In his campaign speeches, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has been touting his business experience, especially his work as chief executive of the investment firm Bain Capital. Lately, though, that experience has come under scrutiny. Some of the attention has focused on one of Bain’s smallest and least successful investments: the Lifelike Co., which sold customized dolls that resembled their little-girl owners. The duration of Romney’s involvement in Lifelike has called into question the candidate’s claim that he began a “leave of absence” from Bain in 1999.
From the Washington Post, July 14, 2012:
Romney served on the Lifelike board from its founding in the mid-1990s until 2001, according to the former governor’s financial disclosure forms and other public records. Romney described his responsibility as a board member in his testimony in 2002 before a state panel considering a challenge to his eligibility for the ballot.
This being Life-or-Death Week at Fritinancy, I’m more interested in the name of that defunct company—forced into liquidation in 2003, according to the Wall Street Journal—than in financial arcana.
Here’s the Post’s description of Lifelike’s product:
Lifelike occupied a specialty niche in the doll business: 2-foot high replicas of actual children, fashioned using photographs supplied by parents. They sold for $150, under the brand name “My Twinn.’’
“Lifelike” is a descriptive name not just for the company but also for Romney, whose public persona has been characterized as “wooden” and “robotic.” In April, the candidate’s wife, Ann, said on a Baltimore radio show: “[I]f people think the candidate seems too stiff at times as the host suggested … we better unzip him and let the real Mitt Romney out’.” (As several commentators later noted, this was not the most felicitous of phrasings.)
Romney had personal connections to Lifelike—a college and business-school friend brought him the investment idea—but might he also have been charmed by the product name? After all, My Twinn is pretty darn close (as Romney himself would put it) to “Mitt Win.”
Back in January, New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd rubbed it in:
He has clearly brought a My Twinn on the trail — a plastic replica of a candidate who’s often described as a plastic replica: white teeth, gelled hair, windowpane shirt, Tommy Bahama jeans.
The Lifelike Co. is dead and buried, but the Lifelike name lives on in other quarters. Las Vegas has a Lifelike Hair Center that specializes in hair replacement, restoration, and retention. LifeLike Productions, in Point Reyes Station, California, is “a leading producer of state-of-the-art multimedia marketing tools”; it owns the lifelike.com domain. There’s also a Canadian Lifelike Dolls magazine, whose readers collect “reborn” dolls (also known as “living dolls” or, creepily, “unliving dolls”): vinyl dolls manufactured to look like real human babies. A 2003 book, Life Like Dolls: The Collector Doll Phenomenon and the Lives of the Women Who Love Them, was written by a man, A. F. Robertson. It devotes three pages to the My Twinn brand.