Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Bottle Dolls

Dolls in bottles. Why?

I was tempted to leave it there, but I was afraid you might feel short-changed, so I will try to expand on this mysterious subject. I think the whole bottle thing may have been started by the 1960s dolls called 'Liddle Kiddles'. As you might guess, these dolls portrayed kiddles, who were very liddle, sorry, little. In the range, there were 'Kiddle Kolognes', who came in garish plastic perfume bottles, and a liddle later, there were 'Kola Kiddles'

These cheap knock-offs I acquired, bear a remarkable resemblance to the Kola Kiddles. But these dolls have an added feature - they are 'Multi-Purpose'! Yes, the bottle can be used to hold coins! Wow!
And, if the picture on the shop card is to be believed, they might also be used to launch liddle dollies into space...

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Sooper Snooper

The 'Sooper Snooper 4-Way Scope' was launched in the 1960s, and was one of those toys that promised so much more than it delivered. Essentially just a simple periscope, it had the addition of a swivelling mirror that allowed you to look to the right and left. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that could have been achieved just as easily by turning your head, surely?

My brothers had one of these, and apart from learning what a periscope was, I don't remember there being much to be gained from playing with it. However, the adverts for these and other periscopes always showed an amazing amount of fun to be had by being able to see round corners or over the top of high fences. It could turn you in a submarine captain or James Bond or soldier in a trench or... well anyone who wanted to look round corners or over high fences.
 I couldn't find an ad for the Sooper Snooper, but it looks like it was rebranded as the 'RamJet 4-Way Scope'. The advert makes it look pretty fearsome!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Chinese Neck Pillow

I love this crazy thing! A present from my good friend Tessera, it's the sort of the thing that 'other people' look at with bemusement, or even puzzlement. What, why, how?

Or maybe you're familiar with Chinese neck pillows? I've never actually used it as a pillow, but it's pleasingly filled with the muffled crunch of buckwheat, and I suppose it would work.
I thought that it was a cat, but I now discover that it is a tiger - a far more powerful and auspicious animal for the Chinese. Here's a description   
I love these stylised features! I wish I could draw with this kind of bold stylisation, but I end up veering towards realism or more conventional styles. If I try to draw things in a folk art or naive style, it often feels false. I could draw you a cartoon tiger, but not one like this. I suppose it just depends what you've been brought up with. Tony the Tiger on a Frosties packet, or one of these?

Friday, 24 February 2012

Friday Postcard - Come to Harpurhey

I've had this postcard for many, many years. It delighted me so much when I found it, that I framed it, and it has been part of my eccentric home decor ever since.

I'm not sure what it is that makes me so fond of it. The pugilistic little boy in his rather comic short trousers? The jingoistic message of defiance to Johnny Foreigner? The randomness of Harpurhey as the place to be celebrated? The colours? The graphic style of photography? All of those things and more.

There's no date on it, but I imagine it dates from the First World War. It's very poignant to see these domestic notions of British courage and defiance, knowing, as we do now, of the mass bloodshed and the horrrors for the soldiers in the trenches.

Sad too, to note that in 2004, Harpurhey was deemed to be the most deprived area in Britain. (Although this is no longer the case, I understand.)

"We'll Show You", indeed.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Personal Instructions

Learn Golf from an LP? This is what happened in a world before DVDs were invented, and where videotape was purely for TV companies.

Arnold Palmer gives you 'Personal Golf Instructions'. We have to assume that 'personal' in this case does not mean the instructions are personal to you, just that Palmer is delivering them in person.
 Hearing Arnold Palmer give the instructions might imbue them with authenticity, but obviously spoken instructions alone are next to useless, so the two records come with a 24 page book with photographs and text. That sounds useful. So useful in fact, that I'm not sure what the point of hearing the record would be. But then I'm not a golfer, so what do I know?
Actually, I'd prefer to imagine that the track titles - 'The Grip', 'The Stance', 'Chipping and Putting' etc. all refer to 1960s dance crazes anyway. 'C'mon and Do the Grip, Yeah, Yeah!'

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Gonks and Glooks

 Do you remember gonks? If you were young in the 1960s or 1970s you probably had some sort of gonk. There was nearly always a gonk on the contestants' desks on University Challenge (or was it Top of the Form?).  I remember the one I had very distinctly. It had pink fur, orange eyes and black feet made out of a sort of plastic-coated wire.

It was a pretty good marketing idea - stick googly eyes on some fake fur and sell it as a toy. These two are even cheaper - with feet and faces made of cardboard.
These ones with 'beaks' are reminiscent of  Tivvy, the TV Times mascot, who in turn is reminiscent of a Finnish Fauni troll. I bet you didn't know there were so many varieties.

In a mood of vigorous enquiry, I decided to throroughly investigate the origin of gonks. Well, I googled it, anyway. Turns out that, officially, these are not Gonks at all, but Glooks. Gonks were a different sort of toy, like Humpty Dumpty with a Beatle cut. And, rather marvellously, there was a film called 'Gonks Go Beat' made in 1965.

You can even buy it on Amazon. I'm a little bit tempted now...

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Bats

I recently rediscovered my collection of vintage enamel badges. Oh, didn't I tell you about that collection? Mmmm, yes, another one.  Well, anyway, they'd been put away in a box in a cupboard for a few years and I finally turned them out again. I'll share some of the fun ones on Kitsch and Curious soon, but I thought I'd share a strangely random one here.

'THE BATS'. A club perhaps? Or just a badge in praise of our flying friends?

Monday, 20 February 2012

Do You Feel Lucky?

Look who I found last week - The God of Luck. Well that's pretty lucky for a start, isn't it? Did you know The God of Luck was called Billiken? No, neither did I. I picked him up because, well, he's just plain bonkers, isn't he? Turns out Billiken was created and patented by an American in 1908. You can read about her here.
Although it's rather marvellous to be able to get so much information so quickly from the interweb, in some ways I'm a bit disappointed. In the olden days, Billiken would have remained a mystery to me, a riddle wrapped in an enigma. I would have pondered his oddity, and then, one day when I was least expecting it, I might have found his picture in a book, and been able to say 'Ohhh, that's what a Billiken is!'.

However, he does have one final bizarre mystery - why has he got the coat of arms for Droitwich tatooed on his back? Is that lucky?

Friday, 17 February 2012

Friday Postcard - The Nevada Test Site

These postcards from Las Vegas are not actually vintage, but the photos on them are. They show some of the atomic test explosions that took place in the Nevada desert just 75 miles from Las Vegas.

I got them from the wonderful Atomic Testing Museum in Vegas, a place where the interactive fun for children includes a chance to use a Geiger counter on vintage picnicware (yes, it's radioactive!). There is also a short film, which is shown to you in a sealed room. When the explosion happens, air gets blown in your face. Boy, did that make me jump!

Anyhow, in the 1950s, the mushroom clouds could be seen from Las Vegas. In true Vegas style, they just saw it as another show business opportunity, and tourists were encouraged to come and view the explosions!
(Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that the nuclear tests went on until 1992, although by then the explosions were underground.)
Fremont Street A-bomb - Las Vegas
Vintage postcard from kocojim on

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Las Vegas - Diamante is Forever

Ah, the sophisticated glamour of truly elegant jewellery! Wouldn't you feel a million dollars in a pair of 'champagne' earrings? Two glasses of vintage champagne overflowing with bubbles. Don't they make you feel bubbly, effervescent and decadent?

Or do they look like a bit of tat that cost 99c? OK, I might have splashed out as much as $1.25, but I have to confess, I've never found the occasion to wear these little beauties with their plastic 'diamond' droplets.

But quite frankly, some of the expensive bling in Vegas is not any better. Yes, I'm thinking about you, Judith Leiber, and your novelty evening bags.

These babies sell for thousands of dollars. That there teddy bear would cost you $4,695. (That's about £3000.)

If you're a follower of the celebrity doings on the red carpet, you'll know that these things turn up pretty frequently in the hands of the A-listers. I'm truly baffled. I mean, are they doing it ironically? I doubt it.

And I don't think it's any coincidence that, of the four stores Judith Leiber has in the US, two of them are in Las Vegas.

I bet she wishes she'd thought of the champagne glass earrings....

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Las Vegas Towelettes

The casinos in Las Vegas are designed to keep you gambling as much as possible. This is true on a large scale - the buildings are designed to keep you inside. The gambling areas have no daylight, so you have no sense of time, and the exits are deliberately hard to find, so that you wander around inside the casinos for as long as possible. But this dedication to keeping gamblers at their posts goes down to the little things too.

So, you're playing the slots, and you have your special plastic cup to keep the coins in, as you put coin after coin in the machine. Handling all those coins will get your hands dirty. No need to go wasting time washing your hands - just pick up one of the complimentary 'towelettes'!
Of course, even when I got these a few years ago, they were already on the way out. Most of the new slots take notes or cards, and if you win, you're more likely to get a printed voucher than a tumbling cascade of coins. I hope they don't get rid of all the coin slots - winning coins seems much more exciting!

Not that I did very much gambling, really. It's not really my thing, and there were so many other things to do. A lot of shopping, for a start. Here's a gambling souvenir I couldn't resist - one of those 'lost in translation' things.
And in case you're wondering why they're giving you the obvious information that 'Dice are not edible', those are chocolate (gambling) chips!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Las Vegas Recipe for Love

I thought I'd share a couple of romantic objects for Valentine's Day. As some of you know, Mr Kitsch and I got married in a drive-thru in Las Vegas. We always used to say that the only way we'd get married was by an Elvis lookalike in Vegas. So when we went on holiday to Vegas, we thought, hey, why not? Sadly, we couldn't get the Elvis lookalike, but looking through the yellow pages, found an all-in deal for a drive-thru wedding, which included a stretch limo, and photos. It also included a single red rose for the bride, and a lacy garter. Good enough!

As you can see in the top photo, as well as the 'something blue' garter (elegantly branded with 'The Little White Wedding Chapel'), we also got a very tasteful padded folder for the wedding certificate, and 'Charlotte's Love Recipe', which I will share with you now. I have not the faintest idea who Charlotte is, by the way, but I imagine her reading this recipe in a down-home Southern accent, y'all.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Las Vegas Week - Liberace Water

This week's blog will be all Las Vegas related objects.

Ah, Liberace, king of kitsch! One of the places that we had to visit when we went to Las Vegas was the Liberace Museum. Rather immodestly, Liberace set up the museum himself. But to be fair, the idea was to raise money for the Liberace Foundation to help with music education and training.

Sadly, the museum is now closed, due to financial problems. I suppose his fan base is dwindling. Certainly when we went, we were probably the youngest visitors there. Such a shame, as the museum had such spectacular treasures as a Rolls Royce encrusted like a mirroball, the world's largest rhinestone, and fabulous, fabulous costumes and jewellery. The building itself is a kitsch masterpiece too.
We got a few souvenirs from the museum, but I think one of the most curious, or random, is the mineral water bottle. Water from the Sierra Nevada, bottled exclusively in the name of Liberace. I have to admit, I was quite unreasonably excited when I got this. It's only Liberace Water!!

By the way, that's not the original water in the bottle - the original water was drunk long ago on a hot day in Nevada. (Sigh!) I had to put some fake water in the bottle to make it stand up for the photoshoot. Please be assured it was not my intention to deliberately mislead my readers or falsify my blog in any way.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Postcard Friday - Evening All!

'Ello, 'ello, 'ello! What all this 'ere, then? Who says policemen are looking younger, eh? It's a fair cop, you got me bang to rights and stitched up like a kipper. I've been buying kiddies' postcards off Ebay again. And this 'ere h'officer of the law is a proper little gem, and no mistake.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Children's Toy (unspecified)

Forget about whiskers on kittens or warm woollen mittens, some of my favourite things are cheap plastic toys. I've mentioned before how I love them and their packaging.

This is a cheap plastic rattle or noisemaker. Possibly it's a bit like a pair of clackers (which I remember quite fondly). The packet doesn't actually tell you what it is. It's a non-specific toy. But can you imagine Mummy's delight when Junior gets hold of this little instrument of torture and rattles away? Or the stinging blow that will result whent the elastic band snaps?

And yet, the picture on the packet is surprisingly dull. Poor little Junior just stands in the middle of a field, glumly holding his limp rattle. It looks like the most boring toy imaginable. He probably wanted a Wii instead.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Healing Fairy

"Clears Stress and It Works". No it doesn't. It's a cheap metal charm.

 Worryingly, it's not all that long ago that I bought this healing fairy in a gift shop. Even if you believe in fairies (and I sincerely hope not!), why would you believe that a bit of old tat would somehow harness their wonderful supernatural powers? It's not even a pretty piece of jewellery - this poor fairy has been hit with the magical ugly stick.

I don't know if they still make these. I couldn't find anything on the web about Wheal Kitty Crafts, and if you google 'healing fairy', you get over 12 million results, and quite frankly, life's too short to look at pages and pages of fairy nonsense.

However, in the interests of science, you can read the instructions below and make up your own mind. I love the way they explain it...
'Short trial period'! You bet!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

How Collections Start

Thank you for accompanying me on another trip along the forgotten byways of kitsch ornamentation and curious home decor. As we meander down this less-travelled road, we find that the unexpected often turns into the familiar.

Just a few short years ago, I had never seen a plate with a furry 3-D animal in it, mounted behind convex glass. When I found the kitty plate above, I have to admit, I hesitated. Was it good kitsch or just bad weirdness? You see, dear reader, even I sometimes find it hard to tell. And there just isn't room for everything.

I bought it, more for its novelty value than for its beauty. (What do you mean, you thought that was why I bought all my stuff??) Anyhow, it must have grown on me, because when I found Mr Bunny, I didn't hesitate at all...

Monday, 6 February 2012

Big Hair

Well, of course, a china figurine is better with nylon hair added. That's just obvious.
This strange little cutie has enough hair on her enormous head to knit herself a large blanket, with some left over.

And if her hair isn't weird enough, look at her eyes. I think someone got a bit carried away with that 'millionizer' mascara.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Postcard Friday - Flowers, Cake, Coffee and Candles

 OK, I admit it - these are more of my strange European postcards. I can't help it - they're just so wonderfully peculiar. So, why did someone take the time to photograph coffee and cake and put it on a postcard? Well, we get a chance to take a peek at some quite nice mid-century china. And some tasty-looking cakes.
There must be a better reason, but I'm jiggered if I know what it is. Whatever they're about, I love the vintage style of these - the colours and the lighting are just great.
The two above were obviously by the same photographer, with the same cups and the same cake. Or is it the same cake? It's very nearly the same, but there are a few differences, so possibly from the same baker on different days? Or possibly this is putting far more thought into the whole thing than it really deserves?  Possibly, but did you also spot the randomly draped bits of fabric?

The first four were all printed in Germany, and I wondered if it was some sort of German custom, but these last two were printed in Greece.
The Greek photographer shuns the draped fabric, but adds candles instead. A romantic touch? Search me. The one on the left is no longer about the cake and coffee, but birthday presents instead. And a ceramic bottle.
So if that's a birthday postcard, then the others must
Nope, no idea.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Animal Biscuits

Whenever I go on holiday abroad, I love to visit a supermarket. The different foods and packaging just fascinate me, and I can find a surprising amount of pleasure in browsing canned goods or cereal packets. Does that make me very weird? Anyhow, when I'm not abroad, the next best thing is to visit the local Chinese supermarket.

I'm quite a sucker for cute oriental packaging, with kawaii characters on. And sometimes the food is cute too. I was amazed by these animal biscuits, with all the different, slightly obscure animals and birds.
 You don't just get bird-shaped biscuits, you get a duck, a pigeon, an eagle, a parrot, a penguin, a horn-owl(?), a hen, a rooster, and, according to the packet, there is also a pelican.

The animals are equally wide-ranging. To be honest, I think it is a little over-ambitious to try to portray the difference between a wild boar and a tapir in a biscuit that is only about an inch high, but hell, they've given it a try! They have also helpfully written the name of each animal on the biscuits. I'm glad they were in English, or I would have struggled to recognise some of them.

There is also a very random cartoon on the back of the packet. It's nice to see the animals have career aspirations beyond being biscuits.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Souvenir of Normandy

I got this miniature souvenir plate from the Normandy town of Sainte-Mère-Église about 10 years ago. At the time I was surprised by how much World War II was part of the tourist industry there. Nowhere more so than the little town of Sainte Mere Eglise.  When we arrived there, we were amazed to discover this.
Yes, it's a life size dummy of a paratrooper hanging from the church tower. Apparently this incident really happened to an American paratrooper in the D-Day operations in 1944 (he played dead and was left hanging there for hours), and it was portrayed in the film The Longest Day. It seems a bizarre kind of memorial.

I can understand that they still get war veterans and their families touring the area, and so there is a demand for maps and guides of the battlefields, memorials and cemeteries. But souvenirs with soldiers on? Well, yes, I bought one, but purely because I was attracted to the sheer oddness of it. I'm still not sure I really understand its appeal to any normal person. Or maybe it's a boys' thing?