Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Sweetest & Most Unexpected Surprise!

Fierce... I especially love the little dog in the picture on the bottom left hand side!
The HOT Blond in the ad is the PHOTOGRAPHER....NOT the model.
Ironic - huh? That's my friend Kris Reynolds! And to the right is
a sampling of all his amazing photography!
One of Kris' Amazing Shots...featuring Miss Sassy DeVine at our friend
Steven Dorsagno's Salon Split Endz in Orlando!
THE ENTIRE CAST OF HAMBURGER MARY'S Tampa & St. Pete. I was so please to be a part of Kris' team to
bring this now LEGENDARY & EPIC image together!
Approximately 9.5 years ago I met a young man at the legendary Southern Nights bar in Orlando, Florida. He told me that he was a fledgling photographer that admired our magazine and would aspire to work with us one day. I immediately liked him and felt a kindred spirit in him. I saw a lot of "me" in "him". We both commenced a journey then that would bring us both to fore filling our professional dreams. I had always wanted to have a GLBT magazine that was like no other....with Art and Articles versus pages and pages of ephemeral and disposable material. He on the other hand wanted to take beautiful pictures with amazing people all over the world. Well, I'm happy to say we can both living our dreams. I'm so grateful for having Kris Kristofer Reynolds come into my life all those years ago. I've had the pleasure of watching him grow and evolve into a photographer and man that I am very proud of calling my friend.
This week during his month long tour around the country taking pictures of some of the most notable entertainers in our community Kristofer chose to spend a couple of days in our home. It was just like old times. We collaborated on projects and had a great time bringing some of his amazing visions to life.
As a "thank you" for my involvement in his projects, Kris being the very thoughtful and observant man that he is, presented me with this very sweet
present - A Dolce & Gabanna Inspired Fashion Royalty Doll (she is the Barbie Silkstone Fashion Dulcisima on Jemm's friend Minx)! Now, for those of you that do not know....one cannot just go to ToysRUs to purchase this...this is a gift that has to be planned as these dolls are very rare and hard to find! I was overwhelmed as the thank you gift was not necessary. I would do ANYTHING for him...he is FAMILY to me and Peter. 
Kris' work for a local night in Sarasota!
It was so much fun to watch him work
now...he has grown so much as a
photographer. And yes...that's MY Peter
in the shot as the Patron getting the
lapdance. Now that I think of it...it was kinda
quick to volunteer to volunteer for this shot. 

The doll now has a place a honor among my the other Divas in my collection and I will always think of this amazing last couple of days when I look at her.
Thanks Kris for being the kind of artist that understands that nothing worth while is done alone and it is always important to make YOUR team feel appreciated.
I guess we raised you right 
xoxo,

F & P

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

DollBid.com - the Alternative Auction Site for Doll Lovers!

Enjoy this great interview with founder of Dollbid.com Andrew Leff on his great new auction site for doll collectors and enthusiasts! Printed and distributed in www.WhatsHappeningMagazine.com. Visit our website for a copy or subscription to this awesome Lifestyle and Entertainment Magazine!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Amazing Designs of JOHN PAGOTO - John In Stitches!


John Pagoto Interview As Seen In What's Happening Magazine!

L.E. Lounging On The Lanai
Modeled By The Gorgeous
Victoire Roux by Integrity Toys.

I recently met the handsome John Pagoto at last year's Fashion Royalty Convention in L.A. He struck me as a very nice and approachable guy - the consummate host of his table of fellow collectors. At one of the conventions evening events his table gifts were so outstanding that I had to ask him who had produced them for him. He smiled and shyly responded,"I did." 
Wow! Not only is the man handsome, but he is also sweet and TALENTED! I asked him if he would mind answering a few questions for my collector's blog (www.dolldork.com) and publication What's Happening Magazine
He answer yes and even went one BETTER! He offered to design one of his deliciously retro inspired ensembles as a limited edition for the for the readers of both the blog and magazine. HOW AWESOME IS THAT! 
Below is his full interview and all the information that you will need to order your very own Limited Edition "Lounging On The Lanai" an exclusive for What's Happening Magazine and www.dolldork.com!


DollDork.com: How did you decide to start sewing couture for hi-end fashion dolls? 
John Pagoto: I decided after asking other designers to create many outfits for me, that I should to try to do it for myself.  I figured, buying a sewing machine would help me save some money and would also help keep my creative juices flowing.
Exclusive For Marlbe.com

DollDork.com:  Do you have classical training in fashion design or are you self-taught?  
John Pagoto: I have no classical training in fashion design.  
The very talented Judy Frank paid it forward and graciously taught me.  About a year and a half ago, she invited me to her home one afternoon to show me how to use my machine and how to create a simple dress from start to finish.  She made it all so simple to understand.  I took everything I learned and I ran with it!

DollDork.com:  Your attention to detail is amazing. Do you normally design OOAKs or do you sometimes do limited editions?  
John Pagoto: Thank you so much.  I have donated OOAKs to the National Barbie Collectors Convention, but I mostly do small limited editions and some exclusives.  That way more collectors can enjoy the fashions.

DollDork.com:  Your designs are outstanding and seemed to be somewhat retro inspired. Where does inspiration for your designs come from?  
John Pagoto: Well, inspiration can come from anywhere or anything.  For example, when I was preparing to debut my premiere collection at the Barbie Convention in New Orleans last summer, I wanted to create something unique that would totally stand out.  Then I thought, how cool it would be to create a dress out of a OUIJA board.  So I created custom fabric to perfectly wrap the doll in the game board!
More John In Stitches Designs On Barbie.

DollDork.com:  Do you exclusive design for female dolls or do you also have any interest in designing for HOMME dolls?  
John Pagoto: As of right now I only design for female dolls since they make up the majority of my collection, but I’ll tell you, those HOMME dolls are amazing!  Who knows, maybe one day I’ll branch out?

DollDork.com:  Do you have a favorite MUSE doll at the moment?  
JP: That’s a tough one to narrow down.  I am equally drawn to Vicroire Roux and Poppy Parker for their amazing vintage style.  Between the two, their range of fashions from the 50’s and 60’s is so inspiring. 

DollDork.com:  Are your ensembles able to be worn on dolls by different manufactures?  
John Pagoto: Absolutely!  I do my best to make my fashions versatile for a wide range of dolls from Fashion Royalty to Poppy to Barbie.  

DollDork.com:  Tell us about the finer details that your couture ensembles have that mass manufactured doll clothing does not?   
Sheath Dresses With A Twist!
John Pagoto: Each piece is geared towards an audience who loves everything retro with hints of pop culture.  I keep my edition sizes very limited.  Usually 12 or less of each fashion are ever created.  I hand pick all of the trims and fabrics, or I create custom printed fabrics when I can’t find what I’m looking for to get that specific look.  I choose or create patterns to help keep with the retro the look that I want to achieve.  And lastly, I hand finish each piece with a little TLC. 

DollDork.com:  Do you do commissions? If so, is it a collaborative effort or do you submit concepts to your patron?  
John Pagoto: Yes I do accept commission work.  It’s always collaborative.  We discuss what look and feel they may be looking for and come up with an idea that works best for their needs. 

DollDork.com:  Tell us about the exclusive design that you have created for readers of WHM? What was your inspiration and how can people acquire one?                 
JP: I wanted to create a special outfit inspired by Florida.  After finding the perfect cotton fabric, I decided to create a brand new pattern.  The new silhouette is making its debut in this exclusive limited edition of 12 pieces for the readers of WHM.  Keeping with my esthetic, I combined classic style with a fun retro print to create ‘Lounging on the Lanai’. A fun vintage inspired sheath dress that is made to fit most 11 ½ “ dolls.  You can contact me at johninstitches@gmail.com to order yours today.
Another Full View Of WHM & DollDork.com L.E. Exclusive: "Lounging On The Lanai"
By John Pagoto

Photos by Stacey Gordon


Friday, January 31, 2014

A HONEST & LOYAL DOLL FRIEND IS THE REAL HOLY GRAIL!

Korrine Doll originally in Marti's collection. Debumped and re-styled. Introducing - Miss ARI!

My friend Marti is one of those rare people in my life that makes me (literally) laugh out loud. Although, we don't live in the same state (he in NY and I in Florida), I probably keep in touch with him more than some people that I live with in the same city (thank Gawd for Facebook!). 
     
Marti being MARTI...even at work. BTW: Notice over
his shoulder...HE EVEN HAS DOLLS AT WORK! LIVE!
I met Marti a couple of years ago at my second FR Convention in Pittsburgh and outside of the dolls I would say he was the best acquisition made that year…a friend. 
Now I don't want to get all mushy and say that we are BFFs, after all, our common ground is dolls and that is what we normally talk about, but recently, I had a situation in which he proved himself to be not just a friend…but a great friend. 
To not bore you with the details (although they are juicy), I made a mistake. A faux-pas as it were unintentionally. And just when I was about to fly off the handle and rip someone a new asshole (verbally of course), I thought for a second,"Let me get a second opinion on this situation." So, I turned to the right of my screen and saw that Marti's little "green light" on FB IM was on. I let him know the situation and he surprised me with his answer. THE TRUTH. 
I measure friends very carefully. I've had my heart broken by "friends" a lot. And, there are two criteria that I find are really important in good friends - loyalty and honesty. Now, you would think those are a given, but they are commodities. Especially in the GLBT community.
     Marti is one of those friends that has enough love in his heart for his friends to tell them,"Gurl, I think you are wrong…." and friends that will do that are few and far between.
You see in OUR community, the "kids" love FREE Entertainment, so they stir up the pot of whatever drama is brewing in the air and they add their own potent mix of alcohol and venom to it just to see how long it take for a REAL feud to explode.
      Marti told me I was WRONG in my thinking concerning a situation that I had inadvertently gotten myself into…and he taught me a lesson which I accepted with an open heart and mind. I figure if someone has enough feelings for you to let you know when you are acting incorrectly (whether innocently or not) then they really have your best interest at heart.
I took Marti's advice and promptly fell on the sword of my own making. The situation was immediately diffused and I was relieved….because contrary to popular believe…I HATE DRAMA!
Marti aka ARI KIKI on his birthday performing on of his patented
NIPPLE RAPES!
    A couple of weeks ago, Marti and I did a "trade" in our doll collections. He and I have that in common…I much prefer to trade with a friend than to have money exchange hands. I received the dolls last week that were the ones coming from him and I know I can't help but to think of them as my "Marti Dolls"! So, even though I have only restyled one's hair (into a fierce asymmetric bun with a tiny braid…that unfortunately you can't see in the picture above) and have her proudly displayed in one of my cases, I've decided to rename those two ladies (which I never do) after my friend's alter ego - One is named Ari - while the other has been dubbed Kiki. The one above is Ari. Kiki will be forthcoming in a future picture (sorry…I have a life!).
     So this one goes out to my GREAT PERSON -  Marti Balloveras: doll collector, performance artist, nipple rapist but most importantly, HONEST and LOYAL friend that will tell you when you are being an idiot. Trust - in this world that is the TRUE HOLY GRAIL!
     Finally, one last pearl of wisdom from Marti that he told me last week. I have the unfortunate affliction of wanting to be liked by EVERYONE.  I admit it…I wish there was a PLEASING ADDICTION Rehab I could go to because I'd be there like Lindsey Lohan, Zac Efron and Dean McDermott (can you believe that rat bastard cheated on Donna Martin!?!). 
The One and Only - ARI KIKI! NOTE: Those lips are brilliant!
     Well, last week I was lamenting about someone who has decidedly and for no reason just has NEVER been friendly to me….regardless of my endless attempts to be friendly to them. Marti words were prophetic and have held great resonance with me since he said them to me. "Gurl (we start all our sentences with "Gurl") you and I have BIG personalities….and not everyone is going to be able to handle that….so get over it! You are not a candy…so not everyone is gonna like you. A lot of people LOVE you and me….so if a couple ca't take us…it's their loss….that is OK! In the end, there are more that love us that don't so let's concentrate on them and forget the haters" Truer words have never been said. They had a very FREE-ing affect on me and I'm starting not to feel such compelled to please quite as much anymore.


Thanks Marti once again for  your words of WISDOM. I love you….Happy Belated Birthday!
xoxxo,
Frank

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Grey Skies ARE Gonna Clear Up....THEY'VE GOT TO!

Rainbow Dash the Pony meets Rainbow Dash The Dynamite Girl!
It's the little things really that make you happy!

Okay, so the last couple of days has really sucked and that's why I haven't blogged. But, I have a bit of perspective and time on my hands right now (I'll get to that) and therefore I thought I would "pump out a quick one" (all puns intended). 
First off, if you read my last blog the small portion at the end was devoted to the puppy we just lost Napoleon. I was amazed at how incentive people can be about the death of a pet. It boggles the mind. Either these individuals are heartless and can't remotely sympathize with the loss of a beloved member of the family (which our pets ARE) or they are just sociopaths in disguise as normal humans. Well, enough about THOSE PEOPLE (and you know who you are) and let's move on to some other crap that has been going down.
For the last two weeks my partner Peter has been complaining of abdominal pain. He is not a complainer…but occasionally a chronic overeater…especially when it comes to his mother's Cuban cooking which he loves so much. So, I thought a couple of over the counter meds and this will be done. No such luck. When he continued to literally belly ache about the pain, I insisted he make a doctor's appointment. He was seen right away and later on that evening our physician let us know that the issue could be a case of Diverticulitis (which I have had friends who have had chronic cases of in the past that have lead to worse things). So needless to say, the worrying started. He was given a round of antibiotics and pain meds and was told that the pain should subside in 2 weeks. It didn't. Peter made a follow up appointment to the Doctor and was sent to a G.I. specialist who concluded yesterday that he had a possible problem with his Gall Bladder. So, right now I write this blog from the waiting room in the Hospital as Peter has a colonoscopy and endoscopy (think three-way…but not the fun kind) and that's why I now have time to write this blog.
To add insult to injury, our dear friend and housemate Quin (who works with us at the www.WhatsHappeningMagazine.com as our Financial Officer) had a major death in her family (an 2 weeks to the date of Napoleon's passing). Quin's mom passed away at 85 (her 86th birthday would have been later on this month on the 31st) quietly in her sleep. I hope that Quin's mom finds peace after the less than peaceful life she unfortunately had while she was on this Earth. She can although be very proud of the incredible women that she raised in her daughters and helped raise with her grandchildren. Sometimes working up to 2 jobs just to make ends meet. Rest in peace Mrs. Porté.
As for me, I went to the dentist last Friday expecting to hear hopeful news about the prognosis of my teeth after my accident a few months ago. Instead, I got hit with the worse case scenario. I'm really scared now, because I really don't like any kind of surgery (not that anyone does) and especially not on my teeth. So, now I need to make some important decisions about how I'm going to handle this dilemma taking place in my mouth (which coincidentally I've always felt has been one of my TOP 5 features).
     The only thing that made me smile this week  I will now share with you. 
I HAVE hope for the future because of MY LITTLE PONY!
     After having a conversation with a 7 year old boy at my Dr.'s office (don't get stoppid…his mom was the receptionist and was right there….I think kid's just like to talk to me because they recognize a kindred spirit that is the Peter Pan that lives inside me…and most gay men for that matter). Well, this very sweet, smart and witty little boy told me about his love for My Little Pony - the new animated series. I thought the show was geared towards little girls and therefore asked him why he like it so much and he said that he liked magic, ponies and the stories. He then went on to tell me that he especially liked Rainbow Dash (she is a Rainbow Maned colored Pegasus (winged pony) who is a bit of "tom-boy". The whole show is about love, friendship and not not only accepting the differences between individuals (in this case ponies) but celebrating them. And, Rainbow Dash, who is obviously the symbol of the GLBT community is the leader of the pack. Upon watching this show a smile came across my face for the hope that the children of that young boys generations will remember the lessons that they've learned by shows like My Little Pony - Friendship Is Magic and will live their lives with the morals they saw on it. By the way, the show has adorable animation and the jokes are clever enough for and adult to enjoy. Am I becoming a BRONY? Possibly…and I'm proud of it. 
     So, after watching that show I decided that I wanted to ad a little Rainbow Dash to my collection of FR dolls. So I simply typed into to ebay "Rayinbow FR" and a set of incredible Rainbow colored tights came up on the screen. These tights, stockings, gloves and other accessories are made by a seller called  "TheDaughterWhoSews" and she does excellent work that is very reasonably priced.
Check her out on Ebay at http://www.ebay.com/usr/the_daughter_who_sews
I bought the tights and they arrived in the mail within a week! That too made me happy so I pulled together the Fashion Royalty equivalent of Rainbow Dash using one of my favorite Dynamite Grils of all time. Enjoy the pics above of Rainbow Dash the Pony and Rainbow Dynamite the doll!
     Now, finally the last thing that gave me a HUGE grin (maybe a naughty one) is the next video that was sent to me by a friend on NYE. I had not gotten around to opening it and when I did, I literally LAUGHED OUT LOUD. Now a WARNING, this is an adult themed video. If you are offended by anything that is pornographic and GAY ….I BEG YOU….DO NOT WATCH THIS VIDEO! Ironically is was made by a straight couple who have a friend that is a doll collector. Obviously, this couple and their friend have a very humorous and OPEN MINDED relationship. 
This seriously HOT GUY made a video for a friend that is hysterically funny but some may find objectionable.
I thought it was brilliant and loved it....THAT WHY I'M SHARING IT ON MY BLOG. If you are going to be
offended or write something nasty after watching it - EVEN THOUGH YOU'VE BEEN WARNED - Pleased don't add
to my already shitty week by speaking up. Just stop following my blog. Because after all, this blog is NOT for
Children. That has never been it's intention....and...AGAIN.....YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!
http://accidentalbear.com/happy-nye-sexy-tattooed-guy-has-butt-sex-with-a-ken-doll-nsfw-video/
      I hope you enjoyed the things that made me smile this week….now let's hope the grey skies clear up and there is something better on the other side of the RAINBOW! PLEASE!!!
xoxoxo,
Frank

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Full Circle Moments or BLACK MAGIC POPPY The Remix!

This is my Remixed version of Black Magic Poppy being modeled by
Barefoot in the Park Poppy Parker in her fabulous Mid Century living room. 
Many moons ago I was asked to be a part of a team and work with a toy manufacturer to create a design for a convention. At first,  I was thrilled to be involved. It was like a dream come true. I was finally going to be able to combine my love of designing fashion and my love of dolls - and both those worlds were about to collide. Well, as many of you may know by now when have too many cooks in the kitchen the soup gets spoiled. And even thought, I love working in teams (in fact I've based my whole career around fostering the benefits of teamwork....and the fact that there is no "I" in it) even under the best of circumstances the ugly head of envy can always pop its green little head out. This is a recurring theme that I've had to deal with my entire life. Sometimes I tell people upfront and say "I'm like Madonna or Lady Gaga, you are either going to love me or hate me." LOL It's unfortunate because I, in my heart of hearts am a "people person". I'm really more like Sandra Bulllock more than I am either of the aforementioned POP Divas. I really try hard to make myself likable to people, but I draw the line at selling myself short when it comes to working hard and putting my best effort forward whenever I do something. For some reason, this really pisses some people off. Perhaps they think I'm a glory hound....far from it. I'm always thanking others for any accolades I may get on any work I am a part of. No man is an island and no one can truly create wonderful work with a supportive, cohesive and spectacular team.
These were the original 3 designs that I did for the doll I was working on.
Please don't judge them too harshly as it was 1996 and the quality of  IT & FR
was still in the near future. I highlighted the date so you could see just how long
this doll design has lived in the recesses of my mind. 
    Now back to the doll design project. When I first started it, I went the route that I normally go. Which is sit down and have a "client interview" with the jury of people that had asked me to do the project. I asked them what the theme was, when it was due, how many needed to be produced, what their budget was...blah, blah, blah." All the usual questions. Once I felt they had given me all the tools that I needed to start my work, I began doing my fashion croquis (which are just fashion illustrations). I normally design thinking of a "head to toe" look, what hair color, style, jewelry and other accessories are going to work best with the attire. That way the clients can have a fuller picture of what the final product is going to look like. I don't normally present more than 3 options and I try to make them all very different, while still meeting the general expectation of the individuals I'm working with. Now, truth be told, I always have a favorite among the three. One that I truly feel strongly about and I tend to "sell" that one a bit harder....Ultimately it is up to the clients to choose which one they like the best. Sometimes this works in my favor and my preferred design wins....sometimes I get stuck with my "less than favorite design" but once I am committed to a project, my job is to do the best that I can do....oh....and I'm a bit of a perfectionist (and that comes into play a lot). In the end, this is what happened on this project and I had to keep reminding myself that I had given them a choice of my 3 designs and in the end one was still being produced.
    Like many ill started projects, this one too had an unhappy ending. Although, I met and exceeded all the expectations set by the team for me, I guess I did them too well. Because they were afraid that the crowd would be shower me with accolades because of all the work I had done and in their words it was going to become the "FRANK show". Little did they know that was never my intention and that I would NEVER forget to shine the spotlight on the team. They never gave me the chance to show them that. This is where the "GREEN EYED envy monster" comes in and the whole experience scarred me so. These cretin's (who I had confused and believed were friends) made my life a living hell before the final event came to pass....to the point that I decided not to even attend and stopped collecting fashion dolls of any sort for about 10 years. CUT TO: Then I met my friends David and Ken quite innocently and by accident  at a local comic book show and they told me about the FR Convention which I reticently ended up attending...but now after going for 5 years...I'm sooooooo glad that I did. Making new friends and reconnecting with old ones has been very nice for me over the years....but especially life re-affirming....EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON.
    Well, at this last FR Convention in L.A., I was able to have a full circle moment. I saw a Poppy Parker doll that was designed by my dear and talented friend David Buttry. Her name was Black Magic but all I could see was a dream come true. I rarely look at dolls as "one whole concept" (even though ironically...that is how I design my OOAKs). I tend to look at every part of the doll as separates: clothes, accessories...etc. I guess it is the designer in me that wants to make things "my own" and I like to do a bit of switcharoo with my dolls. Plus, isn't' that what doll play is all about? Well, for me it is.
I love playing "stylist" and pulling things together that make a doll special and unique to my collection.
    Below is the fashion illustration that I did in 1996 (yes, I am that old) and above is the doll that I put together using the Black Magic fashion and the Barefoot in the Park Poppy to make my final vision come true.
    David, you had no idea that you were doing this when you were designing this doll, but it has helped heal a wound that I've been carrying along for way too many years. So, for that my friend, I thank you and love you!

xoxo,
Frank

P.S. Putting in the mid-century home was a nod to YOUR favorite style of decor.
Muah! F

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Vinyl Records, Vinyl Fashion Dolls and The Cha-Cha-Cha!

Yolanda "Tongolele" Montes with her signature raven hair and white love lock standing
along side my Abbe Lane "The Lady In Red" doing a duet accompanied by the
world famous Xavier Cougat Band.


      My parents had a pretty awesome vinyl record collection they had accumulated from the late 50s, 60s and 70s. Back when television consisted of 3 channels (ABC, NBC and CBS….I know kids…NOT KIDDING. Plus, there were NO remote controls. You actually had to get up and turn the knob to one of those 3 channels...Channels 10, 7 or 4 respectively) a lot of our family time in the evening before, during and after dinner consisted to listening to these latin Boleros, Cha-Chas, Salsa, Rumbas and Merengues. 
 
Abbe Lane album accompanied by the famous
Tito Puento was in my parents collection.
    These records had a particular quality to them that DVDs or BluRays today don't have. First, there was that scratchy sound that the needle made when you first put it down on the vinyl in the bland spaces before the music engraving started. It was almost like a two second white noise interlude introduction to the music you were going to look forward to hearing. It gave you time to anticipate the sound that would soon be invading your ears, mind and soul. I remember my parents, as a young couple (mom 23 and father 26) dancing to some of their favorite songs as a dinner of black beans, rice, plantains and picadillo (ground beef sautéed with caribbean spices and a bit of tomato paste) cooked on the stove while I had playtime in the bath. I could see them from the tub while they danced and watched over me from the hallway across the wash room. Life was pretty wonderful then. I was very much loved and I knew it for sure, and all those experiences were accompanied by this ongoing soundtrack of wonderful my cultures music.
Abbe and then husband Xavier Cugat were the inspiration
for Lucy & Ricky Ricardo. The sassy redhead and the
Cuban band leader....ring a bell?
Now, as an artist (and very small child) I think I loved the album covers almost as much as I loved the vinyl records that came inside of them. They were vibrant technicolor pieces of art and photography (or sometimes a combo of both). But, in particular some of my favorite were of those that featured the sexy chanteuses of the time. My parents had a record called "Havana 3am", which growing up in a Cuban household played pretty much on a loop every day and especially on weekends. It featured band leaders like Ttto Puente, Machito (The Cuban Count Basie) and Xavier Cugat (who incidentally was the inspiration behind the Ricky Ricardo character that Desi Arnaz played in "I Love Lucy"). But, even though those men where the ones that produced and arranged the music, it was the "girl singers" that sometimes sang on the songs featured on the cover in elegant and well fitted gowns that caught my imagination. That's the first time I saw Abbe Lane and women like her and just simply fell in love. 
To start, Abbe with fair skin, light eyes and titian red hair looked just like my mother on her record covers. She was curvy and had the voice, that too a child was something between an sexy siren and an angel. Singing songs like "Me Lo Dijo Adela" and "Whatever Lola Wants", I was hooked from the the beginning. To me that was womanhood in its most perfect incarnation. Then there was also Tongolele (Yolanda Montes) who with her shoulder length raven tresses and signature white lovelock creating a curl in the front, was my other absolute favorite. She was known as "La Mujer Pantera" which translates into "The Panther Woman". She was fierce in every sense of the word. She had the kind of hourglass figure that I saw on all the women in my family and could move her backside to a rhythm that could charm any snake (especially those of the "trouser" variety). Although, later on I found out she was known more for her dancing, she was featured on many of these LP vinyls and movies of the time. 
So when I started collecting and designing dolls, I found myself understandingly inspired by those women on the album covers of my childhood. I wanted to recreate miniature replicas of these strapless, skin tight, mermaid style dresses and couldn't help but be drawn to any fabric with a leopard skin print. These ladies were my first muses in the glamourous world of OOAK (one of a kind doll designing) when I was working exclusively on Barbie. 
Since then my tastes have evolved. Although, I wanted to have an homage to these ladies in my collection and recently I was able to obtain two dolls from the Fashion Royalty line that fit the bill perfectly. Last year's IFDC convention doll was a dead ringing in my eyes (after a few revamps) to Tongolele and although everyone saw Rita Hayworth as the inspiration to the "Lady In Red" that wowed everyone at the FR Convention in L.A. last October – I immediately thought of Abbe Lane. So, above you see the restyled and slightly modified versions of those femme fatales now in my ever expanding collection. I placed them (via Photoshop) in front of a Technicolor photo of the Xavier Cugat Band (BTW: Cougat was also Abbe Lane's husband at the beginning of her career) with a big Copacobana neon sign in the background (yes, The Copa, as it was regularly referred to as, really did exist in Cuba's Downtown Havana and was not just an imaginary place where Lola was a showgirl imagined by Barry Mainlow). 
Yolanda Montes "La Tongolele"
The sensational and gorgeous Abbe Lane!
I hope you enjoy these dolls and a walk down my childhood's memory lane. Every time, I walk into my doll room now and see them, I can imagine my youthful parents dancing to that fantastic music and that makes me smile.
Cha-Cha-Cha!
Franciso

NOTE: I wrote this blog 2 days ago before one of our beloved family pets Napoleon passed away. I've not been able to think straight much less get online to post this blog on my site until this morning. The last 2 days have been horrible (and I'm not exaggerating or being dramatic). I have never had to bury one of my pets and as a gay couple without kids of our own…our pets WERE and ARE our babies. I know that sounds stupid to some...but its the truth. I may sound like one of those crazy old spinsters that leave all the money in their inheritance to their pets, but the love that both Peter and I shared for Napoleon was deep and we were lucky to have him for wonderful 11 years (which is way passed the lifespan of a teacup chihuahua). Napoleon only brought joy into our life. He was quite, meek, noble, fun, sweet, adorable, loved to be kissed, snuggled and held on his back like a baby while he looked up at you...but most of all, what I will miss was how he looked up into your eyes with a look of pure love. He passed away like the little prince that he was quietly in his sleep from congestive heart failure. We were able to keep him alive through his prescribed medications for almost 8 months and although it was a bit of a chore....and now I'm so grateful for it. You see, every time he had to take a medicine we wrapped it in a small piece of deli meat which he loved and enticed him to eat his pills. I was mostly in charge of giving him his medication 3 times a day and every time I gave it too him he wagged his tail after I said the words "good boy" to him for taking his medication. My consolation now is that Napoleon knew he was loved by his daddies and that he knew he was "a good boy". 
"Popoleon" (was my nickname for him...
and Peter called Him "Nappy") and daughter
Frida sharing a nap at Christmas time on their
Santa bed. This is the last picture we have of
our little boy. I'm glad we got to have one more
Christmas together before God took him on
3 Kings Day - January 6th, 2014. 
Saying goodbye was heart wrenching and we are still grieving, but we still have our eldest female Kahlua Love Hewitt and Frida Von Tease (Napoleon's daughter) and they have lovingly licked our tears as we said goodbye to our little boy. I'd like to thank God for allowing us to have him in our life for so long and for keeping him for us until we see him again along with all our other loved ones on the other side.