With the demise of Pro-Yo (also known as Playmaxx) several years ago, so too has the reputation of the once giant yo-yo manufacturer faded. Although the company, which was original founded by Donald Duncan Jr., set new standards for sponsored yo-yo professionals and yo-yo innovations, what most of us (at least the ones that have been yo-yoing for over 6 years) remember is Tom Van Dan Elzen.
Tom, the company’s owner, had a penchant for lawsuits and a reputation for holding deep grudges. For whatever reason, Tom developed a grudge against the German yo-yo manufacturer Henrys. I was working for Henrys US distributor at the time, and none of us could figure out what bee got up Tom’s bonnet. After all, Henry’s was pretty much the most innocuous company around.
But Tom claimed that any similarities between The Mongoose and the Viper were coincidental and that The Mongoose was just a mini yo-yo… a very terrible mini yo-yo… That just happened to perfectly fit into Viper shells… and was named after the natural enemy of the snake.
Of course he had to deny it because Henry’s had a patent on the method of attaching the rubber shells to the yo-yo. He wasn’t selling a Viper hub with brake pads… he was selling a “Mini Yo-Yo”. I once had a conversation with Tom were he bragged about suing companies for stealing his patents while simultaneously expressing shock that Henrys was upset about the release of his patent infringing Mongoose.
What made the whole thing even more unbelievable was Tom’s plan on releasing his own set of rubber shells to fit onto Viper hubs. The String Pilot shells, which were rubber versions of the Bumblebee GT shape, never got released. I assume that if the String Pilot shells ever would have gotten released, they would have been sold as “paper weights” or something.
I’ve always prided myself on being one of the premiere “Viper Knock-off” collectors out there… and this is definitely the peak of that collection, but I’ve put the String Pilot shells and Mongoose on eBay to help raise money for a new computer.