Sunday, October 17, 2010

Adult Toys

Valerie says: It really wasn't very nice of us to tease you with the title. There you probably thought we were going to show you some naughty little plug-in things, or pretty little lace things, so you can play nicely with your significant other. No, this week we were just musing on the fact that we still enjoy buying TOYS. Not My Little Pony, or GI Joe, to be sure, but geniune toys, which we couldn't resist for some reason or another. Take a look:

Jean says: My working title for this week's entry was "Tub Toys" but I can see how that may not have lured as many potential viewers as the one which appears on the posting. Nonetheless (how weird a saying is that, by the way: "none the less"?), when Valerie suggested TOYS as this week's posting topic, I decided to go whole hog, so to speak, and throw myself into it. Easier said than done, especially when I don't tend to "share", the way Generation Twitter members seem to be able bare every little gory detail of their lives and loves to the world. So, I figured the best way to get through this was to play someone else playing me. That's when it all started to get a little fuzzy.

First, I toyed with the idea of playing FDR playing me, but then figured I probably needed to lighten it up a bit. (Image by

Then I briefly considered assuming the personna of Hunter Thompson, Rolling Stone Magazine's famous Gonzo journalist. But, since I don't like guns, I needed to re-think that one. (Image by

Eureka! Then it came to me: I'll channel Johnny Depp as Hunter Thompson in Terry Gilliam's brilliant 1998 flick "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas". Benicio Del Toro was all but unrecognizable as Hunter's looney sidekick, the Samoan.

So, I finally decided to play Johnny Depp playing Hunter Thompson playing one half of the Idiosyncratic Fashionista dynamic duo. Dear readers, don't dwell on the details. It'll only give you a headache. Just come along for the ride! (Image by

Once I was in the tub ready to go, Valerie reminded me of John Lennon's famous bathtub scene in "A Hard Day's Night" in which he sings "Rule Britannia" while manically playing with a little toy boat. That was it! I finally had my motivation. "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." (Valerie says: Ah, memory! So like Kurosawa's Rashomon! The way I remember it, I suggested the whole scene waaaaay before Jean got in the tub, including the bubble bath. I thought of her ocean liner, and asked if she would do her version of John Lennon's bubble bath scene. But I'm not casting any stones - Jean has seen my memory in action. And inaction.)

Since I still may someday want to run for public office, I nixed the idea of just relying on Lucky Super Soft's Strawberry Bubble Bath for Kids (from the local 99 cent store) to provide sufficient coverage. I opted to don a camisole and bathing suit bottoms. Hey, even Sally Rand had her big feather fans. For moral support, I brought along my seven rubber duckie squeak toys, rubber dog bone squeak toys, Halloween ball with black cats and bats squeak ball, and the piece de resistance, my wind-up tin ocean liner by Schylling.

It was the ocean liner's maiden voyage, marred by rough, foamy seas. Needless to say, I really started to get into it, and was undeterred by the fact that I only knew one verse of "Rule Britannia"! Arrrgghh, mateys. My little metal ocean liner took on the evil Pirate Rubber Duckie in a great air and sea battle. At one point, things got so out of hand, I accidentally dropped the ocean liner not once but twice into the soapy depths, knocked the innocent bystander Devil Duckie off the edge of the tub to the tile floor below and threw soap bubbles everywhere. As you can tell, we spared no expense on this photo shoot.

At one point during the shoot, Valerie was laughing so hard, I thought she was going to tumble off the ladder into the tub. Caution, dear readers: These are trained professionals on a closed track. Do not attempt this at home. (Valerie says: untrained lunatics in a padded cell, more like.)

The key to getting into the role was the cigarette holder, in this case, a vintage bakelite number with a bright red base. Relax, everybody. I'm not the Jackie Kennedy secret smoker-type. The cigarette itself is actually a ballpoint pen. (We asthmatics and tobacco don't mix well.) Also in the photo is a shot of the Halloween squeak toy ball.

Here's a glimpse of my seven Rubber Duckies in all their glory. As you can see, they come in all sizes and colors from traditional to radical. Who doesn't love a Rubber Duckie?

It's so bizarre! I'm beginning to see Duckies everywhere I look. For example, this morning, I discovered this great sign on Centre Market Place between Grand and Broome Streets. Don't ask me to even begin to pronounce the name of the shop (IKOU.TSGHUSS).

Lurking in the background over my shoulder on the edge of the tub during the shoot is three-legged, bug-eyed red and yellow Nathan by STRANGECO 2006. Next to him in this shot is my Mickey Mouse squeak toy that I've had since before I got married in 1986. In the foreground is the tin ocean liner purchased recently in the store at the Museum of the City of New York.

Last but not least are my faithful squeaking dog bones with tiger-stripe and paw-print designs. I love their look and display them regularly on my dresser (that is, when the piles of stuff periodically get low enough to see the top of the furniture).

Maybe for the next shoot, I'll be Godzilla.

John Lennon would have been 70 years old last week. For an extra treat, check out John Lennon’s infamous bathtub scene for yourselves (recreated above by Jean, with utmost attention to historical accuracy) and tell us what you think.

Do comment on our posting, tell us what you think and - tell us about your favorite toys. (Valerie says: Scroll down to the bottom, where it probably says O COMMENTS. Then click on the COMMENTS (or just write in the box provided) and voila! - you can add your own!

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Valerie says: I NEVER liked dolls. I tried hard - really I did - to engage them in my play activities, but they just never did anything very interesting. (Who wants "a little baby doll that can cry, sleep, drink and wet", to quote Chuck Berry?) I MUCH preferred plush toy animals, and could often be seen about town tenderly cradling a brown bear or a red kangaroo. (Talk about arm candy!) I bought this doll only a year ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If only they'd had dolls like this during my childhood, perhaps my life would have been completely different.

Jean says: How can anybody NOT like real dolls, like Barbie? When I was little, I had the original blond Barbie with black and white striped strapless bathing suit and black strapless evening gown with a tulle flare at the bottom. When I was at the Mulberry Street Craft Market last Sunday, I met this angelic little girl who had tied her Pediatrician Barbie to her shirt top. I was so taken with Barbie's bright pink stiletto gladiators, I admit I failed to notice the turquoise stethoscope around her neck. When the little girl pulled an infant from her pocket, wrapped in a matching blue blanket and placed it in Barbie's arms, it was a lot easier to connect all the dots. After she left, I was speculating about whose baby it might be. Barbie's secret love child with Ken? That would do his image a world of good - just like Justin Beiber's scuffle this weekend in response to an anti-gay slur won't hurt his new album sales one iota. Did I mention that someplace in storage I have a Ferrari Barbie dressed in a red leather suit and knee high laced black leather boots that I acquired as a Formula 1 Grand Prix of Canada souvenir about a decade ago in Montreal? Now, if I could just put my finger on her...) (Valerie says: When I grow up, I wanna be a pediatrician so I can wear pink gladiator stilettos! Oh, uh, and a stethoscope, too, of course...)

According to the literature, this doll was based on the Klimt portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. She's a vastly simplified Adele, of course, but no less wonderful to me. You can see the resemblance. Both Adele and her plush sister are soft, light-weight, and made of richly colored velveteen by Percebe Arts of Barcelona. (I can't remember what art work Adele's sister is based on. As Vladimir Nabokov might have said: "Speak, Memory!" Or, as John Lennon might have paraphrased it: "Speak, bloody useless memory!")

These fabulous papier mache monsters were my souvenir of a visit to Frida Kahlo's home in Coyoacan. They're made by La Casa de Alebrije. I love the red two headed monster, but it was the blue and white one that first caught my eye, because the tilt of his head, open mouth and large nostrils reminded me of the horse in Picasso's Guernica.

This teeny Santa Catarina was my souvenir of Oaxaca, when I went to see Day of the Dead. Saint Catherine is the patron saint of milliners, for you hat lovers - note her large feathered hat. I chose the lover I'm trying to introduce her to because he also has a feathered hat. He's a bit two dimensional, poor fellow, but as you can see Santa Catarina has a few shortcomings of her own.

This is where the above toys live when they're not being photographed. That's a vintage Jean Paul Gaultier bustier / zip-up toiletries bag in the corner.

Kate's Paperie, a kind of Bergdorf Goodman for stationery lovers, sold the felt Godzilla one year at Halloween. Steiff, which for decades made the Ne Plus Ultra of stuffed toys, did a line of dinosaurs sometime in my teenage years, I think. I didn't know about them then, or I surely would have bought one, gender be damned. In the '90s, I think it was, they reprised the line, and put it in a silly special edition box. I got it on Ebay several years ago. When I was a child, I took all the tags off my Steiff toys' chests and the metal studs out of their ears. To my way of thinking, these things were painful and cruel. Besides, I thought, these are wild animals. What wild animal wears tags and studs in its natural environment? On Ebay, Steiff toys with their tags and studs intact are valued higher. From my perspective, if they still have intact tags and studs, they were probably never loved or played with. I keep the stegosaurus in his silly box so he doesn't get dirty, but when I was a child, all my Steiff toys lived on my bed.

The kimono-clad gossiping cucumber and radish were made by Japanese toy sculptor Tamae Kurata of Japan, and bought at an exhibition at gallery gen. The kimono are made of vintage kimono fabric.

I bought the Steiff skunk at the 26th Street outdoor flea market ages ago. Steiffs in good condition don't often show up in the markets, so I jumped at the opportunity. I've juxtaposed her with a wooden mouse on wheels by Dona Dalton that I bought at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The wheels hooked me, as did the great colors and the mouse's expression. Dona makes a wonderful line of wooden sculptures (she eschews the word toys, and rightly so), including a snake on wheels. Have a look at her website.

I don't know anything about this doll, but I couldn't resist her. I found her by accident on Ebay.

There is a wooden plane that goes with these toys, but it seems to have disappeared. Jean bought the plane at an outdoor flea market (it will turn up - all Jean's things eventually do), and I was crestfallen when she didn't buy its littermates. So I bought them (they were remarkably well priced), to keep the family together. The fact that I can even feel this way makes me wonder if the concept of animism - the belief that even inanimate objects are, in a sense, alive - is innate in many, or all people. The toys look to me like they come from the 20s or 30s, although we have no idea. The horse looks like one of Franz Marc's many horses.

(Jean says: There is method to Valerie's madness. The hidden agenda to this exercise was the search for the elusive wooden toy airplane, which alas has been swallowed by the infernal monster that lives in my closets that hides things from me. Since we all know I never throw anything out, the plane is still SOMEWHERE in my apartment. Operative word is "somewhere". Valerie, ever the optimist, kept asking daily whether it had turned up so she could stage a wooden toy family portrait. No such luck. I had originally purchased the airplane as a hat ornament, but it proved a little too weighty for the task.)

Many of the above toys live on this bookcase. They're hard to make out, but they're out where they can [see and] be seen every day.

A fad for miniature chairs has been sweeping New York City. (Really!) So when I saw this wire chair at a thrift shop, it had to come home with me. It lives on my tv, and a 34 cent stamp of Frida Kahlo sits in it. The doll, a reproduction of a drawing for a costume from the Russian revolutionary theater of the early 20th century, is from the Guggenheim Museum. The aluminum Graf Zeppelin, made by Schylling and purchased at Conran's many years ago, had irresistible humor and wonderful lines (and at $14 a great price tag!).

The styrofoam devil was made by puppeteer Nicolas Lopez Silva in Mexico and purchased at the American Folk Art Museum. I had to photograph him twice because he's such a handsome devil. He reminds me somehow of Orson Welles or Winston Churchill. His face has so much character he looks like a fitting subject for Horst or Avedon or Karsh.

I found this lobster puzzle at the recent Crafts on Columbus street fair. The artist, David Shore, does a whole series of wild animal puzzles under the name Wuzzles. He colors them individually, and with great subtlety. Have a look at his website. Many of the website photos are a bit pale, but in person they are breathtaking. Previously, I bought a bee and a turtle as baby gifts. When I bought the lobster, I left thinking every girl should have one.

This is where the lobster and devil live.


Several years ago, I found this wonderful painting of a cement mixer at the 26th Street flea market. I bought it mostly because I loved the colors and shapes, but the fact that the colors and shapes added up not to some serious, pompous form, but to a cement mixer clinched the deal for me. Sometime later, I found some tiny plastic trucks in the same colors, and bought them to riff off the cement mixer and keep it company. Way above, Jean has her ducks in a row; here, I have my trucks in a row. Left to right, they are (I think) an earth mover, a dump truck, a mechanical shovel, and a steam roller.

Oh, and the ADULT TOYS blocks come from a thrift shop. There are letters on all sides, but only six blocks. Several As, Es and Os, a couple of Gs and Ses, letters that can be N or Z, Ms that can be Ws, but no Fs at all, no Js, no Qs. There are no Ls - I faked the one above out of one of the Es, using teeny round yellow stickers. And there's only one T. The second T above was refashioned from a Y and red electrical tape.


By the time Barbie came around, I was already a dyed-in-the-wool plush animal lover, and a scoffer at vinyl dolls, which I could see had none of the delicate workmanship of my air brushed mohair toys. Several years ago, while visiting Julie Artisans' Gallery, I came across the work of Margaux Lange. Margaux gives a second life to discarded Barbie dolls. I've never met Margaux, but I wonder if she doesn't have the same feelings about Barbie that I had. (Jean says: No comment. It's barbaric.)

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Jean and Valerie after celebrating 10-10-10 with cocktails at 10:10pm at the Double Crown. Photo by Jeremy, the maitre d'. REALLY hard to invite your friends to come out for cocktails at 10:10pm. If we were thirty years younger, we would have used Twitter, and half of New York would probably have joined us.


  1. Hi I was wondering the makers of the dancing doll toys from the MET.


  2. Hi, Anon. The dancing dolls were made by Percebe Arts of Barcelona. They were sold at the Met several years ago.

  3. I agree with that, that's awesome that the world is filled with such dirty toys ;-) Enough to say sometimes you can buy adult toys to have real fun. Thanks for opportunity to say my opinion! Btw. awesome blog my brother!