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Barbie's Life-Sized Malibu Dream House

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And let's report next on a kind of monument to childhood. You may have heard that a certain national icon is celebrating her 50th birthday. The Barbie doll made her debut on this day in 1959. As part of its marketing, Mattel has commissioned a life-sized Barbie Dream House, so we sent our own glamorous blond from NPR West in California, Melissa Jaeger-Miller.

MELISSA JAEGAR-MILLER: The original Barbie dream house actually looks a lot like my shabby Hollywood apartment, down to the wood paneling and cardboard furniture. The dream house from the '80s - that's the one the rich girls at school got to play with - came complete with a bright pink elevator. Today's life-sized version is more like that one.

We're sitting here perched on top of a cliff in Malibu and all we see is Pacific Ocean and sun.

JAEGAR-MILLER: Designer Jonathan Adler helped choose this location which is so beautiful it's hard to believe it's real. Adler's a judge on the TV reality TV Show "Top Design" and he's known for goofy takes on traditional decorating motifs. Walking through the front door of the Barbie House, there's a dream-like explosion of color.

Mr. JONATHAN ADLER (Barbie Dream House Designer): What we are looking at is this over-the-top orange roundabout poof that has a centerpiece of giant ostrich feathers cascading out of it like five feet high.

JAEGAR-MILLER: A starburst mirror above the fireplace is made of a dizzying spin of dolls. Below, two giant poodles lacquered pink, an actual genuine Andy Warhol portrait of Barbie, is on the wall, and from the ceiling hangs a chandelier made of an unusual material.

Mr. ADLER: It is made out of blond hair.

JAEGAR-MILLER: That's right, hair.

Mr. ADLER: It is kind of demented and it definitely walks a fine line. It's the kind where at first you see it and it just looks like traditional chandelier and you get closer to it and you see that it's all made out of blond hair.

JAEGAR-MILLER: Adler shows us to the kitchen, which exists solely for the purpose of making cupcakes. Next, the bedroom, a tent of rich pink fabric. And Barbie's closet? Neatly lined with 100 identical pink patent leather high heels. So where does Barbie go to powder her nose?

Mr. ADLER: Why would - you know, Barbie doesn't go to the bathroom. Are you crazy?

JAEGAR-MILLER: Designer Jonathan Adler says the project for him is a sort of redemption.

Mr. ADLER: I did not play with Barbies, but in my case, my sister played with Barbies and I remember ripping the head off her doll and burying it in the backyard.

JAEGAR-MILLER: Just one of the indignities the doll has suffered at the hands of children over the years.

Mr. ADLER: I think everybody has a weird, inappropriate Barbie experience that they carry with them throughout life.

JAEGAR-MILLER: Some lucky grownups get to play make-believe at a party at the Malibu house tonight. This NPR producer is back to her 800 square foot apartment and stories about bank failures.

Melissa Jaegar-Miller, NPR News, Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Melissa Jaeger-Miller