With a day job of sex educator, I try to keep up on trends, including sex toys. Intrigued by the VërSpanken (“a new kind of home entertainment system for men”) and Water Wieners, I went to Woodland Hills (Los Angeles) to meet the man who invented them and to see how all this sex stuff started for him.
I spent an hour with Tony Levine (pictured, right) and a collection of his Duckies, learning about the internationally acclaimed I Rub My Duckie vibrator—or should I say personal massager? Levine’s company, Big Teaze Toys, sports the slogan “Toys that Play with You,” and the Duckie does just that. Introduced in 1999, there’s now quite a line of these Duckie characters, including Bondage Duckie, “Paris” Duckie, and even custom Duckies for Sephora.
In the course of our hour-long conversation, conducted with kids screaming in the background, we’d discuss cat butts, the porn industry, the perfect blowjob, and much more. Part of the interview:
What’s a nice guy like you doing in a business like this?
I’d been half-engineer, half-artist, and ended up going into product design. I was basically an inventor, doing all kinds of stuff: automotive, electronics, health care, and products of my own that I thought needed to be made. One afternoon I walked into an adult store, looked around at the products that were there, and thought: These are disgusting. They were poorly made, they smelled, and for somebody who was a newbie, they simply scared the crap out of me.
So I started doing some research and seeing what the industry was like. You couldn’t find out anything. There was no public information. So I kind of had to put my ideas on the backburner for a while.
You needed money to develop a business like this, and a cat butt did it, right?
Yes. So my first job was for a toy company called Worlds of Wonder that developed Teddy Ruxpin. When I left this company I started my own business with a friend of mine and we did a product called the Krushed Kitty. Garfield was popular, suction-cupped in so many cars, so we made a product that was a half of one crushed in the trunk of cars. We sold a shitload of those, and that helped finance my other interests.
So what happened next?
I started finding out I had more friends in the porn industry than I thought. I went with them to some of the shows, and they started to show me what the structure was like. That’s when I decided it was time to bring up the adult toy thing again. One year, a company gave me one square foot of its booth table at one of the adult conventions, and that’s when I started trying to explain to people what the hell you do with a vibrating duck.
How did the Duckie idea happen?
I get inspired by a lot of things. One day I was walking through a store, and I turn my head and see this yellow flash. It was nothing but a yellow box, but just then the Duckie idea popped into my head. It’s sweet and fun and you can leave it out. People are accustomed to being intimate and naked with a rubber duckie ever since they were children. And it’s so cute you want to pick it up and hold it.
That was the first boundary I had to break: to get people comfortable. I created something that wouldn’t be threatening to guys, something that would be discreet, something a single woman could use or a couple could use, and a product that didn’t compete with the big guys, as I’d have been smashed. The Duckie for us was something where we could stand out. We didn’t look like the Rabbit and the other things out there. It was fun, and we confused people at the same time.
Did a duck vibrator cause any controversy?
Some people were upset, as they felt that it was a child’s toy because it’s a rubber duck. But look at our packaging. We don’t say it’s for sex. It was designed to be safe for anybody three years and over. We don’t say where it goes. The adult industry chose where it was to go.
What does your family think of your Big Teaze business?
Most of my family is not around anymore, so that’s kind of easy, but I know my mom would be freaking proud. She would laugh her ass off at this.
Who’s buying the Duckie?
Americans are the least open on friendly types of toys. Compared to Europe, Asia, and Australia, we want more hardcore stuff. The Duckie in France is like Jerry Lewis, as it’s in almost every store. The French realize it’s fun and playful and you don’t take it so seriously. But the younger generation here is completely changing the dynamic of everything. They’re more open and less serious about stuff.
Women are the majority of buyers. Some love that it’s so discreet that they can leave it out and nobody knows what it is. It’s provocative, allowing them a little secret.
What’s the trick to selling the Duckie?
I look at the Duckie not as this killer sex toy, but as an object of foreplay. Start by using it for massage.
I began doing this thing called Ducking at trade shows. You can’t just look at a toy; you have to hold it, feel it, and experience it as much as possible. I can’t show people how to sexually use the product, so I invite them for some Ducking—demonstrating how to use the Duckie right, and how good it feels on the shoulders, arms, and neck. I also show how to use two Duckies at once. It’s above-the-waist stuff, but they understand where to go from there. When I do demonstrations to couples, about 30 percent of the time I sell two of the big Duckies.
Have you ever been Ducked, actually?
Epilogue: After an above-the-waist demonstration, I can’t say I had sex with an inanimate (albeit vibrating) object, but I can tell you that I walked away from the interview with Duckies of my own. More than two, actually!
(Photos courtesy of Bigteazetoys.com)