Sunday, March 1, 2009

Barbie turns 50 without a gray hair on her head

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

Come March 9, it'll be official.
Beautiful blond Barbie will be 50 years old.
'And it just isn't fair,' said Moni Bittenbinder of Temple. 'I turn 50 that day too, but she still looks 18.'
That's true. Barbie's waist is as slim as ever, she has no wrinkles and the phrase 'bad hair day' has never had reason to become part of her vocabulary.
Earning an average of $3.3 billion in sales every year, the Mattel Inc. Barbie doll remains one of the country's most popular toys.
'She tests out our imagination and our dreams through active play,' said Andrea O'Reilly, founder of the Association for Research on Mothering. She still cherishes the 25 Barbies of her childhood. 'I think this is why Barbie has such retaining power. She's not a scripted toy. Her storyline is limitless.' That's a concept Barbie's maker understood well. A half-century ago, Ruth Handler, a Polish immigrant to the United States, saw that her daughter didn't care for baby dolls.
'All she could do with them was cuddle them,' Ms. Handler is recorded as saying on the Mattel Web site. 'She preferred dressing paper dolls and making up stories for them.'
The rest is history.
Ms. Handler designed the Barbie doll and her first few fashions, and by March of 1959, Barbie was a regular staple of Mattel Inc., the toy company she co-owned with her husband, Elliot, and business partner Harold 'Matt' Matson. Mattel's first year of business was 1945, and its first success was the mass production of a toy ukelele.
Since 1959, Barbie has worked more than 110 careers and worn thousands of outfits, some of which were modeled at this year's Fashion Week in New York.
'She's also been reproduced in more than 50 nationalities,' said Reidin Goode, senior marketing manager with Mattel.
To celebrate the anniversary of its most successful product, Mattel has a special line of Barbie products to be released this year.
The Bathing Suit Barbie Then and Now is available now. Wearing her hair in the classic ponytail, she's dressed in a modern two-piece version of her 1959 pin-striped bathing suit. The ensemble include present-day accessories of some sunglasses and cell phone.
Also available now is the Anniversary Barbie. A platinum blonde with long hair in soft curls, sun-kissed skin and pale make-up, Anniversary Barbie is dressed in a gown of gold tulle and sparkling glitter.
The month of June will welcome several new Barbies to the world. They include the Sparkling Pink Barbie that first appeared in 1964, the Harley Davidson Barbie, the 'I Love Lucy' Barbie and the Sparkling Pink Holiday Barbie.
July brings us the introduction of the Blond Ambition Goldie Hawn Barbie. A fan of body art, she's got spunk, Ms. Goode said.
The Barbie Fab Girl will debut in September. She's a fashion intern who has a business suit for the office and a satin pink party dress fit for a single girl's night life.
Other anniversary items include an array of other dolls, accessories and outfits.
'And remember, there can never be too much pink for Barbie.'
That's the motto of Barbie's agent, Richard Dickson - the director of global marketing for Mattel. His office is in Barbie Headquarters, the 10th floor of the Mattel building in El Segundo, Calif.
'I call it the Pink Floor,' Dickson said in a recent Associated Press story. 'It's where Barbies are born.'

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