Good morning Clinton,
I stayed up most of the night working on your riddle from a day or so ago. Terry Fator's KHODRRAW. After much HARD WORK I think I finally solved it. I believe that Terry has a lower paid staff member who is constantly searching around the land for the newest GEEKIE type puppet to turn into a star.
This staff member is a bit of a redneck, so he just wanders throughout the land muttering loudly to any puppet who might be listening. WHAR DORK, . . .WHAR DORK, . . .WHAR DORK. Every now in then one will answer. . . . Heer I Is, I be the Dork U R looking for. . . and a Star is Born!!!
KHODRRAW could also be a dyslectic Marine from Oklahoma talking about his latest sketch in Mono sylables.
(As you well know, when we stop having fun. . . we might as well quit.)
Have a great day.
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"Received your coin and I can not express my great delight enough. I will treasure it always. I am going to have it framed to hang in my den as a sign of encouragement of continueing in my favorit hobby." Don Jones
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"I just wanted to drop you a note letting you know that I have received the Vent Collector Coin. It really does look better in person. A very nice vent collectible. Thank you for being kind enough to give these out to your readers and friends. They are very nice. Thanks." Jeff Walters
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"Many thanks for the $5 coin, I am really thrilled at receiving this in the mail. I was thinking what I could do with this coin, and then I saw on this mornings entry that they would make a good key ring, so I will go and see if I can find a holder to fit this coin. Once again, many, many thanks for this memento." Doug Price
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From Clinton: The skull to which you refer, has a jaw built on the slide principle, with a jaw of significant thickness moving downward over the FRONT of the face.
On a photo or picture, however, the mouth will be quite thin, and is best when it slides down BEHIND the picture. I don't think I have anything at hand that was made in this manner. 30 years or so ago I printed up a series of plans for "poster puppets". They did have plans for such puppets with moving mouth and eyes. I don't know if I can find any of them or not, but I will check around.
I've read many articles about ventriloquists and ventriloquism over the years, but the 10 page feature in the August 1989 issue of The Atlantic Monthy by Cullen Murphy is one of the best. The exquisite illustrations by Bill Nelson (incluing those seen here) make it that much more special for any collector of ventriloquist memoribilia. I sure hope John Iskat is following my blog today because that is the name we drew to receive a free copy of this magazine (provided for this drawing by Dale Brown).
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I recommend using only BRAIDED NYLON string. I use a heavy fisherman's line, but braided (not the twisted) mason's line will work as well. I've never had such line break on it's own. It can be cut if it passes repeatedly over a sharp edge or burr so you will want to make certain there is no such happening. Even a burr too small to be seen can do damage, so be sure to sand all edges and replace any screw eyelet that is causing the string to wear.
If there is a sharp turn along the string's path that causes the string to wear by friction, you may need to add a pulley or turning dowel or something similar. Vaseline as a lubricant at such friction points will also prolong the life of the string.
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Reply: Thank you for the idea and your more than kind and encouraging words. Writing a puppet making "how to" book has been suggested to me more than once. But after preparing a lesson on building a simple vent figure for an earlier version of the Maher Course (Lesson 18, copyright 1975), I know only too well how much work it is to put together such instructions. I can't see myself doing that again. I do from time to time try to show on this blog some of the general steps of construction of the puppets without getting into great detail which I fear 95% of the readers would find quite boring.
William Andersen did prepare a book on figure making. It is titled Make Your Own Dummy, published by Maher Studios. I do still have copies which I sell. You will find a more detailed description with price here: http://maherbookstore.blogspot.com/2008/12/make-your-own-dummy.html
I received the signed and framed Ventrilo-Buck today (Blog Prize). My husband, Al, and I are thrilled with it. We read it carefully and really appreciated the play on words. We were also impressed with the attention to detail displayed in the matting. What a careful craftsman so you. Al was wondering if you are Lipps R. Still or Wood N. Dummy?
I am having a wonderful time doing small shows for Sunday Schools and Head Start family nights. My little soft puppet, Lily, was invited to two birthday parties tonight after a Head Start event. I suppose I was invited also.
My official retirment from the education profession was June 30th but I have a feeling that I will be as busy as I want to be entertaining/educating small children after that date. I can't wait for the next phase of my life to begin. Of course, my troupe of puppets is anxious to get out and meet everyone.
The decision to sign up for the Maher course and follow through with the lessons was one of the smartest moves I've ever made. Thanks for your support and encouragement along the way.
Our anniversary celebration will begin in earnest next week as our family gathers from near and afar.
Note: The above photo was taken on stage at the 1984 International FCM Night Show (Winona Lake, Indiana) where I was emcee.
I was never a big fan of mechanical animations built into the body of a vent figure. However, requests were strong, especially for a "handshaker". The body in the photo was built by Lovik. When the brass lever is pressed downward/forward, the rigid arm moves forward/raises.
Since the arm is rigid with hand solidly attached, the fingers are more at risk for damage and extra care must be used when using and packing the figure.
© 2010 J.B. Radle
My wife and I, we took a ride to ole Kentuck
Were lots of folks with puppets, just ran amuck
I think it’s only right I mention
We were headed to a ventriloquist convention
We got some rain and then it got sunny
Me and my lady, I call her, Honey Bunny
We made the trek in just one day
Thanks to the maps from the folks at the triple A
I had packed my puppets and you might ask-it
What the heck I’ve got in the casket
Count Vladimir Dracula is his name
In Transylvania he’s got some fame
My Good Friend, Jet, from down Alabama ways
Made him for me, in what seemed like, only days
He’s really not one of those horror type blokes
But made for fun and telling jokes
Little kids he will not frighten
I hope his skits will only brighten
And, while he is a somewhat scary guy
He won’t say things to make them cry
I brought some money, some call it “Geld”
Because Dracula needed a side kick named, Renfeld
You won’t believe the luck I had
I found the perfect guy for, Vlad
Once again, my friend, Jet came through
I saw him, liked him, and bought him, too
The Count and Renfeld hit it off
Just like fire, draws a moth
I’ve got a team to now delight
And, I’ll tell everyone, he doesn’t bite
I’ll write some bits to work these two
To make folks laugh, I hope, don’t you
Sometimes a small figure can be made more usable for an adult by simply enlarging the size of the torso. Even a small amount of added space have make a huge difference. Thus was the situation with this figure.
In addition, I've listed several for sale on eBay Here.
I was the only bird perched on the small tree’s limb and couldn’t help but overhear the conversation between Eddie Eastward and Clarence Clutterfield. They were sitting at a sheltered table in the patio area. Eddie tries to visit Clarence weekly.
“What’ve you been doing with yourself lately?” Clarence asked his young friend.
“I’ve been playing all types of games with my buddies,” Eddie answered.
“Like what?” Clarence wanted to know.
“You know, games like ‘pin the tail on the monkey,’ and ‘musical stools,’” Eddie explained.
“Oh yeah, I know what you mean” Clarence grunted. “I play games like that all the time!”
“You’ve gotta be kidding,” Eddie answered. “I didn’t think that’s possible. Why, you’re in a…you’re in a…” Eddie was stumbling for the words.
“Home?” Clarence muttered. “Is that what you’re trying to say?”
“Well, uh, yeah, I guess that’s the word I’m looking for. And because, you’re uh, well uh, kinda..
“old?” Clarence interjected once again. “Are you trying to say that because I’m old and live in a veteran’s ‘facility’ that you don’t think I have fun?”
“Well, uh, I guess so, Clarence. We’ve known each other for a long time, and I know that some things do change. You ain’t exactly a spring chicken.”
“You don’t really think you youngsters have a corner on fun, do ya?” Clarence replied. He seemed to have a twinkle in his eye. “As a matter of fact, we play the same kind of games you do. They’ve just been readjusted for mature adults like me.”
“Really?” Eddie responded. He never really considered Clarence mature. Old, definitely. Mature, never.
“Yep. We play games like, ‘musical recliners,’ ‘spin the bottle of Mylanta,’ ‘red rover, red over, the nurse says bend over,’ ‘Doc, Doc, Goose,’ ‘sag, you’re it!’ and ‘pin the toupee on the bald guy,’” the old man said with a laugh.
“Hum, that’s quite inventive, Clarence,” Eddie had to admit.
“Hey, fellows, what’s up?” Jim had just entered the patio area.
“Well, we were just comparing notes on games we play,” Clarence explained.
“Yeah,” Eddie added. “I can’t wait to get old to play some of Clarence’s games. It must be a hoot where he’s at.” “And that’s a new revelation to you?” Jim smiled.
“I thought people got too old to have fun,” Eddie added sheepishly.
“Fun is a frame of mind. A person’s never too old for that,” Jim replied. ”The real problem erupts when some people play life games where others get hurt.”
“What d’ya mean?’ Clarence and Eddie asked at the same time.
“Some people play ‘King of the Hill,’ thinking that meeting their own needs is all that matters” Jim explained. “They push others away from their ‘hill.’ Other individuals play ‘Tug of War.’ They quickly choose up sides on any given issue and do everything they can to get people to come over to their side. And, some people even play ‘King Me’ ‘and desperately want others to affirm and acknowledge their accomplishments. The problem is, they can never accomplish enough and people resist ‘Kinging’ them.”
“Wow,” Eddie said.
“Gee Willikers” Clarence exclaimed. “Aren’t there some folks in the big World who play some edifying games?” he wanted to know.
“Yep.” Jim was happy to share. “Those who truly know Jesus love to play games like ‘give away’, as they think of new ways to share with others. They play “Who wants to be a Missionary?” as they ponder world needs. These followers also fill their days playing, ‘Whose serve is it?’” and the winner is the one who serves others the most.” With that, Jim had to go back inside (I think I know why, but I’m not telling).
There was a strange silence after Jim left. Eddie was the first to break the spell. “Hey, Clarence, how about playing a game of chess,” he offered. “You can be white if you want.” Clarence had never been given that choice before.
“You’re on!” Clarence replied.
As I flew off, I knew that something had definitely changed within me since their conversation began. As I glanced back at a game between two individuals of different generations, I sensed I was not alone.
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Answer: Personal training would be my first choice, of course, but where will you find a ventriloquist who is offering personal training? Even the majority of pro ventriloquists learned from a book or a Course of some sort, at least initially. Once you know what to do (that's what the Course teaches), mastering the skill is a matter of dedicated practice, (and that, only you can provide). Yes. you can really learn from the Maher Course . (Don't put off your purchase too long. I'm selling from my final reserve inventory.)
"Hi, My name is Ray Hodges and I would love to be on your list for the drawings. Way back in 1973 I won one of your prizes. It was one of the birds* that was based on a tin can head and bleach bottle body (I think). I had just ordered the basic "Randy" figure with living mouth and a pink bird. When the purple bird* showed up I was kinda shocked, but it was the beginning of more than a quarter century of running around making people laugh and winning souls. I have forgotten many things over the years, but your name and the Box 420 address has always been there, and I want to thank you for your faithfulness to the art, to the craft, and to the ministry. Thanks again, Ray"
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From Mr. D: The *bird you refer to was one of the popular "Crazy Birds" which I've written about before on this blog. I'm happy to hear he's now been providing faithful service to you and others for over 35 years. We could never have guessed! Thank you so much for the
encouraging update on your work. And, yes, the "Box 420" address is still valid! (Littleton, Colorado 80160)
The key to any good discussion is to know the person to whom you are talking. Without knowing the person your conversation will be reduced to things like, "How are you?" or "Nice day isn't it?" But if you know the other person the topics you can discuss are unlimited. The same is true of a ventriloquist and his partner. Knowing who your partner is, what he or she likes and does, will help you write a routine.
There are ventriloquists who purchase a figure which was advertised with some pre-given name. Thinking the doll is already named, they keep that name. They probably also think the figure has a built in personality. If he does, he is not going to tell you! Whatever his name was in the store should not be of importance to you. You have the job of naming the figure and giving him the personality you want him to have as you use him. You decide what his interests, traits, abilities, likes and dislikes are. You decide what the character of the figure will be. Choose wisely.
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Adapted from the book Know Your Character, by William H. Andersen. The author goes on to list things you should know about the figure you use, and explains how knowing these things will help you write a routine, including illustrations on how questions can be turned into laugh lines. Some tested dialogue bits you can use are also included. $5.00 postpaid. Buy it now HERE.
Another excellent book on this subject is Creating A Character by professional ventriloquist and performance expert, Ken Groves. I do not have this book to sell, but I did find a new copy that is a duplicate in my library and I'll give it away as today's prize to Graeme Lyall.
In short, they recommend using a Sticky lint removing roller to remove any accumulation of lint and debris. Blotting with a piece of blue painter's masking tape also works for this purpose.
In more extreme cases, you may carefully use a vacuum cleaner on its lowest setting.
For spot removal, the experts at The Dummy Shoppe recommend you blot the spot with soft cloth dampened with warm water. If all else fails add a drop of Johnson's (No More Tears) Baby Shampoo to the water and blot (very lightly) in a circular motion, then rinse lightly, with water only, several times.
You can read these cleaning suggestions in more detail on their site as well as suggestions for good puppet maintenance.
One added note - I was told by another soft puppet maker that she cleans soiled spots on puppets by brushing the soiled area with Baby Wipes.
It pays to visit "Mr. D's Daily Blog"! If you're reading this and are not signed up for my prize drawings, all I needs i your name and your okay. It's all free!
When I embarked on this journey, I went to a couple of local bookstores in search of books on ventriloquism. At two of them -- Barnes & Noble and Borders -- the clerks didn't even know what "ventriloquism" was. I had the same experience yesterday when I went to the local Guitar Center. A young clerk, whose arms were covered with intricate Japanese tattoos and who said he played drums in a local band, had no clue what a ventriloquist was. I asked him if he'd ever heard of Jeff Dunham and he said, "no". Then I said that Dunham was a comedian who used a dummy -- one of 'em an old, cranky guy named Walter -- to tell jokes, and I struck the pose as if I were holding a figure in my arms. The kid then acknowledged that he not only knew who Jeff Dunham was but that Dunham is, in fact, coming to town and that he had asked his girlfriend to go see him. So sometimes you just have to be a little patient and try to guide people to what they know but didn't know they knew.
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From Mr. D: Thanks for sharing your problem with remembering lines. Normally I recommend cue cards. With a good amount of practice I found I could remember an individual joke. Once a individual joke is committed to memory, all I need is a key word for each joke to keep me on schedule. 10-12 jokes makes a nice routine.
Another type of program is storytelling. That's where the conversation is much freer. No rigid word for word memorizing is necessary because either you (or the puppet) is telling a story. And the other person in the dialogue makes comments or asks questions. Have you tried that approach?
Now let's ask blog readers for their suggestions. Contact Mr. D
"As you can see from the picture*, 'Louie' and I are at it again. We were performing for the residents and friends of the Dundee Township Park District Senior Center (IL)."
(*Picture from Couriernewsonline.com )
"Clinton, I just finished all of Ventriloquism in a Nutshell and I must say I reccommend it to anyone wanting to learn vent. It is precise and to the point. It has great practicing tips, good advice for puppet/figure manipulation, and joke telling. In my opinion a must- read for all. For the money it is extremely affordable and allows people of all ages young and old to learn. Regards, James Tucker"
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At $5.00 postpaid, Ventriloquism In A Nutshell is still a best seller. Contact Mr. D
As usual, winners must contact Mr. D to confirm their addresses and claim their prizes.
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Answer: It depends on what part of the country you are in, I've discovered. We've always said "May-hair". Others say "Ma-hur" or "May-her".
Either is correct, I suppose...
Years ago, someone mailed a letter intended for us that was simply addressed "Mayor's Office, Littleton Colorado." And it was delivered to the office of the Mayor or Littleton! It was then forwarded to us only because we were friends of one of the ladies who worked in that office. When she heard her co-workers laughing at the letter received asking for information on "dummies" and how one could be purchased, she spoke up saying, "Oh, I know where that letter should go!" And the letter was then forwarded to us. At the time, I thought that was a good thing...rereading the account I just wrote, I'm not so sure!
I never leave my dummies in the car, even when eating in a restaurant. I would rather have them in a suitcase under the table than worry about my car being broken into.
Lou Zucci once told me that someone stole his dummy from his car, and days later it was found floating in a creek off a bridge. Now that's a sad sight!
I know puppeteers that have had their whole show stolen from their van in the parking lot at a hotel. Ugh, that must be a horrible feeling.
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From Mr. D: About vent horror stories, I've heard dozens. Fires, Floods, Accidents, stolen figures, gnawing pets, angry ex's. What about those of you reading this? Have you had a "horror" experience with your puppet/dummy that you would be willing to share? Contact Mr. D.
On the flip side are the stories I've heard from vents whose puppets have foiled vehicle thefts. For instance, Louie Palermo (of the singing Palermo Brothers) said thieves were preparing to steal their parked van loaded with sound equipment, props,, etc., but turned and ran when they opened one of the cases and saw "Luigi"!
I've always felt my shop's best security system are the dummies hanging around! Now, that's a reassuring feeling!
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Answer: What you describe should work tp a degree. I've never done it, but I can imagine it. However, (and if you're missing anything, I suspect this is it) - the slotted jaw unit will have action that is more "drop down" than the traditional "rolling"action on a mouth and face designed for slotted jaw.
To say it another way, the jaw unit on a slot jaw figure is normally designed so the underside of the chin turns into the head as the mouth is opened.
I don't believe that is what will happen on the converted living mouth done in the simple manner you describe. Rather, using the current cabinet hinge as the mouth axle will result in a mouth unit which places lips and chin on a greater radius from the axis than a face designed for slotted jaw. I can imagine that something will have to be done under the chin to allow the jaw to move downward. Just what, I don't know - those are the challenges to be worked out as you go...maybe a folding leather piece?
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From Mr. D: The fake arm as I built it for my Lucky Duck was the one weak area of its design. I do not recommend it. My fake arm was attached permanently to the puppet. Which meant my suit jacket was attached permanently to the puppet. Not a good setup. The arm was nothing more than a tube stuffed with batting with a stuffed glove on the end. The hand and lower portion of the arm was wired to the Duck's body; upper end of the arm sewn to the inside of the suit coat at the shoulder. As I recall, I used a short strip of plywood to support the arm (bridge) from the shoulder to the duck's body. (My wife always had to adjust it back stage for most natural appearance).
I cut a slit in the side of the jacket just below the arm pit where my arm reached through into the puppet.
It was an awkward arrangement. If I built another, I'd for certain make the arm and jacket removable in some manner. I had a friend who built one, and he used velcro to detach the jacket sleeve at the shoulder. I don't know the details.
I knew another who made a casting of his right hand and attached it permanently to the duck's side, but somehow he had the arm itself detachable. Velcro???
Hopefully, you can overcome all the obstacles this setup presents. You might try an Internet search for "Third Arm" costumes. Clowns use many variations - there may be some plans available.
The mouth string, when fastened to the lower portion of the jaw piece, needs to pull in a backward (and even upward) direction, before redirecting downward through the neck to the control lever.
Thus, there needs to be a pivot point for the string somewhere behind the mouth, near the back inside of the neck. I've used more than one method. This was an experiment, using a rigid plastic tube as a horizontal bar over which the string passed. I mounted the plastic tube in a small wooden bracket, then used super glue to secure the unit to the inside of the neck. All work was done through the mouth...