While flipping through the biz section of the New York Times, I stumbled on a story that immediately caught my eye. It was all about how Mattel, the giant toy manufacturer and maker of Barbie, is introducing a new, contemporary Ken, Ken being Barbie's longtime boyfriend. Ken has been around for a long time; he's 50 this year, but don't expect the new doll to have gray hair and a paunch. Mattel ran a contest to find someone to base Ken's updated image; the winner is Kurtis Taylor, a beefy, jocky, buff, square- jawed muscular dark haired 25 year old guy who in real life is a former defensive lineman for Iowa State and who won by swanning the judges in the "romantic gesture" category.
Now I have some pretty strong feelings about Ken, since I liked him a lot more than Barbie. Hell, I liked almost any doll more than Barbie who frankly annoyed me. Her high heels (and she could only wear high heels or high wedges) were always falling off and getting lost, and the black and white cotton strapless bathing suit she arrived in kept slipping down all the time to to reveal her boobies. Her boobs were huge and horrible in my opinion. Even at the age of 9, I was bothered by the lack of nipple. What I liked about Barbie was her cool car (a pink convertible) and her Dream House, both of which I owned. The car was a lot nicer than the house, which even then struck me as Californian.
Like every other girl my age, I had more than one Barbie, although Malibu Barbie was the one I played with. The rest stayed on their pedestals on a high shelf in my room and were not much fun to touch; they were special edition collectible Barbies dressed in evening gowns and other highly stylized costumes. Malibu Barbie I took to the beach and stuffed into her car and played with her with friends. I never could figure out what her personality was and alternately made her a b**** or a moron. Something about her expression clued me in she wasn't that smart and I never believed for a moment she was a teenager since no teenager I ever saw had her own house even if she did have a car.
Then along came Ken and I liked him immediately. I was a tad bothered that below the waist was just a lump but it was lump enough to determine he was a man. The early Ken's had close cropped felt hair; mine developed a bald patch immediately after my cousin Mary dropped him in the sand.
Of course it didn't take me long to want Barbie and Ken to hump. I wasn't quite sure what intercourse was, but I knew enough to put Ken on top. Our housekeeper Marguerite was ironing shirts in front of the TV. She loved the soaps, in particular "General Hospital." She heard me giving Ken instructions and the next thing I knew, my mouth was being washed out with a big yellow bar of laundry soap.
After that I was less interested in Ken, especially as he had to wear a dinky little sailor's hat all the time now to conceal his half bald head. It wasn't long before he and Barbie were relegated to sitting together in her car on the floor near my bedroom closet. They were all dressed up but had nowhere to go and were fated to sit idle.
I for one can't wait to see the new Ken doll based on Mr. Taylor's Marvel Comic Book proportions. Mattel gave the new Ken his own Facebook page (search Genuine Ken to find it) and says there have already been 1.7 million "likes" in recent weeks. How did Kurtis Taylor win the competition to become the model for Genuine Ken? With $500 to buy gifts, he beat out his rivals by giving each judge a penny and donating the rest to the foundation called Make A Wish. Nice guy, Genuine Ken. I guess nobody told him, "nice guys finish last." For the record, the Mattel campaign emphasizing Ken, the companion doll to its popular Barbie, misstated the prize in “Genuine Ken: The Search for the Great American Boyfriend,” a Web series that resembled a reality show. The winner, Kurtis Taylor, will receive a doll in his likeness and a modeling contract with the Barbie brand. He will not be the model for the new Ken doll line, which was released in January, before the contest series was shown.