World of George
By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Catherine E. Toth
The only thing Kelly Kam wants for her 29th birthday is for her husband to take her to see the movie "Curious George," which opens today.
And not to relive storytime sessions with the children's-book character created by H.A. and Margret Rey — she wasn't really into the kolohe monkey as a kid.
No, Kam was 19 when she fell for George, and has been collecting anything and everything that's related to the mischievous monkey.
One bedroom of her Salt Lake condo is packed with more than 350 "Curious George" items, including T-shirts, alarm clocks, trash cans, snow globes, baby bottles, lunch pails and a giant watch.
Kam remembers buying her first "Curious George" plush toy from a bookstore on Maui. She had been looking for a gift for her sister, a Snoopy aficionado.
"I saw him in those overalls, and I thought he was just super cute," said Kam, who works in customer service at Weyerhaeuser. "I liked it, but I bought it for her. Now she won't give it back to me!"
Not that Kam needs that one. She's got 152 plushies, many of them plucked from 50-cent crane machines.
"Those have got to be the most fun and exciting (ones) in the collection," said Kam's husband, Nathan, who's a big contributor to his wife's George colony. "I'm embarrassed to say how much we spend sometimes to get these guys. But it's part of the fun of collecting."
The most memorable — and hard-to-get — doll was won in Las Vegas five years ago.
Kam's sister, who was living there at the time, had spotted a giant George in a crane machine near her home. Kam was flying up three weeks later with her mom — a collector of all things Winnie the Pooh — and she hoped it would still be there.
It was, and $40 later, the doll was hers.
"He's a special one," Kam said. "We have a picture of us pulling him out of the slot. We were making big noise!"
The most expensive George — and also the biggest — is one her husband bought in 1999, when they were dating.
His mom saw it in the window of the now-gone Museum Co. at Ala Moana Center. She called him and asked if he wanted it for his wife.
"That was a no-brainer," he said. "By that afternoon, (the doll) was home, and I had $80 less in my wallet."
Kam's not the only "Curious George" fan in Hawai'i.
Danielle Douglass, a 25-year-old from Kane'ohe, has been collecting George-related stuff since high school.
Her obsession is obvious just by looking at her desk at McNeil Wilson Communications, where she works as an assistant account executive.
There's a "Curious George" calendar, an Altoids container and Post-its featuring the famous simian, a lunch pail that holds knickknacks. She's even downloaded a "Curious George" screensaver from the movie's Web site. (The movie poster she ordered is on its way. That's going on the office door.)
At home, two giant plushies cover her bed. She's got a dozen lunch pails, a bunch of T-shirts and coffee mugs, a beach towel, an alarm clock and a giant wall clock, not to mention keychains, stickers and stationery.
"Oh, everybody knows I like 'Curious George,' " Douglass said, laughing.
Unlike Kam, Douglass grew up reading "Curious George" books.
"I remember that being one of the first series of books I ever read," said Douglass, who, incidentally, was born in the Year of the Monkey. "The stories were just so fascinating to me."
Her favorite collection items are an aluminum bank and a "Curious George" Barbie doll, which her father picked up in Las Vegas two years ago.
"It was the first time he ever got into my collection," Douglass said. "My mom always bought me stuff. So for my dad to buy me something, that was special."
You'd think Kam and Douglass would be the easiest people to shop for. But that's not always the case.
Both their collections are so vast that it's hard to find something they don't have.
"Seems like she has everything," said Nathan, Kam's husband. "Over the years, her collection has grown significantly, and it's been tougher to find new items. But that's part of the fun: to find something new and different."
Like the movie, timed perfectly for her birthday (and sure to trigger a slew of new "Curious George" products).
So is he taking her?
"I'd be a fool not to," he said.
Reach Catherine E. Toth at email@example.com.