Beyond the Valley of the Barbie Dolls

Barbie doll Photography & Collecting by David Mansour

Me, David Mansour the "Man of Pop" and author of a #1 pop culture best seller! 

Meet 

David Mansour!

In 1992, I did a "Barbie for President" makeover titled "Blond Ambition," for the Kansas City Star.  It was the entire front page of the newspaper's Sunday Look section on September 13.  I cut Barbie's fluffy blonde locks off and gave her a classic brunette bob. She went from wearing pink to a classic black and white houndstooth with pearls.  I vote our Barbie very Presidential! 

Above: Me visiting the Barbie Store in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2011.  At the time it was the only one in the world.  It was very PINK and I passed on a more cultural tour to go here that afternoon.  I guess I know where my priorities lie... HaHa! 

When I did television interviews and talks at book store signings to promote my pop culture book, From ABBA To Zoom, I always brought token Barbie dolls with me to share to the audience.  Above: I took Mod Hair Ken and Live Action P.J. with me for a June 2005 interview on KMBC-TV in Kansas City.

Through the years my Barbie dolls have been featured in various media: newspapers, magazines, and television, most notably the Discovery Channel's Pop Nation TV show, which aired nationally for  Christmas 2005.  Labeled a "Pop Culture Expert/Author" by Discovery, I appeared as a “talking head” and talked about... you guessed it, Barbie (below)!    

Above: ... And to no one's surpise I turned into a Barbie Doll!  LOL!

Above and below: Photographer me at home and on the beach, with a new Canon pro camera in hand (a Christmas gift from partner John Bode) busy at work for a Christmas photo project titled, "It's a Barbie Christmas!"

"Just take in this gorgeous sea of Barbies and Kens from over the years dressed in dreamy, fashion-plate finery."

~ Stan Williams, The Elegant Thrifter

I’ve been enamored with Barbie, Mattel’s Queen of Fashion Dolls, since my early childhood of the 1960s.  Fortunately my parents were cool and didn't have an issue with me playing with dolls. Mom even bought me Malibu Ken to play with the neighborhood girls in Virginia.  I was also fortunate to be in the middle of two sisters who had all the latest Barbie dolls and accessories. Older sister Paula, a Baby Boomer, had the first Barbie dolls—from the original stiff-legged Barbie to the bendable Twist ‘n Turn Barbie; younger sister Kim, a Generation Xer, had the Barbie dolls of the 1970s—including the Malibu Barbie and Superstar Barbie. I loved playing with their Barbies!

Above: In December 2016, my Barbie artwork went on exhibit at Lestat's Coffee House on Park (below), located in the University Heights neighborhood of San Diego.  

7-year-old me, 1969!

In 2011, nine of my beautiful Back-to-Basics Barbies were selected to be supermodels for an actual fashion shoot. It was for the February edition of Kansas City Spaces magazine, titled "Oh, You Beautiful Doll," and these dolls modeled the latest spring fashion accessories (below)!

Above left:  These six Barbie & the Rockers received as a birthday gift in 1987 inspired a collection of thousands of Barbies, dolls and other toys, such as lunch boxes and board games.  Top right: 20-something Me organizing a then-fledgling Barbie collection in 1990. 

In the pages of my upcoming book Beyond the Valley of the Barbie Dolls  and coinciding customized Barbie photo art for sale,  you will view beautiful and mesmerizing photographs, paying tribute to my Barbie collection.  As you will see I’m not your typical Barbie collector.  I often remove them from the box, change their fashions and hair, then play, display, and photograph them.  Some of my photos have Barbie and best friends posed on the shelves in the collection.  While other photos have the dolls on beaches, atop mountains, alongside canyons, in the park, at the swimming pool, and just about every place around my California home. So you see, you don’t have to climb Mount Everest to reach the Valley of the Dolls.  You just have to climb Cowles, the highest mountain in San Diego, to go Beyond the Valley of the Barbie Dolls!

Pop culture author, photographer, and toy collector David Mansour’s extensive doll and toy collection of 30+ years, including 1000s of Barbies, inspired him to write his first book, From ABBA To Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century.  His latest project is Beyond the Valley of the Barbie Dolls (the title is a spin on the movies Valley of the Dolls and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls). He resides in sunny San Diego, California with his partnerJohn Bode and a family of adorable pets.  

Above left: My Barbie collecting growing, growing, growing in the mid-1990s.  Above right: By the early-2000s my collection filled up with other dolls and toys alongside Barbie.  I fervidly searched antique malls and eBay looking for the toys from my 1960s/1970s childhood (favorites included Liddle Kiddles, lunch boxes, and board games).  Through it all, Barbie remained #1 in my heart.

Me, 2nd grade!

Above: Jacqueline Susann's 1966 bestselling novel Valley of the Dolls, the 1967 big screen adaptation, starring Patty Duke, Barbara Parkins and Sharon Tate (one of my all-time favorite films), and Russ Meyers' 1970 cult film Beyond the Valley of the Barbie Dolls, along with a life-long passion for Mattel's Barbie, are the inspirations for Beyond the Valley of the Barbie Dolls.

Photo shoot by Tatjana Alvegaard in 2000.

In 2005, Barbies from my collection made the pages of the Kansas City Star newspaper three different times, including the coveted Front Page of the Sunday edition on May 31, 2005 (right)!

Above and below: In early-2018, I put the Beyond the Valley of the Barbie Dolls book on-hold after I got inspired by a new photo project.  I refer to it as the "Barbie Who's Who" project.  I am taking every one of my Barbie dolls in the collection, box by box in storage (bottom left), and photographing them in front of a canvas backdrop, bubblegum pink for the girls and aqua blue for the boys.  I'm shooting this portrait style with a full-body shot and close-up shot.  My goal is to turn this into a guide book for Barbie collectors, which has always been a dream of mine to write.  

The pivotal moment of Barbie collecting occurred on my birthday in September 1987 when I received a set of  new wave Barbie & the Rockers dolls as a present.  These six dolls reignited a long-lost love for the doll of my youth.  They also grew into an obsession, er, I mean a collection of thousands, plus an extensive assortment of other dolls, toys, and pop culture memorabilia.  

Above: Heading off to photograph a "Barbie Beach Party" on beautiful Silver Strand State Beach, just south of Coronado!  Below: Working on "The Pride Project" for San Diego Gay Pride (I built a homemade photo box to do so).

In 2012 I followed a dream and moved to beautiful San Diego (I've wanted to live in California my whole life).  In preparation for the move I downsized my belongings and sold off quite a few toys.  Still thousands of dolls and toys remained; these were boxed-up and journeyed west with me (above left).  In May 2014, I opened an on-line vintage toy store, From ABBA To Zoom (www.shop.fromabbatozoom.com), name after my book (the store's inventory is comprised of the toys and dolls I collected over the years).  As far as the Barbies are concern, they were always at the center of my heart through all those years of toy collecting.  I'm not selling them; actually they are the only dolls I'm buying today and of course, photographing them for Beyond the Valley of the Barbie Dolls (above right). 

The Barbies of my 1960s/1970s childhood: Stiff-legged Barbie and Ken (above left), Twist 'n' Turn Barbie (above center), Talking Barbie and Ken (above right), Malibu Barbie and Ken (lower left), and Superstar Barbie (lower right).  

Above left: My toy collection at it's peak, circa 2011.  I filled a spare room in my Kansas City home with toys from wall to wall, floor to ceiling.  Above right: All the pop culture swirling around these toys were the inspiration for me to right  the book, From ABBA To Zoom.  Below: Three shots from Stan Williams, NYC author/photographer (The Find) when he visited KC to photograph the renowned toy collection.  They were featured on Stan's Elegant Thrifter blogsite in June 2010.

“You’ve got to climb Mt. Everest to reach the Valley of the Dolls” went the opening to Jacqueline Susann’s wildly popular 1960s novel, Valley of the Dolls. I've taken a spin on Jacqueline’s tagline.  You will find plenty of dolls here—the eleven-inch-tall plastic variety type, along with glamorous fashions but sorry, no pill popping or booze swigging, scandalous sex or bitchy catfights.  

Welcome to Beyond the Valley of the Barbie Dolls!

Top: I brought the iconic Californians, Malibu Barbie and Malibu Ken, back to the beach (after years of Mid-West living) for a photo shoot on Mission Beach.  Bottom: A Barbie shoot on top of Cowles Mountain (at 1,591-feet, Cowles is the highest point in the city of San Diego)!