The Mobster And The Bulemic
Barbie does Frank

There are Princess Barbies, Happenin' Hair Barbies, and Bubble Fairy Barbies. Ballet Barbies, NBA Barbies, Tie-Dye Barbies, even a couple of Harley-Davidson Barbies featuring leather gear and big ol' tattoos. But a Barbie bobby-soxer presumably wetting her pants over Ol' Blue Eyes?

See also...
... by Joyce Slaton
... in the Scope section
... from August 5, 1999

Yup, it's true -- Mattel will release the Barbie Loves Frank Sinatra set in September. Clearly aimed at the nostalgic-and-moneyed-doll-collector Barbie market rather than the misguided young adolescent doll buyer, the Sinatra set includes a Barbie-sized likeness of young Frank -- and Barbie is his date. Each is dressed in the style of the time, though Barbie fills out her sweater vest a little too convincingly for a real bobby-soxer. But after all, as Mattel's Manager of Public Relations Sara Rosales simpers, "Barbie can be whatever you want her to be."

"Barbie is a little bit of everything, even a Sinatra fan," Rosales insists. "And this set is really cute. The face is sculpted from 1940s images of Frank Sinatra. And, no, we're not using a Ken body, because in the 40s Sinatra was really, shall we say, slim."

Sinatra was skinny, popeyed, and unfashionably EYEtalian in America's whitey era. Still, the man made many fans who fondly recall the safe teen idol before he started swilling martinis, hanging out with mobsters, and courting pneumatic Vegas showgirls. "I'll probably buy it," said the euphoniously-named Dustin Doctor, president of the International Sinatra Society fan club. "It's a good likeness of the early Frankie, even though I generally prefer the cool '50s/'60s Sinatra with the hat and raincoat."

Other fans are not enthused, criticizing Mattel for creating essentially another piece of landfill-clogging celebrity flotsam.

"It troubles me to think what they will come up with next," said Brian Chearno, webmaster of the essential Sinatra Zone. "Sinatra fans and collectors alike don't want candles, plates, dolls, etc. They want Frank Sinatra's greatest achievement -- his music. Sinatra the image is valuable, but who wants to see Sinatra the lamp, Velvet Sinatra or Sinatra's line of toupees?"

Meanwhile, Barbie collectors are simply getting sick of trying to keep up with Mattel's collector-doll output, which sometimes squirts out more than 50 dolls a year. "Mattel is a for-profit enterprise, but collectors are getting tired of their strategies," said Sarah Hudson, member of the Queen City Doll Collector's Club. "They release some dolls at high prices, announcing that they'll be produced in certain quantities and only available through certain outlets. Six months later, you can find the half-priced doll on sale at the Home Shopping Channel."

"I don't recommend buying Barbies as an investment in the future," advised burnt-out collector Annette Givens, founder of the America Online, Los Angeles vintage Barbie collectors club. "The Barbie Star Trek dolls didn't rise in price, nor did the Barbie Loves Elvis set, even though it was the cute, young '50s Elvis not the scary, fat '70s Elvis."

Eighty bucks will buy the Barbie-Frankie pair when it emerges in September. Whether that price will quickly plummet remains to be seen. One thing is certain -- celebrity-watchers will be looking forward to the Barbie Loves O.J. and Barbie Loves Fatty Arbuckle sets.

Joyce Slaton is a freelance writer who works and lives in San Francisco. In her spare time she annoys the neighbors with inept violin playing and shrieks at random strangers for parking in her driveway to make a stop at Popeye's Chicken next door.