Remember that toy that you just had to have because it was based on something wildly popular? And then it turned out to really, really suck? (We're looking at you, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Pizza Power Game.) It turns out that's been happening as long as companies have been mass-producing toys.
#10. Swing Wing
Once called "The Decade of Bad Ideas," by this website, just now, the period between 1960 and 1969 is one of the only periods in American history that can be successfully used as an excuse for seemingly inexcusable behavior. Someone can talk about all of the drugs they abused, all of the dangerous, anonymous sex they had, all of the crimes they committed, all of the time they wasted protesting about how they'd rather be higher, and just as you're about to condemn them, they say, "Well, ya know ... it was the '60s," and suddenly the situation is defused. Being alive during the '60s is your "Get Out of Dumb Shit Free" card.
"Don't blame us. We didn't even know we were there."
Unless you design toys.
The Ridiculous Toy:
In 1965, a toy designer at Transogram Games looked at the success of Hula Hoops, with their elegantly simple design and relative safety, and thought, "Hey, yeah, that. But for your head!"
"Or your tits! We aren't judging."
The Swing Wing was a blue plastic beanie with red, white and blue plastic streamers coming out of the top, and a chinstrap. The idea was that the wearer moved his head and neck in rapid circles to make the streamers fly around, and ... well, that was pretty much it.
All the fun of propeller hats with 10 times the effort!
Even a TV commercial with a catchy jingle and a clapping chimpanzee couldn't make the Swing Wing look like fun. Check out the :14 mark, where a boy attempts to walk while Swing Winging, making him look like he's suffering from some kind of neurological disorder:
It's not mentioned in the commercial, but this toy is also really good at making sure no one wants to sit with you at lunch, or ever again for the rest of your life. Loneliness has never been this fun!
#9. Earthquake Tower Playset
Going to the movies in the 1970s left you afraid to leave your house. Cruise ships flipped upside down (The Poseidon Adventure, 1972), small planes hit bigger ones (Airport 1975, 1974), the Goodyear blimp crashed into a Super Bowl stadium (Black Sunday, 1977) and skyscrapers exploded into flames (The Towering Inferno, 1974). No one was safe.
Not even Charlton Heston.
The Ridiculous Toy:
In 1976, Remco realized that kids don't want to play with toys that help them escape reality; they want toys that remind them how terrible reality is. Featuring over 5 feet of cardboard skyscraper goodness, the Earthquake Tower Playset also came with three cars, a fire truck, a rescue vehicle and a helicopter, along with 24 firemen, policemen, assorted rescue personnel and innocent civilians about to meet an untimely death.
"Your home could collapse at any minute! Enjoy your play time."
To play, the unsuspecting apartment dwellers were placed on either side of the tower, and then the kid got to play God: With the push of a button, the tower rocked back and forth, flinging helpless men and women to their doom. If he were feeling benevolent, the kid could use the moveable elevators to rescue some of them. The print ad instructs, "Save as many people as you can," not "Save all the people," because it's important to remind children that you can't save everyone, and people die all the time, because life is arbitrary and ultimately meaningless.
"Hahaha! Man, look at those poor bastards die!"
As a special bonus, the set came with a record of dramatic music and explosions, sirens and helicopter sound effects, just to make it all seem that much more real (listen here). As the catalog description says, "Turn a real disaster into hours of imaginative, exciting play!" "You won't be able to process how disturbing this is for years and years," it neglected to add.
#8. Disco Playset/Live Action Ken on Stage
In 1975, people with no rhythm flocked to 10,000 clubs across the U.S. to do what passed for dancing in those days, get laid and do a variety of drugs.
They called it disco.
It was mostly pointing at things with your lips puckered.
The Ridiculous Toy:
Cocaine not included. But there is a dealer's number written on the box.
With the Disco Playset, Barbie could hang out with a guy who positively embodied "male '70s pornography enthusiast" and then hit the dance floor (featuring colored, blinking lights!). The set also came with a built-in AM radio so Barbie could groove to whatever was at the top of the charts. Which, in 1976, was, according to our research, "Some Shrieking Piece of Shit," by ABBA probably.
But that's not all! If a girl had kept a certain Ken doll from 1970, she could have live entertainment at the disco play set!
Notice Ken turning his head in shame.
Live Action Ken on Stage featured Ken in his disco finery. The stage was motorized, so Ken could "dance" as he sang, and it came with a record. One side was an instrumental, and the other featured Ken singing "A Little Bit of That Sky" (listen here!), which would've made Barbie throw her panties at him, had she been wearing any, the tramp.
"This one goes out to all you whores in the audience."
#7. Sunshine Family/Hippie Dolls
Of course, the 1970s weren't all about satin hot pants. If you weren't at the disco, you might've been wearing flowers in your long, unwashed hair and protesting the Vietnam War. What toys were you supposed to play with?
The Ridiculous Toy:
How about nightmares!
Stephie, Steve and Baby Sweets. We're not making that up.
AAAAHHHH! Look at that guy! Look at his turtleneck, look at his fucking eyes! See the way that his baby hovers freely, powered by your thoughts. Do not look away.
If you're the kind of person who isn't already terrified by these dolls, you'll be happy to know that there are a lot of different play sets and accessories available, you lunatic. Check out this super fun craft store play set that came with a pottery wheel. A pottery wheel!
The spinning wheel really spins! And the parents really smoke weed in the back room!
And forget the Barbie convertible -- the Sunshine Family cruised around in a pickup truck with a piggyback shack. Because, you know, little girls are all about playing with a doll in a peasant dress selling hand-thrown pots by the side of the road.
"If no one buys our pots, how will we feed our psychic night-baby?"
Another hippie-inspired doll was Lil' Winking Herby Hippy. According to the box, Herby is real cool, and if you squeeze his tummy, he winks, so we guess the coolness checks out.
"Fully jointed"? He is a hippie!
Finally, there were the Happy Hippie Dolls. These 2 1/2-inch dolls had freakishly large heads and tiny, tiny bodies, just like real hippies. If you were lucky, you'd get one that was made with Charles Manson's actual pubic hair, like, we imagine, this one.
"Touch me on my face, please. I SAID FUCKING TOUCH IT!"
#6. CB McHaul
To complete the 1970s insanity, long-distance trucking became a thing. "Convoy," a song about a devil-may-care trucker, became a hit. Smokey and the Bandit and BJ and the Bear, two TV shows about truckers, roared into popularity, and all of America was buying CB radios and learning trucker slang.
"Mommy, what does 'lot lizard' mean?"
The Ridiculous Toy:
In 1977, toymaker Mego produced a line of trucking toys called CB McHaul. The line came with two big rigs (the CB McHaul Big Rig and the Bear Masher), a police car, policemen figures and "good" or "bad" truckers. There was also a truck stop play set.
The inventory is an even split between pep pills and crack pipes.
Let's take a closer look at some of these truckers: Here are "Good trucker" Jim Oakes, aka "The Texas Truck Puncher," which implies a back story we would absolutely KILL to hear, and CB McHaul, aka "The Daringest Dude on the Highway," which he demonstrated by going shirtless under a leather vest.
You don't want to know what he wears when he's behind the wheel.
On the "bad truckers" side, we have Joe Marconi and Bad Leroy, two bald, post-apocalyptic mutants, apparently, and Professor Braine, the "Mad Mastermind," although if he were a professor, you'd think he'd be teaching, or working in a lab, or just not trucking. And if he's such a "Mastermind," shouldn't he be able to find a hat that fits his head?
"I'm Bad Leroy!" "And I'M constantly masturbating."
Oh, right. All the figures were packaged to look like they were masturbating:
If you look closely at the print, you'll see that Bad Leroy's nickname is "The One Eyed Wonder."