Full Circle: “My Palm Never Lies”
My father had an itch for top toys

My father was Dick Clark. Well, not literally. He was bald, had a beer belly and didn’t like rock ‘n’ roll. But when my father said a toy was going to be a hit, you could bet the ranch on it.

And so, in the winter of 1958, my father brought home the future. Once a year, he set up shop at the International Toy Fair in New York. In the big city. Nelson Rockefeller, Willie Mays and my dad. It was so cool.

When he returned, he always brought with him the toy that was going to be the hit of the season. And he brought me a little something, too.

As always, I met him at the screen door. “What did you bring me, Dad?”

“Here you go,” he said, handing me a brown bag. “You’ll get a lot of laughs out of this one.”

I ripped the bag open and looked in. Oooooh. Yuck. It was plastic, it had chunks of all different colors. It was…

“It’s fake vomit,” my father said, blowing the surprise. “You put it on the rug when your mother’s not looking. It’s a riot. Try it out now. She’ll see it on the carpet and go nuts.”

I knew my father would never steer me wrong. “Hey, Mom,” I said, trying not to laugh, “I think I ate too much banana cake.”

My mother came running in from the kitchen, still wearing her apron that said “Kiss the Cook.” “That’s not my banana cake,” she barked. “No one ever got sick eating my banana cake. Now, why are you just standing there? Go get some paper towels and wipe that up while I call the doctor.” And she ran to the phone.

My father laughed so hard he almost swallowed his cigar. Convinced that we had made her crazy enough, we let her in on the joke.

“You think that’s funny?” she said. “You almost gave me a heart attack.”

My mother had a lot of almost heart attacks.

When the merriment subsided, I turned back to my father. “So, Dad, what’s going to be the next big toy? I want to tell all my friends. Is it a toy space ship? X-ray glasses?”

“I’m telling you,” he said. “This summer, every kid on the block is going to have one of these.” He brought out a big plastic hoop.

“But what does it do?” I asked.

“It’s plastic. It’s a hoop,” he said. “You do a hula dance. You try to keep the hoop going for as long as you can. I’m telling you, every kid in America is going to have one of these.”

“Dad, I think you’re losing it. My friends aren’t going to do the hula dance with a plastic hoop. That’s nuts.”

“You listen to me, boy. I touched this thing and my palm started to itch. You know what that means?”

“A rash?”

“No, smart guy, it means I’m going to come into money. And my palm never lies.”

And so, listening to the hand, my father cornered the market on hula hoops. If you lived in Philly or South Jersey and ever had a hula hoop, you bought it from my father.

And he was right. In the year of the outer space ray gun and the Maverick double crisscross holster, 25 million hula hoops were sold. Every boy, girl and mother in a tube top had one.

Meanwhile, my mother had finally calmed down. “Have a seat, Rosie,” my father said. “It’ll make you feel better.” And so she did.

The next sound we heard was as loud as a motorcycle backfire. P-F-F-F-T!

Turns out my dad had slipped a whoopee cushion under her sofa seat.

My father laughed so loud he almost swallowed his cigar. My mother almost had a heart attack.

September 2016
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