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Barbie turns 50 today


Mike

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The doll made its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. This date is also used as Barbie's official birthday.

Barbie, the iconic doll that has claimed countless hours of girls' lives in a make-believe world that mirrored real life glamour, high-fashion and fabulous careers, is turning 50.

But is her star fading?

Some people say Mattel's doll that has had such "careers" as astronaut, Army medic, scuba diver, pediatrician and presidential candidate, has run her course.

"It's very clear that the taste of little girls who play with dolls has changed," said Jerry Oppenheimer, author of a book on Mattel called 'Toy Monster.'

"They have come into the 21st century, where they play on their own laptops, and have their own cell phones. Dolls will be a part of their lives ... and Barbie will be part of that, but it will be a small window."

Introduced at a toy fair in New York City on March 9, 1959 as a teenage fashion model, Barbie, whose full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts, cost $3.

With her shapely figure, carefully styled pony tail and curly bangs, strapless black and white geometric bathing suit and spiked heels, Barbie was at once an instant rage and outrageous.

At a time when "Leave It to Beaver" was depicting the so-called "All-American Family" and June Cleaver never showed any cleavage, Barbie created her share of controversy.

Created by Ruth Handler 14 years after she and her husband Elliot started the toy company Mattel Creations, sales of Barbie reached 300,000 the first year.

BIG BIRTHDAY BASH

Whither Barbie goes, the world's No. 1 toymaker is waging an extensive campaign to promote Barbie, perhaps its most notable toy, and celebrate her birthday.

Mattel has opened a six-story flagship store in Shanghai called House of Barbie, featuring a restaurant, spa and runway where girls can pretend to be fashion models. Film stars Jet Li and Cathy Chung attended the Shanghai opening.

Supermodel Heidi Klum and other celebrities are expected on Monday at Mattel's Malibu Dream House party in a 3,500-square foot house at Malibu, California, near Los Angeles. The interior of the house was designed by Jonathan Adler.

One of Barbie's major attractions over the past five decades has been her clothes, created by some of the world's most famous designers, including Gucci, Calvin Klein, Galliano and Versace. Throughout her life, Barbie's hair and fashions have reflected real life haute couture, and fashion trends and crazes Fans mobbed a fashion show at New York's Fashion Week in February, where models took to the runway in 50 new designer outfits to celebrate Barbie's life of fashion.

On March 14, specialty toy store chain Toys "R" Us is due to hold a Barbie party at its flagship store in Manhattan.

A ROLE MODEL - STILL?

"Growing up, my sister had the nurse outfit for Barbie and my sister became a nurse," said Nancy Parsons, 50, who has been collecting Barbie dolls for 25 years.

"It was what she was, what she could be. It gave even little girls the idea that 'I could do that.'"

Parsons, who prefers the vintage Barbie and has amassed a collection of about 500 dolls, is president of the Western Pennsylvania Doll Club, which is hosting the 2009 National Barbie Doll Collectors Convention in Washington D.C. in June.

The event, Parsons said, draws collectors who show and sell Barbie dolls, clothes and other items made for the doll.

Other collectors said they are ardent Barbie fans. But is she still a hit with youngsters?

Sales of Barbie dolls declined 6 percent in the United States and 28 percent overseas in the last quarter.

It is far from certain if Mattel's efforts to spark greater interest in Barbie by lighting birthday candles around the world will pay off.

But one thing was evident in the looks on faces of dejected fans, ranging in age from tots with parents to college students and business people who were turned away at the crowded fashion show -- Barbie still has a devoted audience.

"I really don't see Barbie disappearing at all," said Stephanie Gentile, 25, of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, a Barbie collector for nine years.

"She's still so popular with collectors and young girls alike. She's still got another 50 years in her."

Copyright © Thomson Reuters 2009

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My Barbie memory: My sister and I had barbies. Hers always had her hair neatly combed and was all neat and prim. Mine looked like she'd been rode hard and put away wet and her neck had a crack in it from when I pulled her head off.

My daughter is not into Barbies at all. She'd rather play with stuffed animals or those little animals figurines that come in bags or tubes. My girl!!!!!!

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Let's review the various Barbies "styles" available over the years... shall we?

Anorexic Barbie - Comes with action phrases such as, "I ate a grape yesterday, and now I feel obese!" and, "Must lose weight, must lose weight!"

Burn Victim Barbie - Comes with her own special ointment and hospital bed.

Cripple Barbie - Comes with her own body cast and non-moving action.

Bad Hair Day Barbie - "The more you try to fix it, the worse it gets!"

Unlucky Barbie - Comes with a black cat, a broken mirror, and action phrases such as, "God must hate me!" and, "Oh, no, another 7 years of bad luck. That makes the grand total 263."

Divorce Barbie - Comes with all of Ken's stuff.

Mid-Life Crisis Barbie - Comes with real crying action and phrases such as, "It's all downhill from here." and, "My life is almost over."

Drug Addict Barbie - Comes with drugs, and phrases such as, "I'm not addicted I just can't be away from it for too long." and, "Don't call the cops it'll be my third strike!"

Rehab Barbie - See 'Drug Addict Barbie'

Jail Break Barbie - Comes with her own serial number, a striped suit, and anger issues.

Acne Barbie - Put hot water on her face and the zits magically disappear! WARNING: Side effects may include, burning, puss, and scars.

Catatonic Barbie - Includes pills, men in white suits with needles, and lots and lots of non-moving and non-blinking action!

Mime Barbie - Comes with face paint and mimilicious catch phrases such as, " " and, " ". WARNING: If product gets stuck in an invisible box and can not get out, do not contact us, for we do not care about your whiney problems.

Obesity Barbie - Comes with 16 pounds of food and storage under her fat rolls.

Homeless Barbie - Comes with shopping cart, soda cans, and blankets.

Suicidal Barbie - Includes pocketknife, rope, gun, and an excessive need for anti-depressants. WARNING: Do not let her by any cliffs and/or bridges and is better left in a dark room. Alone. By herself. Without you.

hIskOOl DroPOuT Barbie - Comes with no education whats so ever, southern accent, and catch phrases such as, "Theres no problem with living in your mom's basement when you 46!" and, "I've worked at this here Buger King since I was 16, an I still love my job. Oh shut-up you stupid person, 'gimmi this' 'can i have that' all you ever do is nag, nag, nag. Do you think I care if you WANT fries with that! NO! Anyway what was I saying?"

Abusive Barbie - Comes with real beating action! WARNING: If your product beats and/or harms you in anyway, we don't care, you are a wimpish loser. We will deny everything and say you shouldn't of bought a product with the word 'abusive' in it anyway.

Negitivity Barbie - Comes with action packed action phrases such as, "I give up," "I hate myself," and "I suck."

Verbally Abusive Barbie - Comes with catch phases such as, "HA,HA! You suck loser!" and, "You will never amount to anything!" WARNING: We will not pay for any therapy that the user of this product will need. HINT: To feel better, purchase Negativity Barbie, for a coupon go to www.yousuckloser.net. coupon costs $10.95.

Serial Killer Barbie - Comes with wanted poster, knife, and demonic look.

Paranoid Barbie - Comes with catch phrases such as, "Everyone's out to get me." and "The voices in my head tell me that I shouldn't like you."

Real Life Rock Star Barbie - Comes with alcohol, drugs, throw-uppy action, high stress levels and real hangovers!

Dead Barbie - Comes with will, hearse, grave stone, casket, and after a while she starts to decompose!

Clown Barbie - Also comes with face paints (see Mime Barbie) and if you press a special button you can here screaming children, because face it, clowns are creepy.

Old Geezer Barbie - Comes with hip replacement, saggy skin, and strokes and/or heart attacks. WARNING: Do not come to us when and if your Barbie just died. See Dead Barbie.

@:#$&>! Barbie - Come with real cussing action such as, "YOUR A $(&>":@*" and, " YOU @#$^*>/"

Optimistic Barbie - Comes with catch phrases like, "My hamster died, YIPPEE!" and "Although the world is coming to an end and we will all die, but it could be worse!"

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