Oh, You Beautiful Doll

Naked ambition: Kewpies hussle for prime position in the barrel.
Don’t call me Baby.
Cheaper by the dozen: A Brave New World of Kewpies.

I’ve always loved Kewpie dolls. Do you remember those big-eyed, baby-faced dolls with plastic pin-curls spray painted gold? They were usually wearing a pink or purple piece of tulle fashioned as a tu-tu, and I have a vague memory of plastic and glitter fairy wings attached to their little backs. And they were on a stick.

Reportedly created by poet/artist Rose O’Neill in the early 20th century, Kewpie dolls were named so because of the resemblance to the Roman god, Cupid – you know, the winged baby with the bow and arrow? Cute!

I recently went to an antique fair at Moore Park’s Enterainment Quarter and came across a stall called Black Sheep, with old doors, old kitchenware and other bric-a-brac. And there before me were several glass jars, filled with Kewpie dolls, little plastic people in some giant alien experiment. There were also wooden barrels of Kewpies. It looked great, if a little bit bizarre. Even my five-year-old Spider Boy, an action-hero by nature, was thrilled with the collection. He had never seen a Kewpie before, as the ones I had collected every year at the Sydney Royal Easter Show throughout the 1980s, are long gone.

“Oh Look! LOOK at the Kewpie dolls!” I said in awe to my sister, Senorita Margarita and Spider Boy.

“Please Mum! Please can I have a Poopie doll?! Where does the Poopie come out?” asked Spider Boy excitedly.

“Maybe later, let’s see what else there is here,” I told him.

We circled the fair about three times. Past the chairs Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan sat in during filming of The Great Gatsby. Well I couldn’t buy those, so I went back for a $10 Kewpie. I bought her for Spider Boy. He was excited. He came home and showed Granny. Then the naked Kewpie/Poopie was stuffed back in her paper bag for days until I pulled her out again.

“Look, here’s your Kewpie Doll,” I waved her at Spider Boy.

Spider Boy pulled a face and uttered some kind of expression of distaste. “I don’t want it, I don’t like it.”

“But why don’t you like the Poopie doll anymore?”

“Because she’s old…  and anyway, she’s a baby!” he said with passionate five-year-old disgust.

I take it by “old”, he meant vintage. But oh, she’s got the cutest little baby face!

I’m ready for my close-up.

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