Can comment

"I definitely remember the Puppets In A Can. I loved them - they were great little puppets! I'm happy to report I still have the two I bought when they came out, a 'Gramps' and the 'Critic' (see picture).

"I wish someone were still making them. Mine are still good, and they have held up well. But I could see myself getting more of them if they were available." Dave Boiano

Final Newsy Vents Give-away - Day #15

Remember the Puppets In A Can? Twelve different character puppets, each packed in a gallon can. Your hand entered the puppet from the bottom of the can so when the top lid was removed - up popped the puppet for fun and action. They were wonderful.

This was the final new item produced by Lovik World for sale through Maher Studios. The year was 1997. We were on a roll, offering a lager selection of ventriloquist puppets, figures, and related products than at any other time in the history of Maher Studios. Then suddenly, with absolutely no warning, the bottom fell out. Totally unannounced and unexpected, Craig left his family, his shop, his business, and his partnership with me and disappeared into his own private future without a goodbye to anyone. We were all devastated and the days were bleak. I scrambled frantically to fill orders as best I could from inventory on hand while at the same time hurriedly reprinting catalogs to eliminate the many products no longer available.

I'll be forever grateful to Pat (Craig's ex) and Keith (their son) for eventually picking up the pieces of the figure making business and going into production of the Knee Pals themselves, keeping Maher Studios supplied with figures for the few years remaining until my retirement. I believe this is the first I've written publicly about those dark days. There's no need to go into further details, but it is a part of Maher Studios history and should be on the record.

This being the Final Day #15 of our Newsy Vents give-away, I would like to once again thank Bob Abdou from providing all the back issues I have been giving away for these two weeks. Bob actually has (or had) more copies of Newsy Vents that I have! Several of you have asked about the possibility of purchasing back issues. Unfortunately, I have none to sell. So this rare opportunity of going through and sharing some miscellaneous back issues has been most enjoyable to me, and I hope enjoyable for you as well.

I'm awarding this final set of five back issues today to Jessica Woolsey. Enjoy!


A real "mini-me"

From Geoffrey Moran (Australia): Here's the photo I promised you - me and mini me! It took a while because I wanted a matching green jacket - very hard to find - not a perfect match but I didn't want to make you wait any longer!

Bible Buck

While going through a stack of old Maher Catalogs a couple days ago I came across a "Maher Buck". And just a day later I received this note from Emmitt Grant:

"I keep a Bible in every room so I don't have to go looking for one when I need it. Yesterday I picked up my Daddy's old Bible and opened it to find a Maher Buck. You sent it to me when I took your Course in 1992."

Okay, let me think about this a minute - I find a Maher Buck in some of my old catalogs ... Emmitt finds one in his Bible... must be a lesson there somewhere....

8x10 Juro ad photo for Velvel

When Juro Doll Co. introduced the "Velvel" ventriloquist doll with wardrobe and carrying case, this was the 8x10 photo (above) they sent out to they dealers and distributors. This auction is for one mint condition B&W photo with free shipping. http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290605051390

Velvel was the doll made famous by ventriloquist Ricky Layne (see photo right). While my auction is for the above photo only, I will include as a bonus a free snapshot photo copy of the picture of Velvel with Ricky Layne.

Day 14 N/V Give-away

1996 brought even more new products from Lovik World including the very popular Talking Ties (in cooperation with Kevin Detweiler) and the Hand N' Hand Puppets.

If only there were some way to bring the Talking Ties back into production today! It's often been discussed but there are supply problems that have yet to be resolved. Of all the novelty items sold and/or produced by Maher Studios, this still ranks #1 in my mind as well as the public.

Mike Miller - you are the winner today of a set of 1995 back issues of Maher Messenger.


77 years!

Did you know the Maher Home Study Course of Ventriloquism has been teaching the art to persons young and old, worldwide, since 1934 without interruption? The Course has been revised, updated, and expanded several times, with the most recent revision 2002. A special commemorative coin celebrating this amazing 77 year's of continuous instruction will be released this Fall. For more details on the Maher Course: http://mahercourse.blogspot.com/

At home with W. S.

Mike Horner sent me this vintage photo, asking if it could be of W. S. Berger in his Vent Haven Museum. I had not seen a profile photo of Mr. Berger so I asked Tom Ladshaw to confirm Mr. Berger's identity before publishing this post. Tom told me it was indeed Mr. Berger, and is one of the few color photos of W. S. making it doubly unique.

That comment reminded me that somewhere I have a short 8mm color home movie taken of myself talking with W. S. on the grounds of Vent Haven in 1970. On that same trip I was able to get a short movie clip of Adelia walking with Mrs. Maher on a waterfront pier in Michigan. Those old home movies have been transferred to DVD. I guess now I need to see if those clips can be put on YouTube. I need to have a talk with my granddaughters!

Claymation Charlie & Mortimer

Fascinated with this photo printed in a back issue of The Barker magazine, I contacted Bob Abdou who was editor/publisher of The Barker, requesting more details. His answer, in part:

"From what I remember, the company told me they were in production of a clay animation movie of Charlie and Mortimer but it was stopped when Edgar died. This is the only photo that they had from that production. Somebody has these claymation dolls - they are INCREDIBLE."

Champagne Charlie

W. S. Berger and Champagne Charlie - I was looking for another photo and came across this one. I don't know any details on this figure, so your comments are welcome.

* * * * *

From Gary Koepke: "Champagne Charlie, from what I remember, is a 6' tall walking figure made by Frank Marshall and had a bulb in his hand to allow him to talk while he walked. Somewhere in my collection I have a small photo of them autographed by W. S. along with a letter telling me about the figure. Guess I was maybe 13 or so when he sent it."

Day 13

From the front cover of Maher Messenger, Issue No. 14 1995:

"Jeff Dunham, Peanut, and Judge Ito (the dummy - see photo) are on tour and have been featured on the syndicated newsmagazine show, 'Extra', as well as 'E!' network's 'The O. J Wrap Up' hosted by Kathleen Sullivan. It took Jeff three afternoons to make 'Judge Ito' from one of our converted Charlie McCarthy dolls, and the Judge is now Peanut's dummy. (Peanut says he was going to make a Kato dummy, but that would have been redundant!)"

Today's set of 1995 M/M's plus a 1995 copy of the Maher Studios Catalog goes to Scott Bryte.


Creative problem solving!

When the string on his vent figure disconnected from the mouth control lever just before a show, Russell Baker quickly removed his school class ring and tied it to the loose end of the string so he could go on with the show! Where there's a will, there's a way!

No 12 N/V Give-away

Craig Lovik always seemed to have limitless creativity. One of my jobs when partnered with Craig was keeping him focused and in check with his ventriloquist products. But in 1994, for whatever reason, we both turned things up a notch. Some of the new products from Lovik World in 1994: The Wubbles ("cartoon on a stick"), Flexi-Fowl ("dozens of expressions; thousands of laughs"), Flexi-Folk Puppets (full body & half body puppets with latex faces), plus a dozen new books from Good Clean Fun Publishing Company which was also a C. J. Lovik production.

Our son, Kevin, also brought his Talking Ties back in 1994 along with a life size Skeleton ventriloquist figure. And there was more - so much so that we issued three Special Products Catalogs in 1994 along with our regular Maher Catalog.

I have a package of 1994 Maher Publications and catalogs to give away today - actually I have two. They go to Mike Brown and Frank Ward. And, please guys, don't try to order from these catalogs! I'm only partially joking. It was always amazing to us to frequently receive an order for products no longer available because customers, well meaning I'm sure, used an out of date catalog. The order would come with a note saying something like this, "I didn't find such-and-such in your new catalog, so had to use an old catalog to make this order." I believe the record was an order from a catalog ten years out of date, although just a few weeks ago we received a check for an NAAV membership renewal! (NAAV was dropped in 2004 - We returned the check.:-)


1938 Movie Repro-Poster

For a season we sold several poster reproductions at Maher Ventriloquist Studios. This was one of them and the favorite. As you can see, it promotes You Can't Cheat An Honest Man, featuring a classic trio of stars: Charlie McCarthy, W. C. Fields, and Edgar Bergen, with supporting cast of "Mortimer", Constance Moore, Mary Forbes, Thurston Hall, and Princess Baba. This 11x14 laminated poster is in like new condition and for sale now on eBay auction: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=260843145002

#11 N/V Give-away

Issue No. 6 of Maher Messenger 1993 was a 32 page issue filled with new products offered at Maher Studios, including a collection of seven videos by Shari Lewis. When it comes to the art of ventriloquism, there is one name that in my mind is synonymous with technical perfection, and that name is: Shari Lewis. We featured Shari and Lamb Chop on the front cover of the aforementioned issue, a copy of which is being awarded today to Ron Butcher. (Two additional 1993 issues of M/M will also be included.)


Shop Question

From Mike Horner: I well remember from my youth growing up in Colorado the article from the Rocky Mountain News (this morning's post). That smaller head without a wig always intriqued me ...I really liked the look of it. Do you remember at all who the maker is?

* * * * *

From Mr. D: Yes, I remember VERY well who the maker of that figure is - ME. The other figures are all Knee Pals that were in my shop for a variety of reasons (wig replacement, paint touchup, mechanical additions, etc.) The head in the bench vice getting a hair trim (above right) is a "Hank" with living mouth. Below is an inverted closeup of the four on the shop counter:

L-R: Gus McSnog, Narley, Theodore Bump, and the Detweiler head you pointed out (no name). Note: Narley was a limited edition Knee Pal from the family of figures designed by Dave Miller.


Mr. D, "Sweeny", Brent Vernon

This afternoon I had the pleasure of introducing "Sweeny" to Brent Vernon, his new partner. They seemed to hit it off immediately! Then we proceeded to discuss with Sweeny a couple make over ideas which he seemed to receive with an open mind. The eager expression on his face tells me I better get busy - this young man (both of them, actually) is/are ready to get to work!

"entirely handmade?"

I received an email recently with this question: "Are your figures entirely hand made?"

Actually, I've been in this business over 40 years and have yet to find a vent figure that was not hand made. (And that includes the Goldberger dolls - the very reason they are now made in China is to cut down on the cost of hand labor.)

It is likely the person with the quiry was concerned with the matter of how much molding was involved in the product. While I still consider a figure completed from a casting "hand made", it would not be "individually one-of-a-kind totally unique" which may have been the person's concern. But even figures cast from the same mold, when finished out, will have some degree of variation.

Special Issue

The May 24, 1992 Sunday Edition of The Rocky Mountain News contained a photo feature article by reporter Patti Thorn titled, "A dummy corporation". Not surprisingly, the story was about the Detweilers and the services provided by Maher Studios, which she described as "one of the best kept secrets locally." It was one of the better media pieces featuring our work, so much so that I requested, and was granted, permission to reprint the full article and all pictures is a special 12 page issue of Maher Messenger.

* * * *

Day #10 give-away consisting of this issue of Maher Messenger plus a couple additional issues from the same year, 1992, goes to Rev. John Lutton.


Willie Winkle 8 X 10 photo

I have this 8 x 10 Willie Winkle Knee Pal photo (Willie is on the lower left) listed for eBay auction . Willie is posed in this original photo with the very first three of the many variations that were made of this character, probably the best seller of all the characters created by Craig Lovik and sold by Maher Studios. This photo would be especially meaningful to the owner of a figure from this series.

Instrument of Joy

When Canon John Jordan's Sweeny arrived, I was greatly impressed that while it had been used for several years, it was in pristine condition. I sent John a note expressing my pleasure for the way he had cared for his vent figure. His response was (in part):

"I prized Sweeny since I first got him, and tried to keep him as pristine as possible ever since. It reminds me of a short spot I did with him last Spring. There was a small orchestra there at the same time. When we were packing up to come home, one of the violinists was beside me, and we had a pleasant chat. When he put his violin in the case, he covered it with a blue velvet cloth and closed the lid, while I was was putting Sweeny's travelling helmet and mitts on him.

He said jokingly, 'You fuss more packing that dummy in the case than I do with my instrument!' I said to him that if he didn't look after his instrument, and keep it cleaned and tuned, it would soon stop serving him well. I went on to say that Sweeny was my instrument, and without him, there would be no need for me to be there, and that's why I was taking care to see him well protected and put in his case. The point was well taken, and he said he'd never looked at a ventriloquist dummy that way."

#9 N/V Give-away

I have two sets of three random 1991 issues of Newsy Vents to award today. And they will go to Tom Dahl and Karen Berkley.

I have to say, out of the hundreds of ventriloquist publicity photos I have seen, if I had to pick my top ten favorites, this one of Jim Barber (left & above) would be on my list. It must have been his favorite, too, at one point at least, because it is the one he chose for The Great Ventriloquits Collector Card series produced by M. A. Denemark. I have one of those cards mounted in a signed mat, ready for 5x7 frame, and I'm sending it to Cynthia Price. Congratulations, Cynthia (and Nick)!

Many of you recognize the young lady in the center photo above. That's our daughter Dawn, who now with her husband and three sons, live in Ethiopia which has been their home for nearly 18 years. (See post below)

Mostly personal

We purchased Maher Studios in August, 1969. That was the same month and year our youngest daughter, Dawn, was born. Two new "babies", both with considerable time demands, were welcomed permanently into our family at the same time...what were we thinking!

Thus, Dawn grew up with Maher Studios and attended many conventions with Adelia and me which is how she came to know many of you. She graduated Trinity College with a degree in education. It was at college where she met Steve Bryan who would become her husband. Together Steve and Dawn entered mission work in Ethiopia with the sending agency, SIM.

Steve is currently SIM's Director of Missions for the nation of Ethiopia, a nation much in the news today due to severe drought and famine. Dawn is Recruitment Director (currently on Sabbatical) for Bingham International School in the capital city of Addis Ababa which has been their home now for nearly 18 years. They have three sons.

Steve and Dawn produce a news/prayer letter several times each year telling of their work and experiences. Adelia and I are responsible for maintaining their mailing list, including overseeing the printing and mailing of their letter. So I feel it perfectly acceptable for me to invite any of you who would like to do so, to join their mailing list. Just drop me a note.

Maher Messenger

The decade of the 1990s was perhaps the busiest decade during the 40 years of our ownership of Maher Studios. In fact, so many new products were planned for introduction during the early '90s, I felt guilty even thinking about adding advertising for them all on the pages of Newsy Vents - there would be little remaining space for vent news! So in 1991 I made the decision to introduce a second newsletter, Maher Messenger (again - what was I thinking!).

The focus of this added publication was primarily new products, plus happenings with the Detweilers and within the Maher office and shop. This blog in many ways is a modern extension of the Maher Messenger.

I have one copy of the No. 1 edition of Maher Messemger to give away and it goes to David Nickell.


Hostage Freed!

Welcome back to Colorado, Sweeny!

A few days ago I wrote how UPS was holding up delivery of Canon John Jordan's "Sweeny", saying there was $45.00 COD on the parcel. The COD was a surprise to me as well as John who had made certain to prepay all shipping costs.

When UPS driver returned to our door yesterday with the parcel, he dropped it off saying no COD was due. Seems their office had received a call that morning saying the COD was to be cancelled! Sweeny was being released without bail! (In fairness to UPS I should tell you the COD was being called for by a "UPS Brokerage" - I have a suspicion that someone at a UPS contract station was trying to line their pockets, but I have no way of knowing that for a fact.)

In any case, Sweeny is here safely, ready to be prepped for the next phase of his life!

Detweiler "buy-back" figure

You may remember my account of the three heads I gave unfinished to our son years ago, then last year when I saw that he had listed the same unfinished heads on eBay I decided to buy them back so I could finish them myself ... well, this is number two in the series. I hope to have it completed soon. (Finally!)

Mapping Out A New Show

Steve Kissell's Family Entertainers Newsletter (email) always has a helpful cover article for entertainers, and this is true again with his August issue. I recommend you check out Mapping Out A New Show by Norm Barnhart. Drop Steve and email and ask how you can be included on his mailing list: kisseltalks@cs.com

On another, yet related note, Steve Kissell will be the featured performer at the 2011 Creative Ministries Conference, September 22, 23, 24, to be held in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado. Over 20 workshops including 4 keynote addresses by Steve, inspirational humorist, motivator, educator, speaker, magician, and comedian. The Friday Night Gala Show is open to the public with tickets $5 at the door. For further conference information go to: www.rmcfcm.org/cmc

N/V give-away, Day #8

By 1990 Newsy Vents was being published bi-Monthly (six issues per year). I found three of those issues in the package sent to me by Bob Abdou to be used as give away prizes. Three from the year 1990 (above). The covers featured (L-R) Wayne Francis, Brad Cummings, and Todd Oliver. All full time professional vents. Know what else they had in common? They all began as youth and were working professionally as teens with full time careers by their twenties. And they weren't alone. There were at least a dozen of their peers that were doing the same. It's not that way today. Name me one professional full time ventriloquist today in the 20-29 year old age bracket. How does that project for the future of the art?

The set of N/V shown here is awarded today to Charles Varner.

Brad Cummings was among those featured in the Great Ventriloquist Collector Cards. I have one of his cards in a signed 5x7 mat - ready to frame. The winner of this nice collectible is Dave Boiano.


"Summer Daze"

Southern Colorado had an earthquake this morning, too, but nothing shakin' in Littleton, so I spent my day printing and binding Lessons for the Maher Course. Tomorrow will be spent putting together sets and boxing for shelf stock. And if I can accomplish all that, I still have cases to line, pad, and ship. "Lazy Days of Summer?" - Where?

Shop Talk

With the approaching holiday season in mind, I've been working to complete several Maher "retro" figures.

#7 N/V Give-away

Over a period of 40 years eight different figure makers built "hard" figures specifically to be sold through Maher Studios: Clinton and Kevin Detweiler, Howie Olson, Craig and Keith Lovik, Barry VanWert, Tim Selberg, and Tim Cowles. (Please note that Chuck Jackson is not on this list. Jackson did not build figures to be sold through Maher Studios, Littleton CO. Rather, he had his own workshop in California and sold figures through his own business.)

It was 1990 when we introduced three special edition figures made by Tim Selberg specifically for sale through Maher Studios. That relationship was relatively short lived, but several figures were sold, including the one pictured on the Jan/Feb 1990 issue of Newsy Vents shown here.

Also introduced about that same time was a line of custom one-of-a-kind woodcarved classics by Lovik, at least two of which are now owned and used by Terry Fator.

Today's' Day #7 set of N/V goes to Mimi Boheme.



From yesterday's mail: I bought a figure from Maher Studios 12 years ago - I love him dearly and perform with him regularly at our church services where we are always well received. My problem is that we had a house fire several years back and Denny suffered smoke damage. I tried to repaint him and put false eyelashes on him but he's never been the same. His hair has never been the same either, so he wears lots of hats! I'm not doing him justice...can you help restore him to his former beauty? Duane from Indy.
* * * * *
From Mr. D: Yes, I believe I can help you, but it would really help me now if you could send me a photo image of Denny so I can know exactly what figure you have. I need that information in order to give you a cost and an estimated time for restoration.

Body Shop

Question: I need help from the Clinton Detweiler Body Shop. I have an old vent-figure body where the opening at the top is way too large. The torso appears to be made of hardened leather. Can you help me with this?

* * * * * *

From Mr. D: Yes, I can help you. But I really need to at least see a photo of the head that will go with this body. That will determine how modifications are made to the neck opening. What you appear to have is an old Knee Pal body made for a figure with head made with the "drop through" style neck. The body is molded of rigid latex, discolored from age. After necessary neck modifications are made I could line it fully inside and out.

Rewarding Testimonials

By Chuck Meyer

A testimonial can really make you feel good about your performance. Getting as many testimonials as possible is also important from a business aspect. The accolades can be used when mailing out information about your show. They can also be used on flyers and brochures.

Testimonial letters will be few and far between unless you go after them. There are several ways to ask for testimonial letters.

Some performers carry self-addressed stamped envelopes (SASE) to the show to give to the client or anyone else who praises the show. The performer asks for the person to put their comments in writing.

I like to send a thank you letter to the client immediately after the show. To be effective, the client must receive this letter within 3-5 days following the show. In addition to thanking them for inviting me, I write. "If it isn't too much trouble, I'd appreciate a letter with your comments and reactions to my performance. Enclosed is a SASE. In this way I can keep my act fresh and entertaining."

There are three parts to a show that give me a genuine warm feeling. 1) Applause and laughter. 2) Getting paid (or the good feeling generated by a donated show). 3) Getting a testimonial sometime after the show.
* * * * *
From Mr. D: This excerpt is from an article by the same title in the Jul/Aug 1989 issue of Newsy Vents. One set of four 1989 N/V back issues is being awarded today to Tom Rogers.


Sam's saga continues...

Having read of Brent Vernon's plight as a result of having "Sam", his primary vent figure, stolen from his vehicle, two follower's of this blog offered to sell their "Comical Clyde" figure to Brent to be used as a permanent replacement. (Sam was built initially as a "Comical Clyde" Knee Pal.)

Brent did accept Canon John Jordan's offer with agreement that John's "Sweeny" be sent to me for a change of eye color and wig so it would more closely match the lost figure. UPS was to deliver "Sweeny/Sam" to me Friday, but they did not. I received notice from the courier that they cannot make delivery until a balance due of $45.00 is paid... so now Sam is being held hostage by UPS!

The saga continues ...

Biddy Bird

John Degel sent me a couple photos from a library show he performed in Sidney, Montana using the yellow bird vent figure I built. John said the bird was a "big hit" and "Surprisingly even the 11-12 year olds responded enthusiastically to him." And when they heard he liked music, "they spontaneously began singing to him!" And when the show was over - a "standing O" (below).

From Mr. D: It's always rewarding hear such good reports about figures I've built. You can see a couple closeup photos of this puppet, including a brief descriptions about how it was built, here: http://maherphotos2.blogspot.com


I've always loved teaching with object lessons and props, so it seemed only natural that I was attracted to ventriloquism where a prop was always in hand. Destiny, I'm certain.

I've had my pet props (favorites) and provocative props (stimulating). There are partial props (unfinished) and problem props (they never work as intended). Pretty props and powerful props. But at the top of my list of props with punch - they make a point. I guess I'm just a "propoholic" who specialize in puppet props (they can speak for themselves - well, almost).

I wrote a cover article for Newsy Vents on this subject in 1988. Reading it again today, I'm not certain what mood I was in when I wrote it 23 years ago, with nearly every other word containing the labial "p" (the above paragraph is one excerpt)...I must have been trying to use up all the labial "p's" I had avoided in my routine writing! I closed the article by saying:

"Beginner ventriloquists should not try to read this article without moving their lips unless some of the labials are first removed. For example, you might drop the ending labials from 'Prop Shop.' The result would be 'Pro Sho' which should be the goal of all performers!"

Day #5 N/V Give-Away: Two sets of three random 1988 issues of Newsy Vents (including the one pictured here) are being awarded today. The winners are Cleve Odom and James Tucker.


Ca$hing In On Holiday $how$

By Arty Freda

From Newsy Vents*

I have found that every month, day, and week: somewhere, somehow, a holiday is about to blossom. Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Christmas have their share of bookings but there are steps you can take to find out about other holidays throughout the year.

Calendars and appointment books provide some such information, such as Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur, and Hanukkah. Do research on holidays celebrated in other counties. Example: When researching France, I found July 14th was Bastille Day, also celebrated by French living in the US. I looked up French and American Clubs in my phone directory and booked a show for the children. Italy has its Columbus Day which is celebrated by various Italian and American Clubs, and the Sons of Italy.

There are holidays such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, plus other State and Legal Holidays. In such cases your direct contact could be Service Clubs, Veterans Organizations, Women's Auxiliaries, churches, schools (public and private), libraries - even nursery schools.

Remember, many clubs and various lodges are always ready for a party! Businesses hold annual employees' picnics and a picnic is a holiday in my mind. And each an every show has the potential of starting a chain reaction - you never know who is in attendance who will be in need of your future services. The whole world is a stage and awaits whatever you can offer in the field of entertainment.

* * * * *

From Mr. D: *The above was adapted from the cover article of the November 1982 issue of Newsy Vents. I have a set of 5 different issues of 1982 to give away in today's drawing, and the winner is: Mark Schrader

the Barker magazine

Issue #6 of the Barker Magazine contained several ventriloquist themed articles including a spotlight on International Ventriloquists. Published in 2002 it is still fun to read! The duration of the Barker's publication was short - only a couple years. But editor, Bob Abdou, saw to it that each issue was superb, both in content and quality of printing, with focus on the mission of "Enhancing, Respecting and Teaching the art of Ventriloquism." I have one copy, and the winner is Evelyn Hickman