Lived Through This

My Dad Helped Bring Inflatable Flailing Tube Men to Life

He engineered these dudes, but most people don’t even know his name

Eden Dranger
Human Parts
Published in
8 min readApr 28, 2020
A photo of a red inflatable tube man against a clear blue sky.
Photo: mrtom-uk/Getty Images

On Father’s Day 2019, I found myself driving home in tears. Father’s Day and Mother’s Day have always been difficult for me since I lost my parents, but this made it harder. As I waited at a stoplight, I saw it.

It’s almost impossible to ignore: a wacky inflatable tube man, bobbing up and down and flailing with a stupid grin on his face. I couldn’t help but smile — not because it was goofy or fascinating (though it totally was), but because I know how these things were invented. My dad had a hand in bringing these funny, campy, wacky inflatable tube dudes to life.

Some people may be familiar with the “Tube Men” episode of the podcast 99% Invisible. My dad’s involvement was completely omitted from that story, which focused primarily on Doron Gazit and Peter Minshall and a disagreement over a patent.

So, after running into one of these tube dudes at a stoplight, I decided to tweet about my dad’s involvement. I dug up some photos and tweeted about my dad, LouLou (short for Leon, which was short for Arieh Leon Dranger). The tweet went viral, and replies poured in about the tube dude’s joyous impact on people’s lives. It helped take the edge off my grief.

But, as with most things on Twitter, the pitchforks came next. Soon, an avalanche of tweets questioned my dad’s role in the invention.

I was gutted.

I felt like my LouLou came to life for a mere moment only to die all over again. I could see why people were angry. Peter Minshall, a Trinidadian artist, is widely credited with inventing the tube men, and it’s not new for white people to steal ideas from people of color. U.S. culture has a long and shameful history of sucking creative marrow out of the bones of black culture. I felt there was no way I could explain this to the droves of people coming after…



Eden Dranger
Human Parts

TV and screenwriter, underdog, hotdog.