Modern Living: Bear Market

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Actress Samantha Eggar took hers to her wedding—he sat in the front pew on the "bride's side." Lady Beatty's got bundled off on the honeymoon as well. Actor Paul Scofield confesses to having stolen one. The King of Thailand has taken his along on state visits. All are participants in what British Actor Peter Bull describes as "the vast underground Teddy-bear movement which exists in the adult world."

Teddy bears kid stuff? Not so, says Peter Bull in his book, Bear with Me, published in England. Give a Teddy to an impressionable child, and the bear has a place in the child's effects and affections for life. Bull, a character actor whose own family of Teddies numbers 14, presents ample and arresting testimony to the fact that he is no oddity but merely one of thousands of thoroughly grown-up people, all dedicated "arctophilists"—friends of the bear.

Frightfully Interesting. Poet John Betjeman, for example, paid tribute to his stuffed, 60-year-old ursine friend "Archibald Ormsby-Gore" in his work Summoned by Bells ("Safe were those evenings of the pre-war world/When I turned to Archibald, my safe old bear"). The late Donald Campbell set new speed records with his "Mr. Woppit" along for the ride, and Mountain Climber Walter Bonnati got through one low point on his solitary trek up the Matterhorn's north slopes by confessing his "sins" to Zissi, a tiny Teddy in his knapsack. Princess Alexandra of Kent became almost inconsolable when her Teddy got lost on a good-will tour of the Far East. "Most Teddy bears," he concludes, "seem to lead frightfully interesting lives."

To obtain such hitherto top-secret information, Bull ran a front-page ad in the London Times requesting "History of E. Bear Esquire. Reminiscences, Data, Photographs." He also issued public pleas for facts and figures on arctophilia during television appearances with "Theodore," oldest of his own Teddies (all of whom, he complains, get into "a foul temper" when he is away from them). Letters poured in from both American and British bear lovers, as well as from several bears ("They are just as articulate as Other Persons"). Bull soon discovered that of the 250 Teddy bears lost on transport vehicles in London each year, almost all are claimed; that exactly 50% of British children surveyed and 55% of American ones consider Teddy their favorite toy; and that 45% of a sampling of British children call their critter "Teddy" because, as many of them pointed out, "he is a Teddy." However, 40% of American slum children who were shown a picture of the toy thought that the animal was a rat.

Triumphant Symbol. Teddy bears are precisely 67 years old. The name was attached to a new line of stuffed bruins manufactured by the forerunner of the Ideal Toy Corp. and by Germany's Steiff Co. after President Theodore Roosevelt, on an expedition to Mississippi in 1902, refused to shoot a bear cub. Washington Star Cartoonist Clifford Berryman instantly made the cub a symbol for Roosevelt, and the country went for the notion lock, stock, and bear jokes. (If T.R. is President when he is fully dressed, went one knee-slapper, what is he with his clothes off? Answer: Teddy bare.)

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