Forget Wallets, Cuff Links: Stick Your Neck Out : Can You Tie These for Dad's Day Gifts?

Times Staff Writer

Does your dad already own enough ties to outfit the entire board room of GM?

Have you wrapped up wallets and Old Spice for the last 23 years?

With Father's Day just around the corner, this is the year you can stop being ordinary and start being memorable. Orange County-based entrepreneurs have some new products that are just about guaranteed to make Dad smile.

An actor who used to play Big Bird on Sesame Street, Lionel Douglass, has come up with a shady product: no-temple sunglasses, or what he calls "fun glasses."

Sporta, Douglass' company, makes a seven-inch strip of flexible plastic that sticks to Velcro on a terry cloth sweatband.

Douglass got the idea after he broke his nose playing basketball and couldn't wear sunglasses. He invested about $5,000 and experimented with diamond- and star-shaped visors before hitting on ski-goggle-shaped plastic.

The idea is to wear the visors while skateboarding, jogging, biking or hiking.

So far, Douglass said his 4-year-old firm--which has operations in Fullerton--has gotten a patent on the product and made up about 24,000. And while they're not exactly Ray Bans or Vuarnets, they also don't sell for $70. The visors retail for $4.95 and should be in some discount and convenience stores within a few weeks, Douglass said.

"They're not any weirder than sunglasses," he added. And they can double as sweatbands, wind blocks or bug visors.

Tired of giving cuff links? If Dad's a computer freak, you can give him an earful--with men's ear wear from a small Anaheim company.

Drastic Measures, a 3-year-old, wife-and-husband firm, has a motto: "The family that makes earrings together stays together." And that's what Monique and Mike Fiola have been doing ever since she began making men's earrings out of reject computer parts.

Inspiration came because Mike, 31, wore an earring when he and Monique, 27, began dating. "I was fascinated with the idea of him wearing earrings. I thought it was one of the sexiest things a man could do," she recalled.

She is evidently not the only one. Since their company was formed a few years ago, Drastic Measures has sold almost 1,000 of the long, spiky Ear D'Cor (pronounced dee-cor) accessories. The company has broadened its line into 16 styles that have been selling briskly by mail and through adult bookstores, Monique said, because "98% of their customers are men."

If you really must buy Dad a tie, it need not be formal. In fact, it can be denim.

A Newport Beach legal secretary and concert pianist, Anne J. Cominsky, sews men's neckties from old blue jeans and scraps of leather sofas. She also custom-designs yellow, pink and turquoise ties on polyester that are silk-screened with California dreamin'-type designs: surfboards and pink flamingos with swaying palms, sunsets and waves.

Cominsky got into the business two years ago because she is nimble with a needle and "it's all you can do with a bunch (four) of kids around." She began embroidering huge, beaded palm trees onto ties that were popular with surfers and a few detectives with the LAPD.

While she still embroiders those $25-$35 ties upon request, Cominsky, 33, has discovered that there's a bigger market for ties of denim or denim with brown suede. Her sole proprietorship, Under Cover, has sold about 30 of the denim models--at $12.95 to $24.95 apiece--to small, local retailers.

Cominsky, 33, buys materials from thrift stores and the Salvation Army, averaging about four ties from a pair of jeans. The leather scraps come from an upholstery company.

So far, it's fortunate she isn't in it for the money: Cominsky has netted about $500 over the past three years. But she's hopeful that will soon change. Her products "bridge the gap between traditional ties and not wearing a tie at all," she explains.

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