Betty James helped found Slinky company
HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. — Betty James, who co-founded the company that made the Slinky and beat the odds as a single mother in the late 1950s to become a successful executive, has died. She was 90.
She died Thursday, said a spokeswoman for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
In 1945, James and her husband at the time, Richard, founded the company that would later make Slinky, the toy for which she was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2001.
She took over management of James Industries Inc. 14 years after the company was founded, after her husband left her to follow a religious cult in Bolivia. Richard James died in 1974.
Initially, James would leave her six children with a caregiver from Sunday through Thursday while she oversaw operations in Philadelphia. But in 1965, she moved the company to her hometown of Hollidaysburg, where it remains today. The company was sold in 1998 to Michigan-based POOF Products Inc.
Hundreds of millions of Slinkys have been sold worldwide. James explained the classic toy’s success in a 1995 interview with the Associated Press.
“I think really it’s the simplicity of it,” she said. “There’s nothing to wind up; it doesn’t take batteries. I think also the price helps. More children can play with it than a $40 or $60 toy.”
On its Web site, the Hall of Fame praises James for commitment and perseverance that “allowed children the world over the opportunity to relish the ingenuity and pure fun of a Slinky.”
Guy Peellaert was album cover artist
Guy Peellaert, a Belgian painter-collagist whose fervid imagination produced surreal album covers for John Lennon, David Bowie and Mick Jagger, as well as images for a seminal book about rock mythology, “Rock Dreams,” died of kidney cancer Nov. 17 at a hospital in Paris. He was 74.
The book was a collaboration with the prominent British rock journalist Nik Cohn, who wrote how they intended to convey a “cinematic approach” to pop history and “approached the project, not as commentators or fine artists, but primarily as fans. Even more than the actual music, we were both obsessed with pop mythology.”
“Rock Dreams” was published in the early 1970s and reportedly sold more than a million copies. It featured a bloated Jerry Lee Lewis clutching a bottle to his chest and stumbling along a neon-lit street; the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, drug-dazed and muse-abandoned, sitting alone in a garbage-strewn practice room; Ray Charles, his arm cradling a woman, cruising behind the wheel of a convertible.
A reviewer for the London Independent described Peellaert’s images as rock iconography — “almost as thrilling as the music itself, but obviously not the same thing. It was the pornography of rock. It was also its stained-glass window.”
“Rock Dreams” launched the demand for Peellaert’s album illustrations. His work for Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs,” featuring the singer as a dog-man grotesque, sparked a censorship war in 1974 when the record company erased the dog’s genitalia from the original painting.
In what some critics saw as vindication, the erased area reappeared on CD versions of the cover. Meanwhile, Peellaert earned commissions to illustrate movie posters, most notably a full-length portrait of Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” (1976).
From Herald news services