I first saw Beth Ann Derkson perform live using her Maher ventriloquist figure, Rusty, at the Abbot's 1970 Get-Together. An excellent ventriloquist - the audience loved them. One would assume they would have a long career ahead, but she seemed to fade from the public eye soon thereafter. That has always puzzled me. Anyone know the answer?


On the straight and narrow?

Remember this gent? He now resides in Phoenix with an Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Arizona. As I build these characters I never know for sure what they're going to be doing when they "grow up" - that's one of the intriguing aspects of figure making. (Not totally unlike parenting. :-)
And now, a word from his new owner ...
* * * * * * *
"Hello, Mr. Detweiler, Just a note to let you know that the old man figure arrived in great shape a couple of days ago. I think he is terrific! Such an expressive face!

"I've decided to turn him into an old cowboy figure (which works well here in Arizona). I have a child's cowboy costume with a little hat, vest, chaps, and will eventually get him some small cowboy boots. I am going to call him 'Shorty.' I will send you a picture when I get his outfit together.

"He will be making his debut around the middle of August at the churches I visit. In years past I've used a soft puppet which I got from Maher about 25 years ago, 'Dexter.' He has been a huge hit as I travel around and visit parishes. He normally comes out doing the announcement time and we do a kind of children's sermon in the form of a funny dialogue. I think the adults enjoy it as much or more than the kids.

"Again, thank you for your talents. I am proud to own a 'one of a kind' figure from you!
Kirk Smith


Ready again!

This is a Knee Pal "Comical Clyde" character from about 25 years ago. One of the favorites from that era which explains why his mold was one of the first to wear out and be discarded. Thus, the character was retired early. This fellow came in to me with a broken eyebrow string (left photo) and left my shop with new strings all around and a fresh paint job...ready for another 25 years of service with a smile!


"There'll be a change in me..."

This doll arrived at my shop door one gender and ethnicity, but at the request of the owner, left changed in both categories (see photo). "Boy, oh, howdy!" Quite attractive, actually.
* * * * *
Now, this just in from the owner: I just received "Charleen" today, She is cute!! Thank you for the new clothing too. I would like her to have a southern accent, I know I purchased a Norwegian accent info from you once, I was wondering if you might have a southern accent course too?
Thanks so much, John

* * * * *
The Accent Course referred to was provided by actor's accent coach and instructor, David Alan Stern, PhD. Mr. Stern does indeed, sell a Course on how to develop a Southern Accent for stage:


Buffy (Ada)

From Natalie Vickery PhD:

"Just seeing how Buffy is coming along. I have decided I am going to call her Ada, that's a good old east end of London name I am sure we are going to make a good team. Ada is in her late 40's, looks good for her age. Ada will be a working clairvoyant. We already have Albert, and Ada is Albert's close friend. We already have a lot of folk who are waiting for her first performance. I know she is going to go down like a treat. Kind Regards."

* * * * * *

From Clinton: While Ada has surprised me with her career choice, she has been completed (see photo) and seemed eager to be on her way. Her international flight Eastward departed a week ago. Albert may possibly be greeting Ada even as I write this!


Reader Comment on "Case for two"

Go with two separate cases, strapped together by a belt under the handles, and around the two cases. The belt can also serve as a carrying strap. Much more convenient, plus you have the advantage of both cases with a little extra space in each for added costumes or props. Go with it - it works well. That's from experience.

"Talking" Toilet?!

Here's one you won't find just anywhere! Odd, different, okay - a little crazy! Another one of a kind by Kevin Detweiler, owner of Animated Puppets .

Raising eyes and moving mouth. You can operate him from within a box so controls are concealed or out of the box so controls are in plain view, doesn't matter - he's a toilet. Sometimes he feels a little "flushed". Things get "backed up" in his life. Do you get "clogged" down with problems? This guy knows what you mean. Easy one hand operation, two controls, one for his mouth (index finger) and one for his eyes (thumb). Who left the lid up!? Great for all ventriloquists, beginner or pro! You'll find it offered on eBay auction: HERE Toilet Puppet


Case for two?

Question: I am wondering if there is a hard case available that will hold two hard figures? I had checked out the local stores as I was thinking of getting a regular suitcase on wheels, but I wasn't crazy about the idea of putting my investment into something that provided no protection! I know you currently carry 4 different sized cases, and I am curious if they will safely hold two figures?
* * * * *
Answer: The cases I stock (See them here) are designed to hold one hard figure each. Now, if the figures were small, you might be able to pack two in the largest case. (I have not tried to do so.)I can provide you with a custom case of any size (you tell me the dimensions required), designed to hold two figures (with divider), but having done this in the past, I can tell you the cost will be about double that of a single stock size case. Since there is little or no cost savings, only you can decide if the benefits of a single larger custom case for two outweigh the benefits of two individual cases. (My vote has always been for the two separate cases - much easier to transport.)



From Natalie:

Hello, Clinton. I thought you may find this of interest. My Parents, they make porcelain dolls. Like yourself, they build from scratch and have done so for many many years.

Anyway, they made a doll about 10 years ago the approximate size of Buffy. And her name (model/mould name) is "Shay". I could not believe it when as I was working through the Maher Ventriloquist Course I came across the magical word 'Shay'. What a coincidence! Of all the names, and I have Shay sitting here with me now. I was amazed!


Clinton's Creations - Photo album

I have a new photo album page now that will features many of the novelty puppets I have built over the years. I think you will enjoy it. I know I'm enjoying the memories! A dozen or so characters are posted now with some background information about each puppet; several dozen more characters will follow over the next few weeks.

Click Here: Clinton's Creations


eBay Book Sale

Once again, I have a large selection of ventriloquist topic books listed for eBay auction (99 cent starting bid) over the weekend. Bargains galore! Check them out Here.

Comment "Comment"

I welcome reader comments to my posts. They add to the value and interest of this blog. However, please be patient when you make a comment because comments are sent to me for pre-approval. I learned early on that unmoderated comments could lead to potential undesirable posts. I'm a "family friendly" sort of guy, and this is a "family friendly" blog. :-)

Another Comment comment: Only rarely will I approve for posting a comment that contains a hyper-link, so please keep that in mind as you send your comments. Thank you.

Newsy Vents Archives

Reader Comment: As a daily reader of Newsy Vents it just pure fun to look back on all the history you gathered regarding our world of Ventriloquism. First let me thank you for the time you gave us to look at and enjoy what you posted and also be saddened by its loss to our eyes. If you can find away to bring some of it back it would mean a lot to us. N Jay
* * * * *
Thank you for your support and encouraging comments. From time to time I have and will give readers a peek into the past archives. Clinton

Customer Comment: Thank you so much for Luke. We received him a couple of days ago. Preston, my son, has not put him down. In fact he took him to school today and put on a show for his class. Again, thank you so much. Heather Burke


Mr. D's Photo Album

This is a new project I'm working on and will be a long term project - a Mr. D's Photo Album. But I have one page up and ready for visitors. You'll find photos and comments about retired puppets that were sold by Maher Studios, all of which were created and handcrafted by our son, Kevin Detweiler. "Scrubby" (left) is one of the featured puppets. I would love to hear from any of you who use or have used, any of the unique creations seen on this page: Pg. 1 Mr. D's Photo Album - Kevin's Creations
Also, please take a look at Kevin's current site: http://www.animatedpuppets.blogspot.com/


New "Do"

From Fred Anderson:

A few years ago the hair on my Lovik figure was becoming matted (too much hair spray over the years), so I decided to replace it. The original wig was stapled in place making removal quite easy.

A local department store was having a sale on ladies 'real hair' wigs so I purchased the 'small' size which fitted perfectly. A few carefully placed staples and a trip to the local hairdresser, and the job was done. And he sat patiently in the chair.

The cost of the haircut? Just a copy of the picture to hang in the store to prove, 'some of her customers are real dummies'.


Ventriloquist Walter Huntley retires

Ventriloquist to the troops hangs up his dummy after 70 years.

By Terri Judd

Seven decades after they first took to the stage, the soldier-turned-ventriloquist Walter Huntley and his dummy "Gunner Turner" were the stars of the show for one last time yesterday. Surrounded by curious children and autograph-hunters, the pair basked in the glory of an act that began in the Blitz.

Read the full story here


Yesterday I brought you a picture of Kevin's parrot puppet, made from a mechanical commercial puppet with the mechanics were removed. Today I bring you a picture of my own original parrot under construction. "Made from scratch." In spite of what you see in the picture, it is almost completed. Turning head, open & close beak, blinking eyes, and flapping wings. At the moment he waits with very little complaint in a pile of pieces while I attend to more pressing matters.


Parrot Puppet

You may remembers the Parrot I pictured several weeks ago that Kevin was going to turn into a vent puppet with intention to sell on eBay. Well, it was finished as a puppet, alright. With several animations including lifting wigs. But it never made it to eBay - it sold to a reader of this blog who made the purchase even before the puppet was finished! The pictures you see here are of the finished puppet. Since it is the "one-and-only", I guess the sign it hold is most appropriate!


News From Animated Puppets

Kevin calls it a "Side by Side" stand that allows you to walk around freely as you perform with your vent pal. Not a new idea, of course - DeMar's "Hip Stand" is legendary. "Side By Side" is a unique variation of similar idea. You can get more details on Kevin's blog:


Free offer

Twenty or so years ago Maher Studios was asked by the publishers of "Free Stuff For Kids Yearbook" to consider making a free offer to readers of their annual book. There was no charge to Maher Studios to have a page in the book, but we were required to agree to fulfill any offer made for the entire year. With the desire to see more youngsters become involved in ventriloquism, we offered a free "How to Become A Ventriloquist" booklet. Over the course of the year, hundreds of kids, (teachers, parents, etc.) wrote to request the free material. (It's possible someone reading this post was one of those youngsters.)

The surprising thing is, although the deadline for the free offer passed many years ago, we still periodically receive a letter from someone who has come across an old copy of the book. Such as this letter received last week:

"Gentlemen: My 9 year old grandson has a 40 year old Charlie McCarthy. He does very well trying to be 'Charlie'. Would you please send me a copy of your free booklet, 'How To Become A Ventriloquist', so I can give it to him?"

With the offer long ended, we normally discard such requests. But this grandma sent a picture - who could resist that face? I mailed a complimentary copy of "Ventriloquism In A Nutshell". I don't want to be the person who stood in the way of a future generation's Edgar Bergen!
* * * * *
Reader Comment: "Clinton,I was in the 4th grade when Free Stuff for Kids was published. As part of a class project to learn about the U.S. postage system, our teacher had each of us write off to order something. I did not know about Maher Studios at the time, but I did write to you and request a copy of 'How to Become A Ventriloquist'. Thanks for that." Charles


Spiked hair

I've been asked about the "spiked hair" look given to the figure Major Wes Green sent to me. (See blog post for 8/9.) Actually, it's quite simple. I just pulled small amounts of the hair upward until all the "hairs" on the top of the head were standing.


The Story of the Ring

By Tom Farrell

I hadn't even heard of Jimmy Wallis on that night in July 2008, when my wife and I saw Terry Fator at the Vent Haven ConVENTion. My 72nd birthday was the next day, I hadn't done vent in 20 years and we were just there to see a good show. Terry was absolutely incredible. He brought the house down and everybody was on their feet with a resounding standing ovation. As we left the convention, my wife said, "You used to be so good at that, you should get into that again". Wives have that wonderful, nurturing knack of saying the right thing at the right time. I was bitten by the vent bug again.

But, I had so many questions racing through my mind. Could I still do vent? Was my figure ( an Insull figure which I bought from W.S. Berger in the '50s) still in working order? He had been languishing in his trunk for 20 years as bookings dried up and other business forces grabbed my attention. Who could I get to fix him? I started searching the internet for a new figure, and I sent for The Maher Course Of Ventriloquism to brush off 20 years of inactivity, and recapture my vent skills. One day I saw an ad on the internet, "4Sale - Wally - looking for a new home". The picture showed an Insull figure, much like mine, but with many more features. The seller was Jimmy Wallis. So, not knowing if it was an old posting or not, I e-mailed Jimmy.

Jimmy answered that the figure was still for sale. He came with two heads - one from Maher in Michigan in the '50s, the other from W.S. Berger in the early '60s. He said the body was by Foy Brown and that a case was also included. The price that Jimmy wanted was far more than I could afford, but he said to make him an offer, and he promised not to laugh or cry.

As we exchanged e-mails in the following months, we formed a friendship. We found out that we both were about the same age (he said he would be 70 in March), we both had known W.S. Berger and had both been in the IBV. He lived in Arlington Texas and when he found out that I lived in Cincinnati Ohio, he recalled opening the Playboy Club here. He also played the Las Vegas Hilton with Suzanne Summers, Debbie Reynolds and Rip Taylor, and many other venues throughout the United States while I stayed mostly local. He said that he had retired 8 years ago after a hip replacement.

As we learned more and more about each other, our friendship grew. We would exchange huge long e-mails about vent, our selves and families - everything. We would kid each other unmercifully. At one time he said, "I don't often 'click' with people I don't know, but I like you". Every few months he would come up with a new price for the figure, but it was always more than I could afford. I kept asking him to send me a picture of the other head, but he never had the time to take one.

Finally he did and while going through the closet looking for it, he found his old IBV pin. He was so excited he sent me a picture of the head and the pin. I had lost my pin in the '70s. On March 28, 2009, Jimmy e-mailed "What would you say if I told you - you can have Wally, the extra head and the case for ...", and he quoted a jaw dropping "give away" price. He then said "I just ask that when you're through doing vent, that he goes to Vent Haven".

Naturally I said "yes". Jimmy said that due to unexpected circumstances his good friend would handle the shipping for him. I thought that was odd and said, "Are you OK?" He e-mailed back "I'm calm, collected and ready. Major problem. Can't comment. Require your trust and best wishes". That really confused me and I contacted his friend. She told me that Jimmy was "putting his affairs in order in case he is incapacitated for a long period of time."

I waited, and when many weeks went by without hearing, I e-mailed his friend. On April 17th, 2009 she called me and told me that Jimmy had passed away on April 13th. I was stunned. She told me that Jimmy wanted me to give his figure a good home and she would still ship the figure and extra head, but it would take a few more weeks. I asked her if she could send me Jimmy's IBV pin as a remembrance - which she did. I have had the pin put into a ring which I wear on my right hand to remind me of my own IBV days, and my good friend, Jimmy Wallis, and when I use that hand to bring Jimmy's figure to life - they are, in a way, back together again !

Note: Jimmy's figure is now being refurbished by Kevin Detweiler: www.animatedpuppets.blogspot.com .


Wigging questions

Questions: I have several questions about adding hair to a figure with molded hair (Charlie McCarthy).
1) How do you attach the fur you use to the head of the figure?
2) How long is the fur you use?
3) What color is the fur?
4) Is attaching the hair difficult for a novice?
* * * * *
1) I attach the hair using a hot glue gun, applying the glue sparingly, primarily around the edges.
2) It depends on the style of hair desired. On Charlie I would use the longer nap fake fur for more traditional hair style (see the head hanging in the background with red hair). The fellow in the foreground of this picture is getting hair of mid-length nap.
3) I prefer med/dark brown for Charlie, but I've also used black. And on rare occasions blond and auburn. Whatever the customer requests.
4) Ahhh - the most difficult question of all! It's easy for me as I've wigged literally thousands of heads. You'll need patience and a steady hand. I wrote more on this subject on my 7/6/09 post:
PS: For $25.00 I will wig your Charlie for you, and this price includes postage for the head's return.

Customer Comment:

Dear Clinton, I received the puppet case today. Granny Gee is very comfortable in it and likes how the red lining complements her brown eyes and goes with her red calico dress. Thank you very much for creating such a secure "home" for my beloved friend. Barb G.

* * * * *For details and photos of the cases I stock(four sizes):
Click Here


Pelham question

Question: My friend picked up the fellow in the photo at a thrift store. He’s somewhat worse for wear, but has possibilities. Can you tell from the picture who may have made him or when he may have been made?

* * * *
Answer: This puppet is known as a "Pelham Puppet". Imported from England, most likely during the '70s. They are quite collectible today. If you paid $40 or less you got a real bargain. Pelham is better known for the marionette puppets they produced, but they built a handful of characters with heads on headpost. This "boy" was probably the most popular character of the lot.


Custom body

Finally - job done! I've built hundreds of bodies over 40 years, but this was unlike any other because I was trying to duplicate from email photos the size and shape of a custom C. Lovik body built years ago. The job seemed to take "forever", and I'll admit, there were days when I wondered if I was out of my mind when I accepted the challenge! But now that I'm finished, I'm quite pleased with the results. I learned some new applications as well, which I'm eager to reuse on future jobs. The hands, by the way, were provided by Mike Brose.


"Talking" Vent Stand

Here's the "Ultimate Vent Stand"! Yes, this is a true ventriloquist stand. Extremely strong top that can hold any ventriloquist doll or puppet of any size. You can raise the stand up and down for your position comfort. But, there is MORE! This table top comes ALIVE! Amaze your audience and friends with the beautiful table top which turns into a true Ventriloquist Prop with side to side self-centering eyes and big easy to see moving mouth!
So simple to operate with one hand! Controls are concealed in the rear of the table where no one can see them. This one comes complete, with mic stand, base and talking table top. WOW - what great FUN! Be the first one to own the Ultimate Vent Stand! Made by Kevin Detweiler, owner of Animated Puppets. Great routine included, written by Sonja Detweiler who has been writing vent routines and books for the past 30 years! Now for sale on eBay!

Place your bid here



From Wes Green
The Salvation Army

"What a wonderful surprise to open the box from you with your handiwork. I could never have imagined you could take the head in the condition I sent to you and recreate something so special. You are truly a craftsman extraordinaire. I am tempted to climb in a box and ship myself to you for a makeover. What a joy to know that God does exactly that with our heart when we come to him. (Create in me a clean heart oh God.) I can hardly wait to get him to my young friend to inspire his progress in ventriloquism. "


Colorado Summer Play Day

Adelia, Nicole, Hannah, and I spent a "play" day at Heritage Square in Golden, Colorado this week. Among the activity options offered, we chose the Alpine Slide, miniature golf, and bumper boats. Well, three of us rode the chair lift to the top of the mountain, and piloted the speeding sleds down the winding half mile track a couple times. I'll not tell you who remained at the foot of the mountain to watch, but she was the one who once again, showed the rest of us how mini-golf is played!


Troubling Trend

Have you noticed the increasing numbers of ventriloquist dolls being bought and sold that are characters designed to be "evil, haunted, scary, spooky", etc.? It's a trend that I find disturbing, but maybe mine is a generational position. Take a look at some of the dozens of characters being offered by "Haunt-Master" right now on eBay: Click here The more prevalent such characters become, the more difficult it will be for the "traditional" entertainer to book a show...the ghosts of "Dead of Night" and "Magic" and similar shows continue to haunt.
(The figures shown here are produced by "Haunt-master" with photos copyrighted by same.)


Each and every hair...

To get the eyebrows that match the hair, each and every strand of hair has to be glued in place. I need to get it right the first time, too, because this gentleman will take up permanent residence in New Zealand. Once the job is completed it will most likely be the last time we see each other face to face. (Note: The eyes are covered temporarily to protect them while I work on the brows.)


Weird & ugly puppets

Request: Could you redo this figure for me? Please go against the grain and totally put me on the map for the ugliest, coolest most unique puppets out there please.
* * * * * *
Response: While it's indirect, I just have to say one thing in response to your above comment - I don't know of one single ventriloquist who made it "big time" because of his or her puppets. It's the skill of the ventriloquist who makes the puppets a success - not the other way around. Turn out the lights on Jeff Dunham's show, force him to perform in the dark, and he would still be totally entertaining. Silly and weird puppets will only take you to the first level - it will be up to you and your creative skills to take the puppets beyond that point. Do you know of ventriloquist Steve Brubaker? Stephen and Other Dummies. Now there's an entertaining act with totally silly and weird puppets unmatched by anyone performing today! But again, it's the imaginative creative talent of the ventriloquist that makes the act successful - not the puppets. Put those puppets in another performer's hands and the audience would be in danger of walking out. Just some thoughts. Clinton


Maher Studios - Now & Then

The bottom photo is of 800 West Littleton Blvd when we owned it (1972-1998). We lived on the upper floor and Maher Studios was located on the ground floor with shop and storerooms in the basement. The top photo is how the place looks today. Very different. But the big difference is on the inside. A developer has pretty much gutted and rebuilt all floors on the inside. Most rooms have been relocated. Stairways moved. Nary a trace of Maher Studios nor the Detweilers remains. Honestly, Adelia and I are glad to see the place move forward. We have our memories and the true evidence of Maher Studios is now being carried on by ventriloquists around the world. And that's exciting! (As examples, review the posts below.)


Student Comment

"Hi, My Senior open mike went really well. I actually had to wait for laughs. A lot of people, including Mark Wade, told me later how much they liked it. My critique indicates what I need to improve on but I was rated pretty good on lip control and projection. I have improved a lot since taking your course. My routine consisted of having Bart's cell phone ring and interrupting the act. His call was from Skinny Dugan. So I told him to hang up or I would shut him up. Of course he didn't, so his mouth continued to move with no words coming out. Thanks for your Course." - Larry Youngberg


Question: Hi, can you tell me if your son Kevin has a website where he sells his conversion figures? Thanks Dan
* * * * *
Answer: Kevin does not have a web site, but he can be contacted by email: animatedpuppets@charter.net

I know you didn't ask, but you'll find a selection of my figures here: http://www.mahertstudios.blogspot.com
Thanks for asking. :-)
Clinton Detweiler

Maher student update

"In six hours we pack up the car to go to the airport and fly back to Hungary to begin our next term and our 36th year as missionaries. Enclosed is my second and final Course exam. I want to thank you again for your patience with this missionary while he was leaning with "Wally". And as for "Wally", he is separated, with his body in one suitcase and his head in a carry on. Poor guy! He will have a great reunion in Hungary!" Dan Peters


Maher Studios Graduates

* * *

* * *
Juli Berbena (OR)
Donna Calise (PA)
Christine Campbell (IL)
Kimber Geitgey (OH)
Steven J Rauscher (WI)
James Tucker (PA)
Janice Watson (UK)
Larry Youngberg (IL)
* * *
* * *
Donna Calise (PA)
Christine Campbell (IL)
Tammie Durfey (OK)
Cheryl Ann Keene (WI)
Dan Peters (Hungary)
For more information, or to purchase the
Maher Home Course of Ventriloquism:
Click Here
Or, order by email: mahertalk@aol.com
* * *
From Donna Calise: "This Course is very thorough. There is so much information that I will continue to review its contents periodically. Thank you for your help."