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Pope bobbleheads, anyone?

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Apr 15, 2008

Pope bobbleheads, anyone?

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Apr 15, 2008


Scott Jagow: Pope Benedict XVI comes to Washington today. Later this week, he visits New York. And already, people are selling souvenirs of his trip to America. Like soap, pope-on-a-rope soap. Nancy Marshall Genzer has our story.

Nancy Marshall Genzer: It’s a pope-pourri of papal products. If pope-on-a-rope soap doesn’t make you smell good enough, try the pope’s cologne — it’s heaven scent. You can get it on the Internet. But Dennis Zeigler says those are tasteless trinkets.

(sound of cash register)

Zeigler runs the bustling gift shop at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. He’s got lots of T-shirts and mugs, but he doesn’t stock bobbleheads, soaps or cologne.

Dennis Zeigler: Over here we have Pope Benedict bumper stickers, I love the pope.

There’s also a life size pope cutout. Passing students high-five its outstretched hands, and tourists pose for pictures.

Customer: I’m going over here with the pope. You gonna take a picture now?

Retiree Geneva Tinner says the cutout is OK. But she’s very glad the shop doesn’t stock the soap.

Geneva Tinner: I think that’s disgusting. Why wash your body with the pope?

But other Catholics in the shrine shop say, hey – it’s just good, clean fun. Mary Warchot doesn’t even mind the Benedict bobbleheads. She says they speak to some people.

Mary Warchot: I don’t know what the message is for a pope-on-a-rope or a bobblehead, but maybe it’s there, I’m just missing it.

A message in a bobble?

Warchot: A message in a bobble.

Washington’s Metro Transit system made a TV ad starring the pope bobblehead. He rides the train because his popemobile broke down. His message? Take the train to his big outdoor Mass on Thursday.

Video voiceover: Avoid the unholy traffic. Take Metro.

The ad got Metro in an unholy mess. They pulled it after offended Catholics complained. But it lives on, on YouTube. Sarah Blauvelt is a teacher for the Washington Archdiocese. She says teens love the bobblehead video.

Sarah Blauvelt: It makes him accessible, you know, in a world where so many people find the church inaccessible. To me it’s a great connection.

Blauvelt says, like it or not, the best way to build broad appeal these days is through mass merchandising.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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