12/31/10

Today's Prize


This framed image of Bergen and McCarthy is a litho reproduction of the actual signed photo. But it still makes a nice piece for the Bergen fan. And the winner is: Bruce Weaver.

"Clipper" figure available!


Well, here's a nice end of the year surprise! I have a Clipper figure now in the shop for total refurbishment. Turning head, open & close mouth, side-t0-side eyes, winker/blinkers, raising eyebrows and flapping ears.
Since I'm giving him full refurbishing, including repainting and new wig, I don't have a photo of the actual figure yet. ( You see a file photo here). This is just an alert. I'm often asked about the availability of this hard to find character from the Knee Pal series of the 1980s, and this is the first time in years that I've known of one available. If you'd like more details when he's ready to sell, let me know. NOTE: THIS FIGURE HAS NOW BEEN SOLD.

MAHER COURSE HONOR GRADUATES

NEW MILLENNIUM BASIC MAHER COURSE:
David A. Bonin (BC)
Desmond Bradley (Australia)
Gary Bowen (MI)
Del Burkholder (PA)
Karen Climer (FL)
Tom Farrell (OH)
Scott Hawkins (MS)

* * * *
NEW MILLENNIUM ADVANCED MAHER COURSE:
Gary E. Bowen (MI)
Del Burkholder (PA)
Jeffery W. Brown (DE)
Tom Farrell (OH)
Bastiaan Verhost (Netherlands)
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CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!
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Note: For further information on how to purchase the Maher Home Study Course of Ventriloquism, including Lesson One on-line free,
Click Here

12/30/10

Ray Allen & Lord Charles


Often referred to as Britain's top ventriloquist, I thought it interesting to read that Ray Allen's "Lord Charles" character was inspired by the face of Stan Laurel..."just change the hair and put a monocle on it - that's the face I want", Allen is quoted. He toured with Laurel and Hardy during the early 1950s.

Allen appeared frequently on television variety shows for over 30 years (1950s-1980s). He died recently (May 24, 2010) at the age of 79.

I especially like his answer to the question as to his relationship with Lord Charles. Allen replied, "I'm not one of those ventriloquists who thinks he's real. When I finish my work I put it back into the tool box and I don't take it out again until the next job."

The photo here was sent to me by Keith Suranna, and it will serve as our prize today. The winner is: Oscar Romero.

Too little time?

Report: I made an appearance on Berks Community Television in Reading, PA. With 10 minutes or less, I was limited to what I could do of my act because of the time frame they gave me.
* * * * *
Comments: If the likes of Dunham and Fator and other working pros can eagerly accept and make the most of 3-4 minutes limitation on a TV show, think what a bonus a time slot double that length can be! Make the most of it. Sometimes the highlights of a show are as good or better than the full show anyway.

12/29/10

Tribute Figure

From Bob Abdou:

I recently read the story from Harris D, about someone leaving their dummy to him after they passed away. Well, this just happened to me. I buy a lot of vintage toys on ebay and one seller who I buy a lot of toys from sent me an email about his father passing away. His name is Bill Dozier and he always wanted to be a ventriloquist. He custom built his own dummy and called him"Cody" (photo right).

When Bill passed away, his son Dan contacted me and asked that I take care of Cody and put him in my collection. I responded that I would take care of Cody just as Bill would have wanted it. I will never use Cody in a show or sell him, I want him to be a tribute to Bill, and Cody will be displayed with my other valuable collection of vintage dummies. This is an honor for me.
* * *
bob abdou

12/28/10

"Automatic" eyes



I finished this smaller (24") figure last week and although he has been purchased and now resides with his new owner, I thought I would introduce him to you because his unique eye movement. I called them "automatic*" eyes because their side to side movement is a result of the head movement. There is no finger control for the eyes. When the head is turned to the left, the eyes move left; turn the head to the right and the eyes move to the right. The size of the figure lends itself nicely to a young ventriloquist's needs, and the simplicity of manipulation is a bonus.

(*This setup is sometimes referred to as "balanced" eyes as well.)
We are awarding two wonderful 8x10 photos of Bergen & McCarthy (and Mortimer) today. The winners are: Bill Bingham (photo above) and David Miranda (photo below). (Both photos donated by Keith Suranna.)


12/27/10

Figure by Howard M. "Howie" Olson


This is a like new, never used figure build by Howard M. Olson. Built in the late '70s, as I recall, but I'm unsure of the exact year. Originally it had a very large torso making it a 42" figure, but I built a new torso for it and shortened the legs just slightly making it a much more manageable 38" figure. It has the standard head and mouth movements, plus side to side moving eyes, winker/blinkers. flapping ears, and raising eyebrows (although the movement of the brows is minimal). Head mouth and feet are built in the usual Olson manner of a material Howie called "Permatone" and described as "like-wood".
(Note: This figure has now been sold. My thanks to all who inquired about it.)

12/26/10

New Life



Christmas is all about new birth and new life. The Christ of Christmas came into our world for the sole purpose of giving all people the gift of "new life and life eternal." Like any gift, however, it must be accepted and that's your choice and mine to make.
Thanks to his owner's choice, this small Jerry Mahoney is experiencing the gift of a new life of sorts this Christmas. When Steve Thrash sent Jerry to me last month, it appeared the vintage doll's life was pretty much over. But after some considerable TLC (he now has hollow body with head on post, too) he was able to exit my shop this week, prepared for an extended period of service, providing joy to all he meets and greets. A perfect gift for any season of the year, but certainly appropriate this weekend. (Somewhere there's a Howdy Doody hoping for the gift of a new set of clothes!)

12/25/10

Christmas 2010


"May you be blessed
in a most special way
With the Joy that came
on that first
Christmas Day."

From "Joy to the World!"
by Helen Steiner Rice
Merry Christmas from Mr. & Mrs. D,
Clinton & Adelia Detweiler

12/24/10

Quick & Easy




With all the special holiday dinner events taking place this weekend, here is a reminder on how to make a spur-of-the-moment puppet for the entertainment of your family and friends. It's simply a fist, draped with handkerchief or napkin. Eyes and lips can be drawn on with lipstick or eyebrow pencil. Even a pen (washable ink recommended:-).
The drawing above is from the book "Ventriloquism Made Easy" (copyright 1955). George Boosey provided this copy for today's drawing, and Linda Carter is the winner of this special Christmas Eve gift!

12/23/10

Coming soon: 2011 Collector Coin!


NEW! Coming January, 2011 NEW!

Mr. D's SEVEN DOLLAR Collectible Coin

7/11

Unforgettable




Comment from Bob Hendley: Recently my wife and I attended a conference that she had not attended for a few years. As we entered the building I told her that some people would ask how Amos Matthews was before they said anything else. Sure enough, we met two ladies before we got to the door and they both inquired about Amos (photo right)!

* * * * *

From Mr. D: I'm guessing every ventriloquist reading this has had similar experiences. The figures are remembered long after their human partners are forgotten. As ventriloquists, we must learn to accept this as a compliment and live happily ever after.

12/22/10

How hard is it to learn?

Question: I was thinking about doing a school program and I was wondering about learning a ventriloquism show for kids, in schools and churches. I really like the dummy you have on ebay at the moment but the only concern I have is how hard is it to learn. I have seen some really bad ventriloquists and I don't want to join that que.
* * * * *
Brief Answer:
Ventriloquism itself is really quite simple:
Move the puppet in a lifelike manner;
Make it appear that it is talking (with you providing the words),
while at the same time you make it appear as though you are not talking.

It takes practice and quite frankly, the difference between the "good ventriloquists" and the "bad ventriloquists" is pretty much how hard they work at it, and the proficiency level they are willing to be satisfied with.

I can tell you this, I took piano lessons for several years. My skills never approached concert level proficiency. But when I practiced my skill level pieces to the point where I could present them flawlessly, people were impressed and enjoyed my performance.

Ventriloquism is no different. To impress people, you must stay within your current skill level for performance, yet all the while pushing yourself toward the next level during practice. And there is no better time to begin than now.

12/21/10

Hair-raising experience


This Len Insull head (sometimes referred to as "Davenport") came to me for refurbishing. I've done a number of similar jobs over the years but as best I can recall, this was the first with a "hair raising animation" which made the wig installation extra interesting.












12/20/10

Winchell VHS



When it comes to an introduction to the art of ventriloquism and an explanation on how it is accomplished, there's still no one who does it much better than the master Ventriloquist, Paul Winchell.
In 1954 Winchell wrote the now classic book, Ventriloquism For Fun and Profit (now a collector's item). This video is based upon that book. And this VHS video also includes classic performance footage from Winchell's own library.
Via today's drawing, I award this last copy from my library collection to blog visitor: Nick Wing

12/19/10

Season's Greetings from David Fowler

Can you help?

From Mr. D: The following excerpts are from Roymar who is native to Sri Lanka. I met this gentleman at I-Fest in 2007, so I know his work and need is genuine. What he's asking will not be easy to grant, but if one of you feel compelled to further pursue the matter of such a possible donation*, please contact me: mahertalk@aol.com
* * * * *
From Roymar: I will introduce myself. I and my wife work amongst the poorest of the poor Children of Sri Lanka, .....for over 6 years we have entertained taught and assisted this lovely up & coming generation. My performances have been at no cost. As you know Sri Lanka has many such homes for such Children, mostly after the 2004 Tsunami, and of course the ethnic conflict which just ended after over 30 years, after taking away many a life. I lost a brother in the Tsunami, as he was a maintenance engineer in a coastal hotel which was washed away.

I have two figures Daniel & the other David. Both these super figures were gifted to me, and these two "sons" have done an yeomen service glorifying HIS name. I am also a Bible Illusionist and Puppeteer. Ventriloquism is something very rare in Sri Lanka, and I am the only one who does it in our own language, "Sinhalese". This I find is an excellent tool to Praise HIM more & more as Children seem to remember what they (figures) say. Last Sunday we spoke to 500 at one service.

Now we are in dire need of a Girl Figure as my wife is gearing herself to participate with me in Vent performances so we will have a 4 voice show. As such I am seeking your kind assistance to help me obtain one, even used it will be good enough for us. Could you please seek the possibility? You could be sure this will be help our Ministry.


Roymar Christian Performing Arts ("Roymar" is Royston & Marina, my wife's name.)
* * * * *
*Note from Mr. D: I made the figure shown on the right in the photo, and I believe Tim Cowles the figure on the left. A female doll may be hard to find, but if someone has a Charlie doll or Danny doll to donate, I have a wig and clothes - I would donate my shop time for conversion to a female character.

12/18/10


12/17/10

PRACTICE DOESN'T MAKE PERFECT!


by Mark Wade

We've all heard the old adage.."Practice makes perfect!". Not true! According to my own long-distance business mentor, Harvey Mackay of "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive!" book fame, this adage doesn't hold true any longer. If you are practicing the wrong things over and over again..that's not good!

You need to watch yourself, have others critique you, and make notes on the good and the not so good things you do. When you practice, practice with a purpose. KNOW what you want to accomplish..where you want to go. Make a list of areas of improvement and get to work on them.

I realize that sometimes it's an ad lib that makes the difference in a show, so when this happens remember to write it down and then work on practicing it in your set routine.

The new adage should be "PERFECT practice makes perfect!"..and that to me makes PERFECT sense! Practice over and over again the act in it's most perfect form and you will grow as a performer. Guaranteed!

12/16/10

FYI




I have this 40" figure by Dan Payes for sale. For more pictures and further description (with price) Click Here . It was built in 2001 but has never been used.

"Yow-eee!"

Removing the mouth from one of Lovik's basswood carved figures is as easy as locating the end of the mouth axle and pulling it from the head. And, it's the only way.

Of course, when the job is complete, there are a couple major "zits" to deal with!



* * * * *
Comment from Dr. Jeff Scott:
Looks like a great picture caption contest. I'll start:
"Clinton's new sideline...vent figure piercing pagoda."
or
"These days, even the vent figures are getting body piercing."
or
"Ya...a cheek ring...all the dummies are getting them'"

12/15/10

Strings vs. rods

Question: Which is best for control linkage on a figure, strings? Or, rods?

* * * * *
From Mr. D: I prefer braided nylon string to brass rods - always have and I've worked with both. String is smoother, quieter, and believe it or not, string is less troublesome.

String is also easier to repair. Brass rods running through tubes have a tendency to "gum up" over a period of years...much harder to disassemble and clean the metal mechanic than it is to simply replace a string. And a high quality braided nylon string (or cord) will last indefinitely. Seldom do I receive a figure with a broken string.

That's my opinion. You can easily find another figuremaker who will argue just the opposite. But that's my story and I'm sticking to it. :-)

12/14/10

Pep Club Leader?


This sporty little fellow could be a High School student leading cheers in your community...IF the school colors are blue and green and the school mascot a Bear. I've not decided that I want to get into such custom work, but I thought I would give at least one a try to how it would go.

And now that I have him finished, I believe I'll just give him away today.

And the winner is: N. Char Maun.

Go Grizzlies!

12/13/10

Finished!


If I made a top ten list of my personal favorite figure reconstructions, this fellow would make my list. He turned out better than I hoped and works very well, but the part I perhaps like best is the fact that he was literally saved from the trash dumpster. It's not the first time I've been able to rescue a figure that was in dire straights, and hopefully won't be the last. But for a figure maker, it is especially gratifying. The icing on the cake will be to see it being put to use in the manner in which he was intended. He's definitely one-of-a-kind, and while he may never smile himself, his presence will always cause others to smile and it doesn't get much better than that.

12/12/10

Voice Volume

Question: How loud should my vent voice be? How many decibels? Or maybe you have some other rule of thumb? How loudly do the pros actually talk when their are on-stage talking into a micrphone?
* * * * *
Answer: Without a microphone, you will need to speak loudly enough to be heard by the people in the back of the room. If this forces you to strain your voice, then you should be using a PA system. Even with a PA system, most performers will raise the volume of their voice some, just for added emphasis and effectiveness.

12/11/10

Detweiler/Elf Magic



You may remember this figure I built (right). Well, he has been sold. The new owner said he wanted to use it as an Elf with Father Christmas, and asked if I could make it into an elf. Very simply, that would require modification to the ears and costume.
You see the changes to the ears beginning above. And pictures of the finished job below.


12/10/10

Labial Issues

Problem: I'm having some issues with some words and I'm in the process of making a list to practice. I think I'm doing well with the labials when they are at the beginning of a word but, when they come in the middle of a word, for example "River", it takes on a whole new challenge. On the same topic when a word has a labial at the end followed by an "S", unintended words can fly out of my face. I'm thinking of using a puppet requiring slower speech, such as a turtle, thinking that might make it easier. Any help would be appreciated.
* * * * *
Remedy possibilities: Labials can be a trial - some more than others. And positioning in words does make a difference. Repetition is the secret, actually. Practice using the troublesome word in a sentence. Sometimes that makes a difference. Also experiment by forming the labial in a different manner, tip of the tongue for instance, instead of middle of the tongue,etc. Or vice versa. Add breath/force for emphasis. Or less breath/force. Experiment and repeat, and repeat, and repeat.

I do like the idea of a turtle puppet. His slow speech would be natural for him and easier for you...good idea.

Hang in there - don't give up. Every vent went through similar experience. You only have to master the labials once - then they are at your command for the rest of your life.

12/9/10


I am offering this nice, like new, vintage jacket and dickey shirt with bow tie for $12.00 postpaid on eBay Click Here .
Or purchase from me directly for $10.00 including postage - and with the cost of postage these days, that's practically giving these clothes away!
The set was taken from the Danny O'Day sold by Juro during the late '60s and very early '70s. These were taken from a new doll - they have been kept in smoke free storage since that day. (As I write this, I have 4 sets, but that could change at any time.)

Future fate of figure

"The picture here is of a figure given to me in a will, by Paul, a ventriloquist friend, who went on to the big stage in the sky." Harris Deutsch

* * * * *
Comment from Mr. D: I won't dwell on this matter because none of us like to think about it, but it would certainly make it easier and less stressful for families if more ventriloquists took early steps to direct the fate of their pals upon their own passing from this life to the next. Your friend left you with a prize possession and all of us with a perfect example. Be sure to read a related story in the post below.

A Puppet's life extended...


Marilyn M. Roques, Christian clown and Ventriloquist, passed away October 24, 2010. In her honor and memory, the family has donated her sizable family of puppets, including Danny (pictured here) to the Family Circus ministry of Darrell and Sandy Blatchley where they will be welcomed warmly and put to immediate use, in ways that would both honor and please Marilyn, who performed under the stage name of MIM, Marilyn In Mime.
Danny, originally sold as "Willie Winkle", has made a stop over at our house for a complete check up (he's in very good condition although I may add self-centering mechanism to his eyes) before he continues his journey with his pals to the Philippines where they will begin their new career.
Thus the ministry and vision of MIM continues. What a great and generous gift during this the season of giving by the Roques family.

12/8/10

"Lesson 18 Do-it-yourself Plans"

From Phil Nichols: Here is a sculpt of a new dummy I am building for our spring show using Lesson 18*. It's going to be a talking Crow like Bob Trent's Roscoe. I am calling him Bosworth. I have question. How do you make the ball and socket headblocks you use on your conversion figures? Is that a standard piece of wood that I can pick up or do you make them yourself?
* * * * *
From Mr. D: The wood used for the "ball" portion of my headposts is ordinary white pine that has been turned on a wood lathe. The gentleman who made these for me for over 30 years has retired and I no longer have my wood lathe, so when the few headposts I have remaining are gone, I'll be forced to come up with something myself.

NOTE: *Lesson 18 referred to is from the 1975 edition of the Maher Course and was a simple set of plans for building a ventriloquist figure. I do still have copies of this Lesson 18. $10.00 each postpaid.

Talk To The Animals


Col. Bill Boley's "Kentucky corn" style humor is still a favorite of both audiences and many performers. During our years at Maher Studios it was not at all unusual to receive a request from someone wanting to purchase "anything and everything" written by Bill Boley.
Timeless jokes and gags fill the pages, always written without a lot of filler or fluff. Just laugh line followed by laugh line. Talk To The Animals was one of Boley's first books. Bob Abdou had several duplicates in his personal collection of used ventriloquist books and sent me the three copies of Talk To The Animals (dialogues for vent with animal or bird puppet) being given away here today. The winners are: Doc Lowery, Doug Davidson, and Graeme Lyall.

Go to the Maher Bookstore site to see the full list of the Col. Bill Boley books I stock and sell: http://maherbookstore.blogspot.com

12/6/10

With or Without?




I'll let the person who purchases this figure decide which hair style they want. I'm finishing the body now - should have the figure (38") completed by the end of the week. I already have a $400 offer. If you want to get in on a chance to own this one-of-a-kind figure, just send me your offer: mahertalk@aol.com

Two-way Eyebrow movement!



Eyebrows both raise and lower from a single control lever, and return to neutral when the control is released.
Eyes move side-side and self-center when the control is released.
I'll have photos of the body as soon as completed - I just finished painting the hands
today.


Knee Pal Body For Sale


From my storage, here is a little used, (maybe never used - I'm not certain) Knee Pal body, complete. It was built in 1989 (dated inside) and is in near new condition. I repainted the hands.
This is the more traditional body that Craig Lovik used on the majority of his figures with the molded rigid latex torso, hands, and feet.
The neck opening is designed for the base of the head's neck to rest UPON the opening. I will line the opening with leather for smoother, quieter turning before shipping.
The pants are stapled in place in the rear, another Lovik feature of that period. They can be removed and I will do that for the buyer upon request. Otherwise, I will leave them in place.
I'm determined to clear my storage inventory of vent odds and ends through 2011/12, God willing, of course. So I'm getting a head start (if you haven't already noticed) and here's one more very useful item that's got to go! For sale through eBay auction now, (with additional photos). Click Here

Taylor Mason's Guide to Ventriloquism. Excellent!



Keith Suranna sent me a like new copy of Taylor Mason's book to be given to one of you blog visitors. I've said it before, but I'll say it again, I believe this is the finest instructional book on how to be a ventriloquist that is available today.
The lucky winner of this copy via today's prize drawing is: Karen Klimer.