WASHINGTON — Sales of Oliver North video tapes, T-shirts and dolls fell far short of vendors' expectations, and they are either hoping for a resurgence in popularity if there is legal action, or they are trying to unload their merchandise and cut their losses.
John Lee Hudson and Shana Hudson, who have a business firm in San Francisco, said they lost $20,000 to $50,000 manufacturing Oliver North dolls, hoping to sell at least 450,000 of them at $19.95 each.
"Basically, we took the Ken and Barbie type doll and put an Oliver North head and uniform on him in two factories in Korea," John Lee Hudson said. "We needed 20,000 orders to service our clients but we only got about 230 orders."
Hudson, who is refunding everyone's money, said he made a mistake in thinking that people were so drawn to the hearings because of unquestioning love of North.
"People felt sorry for the soldier North, but when it came down to buying a doll they basically said, 'We are not going to buy an image of someone who has disrespect for the Constitution,' " Hudson said.
If North were to enjoy a resurgence of popularity, Hudson said he is ready to jump right back in the North doll market, "and I'll make his wife, too, a Betsy doll."
Hudson is now considering making Jesse Jackson and Mikhail Gorbachev dolls so that children can enjoy "the transcendental experience of playing with a leader."
MPI Video of Chicago made similar over-estimations of the sales of their videocassette, "Oliver North: Memo to History," selected excerpts of hearing testimony for $19.95. Of 102,000 tapes, "about 50,000" have been bought by the public, mostly in Washington, said MPI spokesman Jaffer Ali.
"It did well in socially backward places, in parts of Arizona, North Carolina and in Sacramento," he said. "It did not do well in the South. That is surprising."
Part of the problem, Ali said, was that tapes made from real news events "are a whole new genre. We're releasing another one in November, the two-hour confession of Bernhard Goetz," the New York City subway gunman.