When it comes to contests, Lady Luck has smiled a lot on Barbara Howard, grandmother of 13, retired factory worker and inveterate contest participant from Richmond, Ky. Her recent winnings include diamond earrings, a go-cart and a washing machine.
But cowabunga! Previous prizes pale beside the jackpot Howard won in mid-December: a full-sized, living-color replica of the house Bart Simpson and his animated, television sitcom family call home.
Just like the TV version, the 2,200-square-foot house has four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a pair of bay windows in front, plus a treehouse and a barbecue in back. Only trouble is, it's in Henderson, Nev., near Las Vegas but far from the 260-acre farm where Howard's husband, J.B., raises cows, ostriches and tobacco.
"Honey, I'd give my eyeteeth to pick up and move there, but my family being in the shape it's in, I can't," Howard said after flying west just before Christmas to inspect the house. It was first prize in a promotion sponsored by Fox Broadcasting, Pepsi-Cola and California-based home builder Kaufman & Broad.
The object of her desire is orange, yellow and tomato-red stucco outside with high-octane colors such as Pink Flamingo, Wild Carnation and Generator Green inside. The palette is a precise match of the cartoon's, and so is the decor, right down to Homer's "Duff" beer cans, Marge's corncob kitchen curtains and the faux peanut butter and jelly sandwich under Bart's perpetually unmade bed.
There's even food for the cat, Snowball II. "We picked the marshmallows that matched our color scheme out of a box of Lucky Charms and lacquered them together," said the decorator, Rick Floyd. A Hollywood set designer, Floyd made or found the more than 2,000 Simpson knickknacks that give the house its verisimilitude.
The TV with the crooked antenna and the dinette set, he said, were finds from Out of the Closet, an L.A. thrift shop.
What about Homer's purple car?
"A woman drove it past us in Las Vegas, and my assistant and I drove after her honking our horn until she pulled over. She sold it to us for $700," Floyd said.
"The idea was to create a setting that anyone who watches the Simpsons would recognize," said Manny Gonzalez, project architect for Kaufman & Broad.
Yes, but is it--ummm--a normal house?
"Let's say it's 90% normal," Gonzalez said. "It will be after the outside gets repainted." Eventually, the house will be given the same subdued sand color as its neighbors. Whoever moves in may also want carpeting. According to Gonzalez, the "floor upstairs is sanded-down plywood that's been painted, and the ground floor is concrete."
Howard likes it just the way it is--but not necessarily to live in. She's perfectly happy with her own 60-year-old gray vinyl-sided farmhouse with two porches, "soft off-white carpeting" and cabbage rose wallpaper in the living room.
"What I'd really like," she said in a telephone interview, "is to have Kaufman & Broad build me the house just like it is with everything in it, right here . . . . I'd give anything to have it here and have people go through and pay a small fee that would go to the cancer fund. My brother has cancer," she said.
A publicist for Kaufman & Broad said, "The conditions of the contest are to take the house or $75,000."
Alas, even if building it on her home turf in Bluegrass Country were an option, Howard--who is taking the cash, Fox says--would almost certainly be disappointed. Furnishings do not convey. Not even Bart's dartboard or the poster of his idol, Krusty the Clown.