Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lifelike in every detail: vintage advertisements

These ads are from a simpler, yet stranger time, a time when people must have said to themselves, "Oh surely not." People were much more likely to take things literally, advertising in particular.

The text that goes with this blowup doll is pretty incredible.

"Made of soft, smooth, pliable vinyl. Judy looks and feels amazingly lifelike. INFLATABLE - just add air and instantly you have a Life-Size beauty.

GUARANTEE:  This is the ULTRA deluxe model, there is no other inflatable doll as LIFE-LIKE as Judy. You must be 100% delighted or your money refunded.

"I'm Judy, the Life-Size inflatable London doll! You can dress me up for any occasion. Take me riding, or to a party, boating or swimming (I float!). Around the house I'll be the ideal burglar deterrent; prowlers will see that someone is home - me. Just let your imagination go and you will see that I can be the most exciting thing ever invented for party gags. Your (sic) bound to find hundreds of exciting and unusual uses for me."

And so on and frickin' so on, as if blow-up dolls were nothing but flotation devices or burglar deterrents, as if they weren't used for "other" purposes, purposes we can't even name here because this is a Family Blog! And I can't even picture going riding with her, even if you could get her legs apart.

This is, uh, er, just not something we'd see today, though Moms in desperate circumstances are still known to put Coca Cola in baby bottles (not to mention a shot of Red Bull in the Mountain Dew - but that's reserved for child beauty pageants.)

This is from a time when men could be in song-and-dance teams and not seem gay (or supposedly not), when Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby could mince around and pretend to be girls, when men sang in two different languages (I think they were called Sandler and Young) on Ed Sullivan. It's a weird dynamic, because being gay was surely more frowned-upon than it is now. So what the frickin' hell is going on here? What is this guy trying to do exactly? It seems inappropriate to me to WANT to lift up five guys with your penis. You'd have to have the woody of all time, and this was long before Viagra.

Just the idea of a one-reptile circus is intriguing, but it must have  involved a serious suspension of disbelief. I assume all the rest of the pieces were made of plastic, but some toymaking genius must have thought, hmmmm, SOMETHING should be alive here, some component, and it can't be too big. The text is as follows:

"Now - for the first time ever - you can have a real live circus of your own. Just dozens of fine toys, each wonderful in itself, make up this circus set for "The Greatest Show on Earth". You and your friends can have hours of fun setting up the props for the circus, placing the Ringmaster, clowns, performing animals and wild animal cages for the many exciting acts. You can even put on a real live trained animal act with the live performing chameleon who will walk a tightrope, swing on a trapeze and change color right before your eyes from bright green to brown and back again.

"Chameleons are real fun. They love to perform. You'll laugh with delight as they run with delicate balance along the tightrope or swing on the trapeze. They are harmless, clean and no trouble at all to keep as pets. Your friends will really gape with surprise when they see him riding on your shoulder. Your parents will be charmed with this small, clean pet. You'll love him." Etc. etc.

My personal experience with this "clean, harmless pet" came when I bought one with my allowance and attempted to hide it from my mother. It was a difficult matter because I didn't know where to keep him. Since my older brother had a clarinet case with a green velvet lining, I thought that might be the ideal place, since he'd come out of there bright green. It didn't work out too well when my brother went to band practice. Then my mother discovered a brown paper sack in the refrigerator. It was full of live meal worms, which is the only thing chameleons will eat. She screamed and threw the bag on the floor and stomped on it, then threw the whole mess in the garbage. The chameleon soon died, solving my problem. Later I was to learn that these things aren't even real chameleons, but anoles, a cheaper, less-vivid version who barely change color at all.

But maybe they can walk a tightrope, swing on a trapeze. Maybe, as the ad claims, you can walk them down the street on a leash. Who knows? "Can I have one, Mom, can I, can I, huh?"



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