THE DESKTOP TOWER
All Photographs and Copy are Coryright MEL BIRNKRANT
Some of the imagery is Copyright The Walt Disney Company
THE MEL BIRNKRANT COLLECTION
A Guided Tour of
Even before the wall downstairs was full to overflowing, showcases began to appear upstairs. Soon, there was no place for anything “New” to go, but up here. This three tiered tower sits right next to my workspace, where I can see it every day, because it holds so many favorite things. Jumping to this showcase from Bonzo is an example of how difficult organizing this task is going to be. The three compartments hold a little bit of everything, including some Bonzo treasures that are extraordinary.a, where I can see it every day, because it holds so many favorite things.
You might also notice the Fabulous Bumstead family marionettes. Their purpose and origin are a mystery, but they are clearly “professional”. My friend Noel Barrett discovered them at Renningers, over thirty years ago, and traded them to me for a giant walking Felix figure from Felix Chevrolet in L.A. They have been hanging around here for 30 years, now, and I never tire of seeing them. Daisy, also, never tires of looking through the glass at Bonzo.
Two favorite objects that I will mention now, solely, because they are only visible from this angle, are the only bisque Brownie I was able to find, the "Dude" from a series that always eluded me, and a curious anthropomorphic hot water bottle, in the center, made by Schafer Vater.
Foremost among the Bonzos, is the Schoenhut doll, mostly obscured by a postcard. He is somewhat rare in mint condition; a condition that now seems commonplace to me. But what really makes this pup extraordinary is the fact that he is standing on his original box, which is covered in delicious Bonzo graphics. I fished him out, and enthusiastically overdid some photos, on the previous page.
Buried deep in in this accumulation, is the Bonzo lithographed tin pail; beautifully decorated, it also has a lovely lid. The pure unadulterated Bonzo version of a doggie, who later got a pair of earphones and became the “Crosley Pup” sits atop the pail. This was made by the display firm, "Old King Cole”. Behind him, is the large version of the Bonzo Chase Game, with its lavender game board, a color one seldom sees in vintage toys. There's a large Cameo Bonzo doll, on either side. Their celestial halos are actually paper plates..
Easier to find, is the tumbling Bonzo windup, the only one I’ve ever seen. His original label is still intact to prove that it is really him. Then there is the totally ordinary Bonzo fountain pen, with nothing Bonzo-like about it, except his name on the stem. But, the package is delightful! Harder to detect in the right front corner of the photo, is another rarity, the Schuco Bonzo velvet compact. When I realized that it didn’t show up at all in the photos, I put it also on the previous page. And last of all, I have to mention a favorite, the small cute sleeping Bonzo, carved out of wood, and lying right in front, beneath the wheels of ...
The the Steiff pull-toy of Barney Google and Spark Plug. This rare object took my breath away (and a big hunk of my money) when I finally saw it in reality.
Among the other favorite things, included here, are the only known (by me) example of the Betty Boop Hula dancer wind-up toy, in her original box, with a “Fleischer Studios” copyright, a small Deans Rag Book Oswald doll, and three extraordinary incarnations of KoKo the Clown. In the back, is the Schoenhut KoKo, which is jointed differently than any other figure that they made. In the center, is an exquisite KoKo doll. His delicate face is some form of composition, and his body is made of felt. And last of all, off to the left, is a KoKo windup toy. His label reads, “INKWELL CLOWN” by “Out of the Inkwell Films Inc.” Another rarity is a curious “Henry” doll, made by Deans, with a head made of rubber that, so far, has survived.
There are a few delightful Bonzos on the top shelf, as well. Hiding in the back is a Deans velvet Bonzo doll that is absolutely huge. And right up front, is the most charming Chad Valley velvet Bonzo with a molded velvet face. Next to him is the animated barking Bonzo paper toy from Germany. Hiding behind them, is Bonzo's cat friend "Ooloo". In the center back is a large Felix doll with pressed molded face, and one of the two variations of the seemingly rare Deans Rag Book Felix dolls. This one is mohair plush; the velvet version is on the shelf below. These are the only two Deans Felix dolls I've ever encountered.
But by far the most amazing item that dominates this upper shelf is an extraordinary Spanish pitcher that represents Betty Boop and Bimbo, dancing the Tango. This dramatic item is rare in any form, but with the original paint, it is awesome!
Right now, were standing on the sink, looking at the highest case. Before we move down to the middle one, just for a moment ,and just for the fun of it, lets look down! Wow! This dizzying view is one that no one, including myself, has ever seen before, till now.
And, now, the middle shelf! Where to begin? The most Important item is the cast iron Mickey bank, in its third and final variation. It took three tries to finally get it right in Disney’s eyes. The first was my first Mickey, too. Its only marking was “depose” which means copyright in French. The second bank was the same with dots changed to pie-cut eyes, a more rounded snout, and the Disney name incised. This final version is rounder fuller and more accurate. It stands on thin metal rods for legs. It is incredibly rare. It is rumored that there may be two. But I have a feeling that they were describing the same Mickey who stands here. It is fully marked with “Disney” and the manufacturer’s name.
There are so many treasures here! They include: numerous wood Mickey dolls from Italy and Germany, a box of 6 Mickey figures, made in France with their original box and advertising card, as well as, the straw packing, intact, a curious Mickey doll with glass eyes from England, a condiment set with a Mickey pot, and two Felix salt and pepper shakers, hanging off his arms, a Schuco Felix windup tumbler, half hidden beside a black and white Mickey perfume atomizer, Mickey Mouse razor blades, and Mickey Mouse phonograph needles, in the tin box marked “Noris”, on the left. On the back wall, out of sight, is an ad for Felix Fly Paper, and the Deans Rag Book velvet Felix doll. There is also a fabulous Scrappy doll, a Popeye skiing toy, the Andy Gump movie toy, a German animated tin Felix toy, and two English celluloid figures of Mickey’s nephews. Well, you can see there are a lot of things, too many to name, as well as many others, hiding from the camera’s view.
Here also are two Spanish Betty Boop dolls made of felt, and another Betty made of clay, also from Spain. And on the left side of the dolls, peeking out from behind, is a cardboard jointed Betty Boop toy that is difficult to find. The Mickey and Minnie, hanging, with rubber arms and legs were made in France.
Here, from a different angle, is the eyelevel showcase that I see most often, every day. This view barely discloses two matching Felix figurines, impossible to see. One is a candleholder. It holds a celluloid Felix baby rattle with a crazy drawing of Felix on it that resembles a monkey. And, although, this is clearly a manufactured item, the image of Felix was not printed, but was painted on by hand. There is also a Mickey Mouse composition pencil box, and a celluloid Bonzo wearing a felt fez and feeding a bottle to a tiny baby Bonzo he cradles in his paw. Up front, is a small wood jointed Felix on a scooter that was actually a playing piece in a game. This angle also offers a side view of the Mickey Mouse bank number three. His head is surprisingly round and deep, and his nose was manufactured as a separate piece.