A mom on a mission with Barbie fever

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 16, 2000

Features Editor

Marilyn Harvey never cared much for dolls.

As a little girl, she did have a Raggedy Ann that she lugged around by one arm and cuddled with at night, but it wasn’t until she became a mom that she went bonkers over Barbie.

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Harvey can’t explain how or why she caught Barbie fever but she knows exactly when she experienced the first symptoms.

Back in October, Harvey was browsing in a Dothan toy store doing some early Christmas shopping when a NBA Barbie caught her eye.

"I’ve always loved basketball and I think it was the fact that the Barbie was a Miami Heat basketball cheerleader that made me look twice," Harvey said.

A double-take wouldn’t have been so infectious but Harvey went back for a third look and a fourth. When she held the doll box in her hands, she caught the basketball Barbie fever.

"It was so pretty," Harvey said. "All the way home I thought about that doll and I wanted it so bad."

But how was a mother of two, going to justify buying a Barbie doll?

"My daughter Candice likes dolls and I just knew she would like that Barbie," Harvey said, laughing.

A few days later, Harvey was back in Dothan – back in the toy store and back with Barbie.

"I couldn’t decided which one I wanted to get Candice," she said. "I’d think this one, then that one."

She finally decided on six, then seven, then eight. Her final decision was 10 – that day.

"If I had 10, I might as well get the whole set," Harvey said. "There are 29 NBA basketball teams and there were 29 basketball Barbies. I wanted them all – for Candice."

Harvey realized she wouldn’t be able to find and purchase all 29 dolls before Christmas, so she decided to make the collection a birthday present – for Candice.

Fortunately, for Harvey, the price of the dolls took a sudden nose dive from $25 to $6. If there had been an obstacle, it had been removed.

Or so Harvey thought.

With the price so affordable, Harvey thought there was nothing that could stop her from completing the collection of basketball Barbies. For a while, it seemed she was right.

Harvey would go into a store and sort through every NBA Barbie on the shelves.

"If clerks came over, I’d tell them I was a collector and pull out my credit card bill and show them," she said, laughing. "They would either go away and let me keep looking or they’d pitch in and help me."

She "hit" every store within an 80-mile radius. One-by-one she added, the Bulls, the Celtics, the Lakers, the Pistons, the Clippers, the Hawks. A piece of cake, Harvey thought – the Pacers, the Bucks …

Then things started to get "a little nervy"

She picked up a couple she needed in Birmingham when she slipped off from a business meeting. Relatives and friends added a few and soon she was down to one – the Dallas Mavericks cheerleader.

Everywhere she looked was a dead end.

"One day we had looked Montgomery over again and, when we started home, I told my husband that we hadn’t been to Auburn and he said, no. and we weren’t going," Harvey said. "He might not be going and I might not be going that day but I was going."

The next day Harvey had off work, she went to Auburn but the trip was wasted.

Harvey soon realized there was no Dallas Mavericks cheerleader to be found within range so she got on the telephone and the Internet. She placed want ads in the newspapers. Marilyn Harvey was a mom on a mission.

Her telephone bill turned three figures. Her nerves were frazzled.

Then she went global with her search.

"We had a reunion in Atlanta and people were there who had connections all over the world," Harvey said. "Everybody went home with one thing on their mind – find a Dallas Mavericks Barbie for Harvey."

January came and went with no luck. February – birthday month – rolled around and Harvey began to get down to brass tacks. She called the corporate office of the toy maker who manufactured the NBA Barbies.

A representative of Mattel told her the Dallas Mavericks Barbie had been in the collection and there were some of the "mavericks" out there somewhere.

"But where? Tell me where," Harvey pleaded.

She went back to Ma Bell for help.

"I called every store that carried Barbies," Harvey said. "I’d call early in the morning and ask the clerk to look – just in case somebody returned one. I’d call back late in the afternoon. Then I started thinking, what if they weren’t looking and just pretending to get rid of me. So, I decided I’d better check the stores out again."

And she did.

Harvey also had everybody she knew looking again for the Dallas Mavericks cheerleader but no one had any success. So, on Candice’s birthday, her mom proudly and sadly presented her with a grand gift – a set of the NBA Barbie cheerleaders – minus one.

Candice was as happy as she could be and the fact that a "maverick" was missing didn’t put a damper on her party.

But, she and her mom have vowed to continue the search for the Dallas Mavericks cheerleader and they won’t stop until the mission is accomplished. Or …

"It has crossed my mind that maybe there was a mistake on the assembly line," Harvey said. "Maybe they never made a Dallas Mavericks cheerleader. If they didn’t, I just wish I knew so I could quit looking and hoping. But until I know for sure, I’m still on a mission and I won’t give up."