2017-04-20 / Arts & Entertainment News


For the love of Bug-eyes, and other old toys

You could say Bug-eyes and I met cute.

It was 1982 or ’83 at a luncheon in Venice. Whoever was supposed to go with my mom had bailed, so I joined her for the luncheon and the doll show that followed.

And there she was — staring at me through blue glass paperweight eyes that clearly had borne witness to more than a century of history. Bug-eyes was the largest papier-mâché doll head I ever had seen.

But she was a mess. She was bald, part of the paint was missing from the left side of her face and the head and shoulder plate had long been separated from her body.

That didn’t matter. She was beautiful, from the delicate brush strokes that formed her eyebrows to the palest of pink that covered her lips.

Then, there was the surprised look of those buggy eyes that shone in hypnotic blues.

I had planned to display the head as a bust, but Bug-eyes had other ideas.

BUG-EYES BUG-EYES Later that year, we attended an antiques show in Sarasota and a doll dealer had a large body that was headless. It was made of cloth and had papier-mâché limbs. It looked like it could be a good fit.

We bought it, got it home and it was as though Bug-eyes’ head and body had been reunited. She now stands an impressive 33 inches tall.

My mom’s friend Mary Jo Brockington of Cape Coral did some restoration and another friend, Diana Dodd of Pine Island, created a dress.

It’s hard to believe that Bug-eyes has been a part of my collection for over 30 years — we used her picture to promote a scary dolls package years ago when I worked at The Palm Beach Post — my mom picked up the paper and said, “Yep, there’s Bug-eyes.”

Bug-eyes now has siblings, and that’s apropos of everything.

Old toys tell a story about coming of age in a world that no longer exists.

Papier-mâché tells the story of time in a way other materials can’t, simply because it is organic and peels away to reveal layers of history.

If you’re lucky, those layers reveal the love that first owner had for the toy. ¦


A papier-mâché doll

The place: Private sale in Naples.

Cost: $35

The skinny: My mom knows how

I like these old papier-mâché doll heads and accessories.

This little lady may be nearly

150 years old — the first child for whom she was a companion probably has been dead at least half a century, but the doll endures.

The 28-inch doll’s head is

mounted on a cloth body and she has papier-mâché lower arms and legs, and was probably made in Germany. Her clothing, though old, probably is not original. Her wig also is a replacement.

Thank goodness she has

not been repainted.

Her face and hands

show the marks of time — one can imagine she was dropped and kissed and played with all those years ago.

But her blue

eyes still shine as brightly as they did for her first owner. ¦

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