"I was watching the TV news about Iran one night, and all about flags being burned, and I could see that the American people needed something to vent their anger on. So it came to me -- a dartboard with Khomeini on it."
Avery Wieder, a 30-year old picture framer from Shaker Heights, Ohio, took his idea to a friend, Buddy Margolis, 23, a film theory graduate of American University, and within two days they had a product on the market.
Margolis designed the one-foot-square corkboard with the stern face of the ayatollah silk-screened in blue on it, and with seed capital raised from Cleveland businessmen the two assembled 50 sets with on dart to a board.
With their friends they set up shop on a sidewalk outside the Cleveland Browns stadium on the day of the Browns-Dolphins game Nov. 18.
"There were 83,000 people at the game," Margolis recalls, and the impuise to buy was greater after the game than before.
"People laughed and enjoyed the idea to the dartboard, but only 30 bought on the way in. When the game went into overtime some people left, thinking the Browns had lost. They just walked past us.
"Then we heard the crowd roar. The game was over. And within 20 minutes we had rolls of bills as big as baseballs in our pockets."
Shouting, "Get your Khomeini dartboards here!", they sold out almost instantly. By the end of the next week Margolis and Wieder accumulated orders for 10,000 sets from retailers from Florida to California. An additional 1,000 are being readied for Washington-area distribution. The sets are being sold for $6 to $7 at "high-class gift and gag stores," Margolis says.
They are not the only ones to have the idea. John Ryerson and Paul Broomfield of Holland Patent, N.Y., have come up with "The Original Khomanica Dart Poster" complete with "Commie Weirdo Rules." And another dartboard bearing the legend "Stick a Hola in the Ayatolla" has surfaced in the San Diego area.
Evidently it's an idea whose time has come.
Hate dartboards are, after all, an American tradition, say local novelty makers, going back from Nixon to Hitler, and beyond. They are as old as pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.
For Margolis, the whole thing may seem like fate. Though this is his first venture into business and political satire, he has long been fascinated by get-rich-quick schemes. He recalls brainstorming sessions with friends at college and a planned retreat for that specific purpose in a cabin in the Vermont woods.
But the idea was Wieder's. He brought it to Margolis the morning after that first fateful newscast, and as the friends sat around "as frustrated as everyone else over the Khomeini-shah hostage situation, knowing we could do nothing but sit on our anger," he mentioned the idea for a gag protest device. Margolis immediately recognized a hot item.
He knew of the need for expressing political anger. As a high school student he had demonstrated against the Vietnam war and against Pittsburgh air pollution.
"But it wasn't a way of life," he says. "It was a separate personal statement each time." He emphasizes that he is not a demonstration groupie.
Though Margolis knew many Iranian students at American University from which he graduated last year, he does not expect to contact them for comments on his dartboard.
He sees the board as a sort of straw vote by Americans to show how they feel about the situation.
"When it's all over," he adds, "I want to present a dartboard to Jimmy Carter. He needs it more than anybody."