Shelf Talk

November 1, 1998


In many ways, the Clinton-Lewinsky-Starr affair resembles a skillfully executed entertainment franchise. Consider: nearly every major category is covered-publishing, home video, broadcast. All that’s missing is toys. Well, it was missing. Fondle Me Bubba, developed by Vast Right Wing Conspiracies, bears a likeness to the 42nd U.S. president, but is modeled after the functionality of Tickle Me Elmo-with some noteworthy differences. Unlike with Elmo, whose stomach one must press in order to activate pre-recorded pieces of dialogue, owners of Fondle Me Bubba are required to squeeze the doll’s nether regions in order to get it to talk. And, boy, can it talk. Bubba delivers eight different presidential pick-up lines, including such gems as: ‘Hey, baby I’ve got some Astroturf in the back of my El Camino,’ ‘I’ll bomb Baghdad, I’ll bomb France, if you’ll remove my underpants,’ and ‘Oral sex is not adultery.’ Not surprisingly, Tod Thiese, president and owner of VRWC, is not interested in strengthening the Clinton brand. Thiese is a New Jersey attorney, and, yes, he is also a registered Republican. VRWC is promoting the doll to adults only. You can order FMB on-line at or by phone at 1-877-LUV-BUBBA.

Blockbuster gets personal

For bricks-and-mortar video retailers, the Internet will always represent a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s an ideal marketing tool and a source of alternative revenue. On the other, it’s a potential agent for cannibalizing existing business. In the case of Blockbuster Video, which draws most of its revenues from rentals-not a stalwart performer in e-commerce-the question becomes how to maximize service for its 60-million-plus customer base with its on-line operations. Blockbuster may have found the answer. The Dallas, Texas-based company recently introduced a personal notification system, called EntertainmentMinder, which informs customers of pertinent video news. Members can sign up with the free service by registering at Blockbuster’s Web site ( Once consumers have input their video preferences, EM creates a personal profile for each user, and will begin sending messages every week with news of upcoming releases, video clips of movies, special offers, coupons and reviews. Users can receive the info by e-mail or by downloading the EntertainmentMinder software from Blockbuster’s Web site. EntertainmentMinder is a creation of MinderSoft Inc., which has developed similar Internet-based, one-to-one marketing systems for Toys `R’ Us and Home Depot.

Khakis and Clues on-line upgrades

Simon & Shuster’s kid-targeted Web site,, has gotten a facelift. The rejigged site will be brighter looking, with more games, puzzles and sweepstakes. The site will also have a stronger emphasis on S&S book series, like Rugrats, Blue’s Clues, Alice and Henry & Mudge, and will feature a complete database of Simon & Shuster’s children’s frontlist and backlist titles.

In December, the Gap will introduce a store section on its Gap Kids site (, allowing parents to buy khakis and other Gap merchandise for their kids on-line. A new Baby Gap site ( is also due to hit the Net at the same time.

American Girl: the experience

On November 19, Pleasant Company will open American Girl Place, its first retail-entertainment uber complex, based on its popular selling doll line, American Girls. The 35,000-square-foot site, located on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, features a café, a bookstore and clothing store, all of which sell a range of AG-themed merchandise. There is also a photo studio where, for a fee, girls can get their picture on the cover of a souvenir copy of American Girl magazine. In addition, AG Place houses a 150-seat theater that will debut The American Girls Revue, a one-hour musical about the characters and stories of the American Girl Collection. To make a reservation at the café or to find out more about American Girl Place, you can call 1-877-AG PLACE.

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