Saturday, January 24, 2015

Living Doll

Everyone has seen the episode of the Twilight Zone called “Living Doll” in which the little girl receives an adorable ‘talking’ doll from her mother. The doll says her signature phrase, “My name is Talky Tina” but when no one is looking, the creepy doll comes to life, threatens and terrorizes the girl’s stepfather played by Telly Savalas. Without spoiling it too much, the story doesn’t end well.  Do you ever wonder what happened to the family? Were they stuck in the apartment at the mercy of this demented doll?

Special Effects prop masters created ‘Talky Tina’ from the Vogue Brikette doll that was available in the early 1960’s. They animated the head turning and the arms swinging because the original doll did not have that feature. They also added the talking because the Brikette doll didn’t do that either.
In the mid 1990’s, I found a Brikette doll at an antique store. I flipped because I had never seen one before and of course, I recognized her as the freaky doll from the Twilight Zone. That was my toy for that day and what a score!

My friend, Van Arno said that he had a friend who wanted to meet me. Van told his friend, Rob, about my insane toy collection and Rob couldn’t wait to see it. Van said Rob was totally toy crazed and that we would get along like a house on fire.
Finally Rob came over and sure enough, we had a lot in common. Rob and I were both from New Jersey and just about the same age so we shared a lot of the same childhood experiences. I led him to the toy room and he went wild. Rob’s eyes were practically spinning! We blabbed for hours and hours about all our favorite childhood space toys; Ideal Zeroids, Eldon Billy Blastoff, Mattel’s Major Matt Mason, the Colorform Outer Spacemen but Rob’s all time favorites were the Topper Ding-A-Lings robots. He was obsessed with them! We started to call him, "King Ding”!

The Talky Tina doll particularly entranced Rob. He wanted one just like her. I told him that Brikette dolls were really hard to find and that I’d never seen one before this but I would look for one for him. About two months later, I actually found a Brickette doll in a completely different antique shop. I called Rob and told him that I found a Talky Tina for him. He said he wanted to come over that night to pick her up. Rob was so thrilled to finally have Talky Tina, he put her in his briefcase and we said goodnight.

The few nights later, I got a call from Rob. He said the weirdest thing had happened to him that day at work. Rob was the VP and Director of Legal Affairs for the Anaheim Indoor Marketplace. He said he’d had a meeting with the board that Friday morning. When Rob went to open his briefcase, Talky Tina doll popped out and he almost fell out of his chair. Rob had completely forgotten that she was in there and was startled by her unexpected appearance! He spent the rest of the day teasing and tormenting the staff in the office with her.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Introducing '69 Hot Wheels Action Set

My mom worked on the assembly line at Mattel Toys when I was a kid. My aunt, Dora and my aunt Berta worked there also.  This is back when Mattel toys were made in Hawthone, California, USA! I loved the stories my mother would tell about working at the famous toy company. My mom described the Hot Wheels department as rows of tiny cars with ladies on either side working the assembly line performing some function such as polishing the cars, plugging the spoiler in place, bagging the cars, heat sealing the car on the card, etc. I pictured Lucy and Ethel on the assembly line at the chocolate factory only with Hot Wheels cars!

Every Friday, my mom brought home some little gifts for me. Sometimes it would be a few Hot Wheels cars. She explained that Mattel had a company store on the premises and they sold these cars to employees for a quarter because the cars had little imperfections or were molded in the wrong color (for that model) or had missing labels, etc. I had a greatest collection of 1969 year cars in all kinds of funky colors like hot pink, turquoise and yellow gold. I had about a dozen Custom Volkswagen cars in every color of the rainbow! Hot Wheels cars had the most amazing "Specratraflame" colors and finishes. Real works of art!

On Sunday afternoon, my mom and I would go to my aunt and uncle’s house to visit and have dinner. I loved to go to my cousin Bruno’s house to play Hot Wheels.  They had a big living room and we could spread out the Hot Wheels track set with the Power House, the corkscrew loops, the bank curves and watch the cars race. Bruno had some Hot Wheels cars that my mom had given him. We would lie on the floor watching the cars at eye level and play for hours! It was probably about 9:30 when my mom announced that it was time to go home. We begged for a just a few more minutes, my mom gave me the ‘look’ so finally I began to dismantle the track set and slowly put the pieces in the box. I started to collect up my cars and put them into the big Rally Wheel.

Well, Bruno started to pout and say he wanted to play more then he claimed that one of my cars was his. I said, “Bruno, I just brought that one over, my mom gave it to me a few days ago”.  “No!” I tried to pry it out of his hands but he was squirming too much. We started to wrestle then Bruno’s dad shouted from the dining room to knock it off.
My mom heard the commotion and came over to reason with Bruno. “Brunito, we have to go home now, honey.  Portate bien, and we’ll be back next week, okay?” He got up, started to stomp his feet and shake his little fists. Then, he kicked the Power House and knocked it over. Then he grabbed a couple of Hot Wheels cars, one in each hand. He started to cry and scream, “They're mine! They're mine!” All of the sudden, he threw the Hot Wheels and cars went flying. I don’t remember if any of the cars hit my mom but she was pissed off! She picked up an orange Hot Wheels track and swatted both of us across the butts. There’s nothing like the ‘whirring’ sound of a Hot Wheels track! Bruno screamed, jumped like a little squirrel and ran into the bedroom. Tearfully, I packed up the rest of the playset and my cars and my Power House. We said goodnight to my aunt, my uncle and my little cousin, Mimi and went home.

A few days later, my mom said she didn’t want any more fighting with Bruno about whose car was whose so she decided to paint my initials on the bottom of each of my cars. The only kind of paint she had was nail polish so to this day; I have Hot Wheels cars with the initials, OM, in iridescent pink polish.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Best of the West

When I was a kid in the 1970’s, we lived in Silverlake, a suburb of Los Angeles. Silverlake was a cool place to live because there were all kinds of different people living there; hippies, Hispanic families, gays, avant-garde artists and old folks. My mother and I lived on Vendome Place in the back house of a triplex apartment. Across the driveway, there was a four-unit Spanish style apartment where my friends, Anthony (or Buddy as we knew him), his brother Andy, Cambie, Christina, Tommy and little Brennan all lived with their parents, Rosemary and Arthur. Arthur was Japanese and famous for being a ‘one-man band’, playing ventures like the Doo-Dah Parade and nightclubs all around town. Arthur was a marvelous artist who impressed me tremendously. Every Christmas, Arthur would paint Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the Peanuts characters, snowflakes and holiday greetings on the front windows of their apartment.

One day, Buddy Andy and I were outside playing cowboys and Indians with the Marx “Best of the West” characters. I got the idea that it would be ‘fun’ to send smoke signals to our friends down the street. I knew exactly how to do it, too. I’d seen it on the ‘Lone Ranger’ show countless times. First, we collected some rocks and laid them in a small circle around base of the drainpipe on the side of our house. We sat Johnny West, Cochise and Geronimo next to the rocks. Then we got some dried grass and leaves, crushed them up and put them in the center of the rocks. I reasoned that the smoke from the burning leaves would go up the drainpipe and out of the top, sending puffs of smoke that our friends could see from far away. I snuck a box of matches from our kitchen and came back outside to light the campfire. We lit the fire, it started to burn and we fanned it with a banana leaf. We were going to use the banana leaf to cover the drain and break up the smoke signals. 

Just then, from down the driveway, we heard Arthur scream out, “Buddy, Andy, what are you doing!” and he ran over to where we were. His started to stomp on the fire until he put it out. He swatted Andy and Buddy hard on the behind and pulled them by the ear. They started to cry. He screamed at me to go in the house and stay there until my mother got home. I started to cry and ran inside the house. Buddy and Andy weren't allowed to play with me for a week and my mom spanked me, punished me with no TV or contact with my best friends for a week also. I remember sitting down that week and drawing a picture of cowboys and Indians at a campfire sending smoke signals.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Christmas in the Valley of the Dolls

Before we get too far along into 2015, I want to post a few photos of my vintage Barbie dolls dressed in their winter fashions and the party in the Christmas display. 

I've been collecting Barbie seriously as an adult since 1982 when my dear (and now departed) friend, Kurt Krause, took me to my first vintage doll collector show in September of that year. I had never been  'into' Barbie or any dolls really until I saw the vintage Mattel’s "Twiggy" doll in someone's booth. I flipped out because I distinctly remembered the MOD doll from my childhood and I just had to have one. I didn't have any dolls as a kid although my mom for Christmas bought me, the Ken Gift Set featuring handsome Malibu Ken dressed in his groovy flower print windbreaker, swim trunks, swim fins, face mask and boogie board. He was awesome and I considered him more of an 'action figure' and not a doll! 

Anyway, the Twiggy doll was about $100 and I didn't have the money for her so sadly, I walked away without the Twig. Kurt bought a few “bubble cut” Barbie dolls, a couple of pairs of spiked high heels and a red one-piece bathing suit for Barbie. I learned a lot about the collector’s mind and the world of collecting in general and I was hooked! I started to go to dolls shows with Kurt, which was in those days, every weekend. 

A few months passed until it was December then suddenly, it was Christmas. Kurt loved Christmas so he would make sugar cookies, decorate his apartment with little model houses, hang his Granny’s vintage decorations on the silver Mylar tree and play Christmas songs on the piano.  Kurt called me and asked me to come over to see his Christmas display. He lived up the hill from my apartment so I told him I'd be over in a few minutes. Of course his apartment was all decked out with boughs of holly, candles in the window, fake snowflakes in the corners, etc. and under the Christmas tree was a single present. Kurt ran over, grabbed the present and handed it to me. “Open it, open it!” he squealed.  I tore off the wrapping paper and slid open the box. There inside was the Twiggy doll! My first Barbie doll. Merry Christmas Kurt, I miss you.