Why, oh why?

Have you ever started on a project and then about half way through thought, "Why did I start this? - It's more work than it's worth!" Then the question is, "Do I continue, or forget it?!"

I had a couple "human hair" type doll wigs purchased as samples but never used. They are not designed as I would like for use on a figure so I've kept them stored away. Last week I decided to try at long last to fit one to a figure. At the point when I took the photo of this fellow, I'm setting the figure aside for the day ... "What was I thinking!"

(To be continued ...)


Vintage Suit for sale

A number of years ago Dave Miller found a seamstress to sew a classic design suit for his vent figure. I liked the look so well, I purchased several to be offered with the Miller designed figures being built at that time by Lovik, figures which we sold through Maher Studios.

I still have two of these hand sewn suits. The suit this figure is modeling is now sold. The second (not shown) is of brown color tones. They are two piece outfits (coat and pants), new and unused, and will best fit a 36"-38" figure. $45 PP.


Vent Magazine?

Question: Do you know if there is any vent magazine out there a person can subscribe to? Bob S.
* * * * *
From Mr. D: As far as I know, there is no one currently publishing a printed vent newsletter or magazine. The age of the Internet and ever increasing postage costs have pretty much put an end to print publications for ventriloquists.

Lester's roots

Last week I received a couple inquiries as to who made Willie Tyler's Lester. Seems there are several speculations.

Lester was made by Madeleine Maher with mechanics installed by her mechanic, George Eazer. I don't know the exact year Lester was made, but it was before we purchased the business from Mrs. Maher in 1969. She actually built two Lester figures for Willie, one to be used as an emergency backup.

In 1972 (or '73) I built an extra body for Lester. But the Lester I've seen Willie use more recently has hands made by someone other than Mrs. Maher or myself. (Which is an example of why I always tell people to use reservation and caution when trying to identify the maker of a figure by its hands.)


Florida Vent Get-together

From M. A. Denny Denemark

All the central Florida vents got together last Sunday at a meeting hosted by Ed Thomas at his lovely home with special guest, Jim Teter (photo), who dusted off a few of his presidential figures for his lecture. Also had performances by Mike Palma, Donald Woodford, and Tom Dahl. A very inspiring day. Jim Teter was awesome.

The same difference...

While taking a bike ride through Denver city park with his wife and step daughter a couple weeks ago, Andy Mrkvicka saw this fellow (picture) and his vent figure. Naturally he had to stop and strike up a conversation. He learned the vent's name is Nelson Camacho, and he got his vent figure from Maher Studios some 30 years ago!

I remember Nelson well. He was, and still is, a street performer who works the streets of Denver and Boulder during Summer months.

It's fascinating to me to observe how vents tap the earning power of their art. For a couple you know well, it is paying millions, and there are dozens earning thousands of dollars each year. Then there are some like Nelson, happily working for pocket change day by day. And as a result of their efforts, all experience the same reward of seeing smiling faces - there's no way to put a price on that.


Milestone event

Congratulations to K. S. Gode (India) who has completed his 400th figure (shown here). A remarkable achievement every figure maker will agree upon and admire.

Re-body report

From Bob Albano

"Dear Clinton,

"Bobby Biscotti's 'new' old body arrived today. Terrific job!

"Painting the hands makes a huge difference! No need for new hands as I had previously thought.

"Thank you for adding the Detweiler magic touch to this!"

Before (left)

After (right)


Preparing for Asia trip

Bob Walsh sent me a link to his latest ventriloquist video using two dummies in an interview with TV48 host. Bob Batcher. These two figures (Grandpa and Mahoney) will be going to Hong Kong and China with Deputy Bob in a few weeks.

There, they will be doing character, safety and faith shows in Asia. They will work with Hong Kong Youth For Christ, and local schools in Yunan Province, Sichuan Province and Beijing. I have to admit that it is exciting for me, here at home in Colorado, to see "my boys" preparing to make their impact on the other side of the world! Thank you, Bob!

You can see the aforementioned video here: http://youtu.be/xGDXidWTgpg

Felled by distant relative

From Cindy Maluschka

Since I wasn't using my professional doll when I was in college, I gave "Dennis" to a friend to take to Peru to be a missionary. He taught 2nd grade children for many years. When she came back from Peru, and without checking with me, she gave him to someone in her Mississippi home church who was interested in continuing with him.

When I recently got the ventriloquism "bug" again, I called the lady I had given him to and learned Dennis had found the second loving home. She called to see if he was being used, in hopes that he might be returned to me, That is when we were both saddened to hear that their house had been heavily damaged by hurricane Katrina. A tree had fallen upon and into the house, landing directly on Dennis! It was a little "poetic" but it felt like a true friend had been lost.
* * * * *
Note from Mr. D: I am communicating with Cindy about possible options for replacing Dennis,
the first vent figure I am aware of that was destroyed by a falling tree!


Maher Student Comment

"Thank you for sending the Mid Course (Basic) Certificate. It arrived in the post yesterday about lunch time and when I opened it I felt very proud of myself. After all, that study does take time. Thank you for correcting my answers to the questions I got wrong - by doing this correctly will help me make it right and succeed more as a ventriloquist. It's all good." Tyne Gravolin (Australia)

"Thanks, but no thanks"

Question: How much would you charge to mechanize a mouth in an original casting? Joe C.
* * * * *

From Mr. D: When it comes to a puppet making, I find it difficult to resist a challenge - a "weakness" I have come to regret more often than I care to remember. Whatever the project, building the prototype requires the most time, creative energy, stress, trial and error, and there is no guarantee of success. If you were presenting me with a casting I had worked with before, I would gave an idea of what I was in for. But with an original casting such as yours, intriguing as I find it to be, it does present enough unknowns that my better judgement (and already full shop schedule) tells me I must decline. But thank you for the offer, and good luck with your project!


Coin comment

"I couldn't let another minute go by without thanking you for your kind gift of two of the newest coins. Our Canadian dollar and two dollar bills have been out of use now for several years, and we have a one dollar coin the same size, but much more dull than the 2 cent souvenir coins you've sent to me.

"Our dollar coin has a loon on the back, and has been called a 'loonie' almost from day one. Our two dollar coin is the same size, but with a copper centre, and a nickel-coloured outer circle. It became a 'toonie' right away. In many ways they're convenient for parking, etc., but they necessitate carrying a larger change purse that tends to get quite heavy in the pockets from time to time. The two-cent souvenir reminded me of our 'loonies' right away. Thanks again and Blessings."
Canon John Jordan
* * * *
From Mr. D: You are very welcome. I may be the "looney" here for having the vent coins minted in the first place, but I've enjoyed the project with no regrets. And if anyone is reading this who does not own one of the two-cent souvenir ventriloquist coins, all you have to do is email me and request one. They're sent free and come with no obligation other than to simply enjoy them.

Ahoy Mate!

Bill Duff asked about the possibility of using the size 2T sailor costume on his Popeye soft puppet. Having sold the Sunny & Co. soft puppets for several years through Maher Studios, I'm afraid size 2T/3T is too large for Popeye. Doing an inventory double-check I did find that I have two of these hand sewn sailor sets of clothes (photo left). They will fit a 32"-34" vent figure nicely. $30 per set, postpaid.

The photo on the left shows Bill and Popeye at the annual Popeye Picnic, Chester, Illinois, always the second weekend in September.


"Hands Down"

For years I went with the "standard" factory hands (left) on the Super-Supreme figures, but the size shape and detail of the "deluxe" hands (right) by Braylu are superior, hands down, so I am now using on all the 34" figures. It takes more time, but well worth it.


Shop Talk

Four different materials were used to make these heads,

but a little paint applied with care gives them all something in common.


New #248 Pro-Value 36" Figure

This is my most recent completion of the Maher "retro" figures. I have posted additional photos here: http://mrdsfigures.blogspot.com/

Maher Honor Roll Graduates


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Ronald G. Arnold Jr. (TX)

Pip Carter (Australia)

Karen Climer (FL)

Tyne Gravolin (Australia)

Peter Hill (Australia)

Thomas Michael McClure (CA)

Kristine Myers (PA)

Takako Nagamine (Switzerland)

Steve A. Pataky (PA)

Hillary Saffran (AK)

Jamie Smith (WA)

Bill Warren (VA )

* * * *


Karen Climer (FL)

* * * *


* * * *

For more information about the

Maher 30 Lesson Ventriloquism Home Study Course:

Lesson One FREE 24/7!


When we turned off the Maher Studios computer for the final time in the Spring of 2006, I lost contact information for a number of vents. It was good to reconnect with Carla Rhodes last week. Carla told me, "Lots happening with my vent career - performing an hour long show regularly in NYC with a live band. Twisting the art form with new genres and having an absolute blast!"
(Photo by Hanna Toresson)

Maher Course - How does it work?

Question: I'm seriously considering purchasing the Maher Course of Ventriloquism, but I would like to know how it works. Eddie S.
* * * * *
From Mr. D: The Maher Course teaching material consists of 30 printed lessons and one instruction/demo DVD. Everything is sent as one unit so you can then proceed at your own pace as your schedule allows. There is no completion deadline. Approximately every two lessons you will find "Self-check" tests to help you judge your progress and understanding. Lessons 15 and 30 both contain an exam to be completed and sent to our office where it will be graded and your answers commented upon as needed. Completion certificates are issued upon our receipt of these two exams. In addition, you can email me at any time with questions. See http://mahercourse.blogspot.com/ for further details including information on how to order.


Sailor Costume

I had an inquiry as to what figure clothing costumes I might still have in stock from past inventory. Well, I don't have much at all. I do have this very nice (new) size 2T sailor set that will fit a figure 32"-34". (Shoes not included.) $30.00 postpaid US ($35.00 International)

The figure shown is "Lucky", a variation of "Luke" Super-Supreme figure.

You'll find Lucky listed for sale on my figure page: http://mrdsfigures.blogspot.com


Maher 2000

From Emmitt Grant: "Look what I found - I thought you would like to see it."

* * * * *

From Mr. D: "Lots of good memories on those pages, Emmitt. Hang on to it as a collector's item - just don't try to order from it!"

"The apple doesn't fall

far from the tree."


Festus update

From Russell Baker:

I wanted to let you know that Festus arrived. Thank you for the great and quick work that you did on him! My wife, Debbie, and I are thrilled at how the upgrade gave Festus a new look. I have always considered the construction or repair of a figure to be just as much an art as learning the technique of ventriloquism itself, and this is a case in point. And he arrived just in time to add him to the entertainment portion of a benefit program the church where I am pastor is doing to raise money for ceiling repairs in the sanctuary. Thank you again for the repairs and the upgrade.


Corky #246

Okay, he does look better outfitted as a member of the general populace! And eager to entertain!

I planned to offer him for sale with today's post, but he's already sold, and will soon be on his way to Pennsylvania!


Terrell - #244-R594-11A

Here's the most recent character from the "Maher Retro" series. As of last week, he now resides in Chicago.

All of the figures I build come with a certificate of authenticity and registry number. This is #244-R594-11A and I've just learned through the comment below that his name is Terrell. "Darrell and Terrell" Perfect!

I'm putting final touches on two more figures from this series. You can see the first one here now: http://mrdsfigures.blogspot.com/


Sweeny's saga continues afterall...

A couple weeks ago I wrote how Sweeny, the vent figure Canon John Jordan sent to me for modification, was being held "hostage" by UPS over a $45.00 COD payment. Canon Jordan (who lives in Canada) assured me the parcel had been shipped with all international costs prepaid, and after he contacted UPS, the COD was immediately dropped and the parcel delivered to our door without charge.

I assumed that was the end of that incident...how wrong I was. In our letter mail I now find an invoice from UPS for $45.00 on this same shipment (entry Prep Fee, Disbursement fee, and Merchandise Processing Fee) along with a list of all sorts of bad things that will happen to me for lack of payment. And to make matters worse, they sent everything in Adelia's name! How or why they got her involved, I have no idea. So to protest, I have to add Adelia to the mix!

Well, I'm not going to do that, so I today sent UPS their $45.00 "extortion" payment. Hopefully we've put an end to this portion of Sweeny's saga. But if you purchase anything from me in the near future, please don't request shipment by UPS - it isn't going to happen while this incident is fresh in my memory!

Abe Buzzard

From Del Burkholder:

After 20 years of tracking outlaw Abe Buzzard's grave, the living puppet Abe Buzzard (living at least with my hand in his back) poses at the grave of the dead Abe Buzzard. Abe, and later his wife, were buried in unnamed graves at Reading, PA. He feared his grave may become desecrated by his enemies. Puppet Abe is now ready to renew the legacy of his fallen namesake.

Garage Sale find

Reader Question: "Believe it or not, I purchased this figure at a garage sale. Someone had tried to smooth the fibreglass head with what looks like spackling. I would like it to have a ball/socket neck, new brown glass self-centering eyes, gray wig, and finished as a cantankerous old lady. I contacted the builder of the figure and was advised to just buy a new one. But I like the look of this one. Would you want to tackle this monumental job?"

* * * * * *

From Mr. D: "Want to?" - No! "Be willing to?" - maybe... You're right in describing the job as "monumental". Not "impossible", but certainly difficult. To change to ball socket neck and change the eyes, I would pretty much remove all current mechanics and start over. The neck area of the body would need some work as well. And complete repainting, after making certain the areas filled are smooth and secure. One of the bigger challenges might be trying to locate an appropriate wig and make it fit. I'd guess the head is 18"-19" in circumference. Doll companies do not make "granny" wigs that large, and the "granny" wigs provided by costume companies, etc. are larger than needed. (Does anyone reading this know of a source for a child size Granny wig?)

I'd estimate $350- $400 for the full job as you describe. That is a lot of money. But still less than the cost of a new figure.


Thank you!

Thanks to all of you who went out of your way to help me solve the replacement eye iris problem with Sam/Sweeny, Brent Vernon's replacement figure. I now have several options to choose from. I'll let you know the results.

CrossCountry Crosseyed Granny

Question: "I came home from a trip Friday. When I got my ventriloquist figure, Granny, out of her suitcase, I realized she didn't survive the trip very well. There is something wrong with her eyes. Perhaps we went over a bump on the way home and something happened. If you can fix her, I would deeply appreciate it." Rebekah

* * * * *

From Mr. D: It's a real "downer" to pick up your vent figure and find something not working. I know - I've had it happen to me! Thank you for sending photos. That helps greatly. I do not recognize the maker of the figure from the photos, so I can't diagnosis the exact inner mechanical problem without opening the head, but I should be able to fix it for you in just a day or two so Granny can get back on the road without seeing double white lines. I will email you shipping details.

Inmate Corky

I just finished this fellow and decided to try one of my leftover figure costumes on him. This was the result.

However, I'll find something else for him to wear as this set of clothes was a bit large on him. Corky is 34" and the prisoner outfit is more the size of a 36" figure. Thus, Corky, has a reprieve and is being given work release.

Figure from "specific" tree

A couple weeks ago on the vent list Steve Axtell asked if anyone knew of a vent figure that had been made from one "specific" tree. He was not asking about the species of tree or wood, but about a tree itself. I've never heard of one made in this manner, although many years ago we did have a tree in our front yard we had to cut down due to old age as it was in danger of falling. After felling the tree, we cut it up into sections and stacked the wood for curing, to be later burned in our fireplace.

On a whim, Kevin (who was then in Jr. Hi) took one of the log sections and created a rustic (crude?) wooden character with moving mouth. So until someone comes up with a better example, here (below) is one "figure" that was made from a "specific" tree...this piece made it from our front yard into our front room. (Until Adelia saw it - then it was delegated to our basement shop! :-)




"In today's post, you show a picture sheet from one of Lovik's Maher Workshop days. Here is another picture sheet from those days, though I don't know if one of those is Clementine. By the way, my first pro figure came from there back in '80 or '81 - the one in the blue checkered shirt is the one I orders. (Unfortunately, I do not still have him." Dave Boiano

* * * * *

From Mr. D: Clementine could perhaps best be described as a female Mortimer Snerd. I do not think she is shown on this set, but thank you for sharing this photo.


From Wes Green: "If you ever run across an ad with Craig Lovik's "Clementine", I would love to see it on your blog. We bought a basswood Clementine in 1979/80. Craig sent a note saying he would not be making any more. She was a great addition to my wife's program."
* * * * *
From Mr. D: "Craig sold the figures through his California Maher Workshop using photo sheets showing groups of characters. I believe there were four or five different sets of characters. I could only find two of the flyers in my files. Unfortunately, they do not picture Clementine. Maybe someone reading this does have the sheet with Clementine's photo and can email it to me. If so, I'll post it here."
* * * * *
Note: On the back of each photo advertising piece some short tip about ventriloquism was included. This piece had the following taken from a Newsy Vents newsletter:

Question: "How can I be sure the audience hears the words coming from my vent puppet and not from me?"

"Often vents find that very first performance to be the most difficult. This is true because you (the ventriloquist) are the one that has to be convinced you can actually do it. There is really no need to be fearful if you have practiced with the puppet until you are comfortable with it and if you are familiar with the lines you want to say. Yes, if you have thoroughly done your homework your show will be a success - in spite of your misgivings!" CD
* * * * *
From Mr. D: Just as a side note, Wes Green told me their Clementine had an every changing wardrobe thanks to their daughter. During her ages 3-6 she passed her clothes on to Clementine. The dresses that didn't button in the back were altered. Today this same daughter will soon deliver a daughter of her own. Wes says he's thinking of unpacking those "vintage" dresses of Clementine's, to give them to his daughter so she can decide if they will be as timeless as the memories he enjoys. (He has photos of both their daughter and the vent figure wearing the same dresses.)


From string to stick

Question: "In the past couple of years, I have run across a couple of old vent dolls with the string in the back of the neck, no head stick. One still worked, the other didn't. Do you also work on these string dolls to make them into headstick working figures? Just wondering because I threw them away thinking they had to be head sticks to be redone." Sandi
* * * * *
From Mr. D: There is seldom a reason an old vent doll of any type has to be thrown away. Almost all can be repaired, redone, upgraded, converted to hollow body with headstick, eyes added, etc. That's what we do, six days a week. I do recommend you contact Kevin Detweiler first. While I work alone, Kevin has an entire team working with him on just such jobs: animatedpuppets@charter.net

Insull Gem

Greg Claassen sent me several photos of his new Insull figure, splendidly restored by Alan Semok. The figure was named "Jackson" and was owned by Fred Barlow, aka "The Great Barlow" (seen in the photo at right). Barlow was a magician and ventriloquist. He passed away in 1971 and the age of 100. Greg purchased the figure through a United Kingdom auction house. "Jackson's" extras include weighted side to side eyes, and raising upper lip.

In the photo below you see two figures behind Jackson that are displayed in glass cases. The one on the left is very unique in that the head was cast by the McElroy Brothers, but went unfinished until 2007 when Greg added all the mechanics. "Johnny", (right rear) was fully built by Greg, built from a mold of a McElroy original. That original figure is now in the hands of Bruce and Janice McElroy. It was also the figure featured in Greg's superb book, The McEroy Magic.


(Animated Puppet upgrades)

You'll likely recognize these two - Simon Sez on the left and Jerry Mahoney on the right. The upgrades are not mine, however. They are being done by our son, Kevin, and no one does finer work. He sent them to me only for repainting (at least I'm still good for something - ha). Kevin, who lives in Missouri, and his team perform doll upgrades by the hundreds each year, so if you have a doll of need of such work, or know someone who does, contact Kevin Detweiler: animatedpuppets@charter.net


Relative value

From Greg Claassen: I'm in the process of restoring my first "professional" vent figure, "Jess Malarkey." I haven't used him in years but he was made by Craig Lovik (I think) and sold through Maher Studios in the 1970's. In the catalog he was called "Buford Buckworth".

* * * * *

From Mr. D: Yes, Buford was one of the "Talkalot" series of figures by Lovik. I was able to locate a 1973 Newsy Vents where that series of figures was first advertised (see below). $175.00 was a sizable investment in those days, but restored he'd bring several times that amount today. Of course, with him being your first figure (and a member of your family) I suspect his value to you today is - priceless!


Our newspaper dropped BIZARRO by Dan Piraro (one of my favorite cartoons) so I thank Jerry Layne for seeing that I received this from yesterday's comics (9-5-11). It came with this comment: "You know you've made it whan cartoonists do a whole strip or panel for you."

Carrying Cases

Question: I got a wonderful figure at Vent Haven this year and can't seem to find a case for it. I know you used to sell cases and was wondering if you have any left. C. S.
* * * * *
From Mr. D: I am planning to get out of the case business, but for the moment I do have a few left. Please go to http://maherstudios.blogspot.com and scroll down for updated info on what I still have.

1983 Museum Calendar - Unique

In 1983 Davidson Chemical printed a very large and unique monthly calendar for clients. 17"x22" in size (17"44" fully opened), with a different US Museum featured for each month of the year. The Vent Haven Mueum was the Feburary feature which explains why I saved this calendar.

Other months' feature: The National Watch and Clock Collector's Museum, Gladys City Boom Town, The Newcomen Society, The Old Rhinebeck Areodrome, The Wine Musem of San Francisco, The C. M. Russell Museum, The Museum of American Fly Fishing, The Little Red Schoolhouse, The Buffalo Bill Historical Center, The Perelman Antique Toy Museum, and The Forbes Magazine Collection of Faberge, American Manuscripts, Toy Boats, and Trophies. Each month page has brief descrption of each museum along with location and other pertinent information.

This rare pictoral calendar is high quality litho printing on heavyweight gloss paper and is in very good condition. (No tears; no bent corners.)

Shop Talk

From Russell Baker: I purchased "Festus" from Maher Studios at a time of true emergency over 15 years ago. I was scheduled to entertain at a Fun Fair. About 10 days before the event, some youths vandalized, beyond repair, the vent figure I had. I had a Maher catalog and ordered Festus (below). I received him in just 3 days - plenty of time to get a new routine for a new character! I have always been grateful for Maher's great service! Since then, Festus has been important in doing nursing home ministry, AWANA, Banquets, parties and Fun Fairs.
* * * * *
From Mr. D: Festus visited my shop last week for a repair of his mouth string. He's now on his way home, not only with his mouth operating properly, but also sporting new moving eyes and classy wig (above). There's a new sparkle in his eyes that I trust will be reflected in Russell's eyes as well.