THE END OF AN ERA

WClub members received this email today from Mel Odom, creator of the Gene Marshall doll.  It seems to be the end of the era of Gene, but she’ll be going out with a bang!

Hey Kids,

This is a letter I’ve been writing in my head for quite some time, but have not been able to actually put down on paper. It’s a tough letter to write and I’ve been pretty emotional about it. (Big breath) I’ve been feeling lately like it’s a perfect time for Gene and her friends to retire. I’ve been working on Gene since 1991. That’s when the first drawings of her are dated and I’d probably had her in my head for some time before that. The point is, she’s been a consuming interest of mine for close to 20 years. It’s been the most detail intensive project of my life and certainly the most fun. I’ve been given much because of Gene; acclaim, financial security and the best bunch of friends and collectors anyone could ever expect from their profession. It’s been an amazing journey for me- completely different than what I had imagined.

This year, we’ve had a really wonderful collection, with awards and popular triumphs and a great sense of energy among you guys. I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been amazing. And the Hollywood Royalty minis being a hit was just the sprinkles on the cupcake for me. I just think it’s always better going out a winner, while you are on top.

This is the thing…I want to do something else. I’ll be (gulp) 60 next year and feel like there are other things I can accomplish if I can devote my full attention to them, like I have done with Gene. I’ve practically ignored my first loves, drawing and painting, for far too long. For twenty years before Gene, I was known as an illustrator and graphic artist. I don’t think I can go back to being an illustrator; that’s over for me. But I’d like to be known as a painter and I’d like to maybe teach art. As some of you know, I’ve been knocking on the doors of art galleries with my paintings for the past few years and am not about to give up on that particular dream of mine. I feel like I have enough time for one more great phase in my career, even though I’m not positive what it is.

Gene is in my head and heart and nothing I can ever do will change that. She’s always been with me in some form and will stay with me and very probably morph into another phase of whatever it is I do, paintings maybe. But I’ve always had to change every so often, like when I stopped focusing on illustrating and created a fashion doll. This is one of those times. So Gene and I are pulling a Garbo, and retiring, but not without a fabulous sendoff.

I have gone over my plans with Integrity and we all want to make sure that we have a proper celebration for Gene and her friends (both plastic and human). I have really enjoyed working with Integrity and making these past few years some of Gene’s best ever. The Integrity team and I are planning one last, big blowout for all of us- a 15th Anniversary convention to celebrate Gene and all her friends, to be held in early June in Philadelphia. And for this special party we’re creating one more collection, “The Stardust Collection”, a curtain call of sorts for all of our characters, and get this… including Trent. Ashton Drake is graciously allowing us to use the original molds to create one more classic Trent for the party. So, Trent will be there and Oona and Ivy and Violet and Madra. I’ll be there and hopefully everyone will be there, to celebrate 15 years of the coolest thing to happen to fashion dolls since high heel feet.

Facts and forms will be forthcoming, but I wanted to tell you all this personally. There will also be a special Gene happening in early 2010; you’ll be privy to the information later on. It’ll be fine, you’ll see. Gene will be a perfect 15-year long phenomenon in the doll world, a story with a humble start and surprise ending- a beautiful arc of stories, characters and costumes that changed the doll world. And as long as Cher and Barbra Streisand are in this world, there’s always a chance of a comeback somewhere down the road.

I’ll still be blogging; the W Club has happily agreed to continue to send all of you my “Mel Mail updates”, right through the big party in June. Later on, I’ll be blogging from my own website
http://www.melodomart.com, which should be completed and up soon. Any of you who are interested can come along with me for the rest of the journey as well. You’re all invited. Thank you for everything and remember to always….

Play nice Kids,
Mel

About Shuga-Shug

I'm a practicing acupuncturist and in what little spare time I have, my hobbies include photography, dancing the Argentine Tango & collecting Ingerity's line of fashion dolls!
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One Response to THE END OF AN ERA

  1. Cheryl Schutz says:

    Hi Mel,

    I met you some years ago at a Gene convention and still experience the same delight whenever I think of the occasion. I remember so clearly your charm and friendliness, the welcome you extended to all, and your encouragement to share the dream–what a glamorous and thrilling world you created for Gene’s fans to step into! Why, it was like walking into a Fred Astaire movie, except for one thing–the scenario was real. Here at a Gene convention, one met genuine artists and designers of movie fashion, took live classes from teachers who graced the pages of my favorite books and magazines, and then sat with them at delicious dinners as we talked with excitement of one sure topic: the girl that we were all in love with, Gene Marshall. There was no need for a middle-aged housewife to feel shy, I soon discovered, even as I entered the banquet in my Earth Angel pajamas and chenille robe–it was a pajama party, the first of my entire life, and more fun than I ever dreamed it could be! We, Gene’s fans, were indeed all sharing the same merry dream; there was so much to laugh about, whisper about, talk about, and finally, to reminisce about; with Gene, the past was romantic and more sweet than bitter to look upon.

    Yes, there was fancy dress and broadway revues and exquisite souvenirs; there were prizes and the suspense of raffles; there were the privileged secrets of next year’s line and auctions and drama galore; there were autographs and haut couture and the astonishing sales floor with its ruinous temptations; there were even moments of seeing oneself differently, and pleasantly so, such as the split-instant when you, Mel, said I was beautiful in a casual remark, and I believed you–after all, are you not the Zeus of Gene’s Olympia? Weren’t we all standing in a temple of your devising, where the spirits of play and beauty wafted through the air like butterflies?

    Gene was the first collectible doll I ever bought. Her appearance in my life brought an awareness of style and a new curiosity for clothes; I found inside myself a buried hunger for the surety that comprised her ensembles; I had to possess them so I could hold within my hands that feeling of inevitability that embraced each astonishing piece of an outfit; her clothes contained so much ‘presence’ that each time I opened a new costume, it was the same as if I had opened a drawer in Buckingham Palace to discover the leather glove of Queen Elizabeth–how could anyone resist staring at it, or extending a cautious finger to test the softness of a leather chosen by the queen. While one would fear the impropriety of such intrusion upon Her Majesty’s bureau, one could touch Gene’s gloves with the same fascination but also with happy abandon. Such was the brilliance of Gene’s designers. Along with a fashion statement, her designers created a mystique: here, in this small box with clear plastic cover, nearly weightless, is the very outfit that a classy movie star of the 1940’s would have worn! The dress has silk and crystal and feathers but no one will graze it with cigarettes or lipstick or step on the hem; just look at the hat, with its perfect brim and amazing bow; see, there is a pattern of beads sewn on the collar; no, it’s too gorgeous, I can’t stand it, the shoes have matching rosettes! I could look at them for hours. And I did.

    The last Gene I bought was “Premiere”, just a few months ago. It took me all these years to get her and her beauty holds precisely the same magic as the first time I saw her. This early Gene hasn’t aged one bit! The elegance, the thrill, and the passion continue undimmed; the dream retains its power.

    Thank you, Mel, for the fun and beauty that you brought into my life. Thank you for sharing Gene’s world with us–it made the ordinary world a better place. I can wish you nothing but the very best in your next adventures. May the force be with you always!

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