An Oakland native, Garcia admits that he has no great affection for the breed (at one time, he owned a mongrel named Fido), but he began collecting poodle paraphernalia 15 years ago, after spotting a pink plaster sculpture of two amorous poodles at a garage sale. "What appealed to me was the combination of cuteness and grotesqueness," he says.
Most of the items in the collection date from the '50s, a time of poodle cuts, poodle skirts and proliferating poodle power. The rage for grooming the animal's coal into topiary shapes, poodle pundits claim, reflected the era's nuclear-holocaust anxieties. "The poodles' fur (is cut to look like) mushroom clouds made cute," says Jack Mingo, founder of the Berkeley Pop Culture Project. Mingo says the decade's unliberated view of women also contributed to poodlemania. "Poodles," he says, "are almost a role model for that traditional female archetype: cute, pretty, unthreatening."
Because the museum doubles as Garcia's apartment, he asks that visitors call for an appointment (he's listed). Admission is free, but donations of poodleware are welcomed. As are the dogs themselves, if leashed. Says Garcia: "It's probably good for poodles to learn something about their heritage."
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