Blading Barbie Sparks Up Hell On Wheels

                                by Dave Barry

    Copied from Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, Sunday, July 17, 1994

    As executive director of the Bureau of Consumer Alarm, I am always on the
alert for news stories that involve two key elements:

    1. Fire
    2. Barbie

    So I was very interested when alert reader Michael Robinson sent me a col-
umn titled "Ask Jack Sunn" from the Dec. 13, 1993, issue of the Jackson,
Clarion-Ledger.  Here's an excerpt from a consumer's letter to this column,
which I am not making up:

    "Last year, my two daughters received presents of two Rollerblade Barbie
dolls by Mattel.  On March 8, my 8-year-old daughter was playing beauty shop
with her 4-year-old brother.  After spraying him with hair spray, the children
began to play with the boot to Rollerblade Barbie.  My little girl innocently
ran the skate across her brother's bottom, which immediately ignited his

    The letter adds that "There are no warnings concerning fire on these toys
...I feel the need to warn potential buyers of their danger."

    In his response, Jack Sunn says, cryptically, that "Mattel does not manu-
facture Rollerblade Barbie any more."  He does not address the critical ques-
tion that the consumer's letter raised in my mind, as I'm sure it did yours,
namely:  Huh?

    I realized that the only way to answer this question was to conduct a
scientific experiment.  As you may recall, last year, in response to a news
item concerning a kitchen fire in Ohio, I did an experiment proving that if
you put a Kellogg's strawberry Pop-Tart in a toaster and hold the toaster 
lever down for five minutes and 50 seconds, the Pop-Tart will turn into a
snack-pastry blowtorch, shooting flames up to 30 inches high.  Also your
toaster will be ruined.

    The problem was that I did not have a Rollerblade Barbie.  My son happens
to be a boy, and we never went through the Barbie phase.  We went through the
Masters of the Universe phase.  For two years our household was the scene of
a fierce, unceasing battle between armies of good and evil action figures.
They were everywhere.  You'd open up the salad crisper, and there would be
He-Man and Skeletor, striking each other with carrots.

    So at the end of a recent column, I printed a note appealing for a Roller-
blade Barbie.  I got two immediately; one from Renee Simmons of Clinton, Iowa,
and one from Randy Langhenry of Gainesville, Ga., who said it belonged to his
6-year-old daughter, Greta.  ("It would help me if you could get Barbie back
to north Georgia before Greta notices she's gone," Randy wrote.)

    Rollerblade Barbie is basically a standard Barbie, which is to say, she
represents the feminine beauty ideal, if your concept of a beautiful female
is one who is six feet, nine inches tall and weighs 52 pounds (37 of which are
in the bust area) and has a rigidly perky smile and eyeballs the size of beer
coasters and a one-molecule nose and enough hair to clog the Lincoln Tunnel.

    But what makes this Barbie special is that she's wearing two little yellow
Rollerblade booties, each of which has a wheel similar to the kind found in
cigarette lighters, so that when you roll Barbie along, her booties shoot out
sparks.  This seems like an alarming thaing for Rollerblades to do, but
staring perkily ahead, does not seem to notice.

    To ensure high standards of scientific accuracy, I conducted the
in my driveway.  Aside from Rollerblade Barbie, my materials consisted of sev-
eral brands of hair spray and -- this was a painful sacrifice -- a set of my 
veteran underwear (estimated year of purchase:  1968).  I spread the underwear
on the driveway, then sprayed it with hair spray, then made Rollerblade Barbie
skate across it, sparking her booties.  I found that if you use the right
of hair spray -- I got excellent results with Rave -- Rollerblade Barbie does
indeed cause the underwear to burst dramatically into flame.

    (While I was doing this, a neighbor walked up, and I just want to say that
if you think it's easy to explain why you're squatting in your driveway, in
front of a set of burning underwear, surrounded by hair spray bottles, holding
a Barbie doll in your hand, then you are mistaken.)

    At this point, the only remaining scientific question -- I'm sure this has
occurred to you -- was:  Could Rollerblade Barbie set fire to a Kellog's
berry Pop-Tart?  The answer turns out to be yes, but you have to be in the act
of hair-spraying the Pop-Tart when Barbie Rollerblades over it, so you get a
blowtorch effect that could very easily set fire to Barbie's hair, no to men-
tion you own personal self.  Plus you get tart filling in the booties.

    So we can see why Mattel ceased manufacturing Rollerblade Barbie.  I imag-
ine that whichever toy designer dreamed up this exciting concept has been
transferred to Mattel's coveted Bosnia plant.  But what should be done about
all the Rollerblade Barbies that are already in circulation?  I believe that
the only solution is for all concerned consumers to demand that our congress-
humans pass a federal law requiring that all underwear, snack pastries and 
other household objects carry a prominent label stating:  


    But that is not enough.  We also need to appropriate millions
of dollars for a massive federal effort to undo the damage that has been done
so far.  I'm talking about scraping this crud off my driveway.

    Also, the taxpayers owe Greta a new Barbie.