Fifty years ago, Edward R. Murrow made
television history with his "Fields of Shame" investigative report on
the plight of the migrant farm worker.
Now Luke Ford looks at the plight of the
migrant dildo worker in Chatsworth and her chance at the American
I went deep under cover at Topco to produce the
closest, most intimate, most shocking view of the production of sex
toys by hardy Hispanic workers for pudgy middle-class Caucasians. You
will never experience a blow-up doll in the same way again. This
article is The
Jungle for the 21st Century.
By the time you've finished reading, you're
guaranteed to be as happy as an illegal Mexican immigrant with her
first CA driver's license.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003. 9:45AM.
I run across the six lanes of De Soto Blvd in Chatsworth and charge
into the Topco parking lot. On the second story of 9401 De Soto, on the
balcony in the sun, I spot Jennifer Gorman, Topco's PR gal, and Scott
Tucker, Topco president.
I wave at them. They ignore me and talk to each other. I keep waving.
"Hi, it's Luke," I yell.
They give me polite but apprehensive smiles.
I walk into the sales wing. The pretty Latina receptionist phones
Jennifer to fetch me from the lobby. The lady asks for my car keys and
in exchange gives me a guest badge. I was told yesterday not to wear
open-toe shoes in case a dildo falls on my toe and breaks it.
Jen walks into the lobby. She's wearing a black dress with a plunging
blue collar that offers a few square inches of sneak previews of her
hidden treasures ("fitted black number with an open collared neck" says
Jen). Her feet are bare on top, with heels underneath ("low strappy
sandals" says Jen). She's blonde, about 30 years old, with an oval
shaped face and medium length hair. She's intense, hyper and [a quality
Jen won't allow me to mention so she doesn't get teased about it
endlessly, guys, you can't tease girls like you can other guys], with a
type A personality.
She takes me upstairs where we run into Scott. He explains that he
thought I was a hobo and that they had too many of them hanging around
already and they didn't need anymore, which is why he didn't wave back.
Scott seems like a
runs a dildo company. He's dressed in a suit and tie and has a marine's
Tucker says he's read an article or two of mine.
I bet he's going to read this one.
Scott disappears into the conference room for a meeting. His father
Marty, the founder of the company, is there from China. Marty, dressed
colorfully and casually (he's married to a Chinese girl in her
twenties), looks like a much wilder guy than Scott. He must think,
while looking at his son, "Where did I go wrong?"
Jen takes me into her office. While she gets changed into her tennis
shoes), I look out her balcony at the Memphis of the West.
Topco has 450 manual labor employees (it appears to me that 449 of them
are Mexican and the other is a Caucasian who feels like a loser) and 50
administrators who are all white.
All the white employees work on the top floor in offices and all the
Mexicans stay on the bottom floor in the three-football
You could make a cool sitcom about this place called "Upstairs,
Downstairs." Have the white president of the company fall in love with
an illegal Mexican dildo maker. (Well, that has happened at Topco.)
All jokes aside, it is moral that Topco employs Mexicans to screw the
tops on lubricant bottles rather than employ Chinese slave labor like
all the other sex toy companies (but Doc Johnson).
Jen takes me to places I've never been before - like the sex toy
showroom. There's a swing. She got into it, wearing a skirt, on her
first visit to the company, before she even filled out an application.
It might be some kind of job requirement for white women at Topco?
She's a good fit for the place, though I'm not sure what's going to
happen to her after this article comes out.
I'm about to ask her to get into the swing again so I can take photos,
but subdued by my lithium medication, I decide discretion is the better
part of valor.
Jen leads me downstairs. She pushes through a door marked in red
"Emergency Exit Only - Alarm Will Sound." Then she puts her hand on
some detector and takes me into the warehouse. Fat blow-up dolls are
the first things to catch my attention. Then there are the hundreds of
Mexicans, the most I've seen in one place since I went to Home Depot.
We wander the aisles, avoiding the onrushing forklifts. Stacks of sex
toys loom precariously above us. One of those big boxes falls and we're
history - killed by a dildo.
I'm instructed by Jen to make Topco sound nice.
She hunts down some cool gifts for me that I can give away to my lady
friends - vibrators that come in containers that appear to carry
lipstick and nail polish. Man, with these, I will turn into a real
Most of the Topco administrators seem so square, I doubt they ever use
their own products. At least I hope not. I really don't want that
picture in my mind.
I make some insinuating comments to Jen about vibrators but she gently
and sensuously brushes them aside.
If you looked in most of the Topco offices, you'd never know it was a
There are several Tuckers in the top administrative positions.
All the Topco employees I meet are nice. Nothing I write should be
misconstrued so as to put them or their fine God-fearing company in a
Rest assured, that when you diddle with a Topco dildo, you're diddling
I believe the above paragraph contains a pull quote that will appear in
the next Topco catalogue, if there's any justice in this world.
Could you truly have a satisfying orgasm if you knew that your vibrator
was made by a woman paid a few cups of rice a day?
Notes on method: I walked around Topco with the lovely publicist
Jennifer, with the blessing of its gracious president Scott, and then
afterwards I went home and wrote things I thought were funny but they
thought were crap.