For those of us who love and adore dolls, we’re filled with happy thoughts and heady emotions when we ponder a past favorite or a future purchase. If you’re a doll artist or a super doll collector, then the reference to a doll unleashes a steady, healthy stream of endorphins. It’s sort of like weightlifters and bodybuilders who are getting flooded with natural highs as they squat and thrust! We’re also getting those bio benefits when we sculpt and tweak.
However, for every great anecdote about a doll that transports a collector back to her halcyon nursery days, there is another tale that explains how a doll has transported a collector into a court of law. Last year and the year before, we all followed the epic battle between Barbie and Bratz. Mattel and MGA Entertainment slugged it out in the courtroom of popular opinion as well as in an actual court setting over patent infringement, proprietary intellectual property rights, and basically who is the real owner of the Bratz empire.
Decision after decision swung back and forth—seeming to favor the “Goliath” over the “David,” but then the eventual determination went to the upstart company.
Now, MGA Entertainment is facing off once again, but this time around it’s the battle of the brazen broads (pardon my alliteration).
The Bratz, which are controversial because of their fierce attitudes and daring attire, are known as the anti-Barbies. Rather than being wholesome and akin to the girl next door, the Bratz seem like they are more comfortable on the Vegas strip . . . or stripping for that matter. They’re aggressive and assertive and not shy or retiring. Depending upon your brand of feminism, they’re either the ultimate examples of girl power: comfortable and in charge of their own sexuality; or they are the poster dolls for exploited femininity (being forced to dress provocatively, and presenting a tawdry, tainted example for the little girls who play with them). Or they’re just a bunch of plastic that is over painted and under clothed. You take your pick.
Anyway, this week it’s been announced that MGA, the parent company of the wayward Bratz, have brought a lawsuit against Lady Gaga, the living/breathing embodiment of many of the Bratz traits. (Gaga is known for her scant wardrobe, tons of makeup, in-your-face behavior, defiant attitude, and take-no-prisoners attitude. Again, she’s either a feminist icon or another pop star who has to trade on shocking sexuality to gain attention and cash.)
Apparently, just in time for Christmas, MGA planned to debut a line of Gaga dolls. All of their planning and prepping has been stopped dead in their tracks due to the Lady’s insistence that they wait until her next album drops and . . . they fix her little likenesses’ likeness. Yep, that’s right. The purveyor of acceptance and self-love, the champion of “Born This Way,” feels that her doll isn’t pretty enough.
It’s been alleged that the singer/songwriter wants her doll to have a more sculpted supermodel look to it. This, of course, flies in the face of the Little Monster den mother who asserts that we’re all beautiful in our own special ways.
In this instance, the Bratz incarnation just isn’t special or sexy enough. Gaga’s people say this is just a matter of bad timing and miscommunication. Look for this to develop as a curiosity in the news . . . and more info as this blogger uncovers more of the Gaga gossip. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-18988624
Another tabloid darling who had a recent run-in with a doll foe is Candy Spelling, the mother of Tori and the widow of legendary TV producer, Aaron Spelling.
Unlike Gaga, whom I only know from her meat-laden runway garb, I’ve actually met and talked with Candy Spelling. I had the pleasure—and it really was a pleasure—to chat with her twice in person at the Alexander Doll Company booth at Toy Fair, during the late 1990s. I also interviewed her over the phone: I was in a cramped office in Manhattan; she was in her palatial mansion in Beverly Hills. However, we were bound together by our love of dolls and collecting.
Candy had a formidable array of Madame Alexander dolls. She had original ones, and ones that are only seen in museum catalogs or in fever dreams of the really devoted doll hunters. In addition to her own private treasure trove, she also was buying dolls for daughter Tori—whom I got to interview as well for about 10 minutes regarding her mom’s collecting mania. (It wasn’t a pleasure talking to Tori.)
During 2009, Candy Spelling decided to sell her house, and the enormous domicile languished on the market until 2011 (even the super rich were hit with the housing bubble). The effort to pack up an estate that rivals Versailles and head to smaller, greener pastures was videorecorded as a reality show.
While downsizing, Candy also decided to bid farewell to her Alexander collection and her other well-preserved, highly sought-after antique and vintage items. She handpicked Theriault’s as the auction house to handle the dispensation of her treasured collection.
Anyone who has ever received a DOLLMASTERS catalog in the mail knows that this seems like a match made in heaven. Theriault’s, which has been in business as an auction house, antiques appraiser, book publisher, and promoter of the art behind the hobby, has had a stellar reputation since its founding in 1970.
Its current president, Stuart Holbrook, has been a go-to guy for members of the press. Just like Candy Spelling, Holbrook was a pleasure to work with. I had sent him questions over the years for articles I’ve done on spotting trends, valuing collections, adjusting business practices in an ever-changing market, and overall antique pieces.
So, why, then, did the merging of the Spelling collection and Theriault’s end up as a lawsuit where Candy Spelling alleged bad business practices and withholding of information?
In court documents filed on behalf of Spelling in April 2012, her lawyers requested $500,000, plus the return of all her dolls. Their motion stated: “Spelling entrusted Theriault’s with possession of the Spelling Collection for the sole and limited purpose of conducting professional auctions featuring the Spelling Collection. However, after receiving possession of the Spelling Collection, Theriault’s repeatedly failed to provide Spelling with timely and complete accounting of what items had been sold at auction, what items remained unsold and the correct amount owed to Spelling based on the sale of her property.
“As a result of Theriault’s acts and omissions in violation of the parties’ agreement, in March 2012, Spelling terminated her relationship with Theriault’s, requested the return of all unsold Spelling Collection items and requested payment for all Spelling Collection items that had been sold by Theriault’s on her behalf…Theriault’s has failed and refused to provide Spelling with a full and complete accounting of all items sold, has failed to immediately return all unsold items and has failed to pay Spelling the amounts due and owing for the sale of her property.”
The litigious action was settled out of court on June 15, and word of this private resolution was made public last week. There are 400 dolls and automatons at stake, and Candy’s spokesperson has announced that “under no circumstances” would Mrs. Spelling ever utilize Theriault’s services again. http://www.capitalgazette.com/news/for_the_record/theriault-s-settles-spelling-lawsuit/article_b0d33b6e-1859-5788-b831-0ffc65c20a20.html
I don’t know what happened behind closed doors. From Maryland, where the auction house is located, to California, there are stretches of geographical miles, but also cultural miles.
Some commentators have suggested that Candy is used to getting what she wants, when she wants it, and that Beverly Hills snap-and-demand mentality didn’t translate to a Southern-climed antiques business. Theriault’s wasn’t trying to pull a fast one—rather, it just conducts its business in a slower, more scattered, less pressure-cooker way.
Others, who are partial to Candy, feel that the auction house was looking to milk their handling of a high-profile celebrity account for all it was worth: hoping to grab a bit of the reality-show magic and getting its name known in the sphere of stars and wannabe stars.
What Theriault’s and Candy Spelling both ended up getting was a dose of “real” reality: not scripted, photographed, heavily manipulated reality like any of the E! or TLC blockbuster shows.
Both the institution and the collector bumped heads and elbowed for position. Neither one has ended up happy or satisfied with their encounter with one another, and the auction association has left a sour taste in Candy’s mouth.
Will Candy Spelling’s dolls sell? Certainly there are people out there who are as drawn to the Alexander pedigree as to the Hollywood provenance. I’m certain the 400 dolls won’t be sitting on Candy’s shelves any longer.
And if they don’t sell, there’s a new batch of potential collectors in her own family: Estranged daughter Tori is the mom to two young daughters and a son. I’m sure they’d love to have the dolls as a family heirloom.
But that would be a whole different reality series in the making!