Holy Hot Wheels! Mattel thinks I’m obscene!

So here’s one for the books: No less an authority than Mattel, the toy conglomerate behind Barbie and Hot Wheels, has declared “Franorama” a no-no.

The name, that is.

My handle is apparently an obscenity in some quarters of the world, or at least in the glass and concrete of the headquarters in El Segundo.

Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Frannis?

Read on. It’s so silly and stupid that I had to share it with you.


If you don’t know me very well, I was/have been a big Hot Wheels collector. The 15 cars I had in my childhood, in the late ’60s/early ’70s, were among my most cherished toys — most especially the Mongoose & Snake Drag Race Set I got for Christmas in 1970. They eventually disappeared or were played into near-oblivion by my youngest brother, Ken, as I went on to adulthood.

I started my adult foray down this dark path in the mid-’90s quite by accident. One day in early 1995, I was lazily strolling through a long-gone Toys R Us in East Haven and stumbled upon the toy car aisle.Just above eye level was a package that looked a lot like the original Hot Wheels packaging of the early days. There were cars I hadn’t seen since boyhood — most especially a Snake and a Mongoose. The Vintage Collection Snake was gold instead of the original yellow enamel, and the Mongoose was metalflake red instead of enamel, but whatever — it was a major “Holy shit!” moment. A recall of one of the few good memories I have of my childhood.

That led to a me making the unconscious decision in the summer of ’95 to start collecting the then-current numbered series. The craze was firmly cemented by two things: 1) finding my first two Treasure Hunt cars — a ’57 T-Bird I rooted out of a big bin during a 2-for-$1.09 sale at a Kay-Bee and an ugly VW Bug I found on the peg at a Stop & Shop a week later; and 2) the revival of Johnny Lightnings, Topper’s short-lived rivals to the early Hot Wheels, by a new company.

Anyway, shortly after, I met Bob Parker, who lives in Orange, two towns west of New Haven, and was a noted Hot Wheels collector authority. I did a Christmastime story on the boom of Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning collecting, featuring Bob, for the New Haven Register, and we got to be pals. He helped me boost my early collection by selling me some limited-edition cars; as my collection grew like bacteria, I lent him some of my cars to shoot for a series of collector books he did for Schiffer Publishing and helped him with some copy editing.

Anyway, I cut back sharply on my collecting when I moved out West in ’04, and now, of course, with the economic depression and the prolonged layoff, I’m pretty much out of it. But once in a while, I’ll pick up one in a supermarket (or, until recently, a Target) for shits and giggles if I like it. And very infrequently I’ll find a Treasure Hunt for my troubles.

A couple days ago, I picked up two cars during a trip to Wal-Mart: a new model, a Tyrrell P-34 six-wheeled Formula One racer from the ’70s; and a new paint job on a Ferrari. The Ferrari included a keychain and a game piece for a new promotion: a “Keys to Speed” contest.

The rules are simple enough: Go to the website, punch in the code on the game piece and see if you win a prize. A lot of the prizes are crap — a Hot Wheels scooter, baseball cap, skateboard or kiddie bike — but the grand prize is a trip for 4 to the Indy 500 next May, the 100th-anniversary running of the race. I’ve always wanted to see the race live, so it was worth a shot.

I punched in the code and, well, I didn’t win — but “You’ve scored a virtual race car!” I decided to play along and see what sort of interactive game they were offering online. Since I’m not a member of their online “community,” I clicked on the “Register” button.

I punched in my birth date (since they want to know I’m of legal age, I guess — has nothing to do with gathering demographic info, right?) and clicked on “I don’t want to say!” under “My Gender.”

Then I went to create an account. I typed in the name “franorama.” Lookie what I got:

The fine red print above the name says, “Oops! We don’t use that kind of language on this site. Please select another name.”


Must be the name of some porn video I’m not aware of (and I wouldn’t be, since I don’t watch porn).

Maybe it’s some sexual position I’m not aware of (and wouldn’t be, since I haven’t had sex since ‘Nam).

Maybe it’s some sort of slur in El Segundo. (Yo man, you’re a franorama!)

Just another case of mindless corporate stupidity rearing its ugly head.

The car I was gonna play with was virtual. But hey, Mattel — I’m for real! And the money I’ve blown on your cars over the years was real, too. What’s obscene is that you guys think my name is obscene, and for no apparent reason.

Anyway, it’s worth a laugh, I guess …


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3 Responses to “Holy Hot Wheels! Mattel thinks I’m obscene!”

  1. Jay Says:

    “Dude, I had a real franorama of a time last night!! But I can’t tell you about it…cuz it’s way too obscene”

    “I was frannin’ this girl last night….wow, it was quite a franorama!!”

  2. It's Drew! Says:

    Don’t you try to Franorama me!

  3. Matthew Wermers Says:

    Well said.

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