Category Archives: Politically Incorrect Products

Holy Presidential Beef Jerky, Batman! The Best Political Gifts of 2012… (And The Best One for Me)

2012 GOP Presidential Candidates Channel the 1966 Batman Villains -- a masterpiece by artist Jon Stich (Click here to see more of Jon's work)

2012 GOP Presidential Candidates Channel the 1966 Batman Villains — a masterpiece by artist Jon Stich (Click here to see more of Jon’s work)

This Jon Stich original painting is selling for $700 and it would be living over my mantle tomorrow if I had that kind of disposable income. Personally, I think the artwork is worth at least 10 times that.  Look at the perfect match-ups between Batman’s mortal enemies and Barack Obama’s top archnemesises (what is the plural of “archnemesis?”)

In an interview for The Hill, D.C.’s Congressional newspaper, Stich told me he assigned the 1966 Batman villains Republican alter-egos based on facial characteristics and not personalities. He said he would have given the same treatment to Democrats if this had been an election year for them.

This masterpiece is the top pick in my 2012 Political Gift Guide, which you can read below. Limited edition prints are far more affordable at $15 a pop. Check out the rest of your wondrous Christmas and Chanukah options here:

The 2012 Political Gag Gift Guide -- Part One (Double click to enlarge)

The 2012 Political Gag Gift Guide — Part One (Double click to enlarge)

**

The 2012 Political Gag Gift Guide -- Part Two (Double click to enlarge)

The 2012 Political Gag Gift Guide — Part Two (Double click to enlarge)

Inspired to do some shopping?  The links to buy are below. Please note that I am not affiliated with any of these companies and share their kitschiness only out of a pure love for the genre.

WHERE TO BUY (Double Click for Instant Gratification)
1. Gotham City GOP Painting
2. Republican Lady Fashion Dolls
3. Barack Obama Meathead Mosaic
4. Political Puppet Hecklers
5. Wall Street Victim Figurines
6. PEZidents – Presidential PEZ Dispensers
7. Joe Biden Laser-Etched Earrings
8. Pooping Commander-in-Chief

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Filed under 1966 Batman References, Election 2012, Politically Incorrect Products, Why Can't I Be President?

Rock’em Sock’em Robots — Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney Edition

POLITICAL SLUGFEST: Forget about the ballot box. We can now settle the 2012 presidential election like men!

No one leaves the political ring without a black eye, right?

Toymaker and political rabblerouser Emil Vicale, founder of Herobuilders, just released a 2012 Presidential Election version of Rock’em Sock’em Robots — that classic 1960s mechanical boxing game that will make your thumbs more sore than any video game joystick.

Vicale is selling just the Mitt Romney and Barack Obama robot heads (with surgery instructions for decapitating the old heads and reattaching the new ones) for $39.95 — or the entire assembled set for $99.

BUT WAIT, doesn’t Mattel own the rights to Rock’em Sock’em Robots?  Absolutely.

Vicale maintains that anyone has the right to buy an existing product, customize it and then sell it on the secondary market. For example, you could buy a brand new Camaro, trick out the suspension, add funky hubcaps and paint the whole thing hot pink and resell it as a Hot Pink Camaro.

Herobuilders had an ugly battle with the PEZ Company a few years back over the same issue when they put their original Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani heads on top of regular PEZ dispensers. PEZ lawyers (candy does NOT come out of their necks) aggressively went after Vicale and he created his own dispenser device called  “Head Candy.”

The PEZ rivals, which actually are loaded with Sprees or Mentos, come with muscular male or buxom female body attachments (superhero and corporate themes).

But back to the boxing “Romneybots” and “Obamabots.”

A new way to teach kids about the reality of politics? The Herobuilders kit to modify your existing Rock’em Sock’em Robots retails for $39.95.

In an exclusive interview with The Hill (modest confession: I was first to break the Obamabot story), Vicale reveals that he is NOT parodying the Washington pundits’ universal characterization of Romney as a robot. He had been planning a McCain-Obama Rock’em Sock’em set in 2008, but his idea came too late in the election season to market it.

The Hill story also shares some fascinating behind-the-scenes debates over toy design:

“Both the Romneybot and Obamabot heads are portrayed in their natural skin tones and not the corresponding Republican red and Democratic blue. Vicale said the prototype heads looked too creepy in primary colors, making Romney seem like the Devil and Obama an alien from the movie ‘Avatar.’”

FATHER-DAUGHTER BONDING: Nothing promotes family togetherness like old-fashioned political mudslinging (or fisticuffs). Toymaker Emil Vicale enjoys his Obama and Romney robots with his 8-year-old girl.

If you’re a fan of political novelty toys and souvenirs, then Vicale is no stranger. He’s also the brainchild behind the Mitt Romney Etch a Sketch doll, the Newt Gingrich action figure (everyone wants one!) and a Barbie-like incarnation of U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).

Not too early to start your Christmas shopping!

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Filed under Election 2012, Guys Who Play With Dolls, Political Satire, Politically Incorrect Products, politics, Tacky Souvenirs, The Hill, White Collar Boxing

Welcome to the Dollhouse, Senator

Trading in Barbie's Dreamhouse for Capitol Hill: Does Sen. Kelly Ayotte merit her own doll yet? (New Hampshire Magazine cartoon by Brad Fitzpatrick).

Politicians are known for skirting the issues, but here’s a bizarre case of a Senator scared to comment on a skirt.

An itsy-bitsy Barbie-sized skirt that — so far — carries no scandals.

To be fair, it was the staff of U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) that is running away from her new action figure and my questions about the appropriateness/eeriness of Republican groupies dressing the toy in provocative outfits.  For all I know, the Senator herself might roll her eyes or smirk at the surreality of it all.

But as I wrote in this month’s New Hampshire Magazine, the Herobuilders toy company has done the Ayotte staff a HUGE favor. If I were an Ayotte event planner, I’d want to know who my doll-fetish constituents were — and be very careful about where I sat them at the next fundraising dinner.

(As an aside, I remain a huge fan of illustrator Brad Fitzpatrick, who also did the cartoon for my piranha pedicure column in NH Magazine.)

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Filed under Election 2012, Political Satire, Politically Incorrect Products, politics

Trading Card of the Week: Hafez Assad

I'll trade you two Albert Pujols and a Saddam Hussein for Hafez Assad and a Dictator to Be Named Later.

Card #187 from the 1991 Topps Desert Storm series.

Kids don’t stick trading cards in their bicycle spokes anymore. Heck, do kids even get off their rear ends and ride bikes these days?

I can’t imagine that this Hafez Assad card was that popular on the playground. If you think that Bashar Assad is now being an unreasonable man, his daddy was not the posterboy for Amnesty International either.

Yet, Topps makes Hafez sound like a harmless old man who just yells at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn. Here’s the inscription on the back of his rookie card:

“The President of Syria, Hafez Assad played an important role in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. As the leader of a radical Arab nation and Iraq’s neighbor, the Allied coalition was happy to have Syria’s cooperation and help. However, Hafez Assad always made it clear that Syria’s cooperation hinged on the issue of Israel not becoming involved in the conflict. With this in mind, Assad still contributed troops and arms toward liberating Kuwait from his old rival Saddam Hussein.”

I’m sure the people of Kuwait remain SO grateful for the three armored snack trucks that Syria sent to the front lines.

And as for Israel “not becoming involved in the conflict,” I can tell you first hand that they got involved.

(If you like to collect more risque Middle East artifacts than trading cards, check out “The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie.”)

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Yanking Yasser: Evicting wax terrorists is a slippery museum slope

Reality Check: Most visitors to New York's Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum would rather fondle Jessica Simpson's tush than caress Yasser Arafat's beard.

Reality Check: Most visitors to New York's Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum would rather fondle Jessica Simpson's tush than caress Yasser Arafat's beard.

CULTURE SCHLOCK — By Darren Garnick
The Telegraph

Originally published: June 1, 2001
**
In perhaps the most ludicrous government act since the Nashua City Council outlawed back-to-back yard sales a few years ago, the New York state legislature is exploring the possible eviction of a wax Yasser Arafat from the new Madame Tussaud’s museum in Times Square.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) and 50 of his fellow lawmakers called on the museum to give Yasser the boot solely because of his career choice: terrorism. The demands are largely symbolic because Madame Tussaud’s is a private business and could, if they wanted to, replace Tony Bennett with Ayatollah Khomeini as their official greeter.

Nonetheless, smelling good copy from the New York Post, Hikind and his supporters recently picketed the museum to pressure Gov. George Pataki to cancel a June 14th Republican Party fundraiser scheduled there. Pataki won’t give up his opportunity to charge $100,000 for stuffed mushrooms and cocktail franks. But the governor did say that he would party with non-terrorist wax figures to prove his opposition to evil and his support for goodness.

Here’s what apparently only Madame Tussaud’s understands: wax museums need villains to counterbalance the heroes. Including unsavory characters in these kinds of exhibits is vital. O.J. Simpson belongs in the mix. So does Tonya Harding. And Ivan Boesky. And every Russian leader (who died every two weeks) when Reagan was in power. Toss in the CEOs of tobacco companies.

I visited Madame Tussaud’s the weekend after Assemblyman Hikind’s protest. Well before I got to the world leaders room, I was offended. I was first outraged by the disproportionate representation of New York Yankees. Mickey Mantle… Joe DiMaggio… George Steinbrenner… disgusting. Not a Red Sox cap in the building. Then, there’s Woody Allen, a “comic genius” who gets away with sleeping with his stepdaughter because he made a few good flicks in the 60s and 70s. And perhaps the most offensive of all, Larry King, proof that the devil is swinging deals for journalist souls.

It’s instantly apparent that this wax museum, which attracts far more foreign tourists than Americans, has no interest in making political statements. Why bother rooting for one side, when you can herd bitter rival factions into the same gift shop? If there is any conspiracy, it was forged between the museum and Kodak. This is a Disneyland where the costumed characters don’t take lunch breaks or strike for health benefits.

Madame Tussaud’s is all about pictures.

Scene 1: An Italian visitor instructs his young son how to pose with supermodel Elle McPherson. The boy, whose height placed him at eye level with the wax figure’s chest, instinctively stretches his arm around Ms. McPherson’s shoulders. No good, says the father, shaking his head. He redirects his son’s hand, firmly pressing it on her behind and smiles. Perfect picture. A father-and-son bonding moment.

Scene 2: Indian man eyeing John Travolta. The tourist hands me his digital video camera, a model which no doubt is the most expensive on the market, and inexplicably asks me to record him for “six seconds.” Like Stallone in both the Rocky and Rambo movies, Mr. DigiCamera writes, directs and stars in his own films. “Hi there!” he says, waving at the camera. “I am here with my friend, John Travolta.” Cut. End of shot. No exploration of his fictitious relationship with Mr. Travolta. No references to Olivia Newton-John, Vinny Barbarino or the Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Imagination, unfortunately, does not come with the camera.

Scene 3: Museum visitor getting a little too intimate with jazz legend Louis Armstrong. Oblivious to everyone around him, the man is caressing Armstrong’s teeth. He does so for at least 15 seconds, an amount of time bordering on obsessive (disclaimer: I am not a licensed psychologist). The guards are looking the other way at Princess Diana, the only wax figure in the museum to be surrounded by fancy velvet ropes.

Yasser Arafat needs no bodyguards at Madame Tussaud’s. Most visitors walk right by him, preferring to be photographed with Pope John Paul II or Lady Di. The anti-Arafat crowd has nothing to fear and nothing to gain by his eviction. The wax Yasser is unloved. Nobody wants to fondle his scraggly beard or pinch his terrorist tush.

**
Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column appears every Friday in The Telegraph’s “Encore” magazine. Feedback and ideas are welcome via e-mail at cultureschlock (at) gmail.com.

Yasser Arafat's wax alter-ego is socially shunned by Fidel Castro's wax alter-ego at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in New York

Yasser Arafat's wax alter-ego is socially shunned by Fidel Castro's wax alter-ego at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in New York

RELATED LINKS
Culture Schlock Story: “Threatened by Wax?: Arafat deserves museum spot as much as the Penguin or the Riddler.”

BostonHerald.com“Shedding no tears over the wax Hitler beheading.”

Schlock Blog: “The Hezbollah Children’s Museum: A Cross-Cultural Study”

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Filed under Asinine Mideast Analogies, Darren's Archive Vault, Favorite Columns, Foreign Affairs, Middle East, Politically Incorrect Products, politics, Yasser Arafat wax statues

Saddam Yard Sale: Hussein secretary stole more than paper clips

The Once-in-a-Lifetime Saddam Yard Sale

The Once-in-a-Lifetime Saddam Yard Sale

CULTURE SCHLOCK – By Darren Garnick
The Telegraph
October 11, 2007

**
Saddam Hussein is now having a yard sale.

Yes, he’s thankfully dead so he can’t profit from any of the memorabilia from his tyrannical glory days.

And technically, the latest batch of Saddam stuff to hit the market is up for auction. But at the end of the day, there will be plenty of unsold trinkets that will be begging for a best offer.

Get a load of these prices:

— $150,000 – Saddam’s favorite diamond-encrusted Rolex watch that he wore to banquets, Arab summits and other social events.

— $12,000 – Fancy sliver cigarette box allegedly given to a teenage Saddam by his stepfather as a reward for killing his first human being.

— $12,000 – Saddam’s favorite pair of Christian Dior sunglasses, which shielded his eyes from the glare of the Iran-Iraq desert battlegrounds in the 1980s.

— $5,000 – Designer Cartier pen used by Saddam to sign the execution orders for 66 condemned members of his Ba’ath Party.

— $4,000 – Christian Dior necktie taken straight from Saddam’s tie rack (several available).

A bunch of miscellaneous items bound for the “Everything for $5” table include a Thai paperweight given to Saddam by an ambassador, a piece of granite from the original London Bridge, and a ceramic leopard that used to decorate the dictator’s “private recreation room.”

The sale is being conducted on-line by Haitham Rashid Wihaib, Saddam’s chief of protocol (essentially a glorified personal secretary) from 1980 to 1993. Wihaib, who defected to England a decade before Saddam’s capture in the spider hole, does not explain how he got his hands on his former boss’s personal stuff.

As he was fleeing Iraq, did he stick all those Christian Dior accessories under his shirt? How did he cram that ceramic wildcat into a suitcase – or was it an airline carry-on?

The auctioneer’s Web site bio claims his father was an “Iraqi general who was killed in a car accident orchestrated by Saddam.” If that was the case, why would the Iraqi dictator ever want to hire a traitor’s kid as a trusted aide?

Whatever the true origins of this Saddam memorabilia are, there are indications that the items are genuine. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark demanded that Wihaib return a royal Danish medal from Saddam’s collection to her country. The Knight’s Cross of the Order of Dannebrog is awarded for special service to Denmark, and is customarily returned upon the death of the recipient.

Wihaib, who has reportedly agreed to give the medal back, promises to donate 20 percent of his profits to needy Iraqi children, new hospital buildings and various other Iraqi war victim charities.

The other 80 percent goes to a charity named Haitham Rashid Wihaib.

If you’re upset about Wihaib getting rich off genocidal souvenirs, you may take modest comfort in the fact that his marketing timing stinks.

Quite frankly, Saddam Hussein is so 2006.

The buzz has migrated east to his nefarious archrival, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

I wonder if he’s been keeping an eye on his personal secretary lately.

**
Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column runs every Thursday in
Encore. Feedback is welcomed at cultureschlock (at) gmail.com.

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Filed under Asinine Mideast Analogies, Darren's Archive Vault, Middle East, Overpriced Souvenirs, Politically Incorrect Products, Tacky Souvenirs

Squeezing Saddam Hussein’s noose into lemonade

 Herobuilders.com CEO Emil Vicale serves up a platter of unfinished action figure heads including "Hero" Condoleezza Rice and "Villian" Osama bin Laden. Vicale doesn't release sales figures, but says the bad guys outsell the good guys by a huge margin.

Herobuilders.com CEO Emil Vicale serves up a platter of unfinished action figure heads including “hero” Condi Rice and “villain” Osama bin Laden. Vicale doesn’t release sales figures, but says the bad guys outsell the good guys by a huge margin. (Image courtesy of Emil Vicale)

THE WORKING STIFF – By Darren Garnick
“Politically incorrect toymaker thrives on gallows humor”

The Boston Herald — January 17, 2007
**
It’s been almost three weeks since Saddam’s noose debuted on YouTube –
and the global debate over execution etiquette is still reverberating
in the most unexpected places.

Like the toy box.

Herobuilders.com, the Connecticut-based manufacturer of terrorist and
dictator-themed action figures, typically times the release of its new
dolls to the latest international crisis. CEO Emil Vicale introduced
his $24.95 “Dope on a Rope” Hanging Saddam figure a few days after
Christmas and hours before the deposed Iraqi tyrant was killed. But
he likely never imagined the subsequent hoopla over souvenir snuff
videos that guards made with their cell phone cameras.

“We’ve run out of boxes. We’ve run out of everything,” says the
ecstatic Vicale. “Things have been absolutely insane around here!”

To label his product as “gallows humour,” as the Sunday Times of
London did, doesn’t take into account the toymaker’s full body of
work. Since the beginning of the Iraq War, he has immortalized
President Bush’s archnemesis in various stages of his career.

“Crackhead Saddam” features the dictator in sunglasses, a beret and
full military regalia. “Captured Saddam” is a snapshot of the
disheveled leader when he was found hiding in the infamous “spider
hole.” And completing the set, “Trial Saddam” chronicles cockier
leisure suit days lecturing his Iraqi judge and prosecutor.

Vicale says his political satire attracts “hundreds and hundreds” of
hate e-mails each year, joking that it’s “cool” he’s already gotten
his first death threat of 2007. “Emil Vicale,” a Brazilian e-mailer
writes, “you are dead!”

Brief, no-nonsense threats are the ones that Vicale forwards to the
FBI. Not the “meaningless diatribes” about “American imperialism” and
the “Great Satan.”

“You can’t make everyone happy with a political product,” he says.
“These people are insane to think I even care what they think.”

The Bronx-raised Vicale talks in a street-tough New York accent and
seems giddy when he’s rattling off insults about America’s sworn
enemies. “Barbaric” and “pathetic” are warm-ups for “the most
demented people in history.”

But as much as he enjoys mocking terrorists (he no longer sells a pink
tutu to “humiliate” his Osama bin Laden doll), Vicale is an even
stronger believer in action figure diversification. Customized
hand-sculpted wedding figures – think cake toppers with 23 points of
articulation – go for $1,000 per couple and $39.95 for each additional
figure. Herobuilders also caters to gay weddings and bachelorette
parties with anatomically correct “Big Joe” figures with “flex-action
Little Joes.” And his “Hotbox” female vampires, “the sexiest female
action figures in the world,” were recently featured in the B-movie,
“Grandma’s Boy.”

A career industrial designer, Vicale launched “Herobuilders” a few
months after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. He now employs 15
sculptors, designers and administrators and is looking to hire more
freelance help.

Sculptors earn $150 per head. His best artists carve up to 20 each week.

“Everybody is stressed. Our molding shop is three weeks behind,” he
says. “You can only push your workers so much.”

As for those death threats, well, let’s just call them another
business opportunity.

Inspired by his “first round” of hate mail, Vicale also sells his own
brand of anti-terrorist clothing for people – not action figures.
Black Star Ops” is a line of “reasonably priced covert tactical
clothing” meant for undercover agents as well as civilians working
high-risk assignments. The $39.95 shirts feature secret holster
pockets to conceal a gun or “comfortably carry a spare magazine or
canister of pepper spray.”

“I know I’m doing the right thing,” says Vicale, who cites fans in an
“unnamed five-sided building” in Washington, D.C. “That’s evident in
my bank account.”

**
Darren Garnick’s “Working Stiff” column runs every Wednesday in the
Boston Herald. Stories or rants from the workplace are welcomed at
heraldstiff (at) gmail.com.

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Filed under Middle East, Politically Incorrect Products, politics, War Toys