A Mannequin for All Seasons

Jim Bell elucidates companionship for dummies

NT: That does sound like fun! How many of these people do you have?

Bell: Precisely 213. I'm working on number 214 this week; he's a New Mexico state trooper. I can make all kinds of people. My motto on my business card is "a mannequin for all seasons."

NT: So, this is kind of a really fulfilling hobby for you.

Made men: Mannequin maker Jim Bell enjoys a drink with his synthetic friends.
Kevin Scanlon
Made men: Mannequin maker Jim Bell enjoys a drink with his synthetic friends.

Bell: Oh, yes, very. I really like to study people and try to understand how they react. If you sit and look at a person long enough, you can pick up mannerisms in their face. I do that a lot, and then I go home and I put those expressions on the faces of my people. Sometimes I use famous people I see on TV. I made an Andy Griffith doll once. You have to be careful not to infringe on copyrights, though. I had to change his name to N.D. Griffith, and I couldn't make him look too much like the real guy.

NT: So if I'm really into reruns of Gidget, you could make me a Sally Field dummy?

Bell: Well, I could make you someone who looks a lot like her. But exact reproductions of celebrities is wrong. But if you squinted at her or maybe put her in a darker corner, it would look more like her.

NT: So what happens if someone comes to you and says, "I want a doll that looks exactly like Britney Spears so that I can have sex with it"?

Bell: I couldn't do that. I don't have those capabilities, but I know of someone who does. I saw him on 60 Minutes, and he makes life-size, anatomically correct people who are so real that you have to look close to see if they are real or not. Fleshlike skin, bendable joints like real people, and you can program in certain expressions so that if you want to be involved with them physically you can make them have groans of pleasure and all that stuff. I can't make those. But I do make wall people.

NT: Wall people?

Bell: Yes. They're on a plaque, and they're all flat on one side. So when you hang one on the wall, he looks like a real person who's coming out of the wall. They have a very blank expression, like a person might have if they were walking through a wall.

NT: And why would I want something like that?

Bell: It takes up less space than a whole person. Also, people like the idea of other people coming out of walls.

NT: Maybe we should go. What if someone tries to steal one of the dummies . . . I mean people . . . out of your car?

Bell: People don't steal them, either because they're afraid they'll come to life or because they would attract a lot of attention running down the street with another person under their arm.

NT: Do you ever think about these guys coming to life on you?

Bell: I've thought of that sometimes, and I don't know what I'd do if that ever happened. Especially since I have about 10 of these guys sitting around my house. If they came to life one day, I'd just freak out.

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