Fun stuff: March 2009 Archives

Happy Birthday Barbie

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It's been far too long since I've posted a "Book of the Day," so in honor of Barbie's 50th birthday week, here we go.

This Barbie I speak of is the doll and yes, she does have a last name (see quiz below). You'll find out all sorts of things about Barbie's backstory by reading her biography, Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World's Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her (Collins Business, 258 pages, $24.99), by Robin Gerber.

Barbie and Ruth

Ruth Handler was the brains behind Barbie, but what you might not know is that the prototype for the doll was based on something called "Bild-Lilli," which was a sex toy based on a European newspaper cartoon character who was a prostitute.

Also, Barbie and Ken were named after Handler's own two children, who hated the dolls. Ken Handler was especially embarrassed.

"Despite ordering prototypes with varying degrees of bulge in the crotch, the male designers resisted all but the barest hint of a penis," Berger writes in the book. "Underwear was painted on the nearly flat surface of Ken's genital area and buttocks. As Ruth predicted, he looked unrealistic in the zebra-striped bathing suit that was his first piece of clothing. Ruth's son, Ken, who was fifteen at the time, resented the flat-crotched doll that bore his name."

Gerber had access to recently archived documents and personal papers, plus she interviewed surviving family members, Mattel personnel and others close to Handler.


TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE

Do you think you know Barbie? Take this quiz. (Scripps Howard News Service)

1. What is Barbie's full name?

a.) Barbie Priscilla Robertson
b.) Barbie Henrietta Wilson
c.) Barbie Millicent Roberts
d.) Barbie Abigail Carter

2. Who isn't Barbie's sister?

a.) Skipper
b.) Kelly
c.) Midge
d.) Tutti

3. How much did the first Barbie cost in 1959?

a.) $1
b.) $2
c.) $3
d.) $5

4. Thus far, what's the most that's been paid for a mint-condition No. 1 Barbie?

a.) $7,580
b.) $10,241
c.) $27,450
d.) $51,386

5. Barbie's hair comes in how many different shades of blond?

a.) 10
b.) 7
c.) 20
d.) 5

6. The look of the first Barbie mirrored the glamor of what Hollywood star?

a.) Marilyn Monroe
b.) Rita Hayworth
c.) Elizabeth Taylor
d.) All of the above

7. What's the best-selling Barbie to date?

a.) Superstar Barbie
b.) Totally Hair Barbie
c.) Malibu Barbie
d.) Day to Night Barbie

8. What percentage of girls ages 3-10 own at least one Barbie?

a.) 50 percent
b.) 75 percent
c.) 90 percent
d.) 98 percent

9. What's Barbie's favorite eye-shadow color?

a.) blue
b.) brown
c.) lavender
d.) green

10. Barbie comes in how many different skin tones?

a.) 3
b.) 5
c.) 11
d.) 20

Answers:

1. c - Barbie Millicent Roberts from Willows, Wis.
2. c - Midge, Barbie's best friend.
3. c - $3, and 300,000 were sold that year.
4. c - $27,450, in a May 2006 auction held by Sandi's Doll Attic.
5. b - 7, woven in various combinations to create highlights and lowlights.
6. d - All of the above. The first Barbie featured high arched eyebrows, pursed red lips and a sassy ponytail.
7. b- Totally Hair Barbie, with locks 10-1/2 inches long
8. c - 90 percent
9. b - Brown
10. c - 11

Sources: Mattel and eBay