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PLAYTHINGS : Hasta la Vista, Barbie

March 21, 1993|Rogier van Bakel

A lot of women have a love/hate relationship with Barbie. But Judy Rogers has it worse than most. Put a Barbie doll into her hands and she's likely to try to rip it apart--bend its knees thousands of times, set it on fire, even hurl the poor thing against the wall.

But it's not a feminist rage against Barbie's impossible measurements and vacuous smile; Rogers is just doing her job. She's a doll specialist in Mattel's quality and safety engineering department. At the company's El Segundo headquarters, she and her colleagues mercilessly batter samples of new Barbies and other dolls to see if they could survive a little girl with a particularly bad temper.

But when she gets home, Rogers, 49, privately cherishes what she professionally tortures. The rooms in her house are populated by thousands of dolls--some worth thousands of dollars. More than 2,000 of them are Barbies, all sporting different 'dos and fabulous evening gowns, office attire, sport outfits and swimsuits. Her shelves are packed with everything from Barbie's handbags to a spa to a Barbie-mobile--a pink Ferrari.

Rogers has been collecting Barbie for 10 years and destroying her for 19, since she began at Mattel. "It's all in a day's work. I don't feel funny when I'm pulling out her little arms and legs. But at home," she says, "she becomes beautiful."

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