Culture Vulture Steve White found his groove in 1999 but it wasn’t until COVID lockdown that it became a real thing. The longtime sculptor/painter/diorama maker began his new line by modifying Pez dispensers, painting the stems and reworking the heads. “It all started with Elvis Pezley,” he said in a recent interview. “Now I put my own head on it and then I put a body on. It’s fun!”

Along the way, by about 2005, he said, “I thought, ‘I love this too much and it seems to be happening,’ so I went with it. Now, I do 400 to 500 per year and I’ve done over 3,000 different designs.”

His sales certainly have soared this year. White has a painting in the Albuquerque Museum’s “Wit, Humor, and Satire” exhibit through January 29 that attracted the attention of museum staff. Now you can buy his Pez dispenser designs in the Museum Gift Shop. He also has pieces at Good Folk gallery in Santa Fe and in ACE Barber Shop at 109 4th St SW.

White strongly credits online sales, a sales tool he plied during COVID lockdown, for putting him on the map. “It changed my life,” he said. “I’ve only been online for three years.” Now you can find his postings everywhere in social, including plenty of photos on Instagram at stevewhitefolkart.

The name PEZ is derived from Pfefferminz, the German word for peppermint. The tiny sugar mints were made in 1927 by Austrian Eduard Haas III when he wanted to cut down on smoking. At first, they were round, then turned into small bricks; the dispenser was unveiled by inventor Oscar Uxa at the Vienna Trade Fair in 1949. The newer PEZ dispensers still hold 12 bricks. The character heads were added in 1957 – the first one was a Halloween witch.

PEZ is aware of White’s creations and categorizes them as “fantasy PEZ dispensers.” Other PEZ-dispenser modifiers know of him, too. “When I got online and started joining these creator groups, they had known about me for 15 years!” he said.

It’s hard not to end each of White’s sentences with an exclamation point. He is ebullient as only a man who loves his work can be.

Steve White’s PEZ dispensers of QE II

His fantasy dispensers go just as far as his imagination does. White recently made a line of limited edition PEZ dispensers of Elizabeth Queen II in all of her colorful outfits. The Queen sold out. Barack Obama is sold out. He’s got a new line of Inventor dispensers – they include the men who invented PEZ, the dispenser and the dispenser head.

Right now he’s working on a Chinese fortune cookie dispenser that extrudes fortunes instead of PEZ. For him, the possibilities are endless.

“I even do a whole Burlesque line called Funslingers,” he said. “I’ve sold most of them to burlesque dancers. When you dispense the candy, their tops come off!”

White said you can get PEZ candy refills at Walmart, Walgreens and Cracker Barrel.