Sure, Bobby Fischer’s death got all the press, what with the worldwide reactions and reminiscences of his chess-playing genius, his uncomfortable relationship with celebrity, and his later hatred of Jews. But let’s also take time to mourn Richard Knerr.
I’d never heard of Mr. Knerr till I opened the NYTimes on Friday morning, when I learned about the demise of the co-founder of Wham-O. Yes, the man who unleashed the Frisbee, the Super Ball (inspiration for the Super Bowl), the Hula Hoop, and Silly String on an unsuspecting public has shuffled off this mortal Slinky coil.*
I found his obit absolutely fascinating (which is probably a sign that I need to get out more), especially the part where we find out that Wham-O sold 100 million Hula Hoops, but managed to make only $10,000 in profit by fad’s end. And, being a fan of cheap novelties, I chuckled over the penultimate paragraph:
Not all of Mr. Knerr’s brainstorms succeeded. Among them were mail-order mink coats for $9.95, a $119 do-it-yourself bomb shelter and Instant Fish, an African import whose egg-laying ability could not keep up with product orders.
(That’s Mr. Knerr on the right. The NYTimes didn’t provide a photo credit, so I guess I should just write, “Photo: New York Times.”)
* Slinky was not marketed by Wham-O.