Synopsis of Toy
If you watched television during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, there’s a better than average chance that you saw a commercial for products by the Ronco Company. This company, one of the first to use television to sell products by mail, made a killing during this time by selling scads of truly unusual products in a deliciously over-the-top style. These products were usually adult-oriented stuff like the Pocket Fisherman or the Inside-The-Shell Electric Egg Scrambler, but the folks at Ronco occasionally made items for the kids. The definitive example is Mr. Microphone, one of the most beloved toys of the 1970’s.
Mr. Microphone was truly ahead of its time. Basically, this item was a small AM-Radio transmitter encased in a plastic microphone-style case. All you had to do was turn it on and speak into the mic while a nearby radio was turned on. Instantly, your voice would magically burst on to the radio airwaves and become part of its broadcast. Thus, the Mr. Microphone owner could make fun of the deejay, critique the advertisements, or (best of all) sing along with his or her favorite star. Imaginative owners would work up elaborate routines for their favorites that transformed one-singer songs into duets.
Simply put, Mr. Microphone was too good to be true: for a mere pittance you could become a radio star and play cool tricks on people. The latter aspect of Mr. Microphone was played up in one of its famous commercials, in which a carload of fun-loving hecklers surprised a beautiful femme pedestrian by using Mr. Microphone to woo her: “Hey, good looking! We’ll be back to pick you up later!” Mr. Microphone’s combination of fun with a promise of instant stardom made it a must-have for kids and adults alike. It also inspired several similarly-inspired microphone toys, the most notable being the Donny and Marie Microphone.
Mr. Microphone ended up becoming one of Ronco’s biggest successes and continued to sell in large numbers well into the mid-1980’s. It was also ahead of its time in predicting the rise of Karaoke during the 1980’s: it’s easy to imagine many Karaoke mavens as former Mr. Microphone fanatics. Although it hasn’t been seen in recent years, the Mr. Microphone has become a kitsch item of high cult status, continuing to be a prized item at garage sales and second-hand stores everywhere. It’s easy to see why: Many toys provide hours of fun, but only Mr. Microphone can make you a star.