Saddam Hussein is taking a beating these days.
That's what Paul Kratzer of Salisbury intended, when he created the Iraqiwacker, a paddle-ball set with the Iraqi leader's face caricatured on the front.
A hard swing of the beechwood paddle propels the rubber ball forward, then the taut elastic jerks it back and WHAM-O! The round missile slams into the cartoon face with the drooping eyelids and slack jowls that Americans have learned to hate.
Score one for the Yanks.
The item, which is not yet in local stores, retails for $8 in gift shops, such as Uncommon Gifts in Salisbury and Dallas Alice in Washington. To date 1,500 sets have been sold, according to Mr. Kratzer. One hardware store in Midland, Texas, reported completely selling out in one day.
Nationally, the novelty trade has moved fast to capitalize on Saddam Hussein's hated image, coming out with a toilet paper and at least two voodoo dolls, complete with pins to stick it to 'em.
Mr. Kratzer and the manufacturer, Hummingbird Toy Co. of Arcade, N.Y., are donating 1,000 Iraqiwackers to U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf area.
"If nothing else, these Iraqiwackers will sharpen our troops' eye-hand coordination and relieve the boredom," quips Mr. Kratzer, a one-time Towson resident who runs an advertising agency and design studio on the Eastern Shore.
The Hussein caricature was drawn by Ellen Powell, a Salisbury free-lance artist and former political cartoonist for Gannett newspapers. Mr. Kratzer modeled the Iraqiwacker after the Bushwacker, an earlier paddle-ball set he devised, bearing the likeness of President George Bush. It was aimed at disillusioned Republicans who felt the president had abandoned them on the tax issue.
As long as political villains thrive, Mr. Kratzer sees an unlimited future for the paddle-ball business.