L.L. Bean, the sacred cow of mail-order catalogues with its gum shoes, ragg sweaters and sub-zero slipper socks, has just turned into a sitting duck, thanks to an irreverent 83-page parody that has preppie sportsmen snickering in their Alpine knickers.
A suitably pompous pooch, dreaming of the hunt in his camouflage "Pet's Camping Bra," graces the cover of "Items From Our Catalog," a soon-to-be-published $4.95 Avon paperback. From its earth-tone, watercolored cover to mail-order form ("You may use Master Card, American Express, beaver pelts or wampum . . . To ensure accuracy, we suggest not drinking for 48 hours before ordering), the lampoon is an uncanny takeoff on the real thing. (The bra, which comes in four sizes, is described as a "useful support garment for busty animals." A sequined number is also advertised as "useful for club acts.")
Then there are the Thinsulite Papal Vestments, Down Yarmulke (recommended for use with the Goy-Tex Prayer Shawl) and the Como Sweater, "traditionally styled for the inactive sportsman . . . impregnated with a painless nerve gas which induces feelings of languor, sloth and beatitude." The Como sweater comes in four sizes ("Little Guy, Good Ol' Medium, Big Guy and Hey Fatso!") and three color choices ("Blase' Beige, Mellow Yellow, Wimpy Blue").
Racing Sacks for men and women -- which look suspiciously like L.L. Bean's own sleeping bags -- are good for professional potato sack racers, the catalogue points out, made of high-quality goose down that "breathes and, under some conditions, talks."
Other items include the Self-Motivated Jogging Suit ("able to exercise with or without someone wearing it") and Dress Waders ("a serviceable pant for formal wear in swamps, bogs and streams"). The Rag Sweater is made of real rags ("Very popular with bag ladies and other urban flotsam"), campers' foodstuff is Freeze Dried Sushi, and for women, Swiss Army Earrings.
The Inflatable Cheese Slice is cold-packed processed cheese that inflates into a mattress, the Shoe Boat features a dinghy shaped like a Topsider, and Tofu Innersoles ("provides more protein than meat or fish innersoles of twice the weight") are just the thing for vegetarian hikers.
Then there's the Duck Blind (portable Venetian blind with slats for the gun), Downhill Hibachi, Pawtucket Pine Cone Ear Stopples, Humps ("useful tool for manipulating the emotions of others"), Penguin Decoy ("Sight of penguin on shore causes social-climbing birds to break formation and seek entry to what appears to be a black-tie affair") and Wine Pills. "In 10 minutes, the most fetid swamp scum in the forest can become a modest red, elusive and light on first taste, yet playful -- one might say a trifle impudent -- on the afterbite," the catalogue boasts.
"Unofficially, I think it's hysterical," said one L.L. Bean employe reached at the company's Freeport, Maine, headquarters which mailed out 45 million catalogues this year. A spokesman for the company, which did $172 million in business last year, said he hadn't seen the takeoff yet.
"All I can say is L.L. Bean is something of a national institution," said spokesman Kilt Andrew. "It was inevitable that someone would come up with a parody."
The lampoon is the brainchild of Alfred Gingold, a 35-year-old Manhattan theater director who started working on the book more than two years ago. "I just always thought catalogues were amazing," Gingold said. "Particularly the Bean catalogue. I was tickled by the language and the way of life embodied in that language. I don't know anyone who hunts moose, but I know a lot of people in New York and D.C. who want to look like moose hunters."
Gingold, who worked at Washington's Arena Stage two years ago, was asked: What's the one thing he would take to a deserted island off the coast of Maine?
"Wine pills," he said. "It would definitely be the wine pills."