Because I collect lots of vintage girlie things — especially those lingerie related things, I fell in love with these Louis Marx Campus Cuties. Of course, my favorite one, named “Nitey Nite,” features lingerie!
The story goes that the adorable Campus Cuties were a “marketing to girls option”, a girlie version of the little six inch plastic toy soldiers that Louis Marx put out in 1963. Like the soldiers, the dolls were sold in individual packages — though the Campus Cuties were individual named and marked with their names, while the soldier were not.
What no one seems to note, however, is the fact that the Campus Cuties are often found painted. Each as different than the next, as this photo of Mindy Weiss’ collection shows.
Despite this, no one mentions paints or instructions or anything about how often these little vintage pinup dolls are found painted. Even if it wasn’t Louis Marx’s concept, clearly this is what girls did with the Campus Cuties. (Perhaps doing as their brothers did, since even little plastic toy soldiers were sometimes painted as the hobby of collecting and painting military figures.)
According to Atomic Treehouse, these little dolls were even born the same year I was!
There were two only waves of cuties ever released and both were in 1964. There were eight figures in each wave with the names below.
Dinner for Two
On The Beach
On The Town
A Touch of Mink
Belle of the Ball
Day at the Races
Night at the Opera
Our Girl Friday
While the alliteration in the name is kinda clever, it is fun to point out that there is very little school activity going on. Not one of the figures is carrying a book, teaching, or learning in any way. They aren’t playing a sport, cheer leading, or even pledging. If Marx had waited a few years, they could have had cuties with names like “Sit-in”, “Bra Burning” or “Woodstock”. Maybe someone could revive the series with “Campus Cuties Gone Wild”. Sorry, that was the caffeine talking.
If you’re interested in collecting cuties, you should know the first series is much easier to find than the second. There are also color variations. All the original figures were a sort of silly putty pink. In the 70’s, Marx was sold to a faceless clueless multinational conglomerate who moved many of the molds to Mexico. Since then, the cuties have appeared in a light yellow and a cream color. The only reason any of this matters is economic. If you’re paying more than 6-8 bucks each and they aren’t pink, keep looking.
Since I was shopping (at least window shopping) for Campus Cuties, I was glad I’d read that part about the original color of the figures themselves!
Reproductions (also called reissues, recastings, etc.) appear in more than just the colors noted above. Especially when it comes to the nudes –
Wait! Did I say nudes?!
Yes, yes I did! The legend goes that nude versions of these little action figures were given out by Louie Marx to friends and associates as a prank.
(The two bathing suit wearing figures, called Erie beauties, were sold with a large cabin cruiser boat.)
Another series of swimsuit-wearing pinup girls was made by Marx too. This series of eight (also originally made in that Campus Cuties pink tone) was not made for children — these American Beauties (also known as Bathing Beauties) were saved for adults only, used by Louis Marx sales reps to entice sales. (Something which I find rather endearing and so have added Little Big World: Collecting Louis Marx and the American Fifties to my wishlist.)
But back to the Campus Cuties…
Now, the real question for me is, “If I get the blank ones, dare I paint them?” Or shall I just continue to place the painted ones on my wishlists? (Mother’s Day is coming! And my birthday not long after that!)
…Maybe I’ll consider painting any of the reproduced ones. That seems the most appropriate way to keep the integrity of the originals as well as honor the needs of my inner artsy child.
You can find information on each of the original vintage figurines here.
PS While you’re here… Check out this art video by Victoria Taylor-Gore featuring Campus Cuties: