A reminder: This is Day One of The Seven Days of Pricklesmas Contest. Details here!
The early days of my youth happened to coincide with the final, dying days of variety shows. Donny & Marie. Carol Burnett. The Smothers Brothers. Barbara Mandrell. The Muppets. Sonny & Cher.
I had a soft spot for Cher, because I coveted her long, shiny, dark hair (I always wanted to be a brunette, a dream I am currently living) and her dressing room. Or at least, I coveted her doll’s dressing room. Back in 1976, I was five years old, and the TV commercial advertising the Cher’s Dressing Room Playset was mesmerizing. I liked the Cher doll’s glamorous white dress and fluffy maribou stole. I liked her dressing room’s Native American motif. I especially liked the part when the girl in the commercial stood her Cher doll in front of the dressing room’s “magic mirror.” And then, in the blink of an eye, Cher’s outfit changed!
When I received the Cher doll and the dressing room playset for Christmas, I was supremely underwhelmed. As it turned out, the magic mirror wasn’t magic at all; behind it, you had to insert a “magic mirror card,” which featured a photo of each of Cher’s outfits from the neck down. When you put her in front of the mirror, it merely gave the illusion that she’d changed clothes.
That was my first taste of genuine (and literal) disillusionment. I think about Cher’s Dressing Room all the time; while it’s kind of a sad lesson in naïve consumerism, it also reminds me of how awesome it was to be a kid, where anything seemed possible. With eagerness, I accepted the promise of a world where a mirror could instantly change your doll’s clothes, or where cereal could be made from real, delicious miniature cookies and not just small discs of sugary corn cereal dotted with fake brown “chocolate chips” (see The Great Cookie Crisp Disappointment of 1976), or where you could mail away your allowance for a kingdom of exotic SEA MONKEYS that looked like actual, tiny people, and not boring, gross brine shrimp.
I should mention that the Cher doll itself offered further disappointment, and met an even worse fate. As it turned out, the doll was pretty high-maintenance (much like Cher herself, I suspect). If you didn’t brush its hair regularly, it turned into a matted, black nimbus, especially if you forgot to put the doll away one too many times and left it to languish on the basement playroom floor, where its hair accumulated further knots, as well as random cat hair, Play-doh clumps, and dryer lint.