Someone ought to send 90-year-old Sarah Mandell the Savings and Loan trading-card set. Mandell is that little old lady from Hollywood who recently grabbed Charlie Keating by his lapels and shook him for all she used to be worth. The Savings and Loan trading- card set is the brain child of Eclipse Books, a popular northern California publishing house. Come October, it will be distributing baseball-inspired cards as "a quick course in the entire national scandal, acting as a detailed treasure map to each dollar lost."
One of the 36 full-color cards has a charmingly evil caricature of the heads of the Keating Five congressmen impaled on five fingers of Phoenix's most infamous S&L scamster.
Another card shows a twisted visage of onetime junk-bond king Michael Milken with the captions "Jumbo Junk Jubilee" and "Big Bond Buys." Get the picture?
The illustrator is Stewart Stanyard and the clever copy on the back was written by Berkeley-based journalists Dennis Bernstein and Laura Sydell.
Eclipse Books, based in Forestville, California--about 60 miles north of San Francisco--primarily prints comic books and graphic novels. But its publisher Dean Mullaney points out that Bail Out!, as he's calling the S&L set, is the latest in a financially successful series.
"We started a few years ago with Iran-Contra Scandal," Mullaney says. "We featured the `Secret Team' of spies and CIA types behind the mess. We got the idea for the cards from a violinist from the San Francisco Symphony who said he couldn't keep everyone straight. This was before the baseball-card craze really hit, but this guy is a baseball-card fanatic and he put two and two together.
"It's been doing real well. You can use the text on the back like flash cards. It's packed full of information--all of the sets are. It's been popular with collectors, political junkies, radio stations, all kinds of people."
Iran-Contra Scandal is now in its fourth printing at $8.95 per set of 36, Mullaney says. The success of Iran-Contra Scandal led to trading-card sets about the war on drugs, New York City's municipal corruption (Rotten to the Core), America's most embarrassing allies (Friendly Dictators), George Bush and his cronies (Bush League) and the assassination of John F. Kennedy (Coup d'Etat.)
"We don't propose any specific theory or anything like that," Mullaney says. "We have one card per theory or situation, you know, one Marilyn Monroe card, one Oswald and so on."
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Eclipse Books also has printed two sets of baseball cards. One theme focuses on the game's scoundrels, as well as the odd situations that make the national pastime so wonderful. The Pete Rose story is on one card. Another card re-creates the tragic moment of several years ago when good guy Dave Winfield killed a seagull in Toronto with one of his powerful throws from the outfield.
The second of Eclipse's baseball sets is dear to publisher Mullaney's heart. "The Negro League players in the old days didn't just lose the chance to play major league ball," he says. "They didn't even get their own baseball cards."
A few years ago, Mullaney says, the widow of Hall of Famer James "Cool Papa" Bell sent him a note. "She thanked me for the money we'd sent her from a piece of the proceeds," he recalls. "It was sad. She said that the money had helped her pay for his funeral."
One card shows a twisted visage of junk-bond king Michael Milken with the captions "Jumbo Junk Jubilee" and "Big Bond Buys.