I AM A LIVING DOLL @ PopArtDiva.com
Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of American Toys in the far away land of New York City a fair maiden was born. She was 11 inches tall, had golden hair, long gorgeous legs, feet so tiny they must have been a size 4 and, oh my, a "D" cup!
Yes, I'm talking about the Barbie doll, who made her debut at the American Toy Fair 49 years ago today. Inspired by her daughter's preference for adult women paper dolls over baby dolls, creator and co-founder of Mattel, Ruth Handler, modeled Barbie on a doll named Lili that was based on a German comic strip character. She then named the doll after her own daughter, Barbara.
Advertising the doll to children via shows like the Mickey Mouse Club, Mattel built an entire doll community. First Barbie got a boyfriend named Ken, then a best friend named Midge and later a little sister called Skipper.
In the meantime, Barbie also acquired a very cool car, a Dream House, a great wardrobe, a shoe collection that would rival Evita Peron's, and a multitude of careers over the years that would include Airline Stewardess, Doctor, Pilot, Astronaut, Olympic athlete and finally - Ta Da! - Presidential Candidate! And you thought Hillary was the first woman to run for President? Barbie beat her by fifty years!
Not bad for a woman who's measurements were rumored to be 38-18-34. Just goes to show you that a little plastic never hurt any woman's career! Of course, I always wondered why Barbie never toppled over with those teeny feet and the top heavy figure but maybe that's why we got a stand for her in the box.
I got my Barbie the year they came out, 1959, I was eight years old. I think there were only 350,000 made and my parents managed to get one for me. My Barbie doll was not a blond but a brunette and she came in a black and white stripped bathing suit, with little black sling back shoes, a pair of very cool cat's eye sunglasses, a little pink book and the stand. I was given a couple of additional outfits but I immediately started my campaign to fill my Barbie's closet with the entire designer collection. I had a pretty admirable wardrobe, including the wedding dress, in the end.
I also got Ken (of course!), then Midge, then Skipper - and I seem to remember a doll called Toni with a platinum blond bubble cut! I also acquired the jazzy peach and aqua sports car (which for some reason I will insist is an Aston-Martin), a black carrying case, and a few other necessities for the proper Barbie owner. I never did get the Dream House or the other house sets - even in those days I wasn't all that domestic!
My Ken came with fuzz for hair which didn't last too long. Sadly my Ken was bald within a year and I was using modeling clay for a toupee. I swear to God, I was the hair club for Ken! And, if you remember, Ken was NOT anatomically correct! Poor Ken, castrated before he even left the factory, but then sex did not exist in the late fifties or so they would have liked us to believe.
Sometime in my early teens I traded my original Barbie to another little girl for something stupid and my mother had a fit. She made me go back and un-trade - I was absolutely mortified. Decades later that decision made me a nice chunk of change when I sold my original Barbie to a collector, along with the rest of my Barbie collection. I kinda wished I'd kept that cool peach and aqua car though.
I like to think my Barbie ditched Ken, decided against being President, became an internet billionairess, selling out before the dot com crash and ended up sailing the oceans on her Dream Yacht with a slew of hot cabin boys who looked a lot like Woody from Toy Story (I'm a big Tom Hanks fan). Or maybe there's a company out there with a Pierce Brosnan doll that my Barbie hooked up with after her split with Ken.
Whatever her fate I wish her well and I would like to send my wishes for a very Happy Birthday and thank her for all the wonderful make-believe she brought me.
This Day in History:
Birthdays - 1920 Carl Betz (actor), 1918 Mickey Spillane (Frank Morrison) (writer), 1902 Will Geer (Ghere) (actor), 1934 Yuri Gagarin (Russian cosmonaut), 1934 Joyce Van Patten (actress), 1936 Marty Ingels (Ingerman) (actor), 1937 Mickey Gilley (country singer), 1940 Raul Julia (actor), 1943 Trish Van Devere (Patricia Dressel) (actress), 1943 Bobby Fischer (chess champion)
1955 - James Dean debuts in East of Eden
1959 - Barbie is introduced to the world.
I AM A LIVING DOLL is available at PopArtDiva.com as archival prints or giclees on gallery wrap canvas. Post images Copyright 2008 by PopArtDiva.com. All rights reserved. No permission is given to copy, distribute or reproduce without written permission from PopArtDiva.com.