of a Toy Collector
These random recollections have been gathered from emails, fragments of letters to friends and family members, and responses that were posted on the Four Horsemen’s “Fantastic Forum”. Most are memories, that, much like when waking from a dream, I could feel slipping away, even as I wrote them down.
Because my spelling was always awful, I often pecked out emails in WORD, where the spell checking is better than it is on AOL. Although, Fate erased the actual emails, many of the original WORD files remained, like pages from a nonexistent diary, scattered throughout my old computer. When it crashed, the other day, I thought these memories were gone forever! Thankfully, my computer expert friend, Tom Brewer, was able to bring them back again.
And so, the thought occurred to me to post some of these bits and pieces, here, where hopefully, they might survive another crash, and even me. Thus, this haphazard compilation of assorted fragments, some of which are illustrated, came to be. They constitute my lame attempt to create a delusion of immortality that will endure as long as someone in my family continues to pay the internet fee, and doesn’t press the delete key.
All Original Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
The other day a friend on the “Fantastic Forum” asked: “Do you do all of this yourself?? Do you have someone helping you with putting it up on the internet?”
I have a most marvelous toy. It is a web building program called “WYSIWYG”, which stands for “What You See Is What You Get”. You download it from the Internet. Once you figure out how it works, it’s easy. Unfortunately, figuring it out is hard, as the instructions are not great! But I love playing with it and I keep thinking up new things to do. But, am I doing the sites myself? Yes, and No!
I owe this entire Web Adventure to an extraordinary young lady in Florida, Cyndy Stevens, Otherwise known as “Prilly Charmin”. She is a true Web Master, Baby Face Fan and cherished Friend!
Cyndy used to be a normal person, as normal as one can be with several cats. I used to have 6, myself, at one time. Her favorite was one called “Prilly Charmin”, and she named her website after her. One day, Cyndy, who had never been a collector, saw a Baby Face Doll and it spoke to her, not in so many words, but visually, silently, in the unspoken language by which inanimate objects, dolls, icons and images communicate with humans. Overnight, she became a doll collector, collecting Baby Face dolls, primarily. Then, she created an on-line Doll Club for a group of likeminded collectors of Baby Face dolls. It grew by leaps and bounds with Cyndy as the moderator, keeping a bunch of impassioned doll collectors, usually, under control.
When I first got a computer I stumbled across her website, and others. There were a number of them devoted to Baby Face collecting, at the time. That was over 12 years ago. I was amused to see some collector’s homes that looked like mine, crawling with Baby Face dolls, instead of Mickey Mice. I embraced this as all part of the wonders of the internet, where anything could happen, and then forgot about it. A year passed. ...
My friend Bernie Shine had written an article about Baby Face for a toy collector magazine, when the dolls first came out. Now, several years later, he discovered his article on Cyndy’s site, and sent me a link. Admiring how nice her site was, I dropped Cyndy a line to compliment her, and thank her for keeping Baby Face alive.
That led to a series of emails that Cyndy wove into the story of "How Baby Face Was Born” and died, and along with it, inadvertently, the story of my life. From there, she started adding more sites, dealing with other dolls that I designed. Soon, she ran out of free Yahoo space, and took some more out in my name. I was really starting to enjoy this. And, although, the space was free, for a nominal fee I could remove the pop-up ads, and did. Last year the free space, called Geocity, came to an end, and I had to get a domain name to keep the site alive. It cost no more than I was already paying to keep the site ad free. That’s how “melbirnkrant.com” came to be. Now the question remains WHY?
One great thing about the years I spent with Colorforms was the fact that just about everything I worked on got made. And I could "ride shotgun" on every detail to make sure that it came out perfect. This was not the case as an inventor. Virtually none of the artwork I churned out, over those years, ever saw the light of day. Thus, for the remainder of my creative life, I was working, day and night, essentially, for the wastebasket.
The Toy Industry is a place where secrecy reigns. If my partners managed to sell a product, it became “TOP SECRET”. Any artwork I did to create and promote it was quickly hidden away. The only thing that was ever seen again was whatever screwed up crap the toy company that bought it turned it into. Sometimes they did a nice job, usually not, but it was a living. Most of the time, an item never sold; in which case, the artwork, if it survived, came back to me. So, either way, none of it was ever seen.
Now, I've set these fragments of a life misspent adrift upon the Internet, where they can, at least, for a brief moment, be displayed. Not that flickering across a wire, reduced to dots and dashes of energy, is exactly being seen, but it offers an illusion of momentary resurrection, before the plug is pulled, at last, and they cease to be.
As I ran out of doll projects and started into other toys, I felt bad asking Cyndy to help me. She had grown her website into a successful business, selling dolls and doll making supplies, and really had no time to spare. So with her to get me out of constant trouble, I set out to add little web pages on my own.
And that, with the miracle of WYSIWYG, is how I became a do it yourself “webmaster”. It's the most FUN I ever had for $39.00, and as good as any of the many other hobbies, from HO model Railroading to tying fishing flies, that I indulged in, in my lifetime. So, even though I now do these websites on my own, Cyndy is always there, in spirit. And if I get in trouble, she's just an "SOS" away.
THANK YOU, CYNDY!