>MEL ODOM’S GENE MARSHALL DOLL – the Epitome of the Hollywood Glamour Girl

10 May

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Text, Vivian G. Kelly

IN ALL THINGS IN LIFE, THERE IS A HIERARCHY – EVEN IN DOLL LAND.
BARBIE IS TO A “CONTEMPORARY” CLOTHING LINE WHEREAS GENE MARSHALL IS TO CHANEL COUTURE.

BELOW, the 4-1-1 on this doll who’s really the stuff that Hollywood dreams are made of.

Gene’s been around for 14 years, a remarkable feat in the doll world. Her creator, MEL ODOM, quips, “Doll years are like dog years, a lot of them come and go.”

GENE MARSHALL – VITAL STATISTICS, as per Mel:
STAT #1: Gene is a fictional movie star, she’s a composite – she could be anyone she wants to be – a very empowering idea.

Mel is also a renowned fashion illustrator hailing from North Carolina. Some of his work is currently on display at the Society of Illustrators in NYC. He works with white hot designer, JASON WU, on the collection.
www.societyillustrators.org
To read more about Mel, visit www.cartage.org
STAT #2: Gene is a high fashion comfort doll. “Collectors tell me it reminds them of their mother, a movie star, themselves when they were younger.”

STAT #3: There are 5 characters and there was a man named “Trent” that we did with Jason Wu. Trent’s Gene’s leading man.

STAT #4: Gene and friends are bigger than Barbie [by about 4”].
Price range: AT $70 to $200, surprisingly reasonable, considering their collector potential.

TO FILL-IN THE PICTURE, AFTER SEEING GENE AND FRIENDS ON EXHIBIT AT “THE LINE OF FASHION” EXHBIT AT THE SOCIETY OF ILLUSTRATORS GALLERY, WE ARRANGED A PHONE CHAT WITH MEL ODOM.

THE FASHION EXAMINER: You’ve got to get the inevitable comparison to Barbie and Ken.

MEL ODOM: Oh sure, we did something that we thought was really clever
Gene came out 1st and then rather than bringing out Trent; we brought out her archrival Madra Lord. It’s an anagram for “drama” and Celtic for “fox”.

T. F.EXAMINER: How are Gene and Madra different from Barbie?

MEL: Barbie is 11 12 inches. Gene and her girls are 15 1/2 inches, which gives you enough length to drape fabric on them nicely. Gene and the girls spawned a whole generation of dolls, which has affected us financially.
Collectors are addicted to it and I’m the pusher, ha ha!

T.F. EXAMINER: Where did the name “Gene Marshall” come from?

MEL: Her birthday is April 17th; it was the date I really decided I was going to do this. My boyfriend’s name was Gene; I was out at a nightclub seeing “Song of Singapore”, a forties musical. I went out to check out my messages and got the call that we were going forward with the project.
That was 1991. She debuted at Toy Fair 4 years later at the Javitz Convention Center.
The director is me, and the producer is Jason Wu. He works with Integrity Toys and invited me to do this.

T.F.EXAMINER: What’s he like? Is he different after his recent incredible success?

MEL: He’s been working since he was 15, working for Integrity Doll.
I still enjoy our collaboration; I don’t see a change.

T.F.EXAMINER: How did you choose the dolls that were in the Society of Illustrator Exhibit? Why those particular dolls?

MEL: When I get some new dolls, I stand them around and look at them and analyze them and see what works and what doesn’t.
I liked the way these worked together. I was really thrilled to be in that show. Where ELSE do you see so many beautiful things in one place at one time?

T. F. EXAMINER: How many dolls ARE in your collection?

MEL: My private collection is at the University of Cincinnati College of Design Architecture Art and Planning. That’s also where designer Bonnie Kashin left her Estate. She designed the costumes for my favorite movie, “Laura” by Otto Preminger.

I don’t have an exact count, I’ve been giving them all away – there were hundreds, there were 2 of everything. As a designer I try to keep 2 as a reference for archival purposes but the storage gets out of control. At the University, I have access to any dolls I might need to work with.
Next year is the 15th anniversary, I’m thinking of doing a big party/gala.

T.F. EXAMINER: Do you have a favorite?

MEL: I have current favorites; it changes. Right now it’s a platinum blonde. ZITA
All the dolls have every color hair.
I’m crazy about their accessories. The shoes are so good you want to eat them! Vaughn Sawyers is the head designer. I’ll send him pics of handbags and send them to him after I’ve looked at vintage sites. It’s very back and forth.

T.F. EXAMINER: What else are you doing?

MEL: I’ve been painting lately, the dolls in oil. I’m hoping to get a really snazzy gallery to show my work.

To Read More About GENE MARSHALL, pick-up a copy of Mel’s book, Gene Marshall, Girl Star, a biography that tells “Gene’s story”, published by Hyperion.
It’s a visual treat, and lives-up to Mel’s criteria that the book be beautiful, first and foremost.

WHERE TO BUY GENE + FRIENDS
Gigi in Chicago, FAO Schwartz in NYC are a few of the fine retailers who carry the dolls.

PHOTO CREDITS
All images of dolls, courtesy of Mel Odom
Image from Otto Preminger’s Laura, from www.imbd.com
Image of Jason Wu, from www.newsday.com

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3 Responses to “>MEL ODOM’S GENE MARSHALL DOLL – the Epitome of the Hollywood Glamour Girl”

  1. Theadora May 12, 2009 at 5:42 pm #

    >Fabulous, fabulous interview!Love the dolls (Madra is my favorite)and Mel Odom! He possesses both talent,and an engaging sense of humor and drama. Thanks for spreading the word.signed,a future Gene Marshall doll collector–they’re difficult to resist!(Also, spiffy layout. More interviews please!)

  2. The Elegant Savage April 11, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

    Glorious reading/viewing!!! I adore Mel Odom & your coverage of the dolls is fabulous! I’ve never seen so many beauties all on one page…I look forward to reading more on your site 🙂

    • thefashionexaminer April 11, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

      Thx so much! I hope to come-across more of his dolls. Will have to start actively searching for them. Are you a collector?

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