the doll games
shelley and pamela jackson


interviews: catherine daly

Shelley: Did you have stock characters or plots? What were they?

Catherine: Yes. The one I'm remembering this morning is really a "cargo cult" like process rather than stock characters or plots. We (my younger sister and I and whoever else was playing) would divide the dolls and stuff into "lots" and bid on them (although no money or favors changed hands — I don't remember how the bidding went). Dividing the lots and choosing them meant both an extended consideration of which objects or possible characters were more desirable, but also constrained the plot possibilities. We spent a larger amount of time "setting up," especially designing the houses, than actually playing anything narrative. After I was too old to play, I would frequently come in as a "consultant" to build a house.

Did you use the "store identities" of your dolls or did you give them new identities? Ever substantially alter (or mutilate) a doll for the purposes of a game? How, why?

The dolls' identies, alas, were determined by their physical appearance. We had a malibu b***** with a punctured boob. She was usually either a single mother or a nymphomaniac. We had another malibu b***** that had very short hair on the right front quadrant of her skull — I had held her over a candle on an advent wreath. The Happy Family — a three person unit of black dolls a little smaller than skipper (ours wasn't malibu and had matted hair — she was usually a juvenile deliquent or "skeezy") — was especially desirable because they were very cute. We had one malibu ken doll whose head popped off very easily and had only doctors clothes and a parka

Describe the moral universe of your games. What was good, what was bad?

The Wonder Woman doll was usually evil, not because she was 1/2 inch taller, really, but because she had long, black, curly hair and flew around in her invisible jet.

What were the major influences on your games?

My father is a realtor, my mother is a decorator, and my sister has been on TV as a "fix-it chick." I wanted to be an architect, but work as a technical architect. So you can see all of that in our obsession with environments, our focus on reusing ordinary objects as doll furniture and housing, etc.

How would you say your work fits into the literary landscape of the late 20th century?

Very well, actually. Plus architectural criticism is very trendy right now.


an orange paint pot which resembled the top of a kerosene lamp
wooden wine crates which never really worked well as barbie houses
doll "stage sets" of glued wood scraps
I think my sister had a covered wagon
roller skates pompoms as bean bag chairs

We kept everything in roller skates cases, which had mirrors inside.

Purchased objects:

from garage sales:

3 room ranch, very 70's, orange, black and hot pink, folded into a cube
airplane, which had little seats and a tea cart


Visits to the "b***** lady", a large woman without many teeth who lived in the very industrial part of town and who had given over her front rooms to displays of doll clothes she made. She was fantastic! We bought white satin wedding gowns with wedding veils, prairie clothing for Wonder Woman, a beige cape with orange faux fur trim and muff and hat, hot pink satin pants suits, a purple felt 1880's hat with tiny straw flowers, a matching purple shirt, white dotted swiss blouse and petticoat...

We have two other sets of games, one with my mother's dolls when we were visiting my grandmother, and "bondage b*****" since an older brother of a friend had quite a pornography collection.

Catherine Daly has a computer consulting company in Los Angeles. She is also a poet and critic. She teaches poetry writing online through UCLA Extension.