Texas Vent Gathering

Twenty three people attended the Feb. 19th ventriloquist/puppeteer gathering in Manor (Austin) Texas. The event was hosted by Bob and June Abdou. Three attendees came from out of state. Several of the attendees had a common connection, being graduates of the *Maher Course and/or being owners of a Maher/Detweiler figure.

The fun-filled day began with lunch together in the private room of a local restaurant. After a period of getting acquainted and while food orders were taken and served, a small open mic, show and tell took place with Lori Bruner, David Pitts, Clayton Delong, David Carranza, and Randy Gentry participating.

After two hours at the restaurant, the group went to Bob and June's house for a tour of Bob's amazing collection of figures, puppets, and vintage toys. Dessert followed.

The guest of honor for the day was Peter Rich. (To be continued tomorrow.)
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Contributing to this post: Charles Prouty and Thomas Rogers
(*The Maher Home Course is available for purchase Here. )


Who knew?

When Lori Bruner arrived for the Texas Ventriloquist/Puppetry gathering (Feb. 19th), she came with "Randy", a figure I built for her some 39 years ago when Lori was 13. She's the original and only owner of this figure and has obviously handled him with great TLC. Like so many of the figures I have built, I had lost track of its whereabouts, so it was exciting for me to see Lori with the figure in the photos sent to me this past week!
Lorie did most of her performing in the Dallas area from 1972 to 1984. Then her first child was born and as a result of the demands of motherhood, performing was pretty much put on hold. Recently, however, she has slowly been getting back into performing and it is, in her words, "my desire to use my talent for God's purpose and see where that leads."

Currently she works as a banker and takes "Randy" to schools where they talk to kids about banking and the importance of saving money. The kids are reported to be loving it! I could never have guessed when "Randy" left my shop years ago that he would end up being a financial wizard. Who knew - I'm impressed!
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Note: I've added Lori & Randy's picture to my photo gallery of figures I built during that period of my career: Click here.


Dick White, Ventriloquist, Cartoonist, Figure Maker

Dick White says he was about 12 years old when his father took him to a circus where a ventriloquist was one of the acts, and from that point on, he was totally fascinated with the art form. An artist and carver himself, he never bought a dummy in his career, but always made his own.
In an article Dick wrote for the winter 1997 issue of Dialogue magazine, Dick recounted this humorous story:
"One of my figures was 'lost to love'. I had loaned him to a girl friend, but then later decided not to marry the girl. She left in a huff, and she kept 'the kid'. Oh, how I begged for his return but my old girl friend said, 'No, I love him as much as you do!' I sure hope she is taking good care of him. To this day I still miss that dummy ... the wooden one!"
Many ventriloquists have enjoyed the art and humor of Dick White via his clever cartoons in vent publications including Dialogue magazine and Newsy Vents. Parkinson's claimed Dick on Sept, 8, 2010 at the age of 83. While Dick is no longer with us, he has left us with many reasons to keep smiling.
The 1997 issue of Dialogue shown here is being awarded today to: Mark Lewis

DUM-ME By Dick White

"DUM-ME" comics were published in Dialogue magazine, The Vent World Assoc.,
Robert H. Ladd editor.


Custom Carrying Cases for Figures

Several readers have asked if I will again be selling Custom Carrying Cases this Spring. The answer is, "yes", I do plan to do so and have placed the order for my new supply. But until I receive them, I will not know the exact final price. (I do not expect prices to change significantly, however.)

So, if you think you might be interested in purchasing a case for your vent figure this Spring, drop me a note and I will send you complete details, including prices, just as soon as I have such available. mahertalk@aol.com


Turning back the clock

The ventriloquist in photo at right is Howard (Howie) Olson. The date of the photo is unknown although it was likely mid-1930s. I believe the lady is Howie's first wife, Leona.
The top photo was taken even earlier. Howie is pictured (far right) with a group of friends. I don't know if the girl standing in front of Howie, holding his vent figure is his girlfriend? Or just a friend.
By the time I met Howie he was nearing the retirement phase of his career so it's a treat to get a glimpse of the early years. My thanks to Karin Olson for sending these rare photos of her "Uncle Howie".


Puppetry Journal

I remember the day when the Puppeteer's of America "powers that be" would not even recognize ventriloquism as a form of puppetry. But today, The Puppetry Journal, thanks to correspondent, Bob Abdou, often contains articles about ventriloquists and ventriloquism. Finally!
The Fall, 2010 issue of The Puppetry Journal contains such an article written by Abdou. Included in his two page article is several paragraphs on figure makers, including Frank Marshall, with the photo you see at left. Frank bridged puppetry and ventriloquism himself, by building both ventriloquist figures as well as marionettes, hand puppets, Punch and Judy characters and more.
Today I am awarding this Puppetry Journal issue to: Donna Calise.

Photo Puppets by Ted Nunes

Some time back I posted a piece about the photo puppet Ted Nunes created of his sister. Upon seeing that post, Neon Lim contacted Ted to see if he would create photos puppets of he (Neon) and his wife. Here you see the results.

Ted refined his original mechanics, trying to make them more like the controls found on a professional figure (see photo below), and fit the puppets with replaceable bodies, hung from small hooks, much like changing the clothes on a paper doll. The materials used included kite string, cardboard, rubber bands, heavy-duty thread. super glue and popsicle sticks.

Well done!


Hillbilly Banquet

Bob Albano sent me this picture of Bergen & McCarthy. It's from their movie short, "Pure Feud". I agree with Bob when he wrote, "I like the way Charlie dresses appropriately for the hillbilly banquet, but Bergen looks uncomfortably out of place."
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And now we know more about this scene. Here's a followup from Bob: "Charlie is in one of the feuding families: The McCarthy's vs. the Jenkins. Bergen is a visitor from the city who has come to the 'quiet' countryside to rest his nerves. That explains the difference in garb!"
The following website has the video available directly:


Uncle Earl

I completed this figure last week for a customer. I used urethane head and hands cast by Braylu. It was a fun project and a learning experience. Figure making can certainly be easier than it was when I built my first one 60 years ago! (Of course, 60 years experience makes things a bit easier, too!)


Alumni Report

Wilson Kindred graduated from the Maher Home Course of Ventriloquism just over two years ago. Today he and his wife, Sharon, Travel across Canada, ministering to people in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, schools, churches, and more through music, ventriloquism, and illusions.
Wilson's current "Lap Buddy" is "Evan Hardwood Kindling" whom the audience loves, as evidenced by the fact they find themselves waiting for the laughter to subside time and time again during a routine. They've had as many as three curtain calls, but have done more than two.

Some background: Wilson Kindred was born into a home of violence, witchcraft, and alcoholism. His mother and his siblings were victims of neglect and extreme verbal and physical violence at his father's hands. How did he get from that dark and painful environment to today's uplifting and healing ministry to others? You can read the complete story Here.


Vintage Maher figure

It was Dave Allen that drew my attention to this vintage Fred Maher figure now being offered on eBay. (Item 380317196565) This truly is an historical item, unusual because it comes with the letter sent with the figure to the original owner, Mr. Edgar Hoffman.
This letter from Fred Maher was dated 11/4/42 and the figure sold for $22.50! The eBay seller mistakenly understood the letter to indicate Fred Maher carved this dummy from wood. But as far as I know, while the Mahers did build figures from Plastic Wood wood-dough, Fred never carved a wooden figure.
The figure appears to be a made-over ventriloquist doll from that era, (probably a Regal doll). A quick inspection into the open mouth of the figure will confirm manner of construction. It definitely is a figure sold by The Fred Maher School of Ventriloquism (Detroit, MI). I'm happy (I think) I'm no longer a collector of Maher memorabilia...this fellow is as close to original as any I've seen from that era of nearly 70 years ago, and comes with original paperwork. Wow! I'd be wanting to bid!
Edgar Hoffman, by the way, lived in Akron, Ohio at the time, and a picture of Mr. Hoffman holding this figure was included on one of the Maher's early advertising brochures used to promote the Maher Home Study Course of Ventriloquism. If someone reading this wins this figure and you would like to own a copy of the Maher advertising brochure just mentioned, contact me.

From my dwindling stock of NAAV collectibles I have pulled four collector spoons to be awarded in today's prize drawing. Each of the following have 14 days in which to claim one spoon: Ross Brown, Shannon Knight, Tom Rodgers, Chip Jones.


Only at a vent convention!

With the 2011 Ventriloquist ConVENTion coming soon*, I was thinking back on some of the events from past conVENTions, and this picture came to mind. I believe the year was about 1986. Dale Brown and Chip were featured on one of the evening shows and when they walked onstage and began their routine wearing dust masks, it received one of the largest laughs I've heard from a convention audience. But, before you add the bit to your act, remember, if your audience is not made up of ventriloquists you may receive little more than blank stares!

*July 13-16, 2011


Rocky McFarland

Very few figure makers actually have the skill to carve a figure from wood. But this week I had the joy of seeing first hand this figure, created and built by Scott Bryte (PA). Beautiful character and craftsmanship.
The head, hands, feet, and body torso are all carved of laminated basswood. I do not have the skills or tools of a woodcarver, so I personally have never carved a figure from wood. But I admire those who do. I've handled more than a few wood carved figures and Bryte's work is as good as any I've seen.
This beautiful figure, Rocky McFarland, belongs to Keith Suranna.


Detective Spoon

Today I detect a very special prize! Thanks to Keith Suranna I have this very nice Charlie McCarthy detective spoon to give away today. The winner is: John Pizzi.

And now, with collector spoons on my mind, I'm going to go to my NAAV "stash" and pull out several NAAV collector spoons for our next prize drawing. Good luck. By the way, if you are reading this and you are not registered for Mr. D's prize drawings, send me your name. That's all it takes to become eligible!

Last of the early series

June 1974. The last group of figures built I using the mechanical design as taught to me by George Eazer.
(Lined up on the fireplace mantel...that had to be a dummy's nightmare!)



The date was Oct. 1972. The location: somewhere in Colorado. The event? A gathering Detweiler, Miller, King, Eicher 2nd Cousins. Today, nearly 40 years later, there's only one of that group of cousins still recognizable. And something tells me he was a big-eyed impostor!


Happy Valentine's Day

Love and Marriage

V: So you think you are quite a ladies' man, huh?
F: Let me put it this way...in the last year I've been asked to get married over one hundred times!
V: Really? Who asked you?
V: When ARE you getting married?
F: Not for a LONG time.
V: Sounds like you are against marriage.
F: Well, marriage is like a TOURNIQUET.
V: Like a tourniquet?
F: Yeah, it cuts off your CIRCULATION!
V: Maybe you should wait to get married. You don't seem to know a thing about LOVE.
F: I do too! (Pause) Love is like a mushroom.
F: Yeah, you don't know if it's the real thing ... until it's TOO LATE!
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From the book "Wedded Bliss", a collection of over 100 jokes written in dialogue format, all on the subjects of love and marriage. By Pam Sterner. $5.00. Click here to purchase.


Phil Nichols (left) and Jay Johnson, following Jay's "Two and Only" show in Richardson, Texas Saturday.


Reader confession: I have a wee confession to make to you, Clinton. It's not a big worry, but still a nuisance. During a photo shoot with the 4 of us (Dexter, Clyde, Shirley & I), I had Dexter sitting on a Puppet stand when a gust of wind came up and blew him off! I was surprised how very little damage was done to him. All we could see is a small coating on the outer layer of wood had come off. The controls seem to work okay, thankfully. I suppose it would've been a 2 to 3 ft. drop. Still ,I have them insured if anything really bad goes wrong.

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Host confession: I have to tell you, I also had a vent figure fall off a stand once while preparing a photo shoot. My heart missed a beat or two! Now I carry a C-clamp for such occasions so I can clamp the figure's bottom to the stand if I have to go hand's free. Otherwise, I don't turn my back on them lest the onery little guys try to take off on their own!


For sale: One Leprechaun

Canon John Jordan has been gently nudging me for the past couple months to build a Leprechaun Ventrilo-ett, saying he would purchase the first one. Okay, I have now completed two, and the first one, (cleverly dubbed "Sean the Leprechaun" by Canon Jordan) is on his way to Canada. Which leaves me with one to sell. $54.95. First come, first serve. Contact Mr. D


Seven more winners on the Eleventh!

It's the 11th day of the month, year 2011 - time to draw the names of seven more winners, each to receive one of Mr. D's $7.00 Collector coins! This month's lucky 7/11 winners are as follows:
Tom Dahl (FL)
Christine Campbell (IL)
Bob Conrad (NJ)
Nancy Allen (UT)
Dave Bruhin
Sara Rice (CA)
Andy Mrkvicka (CO)

The next drawing for 7 free coins will be 3/11/11. In the meantime, I do have coins for sale: $7.00 each, postpaid.
Contact Mr. D Coins are also for sale now on eBay (same price): Click Here

PS: Many consider 7/11 "lucky" numbers. Jay Johnson tells me this is especially true for him as his birthday is 7/11! Now that I know that, I'm going to send Jay a couple extra coins this July! Anyone else have a birthday July 11th?


"Rock the Mike"

From Dave Robison:

Hi, Clinton:

Thought you would be interested in knowing that the talking mike featured in your blog from the mind of Fred Andersen and ingenuity of Kevin Detweiler has a new home, and a new name:

"Rock" the Mike.

I'm currently working on the voice, and the personality is appearing like magic. I can't stop him from saying, "Let's get ready to rummmmmbbbbbbllllle!" and telling me what songs he is playing.

Birth of a Leprechaun

If all goes well, I will have at least two Leprechaun ventrilo-etts. These are waiting for me to decide how best to provide them with reddish hair, beards, brows, and pointed ears. Their spiffy hats await and by tonight they will hopefully be ready to party! If you are interested in purchasing a Leprechaun Ventrilo-ett, Contact Mr. D


Today's prize

While working in the shop, I enjoy listening to "Radio Classics" on Sirius Radio. The station plays many of the radio shows I remember from my youth. Last week I enjoyed an episode of the Edgar Bergen Show sponsored by Chase & Sanborn Coffee. In so doing, I was reminded of the 1946 framed magazine ad in my collection (right). It will be today's prize.
I've reached into the bin of numbered ping pong balls and drawn out #261 which belongs to Karen Berkley (TN). Congratulations, Karen, this prize is yours if you claim it within the allotted 14 days!


Can you help with this?

Question: I have been asked to do a Valentine performance at our local "Center for Disabilities". Do you have suggestions on performing ventriloquism for the mentally challenged, mostly adults? I've looked into children's materials, but even that may be too advanced. I have some ideas of group participation, but I would like some expert professional advice. Donna
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Experiences, comments, advice, or proven suggestions? mahertalk@aol.com

Auction On!

The eBay auction for this figure has begun! I call him my "Lesson 18 Dummy" because I built him as an example for the Maher Home Study Course (1975 edition) Plans for building a dummy. He has been fully upgraded to include self-centering eyes and raising eyebrows. He is fully inspected and comes with a new five year guarantee. I'll include a signed Lesson 18. He's one-of-kind. More than a little Detweiler/Maher history as well! You'll find the eBay auction HERE

Doll Lock-jaw

Question: February 26, 2009 I performed a Show and while I was performing Danny's mouth would stuck. Recently I was supposed to perform a show but I didn't get to. While I was working with Danny on Friday night to make sure that everything was going to go well for my show, I kept noticing that when I keep moving his mouth it would get stuck again. What do I need to do to prevent from his mouth sticking again?
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Answer: A lot of folks who received or gave ventriloquist dolls for Christmas are probably asking this same question about now. Well, the first thing you need to do is determine where the is sticking. I assume it is getting stuck in the open position?

First thing to check is the lever. Make certain it is not too tight. This is unlikely, but needs to be checked.

The next place I would check would be the sides of the mouth. Especially along the lower portion of the slot. Is the mouth unit coming against the cheek side of the mouth? If so, insert a metal finger nail file into the slot and file (in and out) at the area where the sides are too tight.

This will likely cure the situation. If not, let me know.

P.S. And practice with your Danny frequently. Ventriloquist dolls, figures, and dummies are less likely to have such problems if they are used frequently. It sounds like yours has been unused for quite a period of time. Not good for it or yourself.


Clock Flop!

In 1978 I came up with what I still think was one of my better ventriloquist creations...large 12"x15" wall clocks with ventriloquist theme. I believe there were a total of five designs. After commissioning the custom art, and paying our printer to printing multiple copies of each, I built the frames and mounted the art work and installed the clock works. I eagerly introduced them with high hopes at the Vent Haven Convention and advertised them in both Newsy Vents and the Maher Catalog. And sold none! Looking back on that project I am actually encouraged. I remained in business and continued to try new ideas and products - I guess I'm more persistent and less easily discouraged than I realize! :-)


Go Daddy

Zach Buchman of Furry Puppet Studio sent me a photo of two characters he and his staff created for a possible upcoming GoDaddy ad campaign. He also provided a link to his blog where you can watch a sneak peek video on how the puppets were created and filmed. For a brief but fascinating behinds the scenes look at the two puppets you see here, go to:
Jimmy Nelson at Edgar Bergen's star;
Hollywood's "Walk of Fame."