Mel Birnkrant's
Mel Birnkrant's
All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
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         Last of all, I made this little video.  The quality was crude, and the editing was done by hand, on two separate VCRs.
         My friend,” Whoopee” is gone forever.  He was sacrificed for the sake of bringing forth others of his kind.  All that he left behind was his image on an amateurish video tape.  At least, I thought that was the case, until the other day, I discovered that more of him than I realized remained.  Looking through the stacks of ancient pencil drawings that I had the foresight to save, I came across a small group of sketches, drawings that I had no need to duplicate, and, in fact, never saw again, until last week.  They were never intended to be a part of any presentation, so I never copied them.  It’s a miracle that they survived.

        
I vividly recall sitting down with a few pounds of Plastilina clay, and sculpting the Whoopee from scratch.  As I remember it, he just appeared from nowhere.  Now these drawings tell me otherwise.  They trace the inspiration that led to his creation, and his development as a concept.  Therefore, now that there is actually something new to add to the story of the Whoopees, beyond simply the video that has been on You Tube for several years now, I have decided to create this Whoopees website.  It will be both a tribute to the Whoopees and to my childhood, growing up, or, at least, trying to grow up, and failing dismally, among the novelty shops of the once majestic Motor City. 

         
My best friend Bucky and I haunted these somewhat seedy establishments every Saturday.  And when we were not there in person, taking inventory of the darkest mysteries of those downtown dens of iniquity, I was safe at home on Seven Mile Road, burying my nose in bible study; my bible being the Johnson Smith Catalogue, the best mail order catalogue of Tricks and Novelties in the history of the Universe.  Two inches thick, I studied it religiously!  And so it came to be that Whoopee cushions were second nature to me.

         
But the Whoopee didn’t start out as the reincarnation of a Whoopee cushion.  These drawings inform me that he began as a “Pet Me.”  Pet Mes were small monsters that sat on the desk of their young masters, chained to a large suction cup, designed to restrain and prevent them from getting into mischief.  Here is the first drawing!  It depicts a delightful little demon, devilish and naughty.
          One drawing later, it suddenly occurred to me: I’d better chain these creatures up!  They might be dangerous!
         With every touch of my pencil, they became increasingly unruly.  Good Lord!  What had I done?  That big one jumped up and began to growl, while his eyes glowed, with a red hot fury.  Maybe I wouldn’t pet them after all.  That fuzzy one, especially, was becoming downright scary!
          In spite of my best efforts to tame them, these monsters were getting out of hand.  They were so ugly, they even frightened themselves.  Just imagine how I felt.  Had I unlocked the Gates of Hell?
          I tried with minimal success to make them a little bit more warm and friendly.  After all, who doesn’t like a puppy?  That grumpy fellow at the bottom of the page was destined to become the mid-sized Whoopee.
 
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         These denizens of the depths of Hades appeared to be the very opposite of appealing.  One of them, with a tail not unlike that of a lobster, was even burping!  What next? I wondered!  Where was I going with these?  Then, that furry fatty at the bottom of the page said,  “Wait a minute!  Follow my lead, and I’ll show you the way!”
         And, suddenly, there he was, sitting alone, at the bottom of a page, the perfect mix of fierce and friendly.  This compelling creature spoke to me, beyond his invitation to pet him.  And I willingly embraced him.  I sensed he had potential!  What could it be?
         Suddenly, that ten year old kid in me, born in Detroit, and nourished on the contents of every novelty shop on Woodward Avenue, from Grand Circus Park to the Detroit River, spoke up and said, “Trust Me!”  And that is the true story of how a tiny “Pet Me” was transformed into a life sized Whoopee Cushion, henceforth, and forever, known as “Whoopee!”
          Aflame with inspiration, I got a couple pounds of clay, and made him!  First, I sculpted his image out of Plastilina, which is the Italian imitation of English Plasticine that survives in the USA.  Then, I cast a mold of it in Plaster.  That mold is still in the basement.  If I were younger, I could make another, exactly the same.  But, alas, making Whoopees is no longer on my agenda.  Then I filled the mold with liquid latex, which is another material that is no longer available in that quality, today.  The material, itself, was the adhesive that held his various parts together, and sealed them perfectly.  Finally, I painted him with Liquitex, with just a little bit of liquid latex mixed in.  I recently discovered the actual sketches I used to work out the colors.  I tested the newly mixed paint by applying it, directly to the drawings.
          Borrowing a shtick from Wishnicks, I gave him a luxurious head of bright pink hair that one could pet and fondle for good luck!
          Whoopee was not just a pretty face, he could do some pretty amazing things.  His tricks will surprise you if you haven’t yet seen the video.  Here is just a preview!
         And, in as much as he was filled with air, you could do stuff, like honk his horns...
            And toot his tongue!
        He’s also had a cute little tail!
        But best of all! ...
          You could do this!  Then squeeze his nose to pump him up.  And then, do it again!
          Now, it’s time to meet some of Whoopee’s friends.  This is "Little Whoopee."  He can do almost everything his bigger brother can.  You can smash him flat, then, squeeze his nose to pump him up again.   I just realized that I am forgetting to put this description into the past tense.  Like the Big Woopee, he too is gone.
         Finally, let me introduce you to the sole survivor in this tale.  His name was "Whoopee Ball."  He was simple and small.  But he, too, could be squashed flat and puffed up again.  And he had a little Whoopee tail, so, he could make all the familiar Whoopee sounds.
          And here’s Big Whoopee, doing his favorite thing, sneaking up on my cat, Peewee!  Needless to say Peewee was not enthusiastic about this activity.  Nonetheless, when I shot the video, he returned, willingly, for several takes.
          And now, for those of you who don’t object to Deja Vue, here is the actual video, as it appears on You Tube.
          The very next day, my partners KISCOM, armed with all the prototypes and the video, headed out to sell the Whoopees.  At that moment in time, Baby Face was still alive, and selling well.  Therefore, we never suspected or anticipated her sudden and untimely demise.  The trash Bag Bunch was also happening.  So, Galoob seemed like the logical place to go with Whoopees.  Thus, they encountered Gary Niles again.  Gary was the mighty entity, elevated to a high position at Galoob, thanks to the amazing success of our own Magic Diaper Babies, overseas.

         
Gary was enthusiastic about Whoopees.  He snapped them up, the instant that he saw them, promising great things, and offering us a decent advance, without a guarantee.  Thank God, for that advance!  Meanwhile, as usual, brimming over with enthusiasm, I supplied Galoob with more drawings, hoping to expand the line.  Only three of these, as of the moment, have survived.  But the way that I am finding things, lately, more might turn up any day.  The first is an idea to expand upon the concept of the Whoopee Pump, as a means to quickly blow the Whoopees up, and get them ready to expell wind again!
          Two additional drawings suggest a smaller series of highly collectible Whoopees.  As was Galoob’s way, our input was absorbed, without thanks or reply. click to edit
          As was the way at Galoob, my prototypes disappeared quickly.  That could, no doubt, be attributed to Galoob's trustworthy employees.  Years after Baby Face was over, some fellows, make that felons, on their staff were selling my original sculptures to collectors, at prices that amounted to Highway Robbery. 

        
And so it came to be that Galoob never produced the Whoopees.  Instead, they offered a variation on the Whoopee Ball.  These they called “Razz Blasters,” and, according to the fine print on the catalogue page, they were intended to be sold to "International Customers Only."
          Someone Galoob hired did the styling and the sculpting.  If one could see past the busy packaging, it was actually quite decent.  They are shown here actual size.  God knows, who thought up the character’s names that they took the trouble to apply, as a sticker, to each package.  They range from, “Pleeber Flub” and “Weeber Flub” to “Flumber Flub” and variations in between.  I would say someone had a Flubber problem.  Which might have been a psychological disorder.  Incredibly, the names were Trademarked!
         Somehow, I ended up with five of these, which was almost a complete set, according to the catalogue sheet.  I also purchased two, myself, without a package header, at KB Toys in Wappinger’s Falls, New York.  So, maybe some were sold in America, after all.
          For all you action figure fans, there is an origin story on the package back.  I rather like “The Land of Razzamatazz!”
          These last two Razz Blasters, without their packaging, are actually quite pleasant.  There is one here that was not pictured in the catalogue, which said that there were six in the series.  So, somehow, somewhere, there were more.
         Meanwhile, I would like to think that somewhere in Whoopee Land, my friend the Whoopee is sleeping happily, on his favorite Whoopee Cushion.  May he rest in peace, and dream of things that might have been.
          And here he is!  Well, I guess I should say, “Here he was!”  This is only a memory, extracted from the video tape.
          Here are two photographs that I didn’t know I had.  Discovering them has led me to rearrange this web page to squeeze them in.  I guess this is as good a place as any.  And because I am so glad to see these, I will add both, before I lose them, once again.  They show the final finished Whoopies, from two slightly different angles.  I shot these photos, just before I packed them up, and sent them out to meet oblivion.
         My partner Noah visited the other day.  Among the many things he gave me, as a result of The Obb moving, was this Galoob Toy Boys Catalogue I never saw before.  I never realized that Razz Blasters were featured on the cover. Wow! that was a surprise! 
          Inside the catalogue was this page.  Here we see assorted Razz Blasters posed atop a hill of beans!   Throughout the manufacture and marketing of this product, the word FART was never mentioned, but it was most certainly implied.  A poem that I found amusing, in my first and second childhood, comes to mind.  And this is how it went: “Beans, Beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat, the more you Toot!”
         I have no idea if, or how well, the Razz Blasters sold, or if the royalties amounted to a hill of beans, or even equaled the advance.  I never paid attention to such things.  I was just too busy thinking up, and working on, whatever came next.  It all added up to a living in the end.