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Barbie creator's daughter fights for her dad's legacy after toy giant Mattel cuts him out

Ann Ryan, 67, claims her father Jack Ryan is the true creator of the famed doll Barbie and bashes Mattel for erasing his legacy. She says one of the reasons for her father's blacklisting is his debauched lifestyle. She is pictured with her late father

New York Times bestselling author Jerry Oppenheimer is the author of Toy Monster: The Big, Bad World of Mattel, and a frequent contributor to DailyMail.com.

The daughter of the man who claimed he invented Barbie is speaking out for the first time about how her father’s role in creating the world’s most famous doll has been excised by toy giant Mattel.

After years of being dissed by the company Ann Ryan said it is time to set the record straight about Barbie’s birth in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com

Her father Jack, who killed himself in 1991, was known as a kinky sexual swinger who hosted orgies at his home, she said, and Mattel is desperate to protect the reputation of their best-selling toy from being impugned by of his unorthodox lifestyle.

Instead, she said, Mattel prefers to stick with its story that Barbie was invented by company co-founder Ruth Handler – even though she was a convicted felon who was kicked out of the company for cooking the books.

Speaking out for the first time, Ann Ryan, 67, claims that letters and emails she has sent to the company seeking access to internal records and archives that she said would prove her father’s role as the inventor of the world’s most famous doll have consistently been ignored.

Ann Ryan, 67, claims her father Jack Ryan is the true creator of the famed doll Barbie and bashes Mattel for erasing his legacy. She says one of the reasons for her father's blacklisting is his debauched lifestyle. She is pictured with her late father

Ann Ryan, 67, claims her father Jack Ryan is the true creator of the famed doll Barbie and bashes Mattel for erasing his legacy. She says one of the reasons for her father’s blacklisting is his debauched lifestyle. She is pictured with her late father 

Ann provided her father's original patent for the famed doll filed in 1959. She included the photo of her father's detailed drawings of Barbie in an email to Mattel CEO, 'hoping that that would get the attention [of Mattel]'

Ann provided her father’s original patent for the famed doll filed in 1959. She included the photo of her father’s detailed drawings of Barbie in an email to Mattel CEO, ‘hoping that that would get the attention [of Mattel]’

Ann says Mattel prefers to stick with its story that Barbie was invented by Ruth Handler  (pictured) – even though she was a convicted felon who was kicked out of the company for cooking the books

Ann says Mattel prefers to stick with its story that Barbie was invented by Ruth Handler  (pictured) – even though she was a convicted felon who was kicked out of the company for cooking the books

‘It’s time to set the record straight,’ she said, about her father’s paternity of Barbie, the 11” doll born 63 years ago that he designed with long legs, a thin waist and perky breasts, and that have sold in the billions for Mattel.

One of the reasons for her father’s blacklisting, she believes, is how he lived his life.

Ryan, who committed suicide in 1991 at 65, was married five times. He was a kinky sexual swinger who hosted orgies at his faux castle home – a lifestyle that long embarrassed Handler, who died at age 85 in 2002, who feared it could tarnish Barbie’s reputation.

'My father is absolutely the father of Barbie,' Ann Ryan tells DailyMail.com

‘My father is absolutely the father of Barbie,’ Ann Ryan tells DailyMail.com

‘Clearly, Ruth both disapproved of my father’s lifestyle and envied the attention that it and his accomplishments had,’ Ann declares.

Ryan also drank heavily and used cocaine and had periods of depression – times that Ann now links ‘to the stress and anxiety of Ruth Handler’s ill-will toward him.’

He eventually suffered a heart attack and debilitating stroke and shot himself dead.

Since Barbie’s introduction in 1959, Mattel has credited the doll’s conception solely to Handler – even though she was a convicted felon who was kicked out of the company for cooking the books, and later sentenced in federal court to five years probation, 2,500 hours of community service and fined $57,000.

Ann Ryan said her purpose now is to ‘finally debunk Ruth’s story as to who is responsible for inventing Barbie and for the doll’s huge success.’

‘My father is absolutely the father of Barbie,’ she said.

Mattel’s corporate history on its website makes no mention of Ryan and honors Handler, despite the dark cloud over her.

It states that she ‘was inspired by observing her daughter, Barbara, play with paper dolls for hours, and recognizes the opportunity to champion and inspire girls by introducing a three-dimensional doll that shows them they can be anything.’

‘What isn’t mentioned in the corporate history,’ asserts Ann Ryan, ‘is that my father’s role in Barbie’s development began way before he even came to Mattel.

‘When he was growing up, he was obsessed with the female form, studying and tracing pinups by famous artists, and for years he had been promoting to Ruth the idea of a fully developed female doll.’

In February 2020, Ann sent a letter to Mattel chairman and chief executive Ynon Kreiz asking to 'see what records Mattel has that you would be willing to share with me' for a book she was planning to write about her father. She said she has consistently been ignored

In February 2020, Ann sent a letter to Mattel chairman and chief executive Ynon Kreiz asking to ‘see what records Mattel has that you would be willing to share with me’ for a book she was planning to write about her father. She said she has consistently been ignored

Ann is seeking access to internal records and archives that she said would prove her father's role as the inventor of the world's most famous doll

Ann is seeking access to internal records and archives that she said would prove her father’s role as the inventor of the world’s most famous doll

Mattel cut off Ryan's huge royalties that he had been paid for the design and sale of Barbie and other toys. Shocked and devastated, Ryan severed his close ties with Mattel after two decades, and sued the company for $24million for nonpayment of royalties

Mattel cut off Ryan’s huge royalties that he had been paid for the design and sale of Barbie and other toys. Shocked and devastated, Ryan severed his close ties with Mattel after two decades, and sued the company for $24million for nonpayment of royalties

In February 2020, Ann sent a letter to Mattel chairman and chief executive Ynon Kreiz asking to ‘see what records Mattel has that you would be willing to share with me’ for a book she was planning to write about her father, noting that, ‘There has been well-documented controversy regarding his relationship’ with Ruth Handler.’

Ryan, who committed suicide in 1991 at 65, was married five times and was a kinky swinger who hosted orgies at his faux castle home. Ryan and Ann are pictured together

Ryan, who committed suicide in 1991 at 65, was married five times and was a kinky swinger who hosted orgies at his faux castle home. Ryan and Ann are pictured together 

She had even included a photo of one of her father’s detailed drawings of Barbie, ‘hoping that that would get his attention. I never heard from him.’

She emailed a similar request to Mattel’s media relations director, but heard nothing until a frustrating email arrived in her inbox from Marissa Beck, of Mattel’s Global Brand Communications.

‘We are not able to share any internal documents with people outside the company,’ Beck wrote, ‘but if you have specific factual inquiries we can look into seeing if we can answer them.’

‘They absolutely stonewalled me,’ declared Ann.

Like Ruth’s criminal record and Jack’s unconventional lifestyle, Barbie herself had something of a purple past.

During a European vacation in 1956, Ruth Handler discovered Bild-Lilli, an adult novelty plastic doll that was based on a sexy, popular cartoon character in a German newspaper.

Believing that a Bild-Lilli makeover could make a fortune for Mattel as a child’s plaything, Handler turned her over to Ryan, the Yale and Harvard educated head of the company’s research and design department, and told him to work his magic.

Ryan, who previously designed missiles for the Pentagon when he worked at Raytheon, went to work on his own detailed engineering and design, using Bild-Lilli as a model, and gave birth to what became today’s popular Barbie doll.

Of Ryan's harem of wives, the most prominent was his second, nine times married Hungarian beauty Zsa Zsa Gabor

Of Ryan’s harem of wives, the most prominent was his second, nine times married Hungarian beauty Zsa Zsa Gabor

Ann provided a hand written letter to her from her step mom Zsa Zsa Gabor, who signs it 'Momma No. 2'

Ann provided a hand written letter to her from her step mom Zsa Zsa Gabor, who signs it ‘Momma No. 2’

Ryan lived in what he called his 'castle',  a classic Tudor mansion on a hillside in Los Angeles's ritzy Bel Air enclave, complete with a bridge over a moat

Ryan lived in what he called his ‘castle’,  a classic Tudor mansion on a hillside in Los Angeles’s ritzy Bel Air enclave, complete with a bridge over a moat

But Handler’s only concession to his work was a brief mention in her 1994 memoir, Dream Doll, citing his development of the ‘Twist ‘n’ Turn Barbie,’ a major breakthrough that gave the doll natural movement by allowing little girls to bend her at the waist and legs, and twist her at the hips – with no visible joints.

Pictured is Ann's mother and Ryan's first wife Barbara 'Barbie' Ryan

Pictured is Ann’s mother and Ryan’s first wife Barbara ‘Barbie’ Ryan

‘Because these technological innovations were among the few Barbie features we were able to patent,’ Handler wrote, ‘Jack Ryan would later tell people that he was the inventor of the Barbie doll. You can imagine how annoying this was.’

Handler’s most concerted attack on Ryan, asserts his daughter, was when Mattel cut off her father’s huge royalties that he had been paid for the design and sale of Barbie and other toys.

Shocked and devastated, Ryan severed his close ties with Mattel after two decades, and sued the company for $24million for nonpayment of royalties.

‘They could afford to spend a million dollars-a-year on litigation just hoping that Jack would finally give up,’ said Ann Ryan. ‘But he wasn’t going to give up because he knew he was right and that Mattel was wrong, and all he had to do was keep coming up with the cash to pay his lawyers.

‘It was awful for him. I think his heart was literally broken.

‘His contributions to the company to make it more successful were enormous, and then without saying anything they started chipping away at his royalties and he was really, really upset. He really took it personally.’

A settlement was eventually negotiated in Ryan’s lawsuit for $10.1 million, less than half of what he said he was owed.

To make matters worse, Ryan even had to sell his beloved castle – a classic Tudor mansion on a hillside in Los Angeles’s ritzy Bel Air enclave into an actual fairytale castle, complete with a bridge over a moat – just to keep the lawsuit going.’

A developer later snapped it up for a fire sale price of under $2 million.

‘My father literally played the king of his castle,’ Ann fondly remembers. And the castle was where he hosted his sex orgies with dozens of beautiful women participating.

‘He often threw Tom Jones dinners – a utensil-free bacchanal. The female guest of honor, who sat on a throne, was crowned, and the wild party was off and running.

‘As a teenager, I’d often make an appearance at these parties in Renaissance garb, astride one of my horses, riding right into the Tom Jones dining room.’

Ann acknowledges that she was aware of her father’s sexual proclivities and swinger lifestyle.

‘It was the Sixties,’ she said, ‘And free love was the new religion. In California, he saw girls frolicking with guys and he became hooked on the idea of this non-provincial lifestyle.’

But just two years after the Ryan family moved to the castle, ‘My mother had had enough,’ said Ann. ‘She hated the parties and the women.

‘My parents lived separately under one roof and carried on separate lifestyles.’ Barbara ‘Barbie’ Ryan, the first of Jack’s five wives, began divorce proceedings and moved to a more modest home.

'Now I want Mattel to pony up and finally acknowledge all that my dad did for that company. That he was the father of Barbie, and much more,' Ann says

‘Now I want Mattel to pony up and finally acknowledge all that my dad did for that company. That he was the father of Barbie, and much more,’ Ann says 

Of Ryan’s harem of wives, the most prominent was his second, the ‘famous for being famous,’ nine times married Hungarian beauty Zsa Zsa Gabor.

In her 1991 autobiography, ‘One Lifetime is Not Enough,’ Gabor, said she ‘discovered that, far from building a life with me, with one woman, Jack had every intention of continuing his swinging lifestyle.

‘I just couldn’t cope. There was also the matter of Jack’s dungeon, a torture chamber painted a sinister black and decorated with black fox fur. All in all, Jack’s sex life would have made the average Penthouse reader blanch with shock.’

They honeymooned in Japan where Ryan had business meetings. He arranged for Zsa Zsa to have an escort to show her around Tokyo, but when they got back to the hotel and she was ready to say goodbye, the escort shockingly informed her, ‘Miss Gabor, your husband has paid me to go to bed with you.’

Ryan’s fifth wife, Magda, a quarter century his junior, had been in the U.S. from Poland for just six months when, needy for companionship and depressed about what had happened to him at Mattel, he convinced her to marry him.

After suffering a stroke, he was left partially paralyzed and without the ability to speak, and decided to end it.

On August 13, 1991, Magda found Ryan’s body in a pool of blood next to the bed. He had fired one bullet from his .45 caliber pistol into his mouth, but before pulling the trigger, he had written, ‘I love you’ on a mirror with her lipstick.

‘I loved my dad and I can completely understand why he committed suicide. He had that young wife, Maggie, and he essentially realized that she had become a caretaker for an old, and infirm man.’

‘Now I want Mattel to pony up and finally acknowledge all that my dad did for that company. That he was the father of Barbie, and much more.’

Mattel has not responded to DailyMail.com’s request for comment on this story.

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