundation to preserve Willis’ legacy by continuing to support her passions. The foundation will offer mentorships, seminars, lectures and podcasts, as well as Artist-in-Residence programs at Willis Wonderland, Allee’s home in North Hollywood purchased from her first “Boogie Wonderland” royalty check. The 1937 Art Deco Streamline Moderne house holds one of the world’s largest collections of pop-culture kitsch memorabilia.
The evening, on “the 21st night of September,” a line from one of Allee’s biggest hit songs “September” (performed by Earth Wind & Fire), included a live auction of some of Willis’ most notable collectibles from Willis Wonderland and exclusive memorabilia and art. Guests were treated to a fashion parade of pieces from Willis’ trailblazing collection, which were modeled by Sterling, Warren, Diva Zappa, Abdo and other famous faces. The night also included a Sing-A-Long of some of Willis’ award-winning tunes, cocktails, food, a DJ and other surprise interactive performers and games. The event was produced by idea house and full service creative experiential agency Little Cinema. Amazon was a sponsor of the evening.
Alee Willis, of course, is the creative genius behind some of our favorite songs like ”Boogie Wonderland” (Earth Wind & Fire), “Stir It Up” (Patti LaBelle), “I’ll Be There for You” (performed by The Rembrandts and the theme to Friends), “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” (Pet Shop Boys), plus music from The Color Purple musical. She was an intensely prolific writer who wrote hundreds of songs throughout her stellar career. Now, thanks to some of her enduring classics and namesake foundation, she will be remembered in the minds and hearts of music lovers for years to come.
For more information on the Willis Wonderland Foundation, please visit www.williswonderland.org.