We can always live in a dollhouse
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We can always live in a dollhouse

Thai tourism authorities are always quick to make the most of any new fad, which might explain the appearance of a life-sized Labubu doll on the front page of the Bangkok Post this week. Apparently, the mascot is part of a promotion to attract Chinese tourists. I confess to not knowing anything about the Labubu craze although the Post's doll correspondent informs me the designer doll is a "kind-hearted monster with pointed ears and serrated teeth". Hmmm.

It reminds me of back in 2015 when there was a sudden clamour for luk thep (angel dolls), creepy-looking oversized dolls which adult owners treated like human beings, feeding and chatting with them. Some even had their own airline seats. All a bit worrying. I'm not sure how I would have reacted to finding myself sitting next to an adult feeding a doll.

At the time, there was a splendid photo in the Post of a woman walking through a Bangkok market clutching two of these oversized dolls, but still managing to cling onto her precious smartphone. Maybe the luk thep were expecting a call?

In Thailand, fads have a tendency of taking time to fade out. People were still buying platform shoes here about three years after they had gone out of fashion everywhere else. Come to think of it, they're still buying them.

If nothing else, at least the Labubu fad has reinforced views around the world that Amazing Thailand has not lost its capacity for amazingness. What next one wonders?

The first Teddy

Despite the fads, teddy bears remain the favourite among young kids. It all began with the unlikely figure of US president "Teddy" Roosevelt after whom the soft toy is named. While on a hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902, Roosevelt refused to shoot a big black bear, reportedly feeling sorry for it. This sparked a political cartoon in the Washington Post featuring the president and a bear.

The bear caught on with the public and became a regular feature in Roosevelt cartoons, but evolved into a much softer and cuter creature in subsequent offerings until it actually began to look cuddly.

A fellow called Morris Michtom thought the bear would make a good toy and received permission from Roosevelt to launch the teddy bear soft toy. The rest is history to the extent that today there are even teddy bear museums.

Picnic time and Elvis

Contributing to the popularity of the teddy bear was the song "Teddy Bears' Picnic" made popular in the UK when it was released by Henry Hall and his Orchestra in 1932. It remains a favourite with young kids to this day. I first heard it on a BBC Radio programme called Children's Favourites in the early 1950s.

Later in 1957, we were treated to the very different strains of "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear" drifting in and out of the airways of Radio Luxembourg courtesy of a certain Elvis Presley. The lyrics were quite a contrast to Hall's offering with Elvis crooning "baby let me be your loving teddy bear".

It was enough to spawn a new range of "Elvis Teddys", including a Jailhouse Rock bear with the unfortunate teddy clothed in prison garb.

Mabel and the Doberman

As a kid, Elvis had a teddy bear called Mabel, but it suffered an unfortunate demise in England long after the singer died. It was featured in an exhibition at a museum in Wells, Somerset, in 2006 when a Doberman guard dog called Barney went berserk and ripped off Mabel's head and went on to decapitate dozens of other expensive teddy bears. It was a sorry sight with all sorts of fluffy stuffing, ears, noses and other teddy bear parts scattered across the museum.

Mabel's English owner who had paid US$78,000 (2.8 million baht) for the bear was understandably said to be "all shook up".

Stage fright

As I write this on Friday morning, the UK election results are coming through at a rapid pace and the most important news is that Larry the Cat will have a new boss at No 10 Downing Street.

As always it has been been quite entertaining watching all the candidates lined up on stages around the kingdom as the results are officially announced. Most are smartly dressed but there are also plenty of silly outfits including that of "Nick the Incredible Flying Brick" representing the always reliable Official Monster Raving Loony Party. It was also pleasing to see Count Binface gracing the stage at Richmond.

Most significantly, after the results have been read out, the candidates politely shake hands. All very British.

A question of fleas

At least the UK elections are over and done with in a matter of six weeks unlike the US presidential race that seems to go on forever. Even a few weeks is too long for much of the UK electorate who are not particularly enamoured with politicians.

Over the years there has been a motley collection of eccentric parties including the aforementioned Monster Loonies. We must not overlook that the 1997 election was graced by the Teddy Bear Alliance Party formed by comedian Dom Joly who stood under the name Edward Teddy Bear.

He contested the Chelsea seat and collected 219 votes from people possibly impressed by his forthright question "Mr Blair, where do you stand on fleas?"

Contact PostScript via email at oldcrutch@hotmail.com

Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

Email : oldcrutch@gmail.com

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