arts

What Happened to Ken?

Barbie and KenI’m the baby boomer “comeback kid,” although I’m hardly a kid anymore. Believe or not, the most collected male doll in pop culture will be 50 in a couple of days.

I was born a teenager due to the miracle of modern plastics. I never had to search for my dream girl: Barbie Millicent Roberts and I were made for each other – literally.

After 43 wonderful years, we separated in what was called the break-up of the millennium. It wasn’t my idea. You’ll hear lot of stories, including that I was reluctant to get married. This is PR nonsense. Barbie and Mattel decided we should separate. I’m a company doll. I had no choice.

At first, I thought, maybe this is a blessing in disguise. I mean, all my life I’ve lived in Barbie’s shadow. She got the adulation. I felt like a hanger-on. Often she traveled alone. People dismissed me as “eye candy.”

There was always that innuendo…you know…comparing me to GI Joe and suggesting I was a preppy wuss. In response, I was muscled up as Superstar Ken in 1977. Then people said I looked like a Yuppie on steroids and no real boy could measure up to me. Some dolls just can’t win.

Remember, I’m not always incontrol of my destiny. Ken dollsThe 1993 version Earring Magic Ken with that open front leather vest isn’t the real me. It’s true I never had genitalia but, again, that wasn’t my choice. And it’s not the reason Barbie left me in 2004.

I drifted in limbo, execs considered “retiring me,” but I kept the faith.Then came Toy Story 3.

It did for me what Pulp Fiction did for John Travolta. Barbie and I reconnected in the movie. I decided (along with my masters at Mattel) to do a full court press to get Barbie back: professions of love on Facebook and Twitter—even national billboards.

I’m proud to say I was a leader in fads and fashion, but always with class. I was hip, but never a hippie. I was cool, but never a rebel.

Today, I sport a Justin Bieber look with loose locks, jeans and T-shirt, plus a Palm Beach Line. Barbie thinks it’s way cool. We are back together now, happier than ever.

“Reunited…and it feels so good.”

Terry Hamburg writes the Boomer to You blog about the exciting and revolutionary baby boomer years.

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