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Archive for January 17th, 2008

WHAM-O! RIP Richard Knerr

Thursday, January 17th, 2008
By raincoaster

A childhood classic, never to be forgotten:

Let us pause in our busy blogging day to commemorate the truly iconic Richard Knerr, founder of the archetypal toy company Wham-O, maker of those childhood classics the Frisbee and the Hula-Hoop, who died today at the age of 82. The world may never see his like again.

Or get rid of all this damn plastic, neither.

With his boyhood best friend, Arthur “Spud” Melin, Knerr started the company in 1948 in Pasadena. They named the enterprise Wham-O for the sound that their first product, a slingshot, made when it hit its target.

A treasure chest of dozens of toys followed that often bore playful names: Superball, so bouncy it seemed to defy gravity; Slip ‘N Slide and its giggle-inducing cousin the Water Wiggle; and Silly String, which was much harder to get out of hair than advertised.

When a friend told Knerr and Melin about a bamboo ring used for exercise in Australia, they devised their own version without seeing the original.

They ran an early test of the product in 1958 at a Pasadena elementary school and enticed their test subjects by telling them they could keep the hoops if they mastered them.

They seeded the market, giving hoops away in neighborhoods to create a buzz and required Wham-O executives to take hoops with them on planes so people would ask about them.

Wham-O soon was producing 20,000 hoops a day at plants in at least seven countries, while other companies made knockoffs. Within four months, 25 million of the hoops had been sold, according to Wham-O.

In the 1985 book “American Fads,” Richard A. Johnson wrote that “no sensation has ever swept the country like the Hula Hoop.”

Ah, but 1985? That was before Beanie Babies, wasn’t it? All they had back then were bloody Pet Rocks!

Okay, to tell the truth I never mastered the use of either of these damn things, and my dog was the only one in the park chasing an old-skool ball rather than a Frisbee. I am still in therapy dealing with the time I was in a fitness class and my friend laughed at me saying, “If you can have sex you can use a Hula Hoop!”

Which may be true, for all I know.

To be sure, the Hula Hoop is a delightful toy, but can someone explain to me why Amazon is offering them for $162.00? Are they made from mammoth ivory and sprinkled with authentic pixie dust? I’m thinking back to what my friend said and wondering if Hula Hooping is not perhaps a whole lot more fun than I was led to believe? For that you could charge this much…

Hula Hoop

There’s One Born Every Minute, They Say

Thursday, January 17th, 2008
By Glinda

Reborn Doll

There is a trend which began in the UK and is spreading fast here in America for a collectible doll known as a “reborn.” They look like infants, and are extremely lifelike. Some of them actually mimic breathing and movement during sleep. There are women who craft these dolls and sell them from “nurseries” where prospective “moms” can survey their choices and pick one that suits their taste. When they find the doll they wish to take home, they have to pay what is termed an adoption fee, which normally runs into the hundreds of dollars.

And it seems that some women cannot get enough of them.

I went on Ebay, the to-the-minute barometer of popular items, and when I typed in “Re-born doll” the search returned things like baby clothes and pacifiers. But, as soon as I changed it to “Re-born baby,” I hit the jackpot. No less than 642 items, many of them actual dolls, or uh, babies, as everyone in the industry seems determined to label them.

I examined the listing of one particular doll, a preemie named Michael. While I admire the artistry that goes into the making of one of these dolls (I am just as determined, I have decided, to label them dolls) I can’t help but be a bit apprehensive about their popularity. What exactly are the people who buy these dolls looking for? Something they can pretend is real but without any of the actual pesky “growing up” thing that babies tend to do?

Doll aficionados have been around forever, and I know that certain types of dolls go in and out of fashion, as with any other collectible. But the way they are framing the creation and purchase of the reborns so similarly to actual babies gives me pause.

I am also refraining from any “Chuckie” references, because we are all about the high class here at Teeny Manolo. But dang, it’s tempting.

Below you will find a fairly creepy video about the creation of reborn dolls. The quality isn’t great, but hey, it’s YouTube.

Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
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