Some Different Last-Minute Gifts : Taillight Glasses, Fish on Video or Furniture for Kids

Times Staff Writer

Even if you're a procrastinator who is up a creek about finding that special something for that special someone two days before Christmas, there's hope.

Perhaps you'd consider champagne glasses made from 1959 Cadillac taillight lenses, a soft-sculpture child's chair that doubles as mammoth building blocks, a $10,000 coffee table built on a racing car engine or a couple of 60-minute videos designed to help you relax.

A Fish Video

If tension is a friend's complaint, an hourlong video of fish gliding through an aquarium might hit the spot. Or, for those more into fire than water, there's one showing no more or less than fire crackling in a fireplace. No commercial interruptions.

Artist/writer Peter Widing Frey invented the taillight goblets for quaffing champagne. They're available at $100 a pair (no singles) by mail order from his company, called Brainstorm. Phone (818) 995-8035.

Frey also invented the ultimate, high-tech Oriental eating tool, which he calls Chopstech. The tool looks remarkably like a pair of chopsticks made of anodized aluminum in the color of your choice. Frey says with a straight face that they are computer designed for perfect balance. Each set includes a blueprint showing two views of a Chopstech, along with dimensions, materials and machining specifications. At $50 a set, they come with a leather case from Geary's or Joseph Magnin in Beverly Hills, or Ingear in Canoga Park.

For those more interested in children than in drinking out of taillights and eating with high-tech tableware, there is Fun Furniture, a store on Beverly Boulevard specializing in designer furniture for youngsters. Their $125 building-block chair is three hunks of fabric-covered foam held together by Velcro. Children can pull the chair apart and rearrange it to suit their fancies.

The 6-month-old store also features $45 step stools shaped like the Parthenon or a California mission so a kid can stand on a bit of history while brushing his or her teeth. For more contemporary Californiana, there's a $125 set of corner shelves in the form of a seven-foot palm tree. All the furniture was designed by architect Gary Gilbar, who owns half the store.

For Big Spenders

If you regard yourself as a big spender, furniture more to your taste may include a $10,000 one-of-a-kind coffee table. It's a 4-by-4-foot hunk of -inch-thick glass perched on an Offenhauser racing car engine made in the late 1930s. The table is mounted on wheels and comes complete with steering wheel so you can maneuver it around your living room. But you've got to push--the engine doesn't run.

Should you have more than $10,000 to spare, perhaps you'd like to make a child happy with a $12,500 half-size model of a Ferrari racing car powered by an 11-horsepower single-cylinder gasoline engine.

And to drive the coffee table or the car, a pair of driving moccasins at $39.95 might be nice.

The table, car and shoes all are available at Beverly Hills Motoring Accessories in Beverly Hills.

Thoughts of $10,000 coffee tables and $12,500 kiddie cars may send your blood pressure skyrocketing. Perhaps you can bring it down to earth for $24.95 with an hourlong video of tropical fish slipping through the aerated waters of an aquarium to the tune of bubbles. If you'd rather relax in front of a fire than a fish, you can order a video hour's worth of crackling fireplace action. In either case, you can satisfy your want by calling (212) 496-4400 any time of day or night with your Visa or MasterCard number, or by writing Relax Video, 2901 Broadway, Suite 128, New York, N.Y. 10025.

All this Beverly Hills and New York shopping may not be your style. In that case, a trip to your nearest Sears Christmas catalogue (or store) will put you in touch with a suit of armor that, the catalogue says, is a "re-creation of the armor worn by Charles V's knights of the Holy Roman Empire." The armor is more than six feet tall, weighs upward of 100 pounds and, a Sears spokeswoman noted, "it definitely was not designed to wear. The legs are mounted on a base and you'd have to have an awfully small head. It's a conversation piece." When you're in the mood to spend $2,900 for conversation. . . .

A Piece of Manhattan

And, when you're in the mood to spend $5 plus 50 cents postage and handling for a piece of Manhattan real estate, mail your money to Big Apple Land Corp., 41 East 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10017 (or call (212) 286-0167 with a MasterCard or Visa number 24 hours a day through this year (and after that between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. Los Angeles time) and Scott Moger will send you the deed to a square inch of the same island that Peter Minuit bought in its entirety for trinkets valued at $24 in 1626. The land is on 127th Street between 5th and Lennox avenues. Moger wants to slice his 18-foot-9-inch by 99-foot-11-inch hunk of the Big Apple into 269,775 tiny plots, then combine them as a minipark that he predicts will be "a little oasis of benches and trees." So you won't have your land to yourself. On the other hand, Big Apple Land Corp. will be responsible for all real estate taxes, maintenance costs and insurance bills, Moger said.

You may want to give a Christmas gift that's more frivolous than real estate. In that case, perhaps a $3.50 fluorescent Slinky is the ticket, or a four-foot-tall, grass-green inflatable Tyrannosaurus rex for $20. If you're not into extinct beasts, the gift you want could be a 100-pound, $1,250 stuffed elephant that's five feet tall while sitting. No one knows how tall it would be standing. The Slinky, dinosaur and pachyderm all are at Joys & Toys on Melrose Avenue.

Sports fans may appreciate a gift from Scoreboard, a store in Studio City that offers genuine pro team uniforms ranging from $45 football outfits to $75 baseball uniforms and more than 50 different college and university insignia-emblazoned T-shirts and caps.

If you're after a really big Christmas gift, the place to go may be to your telephone to dial 1-800-221-7019. That's the toll-free number for a New York outfit called Think Big. You can order an "exact replica" of a Dixon Ticonderoga pencil, except that it won't write, it costs $90, and it's almost six feet from point to eraser. For $45 you can get a two-foot-long non-playing copy of a Marine Band harmonica, and $140 will buy you a toothbrush almost five feet long. If you want a tennis ball 11 inches in diameter, that will set you back $35. A 23-inch-long clothespin that works costs $25 and a 50-sheet legal pad with pages almost 2-by-3 feet goes for $20. Prices do not include shipping.

The Old Songs

Christmas can be a nostalgic time, and nothing brings on nostalgia like old songs. Three of the best places in town to find old songs are Ray Avery's Rare Records in Glendale, Rockaway Records in Silverlake and Another Blue Meannie Records in Woodland Hills.

Avery specializes in jazz records dating to the early 1900s. You can get a Louis Armstrong 78 from the mid-1920s for about $10, or a Bix Beiderbecke from the same period for $30. Budget gift items include $2.95 discs of the Tijuana Brass or Benny Goodman. The store carries new and used records and tapes.

Rock Specialties

Rockaway is more rock oriented. Beatles, Springsteen and Elvis Presley records are specialties. You can pay as much as $70 for a Springsteen "Born in the USA" picture disc LP or about the same for a 20-year-old Elvis Presley 45-rpm promotional record with a picture of Elvis on the jacket. At the other end of the financial scale, you can pick from thousands of $3 used records, most of which are rock, but the collection also includes plenty of classical, jazz and country music.

Another, Blue Meannie Records, specializes in "imports from everywhere," said store manager Alex Aberbom. He said "everywhere" includes Spain, Portugal, East and West Germany, France, England, Holland, Japan, Russia, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

"These records are the same as those that were made here, but some of the domestic records are no longer available. Also, the picture sleeves on the imports are almost always different from those on the records made in this country," Aberbom explained. He said that he carries mostly heavy metal and pop disks and that about half of them are 45-rpm singles from the '50s through the '80s, with the rest being 33-rpm albums from the same period. They sell for between a dime (for old juke-box records) and $200 (for a set of 11 boxed Rolling Stone records).

Another kind of record is available for $1,400 and a toll free call to 1-800-ETAKINC. That combination will get you a computerized wonder called "ETAK, the Car Navigator" and the name of the ETAK dealer nearest you. Have ETAK installed in your car, program in your location and destination, and a 4 1/2-inch monitor will display a map indicating your exact position and the distance to your destination. As you drive, your location stays in the center of the screen and the map moves accordingly.

A less expensive computer related gift is Jingle Disk, an ingenious $9.95 piece of software that provides owners of Apple II, Commodore IBM and IBM-compatible computers with six minutes of animated Christmas greetings and songs plus the ability to print out personalized Christmas cards. To find out where Jingle Disk is available near you, call 1-800-THTWARE.

The person with almost everything might want a $79.95 radio-controlled ball from The Price of His Toys in Beverly Hills. This eight-inch plastic sphere called Go Ball will roll around your living room on command, and that's all it will do. The same store also features a $600 talking, computerized undercover bartender that looks like a briefcase. Inside the case are five bottles you can fill with almost anything. Outside are five computer buttons and a hidden spout. Program in drink recipes, fold out the spout, and the talking briefcase/bartender tells you what combination of buttons to push for the mixed drink of your choice--alcoholic or otherwise. To keep you from worrying about thirsty thieves, the item comes with a security code.

An unusual security device for homeowners with automatic garage-door openers is an electronic dead bolt to prevent potential thieves from prying open a garage door. To learn the nearest place to buy this $295 dealer-installed product, call the manufacturer, Armor Products, at (213) 823-6041.

If you want to travel back in time, a trip to Impromptu in Pasadena will take you to a vast collection of Gumby items ranging from the classic six-inch, $2.60, bendable, bilious green rubber doll himself to a heroic $300 foam and wire Gumby that is six feet tall. In between, you'll find Gumby T-shirts, hats, coffee mugs and cloisonne pins.

And some "pro-American, nonviolent" memorabilia from World War II, like plastic, metal and rhinestone pins that say "Remember Pearl Harbor." The pins start at $40.

Of course, if you're interested in more substantial jewelry, you may want to make Christmas, 1985, memorable for a couple of pals with this year's Neiman-Marcus "His & Hers Gift": a pair of diamonds for $2 million.

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