A Dummy Speaks his thoughts...


By "Clarence Clutterfield"
(On the left in the photo at right)

“But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead.” (Phil. 3:13b)

Whew, Valentine’s week was an experience for an old man like me. Jim dragged me from place to place, but boy was it worth it. I got to meet all kinds of people, and even heard some of them laugh. That does an old man good. As a matter of fact, it does everyone some good.

Please don’t ask me where we’ve been. You see, I’m getting kind of forgetful these days. Many of you might think that is part of getting old. But if you ask me, it is simply a part of living. Of course, a part of living is getting old.

Let me run you through a brief test. Have you ever borrowed a pen from someone and then forgot to give it back? Uh huh, just as I thought. How about forgetting that you had locked your keys in your car? Ever forget to buy something at the store but remembered as soon as you got home? Yep, no one seems to have a corner on memory. Perhaps it’s because no one has a corner on aging.

I saw a lady yesterday in the parking lot who was obviously looking for her car. She had forgotten where it was. I was encouraged because she was a lot younger than me. In fact, everyone these days are a lot younger than me.

If you ask me, we are like computers. They always seem to be a little hard to figure out, and they never seem to have enough memory.

Last night I watched a show on T.V. for forty-five minutes, then started channel surfing during commercials. I didn’t finish watching the program because I couldn’t remember what channel I had been on. That’s okay though. I had forgotten the story.

I decided to go to the doctor with my memory problem. I told him that I was having trouble remembering. When I was standing at the mail box I couldn’t remember if I had just mailed the letter or if I had just come out to get the mail. When I stood at the foot of the stairs, I couldn’t remember if I needed to go up them, or if I had just come down them.

Finally, the doctor got the idea. He asked me, “How long have you had this problem.”
“What problem?” I replied.

Jim says not to worry about our memory. Worrying won’t help us to remember. In fact, he says that it is good to forget some things. We need to look at every day as an adventure in living under the control of our Heavenly Father and to look forward to the future while forgetting the past. We need to trust God with all of our needs, even our memory.

Jim says it’s okay to laugh at ourselves if we forget some things. That must be why I have been laughing a lot today. Who knows, perhaps I will even remember about what.

Clarence Clutterfield
and Jim Burke
(Clarence is a product of Axtell Expressions)

NAAV Sterling Silver Necklace

Only 144 were made, and that was over 35 years ago! Considering its age, this one doesn't look too much worse for the wear. (Actually, it has never been worn.) Made for members of the North American Association of Ventriloquists; now a collector's item. To be awarded by drawing in a few days to one of the readers who frequent this blog.


#46 Ventrilo-Card

Al Getler
(Card #10, Set #4)

Al Getler became interested in ventriloquism at the age of eight, when he received a Danny O'Day figure for Christmas. He taught himself the art of ventriloquism with the help of Jimmy Nelson's records, and performed for the first time professionally when he was twelve. He was inspired to become a ventriloquist after watching other ventriloquists on TV in the late 1960s.

Al has performed for many fortune 500 companies, casinos, conventions, comedy clubs, schools and colleges. He has been featured on FOX-TV, CBS News and ABC-TV's "Good Morning America."

Al continues to perform his act for corporations and groups around the country. He was appointed to the Board of Advisors for Vent Haven Museum, and has served as chairman of the Ventriloquist Convention twice, once in 1990 and again in 1995. Copyright 1995 OO-LA-La, INK.

NOTE: The above giant postcard along with an Al Getler DVD will be awarded to some lucky person next week!

Signed Getler picture!

Also to be awarded next week, this framed Great Ventriloquist collector card, signed by Al Getler (and "Floyd").


Jerry M. with Cracked head

This Jerry had fallen off a counter and his head was severely cracked (upper left photo). What you can't see is that the break ran all the way down the face, through the right eye, around the nose, to the corner of the mouth. Regluing and securing such a break is no problem at all if the head is going to be completely repainted. But the owner of this figure wanted it restored to as near original as possible - much more difficult.
I used "super glue" to repair the crack with spackling fill where needed. Then careful paint touchup, matching the various colors while keeping painting as minimal as possible. I was pleased with the results (upper right photo) as was the owner who after receiving the repaired figure sent me this note:
"You are a master of your craft. Mr. Lee never looked better -- I don't know how you did it. Thank you so much for giving the gift of your expertise."
To see photo samples of repairs I have done for other owners, take a look at my photo album here: http://maherphotos8.blogspot.com/ However, if you have a figure needing repair, please do not send it to me now - I have jobs in the shop scheduled into May. Mr. D

Today's Winners, Fri. 2/26

"Two and Only" signed by Jay Johnson Playbill: Bob Barrett

Achmed Talking Pen: Alex Reeve

Framed & signed "Ventrilo-Bucks": Shawn Kramer

"World of Thanks" (duo signed): Marilyn Beatty

Framed Smithsonian cover: Hillary Saffrin

Winners: Contact Mr. D within 14 days to confirm your address and claim your prize.



There's good reason why you do not often see eyelashes on figures with shell winkers. The purpose of this post is to give the owner an idea of how this figure looks with lashes.
I've used the same size eyelash on each eye, but they are mounted in two different ways. In this top photo, the figure's left eye looks the best (my opinion) with the eyes open. That's because I mounted the lash on the eyeball opening itself. But it is stationary.
The figure's right eye has the eyelash glued to the shell of the winker so the lash can move with the "eyelid" as it opens and closes.
The problem we run into when mounting the eyelash to the actual winker shell is this - the eyeball and shell are recessed into the head. So the eyelash becomes recessed as well and less visible. Also, the width of the eyelash is restricted because it has to fit within the eye socket opening.
The performance appearance and effectiveness needs to be considered as well, because it is not natural for the eyelash to remain stationary as the eye "blinks". (See photos below). While it is the owners desire to have oversize exaggerated eyelashes on her beauty, there's really no way to do so and have them mounted upon the winker shell of this figure.

Figure's right eye has the eyelash glued to the winker shell.

Figure's left eye has the same size eyelash glued to the top edge of the eye socket.

Personal to owner: Which method do you prefer I use?

Stolen Figure

Question: In 1993 I bought a vent figure from Maher named Corky. I have used this dummy in my full time children's ministry for all of these past 16 years. Unfortunately, about a month ago my van was stolen and my Corky figure (who I renamed Willie Bob) was in the van as well. So far neither the van nor the contents have been found. My insurance is covering the cost of personal items, including Corky. My question for you is: do you sell the Corky figure anymore, or do you know where I can purchase another one? The one I had was a 42 inch figure with moving head and eyes. I know I can just purchase another figure, but I have used this figure for so long and I have his personality ingrained so well, it would be difficult to come up with another personality, etc. Also, children to whom I minister are used to seeing Willie Bob and are always asking to see him. This is to me like Edgar Bergen without Charlie McCarthy! It just wouldn't be the same to see Edgar without Charlie. Jay Cooper
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Answer: I am so sorry for your loss. You're absolutely correct, you can replace a ventriloquist figure but it's next to impossible to duplicate the lost character. The large Corky sold by Maher Studios was built by Keith Lovik. For some reason I'm thinking that mold was retired, but I may be wrong. The best thing for you to do is contact Keith directly: info@lovikspuppets.com

And I'd advise you to keep your eye on eBay, Craig's list, etc. I seriously doubt the thief has any use for a vent figure and will somehow try to turn it into cash. It wouldn't be the first dummy to be rescued in this manner.

PS: I should mention that I did, by choice, make a switch with my primary figure years ago. And I had to decide what to do about the character's personality since the old and new figures looked nothing alike. I finally decided to give the new character it's own unique name but I retained for it the voice and personality of the old character. Other than me calling him by the wrong name once in awhile, there was no problem with the change. My audience did ask about the earlier character's whereabouts from time to time, but did not seem to notice his personality had been reincarnated in the new character which was interesting.
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Comment from Cleve Odom: "My heart goes out for the guy who had his figure stolen. I only have one figure and once at church I got busy doing things and left my figure outside my car and it got run over. It placed a hole in his head and crushed his plastic body and both hands.... You would have thought I had run over my own kid the way my wife acted it was on a Sunday. Luckily I went to auto zone and bought a fiber glass kit and repaired the hole in his head and his body. I then fixed his hand good enough till I could get some new ones. My wife made new cloth arms and we put the new hands on him repainted him and he was good as new."

Maher Ventril-o-Buck (signed)

In 1995 we produced from "The United Studios of Maher" some advertising "Funny Money" and called them Ventril-o-Bucks. They were actually accepted as cash on orders placed with Maher Studios, but only a few came back in that manner - most were saved by the holder as a collector's item.

Bob Abdou surprised me last week by sending me a packet of Ventril-0-bucks from his own collection! Since I had no more myself, these, from Mr. Puppet's own vault, were eagerly welcomed. Adelia and I signed the back of one for this mounted display of two which will make yet another trip to a new owner soon. Winner to be announced.

Marshall figure

From Kenny Warren:

"He" has arrived back to 'his' home in Brooklyn, New York. What a magnificent paint job you did on ol' "Joey", my treasured Marshall figure. I'm not sure if you realized it, but "Joey O'Leary" was the VERY last figure Frank Marshall was to make; Frank himself told me "Joey" was indeed a true Masterpiece, and as you saw, "he" is!

I can't begin to tell you how very pleased I am with the paint job; ol' "Joey" looks just like he stepped out of Frank's long gone studio on S. Loomis Blvd. in Chicago; "Joey" looks brand new again! It's like a trip back in time.

As you've no doubt noticed I really do have a passion for our shared art form; I especially love doing kids shows (the more kids the merrier!) and there's no doubt that "Joey" will continue to be a big hit! What I've been doing over the years is rotating my figures (I have a small collection, as you know) so that each wooden "kid" has a turn in the spotlight! And should I have a figure (for whatever the reason; sometimes it's economic!) that wouldn't get a turn in that spotlight, I'd rather move it along than keep a "little guy" in a suitcase, never to be utilized. Again, many thanks and regards to all, Ken


Smithsonian re-gift coming

Just as a matter of information. The framed Smithsonian cover has gone unclaimed from an earlier drawing (yes, I'm surprised, too). It will be re-gifted with new winner to be announced Friday.
(Just a reminder, winners of drawings have a period of 14 days to contact me, confirm their address and claim their gift. So if you see your name has been drawn, don't assume you will automatically receive your gift. I ship only after I've heard from the winner and confirm the shipping address. Mr. D)

From Tom Farrell

"Listening to Edgar Bergen and Charlie on the Chase an Sanborn hour on radio got my interest in vent when I was a kid of 14. I got his book at the library and practiced, and practiced.
"A local drug store had a Charlie type doll (with a pull string in the neck) which they called 'Dapper Dan'. You couldn't buy 'Dapper Dan', but you could get him by making purchases at the store and getting a card punched. I had EVERYBODY in my family and my neighborhood buying at that Rexall store and getting my card punched.
"Finally I had a figure. I dressed him a little different, named him 'Jerry McDuff' , won an amateur contest in school, and went on to perform when the Ted Mack radio show came to Cincinnati. All this in a year. In a large part, all this because of Edgar Bergen (note: Jerry McDuff now lives at Vent Haven and I am in my 70's).
"When I first saw the pictue of 'Edgar packing Charlie' on your blog I was really taken by it. I saw in it more than just a vent putting a figure away, but the affection and tenderness displayed. Edgar cushioning the case with his feet to protect Charlie from the hard floor. Charlie, turning to Edgar, seemingly saying, 'Not yet Bergen, I still have my hat on'. Edgar lovingly arranging his friend in just the most comfortable way. The light streaming through the windows seemed to enhance and reflect the awesome and powerful talent of Edgar Bergen with Charlie which almost literally leaps from the picture. " Tom Farrell

To you, from Achmed!

Well, actually, this Achmed talking pen (you can guess what it says!). comes as a gift to one of you lucky blog visitors from Jeff Dunham. It will be awarded by drawing here later this week. To see all Jeff's official merchandise, go to http://www.jeffdunham.com/


Two and Only Playbill (signed!)

Thanks to Jay Johnson, one visitor to this blog will win an autographed Playbill from Jay's Tony Award winning Broadway show, The Two and Only! . This Playbill came from the first month the show was open because the front cover is in full color. Broadway tradition is to go to black & white covers after the first few weeks because they are cheaper to print. Several pages are dedicated to Jay, his career, and the show. I reprinted one of the photo pages below. So this item is special for several reasons and will be awarded soon. Thank you, Jay! http://www.monkeyjoke.com/

Today's Winners, Tues. 2/23

Fred Maher "Side by side" Framed photos: M. A. Denemark

Great Ventriloquist (Barth) Framed Collector Card: M. M. Towne

Edgar Bergen "Packing Charlie" Framed Postcard: Roger Riggs, Tiffany Cox, and Tom Farell.

"Family Portrait" Framed Ventoon (photo right): Ross Brown

Dialogue Magazine (Winter Issue 1989: Mark Lewis

Pocket Puppet: Penny Luben, Cliff Wiggs, Mike Palma, and Mike Brown

Winners: Contact Mr. D to confirm your address and claim your prize/gift.


Fred Maher, "Side-by-side"

What a delightful piece of historical memorabilia! A single Framed piece with side-by-side photos of Fred Maher with Skinney Dugan #1 (on the right) and #2 (on the left).

The first Skinney "Jimmy" Dugan was a self-made project by Fred. In a letter I have in my files, he stated that he made it from Pastic Wood. Whether it was before or after he and Madeleine were married, I do not know. Nor do I know what year the photo on the right was taken. I do know Madeleine removed the original 8x10 off her wall to give to me in 1969.

Skinney #2 is the much better known McElroy figure that was featured in the advertising for Maher School of Ventriloquism from 1951 onward until the early '70s when we began to phase out that character image as the face of Maher Studios advertising.

This rare piece will be awarded to some lucky blog reader tomorrow.

Pick Me! Pick Me!

Steve Kissell

Techniques for Selecting Volunteers

Deciding on whom to have as an assistant or helper on stage is very important to the success of the performance. The right child can make or break the show. Here are a few ideas that I utilize to insure that the presentation goes well. Since I am always at the show site at least one hour in advance, I have time ask the person in charge for a few names of adults or children that would be good on stage. The boss really likes the opportunity to involve their friends or to reward a child by participating. They will also know which kids that should NOT be on stage due to behavior or physical abilities issues.

I love to introduce myself to the audience and inform the children that from time to time I will be inviting some of them to help me right from their chairs and some of them will have the chance to come up on stage with me. However, I only choose children that are sitting up nice and straight and that have very big brains! This is very important as I don't want to embarrass anyone. Raise your hand only when I ask you to and remember, must have a giant big brain!

Of course, my job there is to have fun with the children and give them an entertaining and educational experience. I am not there to embarrass them. If they do answer incorrectly, I will guide them to the correct answer.

Please have an escort ready if the students have to walk up some level of stairs. Always better to be prepared there. If the performance is at a theater, then an escort needs to take the children up on stage to you through the wings and back to the seating area again.A performer should be mindful of race when selecting volunteers. It would be obvious if there were only a few of one race in the audience and the performer selected only those children during the show. Mix it up when selecting volunteers with race, gender and even size. Be mindful to have a variety of children to assist you.

If the entertainer has a hand held microphone and asks a child their name, then bend down and let the child answer in the microphone or at least repeat the name of child several times during the routine. This technique will validate not only their name but them as a person. While the child is on stage, do NOT handle them roughly by forcing them to bow, smile or turn their head a certain way. It is always better to whisper a request into the child's ear. This is what a gentle entertainer does. You never know, the child you pick for the stage may someday hire you for their child's birthday party!

Steve Kissell www.FamilyComedian.com
From Family Entertainer's Newsletter, February 2010

#45 Ventrilo-Card

Dan Barth
(Card #9, Set #4)

Dan Barth was born on June 3rd, 1943 in Peoria Ill., "the toughest town in show business." He learned his first card trick when he was nine. As a teenager Dan passed the time at Harold Martin's magic shop, hearing the tales of old vaudeville.

In 1969, Dan met movie start and vaudevillian Max Terhune on a train. The two developed a lasting friendship, and Max taught Dan ventriloquism. In 1973, Dan started performing "Barth's Old Time Medicine Show," a tribute to old time entertainers. Dan has been featured on the PBS TV series "Fold Stories" and was creator, host, and co-producer of "Americana On Tour."

Today, Dan tours nationwide, playing major fairs, festivals, and special events performing with his Pinxy figure "Max", named in honor of his late friend and teacher, Max Terhune.
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The above was written and copyright 1995 by OO-LA-LA, INK. I just received this note from Doc Lowry: "He (Dan) lives in Congerville, Illinois with his wife and still does what you have on your blog (above)." www.danbarth.com

Voice from the past

From Renee' La Viness

When I was a teenager, back in the mid- late 1970's, my dad was helping me find professional vent figures, instead of the little Charlie McCarthy doll that Santa picked up at Sears for me, when I was only 12. (That Charlie doll and I were on evening radio for a good while and the dj dubbed him "Charlie McDoogle" which we kept for his name, after that.)

When searching for figures and more information, my dad found the info he was after. I don't know how he did it, back then... with no internet. Searching for such an unusual thing must have been terribly hard. But, he found it.

Before I could buy that vent figure, I was busy having children and playing house. I've never stopped wanting a professional figure, though. I still have Charlie and my husband made him a new, tinted monocle, years ago. I have clothes I bought and clothes I made for Charlie, over the years. I've brought him out on occasion, for my grandchildren to enjoy. However, I'm still hoping to one day buy a vent figure from you.

Tonight, as I was going through some of the things that survived a tornado on December 8th, 2008, I found this item I thought you might be interested in seeing. It was the old order form my dad came up with for me. I believe it originally came in a brown envelope with a catalog, but I did not see the catalog as I was searching, so I assume it did not survive the tornado. On the back of the order form, my dad had written "Natl American Association of Ventriloquists." I hope seeing this old order form makes you smile with memories of good times past.

Let's see... I recall some nifty features in the figures, back then. I recall winking, elbowing, sticking out the tongue and I can't remember if your figures were the ones that also had the natural mouth, or not. But, I do remember seeing them. I assume they didn't last so well, so folks prefer the slotted mouths, after all? Or, did the maker decide not to continue them? My husband is a custom cuemaker and I've seen him discontinue use of a material, because he is not happy with it.

I also had a huge notebook full of old newsletters for ventriloquists from back then, but I am not sure if I they are still here. A ventriloquist in Tulsa kindly gave them to me, at that time. So glad to have found you online. I have a feeling my granddaughter is going to want to follow in her Granny's footsteps... ;-)



Here's a new, "one-of-a-kind" vent figure just created by Animated Puppets. "Arthur" and his last name "Iris" Yep, that's right! "Arthur Iris" (Arthritis), get it? Just a little fun with his name.

He looks old but he's brand NEW! Turn head full circle, tilt, nod etc. Side to side self centering eyes, along with raising eye brows. Smooth, easy and quiet movements and controls. So simple to handle and operate. His head is constructed of polypropylene and his hands are made of Latex rubber. Arthur is ready to tell you all about his life, and maybe some things you don't want to know, but that's up to you!
( Note: Arthur was sale on eBay auction, but has now been sold

From Lisa:

"Richard arrived yesterday in perfect condition! He is so cute. We couldn't wait for Birthday time so my son got him early. Thought you might like this picture of him and his new buddy.

"My son has spent alot of time at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh last year with a tumor and he's anxious to get "an act together" for local hospital children. He already has some school jokes he's practicing with.
"Thanks again for your wonderful work and speedy delivery!"

My Puppet Story

From Rose Baggerly

I made my first puppet in January 1977 at a college workshop. My first puppet was a hot pink furry monster that I named Herman. He's really dumb and the kids love him because they are smarter than him. He can only count to three since he only has three fingers and the shows I do usually contain an audience of kids that are able to count much higher. By having the kids teach Herman what comes after three, the kids who might otherwise be afraid of puppets relax and they are able to enjoy the show.

I have spent many years since then doing shows, conducting puppet workshops and donating puppets that I've made to churches and orphanages. I've traveled to many places in Texas and Louisiana and in July 2005, I went to Sri Lanka (a country southeast of India) in order to donate 80 puppets to the orphanages after the Tsunami had hit in December 2004. A photo of those puppets and myself is attached. I found out later that one of the girls I sponsor thru a non-profit organization was doing puppet shows for the kids in the orphanage. It was great news and I was overjoyed! She had lost all of her family, so she's had a difficult life. The puppets seem to have given her a new lease on life. I'm really proud of the example she is setting for the kids in her orphanange.

It's been such an honor to be a puppeteer. Right now I do about fifteen different voices and personalities.

I was viewing a website today and reading about ventriloquism. My adopted son, who is only 5 years old, watched me try ventriloquism, and he decided he wants to practice with me. Thank you for providing the learning tools I need to expand my puppetry work.


I need your help!

I'm out of pocket puppets. And after 30+ years of order and reordering thousands of these useful little puppets, the company that produces them declines to take a reorder telling me, in a couple words, they are "too difficult".

Now, I understand some jobs are more difficult than other. I experience that in my shop as well. In fact, if I was only going to accept the easy orders and repair jobs, I'm working on a couple jobs in my shop now that are "too difficult".

So, I can simply end the Pocket Puppet's run and save $1,000. Or, I can try to convince the manufacturer that these are more than advertising gimmicks. They serve a practical purpose for their owners.

That's were you can help. I need your feedback on how you have used your Pocket Puppet. An experience that was inspirational, beneficial, historical, practical, educational, therapeutical, comical, etc. Send them to me: mahertalk@aol.com I sincerely appreciate your help!

I've set up a special page deicated to the Pocket Puppet. I will eventually use it to reappeal to the manufacture to accept my reorder: www.pocketpuppet.blogspot.com

Now's your chance!

Several readers have commented on how much they like this photo of Edgar Bergen packing Charlie. It's one of my favorites as well. It reminds me of Bergen's closing words on his final show at Caesar's Palace, September 29, 1978:
"Every vaudeville act must have an opening and a closing, so I'll pack up my jokes and my little friends...and say... goodbye..."
This gift has gone unclaimed, so I will now re-gift it to someone with the winner to be announced Tuesday (2/22) Mr. D.


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The cartoons above were reprinted from Dialogue Magazine, Winter Issue 1989. 32 pages. Bob Ladd, Editor. This collector's issue of Dialogue will be awarded next week. It is provided for this gift give-away by Bob Abdou, http://www.mrpuppet.com/

Something fishy here...

When Ron Havens sent me a small wooden toy hand puppet, asking if I could rig it so it worked like "Jose Jalapeno", he knew he wanted some sort of trigger control in the back of the headstick. But the stick was too short so I added an extension. Then a string was attached to the top rear of the head (which was already hinged), threaded through a hole I drilled in the lower half of the head and tied to a "U" shaped control lever I made. It worked well - just noisy when the mouth was closed since the halves of the head were wood. So I gave the talking-swimmer a felt tongue (I know fish do not have tongues, but it's a puppet!), and problem solved. Ron plans to use it in a classroom setting, and for that purpose, I believe it will work very well. Just another pocket puppet variation.

Thanks from the BOTH of us!

Yesterday I gave away a framed Maher Studios' "World of Thanks" with my signature. But Maher Studios has always been a team effort, so at my request, Adelia also signed her name on this second one. It will be given away in a drawing with winner to be announced next week.


Today's Winners, Fri. 2/19

Framed Edgar Bergen Photo (see post for 2/18): Ed Thomas
Framed & signed "World of Thanks" Maher Studios memorabilia (see post for 2/16): Dan Batten
Creating A Character book: Mark Garrett
Conquering Stage Fright Book: Mavin Schinske
"You're Number 1" Maher Ventriloquist Studios Key Rings (pictured here) , one each to: Larry Adams and Doris Boger
Pocket Puppet: Curtis Jones, Carl Richards, and Barb Phoenix
Note to winners: Contact Mr. D to confirm your address and claim your prize.

Changing wigs

Question: I have a question about applying a new girl wig to a boy figure. I would like to change a vent figure to a girl with long hair. How do I remove the old hair and how do I apply the new wig? I could keep the boy hair wig under the new girl wig, I guess, but is that something you would recommend? Please advise.
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Answer: If a wig is stapled on as a few are, you simply remove the staples. Most wigs are glued on. I cut them loose with a Xacto knife with convex blade (very carefully for my finger's sake), beginning at the nape of the neck and working my way up and over the head.

Glue and/or staples are pretty much the standard for wig installation.

It does sometimes work to simply slip a well fitting female wig directly over the male wig still installed on the head. It pretty much depends on the female hair style. You might have to trim the boy's sideburns so they are not exposed from under the upper wig.


Graduating Class of ??

It appears from the hats and rolled diploma's that Bergen's cast of characters has just graduated from some institution of higher (or lower) education. This picture was on the cover of Logos newsletter, 1977. (Logos was an organization of ventriloquists in Japan.) I know Charlie, Mortimer, and Effie, and the gentleman on the lower right is Lars Lundquist* who only spoke in Swedish. (*And from Kelly Asbury's book, Dummy Days, pg.37 ". . . Bergen performed with Lars for special events, including an appearance before Sweden's Royal Family. On that occasion Bergen and Lars were honored with 'The Royal Order of Vasa' and 'The Order of the North Star' conferred by King Gustav V." )

I will frame this picture and it will be given away with winner to be announced tomorrow.

Give the dog a Bone!

At least a half dozen times I have been asked to repair vent figures that have been damaged by dogs who have decided an unattended dummy would make a good chew toy. Recently it happened again with this figure who arrived missing a couple fingers plus multiple bite marks on the hands.

I rebuilt the missing and damaged fingers and repainted both hands. It took more time to repair the hands than it would have to replace the hands entirely, but I thought it important to keep these hand carved wooden hands with their unique artistry. Plus, their classic style was a much better match to the head (a Foy Brown figure) than any of the modern molded hands would have provided. (All photos show the hand as they are being repaired. I failed to get a photo of the finished job - sorry.)

Feelings of Apprehension?

By Col. Bill Boley

One of the first steps in overcoming stage fright is to remember that all vents get butterflies in their stomach just before they perform. I have performed over 4,000 times in the past 20 years and I still feel some apprehension before every performance. I'm not alone. Several years ago I went to see Edgar Bergen perform and after his performance, one of the things we talked about was stage fright. The old master vent himself said he still felt butterflies just before each performance.

The main secret of reducing such feelings is to get your mind off yourself and direct your energies to your performance. Here are a few things that will help reduce stage fright and apprehension:

1) Be sure you know your vent routine well. Go through the routine in practice over and over again. Practice, practice, practice. Get some of your family to watch and listen to you as you practice.

2) If possible, use a routine that you have used in front of a live audience several times before.

3) Start your act off with jokes that you know have been getting laughs.

4) Pick a friend or relative in the audience and perform to them. If you have no friends or relatives in the audience then pick out a friendly face.

5) Be friendly and smile at your audience and let them know that you are enjoying what you are doing.

6) Sometimes it helps to "ham it up". Just a little. Over act just a bit - just don't overdo it.
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Taken from the chapter Overcoming Stage Fright by Col. Bill Boley in the book, Conquering Stage Fright, published and copyright 1980 by Maher Ventriloquist Studios. One copy of this book will be awarded free tomorrow.
Also for sale: $5.00 postpaid.
Contact Mr. D



Question: Good morning Clinton- I hope all is well with you. I was wondering if you could answer a question for me? Is the dummy pictured here in this email...one from Fred/Madeleine Maher...or is it one of yours? Doug
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Answer: Well...I don't know. The sculpting appears to be Madeleine's. But the smoother finish and the paint job look more like mine. I wonder if this was built by Madeleine but at some point passed through my hands for refurbishing? I believe I would have to actually see the figure first hand and maybe take an inside look at the mechanics within the head to make positive ID. Interesting. Clinton PS: Nice tux someone's dressed him in!

Puppeteer or Ventriloquist?

By Ken Groves

Building a character is like building a house. You must have a strong foundation and basement. Then you add the first story and finish your house with roof and trim. If you are weak in any area of construction, it will show up in the finished product -- your character. So when building a character, start with a strong foundation and good basement. The foundation being good technique:

(a) Lip Control
(b) Voice clarity
(c) Manipulation

The layman's definition of a ventriloquist is "a person who talks without moving their lips, and makes the puppet seem alive." So give the audience what they expect. If you can't do that, you are a puppeteer -- not a ventriloquist.

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Taken from Ken Groves' book, Creating Your Character, which will be awarded on this blog later this week.

The mouth sticks

Question: Hi. I ordered a vent figure from you around 5 or 6 years ago. The mouth is sticking now and wondered if you could offer some suggestions. I have been a ventriloquist for many years in children's church and in prison ministry. I learned how through your book when I was 16, have bought 2 figures and several of the script books through you all. It has been a great tool in ministry and I appreciate you making all of this available for so many years.

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Answer: The mouth is most likely sticking alongside his mouth or under his chin. Try first to use a metal fingernail file inserted into the slot along each side of his mouth, especially the lower portion of the side slot. Then open the mouth to see if the file becomes wedged at some point. If so, that is where you need to file (in and out) until the mouth opens and closes freely.

Now, if the underside of the mouth (under the chin) is catching on the neck, you will need a Xacto knife with concave curved blade to carefully trim some of the neck opening to provide slightly more clearance.

If all efforts fail, you can send me the head and I'll fix the problem.
Mr. D


Posthumous Award?

Press Release
Maher Ventriloquist Studio Receives 2009 Best of Littleton Award.
U.S. Commerce Association’s Award Plaque Honors the Achievement.

WASHINGTON D.C., June 8, 2009 -- Maher Ventriloquist Studio has been selected for the 2009 Best of Littleton Award in the Puppets & Marionettes category by the U.S. Commerce Association (USCA).

The USCA "Best of Local Business" Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USCA identifies companies that they believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.
Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2009 USCA Award Program focused on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the USCA and data provided by third parties.
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Note From Clinton: It's not hard to be the "Best" in your city when you are the only such business in town, but being the best three years after going out of business is a pretty good trick indeed - even when closed we're still the best! I'm not sure that's a compliment. Hmmm. Of course, we're informed that to receive the crystal award shown here we need to send $199.95 for engraving and handling. I could have one made for a fraction of the price from the owner of the local trophy shop down the street. And I'll bet he could even spell "Ventriloquism" correctly.

A world of thanks!

In the '90s we sometimes (when I remembered) applied a seal to the outside of customer packages that read, "A World Of Thanks; Maher Studios, Littleton, Colorado".

Those words still ring true today! I have framed one of the seals and signed the piece. It will be given away later this week.


Mark Wade Writes


Along with having fun and working through your act by audience testing, the next big step to success is to make sure you have characters that appeal to the audience. I've seen vents that have good technique, and good material, but the puppet works against them. These vents feel that they are so creative in writing and perfecting an act that they can also create their own characters. Sometimes they can, most often they can't. Puppet and figure making is an art unto itself, and unless you have the natural bent toward this I would advise going to a professional puppet / figure maker to help you complete the act or show.

Ugly or homemade-looking puppets distract the audience. Instead of listening and enjoying the show the audience is thinking, "Wow! what an ugly puppet!". Your act can never gain momentum because the puppet is working in the opposite direction from where you want to go. I don't care if your Great Uncle Rudolph made this puppet for you when you were in grade school, distracting puppets, no matter where their origin, don't help anyone.

When you are developing your act or show, decide on what kind of puppets or figures would best suit you, work on an appropriate voice that matches the special characteristics of the puppet (you wouldn't give a high, girl - sounding voice to an old man puppet..), and then proceed on finding your puppet or figure maker who can deliver a professional product for you to use.

Remember, we are a visual art as well as an auditory art, so choose your friends well and your puppet friends even more carefully! And please don't make this an ordeal for yourself...the object is to entertain as well as for you to have FUN!

Who dunnit?

Question: If the string(s) should ever break, Can I go in through the mouth somehow (does the jaw fit over a small bar), or must I somehow undo the wig and go through the top of the head? This has never happened to me, and I hope it doesn't, but I also know that there is always a possibility and nothing (i.e. string) lasts forever. I am guessing that it quite an involved process (beyond me) to repair a broken string. Were many of this character built? Thanks! Jim
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Answer: You have one of the Maher Studios "Hal's" (Jerry Mahoney conversions). There's no way for me to give you a number built because their production began with Madeleine Maher and then overlapped into my time of producing figures for maybe two years. I know I probably built a dozen or more. Madeleine (with George Eazer as mechanic) producd many more than me. So 50-100 total? Strictly a guess.

The mouth on this figure can be pulled out from the front for string replacement. Don't remove it any further than absolutely necessary to avoid overstretching the spring which could result in an even bigger problem. There is a "door" under the wig. When necessary to open the head, I remove the wig (using a Xacto knife with convex blade) beginning at the base of the neck and working upward just enough to expose the door. Usually I do not have to disturb the wig's hairline from the front. I'm going to guess that this head already has had some wok done, as the eyes are more modern than those wooden balls with sunken marbles for pupils that would have been installed originally. And the wig has been changed. He's been repainted, too. I'll even go so far as to guess that I probably did the work! Mr. D

Today's Winners, Mon. 2/15

Framed Ventoon "Dummy Love": Ron Butcher
Framed Mike Shirley Collector Card #47 (Set #4, Card #11) with duplicate card: Warren Lawson
Ventriloquism Revealed book (signed): Joe Radle and Jack Austin
Pocket Pupppet : Christine Barger, Ed Cima, and Scott Bryte
Note to winners: Contact Mr. D to confirm your address and claim your prize.