Monday, May 2, 2011

A newfound toy villain - circa 1982.

The year was 1982. Give or take a year.

I'm pretty sure it was late June. Because school was out and the heat and humidity was starting to rise in the hills of Martins Ferry.

No homework. No sports practices. No rules.

My brother and I had complete control of the woods that towered over of our hillside home. We were, in a sense, the masters of our domain.

It was during this particular time that my neighbors were scheduled to partake on a month-long trip to Israel.

Lucky them.

They asked our family to watch after their house. Which, in kid speak, means to walk through every crevice of the house, explore every single nook and cranny and - of course - check out the contents of the refrigerator.

So, the day after my neighbors said "Shalom" and headed to the Holy Land, my brother and I snagged the keys from my mom’s purse, tip-toed over to their house and unlocked the door.

It was exploring time.
First off, being a 10-year old kid, it feels very weird to infiltrate a house that you’ve been accustomed to at least one person always inhabiting. Secondly, it’s amazing how every house you walk into has a very distinct smell. This house smelled like a mix of fried rice and bleach. Very odd.

Our neighbor's made a tiny bit more money than my family. Not much, but enough to own a VCR. Back in the early 80’s, if you owned a VCR, you were like royalty. Those suckers were expensive. During this time, I think most families in the Valley were waiting to find out the clear winner of the ongoing VCR/Beta battle before making this important family purchase.

They had a number of VCR tapes including Superman, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and, of course,  Fiddler on the Roof - a Jewish mainstay. My brother and I made a mental note to take Superman for a test drive. After peering around the kitchen, the living room and finally the dank, dark basement, my brother and I decided to creep up the stairs to check out the good stuff...the bedrooms.

The first place we explored was my best friend Tony's bedroom.

Tony and I had been friends since pre-kindergarten. We did everything together. Took the same bus. Shot our BB guns with the same accuracy. Killed snakes with the same slicing motion. Played kickball like Beckham - pre-Beckham.

So, suffice to say, when we entered his room, it was pretty underwhelming. That's because Tony and I had the exact same toys that every 10-year old owned - save his Mouse Trap board game and the awesome Star Wars Remote Control Jawa Sand Crawler. To add to that, I played and borrowed most of his toys at one time or another including Star Wars, He-Man, Lawn Jarts, Rock Em Sock Em Robots, Comic Books, Hot Wheels, Matchbox tracks and more.

My brother, on the other hand, was very intrigued by the extensive LP collection that Tony had obtained from his soon-to-be-Rabbi father. He glanced at a number of crazy-looking album covers from bands such as CREAM, The Beatles, Neil Diamond, AC/DC, Meat Loaf, Blood, Sweat & Tears and much, much more. He pulled out a Creedance Clearwater Revival 'Live' album and turned on the record player. ‘Down on the Corner’ started to play.

We then ventured into the main living room of Jim and Cathy, the parents. The bed was crisp and adorned with nicely folded blankets and puffy pillows. It was a well-kept room. There was a huge assortment of Star of David’s aligning the wall. Also, there was portrait of Jesus. Seems odd  now, but at the time, not really.

Oh yeah, there was also a nice family portrait of the two parents and the two kids – all in their frizzy haired, 80’s looking glory. To be honest. The parent’s bedroom was a bit boring. And we really, honestly, didn’t open up any of their drawers. I swear.

Next was the pool room. And by pool, I mean billiards. Tony and his family had this bad-ass pool table, which was another sign of higher tax bracket through this 10-year old's mind.

My brother racked the mult-colored balls and we played a couple games. He won one. I won the other.

As my brother prepared to rack up a third, and possibly final, game - I caught myself glancing into the room of Tony's younger sister, Kristy.

That's when something caught my eye.

Were my eyes deceiving me?

Could it really be?

Was it the entire enchanted land of Strawberrry Shortcake flashing before my very eyes?

Intrigued, I walked into the pink room, complete with pretty princess hats and fairy wings and the like and examined the Strawberry Shortcake collection.

All of the action figures were there. (Please note: I like to say action figures because it sounds less gay than dolls) Huckleberry Pie. Blueberry Muffin. Raspberry Tart. Apple Dumplin’ not to mention the red-headed ringleader herself Strawberry Shortcake.

I remember overhearing a fellow female classmate talking to a friend in school about how each each character had a very unique smell.

Boy, was she was right.

As I whiffed each figure, the fruity, heavenly aromas filled my nostrils. Blueberries. Apples. Raspberry. Even Huckleberry Pie seemed like the perfect smell, even though I'd never smelled Huckleberry Pie before.

Now, a lot of people are going to read this post and think I’m a bit fruity (pun intended) for smelling the heads of Strawberry Shortcake dolls. However, my best defense is that at age 10, I was a true toy aficionado. Not just of boys’ toys, but girls’ toys too.

Heck, when I was on my random toy browsing adventures at our local department stores, I would always make a point to venture down the pink-laden girl’s aisle just to see what all my counterparts were playing with.

Know your enemy they say.

Truth be told, most of the girl’s toys were very feminine. But, a handful of the girl’s toys were pretty cool as well. Holly Hobby, The EZ Bake Oven and Little Kitty come to the top of my mind. I would put Strawberry Shortcake at pretty girly girl fare. Except, of course, for one key character that I’ll reveal in three sentences.

“C’mon, man. It’s your shot,” my brother shrieked in his very annoying voice from the pool room.

Scared of being caught, I threw the Shortcake dolls onto the floor and went to take my turn.

That’s when I saw him.

There he was staring back at me on Kristy's bed.

The mother lode of Strawberry Shortcake land figures.

One of the meanest nastiest villains in cartoon lore.

The Peculiar Purple Pie Man of Porcupine Peak.

Or Purple Pie Man for short.

Like an addict finding a vial of his choice drug, I quickly snagged the Purple Pie fellow.

“Are you coming or not?” my brother yelled again.

“I’ll be right back,” I screamed. “I, uh, have to go to the bathroom.”

“You have to go home to go to the restroom?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Why don’t you just go here?”

“I just. I just can’t,” I screamed as I bolted out of our neighbor’s front door, back to my house, opened the door to my room, tossed Kristy’s Purple Pie Man into my lair of toys and high-tailed back to my very important game of billiards.

As we played a couple more games of pool, the only thing on my mind was the Purple Pie Man and the serious toy battles that were going take place during that hot and balmy summer afternoon.

After lunch, I excused myself from my bologna and ketchup sandwich and headed straight to my room. My brother was in a cartoon coma viewing a couple repeat episodes of Tom and Jerry not to mention the Mighty Mouse cartoons.

I would be safe for at least an hour.

I closed the door, pulled out my Masters of the Universe characters and discreetly tossed the Purple Pie Man into the fray.

Time zoomed by as the Purple Pie Man joined forces with Skeletor to vanquish He-Man and his precious sidekick Man at Arms.

Purple Pie Man then enslaved Teela. Had I been older, I would’ve used my imagination a bit more in the 'enslaved' department, but c’est la vie. She was simply enslaved.

The Purple Dictator pulled a Judas and proceeded to stab Skeletor in the back, take his part of the Sword of Power and toss him out of Castle Grayskull with He-Man and the rest of the crew.

Then, Purple Pie Man convinced Beast-Man and Merman to stay aboard and laid out his shrewd plans for Master of the Universe immortality and world domination.

But, first he needed to get He-Man’s sword.

However, outside the castle, Skeletor and He-Man were cooking up their own plans. With a very angry Man-At-Arms and hungry-for-battle Stratos and Zodac, the newly titled League of Destruction slipped through a secret entrance in Castle Grayskull, easily killed Beast Man and Merman, freed Teela from her shackles and proceeded to defeat the Purple Pie Man and claim victory for…

“Hey there, little girl.”

I looked up and it was my brother standing in the doorway with two of his buddies.

One of the guys walked over and snatched Purple Pie Man from my grasp. He smelled the top of Purple Pie Man’s head and started to laugh.

“You playing with little girl toys?” Buddy #1 said.

“Yeah, girl toys,” said Buddy #2.

“No,” I huffed. “It’s only Purple Pie Man. It’s not like I’m playing with Strawberry Shortcake, Apple Dumplin and Blueberry Muffin, or something.”

“Ha! Ha! He knows their names,” said Buddy #2.

“Well, since you know their names, you know what that makes you?” Buddy #1 asked.

I shyly shrugged.

“A LITTLE SISSY GIRL!” they all yelled in unison and continued to verbally slash me with their venomous tongues.

After about 15 minutes of catcalls, whistles and attacks on my manlihood. The crew finally got bored and left the room.

I cursed Purple Pie Man who lay there in a heap in front of me like an abused stepchild.

Defeated, I grabbed the keys from my mom’s purse, walked over to my neighbor’s house and placed Purple Pie Man atop his throne on Kristy’s bed where he would sit for the rest of the month overlooking the land of StrawberryVille (or whatever it’s called).

As evil as he may be, the Pie Man would forever be a fixture in the land of Strawberry Shortcake. He would never fraternize with my toys ever again.

But, for that one hour, for a fantastical 60 minutes, The Peculiar Purple Pie Man of Porcupine Peak was a true evil Master of the Universe in my world.

Bravo, Pie Man. Bravo.

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