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Schlock the Vote: 22 Ridiculous Convention-Themed Items

This week in Tampa, those attending the 2012 Republican National Convention will exchange far more than plans for adjusting the tax code and adjective-laden riffs relating to the hairstyles of Romney and Ryan. By bringing together an abundance of joyous, carefree, captive audience consumers, political conventions result in a perfect storm scenario for tchotchke peddlers. Everything from weird-looking stuffed animals to giant party-themed belt buckles gets created for these events.

(Also: Partisans apparently love bad wristwatches.)

So here's a look at some of the oddest and most ridiculous convention-related items of the past 50 years. The bulk of these are terrible. But which is the worst of the worst? Let us know in the comments!

1. Jimmy Carter Coloring Book (1976)

This one is just plain bizarre. And I think I may want to own it. As described by a recent seller on eBay: "Coloring book contains somewhat insulting and politically incorrect captions for the caricatures. Coloring book was issued in 1976 for the Democratic Presidential Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City. ...Features great caricatures of Jimmy Carter, Hubert Humphrey, Carl Albert, Lester Maddox, Dick Daley, Frank Church, Tip O’Neill, John Glenn, George Meany, George Wallace, Bella Abzug, Walter Mondale, Teddy Kennedy, Dan Moynihan, George McGovern, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, and more. Not exactly sure if this was pro Carter or not...as it takes a dig at just about everybody!"

Image via eBay

2. Ugly Phone (1996)


Image via eBay
I mean, even the cord is hideous. That's rare. It's not easy to mess up the look of a phone cord.

3. Republican Delegate Barbies (2000)


Images via eBay and WorthPoint
Delegates at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia received these dolls in their swag bags. At the time, Republican convention spokeswoman Stephanie Mangino assessed the red-suited Barbie thusly to the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Barbie's almost as stiff as Al Gore." Zing! Or something. Also: Note the tiniest of lanyards.

4. Tipper Gore Drum (2000)

The eBay seller suspects that this item will "display nice" in a museum. Hmm, perhaps. But the same individual notes that the drum is from the 2000 "Democrastic Convention," so keep that in mind if you run a museum and are wondering whether you should trust the seller's judgment on the ideal landing spot for this thing.

Image via eBay

5. Terrible Watch Number One (1996)

The first in a series! To keep them straight, feel free to refer to this one as "Terrible Swatch Watch."

Image via SwatchAndBeyond.com

6. Dukakis Foam Fingers (1988)

Shouldn't the hand be making a #1 sign? Poor Dukakis.

Image via eBay

7. Hideous Cuff Links (1960)


Image via CuffLinks.com
The ad says these are "both historic and nostalgic." I say they are "both poorly designed and look like they feature a donkey that is either near death or coughing."

8. Elephant Ashtrays (1972)


Image via eBay
The 1972 Republican National Convention had to be moved from San Diego to Miami following a bid-rigging scandal. The bottom line: lots of unused novelty ashtrays in SoCal that year.

9. Beanie Babies (2000)


Images via eBay
Do you love nothing more than Beanie Babies and keeping up with the range of complex, interrelated issues that join together to form the basis for national electoral politics? Well, if so, then have I got the ideal product for you. Also: You don't exist. No one likes both those things. So perhaps I'm barking up the wrong tree here in trying to sell you on these stupid things.

10. Partisan Mac & Cheese (2004)


Images via eBay
Pasta made to look like elephants and donkeys is a nice touch by Kraft. But it's not all good. The backs of these boxes feature something called the "Presidential IQ Test." The goal is to match "famous" quotations with the presidents who said them. An example: "Speak softly, but carry a big bowl of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese." They get worse from there.

11. Terrible Watch Number Two (2000)

Is this monstrosity worse than the Democrats' Swatch watch? You be the judge.

Image via eBay

12. Elephant Alligator Thing (1988)


Images via eBay
This hybrid stuffed animal from the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans is like something out of a made-for-Syfy movie. It has the head of an elephant but the body of an alligator. What gives? Actually, come to think of it, both name mash-ups work: elegator is great, and so is alliphant.

13. Saddest Pennant Ever (1984)


Image via Minnesota Historical Society
Womp womp.

14. Garish Belt Buckle (1992)


Image via eBay
What is more befitting for a Republican National Convention held in Houston than a custom-made, Texas-sized belt buckle? A recent eBay seller noted that buying the buckle would amount to "your chance to be a part of history." I don't know about all that, but I have to admit, the elephant on the front of this thing does appear to be having one hell of a good time.

15. Miller High Life Convention Survival Kit (1964)


Image via eBay
Includes Tums antacid, Alka-Seltzer, aspirin, breath mints, a bandage, and a little "Do Not Disturb" sign. It's odd, but for real: This kit is fantastic. I'm hoping they still make these, but unrelated to political conventions.

16. Bush/Quayle Baseball Card (1992)

The craziest thing about this one is that Upper Deck produced this card commemorating the 1992 Republican Convention... in 2009. A few notes: (1) Was there really Bush/Quayle-specific nostalgia in 2009? (2) What a perfect way to celebrate the historic 17th anniversary of that memorable convention. (3) This card was a bad idea.

Image via eBay

17. Wizard Hat & Spaghetti T-Shirt (1996)

Not even this all-powerful, mystical pasta T-shirt could transform the Dole/Kemp ticket into a winner.

Image via eBay

18. Computer Terminal Decanter (1984)


Image via eBay
Wait, so you mean they not only had computers in 1984, but they also had crazy-looking computer replicas that featured giant buttons and doubled as alcohol receptacles? I love the '80s.

19. "Hello Lyndon" 45 rpm Record (1964)


Image via eBay
In 1964, Hello, Dolly! was a big deal on Broadway. So LBJ co-opted the song for the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. Thankfully, both "Hello, Mitt!" and "Hello, Barack!" don't seem like viable options in 2012.

20. Terrible Watch Number Three (1992)


Image via eBay
So I'm just going to call it: This one is the worst of the watches. Is that the Astrodome in the foreground, or a spaceship with teeth?

21. Betty Ford Matchbooks (1976)


Image via eBay
The backs of these matchbooks note that "Your Vote and Influence [are] Appreciated." OK, makes sense. The fronts say "Win with BETTY'S HUSBAND." OK, that sounds like a license to engage in infidelity.

22. Mitt Romney Finger Puppet (2012)


The end.

Image via Etsy

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Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
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Pop Culture
The Cult of Prince Philip
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images

For seven decades, Prince Philip has been one of the more colorful figures in Britain's Royal Family, prone to jarring remarks and quips about women, the deaf, and overweight children.

"You're too fat to be an astronaut," he once told a boy sharing his dream of space travel.

British media who delighted in quoting him are still lamenting the 96-year-old's recent retirement from public duties. But the people of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu are likely to be optimistic he'll now have the time to join them: They worship him as a god and have based a religion on him.

Followers of the Prince Philip Movement, which started in the 1960s, believe that the prince was born to fulfill an ancient prophecy: that the son of an ancient mountain spirit would one day take the form of a pale-skinned man, travel abroad, marry a powerful lady, and eventually return to the island. When villagers saw the prince’s portrait, they felt the spirit in it, and when he visited Vanuatu in 1974, they were convinced.

Chief Jack Naiva, a respected warrior in the culture, greeted the royal yacht and caught sight of Philip on board. "I saw him standing on the deck in his white uniform," Naiva once said. "I knew then that he was the true messiah."

True believers assign large world movements to the machinations of Philip. They once claimed his powers had enabled a black man to become president of the United States and that his "magic" had assisted in helping locate Osama bin Laden. The community has corresponded with Buckingham Palace and even sent Philip a nal-nal, a traditional club for killing pigs, as a token of its appreciation. In return, he sent a portrait in which he’s holding the gift.

Sikor Natuan, the son of the local chief, holds two official portraits of Britain's Prince Philip in front of the chief's hut in the remote village of Yaohnanen on Tanna in Vanuatu.
TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images

The picture is now part of a shrine set up in Yaohnanen in Vanuatu that includes other photos and a Union flag. In May 2017, shortly after the Prince announced his retirement, a cyclone threatened the island—and its shrine. But according to Matthew Baylis, an author who has lived with the tribe, the natives didn't see this so much as a cause for concern as they did a harbinger of the prince's arrival so he can bask in their worship.

To date, Prince Philip has not announced any plans to relocate.

A version of this story ran in a 2012 issue of Mental Floss magazine.

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Screenshot via Mount Vernon/Vimeo
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History
The Funky History of George Washington's Fake Teeth
Screenshot via Mount Vernon/Vimeo
Screenshot via Mount Vernon/Vimeo

George Washington may have the most famous teeth—or lack thereof—in American history. But counter to what you may have heard about the Founding Father's ill-fitting dentures, they weren't made of wood. In fact, he had several sets of dentures throughout his life, none of which were originally trees. And some of them are still around. The historic Mount Vernon estate holds the only complete set of dentures that has survived the centuries, and the museum features a video that walks through old George's dental history.

Likely due to genetics, poor diet, and dental disease, Washington began losing his original teeth when he was still a young man. By the time he became president in 1789, he only had one left in his mouth. The dentures he purchased to replace his teeth were the most scientifically advanced of the time, but in the late 18th century, that didn't mean much.

They didn't fit well, which caused him pain, and made it difficult to eat and talk. The dentures also changed the way Washington looked. They disfigured his face, causing his lips to noticeably stick out. But that doesn't mean Washington wasn't grateful for them. When he finally lost his last surviving tooth, he sent it to his dentist, John Greenwood, who had made him dentures of hippo ivory, gold, and brass that accommodated the remaining tooth while it still lived. (The lower denture of that particular pair is now held at the New York Academy of Medicine.)

A set of historic dentures
George Washington's Mount Vernon

These days, no one would want to wear dentures like the ones currently held at Mount Vernon (above). They're made of materials that would definitely leave a bad taste in your mouth. The base that fit the fake teeth into the jaw was made of lead. The top teeth were sourced from horses or donkeys, and the bottom were from cows and—wait for it—people.

These teeth actually deteriorated themselves, revealing the wire that held them together. The dentures open and shut thanks to metal springs, but because they were controlled by springs, if he wanted to keep his mouth shut, Washington had to permanently clench his jaw. You can get a better idea of how the contraption worked in the video from Mount Vernon below.

Washington's Dentures from Mount Vernon on Vimeo.

There are plenty of lessons we can learn from the life of George Washington, but perhaps the most salient is this: You should definitely, definitely floss.

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