3/31/09

Insuring a figure

Question: When I ship "Cousin Zeke" to you for repainting, how much do you suggest for insurance?
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Answer: That's a difficult question because it would not be possible to replace the figure you have with an exact duplicate at any price. That figure is no longer being made. A similar size figure with same animations would cost $1,000 or more I'd estimate. But it would be a different character built by a different figure maker. In nearly 40 years of shipping literally thousands of figures, I've only had one lost in transit, so the risk of loss is low. However, insuring a parcel (for even a low amount), or adding "Delivery Confirmation" does add an element security and handling care, I believe. Use a sturdy carton, plenty of bubble wrap (or other cushioning material), seal all edges and flaps well, and make certain the address on the package or label is clearly legible, with label secured and protected with clear sealing tape. It is more likely a parcel will be damaged or lost as a result of poor packaging/labeling than improper handling.

3/30/09

Double Doody


This is another one-of-a-kind special creation by Kevin Detweiler. A very unique design - a ventriloquist figure operating a smaller ventriloquist doll. Two ventriloquist figures in one!
They can be worked separately or together. Talk about "Double Doody"! The smaller Howdy Doody is a 14" vent doll with one eye winker and moving mouth, which can be operated easily from inside the larger Howdy Doody's body!
The larger Howdy Doody is a 32" vent doll with a hollow body, turning head, tilt, nod etc., plus side-to-side self centering eyes and moving mouth. His little brother fits right in place behind his jacket. If you want to use big brother by himself, you can zip up his jacket and no one will know your secret. You can also work little Howdy by himself, if you like, but for the greatest effect keep them together!
You can see additional photos (including inside the body controls) on the eBay listing for this amazing duo-doll: Click here

"Storyteller" Figures

Question: I have a "Randy" figure from your catalogue. (1972, I think, give or take 1 year) Would that have been a figure that you crafted in Littleton, or would that have been one of Craig Lovik's figures? I'm just curious for historical sake. Is it uncommon to find a figure with the no-slot jaw still in great cosmetic and functional condition? That feature didn't seem to be around very long, but I've never had any concerns or complaints with mine.
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Answer: "Randy" was built by Craig Lovik in his California workshop. It was the most popular character from the early line of "Storyteller" characters featuring the "living mouth". I don't know the actual amount built, but they would be numbered in the dozens if not hundreds. Many of these were sold through other retailers (Disneyland, and numerous Magic stores) in addition to Maher Studios. In 1973 two new Storyteller figures (Billy and Brian - see photos below)
were introduced. The "living mouth" actually has many years life when properly cared for, and it sounds as though you have cared for yours well. We actually have to replace more of the flexible lower lips because someone repainted the leather (mistake), than those where the leather has actually worn out. "Randy" and his counterparts were discontinued when the first line of "Talk-alots" were introduced ("Archie" and friends) in 1975 as I recall.

3/29/09

Gospel Bird Scripts


As long as I've mentioned bird puppets and the scripts you might use with them (see post below), I should mention this book by Susan Anderson: Bird Words From the Word. Containing 12 ministry routines, this resource book was one of the most popular bird routine books published and sold by Maher Studios. Filled with tasteful humor, too. Some have questioned whether ministry messages can be effectively communicated through non-human puppets. The answer is a resounding, "yes!" This book is filled with original ideas and lines to get a person started.

V: Do birds ever wear tennis shoes?

F: Yes, but they're pigeon toed.

Bird Words From The Word is always available from the Maher Bookstore and is also available now through one of my eBay auctions ending tomorrow (Monday) morning. Click here to see them all.

3/28/09



Adelia has always wanted a Harley. Santa brought her one for Christmas last year.

I've been waiting to sneak this picture in ... all that snow yesterday sorta put me in the Winter holiday spirit for a moment, I guess.

This animated musical Santa on his red bike has now taken up permanent residence at the end of our kitchen counter where before breakfast most mornings his recorded voice will be heard throughout our house singing a song with words that include:
"....need to get out on the highway -
gonna do things my way,
Born to be wild..."

When I hear him singing I know Santa and Adelia are telling me two things. 1) Adelia is ready to go down to the local coffee shop for our usual morning coffee and breakfast visit with the other regulars that gather there, but first, 2) It's time for me to drop whatever I'm doing at the moment and go help make the bed. (Yep - that's us - "Born to be wild!" :-)

Feather Features



"Feather Features" by Steve Engle contains 8 routines for bird puppets: My Standard Routine, Special Song Intros, Bird Song, Love Birds, A Cold In The Beak, The Messenger Corps, Limp Feathers, and The Ventriloquist. Delightful comedy! The author has this to say about his reason for writing this book:

"My buzzard puppet has been the most popular in my troupe for more than a dozen years. Though a lot of it is "attitude", I'd be lost without much of the material here. I've collected these lines from many sources - some are actually original! - and put them together in routines that have worked well for me. Feel free to pick, choose, and compile your own combinations." Steve Engle 09/2000

Feather Features is always available from the Maher Bookstore and is also available as one of my current eBay auctions (ending Monday). Click here to see them all.




Looking for a quality bird puppet? I've personally used the several of the Axtell birds and recommend them highly: Bird Puppets by Axtell (No that's not me in the photo left - that's the master bird creator/trainer himself - Steve Axtell)

3/27/09

Through our kitchen window


I don't know how many inches of snow we received in the last 24 hours because most of it was blowing sideways. Only during the night did the wind die down so the snow could stay where it fell. I do know there's no traffic moving in our neighborhood this morning. I wonder if I can find my shop? I think before doing that I should try to find a cup of hot chocolate...
(Thanks to Hannah and Mr. Sun, our deck and frozen furniture will be clear and dry before we know it. BBQ anyone?)

Hal


Yesterday I wrote about a vintage Maher body upon which I replaced the hands. This is the head that completes that figure. It was made by Madeleine Maher (George Eazer mechanic, I believe) and sold by Maher School of Ventriloquism (Detroit, MI) as "Hal". But if you look closely at the neck, ears, and eyes, you can see that this is an upgraded Jerry Mahoney. That is how Madeleine made all her Hals, using Plastic Wood to change the facial features of the nose, lips, and cheeks. This figure has the original paint job by Mrs. Maher. It was not repainted while in my hands.

3/26/09

Hands

Comment from Ron: I noticed a blog post where you replaced the hands on a figure and they look great. I always look at a "figger's" hands just to see the figure maker's overall workmanship first. As I was once told , "you can tell a lot by a person's hands." The same goes for our wooden friends.
* * * * * *
Comment from Clinton: That's true when the same person who made the head made the hands. However, it is very common for hands to be changed on a vent figure. Some figure makers even purchase hands from another figure maker. Col. Bill Boley and I had a running joke going between ourselves for years, each trying to get the other to make our needed hands. Making a head is enjoyable. But a pair of hands can take as much time as making the head and can become tedious. Who looks at the figure's hands closely anyway (other than Ron)?


These are photos of a vintage Madeline Maher body upon which I recently replaced the hands. The new hands were made by Braylu; painted by myself.

3/25/09

Surprise!


I had an unexpected visit from an old friend last week. And it came in a most unusual manner. This Toby Jug was delivered to me by Bob Abdou with a request that I repair the deteriorating leather under the mouth. We knew the puppet had been made by Col. Bill Boley, but since the unit is totally sealed I was not prepared to find Bill's business card inside the puppet! After all, no one would ever see it there - except perhaps a person removing the leather in order to replace it...and in this case, that person was me.

Bill knew when he glued his card inside the mouth before installing the leather that it would go forever hidden unless the leather was removed. I can see him smiling now as I unsealed his mini time capsule. I know my mouth dropped open when I discovered the hidden card. I'm almost convinced I also heard Bill say, "Howdy, Clinton - surprise - great to see you again!"

This will be a fun project....It will be like having a good friend keeping me company as I work to restore this 35 year old puppet (Bill had written the date "04/74" on the card).




3/23/09

Poll results

My sincere thanks to all who participated in the "Reader's Age Poll". The results indicate that approximately 90% of the visitors to this blog are age 40 and older, which comes to no surprise to me, as that quite accurately reflects the makeup of the customer base for Maher Studios over the last decade. Quite a change from the '70's when 30-40% of our customers were purchasing instruction and supplies for children and youth.

Not only is the ventriloquist community "graying" (my opinion), but those ventriloquists who do exist under the age of 40 are more likely to be found on Internet inter-active sites such as Facebook. Blogs such as this are also passe' in the minds of some. However, in spite of the many other ways you could be spending your valuable time today, YOU took the time to visit me on this blog. Not only does that prove you are smarter than the average vent :), but your visit also is a great encouragement to me...Thank you!

3/22/09

Green Subjects


ENVIRONMENTALLY SPEAKING - Ventriloquist Dialogues that Educate as you entertain! These four comedy skits are themed on today’s hot "green" topics. Subjects of Enviro-comedy scripts: Clean Air, Pure Water, Conservation, Reuse/Recycle, Returnables, Waste Reduction, etc. By Ann Fry. These dialogues were originally written for use with specialty puppets sold by Maher Studios: a Cloud, Tree, and Garbage Can. While those puppets have long been out of production, the dialogues and lines are still current, and easily adaptable for use by any character.
This 24 page book, Environmentally Speaking, is listed now for eBay auction along with more of my auctions ending soon: See them all here

3/21/09


"Clinton: The little girl arrived. All I can say is, 'Wow.' She is absolutely gorgeous. She now looks like a little girl, rather than a sort of 'vamp', which is what she looked like with the previous (original) wig. And it didn't fit her character at all, as she wears a little 'Dorothy Gale' kind of outfit. Now...she's 110% perfect.

"The work on the nose is amazing.....you matched everything *perfectly*. I can't see where she was damaged at all. 1001 Thanks...." Tom Ladshaw

3/20/09

Victor upgrade

While you will find me working at repairing or otherwise refurbishing a vent figure most any day of the week, there are some jobs I refer to others rather than accept myself. Such was the case when John Wayne Peel (below) contacted me about adding winkers to "Victor". I've installed winkers in hundreds of figures over the years, but no more. That's a job I now refer to my son, Kevin. So...at my suggestion, John did send "Victor" to Kevin and upon completion of the job, I received these words excerpted from John's recent letter:

"Clinton,
"Great! Kevin put in a winker and blinkers. He also made the mouth open wider and replaced all of my pathetic attempts at mechanics. It was a wonderful job and I thank you for recommending him to me.
"I hand painted the shirt and the buckle is from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The hat and all of the accouterments came from a special supplier of Civil War reenactment merchandise. I also painted all the tattoos on his arms (made splendidly by Mary Ann Taylor, by the way.) Thank you once again for making the reconstruction of Victor possible ... I could not be happier that this figure is done and I can now perform with him thanks to you and Kevin!"
Sincerely,
John Wayne Peel

3/19/09

Sign of the times?


I believe the year was 1976 when Clowns of America held their national convention in Denver. I was asked to teach a ventriloquism workshop to the kids in attendance and what an amazing group I had, some of whom are pictured here. They were eager to learn - it was an amazing experience, quite a contrast to what we might observe with similar conventions today where the presence and involvement of youth is more sparse ... sign of the times?

3/18/09

Evening of fun & laughter

The World Clown Association is holding its annual International Convention in Denver this week. Monday night's show featured "Mr. Puppet" (Bob Abdou) and "Simon" (Randy Christensen), and what a fun show it was! Bob kept everyone on their toes with his fast-paced high energy opening act presentation using multiple ventriloquist and marionette characters. While we've known Bob for years and our paths have crossed on several occasions (see his story in the post below), this was the first time I was able to witness him as a feature performer and it was an absolute delight! And hearing him dedicate the show to Adelia and me was a surprise and honor beyond words.
Randy's entertaing multi-skit closing act as a mime clown was a perfect compliment to the evening's show. Randy's comedic and skillful use of props held every pair of eyes in the house while laughter prevailed. It was a treat to meet up with Randy again.

The path to what I was born to do.

By Bob Abdou

After being employed in the printing business for 10 years, I had the opportunity to open up my own shop in 1986 in Atlanta, Georgia. With my skills and salesmanship I was able to succeed and within a few years I had 15 employees, 10 printing presses and did over 2 million dollars in sales. To maintain my business I never stopped working, when my employees went home I would run the presses at night to make more money. My company became more successful but I was not really happy.

I needed a hobby fast or I was on the brink of a heart attack. So in 1991 I got in contact with a company called "Maher Studios". I received a catalog in the mail and I was able to order a ventriloquist dummy that had the features of me when I was young. Money was no object, I had lots of money because of my company, but to maintain this lavish lifestyle I had to continue working around the clock. I had to slow my life down and start enjoying the fruits of my labor and I thought having a "puppet" would be a fun thing to have.

I will never forget the day when a package from Maher Studios arrived. I opened it up and I could swear that I heard angels singing and a light beamed out of this box. It was like a miracle was being deliverd to my doorstep and my life was about to change forever. My very first ventriloquist dummy arrives and his name shall be "Woodie".

I remember taking Woodie on my sales calls to meet my clients and they loved him and they just gave me more work, the more I used the dummy the more work I would get for my business. But wait...that wasn't the point. I did not want more work, I wanted to take a break from that work and finally play, laugh and enjoy life. Having Woodie with me worked against me so I knew I had to find another venue to use him and I did.

I volunteered at the Center for Puppetry Arts on the weekend to be the house greeter. I had NO experience and this gave me the chance to see what kind of ventriloquist I could be. It worked, they loved me just as much as I loved working there. I volunteered for 3 years trying never to miss a weekend and polish my new found hobby "Ventriloquism".

One weekend I could not make it at the Center and a young boy asked about me saying "where is Mr.Puppet". When the front office told me this story, I realized that I had a positive impact on children so Mr.Puppet was born. Now life was good......until...... I received a letter from the IRS saying I owe 2 years of back taxes. My company was not paying their suppliers and money was being lost somewhere. To make a long story even longer it was my wife (now ex) that was embezzeling money and this contributed to the downfall of my business. The IRS closed down my business and all I had worked hard for was gone. I still did vent on the side but it could never equal in pay what I made in my company. Once my business was shut down, I went to work for a (so-called) friend who also owned a print shop. I went to work for him and brought all my clients with me, Ok, now I will make this story short. Within 2 months he had all my clients and he fired me and told me to GET OUT. Within a year I now have nothing, I lost my business, friends, clients, lifestyle, marriage, hair - but I still had vent.

When I got fired I got a call from a vent from Chicago named Chuck Field. I was crying on the phone to him about my problems and that I was about to be homeless. He told me not to worry, this was the best opportunity to become a full time vent because I had nothing to lose - I lost everything. He was right! That phone call from Chuck in 1996 was life changing for me. Looking at things now, I have a wonderful new marriage, great caring friends like Chuck, a successful business as Mr.Puppet and I look even better without my toupee (so I'm told). Being associated now with ventriloquism since 1991 has put me on this incredible path that I will always feel grateful for, this was what I was born to do.

Thanks, Clinton for being the one to start me on this wonderful life!
http://www.mrpuppet.com/

Newsy Vents 01/2009

3/17/09

Product display?

Question: I'm wondering if I may be able to see what you have available in person. That is, could I meet you and see your vent figures in person? I promise not to bug you or take a lot of your time.
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Answer: While I do meet with people over a cup of coffee, I do not have products or figures on display anywhere. I sell only from http://www.maherstudios.blogspot.com/ and eBay. In fact, if you walked through our home you would see no evidence that a ventriloquist lived here other than the shadow box of Maher Studios mementos (given to us as a gift by Joy, our daughter) which hangs on the wall next to our front door. For over 30 years I lived with and surrounded by ventriloquist products, so when we moved into a much smaller house upon retirement I was ready for a change in surroundings. :)

3/16/09

Re-Invent Vent


By Ken Groves

Ventriloquism as a show stands on its own when performed correctly. When vent is done poorly, you’ll need something else to prop it up: magic, balloons, fireworks, or WMD. There’s nothing worse than a ventriloquist act where the "mystery" of vent is missing. What am I talking about? Consider a magician. What makes magic work? Everybody knows it is a trick; everybody knows it is not real. So why is the art of magic growing and expanding? It’s the "mystery" that is the foundation of magic that keeps people coming back for more.

VENT IS NO DIFFERENT. We must put "mystery" back into our shows. "How do they do that?" "How do they get the puppet to move like that?" "It looks so REAL!" "How do they get the puppet’s voice so loud and clear?" "It’s just like two people having a conversation!" "Your lips never move! Not once!" "That is amazing!" "When are you performing again?" THAT last question is the question you want to hear: "When are you performing again?" When vent is done correctly, the audience wants more. If you feel the need to ADD something to your vent show, maybe you should get back to the basics of vent and put the "MYSTERY" back into your performance.

Newsy Vents 10/2005

3/15/09

Enter "living"...


By Steve Engle

Make it a habit to always have your puppet animated the first instant he/she is seen by the audience...whether it's a fast entrance from "the wings," or merely being lifted from a case. If it's animal or bird, research some actions common to that species. For instance, I often bring out my buzzard with his beak pointed up and shaking his head back and forth - by just rotating my wrist. This activates the wings (which are attached to the head by fishing line) which gives the impression of him ruffling his feathers after just waking him up ... just like birds do!
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Reprinted from Puppets Props & Performance, just one of more than two dozen books I have listed now for eBay auctions ending Monday morning. See them all Here.

3/14/09

"Fred" the "talking table(s)"



Hi Clinton; You mentioned the Bill Boley book on the blog,, so I thought I would send you some photo's of my more unusual vent characters. I have two talking tables (both named Fred) that I use in various shows. They were made using the Boley book.
Bob Conrad

Write Your Own Scripts


By William Andersen

Why should anyone go to the trouble of writing routines for themselves? There are probably plenty of good reasons. Sometimes the kind of routine one wants is not avalable in books and there is no one who knows enough about the subject to write one. Maybe the ventriloquuist cannot find a routine that says what he wants to say. It could be that a person does not want to, or cannot afford to pay someone else to write routines for him. There are also some of us who enjoy composing ventriloquist routines.
In my book, Write Your Own Scripts, we will explain several techniques you can use to write your own routines. We will also discuss what is funny because a good ventriloquist is expected to be funny. Finally we will put together a script which you can use in your performance.

Techniques explained will include:
Rewriting a routine, Talk a routine, Story routines, and Writing it out, plus seven was you can Learn to be funny!
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Note from Clinton: Write Your Own Scripts is one of more than two dozen books I have listed now for eBay auctions ending Monday morning. See them all
Here.

3/13/09

VENTRILO-MAGIC!



THE ARTS OF VENTRILOQUISM & MAGIC COMBINED!
Ventrilo-Magic is one of the most popular books written by Col. Bill Boley. In it he details the secrets of combing ventriloquism and magic simultaneously in the same bit! Complete instructions (including plans for building props) and routines. Refreshingly innovative and - MAGICAL!

Contents: Johnny In The Bottle, Joann The Card Duck, Time To Change Clothes, The Talking Table, Dummy Levitation, The Appearing Vent Figure, Producing Figure From The Square Circle, Producing Figure From Tip Over Box (I built one of these used it many times), The Balloon Trick, Bare Bones Of The Story, The Wilting Flower, The Fortune Teller, plus Other Tricks.

(Above) Col. Bill Boley performs levitation of a dummy. 1958
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Note from Clinton: Ventrilo-Magic is one of more than two dozen books I have listed now for eBay auctions ending Monday morning. See them all Here.

3/12/09

Twist & sing

G. A. Alvero provided this picture of his "Elvis" figure for which he made a flexible body. The body supports are screen door springs. (See photo of undressed body.) The legs we also made of foam and springs with the original the idea of having the figure stand, sing, with body twisting to the beat of the music. But, Mr. Alvero found the figure too heavy to keep the figure standing and moving, so he just lets him remain seated where he does his body twisting (using rod control on the arm) as he sings.

Billy Baloney upgrade?

Question: Have you ever upgraded a Billy Baloney ventriloquist figure from Pee Wees Playhouse? I just won one on ebay and wondered if he could be given blinking eyes or other upgrades.
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Answer: Although I've sold several Billy Baloney's on eBay, I've never considered upgrading one. I suppose it could be done, but their construction is unique. I'm not interested in attempting the job myself (I guess this is where my "retired" mindset does kick in). However, I did check with our son, Kevin, and he has done one before and he would be will to help you. Be forewarned: because they are a little different and take more work, the charge is $100.00. But Kevin tells me they turn out nice. Kevin's email: animatedpuppets@charter.net

3/11/09

Communicate without words!


How To Vent Your Expressions is the complete guide to portraying Emotions, Expressions and Actions! Bring your ventriloquist figure (or stage puppet) to LIFE by using this amazing reference book to learn how to manipulate your puppet or figure in the most life like manner. Simply look up the desired attitude (Anger, Ashamed, Fear, Tease, Sleep, Courage, Etc.) and follow the directions!

This is the first and only major work designed to help ventriloquists enhance the ventriloquial illusion, manipulate the figure (even the most basic figure/puppet) so as to portray every facial expression with correct body language to express any and all feelings and attitudes! Both vocal speech and body language are described in detail. HUNDREDS of topics, attitudes, emotions, actions, attitudes, and mannerisms are listed alphabetically and cross-referenced. Priceless! Written by Cliff Taylor, professional ventriloquist and instructor.

Just one of more than two dozen books I have listed now for eBay auctions ending Monday morning. See them all Here.

From Sammy King


Clinton,
Rumors of my demise were greatly exaggerated, but after 4 months in a coma, one year in various hospitals, and a lot of thearapy I am back on stage at the Palm Springs Flollies for the entire season. Truly a miracle, and I thank you for passing the word around.
After the upcoming convention, I'm going to retire to Colorado and enjoy my granddaughter. I'm still planning on coaching a few of my ongoing students, but my performing will be limited.
Hope to see you in Colorado.
Warmest regards,
Sammy King

3/10/09

Here's a question I've received and I would like to hear from you if you have a solution:

"Hi Clinton, . . . I really enjoy your Blog and have it as an icon on my desktop and check it everyday. I recently worked a Renaissance Faire and did two shows on Saturday and two on Sunday. I and other performers were on an outside stage. It was hot. By second show my hand was sweating profusely and the inside of the soft puppet was wet. Is there any way to lessen this problem outside of wearing a glove? I stood my puppet on it's head with the back opening turned up to let the heat out and dry out the puppet. Any suggestions would be appreciated."
Charley


You can post your comments below (right) or email them to me: mahertalk@aol.com
Clinton

Closing the gap


Question: This Maher figure has winkers and raising eyebrows but the large gap in the neck area when his mouth is in the open position bothers me. Is this something that you could fix to make less noticable? If so, what would you charge? Cal

* * * * * *
Answer: I've closed the gap on several of the Lovik basswood figures, yes. It requires removing the mouth, and reshaping both the underside of the mouth as well as the neck. Then the entire head is repainted. It does enhance the appearance of the figure significantly. Generally, the cost is about $100 total. Clinton

3/9/09

Charlie appreciates your votes!

Thanks to those of you who participated in the poll concerning Charlie's plight. 50% of those responding felt I should fill the unsightly gap under Charlie's mouth and then repaint the entire head. 34% voted for fill and paint touchup of the repaired area only.

Ultimately the final decision was made by Charlie's owner who requested fill and touchup, thus retaining as much as possible the integrity of the original finish. You see the results here. (Inconsistent lighting caused the color variance you see on the neck which was left unpainted and unchanged.)


Before:
Left

After:
Right

3/8/09

Just One of One Hundred Eleven


#78 The dummy can be the game leader.

In young people's groups the children will often sit ans listen better if you give them an active game to play first. They expend some energy and then will sit quietly and listen while the energy rebuilds. Try playing a game of Simon Says. Let the dummy give the commands. The children will like the change.

Taken from William Andersen's 111 Ways to Use Ventriloquism In Church Work. Added to his own experience, were ideas observed, read about, and even dreamed up - 111 ways to use the art of ventriloquism to teach in a fun and entertaining manner. Use this treasure trove of ideas to expand your own service in church and children’s ministries.

Just one of more than two dozen books I have listed now for eBay auctions ending tomorrow (Monday) morning. See them all
Here.

3/7/09

Luke's arrival in Bavaria


From Lugge and Jackl
Bavaria-Germany

Clinton,: Finally Luke arrived in Germany after a long trip over the ocean. He smiled at me immediately. We have been quite surprised that Luke could speak our language from the beginning. He immediately spoke Bavarian without accent and he - which is the most important - felt, and still feels, really comfortable in our family. Now he lives near Munich and he is looking forward to the Oktoberfest and some events in the 'HofbrÀuhaus' in Munich. Every day he says, that he is quite excited and can't wait.

Furthermore Luke approved a little name change: In Bavaria Luke is called 'Luggi'. After changing his clothes (now he wears the typical bavarian 'Lederhose') he now looks like a real Bavarian guy.

I am sure that we will keep you posted about the further approach. Kind Regards from Bavaria-Germany.

From A-V

If it has anything to do with the ventriloquist or the art of ventriloquism, it is probably discussed in this best selling book by William H. Andersen. Professional secrets and advice gleaned from a lifetime of experience as well as many interviews with active professional ventriloquist entertainers. 33 subjects, with topics arranged alphabetically - everything "from A-V"!


Check out this list of contents: A Basic Course, Dummy, Education, Entertainment, Figures, Grammar, Habits (Behavior), Habits (Clothing), Impromptu Ventriloquism, Jokes, Kindness, Lighting, Manipulation, Muffled Voice, Novelty, Old Man/Woman Figures, Polyphonism, Practice, Pasture, Publicity, Quench a dry throat, Routines, Religious Ventriloquism, Remuneration (How to charge), Speech, Style, Showmanship, Timing, Uses of Ventriloquism, Ventriloquist - All in a single 60 page book...A-V!


Just one of more than two dozen books I have listed for eBay auction ending Monday am. See them all Here.

3/6/09

Dunham sighting...

By Charles Prouty

I just wanted to share with you and your readers about Jeff's show last night. I think it is important to point out that just 18 months ago, Jeff kicked off his Spark of Insanity Tour at the Majestic Theater in San Antonio TX. The show at the Majestic was a sell out, 2000 seats. Last night, Jeff played to an almost sell out crowd of 8800 at the AT&T center, home of the San Antonio Spurs. I was completely amazed at the size of the crowd.

I have had the privilege of attending 5 of Jeff's shows over the past 2 years, Jeff has joked about getting a restraining order against me, and he keeps getting better and better. He truly is at the top of his game. All my friends ask me why I am willing to travel to see the same show? My answer is always, its never the same show. True, he has his format and standard jokes, however that is just a small portion. Jeff never stops making his shows fresh and new.

Even though I know that vent is an illusion, when ever I see Jeff perform, I find myself buying into it. His manipulation skills reflect many years of dedication to his craft, and I am happy for Jeff that it is really paying off for him.

After the show, Jeff's stage manager escorted Peter, Ian, and myself backstage for a few minuets with Jeff. Ian and I were joking about being Jeff groupies. As we were walking down the hall (past a line of people already waiting to see Jeff) Peter managed to crack jokes and make everyone in the hall bust out laughing. Spending time with Peter is a great joy in and of itself, but that's another story. When we arrived, Jeff greeted us with a big smile and hand shake. We chatted for several minuets, I had a chance to ask a few questions I have been saving for him for awhile now. Again, Peter started with his jokes and had all of us doubled over with laughter (we can't take him anywhere, well we do, but he keeps coming back). Jeff told us that his European tour starts next month, and he is really excited about that. One of the questions I asked him, was why he took Melvin out of his act. His reply was that Melvin is very very popular in Europe, and we can expect to see more of him soon.

Sadly, our time with Jeff had to come to and end, we said our good buys and that we will all meet up again soon at the convention.

I encourage everybody to check out Jeff's show. Tell all your friends and family, they will not be disappointed.

L-R: Charles Prouty, Dunham, Peter Rich, Ian Varella


Dear Clinton: I have decided to call your "Luke" "C J" after his father and his adopted father. I am working on a skit for him, and the name might change after I take my first look at my new boy, when he arrives. Today is Friday the 6th, so he has already been traveling a full 2 days and must be tired and hungry. His friends are waiting his arrival. I know he will love his new home, so thank you and a further message will be sent upon his arrival. N J
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Dear N J: "CJ/Luke" should be delivered to your door today or tomorrow. He was excited to be on his way, and I build a great deal of patience into all my characters, so he should be in good spirits when you meet. And my guys (and gals) are trained to rest and meditate as they travel so they arrive refreshed, eager to go to work. Should he get bored enroute, he is traveling with a book on ventriloquism which he can read. As for food - all the nourishment needed is a bit of your daily tender love and care. Clinton

Mark Wade Writes


FIND THE RIGHT SIZE PUPPET

One of the most important, and often overlooked things in working with kids is using the correct size of puppet. This is especially true if you are working for very small children in the preschool to kindergarten range, as they have just left their Moms and are out on their own for the first time at school. I personally have found that the large 42" vent figure is too big for small children. The arms and legs are long and gangling and it can frighten the kids in the first two or three rows of the audience.

See if you have a smaller vent figure you can use for the kids, maybe a 32"-36" figure, or use this smaller figure in combination with a soft puppet. Kids often equate size to scariness, so the smaller figure will be less frightening and more easily accepted by them. Also use a figure that has a more "cartoonish" look to it. This often alleviates fears and gets you off to a good start with the kiddies.

Remember, little things like this can make a huge difference! There’s nothing worse than a child that is frightened and cries uncontrollably at your show because they are scared of your puppets. Make everyone happy...be aware of the puppet you are using for kids!

(Newsy Vents, 10/2005)

Closing A Kidshow

CLOSING A KIDSHOW WITH AN ANIMAL PUPPET;
IT'S JUST SMART BUSINESS!

By Mark Wade

I am a firm believer of starting and ending shows with a vent puppet or figure. I like to think of these as the pillars of the program...the strong beams holding the show together. And afterall, isn't it the allure of the puppet that says "ventriloquist" to the audience? The distant voice and baby cry are important but not the pillars of the show.

Using a strong animal character at the end of a kidshow is just smart business. It's the last thing the kids remember about your show, and leaves that lasting impression. In other writings I have mentioned that kids like puppets in this order: 1. animal puppets; 2. people puppets; 3. object puppets (like a talking globe, soccer ball,etc.) . I am closing my current school show with an alligator puppet and he "kills" with the young audience. Do yourself a favor, leave the kind of impression that you want with the audience by closing with one of our animal friends (as long as the puppet is friendly and not scarey). You'll make a lot of kid friends if you do! I guarantee it!

Newsy Vents 10/2005

Watch For Doors and Entryways!

By Mark Wade

When performing for large groups of kids either in a school or library be sure to position your show for success. I NEVER set up with a doorway or entry way on the same end that I am setting up. I always want the doorway to be in the back of the room so the kids will have their backs to anyone coming in late or having to leave early. Why? If the doorway is in the same end or up front close to where you set up anything or anyone coming or going is a distraction. You may have the audience in the palm of your hand and suddenly lose them when someone comes in. It doesn't take too much to make a young audience lose their attention, so make sure you don't set up where traffic flow can effect you.

Newsy Vents 10/2005

3/5/09

Before and After





3/4/09


He flew through the air,
With the greatest of ease;
But not any more,
He missed the trapeze!

Just one of the comedy poems from Col. Bill Boley's Fractured Nursery Rhymes, one of Boley’s most requested books and one of my favorites as well! Packed with laughs. 35 fractured nursery rhymes, 32 funny poems, 13 comedy song titles, and 14 funny songs. Add several to your favorite routine. One of more than two dozen books I have listed for eBay auctions ending Monday am. See them all Here.

"Articulating" neck?

Reader comment: "I am looking for a new figure, more professional. I'd like one with moving eyes, eye brows, mouth and fully articulating neck movement."
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From Clinton: I can often tell when a person has been perusing various figure makers web sites by the terms they use when asking about a vent figure. The term "articulating neck" is such term. Many figure makers refer to a "ball and socket" when describing the way the figure's head is positioned on the shoulders (myself included). I've never used the term "articulating" because technically, "articulating" implies a "jointed joined connection". While a few rare figures have had heads with necks that are "fully articulating and connected to the body", with heads connected to the bodies with some sort of "yoke suspension", they are few and far between.

The important feature all professional figures share is the ability to turn the head left to right, tilt from side to side, and nod forward and back, as well as turn full circle. Such visual movements are critical to achieve realistic lifelike movement in the figure - in whatever manner it may be described.

The older Maher figure (left) has a neck with flat base. It was designed to drop through the neck opening at the shoulders. The head on the right has a neck with rounded base, designed to rest upon the shoulders with only the headpost extending downward through the shoulder opening ("ball and socket"). While both provide a full range of head movements, in neither design is the head joined permanently to the body; neither design is an "articulating" setup in the truest sense of the word. I believe one can safely say the "ball/socket" design (right) is currently the industry standard.

3/2/09

Charlie needs your vote!


Would you like to play puppet repair person on this "nearly vintage" doll? Sometimes simple ventriloquist doll repairs still pose challenging decisions.

This 1966 Juro Charlie McCarthy (made in the USA) was sent to me for mouth repair due to a broken rubber band (which I will replace with a more permanent spring). But what should I do about the ill fitting mouth? Someone at some time carved an unsightly chunk out of the neck under the left side of Charlie's chin. Here are my choices:

1) Leave it as is, and you can see how that will appear.

2) Carve out the right side, which will make an oversize gap under the mouth, but at least it will be symmetrical.

3) Fill the space and paint the filler as best possible to match the plastic (never a perfect match).

4) Fill the space and repaint the entire head which makes the repair invisible and will result in a very attractive doll but at the cost of originality plus diminished value as a collector's doll.

What would you advise? You can cast your vote. See poll posted in the margin at right.

Newsy Vents archives

Question: I was looking at the "old" Newsy Vents site, and noted the archives have been removed. I find these files as an excellent term of reference, and now nothing. Where can I access these? Regards, Doug (Cape Town, South Africa)
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Doug: The Newsy Vents archives have been deleted. They (or a portion of them) may be revived in some manner at some future date, but that is yet to be determined. It is my blog policy that any contribution to my blog will be used on the blog only and the rights will always remain the property of the contributor. This will, of course, be a factor in any decision regarding the archives future fate. Thank you for your comments. Clinton

3/1/09

Maher Bookstore


The standard retail price on the books offered at Maher Bookstore is $5.00-$6.00 each.

But each week I pick 20-30 titles to be sold on eBay with auctions starting at 99 cents (postpaid). So if you are looking for some potential great deals, that's a good place to check from time to time.

Click here to see all my current eBay listings