When Clint Eastwood strolled on the Red Carpet, on Oscar Night, 2005, his beautiful wife, TV reporter Dina Ruiz Eastwood, held onto his arm and sparkled in her well-tailored gown and tasteful jewelry. Hidden in Eastwood’s other hand, and visible to the discerning eye, was a colorful, comical paper doll. That’s right—Dirty Harry, the Man with No Name, the fellow who has made millions as a macho, silent desperado, carried a paper doll to the Academy Awards ceremony. The cutout figure is Flat Stanley Lambchop and he is part of a national literacy campaign. The two-dimensional figure has been sent all over the world for the past decade, stacking up frequent flyer miles and encouraging his sponsoring school classes to write essays on his memorable adventures. Eastwood’s second-grade daughter was the “travel agent” who arranged for Stanley’s Hollywood debut— incidentally, Stanley has also visited the Oval Office, ridden on the space shuttle, and has climbed Mount Rainier. Here is one doll that doesn’t like to be boxed in. Not content to sit on a shelf, Flat Stanley is seeing the world, and the world is seeing him.
The notion of a travel doll didn’t begin in 1995, with the Stanley literacy program, but the high-profile movers and shakers who embrace this lovable line drawing are adding pizzazz to the pastime of high-flying dolls. We may not be able to win Golden Globes or rocket into outer space, but we all can find a doll to love and an accommodating suitcase.
Traditionally, travel dolls stand under a foot tall, for easy transporting, and are ideally made of non-breakable material. They travel with their owners, sometimes in their mama’s portmanteau and other times in their own trunks and cases. The thrill of a travel doll is that you and this tiny reminder of home can pose in front of monuments, can climb pyramids, and can generally have a ball together while circling the globe. As travel becomes more affordable—with competing Internet airfares and hotel stays—doll collectors and their doll partners should be a more familiar sight.
“My daughter asked me to bring Stanley to the Oscars,” Eastwood explained to a host of curious reporters. “Who am I to refuse her anything? Besides, he was a good date to have. He didn’t say much and he could be slipped into my pocket when necessary. If you can’t carry a doll to the Oscars, you can’t be much of a man.”
Bravo, Clint Eastwood! His manliness allowed him to bring a “make-believe friend” to his big event, and our collective, collectible femininity should make a travel doll a must-have 2005 accessory.
Doll collector Eileen Rohrbach, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is definitely going to pick up a quartet of travel dolls from the talented doll artist Berdine Creedy. “I am getting several of her new travel dolls,” Rohrbach enthuses. “I can’t wait to get them. Berdine makes her dolls come to life. Each one has a special and unique expression that touches my heart. Also, after you meet her in person, you can truly see her in the dolls she creates.”
On several occasions, Rohrbach has traveled to Washington, DC, for Jones Publishing’s Doll & Teddy Bear Expo. She loves the excitement of packing her bags and traveling to meet new friends, buy new dolls and discover new treasures. “Since the travel dolls are all vinyl, they are easy to manage and handle. You can change their outfits. My friend’s three-year-old adores the Creedy dolls I already own. They can be carted around the house or put in a stroller, and off they go!”
The allure of getting up and going was paramount in Berdine Creedy’s mind when she designed her 2005 tourist line. “I travel so much with my dolls,” Creedy explains, “to China, Germany, England, Hong Kong and South Africa. So, I decided to do these ‘traveling little girls.’ Each and every doll has something of every country within her. ‘Liesie,’ for instance, looks Asian; ‘Kindjie’ comes from the Netherlands; ‘Inge’ can fit in anywhere; and ‘Jossie’ is my African doll.”
Creedy’s dolls have exotic-sounding names, but those interesting monikers are reflections of the South African artist’s personal memories. “I give the dolls the names of my friends or their children. When you are sometimes far away from your family and friends, this way you can have their names around you all the time. The dolls help you not to miss them so much.” (Creedy sometimes pines for her countrymen as she carves out a new life in Florida. “I have met some other Afrikaners here in Gainesville and we have our ‘tea time’ and make our kinds of dishes to keep the culture alive.”)
Since Creedy’s dolls are vinyl and relatively small—13 inches—they effortlessly fit into most pieces of luggage and valises. These 2005 travel dolls can journey with their newfound collectors as they cross the country. “These dolls are not very big and they can be dressed and re-dressed easily. They can hitch a ride when a collector decides to take a trip or go on a vacation. People, like me, need to physically get out of the house in order not to be working all the time. Other people like the idea of getting away from problems and just unwinding and being themselves. ‘Small holidays’ is the magical phrase here. You don’t have to go far; it just seems like you are going to heaven.” The designers at Terri Lee second the platform of self-regeneration through planes, trains and automobiles. They agree that kicking around the United States is a great way to discover more about yourself and your surroundings. “Many of our collectors have a Terri Lee doll that they designate as their travel doll,” Gretchen McGinnis, of Terri Lee, reveals. “In fact, at the Terri Lee Doll Collector Convention last year, an entire presentation was done by one of our collectors about her travel doll. She had designed an entire set of luggage, travel stickers, travel accessories—including foreign electrical adaptors—and special outfits for each activity that Terri Lee would take part in while on vacation. We actually receive pictures of Terri Lee collectors as young children with their original dolls while on family vacations.”
McGinnis confirms that the urge to hit the road is part of the American identity. “We all want to experience the sights, the people and the food!” This was one of the motivating factors behind the five state dolls that the company introduced this year: ten-inch, hard-plastic tributes to Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Virginia and Nebraska.
“The collector club convention is being held in Orlando this year—hence the ‘Tiny Terri Florida,’” McGinnis explains. “‘Tiny Terri Louisiana’ was inspired by Mardi Gras, which was a popular costume theme from the original Terri Lee collection. ‘Patty-Jo Illinois’ is a tribute to the comic strip character that originally was printed in the Chicago Tribune. Nebraska was the first home for Terri Lee—she was first manufactured in that state. And the Virginia doll was chosen because of the naval bases in Norfolk. We wanted to have a sailor theme this year to pay tribute to our armed forces.”
A veritable salute to the red, white, and blue, the 2005 Tiny Terri Lee state dolls allow collectors to be charmed by their homeland—literally. “The idea is to collect the dolls and their very special charms for a charm bracelet,” McGinnis states. “It is much like collecting state coins. Each charm is specially designed and themed around the state.” The costumers at Terri Lee hope to have all 50 states represented eventually and then they may turn their eyes to overseas destinations. “It’s a big country and we still have a lot of states to commemorate,” McGinnis affirms.
For longtime collector Holly J. Nelson, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Terri Lee dolls are a green light for seeing more of the USA. “I figure if a little doll can know so much about her country and represent her state, I need to get out more. If I visit the states that came out this year in the Terri Lee line, that is a really big slice of America right there. I can travel to a state and then pick up the doll. It’s a win-win situation.”
Clara Cosentino, of New York City, perhaps says it best: “I would like to see more of the world, but I can’t always get around. The Terri Lee dolls let me see America without leaving my home. I can travel without having to make a reservation.”
The Berdine Creedy dolls, with their contemporary, modern, fresh personas, and the Terri Lee characters, with nostalgic, retro appeal, offer choices for today’s doll collector. Whether you want to discover a legend in the making or soar with an established collectible classic, book your flights now. The travel doll sensation is poised for takeoff.