Sunday, July 16, 2006

Just smile and nod


It was a cause célèbre in the newsroom. Everybody wanted a piece of the Joe.

Bruno, that is.

Senate Majority Leader.

Third man in the room at budget time.

And now, best of all, a bobblehead doll handed out at the ball field that bears his name.

Of course, there were few among us willing to wait in line after quitting time for one of the big-headed, coiffed haired, presidential-looking likenesses of the man we all know and love, not to mention the optional prostate screening thrown in as a bonus.

"They'll turn up on e-bay within the week, mark my words," chimed in one soothing voice of consolation. "'Cause you know the line for the dolls will be longer than the one for the tests."

What's with this fascination for bobbleheads?

They didn't just arrive in the land of excess yesterday, packaged in plastic eggs from the planet kitsch. They've been around for quite a while; long before the 1960s when the marketers of all things baseball adopted the big-headed curios and turned them into the icons we all know and love (so long as they are winning).

One of the earliest literary references to bobbleheads dates from 1842 when Russian author Nikolai Gogol wrote "The Overcoat," and described the main character's neck thusly: "like the necks of plaster cats which wag their heads."

I remember those bobbing headed animals from my childhood. Each and every one -- cat or bulldog -- bearing gold collars, sun bleached spots and velveteen hides rubbed raw from nodding against the rear windshields of every Chevy Impala ever to roll off an assembly line.

Somehow, inexplicably, while I was paying attention to the Pogues and the Pixies and Jane’s Addiction, the number of bobblehead creatures ballooned. Before I knew it, there were bobbleheads of presidents and first ladies, religious and literary figures and even, frighteningly enough, some that freakishly resembled yours truly.

Seriously, one of the first presents I ever remember getting from my soon-to-be father-in-law was a bobblehead me.

Her name was "Raven" and she was a "Goth" girl. With jet black hair, purple eyeshadow and the look of death warmed over, she came all wrapped in Christmas paper from a bearer who couldn’t stop giggling at his cleverness.

I suppose it might have been wise of me to cut and run right there, but I stuck it out. The following Christmas I was given an oversized wool sweater and all was forgiven.

It just stands to reason that sooner or later EVERYONE is going to have the chance to be a bobblehead. Some, undoubtedly, will be more flattering than others.

The surly woman who grunts every morning she takes my coffee order and then proceeds to splash a gallon of milk into my cup despite my ordering it BLACK, will probably have a some nodding plastic twin made in her likeness sooner or later. If I'm lucky enough to procure one I'll probably let the dogs chew on it just to administer a little passive revenge.

On the other hand, I'll have to plunk down some serious cash for the bobblehead of Ittybit’s babysitter. But it will be worth it. In addition to its bobbing head, hers will also have a wagging finger. Perhaps even a speaker to reminds us that "We-Don't-Poke-People-in-the-Eyes, That's-Not-Nice." Yeah, I'll be tucking that one safely away in a keepsake box to show Ittybit's teenage self who really deserves all the credit for her remarkable manners.

I wonder what Joe thought when he first laid eyes on his likeness. I imagine he might have wished the guys at the factory had given him a wider stance.

Or maybe he just smiled and nodded.


Her Bad Mother said...

I don't know which is more awesome, the photo at top or the photo of goth bobblehead.

I WANT goth bobblehead. Genius.

Trish said...

I love the photo. You make a great bobblehead!