I had every intention of giving top billing this week to a couple of very worthy causes’ fund-raising Christmas gifts, and I will get to them in a minute. But before I tell you about the gifts that’ll warm your heart, I have to tell you about the one that’ll make you pee in your pants.

Remember Laughing Sally, the animatronic “clown” that used to scare the loving bejeezus out of little kids at Fair Park back in the day? Screechy cackle, face like a zombie Miss America contestant? Well, thanks to Little Rock’s Chris Pipkins, you can share the creepy this Christmas by ordering a Laughing Sally T-shirt, tote bag, beer stein or doggie sweater for the coulrophobic in your life.


Pipkins’ dad took a photo of Laughing Sally (see right) on a visit to the park in 1970, when Pipkins was 4 or 5 years old. After his mom told him recently that she’d like to have the picture on some things, Pipkins signed up on the Internet site cafepress.com to market Laughing Sally merchandise to the general public. (Individuals send in artwork and choose from a list of products they want to sell; CafePress manufactures and ships the items to buyers, usually within 48 hours. Find Pipkins’ merchandise at www.cafepress.com/laughingsally.) All the items have the same picture of Laughing Sally, but you can choose from several captions, such as: “Confront your fear — Laughing Sally” or “Laughing Sally for governor.” (She’d do wonders for economic development.) Most T-shirts are in the $16-$20 range, but you can get a Laughing Sally Christmas ornament for just $8. Happy holidays, indeed.

Now to those feel-good gifts. If Christmas shopping has you feeling a little too materialistic this year, the Humane Society and Heifer International are ready to cure what ails you. The Humane Society is selling a desk calendar featuring photos of local pets with their people; almost all are cute, and some are laugh-out-loud funny. You can order the $25 calendars by mail (get the form at www.warmhearts.org), and they’re also available at some local merchants and vet clinics — the full list is also on the website.


Heifer International has an entire catalog of gifts to choose from, none of which require shipping costs or wrapping. “The Most Important Gift Catalog in the World” lets you “buy” all or part of one of the 10 animals (or tree seedlings) that Heifer gives to impoverished families around the world. Ten bucks covers a share of a pig, rabbits, sheep or goat, $20 buys a flock of chicks, ducks or geese, and prices go up from there. Big spenders can even purchase an entire “ark,” which includes all 11. The families get the actual animals; your recipient gets a lovely card explaining how the gift helps a family get out of poverty. I seem to run across the Heifer catalog all over the place, but if you can’t get your hands on one, you can check out the options online at www.catalog.heifer.org. And if you’d just really rather have something to wrap and put under the tree, Heifer has a small gift shop at its headquarters at 1015 Louisiana St. where it sells crafts made by artisans around the world.

I’m running out of room, so real fast:


•Peruse local artists, and craftspeople’s products at two events this weekend. The Arkansas Craft Guild Christmas Showcase runs Friday through Sunday, Dec. 2-4, at the Statehouse Convention Center. Jewelry, quilts, stained glass, you name it — if it’s handmade, you’ll probably find it among the 100 or so vendors. The sale runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, and admission is $5 for adults.

•The Seven Wonders Show and Sale, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Bess Chisum Stephens YMCA, features works from local artists, including pillowmaker extraordinaire Catherine Johnson’s Kiddy Cats Eye creations (no solid-colored squares here — Johnson uses vintage fabrics and trim, plus organic, asymmetrical shapes, to craft one-of-a-kind works of art). The YMCA is at 1200 Cleveland St.

•The Store Formerly Known as the Arlington Dress Shop, in the Pleasant Valley Shopping Center at 11220 N. Rodney Parham Road, will unveil its made-over self Thursday, Dec. 1, at a grand reopening party from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The store’s new name was still a secret at press time, but the owners have revealed that they’re changing their focus to contemporary fashions, including higher-end denim.

Please don’t eat my brain.