Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Man Who Ate Barbies

Eugene, Oregon is an interesting place. Home of Ken Kesey, the Merry Prankster himself, Eugene has long been Mecca for people with alternative ideas and hippie sensibilities. Many of the hippies who relocated there in the ’60s and ’70s are now homeless and live around the campus of the University of Oregon. When I was in school, the most famous homeless hippie of all was the Man Who Ate Barbie Doll Heads.

I first met Barbie Head Man at the Oregon Country Fair, a three-day barter, craft, and music event held just outside Eugene every summer. This is a place where time stands still; the people you see attending today look just like the people who attended 40 years ago when it began. Heavy on hair, light on deodorant. Acres of tie dye.

I hate dust. The Oregon Country Fair, with its 45,000 attendees traipsing through woods, involves a lot of dust. So when a group of women dressed as faeries tripped lightly by with spray bottles of water and asked if I wanted a spritz, I welcomed the gesture. What I didn’t know is that these faeries treated their water with tabs of acid, and that potent LSD can be absorbed through the skin. Needless to say, it was an interesting day. I experienced the best burrito of my life, appreciated jazz for the first and only time, and met the Barbie Head Man.

Barbie Man always wore a sarong and had a rope necklace on which he tied Barbie heads. This made a lot of sense to me that day at the Country Fair; I saw it as something akin to a candy necklace—when the mood strikes you just bite one off. Apparently, the mood struck often and he routinely had to go to the emergency room to have the heads removed as they could not make it past his stomach. His abdomen was fiercely distended that day at the fair. I think he'd been on a bender.

Barbie Doll Man was a gentle soul, a lunatic to be sure, but not one of those stark raving mad homeless guys who runs around swinging a waddy and yelling obscenities. When you gave him a buck every now and then you knew he was far more likely to spend it in the doll section of Goodwill than in the malt liquor section at 7-11.

My senior year, Barbie Doll Man was killed by a city bus. Legend had it that one of his prized Barbie heads rolled into the street and he couldn’t bear to watch her get squished so he ran out after her. I’m not sure exactly how it went down, but I knew the corner of 13th and Alder would never be the same again.

Thanks to writer Sarah Frances of Plot This, who recently posted an eerie set of photos of mangled Barbies she’d discovered around her yard, including the photo on this post. This exquisitely bizarre photo took me right back to Eugene, circa 1987. I suppose you could legitimately call it an acid flashback. Unintentionally imbibed, of course.

For an interesting ode to the Barbie Doll Man of Eugene, check out this short bit on the Future Tense Books website.

12 comments:

Suzanne Young said...

Oh, man. I've missed the age of the Barbie Doll man here in Eugene. We do have Dancing for Dollars, but I doubt he's as good.

And the fair? oh, man. Try taking your 80-year-old grandmother to a clothing optional fair!!

It was a trip!! haha.

Cool post!

Christy Raedeke said...

Oooh, I can only hope your gandmother didn't get sprayed by the faeries and take the option of no clothing...

Anonymous said...

You don't forget someone like the Barbie Doll Head Man, Zeus or Beta Ray for that matter! Eugene and its odd assortment of 'Merry Pranksters' are still in my fond memories. I remember buying Zeus a beer at Rennies while he was re writing the bible on a yellow legal pad. Classic. It was an odd moment in time but it made sense all the same, well, sort of. -Peggy Frasse

jennie said...

The guy snarfed Barbie heads, but died in a bus accident? Twisted!

"Acid Flashback.." Hilarious.

Katie said...

OMG. Christy, you MUST begin the memoirs TODAY!! How do you remember this heeelarious stuff?

Christy Raedeke said...

Katie - I swear, that freaky photo of the Barbie head that SF posted on Facebook brought it all rushing back!

Jennie, I suppose it was ironic that a nutter like that would die in such a pedestrian way. (No pun intended).

Peggy - Zeus lived off the kindness of sweet young things like you! I'd love to read his version of the bible...

Hardygirl said...

Whoa. This guy has got to be in a novel--do you know any writers?. And, I love his demise--chasing the runaway head in front of a bus.

Thanks for using the photo of MY beloved Barbie head. She is actually one of many Barbies given to me by my babysitter. She's from the sixties (notice the real eyelashes). My brother's GI Joe's were the twisted souls who cut her hair before they hung her naked from their GI Joe tower many years ago. . . . Now, my daughter plays with her severed head. Should I be worried?

Christy Raedeke said...

SF, I've never laughed so hard before breakfast!

Shelli said...

sf is quite the photographer :) sound slike the first 1,000 words of a book to me
shelli
http://www.faeriality.blogspot.com/

Tara Maya said...

Oooo that was such an odd image. I wonder what the heads meant to him.

Anonymous said...

He was not killed from getting hit by a bus, I can't remember what it was but I KNOW it was not that. He was found dead in his apartment

pam edgington said...

Zeus.