Patric Verrone isn’t wasting any time. With the election just months away, he’s already crafted a new Joe Biden figurine.
If elected, Biden would join the 44 other men who have served as America’s Commander In Chief (don’t count Grover Cleveland twice!)
I used to think I was all alone.
The only kid in America who grew up playing with the presidents instead of dinosaurs or footballs.
Then I read an interview with Verrone, lead writer for Futurama and The Simpsons.
Turns out he grew up playing with them too, and in his adulthood took his passion for the presidents to an all new level.
Every day, for as long back as I can remember, these little presidents have been standing and staring at me patiently, reminding me that there is nothing on earth more precious than freedom.
Each president carries with him a bit of history.
Some are well known (Washington, Lincoln, both Roosevelt’s) and some not at all (Harrison, Pierce, another Harrison).
But I loved learning about each one of them from a very early age.
They have traveled with me since my grandmother gave me the set when I was five years old. From Ohio to Arizona to South Carolina back to Ohio, my presidents have always been near by.
In fact, I started my recent book Front Row Seat at the Circus by mentioning them:
My love of presidential history started over forty years earlier at my Grandma Heath’s house in Van Wert, Ohio.
In the late 1960s she had spent months collecting a set of miniature U.S. presidents from the local Kroger grocery store, which had been releasing a new one each week. She hand-numbered them, and when I was just two, she let me play with them alongside the little green plastic soldiers and dinosaurs in the bathtub. Thanks to those statues, my mom likes to tell everyone I learned the names of the presidents before I learned the alphabet.
When we left Ohio and moved to Arizona, my Grandma gave me the set of presidents to take along. As a kid I would stage mock debates— think Andrew Jackson versus Abraham Lincoln, (how awesome would that be?)—and used the presidents as newscasters on the “news sets” I made out of my Lego blocks (Jefferson was great on weather because his arm stretched out as if pointing to a map.)
The figurines—made by the Marx toy company—still sit proudly on my refrigerator at home to this day. Occasionally they make a special appearance on my Facebook page.
Weird, I know.
But from then until now, there is nothing I enjoy more than studying and debating presidential history.
True then, still true to this day.
MARX TOY COMPANY:
Louis Marx, known as the “Henry Ford” of the toy industry, was a friend of President Dwight Eisenwhower, and after the 1952 election wanted to impress and honor his friend by memorializing him, and his predecessors, in molded plastic.
For about 20 years, the Marx toy company produced these 2 3/4 inch presidential figurines, sculpted by the Ferriot Brothers out of Ohio and mass produced in one of Marx’s several factories.
Each figurine bore the president’s name on the front of the base and his number and years in office on the back.
As the Eisenhower era ended in 1960, Marx prepared by making prototypes of both his vice president, Richard Nixon, and his Democratic opponent, Senator John F. Kennedy.
Nixon and Kennedy eventually found their way into the complete set when they were elected president in their own right.
After Kennedy was assassinated, Lyndon Johnson was also added to the set around the same time.
The Marx company was sold in 1972 and, alas, the presidential figurine collection ended.
For forty years, those of us who grew up with the set have bemoaned the fact there is no Ford through Obama.
MEET PATRIC VERRONE:
After completing my book in 2015, I randomly found an interview with Patric Verrone, former president of the Writers Guild of America, and a lead writer of both Futurama and The Simpsons.
In the interview, he mentioned how, he too, had this Marx set of presidents growing up, and how he hated the fact that there had been no updates since Richard Nixon.
“The empty slots on the Styrofoam stand still taunted me, so I printed color images of the missing presidents and glued them to cardboard cutouts like miniature amusement park stand-ups,” said Verrone. “While strolling the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica one day, I stopped and watched a young man sculpt clay busts of passers by. I returned a week later with a Dwight Eisenhower figurine and photos of then-president George W. Bush and asked if he could do a rendering of the president in that style. I expected him to make a whole new figurine but, instead, he sculpted Bush’s facial features on top of Eisenhower’s. At that point I had an epiphany and realized that I could ‘customize’ the candidate figurines into the missing presidents.”
Verrone says it took him months of weekend experimenting with molding and casting techniques to create the modern presidents.
Thankfully the Marx company had made a variety of figurines back in the day, including presidential losers, generals and notable citizens.
Verrone used them to make the molds for the modern presidents.
“Hubert Humphrey had been turned into Gerald Ford,” said Verrone. “Similarly, George Romney morphed into George H.W. Bush, Nelson Rockefeller became Bill Clinton, and 1960 candidate John Kennedy was now Jimmy Carter. It took me a few more months to figure out how to get raised letters on the bases, but for the first time ever, I had a complete and up-to-date set of U.S. President figurines.”
Verrone realized there may be a bigger market for the presidents, and made a few available to the public on eBay.
The first set sold for nearly $700.
To date, Verrone has sold thousands of the presidents “Marx never made.”
And they are terrific!
In 2016, Patric prepared a Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump figurine.
Clinton would have made history, becoming the first woman to join the set.
Patric, who co-produced the Netflix series Disenchantment, said that Trump is adapted from Marx’s 1968 Charles Percy figurine.
Marx had made the Percy model in the off chance he won the election.
Trump is featured in a blue suit with his silk red tie.
Since 2015 I’ve been proud to call Patric my friend.
I’m in awe of his Hollywood career, including a stint as president of the Writers Guild of America.
Recently I asked him if he had thought about making a Joe Biden figurine, just in case all these polls showing him ahead are right.
Not surprisingly, he told me it was already done!
“The first batch was 3D printed and is en route right now,” said Patric. “Starting around July 4th I’ll be auctioning them off on eBay every few days until the election. Then we’ll see if I have to make a few more. Or a lot more.”
Here’s an exclusive first look at the Biden Marx President’s figurine:
Patric went back to the 28th president to design the Biden statue.
“It’s Woodrow Wilson with a new right arm grafted on and revised lapels,” said Patric.
That’s an amazing transformation considering the red-headed Wilson had his arm folded across his chest.
For those of us who grew up playing with the presidents, Patric Verrone has made the set complete, our dreams come true, and is keeping the legacy of Louis Marx alive.