Sunday, August 11, 2013

Barbie's Sweet 16 article from 1974

I found this article through the Cincinnati Public library's research pages.  It was originally published in The Chicago Tribune in 1974.  I had to retype the article as I could neither set a link to it nor could I copy and paste it.
Margaret Carroll, the writer, must have done some research at the store before writing the article, for which she is to be commended.  It's a very good article about Barbie's world in 1974.  It also has some horrible puns and a few inside jokes!

She’s Sweet 16/Barbie: More than a doll to 80 million
by Margaret Carroll
Chicago Tribune, Dec. 4, 1974

She’s not getting older.  She’s just getting better.
She has come a long way, this, Barbie.
The brunette in the leopard print bathing suit, her namesake ancestor, never could have been mistaken for Sweet 16, but that’s how old the doll named Barbie is this year, and her Darwinian evolution has prepared her to look the part.
Waiting for the elevator of her three-story, six-room townhouse (about $15) one day, Barbie recalled for a visitor the Spartan days of her early adolescence.
“It’s peculiar, isn’t it, how some of us mature so early and age so slowly,” Barbie began.  “I’ll admit I was a pretty hard-looking dolly when I was a teen-ager in 1958.  But clothes were a problem in those days.  I certainly didn’t enjoy the wardrobe selection I’ve built up since then, and I couldn’t do a thing with my hair.
“Fortunately, I can afford to keep my appearance up to the minute now, and I have curlers and other cosmetic aids to keep my hair and makeup impeccable.  Oh, and I’ve traveled all over the world.  You’ll find me most anywhere these days.  Maybe I’ll climb the North Pole one day.
“But California’s still home, of course.  You know I was born in Hawthorne, Cal., named for the daughter of my creator, Ruth Handler.  Ruth and her husband, Elliott, have done very well in the business world, you know.  You can tell they’re co-chairmen of the board of Mattel; they’re swell.  Oh, business has had its ups and downs, but so do I--every day--in this very elevator.  You don’t mind if I put you on, do you?”

Just then Barbie’s steady, Ken (steady since 1961, that is), came along and told her to hurry because the gang was waiting for them down at the Beach Bus (about $10).
Barbie’s little sister, Skipper, finally let the elevator down; and Barbie rode upstairs to change into her beach outfit ($1).
“Oh, Barbie has changed so much since we met,” said Ken.  “But haven’t we all?  I’m not the crew cut, straight arrow I once was.  Oh, no, now I have this dynamite beard and mustache (about $5 for mod Ken) that goes with my new clothes.  But Barbie seems younger and sweeter to me now than she did the first time I asked her for a date.
“She has the same distinctive figure she’s always had, of course.  I guess that she just gazed rather coldly at the world in those days.  She still has a somewhat distant look in her eyes, if you’ll notice.”

Ken felt a tug on his towel just then and looked down to see Skipper standing there in her two-piece bathing suit.
“May I go along to the beach with you, Ken, please?” Skipper pleaded.
“Wellll, yes, I guess so, Skipper.  It’s a surprise party for Barbie’s 16th birthday, tho.  Not a word, promise?”
Barbie stepped down from the elevator, and they headed for the Breezy Buggy (about $10).
“Oh, this is super, Barbie,” said Skipper.  “I see you’ve unhitched the Tent Trailer.  But now I don’t have any place to ride because the Breezy Buggy’s only a two-seater.”
“Sorry, Skipper,” Barbie apologized.  “I know, why don’t you take my 10-Speeder bike (about $4)?  Perhaps you could take our visitor along with you--on the handlebars.”
The visitor allowed as how she might block Skipper’s vision, and suggested that she might steer the bike along for the little doll.
“Oh, super,” said Barbie.  “That is exactly what any of the 80 million Barbie doll owners in the world would do.”

Barbie and Ken gave Skipper a head start to the beach, while they briefly made plans for the following day, Sunday.
“Well, if it’s a nice day and we feel like doing something active, we can go over to the club for a game of tennis,” said Ken.
“Oh, and I can wear my tennis outfit (about $3),” said Barbie.
“Oh, and I can wear my tennis outfit (about $3),” said Ken.
“Tonight,” said Barbie, “You’ll have to wear your tuxedo with the blue brocade jacket (about $3), and I’ll wear an evening gown (about $2). We have a wedding to go to.”
“Say, Barbie,” said Ken, “I’ve been meaning to ask you about that wedding gown you buy every year....”
“Oh, Ken, not now.  We’d better hurry to the beach.  Skipper can’t go near the water until we get there.  Besides, I have a headache.”

“Surprise!” yelled the gang as Ken parked the Breezy Buggy and Barbie controlled the emotion within her.
“Oh, you wonderful friends.  Kelley, I’ll bet you planned this.  And Francie.  How could you keep such a secret from me?  And Christie, my black-is-beautiful friend, how good to see you.  Is Brad, your black-is-beautiful friend, here too?
“Oh, I’ve had so many wonderful friends through the years.  Remember Midge and Stacey?  Say, is that P.J. over there?  You’re all just priceless (well, not more than a few dollars apiece, anyway.)”
“Ken and I have a surprise for you,” said Kelley.  And she presented Barbie with a pink and white checked, long-skirted dress and a jeans cutoff and yellow tank top outfit (about $6, including the doll).”
“Oh, Ken!” Barbie cried.  “Now we can go on a picnic tomorrow!”
“Whatever you say, Barbie. It’s your birthday and thanks to you, our friends at Mattel are the largest manufacturer of ‘women’s’ clothing in the world--20 million outfits a year.”
“Thank you, dear, dear Ken.  And I don’t have to remind you that our wonderful licensee friends--those who make Barbie wristwatches, and Barbie Country Camper Cook N Serve Sets, and coloring books and paper dolls--have helped to make me famous, too.  It’s kind of funny about the paper dolls, isn’t it?  I mean Mrs. Handler thought of me first as a three-dimensional ‘paper doll.’  I guess I’ve come full circle.”

“You know, Barbie,” said Ken, “I was talking to Dan Buckey in Chicago not long ago.  He’s Mattel’s marketing manager in that area.  And he said you’re not really a doll, but a toy through which little girls can be what they want to be when they grow up.
“But I was thinking, Barbie, that maybe you should include a switchboard operator outfit and a typist outfit and a waitress outfit and a salesperson outfit, because, let’s be realistic, Barbie:  It’s lovely to be a ballerina and a nurse and a doctor and an explorer.  But those are careers that take years of training, and your little ‘image projectors’ across the country are going to have to get part-time jobs to keep you in the fashionable style to which you have become accustomed.  And you know they wouldn’t do anything you wouldn’t do.”
“Well, Ken, let me put on my thinking cap (only a figure of speech, kids) and get to work on that.”
And to the visitor she said:  “That might make an interesting series--Barbie in her job applicant’s outfit, and Barbie in her waitress outfit (with a precious little order pad and food-laded tray made in Taiwan), and Barbie in her steno pool (as opposed to my Pool Party Pool, which I am in as often as possible).  Such fun.  You don’t mind if I put you on, do you?”
“No, Sweet 16 Barbie,” said the visitor.  “Put-ons.  I don’t mind at all.  It’s ripoffs I’m not crazy about.”
Barbie’s eyes grew wide with wonder, then softened with understanding.’
“I know what you mean,” she said.  “I handle my outfits very carefully.”

My comments:

One mistake
Barbie wore a zebra stripe swimsuit in 1959, not a leopard print in 1958.

Doll references
The Barbie doll being interviewed is Sweet 16 Barbie from 1974.  The yellow tank top and jeans short are for her.  The pink-and-white checked dress is for the 1973 Quick Curl Barbie doll.
The Ken doll in the article is Mod Hair Ken from 1973.  Ken was first sold in 1961.
The other dolls in the article are Malibu Skipper from 1971, Quick Kelley from 1973, Quick Curl Francie from 1973, Malibu Christie from 1972, Malibu PJ from 1972; and three dolls that were no longer on the market in 1974:  Brad (sold in 1969 and 1970), Midge (1963 to 1966), and Stacey (1968 to 1970).

Other references
Barbie’s ballerina outfit (#7701 Graceful Costumes for a Ballerina, from 1973)
Barbie’s doctor outfit (#7700 A Barbie Doctor’s Professional Attire, from 1973)
Barbie’s explorer outfit (#7702 Bright Gear for Camping Out, from 1973)
Barbie’s nurse outfit (Barbie had one in 1961, but none since then)
Barbie’s tennis outft (#7842 Neatest Tennis Set at the Net, from 1974)
Beach Bus (the blue version of the Country Camper, sold in 1972)
Breezy Buggy and Tent Trailer (sold in 1974)
Country Camper (first sold in 1971)
Country Camper Cook N Serve Sets (first sold in 1972, #693.  I’ve never heard of this before!  Was this a Mattel product or made by somebody else?)
Ken’s blue tuxedo (#7836 Suited for a Handsome Groom, from 1974)
Ken’s tennis outfit (#7837 Tennis Gear Set to Score, from 1974)
Pool Party (sold in 1974)
10-speeder bicycle (sold in 1974)
Three-story Townhouse (sold in 1974)
Wristwatches, coloring books and paper dolls (sold by Whitman and other companies since the 1960s)

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