Ah, Halloween. Time for hobgoblins and haunted houses and black cats. And erasers.
Erasers? Well, for eraser king Murray Garrett of Chatsworth, Oct. 31 is when business is really up to scratch. Scares about poisoned candy and apples with razor blades inside have boosted sales of Halloween-theme erasers to about $17 million annually. "Absolutely incredible, beyond our wildest imagination," says Garrett, whose Diener Industries makes pumpkin erasers and jack 'o lantern erasers and monster and cat and witch erasers.
Garrett was a photojournalist covering Hollywood stars until 1973, when he decided that "at 47, wearing bifocals and trifocals, I could no longer compete. I couldn't jump up and down, get out of the way. It was time, as it is with athletes, to move on."
He moved on to advertising and marketing, and Diener became a client. Something extraordinary had happened to the company, which had started out making small novelty toys. Walt Disney had called William Diener to ask why thousands of souvenir pencils stocked at the park weren't selling. As Garrett tells it, Diener told Disney they were overpriced and suggested, "Why don't you make erasers out of Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Minnie Mouse. . . ."
With the erasers on top, the pencils quickly sold out. And, Garrett says, "It became apparent that the future was in the eraser business." When Diener retired in 1982, Garrett took over, expanding into theme erasers--Halloween (the biggest), Christmas, Easter and, for Valentine's Day, pink or red hearts.
Diener still makes small toys--last year, Garrett notes, "there were 12 million of our dinosaurs inserted inside General Foods cereal boxes"--but Garrett is bullish on erasers. In 33 years, he says, the company has sold "in excess of 2 billion. It's a nonsense business."
On Jan. 9 there will be a retrospective show of Garrett's Hollywood photos at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. That's nice, he says, but "let me tell you, at 62 I'm happier and having more fun than I ever had in my whole life covering Hollywood."
Amnesty Establishes Memorial in Activist's Name
Ann Dollard's friends remember her as a committed activist, a warm and caring person who gave selflessly to causes about which she cared deeply--the homeless, United Farm Workers, nuclear disarmament, those who were being denied human rights.
Now, Amnesty International is establishing a living memorial to honor Dollard, who died in July at the age of 32 after suffering massive head injuries in a fall from a horse. Creation of a fund in her name will be announced by Amnesty International at a reception Thursday at the offices of Leading Artists, where she was an agent.
The permanent endowment was seeded by $5,000 sent by family and friends in lieu of flowers, a response that, Amnesty International regional director David Hinkley says, "showed the intensity of feeling that people had for her." The Ann Dollard Memorial Fund is earmarked for the organization's Urgent Action program, which through a network of supporters worldwide can elicit a blitz of letters and telegrams on behalf of a political prisoner.
Dollard, whose clients included Danny Huston, had been an Amnesty volunteer for six years, focusing on the plight of creative people--actors, writers, artists--being persecuted by repressive regimes. Last February, she had turned out a number of Hollywood actors, writers and directors for a press conference called by Amnesty in support of theater people on a death list in Chile.
Said Hinkley: "That was just one of many, many times when she came to our assistance to get powerful voices from Hollywood to join ordinary people in our appeals." (He reports that none of the death threats against the Chileans was carried out.) "She was always there for us."
Ice Follies Skaters Host Reunion
Their silver skates may be on the shelf now, but their memories will never grow cold. On Oct. 21-23 the X-Ice Folliettes, a group of Southland women who once skated with the now-defunct Ice Follies--some of them in the 1930's--will host a reunion at the Hyatt Regency in Long Beach.
"The girls--question mark--who were in the show get together once a month," president Diola Snell explains, just as they have for 40 years. "Now there's just 13 of us. We all struggled and suffered and had fun. That's what keeps everybody together."
Snell, who grew up in Canada, joined in 1939. "We were all kids," she said. "You left home and this is what you did. It was very much like a family." Snell was for several years, until she left to be married, "one of the line girls," skating the swing waltz in Helen Rose-designed "fantasy costumes, very fluffy and adorable."
(As for the high-cut numbers worn by today's show skaters, well, Snell said, they'd be prettier "with a little bit of chiffon" judiciously placed. And she could live with a little less "dancing around on their toes, jumping around. . . .")
Former Ice Follies girls from throughout the country are expected at the reunion, as well as some couples who met and married while performing with the show. A special guest will be octogenarian Eddie Shipstead, who with his late brother, Roy, and Oscar Johnson started Ice Follies and starred in the show for many years.
Snell, who now lives in the Hollywood Hills, later became a dancer, but neither skates nor dances these days--"I grow orchids now," she said.