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Pop Music | Bonus Track

When the Stars Get All Dolled Up

August 20, 2000|GEOFF BOUCHER | Geoff Boucher is a Times staff writer

"The highest achievement you could ever get." That's how John Lennon answered an interviewer in 1965 when asked how it felt to have his likeness used for mop-topped dolls that ended up on bed stands across America. Turns out plastics were the future for a lot of pop stars through the years, but none more than today, with an ever-growing collector's market. A look at the new pop toy story:

BRITNEY VERSUS CHRISTINA: Forget their competition for the best new artist Grammy. The toy shelf is where Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera are duking it out. Each singer is available as a Barbie-sized doll (they can all swap clothes that way) for $37.50. Why the steep price? Because these midriff-baring dolls sing their hits when you press their belly buttons. "Britney sells better," says Darren Erickson, a Long Beach merchant. Yeah, well, Christina will settle for that Grammy.

TOYS BY THE GROSS: Metal heroes are big business as gruesome toys. Alice Cooper is the latest, joining Rob Zombie, KISS and Ozzy Osbourne. Alice comes with a guillotine, decapitated head and generous blood splatters. And you thought your old Donny Osmond doll was scary.

OLD SCHOOL: It seems people will still be loving Beatles dolls when Paul McCartney is 64. The four were back on the shelf last year in their cartoon personas from "Yellow Submarine," and they return in October in Sgt. Pepper's gear. A new Elvis Presley doll arrives every few months, and last year the Barbie people boxed her up in a special package with Frank Sinatra (she was a bobby-soxer, he was young and skinny). Some other old faves soon headed to toyland: Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia and Spinal Tap. Honest.

PLAY MONEY: Beatles dolls from the '60s fetch big money now, so will today's 'N Sync figures help put your kids through college? It's a gambler's game--those once-hot Spice Girls dolls are now discounted and still sell like typewriters. "It's a nostalgia market, people want what they had when they were kids, so typically it takes 15 years to achieve value," says Thomas E. Tumbush, publisher of Action Figure Digest. "But you know what? In 100 years it won't be worth anything because no one will know who 'N Sync was. I know that's hard to believe." A world with no 'N Sync? He must be toying with us.

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