The iconic Phyllis Diller will be 95 on July 17. Her stand up comedian persona included a quirky laugh, zany wigs and wild outfits. And all the while she clinched a long cigarette holder (a non-smoker), she told self-deprecating jokes. Who knew she was an accomplished concert pianist, painter and gourmet cook?
Diller has been upfront about her 14 plastic surgery procedures which may explain her jokes about the peeping tom who saw her naked - and threw up. Or the peeping tom who called and asked her to pull down the blinds. The Diller jokes came to mind short weeks ago at the Village Shopping Mall.
I hadn't been in the place in years, so I was admiring the brightness and stone work on the main floor. Then, I came upon a spot with the Easter Bunny sitting in a huge chair. Pull the blinds, please! Too late, adults with children were lined up for picture taking with the long eared fuzzball for $40 a pop.
A mental throw up for sure was the sight of a newborn gleefully laid into the arms of the costumed critter. Thankfully, the newborn never slipped out of the furry arms. But some day, some time that child will ask, "Mom why did you do that to me? It wasn't even a human being like a mall Santa Claus!"
I suspect even Frances Church who wrote the famous editorial - Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus (New York Sun, Sept 21, 1897) - would be hard pressed to defend the Easter Bunny.
My Montagnais genes have a bias towards the Easter Bunny. It's not just a crock but belongs in a Crock Pot - slow cooking - yum, yum.
The Village's stone floor reminded me of the first mall I ever visited - the Halifax Shopping Center in 1964. I was there not to shop (it was closed) but as a guest at the Mount Saint Vincent University Autumn Ball. The semi-formal evening seemed elegant at the time as the orchestra played in the central area with its winding staircase and terrazzo flooring.
That mall is one of the many I have been in over the years including Toronto's Yorkdale Shopping (first 100, now 250 stores) and Eaton Centre, as well as Montreal's Alexis Nehon Plaza and London's (Ont) Galleria. Malls in recent decades have been joined by the other shopping binge outlets - box stores.
Malls or box stores, they don't matter to me. Some times I purchase (we do need things) but most often I am passing through, just twacking as we say in Newfoundland - looking, not buying.
Notable in all malls is the once spacious open areas now often
chinched with small kiosks selling, selling, selling.
Malls can be really attractive. Or like, the Exploits Valley Mall - an ugly duckling yet to be a swan. All too many stores have ear bursting music and never ending sales. And to make sure you have the energy to keep spending, big malls have "food courts" - where there is no justice in calories or prices.
Malls tend to have lots of outlets to entice female customers with products or services whether its make up, bras, panties, handbags, jewelry, nails, hair, jeans, swim suits, shorts, shoes, coats, soaps or anything and everything for the bathroom, kitchen, bedroom and pets.
And yes, even a scattered store exists to sell socks to the old man. Nowadays, industry is trying its best to reverse "Why can't a woman be more like a man" (My Fair Lady, 1956). If that feat can be accomplished - there could be a mother lode of profits with millions, maybe billions of more products - to sell.
For decades women leaders have taken on all sorts of righteous female causes. However, where are the leaders to free women from mindless consumerism?
Maybe, it has begun with Lucy Sieglel's "To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?"
The British columnist (Observer) and author's book has note worthy points including environmental issues of the fashion industry such as the chemicals used and the pressure on animal industry (goats, sheep, cattle, silkworms) to meet its demands.
As well she covers the issue of consumers enjoying low priced products made by exploited adults and children in poorer countries. And shocking she notes the fashion industry generates a whopping 2 million tons of textile waste that ends up in UK landfills every year.
Landfill waste has steadily grown in the past five decades. Is it any coincidence that malls and box stores sprung up during that time? However, textile waste is just a tip of the iceberg with plastics of all kinds and disposals such as televisions, computers, cell phones and microwaves adding to the glut of garbage.
It's free market and free world, what can be done? If governments can make a villain out of the incandescent light bulb and have it banned - then, surely they can demand a time when products (needs or wants) can only come to the market place if they are either completely biodegradable, reusable, or recyclable.
The television series - Heroes - had a tagline "Save the Cheerleader, Save the World." Women consumers with their ever increasing incomes have phenomenal economic power to help save the world by hopping off the merry-go-round of senseless shopping and buying.
In the mean time if you see a guy in the mall with a paper bag over his head, it might not be a Toronto Maple Leaf's fan after all. It just might be me, trying to avoid another Diller moment.
Andy Barker at email@example.com