Saturday, November 20, 1999

Picnic Set - A Gene Doll Outfit Review

by KATHRYN DARDEN
 
I got the Picnic Set outfit and the little basket and LOVE THEM! It is an absolutely adorable set with the cutest little  accessories ever. I usually like the ball gowns and formals, but this set is possibly my favorite yet.

The shoes are a little hard to fasten, but they are so cute and NO RIBBONS! The little bracelet with the tiny cherries matches the pin and the trim on the little hat -- very, very cute. Of course it comes with a picnic basket which contains tiny flatware, four plates which look like bone china, and four exquisite linen napkins. The red gingham lining the basket matches the red gingham trim of Gene's outfit.  I give this one an A+

Thursday, November 11, 1999

Millennium Girl Tyler by Tonner


by Kathryn E. Darden    
As a new millennium dawns, one doll steps out of the vinyl throng to possess the spotlight and launch a new era; that doll is Robert Tonner’s Tyler.
     Robert Tonner has become a household name among doll aficionados for his award winning dolls and fashions. After graduating from the Parsons School of Design, Tonner’s career took off when he became the head designer for legendary Bill Blass (who recently announced his pending retirement) and had the opportunity to hone his skills as a fashion designer.
     In 1991, Tonner combined his fashion experience with sculpting and design talents to produce the beautiful dolls which have brought him to the forefront of the doll collecting world. “The first dolls I did were 16" porcelain dolls, jointed; they were very expensive,” Tonner told me in a recent interview. “Then I came out with a larger porcelain fashion doll for around $300.” These exotic porcelain beauties soon catapulted Tonner to the attention of discerning doll connoisseurs everywhere.
     However, porcelain divas are not all that Tonner creates. The Robert Tonner Doll Company also captures the magic of classic childhood characters such as Orphan Annie, Betsy McCall, Superman, and Lois Lane. A doll collector himself, Tonner has his fingers on the pulse of the doll collecting world and sculpts and designs dolls ranging from high fashion models, to storybook fairies, to sweet little girl dolls. Tonner even has a line popular with Madame Alexander fans, the adorable Kripplebush Kids.
     In recent years, through an affiliation with the Knickerbocker company, Tonner designed a doll straight out of a Harlequin Romance, Julia. The concept was for a series of dolls based on a fictitious romance novel family composed of three lovely sisters, each with her own unique beauty, story and wardrobe from bygone days. Each doll was to have been part of the Kingston Chronicles, a romance novel packaged with each doll. Julia was created and marketed first, and at the writing of this article, there was a hold on any future dolls from the series. “They (Knickerbocker) are going through some changes and I don’t know where we are right now,” stated Tonner. “I am still interested in developing the Julia dolls.”
     Julia was greeted warmly by Gene collectors who appreciated Julia’s similar size and lines and more lifelike facial features, and like the first Genes, Julia had straight legs. The West Coast convention picked Julia for their convention doll in 1999 and Tonner partnered with Doris Mixon, a well-known doll fashion designer in her own right, to create a beautiful limited edition doll. “I chose Julia as the convention doll because I wanted to get a doll that I knew the public would want,” stated Doris Mixon who has been designing for fashion dolls since 1995.  “I always thought that Julia would look so much better in contemporary cloths than in the romantic era style that  she is portrayed in.  I chose the colors brown and beige to complement her eyes and hair.” Doris was correct about the contemporary look; Julia was breathtakingly lovely with an upswept braided coiffure and the champagne satin fitted sheath dress with matching belt and long opera coat of crushed brown velvet Doris designed for her -- a worthy harbinger of Tyler’s elegant mien.
     After the enthusiasm collectors showed for Julia, Tonner’s own manufacturing facility reached a point where he could pursue some of his dreams further. “I decided to do what I had always wanted to do, design a medium-sized fashion doll.  I wanted a doll with bendable legs and a hard plastic body. She just turned out to be 16". I was not trying to make her compatible or the same as any other doll. We were just at the point where I felt like we could step into the fashion doll arena and do it right.”
     And do it right they did. Tonner’s dream doll is Tyler, a 16" poseable vinyl doll with long rooted hair, bendable knees and a sophisticated look (somewhat reminiscent of Julia) much more proportionate than the large head and dominate eyes of Ashton-Drake’s popular Gene doll. She comes in blonde, brunette and redhead. Available for Tyler is an extensive wardrobe as well as a dress form and patterns to make designer outfits for her.
      I first had the opportunity to view two prototype Tyler's as well as meet the charming designer himself when Robert Tonner made the circuit of doll shows this years, bringing Tyler to a doll show in Nashville last spring. Tonner brought actual samples of the exquisitely detailed outfits as well as two doll prototypes: Party of the Season and a brunette Tyler. Needless to say, after seeing the resin prototypes up close and personal, I ordered my dolls immediately!  I was not the only one enthused.  “Before I went to the show I was beginning to think that I couldn't afford all of the outfits, but after I saw them in person, I knew I had to have them all!” exclaims Elaine Posanka who made the two-hour drive from Tullahoma to see the dolls. “I thought the fashions were stunning and was most excited to touch the beautiful fabrics on the costumes and learn they were the actual outfits, not prototypes.”
     “I think Tyler is a character doll that’s just starting to take off,” Tonner said. “I see friends, clothes, accessories. She is user friendly; that’s why I came out with patterns and a dress form for Tyler, and an extensive wardrobe for those of you who don’t sew. You are supposed to take her out of the box and play with her.”
     As soon as photos of Tyler were posted on the Internet, the limited edition dolls and outfits began to sell out  before the doll ever appeared on shelves!  Party of the Season Limited was a limited edition 2,500 with a suggested retail price of $169.99, and Millennium Ball, a limited edition of 3,000 with a retail value of $124.99. The Tonner Company sold out of both LE’s almost immediately, months before the dolls were due to ship.
     While Tyler comes with her own story, following in the footsteps of Gene and Julia, Tyler is a modern sophisticate and her story is one that is relevant to today’s collectors. Designer, heiress, businesswoman, Tyler’s active and versatile lifestyle presents many opportunities for fabulous outfits.
     The pictures presented of the first offerings of her extensive wardrobe prompted the outfits to sell rapidly in preorders, much like the limited edition dolls. The original wardrobe consisted of: Signature Style, a white cotton shirt and belted black wool skirt. Black sheer stockings, black pumps, and a single strand of pearls finish off the look. Party of the Season presents a fitted strapless gown of sage green and gray striped silk shot with gold and topped with a French lace overlay with a removable shrug of the same French lace. Finishing touches include a pin that matches her rhinestone necklace and earrings along with  gold evening shoes. Cashmere Noir finds Tyler dressed in a long fitted and flared black cashmere coat with shawl collar and deep cuffs. Black boots and jewelry complete the outfit. Collection Premiere is a chic suit of velvet laminate with a sleeveless silk and metal shell in tones of pale taupe and cream. Nude stockings, suede pumps, a gold structured handbag and a gold bib necklace of crystals and beads complete the ensemble. Gallery Soiree is a vivid red silk shantung cocktail dress with a beaded boa, sandals, a beaded necklace, and a matching silk clutch. Fragrance Launch is Tyler’s black-and-white houndstooth suit featuring a fitted double-breasted suit jacket with velvet portrait collar and matching cuffs, over a tailored skirt. A black tam, dark stockings, black pumps and a bottle of Wentworth #1 Perfume compete this set. Wake Up Call finds Tyler relaxing in a silk charmeuse robe over her two-piece tailored matching pajamas with a cup of coffee, a bagel, and an issue of Fashion Design Weekly. Fashion Design Weekly Awards is Tyler’s beaded floor length French lace gown with matching charmeuse stole.
     After the successful presale of these first wardrobe offerings, the Robert Tonner Company came out with two more limited edition ensembles. Urban Sport boasts comfort and style in a jersey mockneck, leggings with her taupe boots, a drawstring vest and quilted 3/4 coat, and Central Park Benefit Luncheon is an embroidered celadon silk shantung suit with rhinestone buttons, accented by a perky hat.
     Tyler captured a great deal of attention at the Gene convention in Philadelphia in October. The long-legged beauty was displayed in all her incarnations including basic Tyler, Party of the Season,  Corbett’s exclusive, and Millennium Tyler to the delight of Gene lovers from all around the world, many of whom are making room for Tyler in their Gene collections. Robert and his right-hand-gal Miss Nancy were on hand to greet convention goers and show off Tonner’s other dolls as well as Tyler.
     Another indication of the prenatal success of Tyler is the first  Tyler Convention planned for 2000. Sue Nettleingham Roberts has reportedly been planning this event for two years with the Robert Tonner Doll Company, before the doll collecting world even knew Tyler was on the drawing boards!  The show boasts a breathtaking limited edition convention Tyler as well as her new spring collection and will take place on March 31- April 1, 2000 at Double Tree Hotel, Jantzen Beach in Portland, Oregon. Pictures of the exquisite convention doll began to circulate on the web the last week of October, much to the delight of potential collectors.
     Sue Roberts, who previously has worked for both Vogue and Effenbee, said in a recent phone conversation, “I always try to have these events be for the convention goers where collectors can afford the event and have fun.” Roberts reports the first-ever Tyler convention will boast dealers, competitions, displays and a stage all in one huge ballroom for the convenience of collectors. She revealed that in addition to the beautiful convention Tyler, attendees will receive two sets of limited Tyler jewelry including a dainty year 2,000 bracelet, a Tyler paper doll, a Margaret O’Brien paper doll, the ubiquitous canvas bag sporting Tyler’s image, a special pin and other goodies she is choosing to keep a surprise. I know one of them; my lips are sealed but it sounds wonderful! One additional Tyler event is already planned for the Santa Fe Doll Art 'Albuquerque Experience'.
     If Tyler and her fabulous wardrobe live up to the elegance of the prototypes and the success of the preorders, it boggles the mind to imagine what the future holds for Robert Tonner and Tyler.
     Robert Tonner is the immediate past president of the National Institute of American Doll Artists  (NIADA) and his dolls have been featured in national and international media including People magazine, CNN, the Barbara Walters Oscar Night Special, Entertainment Tonight, and British Vogue magazine. A recent, and very special, honor was having another of his creations added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts at the Louvre complex in Paris. He recently won the first Best of Show collectors choice award at the Walt Disney World Teddy  Bear and Doll show for his one of a kind auction piece - "A Century of Fashion," a ten-doll (porcelain)  piece showing the fashions through the century, each doll representing one decade.

Wednesday, November 10, 1999

Effenbee Brenda Starr Doll Review

Brenda Starr
© 1999 by Kathryn E. Darden and Marianne Smith.
 
KATHRYN'S VIEW
If you have not ordered Brenda Starr yet, my advice is DON'T order the expensive LE. While the LE has a beautiful face, lovely hair and an intriguing gown, the vinyl did not have the porcelain appearance of Gene's  (it reminds me of a baby doll's vinyl), her limbs are not tight enough, and her arms and hands make her look ape like to me -- they are not dainty like Gene's. Her fingers made me think of stuffed sausages! For that reason, I put her black gloves on to hide those big hands. The gloves do help, but I am afraid they will stain. Of course, her cheaper vinyl may not absorb the dyes like Gene's would.
Brenda's shoes are beautiful to behold but they won't stay on her feet -- even with the NASTY STICKY STUFF they put inside the shoes to hold them on!
Then I put her on her stand. It is a fairly nice stand of a similar design to Julia's, but whereas Julia's stand holds her in place, Brenda looks awkward on hers and does not pose well. This is where tighter limbs might have helped, but Brenda just sort of hangs there.
All things considered, in my opinion the LE is NOT worth the money, perhaps not even worth the price of a new Gene. She is pretty with the gloves and hat, I do like the gown, her face and hair, and she is certainly not an ugly doll. I just think the price does not  reflect the quality I expected from Effenbee.

MARIANNE'S VIEW
Kathryn, I disagree with you about this doll.  Yes, she is different from Gene.  Yes, her head is slightly too large for her body (not that much).  But I feel she is an absolutely beautiful doll.  Looking at her body undressed, it is quite evident that her sculptor, Sandra Bilotto, has a masters degree in Medical Sculpture from NYU's Medical School.  I certainly don't claim to be an expert, but I have never seen a doll as realistically sculpted as Brenda.  Looking at her back, I felt like I was looking at an actual woman's back in miniature.
She is virtually the same size as FM Diana, and, therefore, probably Julia as well.  I tried Diana's blue suit on her last night and it fit great, although I think Brenda's waist is a little smaller than Diana's.  Recently I read online that Tyler's dimensions are going to be the same as Julia's.  This would make a lot of dolls that could share clothes: Tyler, Julia, Diana, and Brenda.  Maybe Gene will end up the odd doll out.  All the other fashion dolls seem to be headed to 16" rather than 15.5" and with beautiful, but more realistic bodies than Gene, whose body is more of a fantasy body.  This really makes me anxious to see what Madame Alexander comes up with next year in a 16" fashion doll.
I do agree with you about the doll stand, though.  Brenda has the same type of stand as Julia.  These stands ruin the line of fitted clothes and make the dolls stand funny.  I intend to buy waist cincher stands for both Brenda and Julia.

Monday, November 8, 1999

Daisy Milkmaid Wedding Review

Daisy Milkmaid Wedding
by guest blogger Pam Albrycht

I was highly impressed with the doll's wigs, and facial painting. The quality of the outfits, fit and detailing and accessories is amazing for the cost. Knickerbocker really outdid themselves. I ended up keeping Milkmaid Daisy doll and her outfit , and the outfits for Trafalgar Square Daisy and Autumn Willow and selling the nude  Trafalgar Square Daisy and Autumn
Willow dolls. I have to limit the number of dolls I keep of each kind, as I am running out of room, even with the two curios. Daisy is my favorite of the two dolls. Her skin tone is super and her face paint really enhances the color of her skin. They did a terrific job on her eyes in particular. The tiny fake eyelashes add a lot. I took off Daisy's Milkmaid cloak as I can see her better without it. She is lovely. I will wait a few days before I put on the other outfits. If they offer a doll later with different wigs, I think that would be wonderful. I have Daisy Milkmaid # 181 of 1500.
Daisy Milkmaid Wedding has on a body suit in a sheer fabric that is lace trimmed, her net stockings have a lacy elastic top to hold them up. Her white cloth shoes are very nicely done and fit perfectly. Her white net gloves match her stockings. The milk pail is clear plastic, but is trimmed with beads and stuffed with white rosebuds. The bucket is tied up nicely with a sheer organza orange ribbon, which matches the sash around her waist. The bucket is tied onto her wrist with a white ribbon that is crisscrossed and ties in a bow. There are separate lace flowers that are sewn onto the lace fabric of the dress. Each flower has orange and silvery pearl beads in the center. She has on a sheer net underslip with lace trim. Her earrings are crystal and clear bead drops. The clothing definitely is the equal or superior to Tonner's Julia. I would say the detailing of the accessories and  costumes exceeds Gene's. The jewelry and shoes and purses are way better than Gene's.
The only drawback is that the doll's bodies lack definition. However, since they are going to be clothed, that's no problem. The bodies are nice and slim and perfect for dressing. The vinyl quality is not as nice as Gene's or the FM vinyls.
I had no doubt that I would keep Daisy when I saw her-- she didn't have to grow on me. I could rave on and on, but get a Daisy or a Willow  yourself and some outfits and you'll find out what a nice job Knickerbocker did on these dolls and clothes. The packaging for the outfits is nicely done also and is not too large like the Julia outfits.

Friday, October 1, 1999

Gilding the Maple -- A Gene Fan Fiction Short Story


© 1999 by Kathryn E. Darden

     The old man shuffled down the street, face downcast, trying to ignore the bitter wind that tore at his overcoat, trying to ignore his bitter disappointment over the latest ... and last ... meeting with his bank. The once dapper coat which he knew how to throw around his shoulders with a theatrical flair was now carefully mended. There was no money for frivolous things like coats. Frederick Gurling had given everything he had to keep his Maple Street Community Theater open.
     Once one of the leading community theaters in the country, the Maple Street or "The Maple" as it had been called in the Good Days, had fallen upon hard times. But Frederick remembered it as it had once been in the Good Days. Frederick Gurling had been considered one of the best acting coaches of his day, a peer of the rich and famous, a mentor to the young.  "Herr Frederick" they had respectfully (and fondly) called him.
     Ah, the young men -- how dashing: hair styled impeccably, such handsome leading men in their fedoras, their suits, sometimes even a young man carrying a cane, or umbrella, or cigar -- a prop to gesture with. Ah. And the young women, how lovely with their carefully permed hair, and artful curl here and there, makeup applied so skillfully, lovely, girls in sweaters and skirts or suits and hats and hose. Ah, those were the Good Days. Frederick found he spent more and more time remembering the Good Days.
     "Move it, old man," said a brash young man as he hurried past, hair in a bushy reddish Afro, bell bottoms, tie dyed shirt, needing no prop to make the desired gesture, using his middle finger instead. The girl with him tossed her long dirty hair over her shoulder, as they passed, her bellbottoms slung low on her thin hips, her shirt tied high under her small breasts. She looked at him as she passed, but she didnít see him, eyes vacantly focused elsewhere. The Good Days were gone.
     Now many theaters were full of rowdy, dirty young people singing folk music loudly ... and badly, doing performances that seemed to have no plots, often removing their clothing and smoking questionable substances. They wanted to use the Maple, but they didn't want to pay, didn't want to clean up afterwards, didn't want to perform the classics or the musicals that had made the Maple famous in the Good Days. And the audience didn't want to pay either. The Maple was too shabby now to attract the glittery crowds it once drew, and the young people who wanted to use it left it in worse shape each time they used it... and the ones who had skipped town in their colorful rusty vans, rock music blaring, had left Frederick near bankruptcy. He had to close the Maple.
     Frederick's eyes misted. If he didn't do something soon, he would loose the Maple completely. What would he tell his beloved Hilda who so carefully mended his coat, his clothes, his wife of 40 years? Already some men in shabby suits had popped in at odd hours, looking the old place over. "Vultures," he thought, "already looking at the Maple like a dead beast, ready to pick the bones clean."
     A young cub reporter had recently done a small piece in the newspaper about the Maple and the financial ruin that lurked impatiently at its doors. If he could only fix it up, Frederick thought. If he could just repair the leaks, repaint it, lay new carpet, gild the columns, hang a new curtain -- a deep, sumptuous burgundy velvet, yes, with gold tie backs. Ah.
     A limousine pulled up next to the curb. Two legs, long, slim legs, in dainty high heels, slid out the door. "Mr. Gurling?" inquired a throaty feminine voice. "Herr Frederick?" she said. He stopped and looked more closely. A lovely Channel Suit followed the legs, then the beautiful face he had seen in the cinema the few times he went. "Herr Frederick," she repeated as she touched the sleeve of his drab coat.
     What was SHE doing here, he wondered. Frederick was not much for the movies, much preferring the stage, but this face had enticed him into the cinema on more than once occasion a decade earlier. "Miss Marshall," he said. "I am honored. What can I do for you?"
     "Oh, please, Herr Frederick, do call me Katie. I haven't been Gene for several years now. Would you do me the honor of joining me for coffee?"
     A stunned Frederick climbed awkwardly into the back seat of the limousine. "Miss Marshall, I am sorry, I mean, Miss... Katie... to what do I owe this great honor?"
 "Herr Frederick, don't you remember me... Katie Marshall?"
     "Katie Marshall, yes, the name rings a bell, but ... I am confused, I know you as GENE Marshall."
     "Yes, Herr Frederick, but I WAS Katie Marshall, and now I am simply Katie once again."
     "Do you mean little Katie Marshall? But that can't be. She was a skinny little thing, all eyes and coltish legs, and so shy... oh, I am sorry, I have insulted you."
     "No," she said, barely suppressing her laughter. "No, that is quite all right, Herr Frederick. That was I. Do you remember what you told me?"
     "Ack, it was so long ago, but I do remember when you tried out for the lead in a play, what play was that? And the role was for an older, more glamorous girl, and required some experience. As I recall, you had none... I mean, experience, I do not mean you had no glamor," he stammered.
     "But I didn't!" laughed the legend. "I was young, I was green, I was in pigtails, for goodness sake. But this is what you told me. I have never forgotten. You said, 'Katie Marshall, this role is not for you. You are young, and you have no experience.' I wanted to crawl out of there and I turned to leave. But then, Herr Frederick, you took my arm and added, 'You have great potential, but more than that, you have desire. I have seen the fire in your eyes as you tried out. You dream of being an actress, no? Then follow your dream, Katie Marshall. Take an acting class. Attend the theater whenever you can. Watch the great ones perform. Follow your dream, young Katie, and never give up.'"
     "Herr Frederick, I took your class for one term, and it did help me, but much more, your words inspired me. I held on to what you told me, and took one of my first jobs as an usherette so I could watch the 'great ones' as you told me, and it was there I was discovered. I owe so much to you, and so does this community. I have read of the plight of the Maple, and I want to help. Please allow me to share my plans for a fundraising effort to save the Maple. It will take us more than one coffee meeting to work out all the details, but I want help organize a grand gala for the Maple and perform in a tribute to some of the great musicals... and I have lined up several friends to join me," she added, running off a list that left Frederick stunned and gaping.
     "Oh, it is too wonderful, but, but I have no way, there is, you see, I have no money to pay for this," he stammered in defeat. "Herr Frederick," she said as she again touched his arm, "this is something you must allow us to do. Our payment will be to see the Maple once again one of the grand dames of the theater. A wise man once told me not to give up my dream. Please don't give up on yours."
     The night of the big gala arrived. Using her stage name once again, Gene Marshall stood in the wings of the completely refurbished Maple. Her serene countenance belied the turmoil she felt inside. It had been almost ten years since she had stood on a stage. Well she remembered the last time: the thunderous applause, the standing ovations, the encores, wave after wave of adoring fans calling her name, cheering, the roses, countless bouquets brought to the stage, laid in her arms  or on the stage itself, filling her dressing room afterward. But that was almost a decade ago.
     She loved the privacy being Katie Marshall offered her. She loved the freedom, the peace, the serenity that surrounded her. Only her respect for Herr Frederick, her love for the beautiful old theater, and what she felt was her obligation -- a fond duty to her first teacher -- had brought her back to the stage. Had it really been three months since she first approached him in front of this very theater?
     But here she was, back on the stage again, smelling the familiar odors of paint, perfume, hair spray, grease paint, and sweat, hearing the unmistakable low roar of a thousand people talking in the audience. the shuffling of a thousand programs.
     Would they still love her? Worse, would they still remember her? Gene absently touched her immaculate upswept coif -- a slight gesture that only those who knew her well understood as a show of nervousness. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach and yet she recognized an odd feeling of deep familiarity.
     The orchestra struck up the overture, the lights behind the new plush burgundy curtains dimmed. The announcer, a dear old friend of hers known for his work as the announcer of Americaís best-loved nighttime talk show was up introducing Mr. Gurling. Herr Frederick spoke a few words of welcome in his heavily accented English. Geneís heart warmed -- this was why she was here, to help a dear friend. But as the announcer's voice boomed out, "Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we have a special privilege, that of welcoming two great ladies back from early retirement. Your presence here is testimony that the legendary Maple is officially reopened, but now we welcome another legend back to the stage. Please help me welcome the lady of the hour, a great actress and a generous supporter of the arts, Miss Gene Marshall," Gene recognized a deeper truth. She was here because she belonged here.
     The heavy velvet curtain swept back. The lights hit the stage, illuminating her slight, elegant figure. The silence was overwhelming; then the applause began, long and sweet it fell upon her like rain. Next the cacophony of a thousand theater seats was heard as the audience stood as one person, cheering, almost chanting, "Gene, Gene, Gene..."
 Brushing back a single sparkling tear, Gene moved forward to embrace the crowd with her heart, her whole being. She had returned to the most familiar place of all... Gene Marshall had come home.
 
written as a contest entry for the HLAYG club
© 1999 by Kathryn E. Darden 

Thursday, September 30, 1999

Easter Parade -- A Gene Marshall Fan Fiction

Easter Parade
© 1999 by Kathryn E. Darden

"No wonder they call it the windy city," she said to herself as she hurried down the busy Chicago street, clutching her fashionable straw hat.  Trimmed with exquisite colorful flowers, ribbons and tulle, Gene more aptly referred to it  as her Easter bonnet having worn it two weeks earlier.

Two weeks earlier she was home for Easter with her family. After a delicious breakfast she helped prepare with her mother, Gene went with her parents to the small church they had attended since she was a baby for the Easter service, wearing the same ensemble she now wore.

Gene Marshall, already a legend at this fairly early stage of her career, loved Easter and spring. She loved decorating colorful eggs with her mother to put in a basket with coy blossoms peeping out from amid the eggs. She loved the attending the special Easter service with her family, dressing up in her "Sunday best," wearing hats trimmed with flowers.

Actually, Gene just loved spring flowers, from the first crocus that peeped up from the ground as a traditional harbinger of spring to the later flowers: daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, lilies, daisies, and roses. She loved the tender buds on the trees, the hint of warmer weather in the air. Since her birthday was today, two weeks after Easter, she considered flowers and baskets and the warmth of spring to be her birthright. But there was no warmth here, only wind, and in the city it was hard to find flowers.

"It's my birthday, so I will make it spring," she had thought defiantly early that morning as she placed this, her favorite spring hat, at just the right angle on her head. "I will it to be spring," she said determinedly as she donned her smart suit, a soft sage green that spoke to her of new growth, the color a woods takes on as the leaves start their tremulous flowering. Giving herself a final glance of approval in the gilded full-length mirror in her elegant suite (compliments of Monolithic), she marched smartly through the hotel lobby. The doorman in his understated but regal uniform who opened the door for her looked admiringly at her retreating figure. From the top of her floral bonnet to the toes of her matching pumps, Gene Marshall was the essence of spring, an Easter parade of one.

Now Gene decided she had made a big mistake, fighting the wind for possession of her hat, noting the overcast sky and feeling the icy blast of the Midwestern wind through the thin material of her sage green suit. She hurried on to the fashionable downtown restaurant where she was to meet the local fan club. This was not the way she had wanted to spend her birthday. Gene Marshall loved her fans, but she loved her family more. She had intended to spend the two weeks between Easter and her birthday with her close friends and family at home, but Monolithic Studios and her own agent had conspired to send her on a publicity tour for the past week and a half ending here, in this windy,  cold and lonely place that was Chicago.

Spotting the restaurant across the street, Gene was startled to find that she was hurrying past a small park. Almost hidden behind a brick fence, a small garden beckoned. Gene made a quick decision after checking the time and quickly found the entrance. She slowed her pace as she walked down a quaint path. Here were trees, trees with a hint of green showing. A robin chirped at her as she strolled by. Then a ray of light broke through the clouds and illuminated a patch of lovely woodland flowers. "Why, it IS springtime, even in Chicago!" thought Gene. She felt a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth, and soon she was humming.

Glancing at her watch, Gene once again turned her steps towards the restaurant. As she crossed the street, a lady and gentleman stepped forward to greet her. At that moment the sun made its appearance as the last of the clouds left the sky. "Miss Marshall, I believe you have brought spring with you," said her handsome host. Her hostess commented on Gene's lovely suit and hat as she ushered her into the private room festooned with flowers. When they entered the room, the gathered crowd broke into the familiar strains of "Happy Birthday to You" but above the singing she heard an even more familiar sound. "Why, I'd know that fancy Easter bonnet anywhere," boomed a beloved voice. There at the table of honor, almost hidden behind a huge basket brimming with flowers, were her mother and father, a very special gift from her loving fan club.

Gene had a wonderful time with her Chicago fans and her family, and came to regard Chicago as one of her favorite places. In later years she was heard to say that she loved Chicago for its grand buildings, its beautiful lake shore, its wonderful shopping, the theaters and the many lovely fans who lived there. "But most of all, I love Chicago because it was there I learned you can find springtime anywhere as long as you carry it in your heart."

written for a designer's entry into a fashion competition 

Sunday, September 5, 1999

Gene Goes to Pittsburgh

Gene Goes to Pittsburgh
 Gene in the limelight at the 1999 Barbie© doll convention in Pittsburgh

© 1999 by Kathryn E. Darden

     The National Barbie convention was held August 4-7, 1999 at the Hilton and Towers Hotel in beautiful Pittsburgh, Pa,  organized by the Western PA Doll Club. With the theme ìWe Can Do Anything, Right Barbie?î this yearís convention paid homage to one of Pittsburgh's own, the famous female reporter of the late 1800's/early 1900's, Nellie Bly. The Hilton was full of glamor and glitz with two sales floors full of dolls and a lobby with other items: Hallmark ornaments, posters, Millers and Barbie Bazaar magazines, and other additional booths. Barbie was the uncontested 11 1/2 inch queen of the hour... but a surprising number of booths featured a strong Gene contingent.
     Many Barbie dealers have already added Gene in as a sideline, and a growing number of booths had regular line Genes in prominent display alongside her smaller vinyl cousin. However, some of the standouts of the show were the customized Gene dolls. There were stylish divas from Bruce Nygren in sequins and brocades, and the lovely exotic beauties by Franklin Lim Lio, as well as other gorgeous Genes customized by talented designers, including Barbara Stewart who also designed this year's convention doll, Barbie as Nellie Bly. Genes were also spotted in various rooms by the diligent room shoppers. One guest  room featured a collection of mainline Gene dolls... artistically displayed in the bathroom!
     Franklin Lim Lio has already established a strong reputation for his incredible Asian art dolls. Starting with a bend leg Francie in 1968, Franklin has found Gene to be a more than adequate palette for his intricate hairstyles and Eastern fabrics. However, Gene was beyond elegant in the intricate braids, twists and other upswept coiffes wearing the regal Western attire designed by Bruce Nygren. I would be hard pressed to pick between the two. I know! I shall simply have to buy one of each someday.
     Interestingly enough, I did not spot any Tonner or other larger fashion dolls, but Gene was well represented.
 If Gene makes this good a showing at the National Barbie convention, I can only imagine what the Gene convention in October will afford enthusiasts. After all, we can do anything, right Gene?