Three Tampa defense attorneys and a sheriff's detective gave birth to what they hope will be the next hot doll Vivian Maye was in a deep funk. In a few minutes, she'd have todeliver her closing argument, she'd have to come up with something.
Her client was the Bayshore Slasher, Her client was the Bayshore Slasher, and the evidence was, well, overwhelming puts it kindly. He attacked two women jogging along Bayshore Boulevard, both identified him, and he left his wallet, driver's license and car when he fled.
Then he confessed.
That left Maye closeted in the Public Defender's Office trying to pull a rabbit out of her hat, finding no rabbit. So she was ruminating on the meaning of life, one of those sessions some of us hold with ourselvesfrom time to time: What am I doing here? Isn't there more to life?
Fellow public defender Joelle Mannino dropped in to pump her up.
They concluded that the meaning of life was inventing a Pet Rock and living richly ever after. They joked about inventing a Pet Prisoner.
But Mannino had just read that the Cabbage Patch dolls inventor cleared $17-million one year. They could get behind $17-million.
"It hit me, how 'bout a yuppie doll," Maye says. "We looked at each other and we said, 'Okay, let's do it, 50-50.' And we shook on it."
Invigorated, Maye went into court and got the tar kicked out of her. The Bayshore Slasher, guilty as charged, 75 years in prison.
Newspapers recorded the verdict, but who could have known that day was destined to change mankind?
For on that day, Yupsters Inc. was born.
Okay. So mankind wasn't changed. A tiny exaggeration. But that day did launch a year-long venture that will either make the women and their husbands filthy rich or put them in the poorhouse.
The next few days should tell. They are in New York City at the American International Toy Fair. About 17,000 buyers gather and order the toys that next December will have your kids crying that they Have to Have It or They'll Positively Die.
The Cabbage Patch kids were a big hit there, as were commercial flops Golden Girl and the Guardian of the Gemstones. The exhibitors feature the industry giants, Mattel, Hasbro and Coleco, and a few wanna-be-giants, likeYupsters Inc. The entire corporate structure will staff Booth 4014 - three Hillsborough defense attorneys and a sheriff's detective.
President is Vivian Maye; vice president, Joelle Mannino;
secretary, C.D. Maye, Vivian's husband who, between Yupster board meetings, sneaks in a little work in the sheriff's Special Investigations Division; treasurer, Mark Ober, Joelle's husband, who has a private law practice.
The Mayes have a 3-year-old daughter; Mannino and Ober have a 9-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl. They and other neighborhood kids were the couples' research subjects.
This week, Vivian Maye and Mannino say, they were told they had to skip the toy fair or lose their jobs. They quit.
Each couple has sunk about $20,000 into this adventure. If it flops? Says Ober: "It'll be like buying a huge yacht, having it sink and still having to make the payments."
But, adds Vivian Maye, "Even if it doesn't work, we've had a blast."
The line is eight dolls, four boys and four girls, pairs of professionals: doctors, lawyers, accountants and stockbrokers. All read the Yupstreet Journal newspaper and charge it with the Yup credit card.
Each has a business card. Cameron Adams, for example, is a partner in Adams & Adams, Pediatric Specialists, located at Yupster Towers, 4 Success Blvd. Under their double-breasted suits, the boys wear silk boxer shorts;
the pattern is paisley. Under business suits, the girls wear silk teddies.
Retail price is $79 each for the vinyl dolls; $185 each for the
limited-edition porcelain model.
One of the industry's hottest designers created the faces. Terri DeHetre won the 1988 Doll Design of the Year for Punkin, which goes for about $1,000 in porcelain. She and her husband, Al, started Legacy Dolls Inc. on the kitchen table in New Port Richey; now they have an 8,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Holiday. Terri DeHetre said they took in $2-million last year.
Vivian Maye's mother, Carlota Corvo, is the company tailor. Retired after 30 years as a nurse at Centro Asturiano Hospital, she designed and sewed the shirts with tails, the pleated pants, bowties.
If the dolls sell, they've already arranged for mass production in Taiwan.
But last week, the Yupsters braintrust was rushing to complete the
prototypes. They had dyed attorney Sally Smythe III's stockings to match her suit, and they were in the dryer, in danger of shrinking too much.
This was a minor detail on this evening of exhilaration: Their box was done. They are convinced it will cinch success. Jet black, it's trimmed in gold. "Go into any toy store, look at the doll boxes, they're all pastels, pinks and blues," Ober says. "Ours is gonna stand out."
They were shocked when "Trump, the Game" came out. "Donald Trump, he copied our box," C.D. Maye joked, mustering as much righteousness as he could with a straight face. "He even stole our lettering."
It's been a frantic year that started with a trip to the library to take down the addresses of 100 plastics companies. A call to the University of South Florida art department led the couples to an artist who drew 48 faces.
They took the drawings they settled on to the DeHetres. In their journal, Mannino noted June 22, 1989, a red-letter day.
"That's the day we actually saw a head," Vivian Maye says. "It was wax, and it was on the DeHetre's kitchen table. We loved it. It was perfect. It was weird. It was just a head."
The next day, they mailed their deposit for their booth at the Toy Fair, which costs $1,500.
Like expectant parents, they debated names. They started with silly ones, like Phil Good for the doctor, and Willie Balance for the accountant. Fun, but no staying power.
They finally settled on names when they saw their creations, especially the lawyer. "The moment we saw him, we knew we had to call him Justin," says Vivian Maye.
The proper name, please, is Justin Barnett III.
The couples grudgingly agree that they are a little worried their theme may be a tad late because the yuppie wave has crested. But they are counting on the craze having been seared into the American consciousness, no passing fad, to give it the staying power they need to make their fortune.
They are looking past the Toy Fair to bigger, better creations.
They are talking about introducing dolls of other races, and adding spinoffs, like mobile phones and personal computers for the dolls.
Mannino envisions a line of children's clothes that would bear their Yupster crest. "And they'll be soooooo expensive."
The adventure started with a handshake in Vivian Maye's office 13 months ago. If it's a hit, Joelle Mannino says they have already agreed how they'll celebrate. Jet to Boca Raton, shop 'til they drop, lunch with Dom Perignon, relax with a facial, jet home.
"We'll do it, too," she says. "We shook on it."
The couples grudgingly agree that they are a little worried their theme may be a tad late because the yuppie wave has crested.