Maher Store?

From Kevin L.: Hello- About 5 years ago , my wife purchased one of your Charlie McCarthy figures and I have had much fun with it. I get to perform with him several times a year. I used to visit the shop "Grandma's Trunk" in Littleton where, I believe, you sold your figures. (File photo above with Deb Nash, store owner.)
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From Clinton: For 27 years we had a display of products at our Maher Studios office (and home) in Littleton. But when we sold that location in 1998 we had to find a new location where customers could see and purchase products. After a period of searching, Deb Nash came to our rescue. For five years she displayed, demonstrated, and sold Maher ventriloquist products from her store on Main Street in Historic downtown Littleton. Eventually Deb decided it was time she retired and soon after Adelia and I decided pretty much the same thing. No longer is their a local outlet for Maher products.
(We do continue to sell some products as part of our retirement. They can only be seen online, however, at these locations: Maher Studios - Encore and Maher Studios Bookstore . Also eBay. To view all my current eBay listings, Click Here. )


Inmate Joe's "lockup"

Hi Clinton,

I have an 29 year old Craig Lovik basswood figure, Inmate Joe, whose mouth has begun sticking (wood on wood from the inside side parts it seems). I put some WD40 inside the mouth on the metal but it did nothing to improve the problem. The slot jaw works okay as long as I don't exceed the half open position but the full opened position is pulled the slot jaw sticks. Not good, but I have been working my way through public safety shows in the schools and ad libbing about him having a tooth ache if the mouth sticks.

I need to send it in soon but I am trying to get past some commitments. He is the figure that teaches "Bullying". Plus, I have to model him in the sheriff's vehicle for the St. Patrick's Day Parade in two weeks. They like the customed inmate jump suit he wears like the real prisoners. The parade viewers like it too.

My school shows are going well again this year. I enjoy making a difference in the lives of kids as a motivational ventriloquist. I have also started doing civic league and seniors programs. http://www.norfolksheriffsoffice.com/ (Community Affairs, click on Deputy Bob). Once a month, I present a kids time for the entire church at Spurgeon Memorial Baptist here locally.

This week I made a 3 minute presentation at the local WHRO with the Granpa figure I bought from you about 8 years ago on the subject of "Identity Theft." The station manager wants to put it on You Tube like the last segment last September. I have not seen it yet but gotten positive feedback about it. Thanks for your help. Deputy Bob Walsh

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Note from Clinton: Yes, I can fix Inmate Joe's mouth (the mouth may have to be removed and sides sanded down some). 3-5 days for repair. I prefer clear silicone lubricant (aerosol can) to WD-40 when lubricating any part on a vent figure. (WD-40 tends to gather dust which may only complicate the problem in the long run.) Tooth ache, eh? Clever!

Mouth Lockup instant ad libs & more

#108 IF THE STRING BREAKS -Should the ventriloquist dummy's mouth fail, you can save the act with these hilarious ideas - 21 in all. Although titled "If The String Breaks", it could be just as appropriately titled, "When The Mouth Sticks"! And some of the ideas are TOO GOOD to be held in reserve for an emergency - you’ll want to use them anytime to add novelty and comedy to your act! Some great comedy closings for the show, too! Compiled by Dave Castle. Check it out at the Maher Studios Bookstore under the section "Professional Performance Secrets".


Comedy Dialogue Fillers

This is an ever-so-useful script writer's resource book. Over 100 dialogue gags and jokes, all listed alphabetically by subject and linked so you can use any one or more as fillers, a short routine, emcee bits, ventriloquist show encore, etc.

One laugh after another and linked conversationally. I know of no other ventriloquist dialogue joke book written in this manner! Ever so easy to add one or more to your favorite ventriloquist or puppet script!
The "Vol. 1" implies there are other volumes...not so. I intended to write more but as yet have not found the time to do so. But just in case, I still sell this as "Volume 1". One added bit of insurance that I'll never run out of things to do. :)
Purchase this one and I'll sign it for you:

Why "Mr. D"?

Why "Mr. D's" Daily Journal? My name "Mr. D." goes all the way back some 50 years to my early days as a ventriloquist. My primary motivation for learning ventriloquism was to use the ventriloquist figure as a unique and communicative tool in my Sunday School classroom. For many years I taught weekly classes to students in grades 4-7. Object lessons were always a part of my teaching, so ventriloquism was a just a natural part of my collection of instructional tools.

I've always suggested students skip the formalities of "Mr. Detweiler" and simply address me as "Mr. D." And that's how I'm still addressed today by a couple generations of people who know me best. The photos at right and below were taken last May (2008). I'm standing in front of the building in Wichita, Kansas that was the location of our community church for more than a decade. My very first ventriloquist presentations were in this very building. I remember those programs like they were yesterday!



Question: I have a ventriloquist friend from Korea who wants to talk to you about setting up of sisterhood relationship. She wants to have your direct telephone number to contact you more easily.
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Reply: One of the first things I did upon retirement was to remove my phone from my shop. It's absence does cause inconvenience at times, I realize, but the savings of $$ and my time are worth it to me. I correspond with people all over the world daily, but by eMail only. I would be happy to correspond with your ventriloquist friend if you want to forward this message to her. Clinton

Classic pin!

From Jimmy Wallis:

Thanks for keeping me informed on your work. You were very important in my career!

I found my old IBV pin that I got from W.S. in the late fifties!

Pottery Puppet?

Question: I read your blog every day and I also read about William's Andersen's book "Make Your Own Dummy" and I'm pretty interested. How much does the book sell for? I have had an idea for a while about making a figure out of clay. I used to be a clay scuplturer back in high school, and I was also in a couple of art shows back then. I think it would be cool to make a figure out of clay, although I know it would most likely break. Dave
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Answer: Make Your Own Dummy is $6.00. Many vent figures start out as a clay sculpture from which a mold is then made. My first dummy (Woody) was first sculpted of clay over which I layered up Paper mache...the hardened paper mache shell then became the head. For a first figure that works quite well, actually. I would hesitate to try using clay for the actual head, even if it were fired for hardness. Seems to me it would be both fragile and heavy. But, who knows - if you handle it with care it might actually work. A "Pottery Puppet"! Clinton


Name change

Question: I noticed you changed your address from "askmrd" to "ventdj" on your blogspot, why? Cal
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Answer: I liked "Ask Mr. D" but after ten days it became evident I was losing over half my visitors, so I knew it had to be changed, and better now than later. After changing the name, visitor hits more than doubled yesterday. By their actions the people have spoken. Sorry for the confusion! Clinton

Carving a puppet head

Question: Hi Clinton. I am progressing well with the Course and would like to start making a
puppet. I have been doing wood carving for years and would like to carve a head out of basswood, but can't find any plans. Is a carved head cut from one piece or is it built up from rough shaped planks like the hull of a sailing ship? Rob
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Answer: I have never carved a vent figure's head from wood. But I have worked on many carved by various figure makers. All I have handled were made of boards laminated together, as you suggest. I found a file photo of a basswood head made by Lovik. If you study it closely, you will see at least three thicknesses of boards. While I do not know the technique, you can also see that center circles of varying sizes were cut from the boards prior to gluing them together, thus creating a rough hollow head even prior to carving the outer features (using a duplicarver). I've always considered wood carving and figure making two separate skills. If you know woodcarving, you have one important skill mastered. The mechanical aspect of a vent figure is pretty much the same, regardless of the materials from which the head is made. One such plan is Make Your Own Dummy by William Andersen. Clinton



Adding movements

Question: I have attached a photo of a Rick Price figure. Just wondering if you take on projects that would involve adding additional movements such as blinkers and raising eyebrows to a completed hard figure that has the basic mouth and eye movement? If so, approximately what would it cost? Thanks, Cal

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Cal: Yes, I do add raising eyebrows to almost any type of figure although the price will vary, depending on the figure. Removing the eyebrows it has (painted or glued on) will requires some repainting to the forehead. I try to limit the repainting to the forehead area if possible. But if I can't obtain a perfect match of paint colors, then the full head has to be repainted which increases the cost. Probably $100 to add raising eyebrows to the figure pictured.I do not add winker blinkers. That requires removing all existing mechanics so winkers can be installed, then reinstalling eyes (and eyebrows). More work than I care to get into at this point in my career although our son, Kevin, might be willing to accept the challenge. He's added winkers to several figures and he does beautiful work. You can email him here; animatedpuppets@charter.net Clinton


New arrival at the Dummy Shop

Yesterday's post was about developing character for a vent figure. The following email I received from The Dummy Shop which includes "Taylor's" bio is a perfect example of how this can be done. If you are interested in purchasing "Taylor" you will find contact information for The Dummy Shop at the end of this post.
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The Dummy Shop
Puppets by JET

The Dummy Shop is pleased to announce the arrival of "Taylor". Taylor is a 37" tall, back entry, full soft sculptured puppet. He was handcrafted by JET with loving attention to detail. He is covered in Muppet Fleece. He comes fully dressed as you see him, and has JET's trademark finger pillow with retention straps for your fingers, and a thumb strap. His head cavity is big enough for a large hand.

Taylors Bio
Taylor's people came from the hills. He cut his baby teeth on a plug of Red Man.
He is proud to call himself a 'redneck', knowing that the definition of 'redneck' according to Jeff Foxworthy is "The glorious absence of all forms of culture". Taylor just knows that this is good, because he believes that culture is something that grows on your tooth when you don't keep it brushed. For a young man Taylor has already achieved his biggest goal in life. He already has a pickup truck. He thinks that a career is the back end of an automobile. He loves fresh road-kill for Sunday dinner. He enjoys huntin' & fishin'. These are the hobbies of real men.

The only thing that Taylor has yet to accomplish is to get himself a 'woo-men'. (Redneck for woman) He is working on a plan to get-it-dun. Mary Lou, his father's, brothers little girl has kind of caught his eye. She thinks the little tuft of hair growin' on Taylors chest is kinda purty! Taylor has it kind of 'figgered' that he can save some money with Mary Lou, 'cause she don't even have to git a new last name', and her Daddy promised him that she comes with her very own coon dawg!

For pricing and availability, email: dummylady01@gmail.com


Creating a character tips

From Mike: I am practicing everyday to master the art of ventriloquism. I'm now studying lesson 3 (Maher Ventriloquist Course) so you can see I take my time on the lessons :) I also repeat a lot just as the books suggest. The only hard part for me is to create another voice and a character! So that's were I'm stuck now! For some reason I can't come up with a character for my figure?! Could you please help me? Do you have a suggestion or tips for a character?
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Answer from Mr. D:
William Andersen has written an excellent book on this very subject, titled Know Your Character. In the book he presents a list of questions he suggests you imagine your character answering. And then he even provides short, humorous dialogues as to how a vent with figure might dialogue about each question. It's quite amazing how you can discover the character of your pal(s) using such an exercise. Here are a few sample questions from Mr. Andersen's book:
How old are you?
Who are your parents?
Where were you born?
What clothes do you like?
Do you go to school?
What grade are you in?
Who is your teacher?
What subject do you like best? Or least?
What do you plan to do when you grow up?
What do you like to eat?
What do you like on television?
Do you play a musical instrument? Or sing?
Do you like poetry?
Do you have a pet?
Do you have a girlfriend? Or boyfriend?
What did you do on your last vacation? Etc.

For a detailed description of how these might questions might be answered and how you could then combine the answers to shape the personality and character of your pal, you should read the complete book. But the above may help you get started. Have fun!


Has this ever been done?

Clinton: Have you ever thought about taking a child mannequin and turning it into a Vent figure? The child mannequins are usually 40"-46" tall and made of fiberglass. The eyes and mouth can be cut out and the hands and feet can be cut off and sewed to a cloth Vent body.
Here is one on ebay now: Click here Phil
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Phil: I've thought about it on more than one occasion, yes. I have never tried it, however. Might be tempted on this one because the character would be so very unique, but with a $55.00 shipping fee and who knows what final sales price, I would prefer to invest those same dollars (or less) in a kit from Mike Brose. Then again - using a mannequin head such as this one would result in an amazingly lifelike character. (Perhaps too much so.) Clinton

The magic of Ventriloquism

From David Markham:

First let me say I got the Custom Carrying Case I ordered, and it's a beauty! Thanks!
And now for an observation; last year I was doing a kids birthday party show with magic and vent. After the show I was approached by an adult who said, "So you're a ventriloquist, huh, 'cause we thought you had a little recorder in there." I don't exactly know where he meant, because I did several vent routines, including a distant voice bit,with "the rope and vase trick."
Then while performing outdoors at an amusement park kids would come by between shows and want to see something, so I'd pretend to catch an invisible leprechaun in my hat, and using a distant voice, I'd do a quick bit. It was at one of these impromptu shows that a young girl used her cell phone to call some of her other friends who were in the park, saying, "Come and see this guy who has something in his hat that can talk!"
I'm starting to wonder if we are now in an age where people are actually fooled by vent, at least to the degree they think some sophisticated device is being used?
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Comment: Some things never change. I think it's the simplicity of ventriloquism that makes the illusion possible in such a convincing manner. Maybe even more so in this hi-etch age in which we live. Ventriloquism is still "magic with the voice."

Voice in hand

Speaking of "impromptu ventriloquism" (see above post), that is exactly what we had in mind when we first made the "smiley face pocket puppets" available years ago. Over the passing years since, literally thousands of these happy little guys have made their way into the hands of ventriloquists across America and around the world. Perfect for a spur-of-the-moment vent demonstration. Hannah is holding a couple in this picture. Just squeeze the puppet to open the mouth.
Although we no longer sell them separately, we continue to pack one "Pocket Puppet" with every Maher Home Course of Ventriloquism sold today. I also pack one with each ventriloquist figure I sell. The day this photo was taken Hannah had just finished helping us assemble and pack 40 complete Courses to restock our inventory. That's an all day job. We were all smiling when the task was complete!


"Drat! I'm still living with Mr. D. today. And I came soooo close to making a move*! When Nicole successfully spelled her way into a spell off for third place, I was ready to go pack myself in my suitcase!

"Who knew 'megatonnage' required a double 'n'? And 'analgesic'? Even Clinton had to use spell check on that one! The words being dished out in those finalist rounds were causing headaches to participants and spectators alike. You could of sold analgesics by the megatonnage! My head was splitting - and when you are a dummy, that's not a good thing....

"You did great, Nicole. And it's not over, either. You're going to State finals! Congratulations!

"Hey, Clinton ... Can Nicole and I talk to you about the upcoming Colorado State Spelling Bee finals, March 14th? Have we got a deal for you...."

(*See post below.)


Who is teaching who?

I hope they are reviewing spelling words!

Nicole has fallen for my "Clark" vent figure and continually tries to find ways to make him her own -without dipping into her pocketbook. This afternoon Nicole and her Grandpa have another "Clark Challenge" on the table. Nicole has earned the right to participate in the 2009 District Spelling Bee which takes place today. I've promised her Clark as her reward from me if she wins one of the top three positions in District.

Where will Clark be making his home tomorrow?

An Original?

From Roland:

Hello Clinton!

What do you think - are we are ready for the Chase & Sanborn Hour?

Man, you made my Charlie look like one of the originals at the Smithsonian! (At least to me, he IS the real Charlie!)

Thank you ever so much for fulfilling one of my boyhood dreams.

I first became obsessed with Charlie when I saw him on the Muppet Show, probably one of the last times Bergen appeared on TV!

God bless!


Have you ever seen a dummy with eyes in the back of his head?
Here's one:

Winchell's Disposable Razor

The retail carded display pictured here is from J.D. Haile’s collection is complete with all 24 sealed original razors! I asked Jim if he would write a bit about the rare piece. CD
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From J.D. (Jim) Haile:

Paul Winchell was far more then a ventriloquist, he was also a painter and inventor. Paul invented and patented the artificial heart that was implanted in a cow. He also invented the disposable razor seen here. Unfortunately he never had it patented. He was told that no one would buy a razor to use and throw away! Sure Paul, next you'll be telling us that people will pay a dollar for a small bottle of water!


Carrying Case Padding

Questions: I found a old nice used trunk I 'm going to use for my 40" figure. He needs to have a well padded home! How much foam and what thickness would you recommend? The sizes are 31" x 16" x 9 1/2" deep, plus the top of the trunk which is 4" deep. The trunk has a top tray. Maybe I could use the tray for something like small props, depeding on how much padding you recommed. Thank you! Trenon
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Answer: The cases I sell are lined with 1/2" thick foam on all sides and ends. I also use more of the same foam to make a protective head unit. All foam is covered with fleece material. But the cases I sell are custom built for ventriloquist figures. There is very little wasted space anywhere. You, however, have a trunk that is considerably oversize for your vent figure. You need to fold the figure, place it inside the trunk and then decide how much of the extra space you want to try to fill with foam. Foam can be purchased in varying thickness, or several pieces can be glued together for desired thickness. (Wal-Mart sells a couple brands of spray adhesive in their craft department.) On the other hand, you may want to make some sort of partition so the extra space could be used for clothes, props, etc. I think I would try to use the upper tray in that manner. You could glue 1/2" foam to the underside of the tray for the figure's protection when it is packed below the tray. You can see the inside of one of the cases I sell here (and below): Custom Carrying Cases Clinton

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From Mike v. Hecke (right):

Scotty just arrived at my doorstep (Netherlands) less than 30 minutes ago and I must say that he is truly amazing! He just looks so real! And I'm glad that I also ordered a Custom Carrying Case. It's a perfect way to protect Scotty. I cannot thank you enough for everything. It is truly a masterpiece and I can hardly believe that it is really mine ;) Thanks again for everything.


A Retiree's thoughts

My Wife asked,
"Whatcha doin' today?"
I said, "Nothing."
She said, "You did that yesterday."
I said, "I wasn't finished."
Contributed by Joe Radle

Secret knowledge...

Question: I have a soft rabbit puppet that I used to use a show a few seasons ago. That was before I started to learn ventriloquism so he didn’t do any speaking in the show. I’ve had a lot of kids ask about him, so I dug him out to try to give him a new speaking role for a future show…except that he’s filthy! It’s amazing what a summer of festivals will do to a white puppet! Do you have any tips on cleaning it? I had two of this puppet, and tried to clean one of them, but his mouth, which is red, bled all over the white fur. So I have only one left, and I’m hoping you might have some “secret puppet cleaning knowledge”. Louie
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Louie: On this matter I have no "secret" knowledge. Truth is, I don't have a tried and tested method for cleaning the fur of a soft puppet. I do recall that a puppet maker once told me she brushed the fur of soiled puppets with baby diaper wipes to clean them. She insisted it worked. But I haven't tried it. So if you do, start on an inconspicuous spot. Do any of you readers have a suggestion for Louie? Your comments are welcome. C.D.
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Dan Willinger writes: To clean the puppet, a spray on carpet cleaner works wonders. Spray it on let dry and brush off. Works perfectly and will not harm the fur of the puppet.


Congratulations, Jim!

On February 12, 2009, Jim Barber was presented the WWS Branson Show Award for BEST SPECIALTY ACT 2008 by Gary Wackerly. A portion of the inscription on the plaque reads: "This man takes ventriloquism to a new height. As people watch this show the thought of how does he do it... The comedic skits are one of the reasons he was named Best Specialty Act."
(Photo L-R: Gary Wackerly, Jim Barber)

Special Valentine

RC: Hey, Mr. D. - Do you have a valentine for your bride?

Clinton: I sure do, and it is special.

RC: Special, eh?

Clinton: Yep. I've arranged a special two day get-away; two days and two nights, in fact.

RC: Cool. So where are you taking Adelia on this special Valentines get-away?

Clinton: We're going to Pueblo.

RC: What! Dry, barren, on the plains Pueblo, Colorado? You've got to be kidding! There's nothing special about Pueblo, Colorado!

Clinton: Oh, yeah - well, there will be when WE get there.

RC: (Hang on to that dream...)

Clinton: What's that you say?

RC: Ah...I said..."How 'bout some ice cream?"

Clinton: Oh...okay.

RC: (And they call me 'the dummy'...)


Okay, did we wear you out?

Question: Ok, did we wear you out with your blog? I just know that you didn't run out of good things to say. I noticed that you said ...Daily...Blog.... I hope that means you will post weekly or monthly. Wasn't the original newsletter monthly? Anyway, you know it is difficult to let you retire the blog permanently. Harold G.
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Harold: I plan no further posts on Newsy Vents but I will be posting daily on this new blog - it won't by that much different than the old one from the readers' point of view - but much easier for me. No, I'm not worn out and there is never a lack of things to write about when it comes to ventriloquism. This the 75th anniversary year of the founding of Maher Ventriloquist Studios, I just wanted a fresh approach. Thanks for your comments. Clinton D.


Building a McElroy Figure

Question: "I took your Maher Course about four or five year ago. Recently I meet Dave Pendleton and saw his McElroy figure. It is very obvious that I cannot afford even a replica. However, I do have good mechanical ability and I have built model airplanes. I wonder if the Greg Claussen Book that describes how to build a McElroy figure would tell me how to build one? Even if it took me two years to build it, it would be well worth it . Please advise." Clive
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Answer: "I have not seen the book of Greg's that you ask about, so I cannot objectively respond to that part of your question. But I have seen several McElroy figures and I can tell you that even with a lifetime of mechanical experience, I would not challenge myself with a McElroy design on my first effort at building a vent figure. That's a bit like buying a book on cake decorating and then expecting to make your first project the most intricate of all multi-tiered wedding cakes! Both approaches would be a guaranteed recipe for frustration, if not outright failure. (And I speak from many year's experience as both figure maker and cake decorator.)"

Easy repair?

Question: "Will this be an easy repair?"
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Answer: "Actually it was easy - but hundreds of hours experience may have had something to do with it - otherwise you may have found me still working on it this time next month! (But isn't that the way it should be?)"