DOLLS´S HOSPITAL LIVING
Monday, january 3, 2000 the journal news 1E
Jerry Baum plants himself al the center of the operating room and addresses the surgeon, who doesn´t look up because he is sanding a thigh.
“This is teddy bear”. Baum annunces, elutehing some fur in the shape of a bear that appears to have made a few trips through the car wash. “I bought it for my son al FAO Schwarz the day he was born, 36 years ago. Now my son´s wife is expecting a baby and I want to get it refurbished”.
The surgeon my be touched, but he keeps to his thigh. After all, he is the doll doctor. What Baum wants is the bear doctor. The surgeon calls in the bear man, who performs an examination. As if sensing something Baum says: “I think I paid $15 for that thing”.
The bear will need his coat cleaned. The bear will need new paw pads. The bear will need a new button and, more critically, a new squeaker. “To fix this properly, it will be $425”, says the bear man. Baum begins to look as if he could use the man man.
But, of course, there is a none, for this is the New York Doll Hospital, wich of late has added the shingle of Teddy Bear hospital. This is the doll hospital that´s known around the world. And it´s the doll hospital that puts your toy love to the test.
The chief surgeon-the guy with the thigh-is irving chair, who has spen 60 year in the business his family has run for a hunvied. He charges, he says, what he must. And he doesn´t treat streaker shock. He won´t bagain any more than, say, New York Presbyterian, apparentty, this hasn´t hurt business chais works five days plus Sunday, arristid on three days by the bear man. Suis Casas, they minister to almost any creative, so long as is isn´t olive. And their reputation has a way of overnoming the ir fee.
Baumwho is now sitting, sits for a long tima. He bargains unsuccessfully. He adds details to his story. He had walked to FAO Schwardz in a blizzard that day, he reveals swrely that is worth something turns out that it´s not.
“Would you spend the money?” Baum asks Casas, in a fina ploy.
“If I had the money. I´d spend in it” Casas answers critically.
“I´ll have to send you o chick”, Baum sighs, gazing into his bear´s goce “How could I not”
Then he adds sadly “should have bought Two”
The horpital – at 787 Lexington ave, in Manhattan-occupies two second- floor rooms direct from Central Casting. A neon sign that reads “ Doll Hospital ” cracktes in the front window. An exhaust fun squeals. The pipes ciank. When opened, the front door tinkles.
The majorned to technology, besides two trimline telephones, is a retired mechanical cash register whose drawer is eternally open. It´s on it glue-encrested wonden desk whos drawers are eternally open. There´s very little in the place that isn´t eternally open.
Below the peeling paint stalactites that have formed on the tin cetting is a piled that starts at the floor and threatens to reach the stalactiles. It contains .dozens of dolls and animals that are now transplant donors. You feel especially bad for Snoopy. He´s squished down at the bottom.
You feel worse for what´s every where else-the inevitable doll corpses, armless, legless, faceless, eyeless. One, on its back, inadvertenily holds its owen head. “some kids can´t take it.” Chais says: “they see the heads, and they can´t handle it”.
They´d better not visit the back room. There they would see the torsos-suspended over a work table from wires attached to the ceiling. They´d see the freshly painted feet and the bases fall of eyeballs, along with the cartons and drawers with labels like “German Litubs” and “French Bedies”:
But it´s all just b backdrop to the 74 year old chief surgeon, who merrily operates within- standing up, like any good surgeon. “I always stand up when I work.” He says “I don´t like to sit, cause I´m a young fella. Sometimes I have lunch standing up”.
Unlike his work environment, he is the opposite of gruesome, with his well arranged fluty white hair and his Marcus Welby face he works constantly, pausing only to answer the phone and the door, or to sip cranberry juice cocktail from his Grumpy cartoon glass.
The thigh he´s been sanding belongs to a 50s Rita the Walking Doll, who checked in, predictable, because she could no longer walk. Getting Rita back on her feet is tricky work, Chais says.fortunately, not every doll repair is.
Whike fitting the leg back onto the 27-inch doll he hear a noise “something´s rattling in there,”mke noise ti it. And you can´t laugh, because they´re very serious walks in
shortly after Jerry Baum Earlier in the year she save chais cess “ some times you clean the doll,” Casas says, “and they´ve become accustomed to seeing it dirty. As soon as you clean it, it´s not my doll.
Still other patrons never actually turn into patrons. Usually because they can´t clear the hurdle Jerry Baum did.
“ with some people,” Chais says, “we´ll says it´s fifteen hunred dollars, and they´ll say, “ thas´s very reasonable. I though it would be more. Can I give you a check?”. And with others, we´ll say “twenty dollars, and they ´ll say,“twenty dollars? You ´re a crook.”
The prices , the men say, are based on labor, not on the (monetary) value of the patient.
Baum´s bear, for instance, is a mohair steiff animal worth hundreds.
But a similar operation would cost the same for a no-name bear.
Unfortunately, Chails says, some people seem to feel that since dolls are not real people, the works is not ral work.
“I had a call from a woman who I could tell was well-educated,” he says “she had an 1880 french doll with pure silk clothes. She had a lot of clothes and they needed a lo of work. She asked if so it´ll be a perfect match.
“she also wanted shoes to match. And hair to match. And a big glass globe to put over the doll. I said could do it all. And after all this conversation, the woman finally says: “ Is there a charge?”
In the 19th century, phillip chais family´s homeland of germany . Abraham and grandma-carried on the business here . but not on porpose.
They had run a beauty salon at the present site of the Roosevelt Island Tranway. Women with Victorian curls spent a lot of time there. The women brought their daughters, who brough their dolls, which often broke. Abraham and sophie sent to Germany for parts.
Before long, they were doing better with the dolls than with the hair In 1900, the salon became the New York doll hospital. After the first world war,it was passed to David and Dora Chais- dad and mom-and after the second world war, to irving himself.
Chais´s daughter Dana has a career as a dietitian. But his other daughter, Alison Hirsch, works at the hospital. Tough still a babe in toyland, she has the potential to take over. Then again, the chief surgeon may just go on and on.
He´s up at 4:50 a,m, and by 6 (three days a week) he´s at the Y, where he works out for an hour and a half. He takes a swim, showers up and heads for the doll hospital where he works stading up from around 8:30 till exactly 6.
His skills appear undiminished, as does his confidence –which he exhibits as Jerry Baum heads for the tinkling door.
“I´m so happy I walked up here for $425,” Baum deadpans.
“Look at it this way ,”Chais deadpans back.“ If we didn´t fix it, who would?”