Don Poynter, who made the toilet talk and the golf balls walked, dies at 96

Some of Don Poynter’s creations, it must be admitted, had a certain whoopee cushion quality. There was, for example, the talking toilet...


Some of Don Poynter’s creations, it must be admitted, had a certain whoopee cushion quality.

There was, for example, the talking toilet, a chatty gadget that could be hidden over a toilet; when someone sat down, a recorded voice exclaimed, “Move over, you’re blocking the light! or something similar.

And there was the Go-Go Girl Drink Mixer, a scantily clad glass-holding doll that rotated her pelvis to mix a cocktail.

But while some of the countless novelty items Mr. Poynter invented and produced were on the understated side, there’s no denying the subtle sheen of one of his first and most successful: the Little Black Box. Created in 1959, it was a no-frills box with a switch on the top. Activate the switch and the box vibrates a little; then a hand came out and turned off the switch.

That was it: a device whose sole purpose was to turn itself off. Other people around the same time had explored iterations of the so-called useless machine, but few saw the marketing possibilities as clearly as Mr. Poynter.

“Representatives of a trade show in New York kept asking what he was doing,” he said. told alumni magazine from the University of Cincinnati, his alma mater, more than 40 years later. “I said, ‘It does absolutely nothing except turn itself off.’ Everyone thought I was crazy, but I sold it to Spencer Gifts. Within a month, it became the hottest item they had ever had.

Later, when the TV show “The Addams Family” appeared in 1964 with a character known as Thing, who was just a hand, Mr. Poynter made a deal to market a variant of the box. under this name. Mr Poynter said he sold 14 million. Over the years, he has accumulated so many patents that he has lost count.

Mr. Poynter, who in a colorful life was also a drum major, Harlem Globetrotters games artist, puppeteer and golf course developer, died Aug. 13 in Cincinnati. He was 96 years old. Her daughter Molly Poynter Maundrell said the cause was cancer.

Her father, she said in a phone interview, was lucid even in his last days, telling stories to the staff at the hospice that were so extraordinary that they prompted a phone call.

“I knew exactly what the social worker was going to ask me,” Ms. Maundrell said. “She said, ‘I was afraid he was hallucinating. And I said, ‘They’re real. They are all true.

Donald Byron Poynter was born on May 14, 1925 in Cincinnati. His mother, Gertrude (Johnson) Poynter, was an artist and housewife, and his father, William, was an inventor and photographer.

Young Don showed an inventive streak early on; Ms Maundrell said he told stories of flash powder in his father’s photographic supplies, making small bombs and dropping them from remote control planes.

“I started out by trying to entertain myself,” he told Scripps Howard News Service in 1988. “Then I found out that it was fun to entertain others as well.”

He did it first, not as an inventor, but as a voice actor on radio on WLW in Cincinnati (where young Doris Day was sometimes a castmate). He enrolled at the University of Cincinnati after graduating from Western Hills High School in Cincinnati in 1943, but the following year he joined the military, serving until 1946 and occasionally entertaining his comrades with a spectacle of magic and ventriloquism.

Back in college, he became the drum major, gaining the attention of the press with his elaborate baton, which he sometimes did while walking a tightrope.

After graduating in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing, the Harlem Globetrotters noticed his twirling skills and he spent several summers touring the world with the basketball troupe, providing entertainment from before. -match and halftime which featured flaming sticks twirling around a darkened arena.

“His swirling sticks captured the British imagination,” The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote in 1950. The newspaper said it had agreed to a sponsorship deal with a British company that produced “the Don Poynter stick”, accompanied by a instruction manual written by him.

Returning home to Cincinnati around this time, he worked for Jon Arthur, which had a nationwide children’s show. radio program, “Big Jon and Sparkie.” Mr. Poynter created a puppet version of the elven character of Sparkie that Mr. Arthur took on tour.

Poynter Products was founded in 1954. Mr. Poynter’s first big hit was whiskey toothpaste, which won him enough notoriety to participate in the “What’s My Line?” Game show. Another big seller, introduced in 1957, was her Jayne Mansfield hot water bottle, which Mrs. Mansfield, a movie star during the blonde bombshell days, agreed to put down despite her masters’ objection.

“He deduced that a hot water bottle would sell exponentially more if it was fashioned into the image of someone worth cuddling,” said Erik Liberman, an actor working on a book and documentary about Ms. Mansfield, by e-mail. “Jayne Mansfield did the trick.”

Mr. Poynter spent a week in Hollywood with Ms. Mansfield making the sculpture used as a model for the bottle. “I could have done it in two days,” he said told Cincinnati Public Radio in 2015, “but why rush?

Although Mr. Poynter used factories overseas to produce some of his biggest sellers, he always made the initial version of an item himself. “He didn’t just come up with the idea and gave it to someone else to engineer,” his son Don said over the phone.

Another son, Tim, recalled that he and his three siblings would be put into service. His Saturdays, he said, were often spent at the library, where his father had sent him to look in the directories of potential suppliers. “He was like, ‘Here’s a list of companies I need to find that have this kind of plastic or that kind of metal,” said Tim Poynter.

Ms Maundrell recalled the role played by her mother, Mona (Castellini) Poynter, in creating a line of fake medical specimens – toes, noses and the like, sold in test tubes filled with liquid.

“God loves my mother – he molded her ear,” she said. “He must have put the mold on her and put her head in the oven.

Don Poynter noted that there was at least one reward for the children’s efforts. “We were great at showing and telling at school,” he said.

Other new releases from Mr. Poynter included the Incredible Creeping Golf Ball, which had claw-shaped feet. On the green, a golfer could substitute it for the real ball and it would head towards the cup.

Another golf gimmick has led Mr. Poynter to build golf courses, said Pat Green, who has worked with him for decades. It was a hopper filled with golf balls, to be used on a driving range; when a golfer struck a ball, the rubber tee automatically dipped into the hopper and picked up another ball. Mr. Poynter opened the World of Golf in Florence, Ky., In the early 1970s just to introduce the device; it became the World of Sports complex.

In addition to saving the golfer the trouble of bending down to play a new ball, Green said, the device has had the effect of causing customers to hit many more balls.

“It was a huge money generator,” he said in a telephone interview. “You could hit 100 balls in no time, and we were charging eight cents a ball.” (Similar automatic tee-up systems are used by some driving ranges, such as the one at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan.)

Mr. Poynter opened other golf businesses including the Triple Crown Country Club in Union, Ky. Mr. Green mainly worked on Mr. Poynter’s golf projects, but said Mr. Poynter would also lead his ideas for inventions.

“He once said, ‘Let’s go get some black ants,’” Mr. Green said. “And I said, ‘What do you need black ants for? “”

To power the little cars he called Antmobiles, sure.

Mr. Poynter’s son, Tim, eventually took over Poynter Products and sold the business in 1992. Mr. Poynter’s wife passed away in 2007. In addition to his children Don, Tim and Molly, he is survived by another daughter, Amy Poynter Brewer; 10 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

In the 1988 interview with Scripps Howard, Mr. Poynter reflected on the device he wanted to invent for his own tombstone.

“When you got near it,” he said, “you activated an electronic voice. And he would say, “Come down. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: Don Poynter, who made the toilet talk and the golf balls walked, dies at 96
Don Poynter, who made the toilet talk and the golf balls walked, dies at 96
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