Dancin' Shoutin' James Brown

Shandana A. Durrani
From the Print Edition:
Cuban Spy Scandal, May/Jun 02

To book music legend James Brown for a party, you'd have to shell out between $100,000 and $250,000. But for a fraction of the cost, you can get the next best thing: the Dancin' Shoutin' James Brown doll.

Sporting a black shirt and pants and a monogrammed brown plastic vest, the 19-inch, four-pound figure bears an uncanny resemblance to the real Godfather of Soul. At the push of a button, the doll gyrates its hips as it mouths the words to the 1965 classic "I Got You (I Feel Good)."

Created by Texas-based Gemmy Industries Corp., at the urging of James Brown's lawyer, Buddy Dallas, the battery-operated model uses "syncromotion," a patented animation technique that uses an IC chip, which programs the motors to move in conjunction with the music. The figure became so popular, it sold out in many markets.

"It's a very unusual phenomenon," says Jerry Jordan, chief operating officer of Gemmy Industries. "We actually pinpointed this item last year in a focus group and the focus group said this is going to be very popular. We heard stories of there being 50 people in a store on a waiting list, and the trouble we had was nobody really knew if it was a gift or a toy or a d├ęcor piece or a collectible. Men, or people buying gifts for men, want something that they think a man will think is funny, and this seems to appeal to a very wide demographic." Because of the overwhelming demand for the James Brown doll, Gemmy plans to expand its line of pop culture figures. Future bobble-headed dancing and singing models will include Bing Crosby and Hank Williams Jr., with a Frank Sinatra doll a possibility.

Retailing for $34.99, the dolls are available at Walgreens, Eckerd, Kay-Bee and Toys "R" Us stores nationwide.

For more information visit www.gemmy.com.

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