Newest Fad: Earthlings with antennae like Martians

By GAY PAULEY, UPI Senior Editor

They look like someone's imagined space creatures with waving antennae springing upward and outward from their heads.

But they are earthlings -- children, young and mature adults, even grandparents -- indulging in the latest fad, wearing a silly gadget that has absolutely no function unless it's to say, 'Hey, look at me. I'm a little different.'


And different you are, if you're caught up in the latest fad -- the invasion of the Deely Bobbers.

A Deely Bobber, if you haven't met one or the legions of them spreading across the country, is an ordinary plastic headband with a couple of springy stalks about eight inches long, jutting upward.

Attached to the end of each stalk are glittering plastic hearts, stars, balls, pinwheels, or even airplanes with whirling propellers in a variety of colors and swaying as the wearer moves.

Put five or six of them on your head, as many of the faddists are doing, and you're a super bobber.


It doesn't cost much to be a bobber addict -- one with spangled red hearts purchased from a New York street vendor cost a buck. The vendor was wearing four.

'They've set a lot of people laughing,' said John Minkove, who himself is laughing all the way to the bank with the sales of his latest addition to the novelty world. 'They're absolutely useless, unless they help to work off tension. Whatever the state of the economy, most people have a buck to spend on some fun.'

Minkove, 38, is vice-president of the Ace Novelty Co., in Bellevue, Wash. Major business of the company, started 30 years ago by Benjamin Mayers, who is owner and president, is the manufacture of stuffed animals of 600 to 800 types and sizes offered as prizes at amusement parks, carnivals and fairground games.

The company also does promotion items for large corporations and professional sports organizations.

Minkove, in a telephone interview, said they recently did some Deely Bobbers for the Seattle Supersonics pro basketball team with green and gold mini-basketballs fastened to the antenna. Green and gold are the team colors.

The gadget actually is the creation of Steve Askin, of Los Angeles, a friend of Minkove and his wife, Barbara. Minkove said that last year Askin began toying with the idea after a 'Saturday Night Live' television show featuring the late John Belushi and his 'killer bees' antennae.


Askin came to Minkove's company with the gadget and management grabbed it up immediately, agreeing to share profits with its creator. The company filed for a patent, still pending.

Next problem: what to name the thing.

Mrs. Minkove came up with the nonsense name when they all decided you could hardly market the headgear as a whatchamaycallit or a thingamajig.

Sales of the bobbers began at fairs in the Washington State area and then last fall the manufacturer decided to go national.

Minkove said they have a contract with the Knoxville, Tenn., World's Fair, so visitors are helping to spread its popularity.

It's now in five and dime stores; Woolworth just put in a big order, he said. Spencer Gifts are carrying it in their chain of 400 stores and he said his company hopes to get contracts with Toys-R-Us, another big retail chain, and with Sears Roebuck, among others.

'I've got some special ideas for Halloween,' Minkove said, 'and by Christmas this item should be as big as the Rubik Cube.'

Manufacture began in Seattle and spread to the company's other business, A-One Novelty, in Los Angeles. Then as demand outran domestic production, they began importing from Taiwan and Hong Kong.


'We're in the Orient eight or nine times a year anyway,' said Minkove. They import their stuffed animals ranging from brightly colored plush parrots to black and white pandas, some as tall as four feet, bears, and raccoons.

News of the Bobbers spread rapidly in New York and throughout the Northeast from the anti-nuke demonstrations in Central Park, where thousands wore them.

Minkove said other manufacturers now are copying; that's why he's so anxious about the patent.

Even so, Ace Novelty's own sales already are in excess of a million units -- 'we make about 20,000 a day, not counting the imports,' said Minkove.

Why would an item which 'does nothing, has no redeeming quality whatsoever' (his words) catch on?

'I guess people like gimmicks,' he said. 'Why did the pet rock sell?'

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