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KOOSH BALL GOES `WHOOSH!' ON THE TOYS BEST-SELLER LIST

Whoever would have guessed that a bundle of colorful rubber bands calling itself a Koosh Ball would emerge on top of the novelties market, delighting children and sending adults into fits of giggles?

Named for the sound it makes when it hits your hand, the ball is wiggly, jiggly, soft and spiny."We say it's like a cross between a porcupine and a bowl of Jell-O," says Barry Golombik, director of public relations at California-based Oddzon Products Inc.

The toy was invented by engineer Scott Stillinger, 38, as a tool to teach his children, ages 5 and 8, how to catch. He set out to design a tool that was soft, bounceless and easy to grasp.

When he came up with the Koosh Ball, he was so sure it would fly that he and his brother-in-law quit their jobs, formed a company (just how it is manufactured in their Silicon Valley factory is a closely guarded trade secret, as is how much money they made from its sales) and began distributing the toys in October, 1987.

The unique design, weight and feel is no accident; the toy's energy-absorbent design is the result of more than 2,000 radiating filaments that, placed end to end, would exceed 300 feet.

According to the July issue of "Toy and Hobby World," the toy industry's leading trade publication, the Koosh Ball was number 18 on the list of the top 20 fastest-selling toys in the United States.

Made of natural rubber, the almost baseball-sized Koosh Ball comes in 10 different color combinations.

They are designed to be thrown, caught, juggled, bounced off the body, collected and shared. Some Koosh Ball owners even wear them as ponytail hair ornaments.

The success has spawned other products, including The Official Koosh Book, (Klutz Press) a 68-page listing of such uses as "Hopskoosh" and "Koosh Golf."

The Koosh is being sold in 14,000 stores nationally, ranging from such major department stores as Bloomingdale's and Macy's and the famed toy store FAO Schwarz to the Smithsonian Institution. By the end of the year, sales will have spread into 20 countries.

In the meantime, the folks at Oddzon Products are busy producing new designs, including the newly released Fuzzy Koosh, with thinner, fuzzy-feeling rubber spikes; and Mondo Koosh, a larger version of the original.