Category: General Tackiness

Happy Holidays…but which one?

Pilgrim Leprechaun Santa Claus Mouse

Pilgrim Leprechaun Santa Claus Mouse , purchased at a yard sale in Silver Spring, Maryland, December 2012

I found this little critter on a table of used Christmas decorations at a recent yard sale.  The more I look at it, the more I wonder if it really is a Christmas ornament.  It looks like a mouse that’s a cross between a Pilgrim, a leprechaun, and Santa Claus.  That’s three holidays in one!  It’s kind of strange … the face looks like it was transplanted from a human head to a mouse’s body.  And is that an obscene gesture he’s making with his right hand?  It’s like he’s trying to say, “Have a Merry Effing Christmas, Thanksgiving, and St. Patrick’s Day!”  I’m struggling to come up with a name for this guy.  “Pilgrim Leprechaun Santa Claus Mouse” seems a bit long.  If you have any suggestions, contact me.


Prayer toaster salt and pepper shakers

Toaster salt and pepper shakers

Toaster salt and pepper shakers, acquired on eBay, August 2012

This set is in the form of a toaster, with two slices of bread acting as the shakers.  The front of the toaster says, “Give us this Day our Daily Bread.”  As often happens, I found this on eBay with a search that was intended to find something else.  Fifth place in this year’s Tacky Treasures Road Show was a prayer toaster, entered by John and Ellen Schwab.  Instead of salt and pepper shakers in the toaster,  there were multiple cardboard prayers that popped up.   That’s the object I was trying to find for my collection when this gem came up.  Either way, the idea of a prayer toaster is a nice thought, although a bit kitschy.

Gnome with a wheelbarrow

Imagine needing a wheelbarrow to carry your, ahem, attributes around with you.

Gnome with a wheelbarrow

Gnome with a wheelbarrow, hand-painted plaster, seen in the home of a fellow gardener who shall remain nameless.

Skating Bartender

Skating Bartender

Skating Bartender, purchased at the Civitan garage sale, Arlington, Virginia, in June 2012

“Brighten up your bar with this clever bartender.”  It’s a “no spill no fuss bar valet!”  Pretty sweeping claims for a rickety little plastic coaster on wheels, but that’s the nature of marketing in the world of cheap-ass novelty items.  The instructions tell you to wind it up, put your drink on the skating bartender, and point it toward your guests. Let the fun begin!  Or, as the packaging suggests, “add fun to your guests’ drinking.”   I know that they guarantee that skating bartender won’t go over the edge, but I ask you, is it worth the risk?  I won’t take chances like that with my alcohol, and I won’t with my guests’ either!

The little flag saying “Cheers!” is a nice touch, however.  It even has “Lachaim” on the reverse side.  I don’t know if this is a proper transliteration of the Yiddish expression meaning “to life,” but I feel compelled to refer those who care to the Library of Congress.

This is another one of those products that promise to change a dull party into a laugh riot.  (Remember Stop-Ice, Mermaid Picks, and Naughty Dog?)  If that’s all that it takes to improve a party, then there most be a lot of really dull parties going on.  Or maybe this product is another one that needs to be referred to the Department of Overstated Claims.


Popener: The Vatican Bottle Opener

Pope John Paul II popener with magnet, acquired via eBay, May 2012

Pope John Paul II popener with magnet, acquired via eBay, May 2012

The popener, a bottle opener with the image of the Pope on it, has been designated a Top Tacky Treasure.  This is an honor that I don’t bestow lightly; the object must achieve a higher level of irony then the average tacky treasure.  As I said in my original post about the popener, “It is the perfect blend of a figure of eminence with a mundane item of everyday utility.”  When I first heard of the popener, it was not easy to acquire.  I had to ask a friend visiting to Rome to bring one back for me.  It featured the image of Pope John Paul II.  After that, I created a saved search on eBay, in case one ever came up on auction.  Immediately after John Paul II’s death in 2005, one or two came up on auction, but they were exactly like the one I already had.  A few months later, I saw a listing for a popener that featured both John Paul II and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, and I promptly acquired it.

Recently, eBay sent me a notification of another popener featuring John Paul II.  I  like it even better than my first one.  It’s got a handy magnet on the back so that I can keep it on my refrigerator, where I’m most likely to need it.  It also looks like it’s made of much better quality metal than the first one I got, which broke in half the second time I used it to open a beer (a bottle of Pete’s Wicked Ale).

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Jesus Corkscrew and Bottle Opener

Jesus Corkscrew and Bottle Opener

Jesus Corkscrew and Bottle Opener, purchased from in February 2012

The Jesus Corkscrew and Bottle Opener is a tacky treasure in the same way the Popener is a tacky treasure.  About the Popener, I said, “It is the perfect blend of a figure of eminence with a mundane item of everyday utility.”  It’s that ironic juxtaposition which made it a tacky treasure.  Well, who could be more eminent than Jesus Christ?

Make no mistake, this is a quality product.  As a corkscrew and a bottle opener, it works perfectly.  And this is a well-made product that I expect to last a long time.  I can’t say the same for the Popener.  The first one I bought broke on the second use.  I bought some replacement Popeners, but they are for show only.  I woudn’t risk using them to open a bottle.

I bought the Jesus Corkscrew and Bottle Opener directly from the manufacturer (, and it arrived with a personal note.  Apparently, the person who sent it was concerned when he saw my email address, which ends with  Maybe he even checked out my website.  The sender insisted that the corkscrew and bottle opener is not tacky, and pointed out the clever slogans on the packaging.  “Best when enjoyed with twelve close friends.”  “Please drink responsibly as there’s a fine line between witnessing miracles and just being plain drunk.”  Well, for me that was just the icing on the cake.  There are more catchy phrases on the packaging, but I’d rather not spoil it for someone looking for a well-made corkscrew and bottle opener, who wants something different, perhaps even more ironic, than usual.  If that’s the case, the Jesus Corkscrew and Bottle Opener is for you!

Fire destroys Professor Cline’s Haunted Monster Museum and Dark Maze

Professor Cline's Haunted Monster Museum & Dark Maze

Professor Cline's Haunted Monster Museum & Dark Maze, September 2009

I’m so sad to have to report that a fire on April 16, 2012 destroyed Mark Cline’s creation, “Professor Cline’s Haunted Monster Museum & Dark Maze.”  There is no word yet on the cause, however, the haunted house was closed for the season, and the electricity had been shut off.  The fire is being investigated.  Unfortunately, this is not the first fire to Mark’s work.  There was a suspicious fire at his studio in Natural Bridge in 2001 which destroyed many of his personal items and memorabilia about his remarkable career as a fiberglass artist and inveterate prankster.

In fact, I first met at the gates of the Haunted Monster Museum in 2004.  We had corresponded via email over our common interests in roadside attractions, in particular the old Enchanted Forest amusement park to which we had both gone as children.  I signed up for his HauntFest, a convention of people running haunted house attractions.  I checked into the cottages next to the parking lot of the haunted house, and was admiring the fantastic gate, when I heard a pickup truck rumbling down the access road to the right of the gate.  The truck stopped very near where I was standing, and it unnerved me a little bit.  I watched as tall, lanky guy in a fedora jumped out and yelled, “Julie!” at me.  I knew it must be Mark Cline.  I said, I guess you know who I am already.  “Of course,” he replied.  “I’d recognize a fellow weirdo anywhere!”
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Hokie Pokie Sound Machine

Hokie Pokie Sound Machine

Hokie Pokie Sound Machine, purchased on eBay in February 2012. This was my entry in the Tacky Treasures Road Show 2012, which to my surprise, didn’t win anything.

This is the worst-designed phonograph record player I have ever seen, and yet as soon as I found out about it, I knew I had to have one.  It is so ridiculous, it makes me laugh just thinking of it.  A conventional record player has a turntable on which the record sits, and the stylus or needle is drawn across it.  The Hokie Pokie Sound Machine has the record sitting on a flat surface, and the stylus is on the bottom of a little plastic truck that drives over the grooves!

I found out about the Hokie Pokie Sound Machine from Who would buy this? : the Archie McPhee story by Mark Pahlow, an essential reference work in my growing library of tackological research.  It was published by the Accoutrements Publishing Company in 2008.

There is so much wrong with the way this concept was executed.
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Tacky German Postcard

Tacky German Postcard

Tacky German Postcard, purchased March 2012 at the Mt. Vernon Antique Center

I wish I’d had this postcard for last year’s Toilet Week.  It would have added an international flair to the event.  It depicts a man with a bottle of schnapps in his hand about to flush himself down a toilet.  The caption reads, “My life’s last station hangs on this chain.”  Wow, that is certainly more clever than what we Americans usually come up with:  “Goodbye cruel world!”

This reminds me that my first encounter with the concept of tackiness involved postcards.  Way back when I was in college, one of my friends conducted a tacky postcard contest.  People sent her the tackiest ones that they could find, and after a while, she would declare a winner.  The first year I remember this contest happening, the winner was the picture of a dead cowboy in the desert with a vulture on his back, with the caption, “The End of the Road.”  Ah, memories!

I found the tacky German postcard at the Mount Vernon Antique Center while on a tacky quest.  The Tacky Treasures Road Show is coming up soon, and I hoped that day for a big find.  And in fact, I did find something fabulously tacky, but unfortunately it was way out of my price range.  It was a stuffed macaque monkey in its own glass display case, holding a small ceramic pitcher and a red wine glass.  The sticker price was an unbelievable $3,500.00.  Even when the sales person said helpfully, “It’s 30% off today,” there was no way that I could afford it.  On the other hand, at that price, I don’t think it’s going anywhere soon, and I might just head back to Mt. Vernon one of these days to visit it.  Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of the monkey worth posting.  My cellphone camera is horrible, and most antique malls actually forbid the use of cameras.  The only reason I took a shot of the monkey with my phone was in case someone doubted my story and I needed proof.

Back to the tacky German postcard…it’s now on display in my downstairs bathroom with rest of my toilet and outhouse collection.  Thanks to John Heins for the translation of the caption of the postcard.

Smoking Elephant Cigarette Dispenser

Smoking Elephant Cigarette Dispenser, purchased at Unique Thrift in Hillandale, Maryland, February 2012

Smoking Elephant Cigarette Dispenser, purchased at Unique Thrift in Hillandale, Maryland, February 2012

Maybe this is enough to make a smoker quit. Seeing a cigarette coming out of an elephant’s butt should make anyone reconsider their dirty habit.  I have similar dispenser which dispenses cigarettes out of a donkey’s butt, so now my collection is officially bi-partisan.

The wooden donkey cigarette dispenser was hand-made in America, and it still works.  This elephant is made of cheap plastic, and was already broken when I bought it.  If it weren’t for the cool illustration on the box, I wouldn’t have come home with it at all.

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