I spent last weekend in Manhattan. It was the weekend for International Toy Fair and the Broadway Bear Auction. My dear friends Carol and Ben Mitchell are gracious enough to put me up whenever I need to stay in the city. Needless to say, I am most grateful.
Maryanne Oldenburg and her lovely granddaughter Megan arrived at the apartment before I did. Usually Dianne Keeler and Adele Sciortino attend as well. They both created bears for the event but this year Diane had family obligations and Adele was back in her hometown of New Orleans playing Queen Mother to her daughter who was elected Mardi Gras Queen this year.
We usually spend a day or two shopping the fabric and trim district but this year neither Maryanne nor I needed anything. Dianne usually looks for those gorgeous silks and trim she uses to adorn her amazing dolls. By the time I arrived Maryanne and Megan had already been to the FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) bookstore and across the street to the other student bookstore. Maryanne picks up very expensive European children’s fashion magazines, which she uses for fashion and posing ideas for her dolls. Most of you know that Maryanne specializes in dolls of children. The bookstores are located in the D Building of FIT (part of NYU) on 27th Street between 7th & 8th (closer to 8th). So we ordered take-out for dinner and spent the first night catching up, as it had been some time since we had all been together. We also enjoyed the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics.
Saturday was spent at the Met. (Metropolitan Museum of Art.) Megan is an artist and a freshman in college studying graphic design. We walked for many hours. Usually I take Cassi (my great-granddaughter) and she loves the Egyptian rooms. I love the medieval rooms, especially the amour and costumes. But this time we visited the European art and the new American wing. I enjoyed the landscape paintings and statuary. The Met will now allow phone cameras, since there are no flashes. Megan took lots of photos for me of the nudes for posing ideas not to mention anatomy. We got back to the SoHo loft foot sore and weary. After visiting with the Mitchells for a while we got a good nights sleep.
We arrived at the Javits Center at 9:30 am for the opening of Toy Fair. This is a trade show fir the toy industry and it is difficult to get admission. We have been registered for about 20 years. Megan just turned 18 so it was her first visit. My Cassi is only 12 and can’t wait until she is old enough. We visited with all our doll friends who exhibit at this show. Not too many years ago there were dozens of doll artists exhibiting; not so many these days. There have been less and less of them for the past few years,. It is so very expensive to exhibit at this venue and most of them sell out the first day but are obligated to keep their booth open for the entire 3 to 4 days of the show. New York City is an expensive city to stay in if you need hotels and food. Not to mention transportation. Taxis are much more expensive they were only last year. However, the buses are still only $1.10 for seniors.
The subway is faster but the hundreds of steps getting out of the stations are getting more and more difficult as I get older. I’m already older than dirt.
Maryanne has her own line of vinyl dolls manufactured in China. She found a small company who makes all the clothing and accessories for them at Toy Fair a couple of years ago. Their work is exquisite, and very affordable. We all stopped to visit with Robert Tonner, an old friend. I should say a long-time friend but we are both older than we were when we met at the Parsippany doll show ( a first for both of us), over 25 years ago. I ordered Cassi’s birthday gift, couple of dolls from his Twilight Collection. She got Edward and Bella last year. (Cassi just joined my UFDC doll club as a junior collector.) Robert has been a member of my doll club, which meets in Manhattan for as long as I have, almost 25 years.
We had to leave Toy Fair about 3:30 because we had to change and be present at B.B. Kings Blues Club at 5:30 to stand by our bears. The reception began about 6:00 pm and the auction around 8. The crowd was big as ever this year and lots of fun. There was a lot of interest in my bear, Stupefying Jones from a 1956 Broadway Production of ‘Lil Abner, The role was played by Julie Newmar. Scott Stevens, the producer of The Broadway Bears, called me the night before to tell me that Julie, who signed the bear, was thrilled with it and had emailed him a letter to me along with a photo of herself in the exact costume. I couldn’t wait to see them. I will frame them and add them to my “Award Wall” in the kitchen. Considering the economy the auction raised over $180,000 for the charity: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. My bear did not bring as much as I hoped, My Bo Jangles from Fosse the Musical two years ago went for over $3,500 but Stupefying Jones went for only $700 this year. Money is getting tighter everywhere. I have noticed that who signs the bear increases the interest for collectors. I occurred to me that ‘Lil Abner was produced over 50 years ago and most of the folks bidding were not old enough to remember Julie Newmar… Oh well, I was pleased to notice that the Playbill listed the bear artists and how much each work has contributed by year to the charity over the 13 years of the event. My contribution was over $12,000 in the seven years I have been involved. I do in memory of my late friend and superb doll artist Bob McKinley.
For photos of all the Broadway Bears of this and past years visit http://www. bcefa.org.
For photos of my Broadway Bears since 2004, please visit http://mimidolls.com/LetsTalk-Features/BroadwayBears/Index.htm