Hair Today Gone Tomorrow -Steven Miller and Wooly Willy

Very few would characterize Donald Trump’s xenophobic henchman Steven Miller as having a “magnetic personality.” But when it comes to the normally follically challenged Miller’s recent display of hair, he resembled nothing short of Wooly Willy that classic American toy that would create  hair on a bald pate thanks to metal fillings and a magnetic wand.

Hair-Raising Policies

Last Sunday, the usually doleful Miller appeared on CBS’s “Face The Nation” sporting a dramatically new “look.”

It wasn’t his hair-raising  policies that raised an eyebrow or two.

As he droned on digging in his heels concerning his draconian immigration policies, few could listen to his diatribe  unable to take their eyes off his freshly sprouted “hair.” While some attributed this dubious “do” to spray-on-hair, to me it evoked a more nostalgic feel.

Wooly Willy

Wooly Willy Toy

For over 60 years Wooly Willy with his “Magnetic Personality” has been entertaining children.

It was a staple in my childhood home particularly when I was confined to bed.

Along with Penicillin, Wooly Willy was a must-have for being home sick from school. No sooner would my pediatrician Dr. King pack up his leather satchel after his house call examining me, then  Mom would dash out to Woolworths to stock up on toys to occupy me during my confinement. Along with an assortment of Colorforms, coloring books, and paper dolls, there was always a brand new Wooly Willy to occupy me through my prescribed bed rest.

Priced at just 29 cents Willy was a bargain!

Wooly’s cartoon face was printed on sturdy yellow cardboard as stiff as Steven Miller, making it  easy to maneuver on my prone  lap. Covering Willy’s face was a plastic bubble filled with metal fillings that like magic could be moved mysteriously with the wizardry of a magnetic wand to create endless possibilities .

As the vaporizer puffed greats clouds of steam into my bedroom, hours could be spent shifting and changing Willy’s face adding bushy eyebrows, a Walrus mustache or any number of wild hairstyles, distracting me from a strepp  throat and the pungent methylated smell of Vics Vapo Rub that Mom would smear all over my chest.

House Calls may be a thing of the past, but Wooly Willy is still going strong, nearly 63 years later.

Magnetic Drawing Set Dapper Dan

Like Slinky and  Silly Putty and other toys of the baby boom era, Wooly Willy was the creation of industrial waste. Wooly was invented in 1955 by James Herzog while playing with magnetic dust in his father’s factory floor, the Smethport Specialty Company  in Pennsylvania. However it was another toy company in my home town of Hempstead, N.Y. that predated Wooly Willy creating a  similar toy called Whiskers in 1925. Whiskers never quite took off the way Willy did.

Beatles Magnetic Hair Toy

After Wooly Willy’s popularity was established the company came out with other  variations such as Funny Face and  Betty Brunette. In 1964 a British company jumped on the toy magnetic hair market with their own version featuring The Beatles.

The loveable Mop Tops were a natural fit.

Spy Vs Spy

As the Secret Agent craze took off with James Bond and the Man From U.N.C.L.E.  the Smethport Specialty Co. put Willy undercover creating first “Dapper Dan” who was billed as “a secret agent –alter his appearance to help him carry out his investigations.”

In 1966 he was joined by a honey trap named Suzie the Sophisticated Secret Agent. Not only could you change her hair styles but you could add hats, scarves, and even mustaches to trick any Russian spy she encountered.

Keep your eyes peeled for the reappearance of Susie. She was as shifty as anyone in the Trump administration.


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