Float About... #30 © Copyright Tues/June 5, 2001

Celebrate! For it is truly spring... but not for long. I apologize for the time lapse between issues. Vacation was absolutely grand (details to follow), but regaining a daily routine afterwards was beyond difficult. Yes! I found a bounty of new pens. The New Arrivals list will substantiate my claim, but first .... a magnificent media sighting and pen from Chili's Bar & Grill.

Chili's Bar & Grill pen pic

It was February when Linda Sienkiewicz first reported the sizzlin' Chili's Bar & Grill float pen commercial. She described it as a "totally floaty experience". Linda was 100% correct. Wow! That same evening Beverly Broadstone provided more details and Kristen Ronberg followed with contact information. Ladies we may have missed this one without you. THANKS.

The commercial is absolutely true to float art standards and is created in a playful 50's style. Transparent edges around the major components make them appear to be film cut-outs, which only adds to the authenticity. Movement is expressed in slides and glides, just like in a float pen. A peppy tune plays in the background. The commercial depicts the journey of a family of four in a turquoise convertible making their way to Chili's Bar & Grill. What a wondrous journey it is!

As the family pulls away from their house, the flag on the mailbox pops into an upright position and a Spaniel lunges from his dog house. They cruise past a policeman holding a whistle and a quaint church. A dairy cow, in the foreground turns it's head as the car passes by a big red barn in a pastoral setting. The route takes them through a brick tunnel to reach a bridge stretched over water. In the meantime, a red chili pepper plane crosses blue skies with chili pepper shaped clouds above the family car. Their voyage continues past a bank and parking meter. Many physical elements have been cleverly replaced or enhanced by chili peppers. The mailbox flag, cop's whistle, church bell and the indicator in the parking meter have all been substituted with plump red chili peppers. Peppers provide the bridge supports and bank pillars. Look closely to see chili pepper markings on the dairy cow. Incredibly cute.

Ok... so back to the grand finale. The family has finally arrived at Chili's Bar & Grill. Now for the punch line. The camera pulls away to reveal the pen is actually in the hand of a waiter. He is taking an order from a young couple seated in a booth at Chili's Bar & Grill. The genius (or team) responsible for this ground breaking film remains a trade secret, but I imagine it's a float pen collector at work... or at least someone with a sincere appreciation for the art form.

I have been told the commercial is not currently airing, but it is scheduled to make a come-back in the future. Chili's has been known to run their ads on their website. I am tickled to offer their pen for sale on my list. Find it under the New Arrivals - Advertise category. Ideal Motion Promotion is responsible for this and many other incredible corporate designs. This pen certainly matches the calibre of their earlier Heinz Ketchup pen. Ideal Motion Promotion managed to capture the perfect floaty rendition of the Chili's commercial within the pen... with a little less movement, of course. A must-have I assure you!

If you haven't experienced Chili's Bar & Grill you may think it is a Tex-Mex or Mexican establishment. Not so! Bill and I frequent them in our travels. They have delicious food and a varied menu which includes: burgers, steak, chicken, shrimp, salads, ribs and fajitas. Some of their restaurants have gift shops. Visit a Chili's now. In addition to dessert, you might be able to get their float pen. Visit the website for more information about Chili's Bar & Grill, http://www.chilis.com. Their grill is always hot... let's eat!

When it Rains it Pours... Media Sightings Galore

Magazine Cover

Miranda Wittebol contributed words and wisdom... to Just Floating By, an article in the February/March 2001 issue of Classic Fast Ferries magazine. The article briefly covers the history of float pens and their increasing popularity. More to the point, they feature several color pen photos that feature ferries. This link (NOTE: Link defunct; Removed May 2015) will take you directly to the coverage. You will need Adobe Acrobat to read the pages. If you are unable to address the article I can provide you with glossy color copies of the 4-page feature. The fee will cover printing/USA postage expenses... $2.50/with a pen order; $3.50 without. (Offer expired in 2005).

Andy Balbus was watching the... May 5th Saturday Night Live. Because Pierce Brosnan was the host, their Weekend Update segment was bursting with Bond humor. Tracy Morgan, suggested he (himself) as a candidate for the next James Bond. If you haven't seen Tracy, he is of African-American ancestry. While Tracy fantasized about all of the super cool secret agent stuff that would serve him as an agent, he slipped a tip 'n' strip from his pocket. Tracy and co-anchor, Jimmy Fallon, both tinkered with the pen for a moment or so. Sorry we missed it. Rerun! Andy was the first to report this sighting. Thank you Andy B.

Nancy Lynam-Davis faxed a copy of... a March 3, 2001 medical article that appeared in The Plain Dealer. “New radiation therapy keeps blood flowing”, by Roger Mezger reports “A new, minimally invasive procedure being done in Cleveland offers heart patients an alternative to bypass surgery.” The article continues on page 8A with a gigantic photo of a twist n click float pen. The caption reads, “Stents, similar to the one in this pen, are used to open blocked arteries in heart patients, but the stents can become clogged with scar tissue. A new procedure uses catheterization and radio active material to keep the stent open and avert the need for heart bypass surgery.” An actual stent floats inside the clear window of the pen. Cleveland and float pens... making and preserving medical history.

April 17th Patricia White tuned into... a new UPN network television show called All Soul's. In this particular episode a doctor scribbled his cell phone number on the palm of a boy's hand using a tip n strip pen. When the boy made a comment regarding the pen, the doctor explained that it was a gift from his father. At the tail-end of the story the doctor used the pen to perform a tracheotomy. Patty adds 'Eowwww'. Just think, if you were carrying a stent pen it might save your life in two distinctly different medical emergencies.

Several months ago, Andy Balbus... was asked to write an article about float pens for a Finnish magazine called Keräilyn Maailma. (Don't feel bad, Andy can't pronounce it either.) The magazine is due for release any minute. Getting your hands on the actual publication could be complicated. Reading the Finnish translation could be a challenge too. Andy was kind enough to provide the English and Finnish versions. Read Andy's article in English. To read the Finnish text you will need Adobe Acrobat. Click here if you wish to see the Finnish version, complete with a slew of photos. Most impressive Andy!

Brian Hollier, at Eskesen... and Linda Sienkiewicz both sent emails to remind me about Kevin Costner's movie... The War. I caught the end of the movie last week when I was channel hopping, but I have not seen the whole story. Brian tells me a float pen plays an important part in the plot. The War is one of Linda's favorite movies. I have mentioned it in Float About before, but maybe we should all take a look. The video has been on the rental shelves for a long time now. It is probably even available in DVD by now.

While browsing through books... at our Mansfield Barnes and Noble I encountered Flintstones Collectibles (An Unauthorized Guide) by Debra S Braun. I quickly skimmed the pages and spotted pictures of the Flintstones bowling and baseball float pens. The estimated value was stated as $20-$35 per pen. Gotta wonder where they get such figures? The caption stated “manufacturer unknown”. Schiffer is the publisher and the book lists for $29.95. Sounds like a must-have for Flintstone collectors.

A bulletin from Sandra Watkins... of San Francisco. “I finally made it to Forbes!” She admits, “Okay, so it's just an article on house trading that they interviewed me for, but the photo of my loft on the second page is pretty cool. Here's the link to House Swapping... http://www.forbes.com/2001/06/01/0601home.html Make sure to click on next page to see the photo of my place and read on.” Thanks Sandra, we wouldn't want to miss it.

Chili's Bar & Grill pen pic

This one is really hot... off the presses. June 1st I received email notice from Gina Carlson regarding another float pen sighting. Her sister had just purchased the July issue of “rosie”, Rosie O'Donnell's magazine. She was elated to tell Gina about the photo of Rosie's float pens. That same afternoon an email from Karyn provided more details.

The coverage is on page 64, the chuffa page. According to Karyn, “It's basically a full-page photo of 10 floaties in a red mug, with comments from Rosie, who claims to be a collector!” Rosie says, “I got my first floaty pen in 1967, a souvenir from the Montreal Expo. They are fun to collect and rarely cost more than six bucks.” Rosie has been collecting since 1967... amazing. I knew she was a really cool gal! I bet there are a lot of closet celebrity collectors. We know Melissa Etheridge is one-of-us. Do you imagine any of your favorite celebrities to be float pen collectors? Michael Douglas? Probably not. Gary Oldman? Unlikely. Julia Roberts? Hmmm? Janeane Garofalo of The Truth About Cats and Dogs and stand-up comedienne from Comedy Central? Maybe so.

The magazine sells for $3. It is packed with serious stuff, fun and fluff. This is Rosie's third issue. Get your copy today. Consider this a sneak-peek. Most of the pens featured are from Floaty and several designs are available on my pen list as well. OH! Photography credit to Antonis Achillieos and Cathy Cook is responsible for styling the shot. This just has to be the same Cathy Cook that wrote the float pen article in the Fall 1997 issue of Collectibles Flea Market Finds.

News from your Fellow Collectors...
When Gwen Garabedian isn't busy enjoying.... the company of her granddaughters she makes time to research the origins of her float pens. In the process, Gwen has found a few unique and interesting resource sites. Sometime ago Gwen acquired a pen from the Skagens Museum in Denmark. The pen featured a famous painting. Gwen needed to know more! She tells me, "I saw a birthday card with a similar image. I then had the name of the artist but could not find that pen photo. I asked my friend, who taught me to use the computer, to help me locate the painting. He has a link to a virtual museum of art." http://tigtail.org/TVM/B/danish.html

While digging into the background of her Volkinger Hutte pen she determined the 19th Century German industrial plant was “designated a world cultural monument by UNESCO in 1998. It is right up there with the pyramids.” If you appreciate architectural history, this is a fine place to hang out... (NOTE: Link now defunct; Removed May 2015). Survey both sites. You may find clues to the origin of pens within your personal collection. And Gwen... congratulations on the March arrival of Dinah June. I trust Dinah and her older sister LuLu will become avid float pen collectors, just like Grandma.

In the same email Gwen had a note about the closing of Ruby Montana's Pinto Pony in Seattle. We were both very saddened to hear the news. You might have Ruby's float pens? One commemorated an annual Spam Contest, the other was a store promotion. They are both considered cult classics. Seattle resident, La Nea Conner, contacted Ruby and partner Calyn. She reports they are in the process of opening a new store in another state and YES... thinking about a new float pen.
Pic of Tracy Uzzel

Tracy Uzzel's floaty influence made a mark... at a family wedding. She shares the story. “My sister, Teri and her groom, Joe, used a Go Bucks Ohio State floaty pen for the guests to sign their wedding guest book. Joe is an OSU grad and both of his parents are professors there. The wedding was in Columbus, Ohio and the pen was a hit with all who signed the book. (The picture is of Tracy signing the book.) Teri and Joe do not collect pens, but they are great about buying them for me. They even brought me some Nova Scotia pens back from their honeymoon!” Lucky lady.

Miranda Wittebol... is building a website. I will keep you posted. In the meantime, Miranda has a couple of special pens for trade/sale. These pens will not appear on my list. Miranda participated in a project similar to our USA collectors pen. Several European collectors joined forces to create their own Euro collectors pen. The second pen celebrates a royal wedding.

Lian Farrer has about 100 pens... for sale. You may remember several months ago when Lian, due to circumstances beyond her control, felt that she had to sell her collection. Lian tells me she has about 100 pens available. (NOTE: pens sold long ago.)

Petra van Osch has launched .... a floatacious new web site. It will be added to the website links page, but in the meantime you can visit right now (NOTE: Site Defunct; Removed May 2015).

My Own West Coast Float Adventure...
was a BIG success... I won't bore you with a detailed accounting of each and every day, just the floaty highlights. First stop... April 5th we arrived in San Diego. We were in town for just a few hours when I discovered an outstanding float pen. The Sanrio store at Horton Plaza had an Eskesen float pen that featured Hello Kitty in London. There were only a handful available, but the price was appalling... $7.75 per pen. I was offended, but it didn't stop me from buying two of them.

Hello Kitty pen pic
The barrel is printed with silver text "Hello Kitty" "c 1976, 2000 Sanrio"

Saturday, April 7th was an exceptional day. Heavy rains spoiled our morning plans, but it didn't ruin our day. Just after 1pm Beverly Broadstone and her sister Ruby arrived at the Padre Trail in Old Town. They came armed with pastries to-die-for. Beverly presented me with a super cool jar she embellished with Felix buttons. I will treasure it always. We exchanged pen and personal chit-chat, then had to separate. I later met with Bev and Ruby at Horton Plaza. They needed Hello Kitty float pens too. Then we sat down at The Panda for an early dinner. It was a fabulous meal and the company was even better. I hated to say goodbye to them, but I needed to get back to the motel and the girls had a long drive to LA. Our visit was short, but very sweet. It's a shame Damon Zilly wasn't able to join us.

Just an hour later collector Ron Lanyi and his beautiful daughter Claire met Bill and I back at the Padre. While Bill broke away to take some digital pics in the neighborhood... Ron, Claire and I took a little walking tour of Old Town. My brother arrived later than expected, but just in time for all of us to share a late night dinner and fortune cookies. Claire is a very special young lady and I always look forward to a visit with Ron. It was the perfect end to an incredible day.

The next day, Bill, my brother and I spent the entire day at the Wild Animal Park. There are two float pens available inside the park: Condor Ridge and Lorikeet Landing. Sorry, I did not purchase extras. It would have been an expensive proposition and the designs did not have mass appeal.

Second stop...April 10th we reached San Francisco. I am very pleased to announce that after an extensive search we found Eskesen still rules SF. The designs we encountered were all familiar, most of them appear on my Main List. I expected to find Chinese pens in Chinatown, but not so. Encouraging news... we only found two vendors selling Chinese tip n strips.

I knew before I left Ohio that I would not have a chance to meet with Sandra Watkins. I was equally disappointed when attempts to meet with David McGahey and Michele Hament failed. It is amazing how time slips away when on vacation. Saturday, April 14th I did meet with Nancy Nerenberg at our motel, The Royal Pacific. We exchanged a few pens and then marched off to lunch at a little Chinese restaurant just a few blocks away. After chow we made a quick run through Chinatown in search of party favors for her son's upcoming birthday. A Happy Belated B-Day to you Miles. We hurried back to the hotel to meet Carol Santos, just in from a big wedding. Three floaty girls hanging out in SF. Doesn't get any better than that. We continued our gabfest over cappuccinos at a nearby Italian cafe. All three of us had evening plans so we went our separate ways about 6pm. It was a grand way to spend a Saturday.

Easter day... Seattle, our third and final destination. On Monday La Nea and Rusty Conner both took the day off work to chauffeur Bill and I all over Seattle. We had a blast. It all began with a tasty brunch at the High Spot. Then we made our way to the waterfront. Strolled in and out of the shops most likely to carry float pens. We actually found a pen near Pike Place Market to add to New Arrivals/Locations.

Univ of Washington pen pic
The Husky Logo floats over three University of Washington Campus scenes
The caption reads "University of Washington + dog + HUSKIES"

La Nea and I both purchased some Hello Kitty items at Uwajimaya's, but we didn't find any float pens. La Nea and Rusty invited us to their beautiful home. I got to see her float pen collection and so much more. La Nea has a room devoted to her Cabbage Patch Kids and another room decorated with her Curious George collection. All of these items are impeccably displayed and cared for. Must admit, La Nea... you put me to shame. I honestly think she should submit photos to any one of the better collectibles magazines.

Rusty brewed Oregon Chai for all of us. We kicked back and relaxed long enough for their daughter Lori to meet us for an early Italian dinner at Mamma Melina's Ristorante. Lori was the original float pen collector in the Conner family. She is responsible for getting her mother hooked on pens. Lori is an exuberant young teacher and delightful company. It was a joy to finally meet them all face-face. The very gracious Conner family made our trip to Seattle an extra special memory.

We spent the entire last day of our vacation with the crew at Topline. So very fitting that our Seattle trip began at the High Spot and ended on such a high note. My hopes of meeting Sarah Watson bombed, but I will make sure we get together the next time. Bill and I were both looking forward to seeing Chris and the folks at the Underground Tour. That didn't happen either. We will just visit Seattle again.

When I found time to go through our vacation pictures, it was immediately obvious that I have had a lot more experience shooting objects than people. I need a do-over. As for this trip, this is my deepest regret. Why didn't I take more pics? Why were they so bad!? My subjects will be relieved that their photos stay with me. As I review my vacation coverage, a lot of floating about, kibitzing and eating seems to sum it up very nicely. What a great vacation!

Displays...
wedding cake display Lee Williams has a passion... for wedding pens. With the assistance of her husband she created this wooden wedding cake pen holder. Each of the three wooden layers have holes drilled around the edges. A wooden spool tops it off. The stenciled pink pattern over white paint becomes the icing-on-a-cake. The finishing touch... a happy bride and groom perched atop. So sweet.
wedding cake display

Lucy Day hired the right carpenter... to build a back lit pen display in her home. The carpenter confessed that he and his wife had purchased a number of float pens on their vacation cruises. The collectors collaborated to create this shallow in-the-wall bookshelf display.

The display, broken into cavities of varying size, will accommodate over 500 pens. Holes were drilled in each and every shelf at an angle. The rows are staggered and 4 pens deep. A beautiful and yet very efficient display.

Lucy is not a novice collector. She purchased her very first float pen at Graceland in 1990. In 1994, Sandy at Topline helped Lucy produce a pen to celebrate her 50th birthday. Lucy, assisted by Nancy Nerenberg at Float Art, made a custom float pen for her 20th Anniversary party. Lucy and Nancy are currently working on a pen for the Breast Cancer Alliance, a nonprofit organization that Lucy helped found. She is obviously dedicated to her cause and collection. Thanks for sharing with your fellow collectors.

I would like to caution... new collectors about the dangers of UV rays. Float pen artwork is composed of images on photo film. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight will cause the color and detail of the artwork to fade. If you keep your pens in a bright room, do what you can to diffuse the direct light. Shades and curtains provide a major deterrent. A special glass has been developed to protect artwork hanging in museums from detrimental UV rays. It is available at better frame shops everywhere. Do what you can to protect your investment.

Speaking of investment value... with their rise in popularity, our pens are gaining in price. Like any collectible there are some more valuable than others. Obviously the vintage pens are the most rare, but some of the pop culture pens that were released as late as the mid-90's are bringing in big bucks on eBay. Yes, I know eBay prices are highly inflated. All it takes is two people battling over one pen to drive the price sky high. I am talking about a REAL price based on reality, availability, theme, popularity, condition, experience, and fairness... not eBay mania.

From time to time I will be listing pens on eBay that do not and will not appear on my list. These are pens from a variety of sources. Pens that I have accidentally taken in trade to find they are already in my collection. Others are singles that have been floating loose in my pen room, or pens I have in limited quantities of 1-4. Some of them have been retrieved from unclaimed orders. These pens will be handled differently than pens that are currently available. They will be referred to and marked as pens from my CHOICE Collection. The keyword being “CHOICE&rdq1uo;, as in premium or select stock.

As usual, I will provide an estimated value within the listing. As a Float About customer/collector, if you bid beyond the highest value stated, the extra money can be applied to any item on my weblist. For example... if the estimated value is stated as $6-$8, but you have to bid $18 to get a pen that you REALLY want... the difference between $8 to $18 is $10. The $10 will be credited towards any item(s) on my pen list. Why? Everyone will get an opportunity to bid on the pen. You will get a fair price for discontinued designs and if you have to bid beyond the real worth of the pen at least you get more pens for your buck!

This will be a big help to me too. With over $15,000 tied up in pen inventory, I need to sell pens, lots of pens. I am hoping this plan will serve everyone concerned. Important... if you have a question about any pen I have listed on eBay, or my site, do not hesitate to ask. I try to anticipate questions in my listings, but I can't think of everything.

New Pens past, present and future...
Issue #29 had so few new pens... to offer. I may have over compensated for issue #30. There are 50 designs new to my list. As promised, the Ireland pens have arrived. The distributor apologized for not having the Riverdance pens. He thought he had one box in stock, but he was mistaken. There are two other pens from Ireland. A clear window with an Irish flag floating up/down. The second is from Dublin. There are 10 pens in the Smithsonian Collection. Buy ANY 6 pens from this group for $19.50; a savings of $1.50. Buy ALL 10 of the Smithsonian pens for $30; a savings of $5. With 50 new pens on the list it could easily take three pages to describe them all. Instead I suggest that you go straight to the pen list.

The next issue of Float About... should be released in a timely manner. Really! Online subscriptions will continue to be free of charge. For those that do not own, but have access to a computer... it is likely you can print hardcopy of the newsletter from my website for a nominal fee. If you have an email address... send it my way. I will be happy to add you to my emailing list. Producing hardcopy is a major expense and time consuming project. Only a handful of people on my hardcopy list buy or trade pens. I was seriously thinking about eliminating hardcopy altogether, but I may have another solution. Beginning with issue #31 hardcopy of the newsletter will be available for $12/5 issues. Collectors that actively order pens will continue to receive free issues when they place an order for $25 or more. I do this out of necessity.

Our craft schedule is lighter... than it has been in years past. It's going to be a strange season for Bill and I. I will be sure to post our days-out on the website. Our cats, Minki & Keogh, are doing just fine. They tested negative for the FIV virus in March. What a relief. That was truly an emotional ordeal. I hope this issue finds you and yours well? Be sure to report any media sightings or float pen news you encounter. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for being so very patient in regards to this issue.

Forever Afloat...
Diana

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Next Float About Issue #31 please

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