Presenting the Worst Presents

TOM KELLY

December 25, 1992|By TOM KELLY

Fort Lauderdale, Florida. -- Let us eavesdrop on the timeles sounds of Christmas morning as countless families gather around their trees to tear into lovingly wrapped presents.

What a mellifluous chorus we hear: Spontaneous cries of delight. Shrill shrieks of surprise. Childish yelps of glee. Mature sighs of satisfaction. Plaintive groans of dismay.

It is those plaintive groans of dismay that will provide the background music for today's essay, as we once again go in search of the most useless, senseless and thoroughly worthless gifts of the year.

As always, the competition for the mythical but highly coveted Lump of Coal statuette was hard-fought, with a promising new crop of crummy gifts emerging to vie with a sleigh-load of still-hardy humbugs from the past.

Who can forget such classically unwelcome stocking-stuffers as the Pocket Fisherman, the Clapper and Mister Microphone? Only the hardest of hearts can fail to melt over nostalgia for the Foot Fixer, Chia Pets or Boxcar Willie's Greatest Hits.

But 1992 is destined to go down as a vintage year for the kind of gifts that you'd never have thought of buying if the notion hadn't been drummed into your brain by incessant commercials.

This year's prime contenders can be grouped roughly into three categories: homemaking, personal hygiene and fitness. Or, expressed another way, the kitchen, the bathroom and the gym.

The fitness craze has produced the most new gimmicks, invariably demonstrated by models in leotards with the tightest buns this side of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

If you want to look like them, the ads suggest, simply send $19.95 or more for Thigh Master or Nordic Track or Easy Glider or BodyLift or the Abdominizer and sweat your way to glowing health, a sunny disposition and a robust sex life.

It matters little that the only exercise most buyers ever get from these gadgets occurs on the day they remove them from the box they arrived in. It's the thought that counts.

The bathroom is another favored destination for TV hucksters' products. It is there that you will find Pearl Cream, the amazing potion made of ''crushed pearls'' that is the secret of eternal youth for oriental women.

The boudoir is also the venue of the amazing Flow-Bee, the do-it-yourself haircutting system that sucks one's hair into a vacuum-cleaner-like device, then shears it off at the desired length, simultaneously depositing unwanted hair in a collection bag for easy disposal.

But it is the kitchen where most goofy gifts find their ultimate resting place. Let's hear it for the Salad Shooter, the Chia Herb Garden, the Combination Food Dehydrator and Beef Jerky Maker and (ta-dah!) Ginsu World-Class Knives.

Ginsu World-Class Knives are not to be confused with the wimpy Ginsu knives of previous years. In fact, you can slice right through an old Ginsu with the new World-Class. You can also saw through iron pipes and drive the tip of the World-Class clean through a genuine quarter-dollar if you're the sort of homemaker who gets your kicks from impaling legal tender.

Still another contender in this year's Super Bowl of Kitsch is the Bedazzler, a punch-type contraption that enables the user to affix cheap glass and rhinestone studs to jackets, sweaters and blouses in order to avoid paying the absurd markups for similar ornamentation.

Alas, there were so many outstanding entries that worthy challengers such as Clapper Two, Seal-a-Meal and The Very, Very Best of Zamfir and his Pan Flute received only honorable mention.

But enough Christmas chitchat. The winner of the Lump of Coal for Worst Gift of 1992 is Ginsu World-Class Knives! Now, if somebody will help me pry the quarter off this knife, we'll telephone Ronco and order a set.

Tom Kelly is an editorial writer and columnist for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

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