Early Start on Her Christmas Shopping

Ah, one can never predict how the winds of fate will blow.

Back in March I wrote what I thought was a modestly hilarious piece on the outlandish gift offerings in Hammacher Schlemmer's catalogue, my favorite being an energy-saving pepper mill that weighed a pound and a half. Did everyone throw up their hands in laughter and disbelief at the gadgets that rich folks seem to want?

Not everyone. Quite a few wrote to ask where they could buy this or that item I mentioned, where they could find the catalogue, what was the catalogue, and on and on. Now, to compound this reverse reaction, I have a long letter from the manager of public relations of Hammacher Schlemmer in New York along with "unbound press signatures of the pages of the Hammacher Schlemmer gift catalogue, which will be mailed in the next few weeks."

Yes, hot off the press, with all those fascinating uncut edges, mysterious code words and color cue markings. Reminds me of when I wrote about a perfectly awful movie in which I referred to "perky blonde" and "clunky hero" and promptly received a letter from clunky hero's press agent chastising me for not mentioning the awful actor's name. (Perky blonde loved my panning and wrote me a thank-you note.)

What the heck--does this preview edition of their catalogue mean that they think I'll be an unpaid flack writer for Hammacher Schlemmer? Guess so.

Well, why not. Here goes: They "especially call my attention" to the Christmas Tree Smoke Alarm Ornament, which sounds an 85-decibel alarm with as little as 5% smoke in the air. It weighs eight ounces. That's half a pound. That would strip bare the branch of any California Christmas tree I've seen.

Then there's a Night Golf Ball that shines that funny greenish yellow light through six holes in the casing and allows you to play "even in the deepest twilight," if you want to pay 40 bucks for it.

They also call my attention to Battery-Powered Roller Skates that whiz along at 20 miles per hour. You wear this battery belt around your waist, see, the skates weigh more than 15 pounds, and they're yours for $479.50.

I'm not going to try to describe the 105 m.p.h. Jet-Wing Cruiser, which looks like a cross between a red bullet and a motorcycle, holds two people (two terrified people I would think) and looks destined to be the cause of all sorts of traffic stoppages; $9,500 for this one.

Here are some other gifties for your consideration: A shower telephone for $149.50 (is there no place we're safe from the phone?); a folding toboggan; the "world's largest rocking horse, taller than a live Shetland pony" and even more expensive perhaps at $995.

Say, here's one that would be fun--bobsled shorts, foam cushioned red shorts you pull on and slide down on your bottom without "traditional sled or toboggan"--just you and your bottom sliding in a winter wonderland.

A child's drawing table on striped pencil-imitating legs that looks just too darling--as well it might for $399; your own personal electric document shredder; an Indo-Eurasian cooking stone that lets you cook as the nomadic tribes did for $74.50; a shower clock radio (boy, they are determined that you do more than get clean in a shower, aren't they?); an electronic bridge score pad and an electric ice cream scoop; a solar-powered pith helmet with a fan mounted over your forehead--say, I like this: the Steering Ski Snow Racer. It's a little sled on skis on which you sit upright--"A spring mechanism automatically turns the front ski if you fall off preventing the sled from continuing without you." Isn't that nice? A fellow could get into this expensive play stuff.

Here's a yellow helium balloon that floats overhead with your camera attached so you can take pictures from 50 feet up in the air--and think of the crowds that would attract.

And here's--but no, I think I've done enough to give you an early start on your Christmas shopping and if anyone writes to ask how to buy the folding toboggan or where to get the catalogue I'll send you the Christmas tree smoke alarm ornament already pre-set with its 85-decibel alarm.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World