Date: Fri, 23 Feb 96 17:49:38 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: Rollerblade Barbie
Forwarded-by: liz@VFL.Paramax.COM (by way of firstname.lastname@example.org (Bob Stein))
Copied-from: Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, Sunday, July 17, 1994
by Dave Barry
As executive director of the Bureau of Consumer Alarm, I am always on the
alert for news stories that involve two key elements:
So I was very interested when alert reader Michael Robinson sent me a column
titled "Ask Jack Sunn" from the Dec. 13, 1993, issue of the Jackson, Miss.,
Clarion-Ledger. Here's an excerpt from a consumer's letter to this column,
which I am not making up:
"Last year, my two daughters received presents of two Rollerblade
Barbie dolls by Mattel. On March 8, my 8-year-old daughter was playing
beauty shop with her 4-year-old brother. After spraying him with hair
spray, the children began to play with the boot to Rollerblade Barbie. My
little girl innocently ran the skate across her brother's bottom, which
immediately ignited his clothes."
The letter adds that "There are no warnings concerning fire on these toys
...I feel the need to warn potential buyers of their danger."
In his response, Jack Sunn says, cryptically, that "Mattel does not
manufacture Rollerblade Barbie any more." He does not address the critical
question that the consumer's letter raised in my mind, as I'm sure it did
yours, namely: Huh?
I realized that the only way to answer this question was to conduct a
scientific experiment. As you may recall, last year, in response to a news
item concerning a kitchen fire in Ohio, I did an experiment proving that if
you put a Kellogg's strawberry Pop-Tart in a toaster and hold the toaster
lever down for five minutes and 50 seconds, the Pop-Tart will turn into a
snack-pastry blowtorch, shooting flames up to 30 inches high. Also, your
toaster will be ruined.
The problem was that I did not have a Rollerblade Barbie. My son happens
to be a boy, and we never went through the Barbie phase. We went through
the Masters of the Universe phase. For two years our household was the
scene of a fierce, unceasing battle between armies of good and evil action
figures. They were everywhere. You'd open up the salad crisper, and there
would be He-Man and Skeletor, striking each other with carrots.
So at the end of a recent column, I printed a note appealing for a
Rollerblade Barbie. I got two immediately; one from Renee Simmons of
Clinton, Iowa, and one from Randy Langhenry of Gainesville, Ga., who said
it belonged to his 6-year-old daughter, Greta. ("It would help me if you
could get Barbie back to north Georgia before Greta notices she's gone,"
Rollerblade Barbie is basically a standard Barbie, which is to say, she
represents the feminine beauty ideal, if your concept of a beautiful female
is one who is six feet, nine inches tall and weighs 52 pounds (37 of which
are in the bust area) and has a rigidly perky smile and eyeballs the size
of beer coasters and a one-molecule nose and enough hair to clog the Lincoln
But what makes this Barbie special is that she's wearing two little yellow
Rollerblade booties, each of which has a wheel similar to the kind found
in cigarette lighters, so that when you roll Barbie along, her booties shoot
out sparks. This seems like an alarming thing for Rollerblades to do, but
Barbie, staring perkily ahead, does not seem to notice.
To ensure high standards of scientific accuracy, I conducted the experiment
in my driveway. Aside from Rollerblade Barbie, my materials consisted of
several brands of hair spray and -- this was a painful sacrifice -- a set
of my veteran underwear (estimated year of purchase: 1968). I spread the
underwear on the driveway, then sprayed it with hair spray, then made
Rollerblade Barbie skate across it, sparking her booties. I found that if
you use the right brand of hair spray -- I got excellent results with Rave
-- Rollerblade Barbie does indeed cause the underwear to burst dramatically
(While I was doing this, a neighbor walked up, and I just want to say that
if you think it's easy to explain why you're squatting in your driveway,
in front of a set of burning underwear, surrounded by hair spray bottles,
holding a Barbie doll in your hand, then you are mistaken.)
At this point, the only remaining scientific question -- I'm sure this has
occurred to you -- was: Could Rollerblade Barbie set fire to a Kellog's
strawberry Pop-Tart? The answer turns out to be yes, but you have to be
in the act of hair-spraying the Pop-Tart when Barbie Rollerblades over it,
so you get a blowtorch effect that could very easily set fire to Barbie's
hair, not to mention you own personal self. Plus you get tart filling in
So we can see why Mattel ceased manufacturing Rollerblade Barbie. I imagine
that whichever toy designer dreamed up this exciting concept has been
transferred to Mattel's coveted Bosnia plant. But what should be done about
all the Rollerblade Barbies that are already in circulation? I believe that
the only solution is for all concerned consumers to demand that our
congress-humans pass a federal law requiring that all underwear, snack
pastries and other household objects carry a prominent label stating:
"WARNING! DO NOT SPRAY HAIR SPRAY ON THIS OBJECT
AND SKATE ROLLERBLADE BARBIE OVER IT!"
But that is not enough. We also need to appropriate millions of dollars
for a massive federal effort to undo the damage that has been done so far.
I'm talking about scraping this crud off my driveway.
Also, the taxpayers owe Greta a new Barbie.
© 1996 Peter Langston