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Barbie, the Ultimate California Blonde, Turns 50 Today

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Barbie celebrates birthday number 50 today
Malibu Barbie doesn't look at day over 25, but the old broad turns 50 today


Malibu Barbie doesn't look at day over 25, but the old broad turns 50 today
Of course, a lady never reveals her true age, but when it comes to pop culture icons, sometimes it's hard to hide a milestone.Barbie has been a cherished and coveted toy for children--and collectors--since she was "born" fifty years ago today at the American International Toy Fair. Barbie, with her impossible curves and sunshine-kissed blonde hair, was named for the daughter of her creator, Ruth Handler, who ran toy company Mattel with her husband Elliot until a financial scandal forced them to leave their posts in the late 1970s.

Barbie, nee Barbara Millicent Roberts, is said to hail from the fictional town of Willows, Wisconsin, and attended both Willows High and Manhattan International High in New York City. For most of her life she's been paired with Ken Carson (he debuted in 1961 and was named for the Handler's son), although the couple split in 2004, they seem to have reconciled in 2006 (that's over 40 years together!). Barbie has had hundreds of careers in the course of her doll-hood, and has enjoyed the spoils of fictitious wealth as evidenced by her fleet of expensive vehicles and palatial homes.

Lest anyone accuse the half-century old icon of being exclusive, her circle of friends over the years has been strategically widened to include Hispanic Theresa, African American Christie and Steven, and many other politically correct companions. On her 49th Birthday last year, LAist took a look at the many ways Angelenos could celebrate Barbie's life for themselves here in our fair (-haired?) city. And, yes, as the epitome of "plastic surgery" she has had some work done; her waist has been widened and her eyes set to face forward, among other adjustments over the years.

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Today's LA Times includes an Opinion piece by Amy Goldman Koss about her own relationship with Barbie. Koss points out how enduring--and profitable--Barbie's legacy is for her parent company: "[W]hereas most of us would fetch much less on the open market than we used to, an original Barbie, which sold for $3 back in 1959, now commands up to 8,000 bucks. Mattel says that three Barbies are sold every second and that more than a billion have been sold in over 150 countries since her introduction."

Ruth Handler died in Los Angeles in 2002 during surgery; she is buried next to her son, Ken (who died from an HIV-related illness in June 1994), in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City. Last April, Elliot Handler was given a 90th Birthday party at Mattel's headquarters here in El Segundo. Mattel has been battling on behalf of Barbie in recent years with the creators of the Bratz dolls; no matter the outcome, it's hard to deny the powerful impact Barbie has had on generations of children.

Happy 50th Birthday, Barbie!