Interviewing a Legend

We all have them.

Whether it be a little blue bear, a ragged Cookie Monster, an elephant with a name that means elephant in another language or a half-dog, half-blanket, we all have them and we all need them. And if you don’t have them or never did … maybe that’s why you have issues. On second thought, maybe that’s why I have issues.

Last year a summer blockbuster featured one, albeit a foul-mouthed one. Yes, I’m talking about “Ted” and yes I’m talking about those things that we slept with, were best friends with and never wanted to depart with – stuffed animals toys.

My best buddy was Dapper Dan.

Kevin and Dapper Dan. Erik and Mr. Bear.
Pictured: Kevin and Dapper Dan. Erik and Mr. Bear.

Quick thought, why have I never named a fantasy sports team “The Dapper Dans”? Must jot that down.

Dapper Dan does not refer to the pomade that was featured in the film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Even though I could relate when George Clooney’s character says, “I’m a Dapper Dan man!” No …

Dapper Dan is a vintage “learn to dress” doll from 1976 made by Playskool, Inc. We became best friends in October 1978, my first birthday, when my grandma got him for me.

Dan Ad 1979
Dan Ad 2

“I bought him so you’d be able to do all that stuff,” Grandma recently told me, stuff meaning learn how to tie shoes, button suspenders, unsnap suspenders, zip up pants and, well … snuggle!

Thirty-four years later and we’re still together.

Why am I writing about a doll that I slept with when I was a kid (and most of my teenage years)? One I thought it’d be fun, secondly it’s been recently that Dapper Dan has made a return appearance in my life.

As a longtime friend of mine noted when he saw a picture of him on Instagram, “I see Dapper Dan has come out of retirement.”

Dapper Dan Out of Retirement!

Pictured Above: Dapper Dan Out of Retirement!

Yes, I still have him. And will continue to have him no matter what Lis says.

Dusting him off the top shelf of my closet I handed him down – literally and figuratively – to my 4-year-old daughter in an attempt to get her to stop getting up and out of bed. After all, Dapper Dan likes to sleep, he doesn’t like when you have to keep getting in and out of the covers. At least that’s what we told her.

Months later and she and Dapper Dan have become friends. She takes him places. She has to have him before the lights turn off. If he’s not there it’s a dollhunt trying to find him.

It’s been 34 years of good use (OK, so I’ve been married nearly 10 years, so we’ll call it 23-1/2) so you can imagine what Dapper Dan looks like. It’s not good.

“Poor little guy is wanting to come apart,” Grandma said.

In fact, Grandma, my mom and Lia have all made a deal to patch him up. Grandma is looking at redoing his jeans, all for a chance at preserving my little buddy (I had one of those too!).

Mom informed me via email that he’ll be having surgery on Thursday. Ironic since I’ll be having my first surgery tomorrow (Mohs Micrographic Surgery to remove the skin cancer on my nostril). I don’t consider getting snipped a surgery, it was what I like to call a “procedure” and what Lis and I called “necessary”.  

With Dapper Dan in the forefront of our minds I thought it’d be a good chance to sit down with him and chat about the past, the present and his impending future surgery … or just future.   

Kevin: It’s been some time since we’ve sat down and talked, doll to man. How have things been?

Dan: Let’s see I spent a little over seven years in a cold and dark box, trapped between a bear that sings “Water Runs Dry” and a bunch of unopened Star Wars cereal boxes. I was finally “allowed” to come into the house, where I spent three more years in your closet trapped between some VHS tapes, a little black box that read “Love Games” and a few hats, one that looked like it was once used by the Village People.

Kevin: OK … I don’t know what you’re talking about, other than the hat and that was used for a lip sync performance of “Y-M-C-A”.

Dan: You keep telling yourself that.

Kevin: Since you’re out of the closet.

Dan: Watch yourself.

Kevin: You know what I mean … how does it feel to be sleeping next to someone again, and having a buddy again?

Dan: It’s nice. She’s a more peaceful sleeper than you ever were.

Kevin: How so?

Dan: Let’s see … constant snoring, a bucket full of drool, talking in your sleep and a lot of moving around. Funny, I hear the same sounds from the bunk above us.

Kevin: You mean Lukas?

Dan: Whatever his name was. I thought we had a pact. You’d name your first kid Dan or Daniel after me. But no, all of a sudden you’re married and you forget about me. Then I hear you named him after your “boyhood hero” – Luke Skywalker?! Not your boyhood buddy, someone you actually spent time with, but your “boyhood hero”. A friggin’ movie character?!

Kevin: Sorry … it’s complicated.

Dan: As complicated as it was to tie my shoes when you were 14?

Kevin: OK … wait a second.

Dan: Lia sleeps like an angel … and have to admit, she kinda looks like one – when she’s asleep. Nice work. Doesn’t move too much. Sleeps with her mouth closed. Looks like she’s at peace. Very comfortable.

Kevin: Thanks. And she’s been taking you more places.

Dan: Yah, it’s been nice to be outside for once. Which reminds me? How did we get from California to Hawaii to rainy and overcast? Maybe I should’ve been put out in that garage sale when you were a kid before we moved out here.

Kevin: What?!

Dan: Oops … did Mommy and Daddy forget to share that with you?

Kevin: What do you think of Lia? How’s she treating you?

Dan: It’s cool. I usually just tag along with her and then she drops me while she plays with her Disney Princesses or dolls or whatever. A little different surroundings then when you were a kid. It was all Star Wars, Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Now I’m getting conversations about princes with singing and dancing included. And what’s with this weird mumbo-jumbo they speak during the day?

Kevin: It’s called Portuguese.

Dan: Oh.

Kevin: Without embarrassing me too much, what were some of your fondest memories of us when we were younger?

Dan: Hey … I haven’t aged, other than I’m a bit worn down a bit from your abuse.

Kevin: I call that love.

Dan: Is that what Lis calls it? At least you never tried to hump me.

Kevin: OK … let’s segway to Lis real quick, what are your brief thoughts about her?

Dan: Well you’ve made it 10 years so she’s got to be some sort of special. She has put me in said-box. She laughs when you talk about patching me up. And she thinks you’re crazy for wanting me to be buried with you when you die.

Kevin: Do you think that’s crazy?

Dan: Yah … I’m not dying my friend so I’m not going to spend the rest of my life next to some decaying body when I could be flopping around with your daughter’s kid. I’ve spent enough time in dark boxes. I don’t want to spend a longer time with one that smells. And trust me, you’re going to smell.

Kevin: Interesting point.

Dan: Thanks.

Kevin: Back to those memories. Do you remember the time when I almost lost you? Dad put you in the washing machine and you were torn into pieces.

Dan: I don’t get that dude. First, he continues to call me Diaper Dan! He fries your arm on Christmas morning 1980-whatever, with a combination of the sun and a magnifying glass and puts me in a washing machine going warp speed with a bunch of dirty laundry. Have to admit the first couple of spins were a hoot but when half of my body started flying out of me and my leg was dangling by a thread – literally – the fun quickly ended.

Kevin: That leads us into the recent, probably surgery to fix the growing stuffing leak on your backside.

Dan: “Growing stuffing leak”? Sounds like the same issue you went to the doctor for a few months back.

Kevin: Nice … and it wasn’t a leak. I had pain in … stop switching the subject!

Dan: Okay, okay! I’m fine with it. I think it’ll be good. Like a modern, updated version of Dapper Dan. New jeans, though hear my current ripped jean style is in these days. Possible new shirt. The possibility of maybe losing that big blue non-matching patch on my butt. I’m excited. I’m also hoping they clean up my face. I think I have dirt on my face from 1983. How are you taking your surgery?

Kevin: I’m OK with it as well.

Dan: Do you want me to come with you? Comfort you like when you used to go to the dentist?

Kevin: Nah, I should be good. Well, thank you for taking the time to talk to me. It’s been fun.

Dan: It has been nice. We haven’t talked this much since I was closing games for your imaginary baseball team from 1986-1990. Remember those teams! Man, we were good! I think we won every year!

Kevin: Yes … I remember. And to be honest, you only closed from 1987 to 1990. You were a starter the first season. And we didn’t win every year.

Dan: We sure did raise a lot of imaginary banners though.

Kevin: I appreciate you talking to me and I appreciate you becoming friends with Lia.

Dan: It’s been a blast! I’m thankful to be out of the cold boxes and back into your life buddy!

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