I HEART CUTE JUNK: Tchotchke Talk with Alison Freer

I have frittered away a life’s savings on ballerina tutus, novelty notebooks, rings made of teeth, vintage Brownie Scout uniforms, Pillsbury Dough Boy collectibles, and Barbie doll tiaras. Hasn't everyone?

Jan 28, 2013 at 9:00am | Leave a comment

The Pygmy Hippo Shoppe here in Los Angeles is the cutest little store full of shit that nobody really needs but you definitely WANT, WANT, WANT.

I mean, who doesn't need this item in their life?

My birthday is May 19, in case anyone is interested. I’ve always had a major hard-on for ridiculous, random, needless tchotchkes. Los Angeles used to be ground zero for novelty junk shops. My all-time favorite spot was "X" frontwoman Exene Cervenka’s now defunct Sunset Boulevard boutique called “You’ve got Bad Taste.” It was a wonderland of amazing, weird and random dead stock shit. They sold a ton of serial killer John Wayne Gacy's clown paintings. It’s also where I got my set of mini Snoopy 3 ring binders.

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Of course, I’ve never written in them because where would I find more of that mini ruled notebook paper to re-fill it? They just sit around, look cute, and take up space. 

Exene’s shop is long since closed. A really great gift shop called Serifos has taken over its old space. Serifos is keeping the “You’ve Got Bad Taste” spirit alive -- seeing as how I recently bought a vintage Pillsbury Dough Boy cookie jar there. 

My personal Pillsbury Dough Boy collection is pretty stellar. It all started when my mom sent away like 46 UPC codes from Pillsbury products to procure an adorable vinyl Poppin' Fresh toy. I then promptly threw him into a fountain at the Miami, Florida, Dadeland mall. (Yes, site of the infamous Cocaine Cowboys shootings.)

After I tossed Mr. Poppin' in a fit of 4-year-old pique, I -- of course -- freaked out until my dad waded into the fountain barefoot and retrieved him. I've collected Poppin' Fresh junk ever since. This scenario really illustrates so much about who I am today, sadly.

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Poppin' Fresh is EVERYWHERE!

The granddaddy of all junk shops is still the legendary YQue here on Vermont Avenue. They are the smarties who made the “Free Winona” T-shirts when she was arrested.  It’s a classic. Go buy it in white right now and wash it to death with a few scoops of TSP in hot water to make it look hella old. 

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The original "Free Winona" tee, $16.00 at Yque.com.

YQue is also where I bought a bag of discontinued George Jones Country Gold dog food (which I dared my friend to eat) and a deadstock Dukes of Hazard digital watch. Class, personified. I have pretty much frittered away a life’s savings on ballerina tutus, novelty notebooks, He-Man keychains and Barbie doll tiaras. More than once I’ve found myself in the middle of some random store with a cart full of junk and no clear recognition as to how exactly I got there.

This was a pretty pointless, long-winded left turn to get back to telling you about the adorable Pygmy Hippo Shoppe. My point is that they are keeping the grand tradition of awesome, priceless novelty junk alive here in Southern California.

The store is about the size of my closet, which means that even though my closet is a legit proper bedroom, it’s still really tiny for a store. Luckily for those of you who don't live in LA, the store is actually bigger online than it is in real life.


Their jewelry selection is the real star, in my opinion. They have stuff like dinosaur bone necklaces, kitties in ice cream cones, and golden tooth rings:

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Golden Molar Ring, $18.00. 

Par excellence, right?? Their dime-store style novelties are equally great. Macaron lip gloss? Why not, DUH.

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Macaron lip gloss, $5.00 each. (Plus there's a mirror inside!) At Shop-PygmyHippo.com.

Pizza and eyeball bobby pins?

A watch you can scribble all over?

A cupcake ring full of lip goo?

Fake plastic wishbones?

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Faux wishbones, set of 3, $7.00.

Yes, yes, yes to all of the above, please. Pygmy Hippo also has a small selection of  unused, vintage deadstock stuff. 

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Left: Vintage horse ribbon, $22.00. Right: Vintage "Dottie" ribbon, $26.00.

Brownie Girl Scout stuff is the other big thing I collect. I was a Brownie Scout as a child, and the JC Penney catalog always had a special 15-page insert that had every single thing you could ever need or desire to trick out your Brownie uniform. I would drool, drool, drool over it when the catalog came in the mail twice a year. 

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All the good old vintage Brownie junk!

I'd die for that hat in the upper left corner today. My parents only ever bought me the bare minimum uniform needed to participate in Brownies, as they were attempting to do important things like buy a house for us to live in and send me to private school so I didn't get murdered by the aforementioned Cocaine Cowboys. (Such a great movie, btw.)

Now, as an adult, I scour the Internet and buy all the vintage Brownie Scout shit I can find. Including a child's XL uniform I altered to wear on Halloween. (Please note my special orange kiltie sock flashes, the thing I desired most as a child. They are easy to make yourself and look adorable with knee socks.) You can't tell in this pic, but I also have vintage Brownie hair doodles in my pigtails. 

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Don't trip, I'm wearing black bike shorts under there. I'm just not very ladylike sometimes. 

What sort of pointless-but-cute retro (or new) junk do you kids collect? My boyfriend has almost had it up to his eyeballs with my insane re-treading of all the things I loved as a child.

Just wait until they deliver my Ms. Pac Man 60-in 1 tabletop arcade game, which is meant to replace our coffee table. He's going to come unglued. WHOOPS. I haven't been to the Mr. Gatti's Pizza by my mom's in years, but the last time I was, the high score on their ancient Ms. Pac Man was held by someone whose initials are A.V.F.

I'm on Twitter, but I'm pretty boring: @IveyAlison.