My collection of oddities includes many ratty dolls from the 1980s. Only a few are kept on permanent display; the rest live in bins and bags, too cute to throw away, but too filthy to waste shelves on.
The five featured below have been trapped out of sight for years, to the point where I’d forgotten I even owned them. To make amends, I’m giving them a whole Dino Drac article. I wish that sort of mea culpa got me out of trouble with real people and not just stuffed caterpillars, but this is the world we live in.
Teddy Ruxpin (1985)
Y’all remember Teddy Ruxpin, right? The talking teddy bear who was ostensibly built to read stories via audio cassette, even if most people just wanted to make him sing Sussudio? That guy. He was a very big deal in the mid ‘80s, with technology that seems quaint now, but felt sooo futuristic at the time.
Grubby was Teddy’s best friend — a giant caterpillar who looked like he should’ve played bass at Chuck E. Cheese’s. While Grubby “talked” much like his pal, he only worked when plugged directly into him. So yeah, despite the fact that a giant talking caterpillar was a hundred times cooler than a small talking bear, kids had no reason to ask for Grubby until someone got them Teddy Ruxpin. Shame!
(I found Grubby at a church flea market several years ago, tucked into an old playroom that was finally being cleaned out. The five dollar asking price was a steal, even if paying it meant that I had to carry a giant caterpillar across a busy church basement while everyone tried to spot a “666” birthmark in my hairline.)
My Monster Pet (1986)
The similarities are no coincidence. Wogster was indeed part of the My Pet Monster collection — specifically the My Monster Pet sub-branch, where AmToy took visual cues from My Pet Monster, but applied them to smaller and more puppy-like creatures.
I hardly ever see the My Monster Pet dolls referenced online, so I’ll go ahead and guess that many of you had no idea that they existed. Well, it’s true! Now you have even more things to put on your eBay watch list. You’re getting out of control.
These smaller devils weren’t nearly as cool as My Pet Monster, but they still hit the same bullets: Neon fur, big plastic teeth, and noses that looked vaguely like parasitic snails.
Wogster doubles as a puppet, too. Once you get your fingers in there, you’re free to make him snap his jaws while you supply the synced-up growls. It’s exactly as fun as it sounds.
Pound Puppies (1985)
The Pound Puppies brand has been resurrected again and again, like the dog toy version of Beric Dondarrion. For all I know, Tonka is still making some version of the things.
The one shown here is a first edition, and man, Pound Puppies were hot shit at the time. This was a rare “doll brand” that was totally unisex, and free of the social asterisks that so often kept children from specifying which toys they really wanted. That’s the long way of saying, “none of the other boys called me Mattia for owning a Pound Puppy.”
Tonka drew some inspiration from Coleco’s Cabbage Patch Kids, treating Pound Puppies less like toys and more like living things. You were meant to adopt and care for them, and that was a huge part of the draw. (It was also an excuse to finally buy a squeaking rubber lamb chop from the pet store, because you secretly would’ve killed for one.)
“Cocoa” is not this doll’s official name, because Pound Puppies generally didn’t have them. That part was up to us. There was no quicker way to form a bond with an inanimate object than by naming it “Doggawoof” or “Mr. Fur.”
I loved this line! You might’ve, too, even if you’ve spent the last several decades wondering if you only imagined it. Thanks to Lots-a-Lots-a-Leggggggs’ silly title, they were only until recently very hard to locate online. (Google’s gotten better about correcting search terms, but years ago, you kinda needed to know the exact spelling to find these guys.)
Lots-a-Lots-a-Leggggggs was a charming line of neon centipedes, each wearing many pairs of fake Converses. Some were smaller than this, but there was also a super huge version that was more than twice Pinky’s length, with something like 30 legs in all.
It’s a decidedly obscure line, but believe it or not, Lots-a-Lots-a-Leggggggs somehow managed to snag an appearance at an old Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Not with a dedicated balloon or float, of course, but with one random centipede strolling down 5th Avenue like an extra weird version of a Chinese parade dragon.)
Fun fact: If you’re around my age and you spent a lot of time in casino arcades as a kid, you might remember the many bootleg Lots-a-Lots-a-Leggggggs dolls that were once offered as prizes. The cool thing about those is that they were often enormous — like literally seven or eight feet long! I never won one of them, because you basically had to play skee-ball for ten straight years if you had any chance of racking up the required amount of points.
Coleco ALF Collection (1986)
I received Coleco’s ALF doll for Christmas in 1986, and it wasn’t by chance. I begged for this thing harder than I can remember begging for anything else, really and truly believing that me not getting ALF was tantamount to an extinction event. Since the alien cost half as much as things I wanted far less, my mother was only happy to oblige.
To this day, I can’t think of a Christmas present that meant more to me. This dumb doll was my Red Ryder BB gun.
The ALF TV show was the hottest thing going at the time, or at least, that’s how it seemed to a seven-year-old. Back then, I thought ALF was both the coolest and funniest character in the history of everything. I hung on his every word and adopted his every mannerism. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.
So no, this wasn’t one of those dolls that I merely wanted to “hug” or “adopt.” Getting ALF meant getting a friend. A plush, lifeless friend, but one who nonetheless merited a seat at the dinner table. If I close my eyes and tune out the rest of the world, I can still hear my late father:
“Don’t waste corn on the cob on that thing, what the fuck is wrong with you?!”
Thanks for reading about five ratty dolls.
PS: In my latest piece for DealNews, I’m naming ten of the best and weirdest Ghostbusters collectibles currently on eBay. Enjoy!