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Hot Hula-Hoops

September 29, 1988

Hula-Hoops, those wacky plastic rings that millions of Americans swung around their hips and waists a quarter-century ago, are coming 'round again.

Part toy, part fad and definitely all pop culture, the Hula-Hoop today is embraced by kids and aerobics-minded Baby Boomers who remember the craze from the early 1960s.

"I try to Hula-Hoop for 15 minutes each day," says Eve Diamond, a 34-year-old Encinoite who'd hula'd as a child. These days, she hopes that her lavender-striped Hula-Hoop will help to melt the inches from her waist.

The Wham-O division of Kransco Manufacturing, the San Gabriel firm that makes Hula-Hoops, says sales doubled last year, to 2 million. That's the best performance since 1958, when the country was swept by the Hula-Hoop craze and 25 million of the lightweight rings were snapped up at $1.98 each. Today's model retails for about $5 and comes in yuppie pastel shades. Hula-Hoops sail out of Toys R Us in Woodland Hills at the rate of about 20 a day, says sales clerk Bob Lawson.

Some parents embrace the hoop because it's cheap and simple, a welcome change from computer-operated toy cars and video games. Some adults say it reminds them of their Wonder Years while providing a low-impact way to exercise.

The hoop is also twirling back into the public eye via the media: A Hula-Hooper has been featured on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" three times in the last two years, and in breakfast cereal and soft drink ads. And, because of the interest, Wham-O says it is bringing back its national Hula-Hoop championship, maybe later this year.

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