1. There is still enough interest in Cabbage Patch Kids—the ugly-adorable doll fad from the 1980s—to support a $2.5 million combination museum/"nursery"/store/kitsch-haven called Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia, that's the epicenter of the Cabbage Patch World.
Most folks understandably don't give a lot of thought to the Cabbage Patch Kids, but there is, remarkably, still enough interest in these curious dolls to support Babyland General Hospital, a plantation-style tourist trap and collector mecca located in Cleveland, Georgia where kids and parents can visit classic models and stroll through nurseries, a cabbage patch full of anthropomorphic babies and finally a "Magic Crystal Tree" where live deliveries are performed. No, really. It is a singularly fascinating combination of wholesome and perverse. As my wife, one-year-old son Dex and I discovered, an afternoon at Babyland General Hospital is educational as well as entertaining.
2. Cabbage Patch Kids were invented by a dude barely old enough to drink.
Entrepreneur, inventor and businessman Xavier Roberts was just a kid himself in the late 1970s when he began experimenting with the doll-making techniques that would lead him to create a line called "Little People" that then evolved into the Cabbage Patch Kids children couldn't stop screaming at their parents to buy throughout the Reagan-era. At Babyland General Hospital Roberts' name is spoken in hushed terms by employees decked out in scrubs to really drive home the whole "hospital" motif. And though his creation has been a huge part of pop culture for three and a half decades, Roberts, who autographs some of the high-end dolls available at the hospital, is only 60.
3. Cabbage Patch Dolls can be extraordinarily valuable, and also crazy pricey.
Upon entering Babyland General Hospital, visitors encounter a series of classic Cabbage Patch Kids in protective cases from the line's early 1980s heyday worth somewhere in the area of $15,000 dollars apiece. That's an awful lot of money to spend a doll that isn't even cute. But by illustrating how much these eminently collectable dolls are worth, the folks at BabyLand make spending close to $300 on a handmade Cabbage Patch Kid seem less like a phenomenal waste of money than as a savvy investment your child can also consider its best friend.
4. Andy Warhol was fascinated by Cabbage Patch Kids
Because of course he was. Warhol could not resist a tacky pop culture fad, or resist the urge to profit financially off what was already making other people money. So it should not come as a surprise that as a painfully American, hopelessly tacky and instantly dated bit of pop art Americana, Cabbage Patch Kids fascinated Warhol, who made some absolutely hideous prints involving the dolls, some of which are proudly displayed at Babyland General Hospital as tribute to the dolls' far-ranging influence.
5. At Babyland General Hospital Children can "adopt" a child whose "live birth" they witness at the Magic Crystal Tree
The cornerstone of the Babyland General Hospital experience (and it's an experience worth making a trek across the country for) is the opportunity to see a Cabbage Patch Kid being "born" at the Magic Crystal Tree in the heart of the Cabbage Patch where a kindly woman in scrubs takes children and parents through the process of extracting a baby from the leaves of "Mother Cabbage." Because Babyland General Hospital is a capitalist endeavor above all else, the babies being "birthed" through this exceedingly public process, can be adopted even before they make it out the cabbage patch, affording the child (or strange adult) adopting the Cabbage Patch baby their fifteen minutes of fame when they're called out as the parent-to-be by the nurse delivering the newborn.
6. The "births" at Babyland General Hospital use a surprising amount of adult terminology cutely modified to fit the Cabbage Patch aesthetic.
Adults who've experienced actual birth will find an awful lot of the fake birthing process at Babyland General familiar. In her endlessly repeated the spiel, the woman delivering the baby (available for immediate purchase, don't you know) talked about "branch births" (the hospital's version of a breach birth), C-sections (Cabbage sections) and a substance called Imagicillin that loosens up Mother Cabbage's leaves to prepare her for delivery. Children can even buy a syringe full of Imagicillin to take home for themselves for some reason. It's a peculiarly medical concept of childbirth for an institution that proposes that babies emerge from a tree located in a magical cabbage patch, but clearly the folks at Babyland General Hospital take the "Hospital" part of the name as seriously as they do the rest.
Photograph by Flickr/brokeinhrt2
7. The Babyland General Hospital Is adorable, but also pretty creepy.