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 Dallas Morning News Featuring the Doll Hospital!

From The Dallas Morning News

Doll doctor

Houston-area woman says her job is really all a matter of heart

By Megan K. Stack / Associated Press

SPRING, Texas - Peer through the dim light, past the gaudy stacks of feathers and pearls, diamonds and ribbons, and one thing is very clear: This is one weird operating room.

Mary Ann Pizzolato, owner of The Doll Hospital, repairs a doll at her shop in Spring, Texas.

It's almost indecent, really. The patients - balding, dirty and glassy-eyed - sprawl naked in plastic tubs.

"Sorry, honey," the doctor mutters, inspecting her pliers. "Didn't mean to whap your legs. Who wants to be next?"

She operates without anesthesia, alone in a chilly ward in a converted Texas cottage in the Houston suburb.

But her patients don't complain. When they're finally released, years have been peeled from their forms. They emerge from the recovery room starched in spanking new finery, coiffed and painted and ready to be adored.

All this thanks to Mary Ann Pizzolato, a seamstress, chemical engineer, wax sculptor and hair stylist. A doll doctor, if you will.

Maxine Montgomery picks up her doll from The Doll Hospital. Many dolls have been repaired and restored - the oldest dating back to the mid-1700s.

In her hospital, thousands of cracked, unstrung and derobed dolls have sipped from the fountain of youth. The oldest ones date from the mid-1700s, when they were shaped by hand from sticky wax. There are 1950s bobby sox figures, Depression-era Shirley Temple dolls.

Of course, toy shop rejuvenation is anything but cheap. A stint in Ms. Pizzolato's hospital comes with a hefty price: at least $300, sometimes upwards of $1,000.

The doctor says it's worth it. After all, the dolls aren't the only ones getting a youthful booster shot: Their owners see their memories recreated, buy a chance to cradle their infancy to their chests.

"It's their childhood," she explains. "It was a better, more fun time. It's all heart."

Pam Coleman, haunting the doll hospital on a recent, cloudy afternoon, agreed.

For years, the 49-year-old Houston woman treasured a squat, plastic baby doll, a childhood birthday gift from an older cousin. There was just one problem - Ms. Coleman was afraid to snuggle the favorite toy.

The years had pummeled Tiny Tears badly. The doll was laid in a basket for safekeeping.

"It was killing me," Ms. Coleman said. "Her hands were falling apart, and I was paranoid to touch her."

Dr. Pizzolato to the rescue: To Ms. Coleman's delight, a heavy session of body work restored the chipmunk-cheeked treasure to its original state.

"You know, we have pictures of me sleeping with her when I was just a baby," Ms. Coleman said. "She's just full of memories."

The Doll Hospital, 419 Gentry, #102, Spring, TX 77373
(281) 350-6722, aaadolldoc@aol.com

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