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AROUND TOWN / BEVERLY BEYETTE

It's Huggable and It Looks Like You

June 03, 1993|BEVERLY BEYETTE

There are Barbie dolls and baby dolls and paper dolls. And now, living dolls.

Give Marion Forrest a week, about $130 and a full-face photo of a loved one and she'll give you a 20-inch doll to cuddle up with. Her dolls don't walk, talk, wet or cry. They just sit there, looking like that special someone.

In her Beverly Hills apartment--which also is corporate headquarters of "I'm Just a Living Doll"--Forrest picks up a headless form in green golf togs. It's a work-in-progress, soon to be a gift for a well-known comedian.

What once was a dining room has been taken over by sewing machines, a heat press, giant bags of Dacron stuffing, tiny wigs, doll-sized caps and bonnets and assorted buttons, shells and feathers.

"Here's my legs," Forrest says, picking up a limp little cotton limb from a stack. "I sit in bed and stuff them while I'm watching TV. I put a little knot in the knee so I'll have a knobby knee."

Forrest isn't exactly a born doll-maker. Growing up with her brother Bill, on a New Jersey chicken farm in the '30s, she was more of a tree-climber. Well, she did have a favorite stuffed panda. . . .

"I'm Just a Living Doll" was born, at least in her mind, about two years ago when her mother sent some old photos of the two kids on the farm. Memories came rushing back: "I thought, 'Oh, I wish I could hug these pictures. . . . ' "

Then inspiration struck. This, after all, is the woman who, while selling real estate in the recession of the mid-'80s, hit upon the idea of a miniature paper Rodeo Drive mansion, with a mini-deed and a packet of genuine Beverly Hills dirt inside. She sold 250,000.

Last December, Forrest persuaded a Rodeo Drive shop to place her first living dolls (of her grandchildren) under its Christmas tree. The display caught the eye of Bijan, the tony clothier, who ordered one of his daughter in a Yule sweater. Forrest was in business.

A few months later, she was breakfasting at Nate-N-Al's when one of her dolls was spotted by hairstylist Gene Shacove, who asked to borrow the doll. His friend Hugh Hefner, a man who has everything, had a 67th birthday coming up. . . .

Hef's wife Kimberley ordered four as a surprise--one of Hef, herself and sons Marston and Cooper. Ex-Playmate Kimberley is chic in a tuxedo shirt with silver bunny cuff links and slim tan pants. Hef is, of course, in purple pajamas. Says Forrest: "They actually sent me a pair of his pajamas to cut up."

To create a custom "living doll," Forrest first enlarges the subject's photo, then uses heat to transfer it onto fabric. "I put the face on first and then I build the body." She asks clients for the person's favorite colors and selects a costume.

In a room off her kitchen are shelves of shoes--Mary Janes, saddles, sneakers, in children's sizes 1 and 2--and stacks of little striped T-shirts. She makes much of the clothing, but buys stockings from doll supply houses and sometimes picks up items for newborns.

Forrest isn't really into the frilly Shirley Temple stuff, reasoning, "Children now are all dressed in Gap-type clothes and Oshkosh." With standard wardrobe, a living doll is $129.95. Designer knits add $20.

More celebrity dolls may be in Forrest's future. She's been in contact with the James Dean estate but hasn't found that just-right photo: "He's always got a cigarette dangling from his mouth or he's looking to the side."

Still a Politician at Hart

On a recent Wednesday evening, about 40 people showed up at Vroman's bookstore in Pasadena to meet Gary Hart, who as a Presidential hopeful in 1984 attracted more attention than he might have wished.

Some have speculated that, had it not been for Hart and his campaign-derailing sexual misadventures with Donna Rice, America might not have been ready for Bill Clinton.

"If that's true," Hart said, if he paved the way, "I'll go to my grave a happy man."

It was a youngish crowd that came out to see Hart, one or two having dug out their Hart for President buttons. Trim and dapper in a navy blue suit, a copy of his new book, "The Good Fight," tucked under one arm, he stood in front of a display of Furry Folk Puppets and talked politics.

Hart on Hart: "I was a very poor politician in many ways."

Hart on Clinton and his efforts at reform: "There is the distinct possibility that Bill Clinton could turn out to be an historic and important one-term President." Reformers "never succeed in their lifetimes."

Hart on the Perot phenomenon: "It's very profound . . . I think people have come to the point where they're saying, 'Enough of this bickering . . . we want solutions." If Clinton fails, "I think their will be a third party in America."

What the Perot movement lacks, Hart suggested, is "a really charismatic leader somewhere between a Theodore Roosevelt and a Robert Kennedy . . . and a Thomas Jefferson, who can write it all down."

Like a good politician, Hart patiently signed books for all comers, admonishing youngsters who came with their parents, "Don't stay up too late" and thanking one and all for coming down.

And, he wanted to know, "Who's going to win the mayor's race?"

Overheard

Comedian/songwriter/pianist/author and original Tonight show host Steve Allen chatting with Freddie Johnson of KPCC's Classic American Music show about today's young pop composers and arrangers:

"If you put the question to them directly, 'Do you think you're as good a songwriter as George Gershwin or Jerome Kern?' they'll say, 'Oh, God, no, of course not. What a ridiculous question.'

'It's like saying about today's President, 'Are you as good as Abraham Lincoln?' "

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