Maher Student Honor Roll

December 2011 HONOR ROLL
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Donnie Beck (NC)
Jim Chaput (CO)
Gerilyn Dawn Doss (VA)
Takako NAGAMINE (Switzerland)
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Takako NAGAMINE (Switzerland)
Steven A Pataky (PA)

For more information, or to purchase the
Maher 30 Lesson Home Study Course of Ventriloquism:



Doll Restoration

Question: I'm a young ventriloquist and I am very interested in the art of restoring vintage ventriloquist dolls, and one day hand carving my own. I recently ordered and recieved a Dapper Dan (below) which I believe to be from the 1920s or '30s. His description said that he was composition, and I was wondering if you might know what kind of composition? There is some damage on his head, face, and one of the hands. I was also wondering if you can recommend a wood-filler and/or advice on how I can restore my vintage buddy. Here is an example photograph of his current condition. After cosmetics, I'm going to make him a new suit identical to his original. Thank you for your time.  -Tony
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From Mr. D: I still have some Plastic Wood dough from the '70s that I use to patch the vintage composition dolls.  I'm sure there's some similar product on the market today - try Home Depot.

The "wood composition" from the era of which Dapper Dan came seemed to be some sort of pressed sawdust or similar.  It is bound together with a glue that is water soluble, so clean with great care.  And be certain the head is well sealed before you repaint.  Use Gesso (or similar) to seal the head.  I've also used several light coats of "spray on" shellac to seal these heads.

Two more requirements:  Time and great patience...

This season - or any season

From James Tucker: Todd's character has a little British accent. I took him to Walmart to get a reaction from the public. We went into the Subway sandwich shoppe to get a bite to eat and they were overly busy that evening. The line was very long and seemed to not move at all but, the costumers didn't seem to mind because they were so engrossed with Todd and his charm. Children as well as adults were entertained. Lots of fun!
*  *  *  *  *
From Mr. D: The gift of smiles and laughter - perfect for any season but especially appropriate this month!  Thanks for sharing!


Peas in a pod?

From Audrey Albert
I can't tell you how much fun it was to surprise my husband on Christmas Day with Mr. Right Jr. who is now been renamed "Amos."

  While my husband ( Wil)  was out of the room,   I quickly set up "Amos" on  our bed.  When Wil came in he nearly dropped laughing when he saw a miniature of himself sitting in the bed.  He was even more surprised when he realized  that this was not just a doll but a professionally crafted vent figure. that looked like him.   He immediately bonded and named him "Amos" and they had a nice chat together.   Being an actor,  my husband was readily  able to give your wonderful figure a character of his own.

Mr. D, I have to say that your  creation was way beyond my expectation. I just kept looking back and forth from my Wil to Amos and was astounded at how much they resembled each other.  From the facial lines and forehead furrows to the little details above the mouth, and even  the shape of his nose ........ just so many details that you captured .  He truly is a work of art.  I can't thank you enough for this making this
wonderful figure.  And my husband is grinning from ear to ear.
*  *  *  *  *
From Mr. D:  "Amos" is an adaptation of an "Uncle Earl" casting from Braylu.


Future star?

 I know for a fact there were several thousand youth across the USA who received ventriloquist dolls for Christmas this year.   Zac L. from Austin, Texas was one of those.  I had the honor of lending a hand with Zac's doll, so when on the afternoon of Christmas Day I received the following note from Zac's mother, I was pleased:

"My son loves Scotty. We are all very exited about Scotty's shoes too.  They are Denver Bronco colors!  We are Bronco fans in our house."

Must have been destiny!  My hope is that Zac's ventriloquist career will prove to be a long and successful one!  And I wish the same for every youth who now has a new doll or figure in their hands.  Realistically, most will turn to other interests.  But a few will have embarked on a lifetime hobby, or career.  It does happen...I remember clearly when a Mr. Fator contacted me about his 9 year old son who was "Quite good at ventriloquism, but needs some better material."  You know how that turned out - and continues!


The Fourth Wise Man

Today, the day after Christmas, I want to share with you the little known legend of The Fourth Wise Man.  It is told that the group of wisemen who followed the star to Bethlehem that early Christmas long ago, actually began as a foursome.  But tradition has it that only three wise men completed the trip to see the baby Christ child.  So what happened?  Why was the fourth wise man missing? 

Scholars agree that it is likely his camel was not trustworthy to make the trip;  some believe the beast may even have refused to stand.  But why a stately animal would act in such an uncooperative manner, no one knows.  Perhaps the saddleback skills of this rider were lacking.  Several scholars surmise the fourth rider wasn't so wise after all, even going so far as to refer to him as a "dummy" (a bit extreme).  Others think the animal was weak from the frightful sight of this spirited man who refused to wear the robes and turbans of the day, preferring to dress in his futuristic, guady mod-garb, proudly worn, much to the chagrin of his peers.

It has been surmised the camel balked, sensing its human burdan carried no packages or precious gifts for the journey, a bit farfetched to think an animal could know such things.  But those who hold this position do so, believing the rider's hands were empty other than the ropes with which he planned to guide his ride.   No gifts he carried, for you see, he had no plans to present a visible hands-on gift.  Rather, he planned to present to the newborn king his very own self - his life and his service, with his desire to become a lifetime subject of this promised King of kings. 

Personally, I prefer this final summary to the legend of The Fourth Wise Man, because I can then conclude the fourth wise man was most certainly no dummy; rather, it may just be possible he was the wisest of the wise.

While I leave the historical truth of this legend for you to decide, let me assure you it is God's promise that any person who presents himself or herself as a gift to the Christ of Christmas will receive peace and life everlasting - the greatest gift of all, and that's the truth. (Re: Holy Bible, John 3:16)


Merry Christmas, 2011

"And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.'"  Luke 2:10

"Wishing you a very merry Christmas
and a joyful new year!"
Clinton and Adelia


Find Mr. D.

We're in the midst of the season of choir concerts, carolers, and joyful music, especially this Christmas Eve day.  I love it!  During my lifetime I've been blessed to be a part of several choirs, at church and schools.  Even a couple family choirs.  I had forgotten about one early choir until a cousin sent me this picture last week.  This was an all city choir made up of middle school students from our small community of Harper, Kansas.  At the time some of us weren't all that thrilled to wear those white angelic concert robes, but looking back, it was a great experience!  So, here's your challenge...which "cherub" (I use the term loosely) in this photo is Mr. D?   (See my post for Jan. 6, 2012 for the correct answer.)


Have a wonderful Christmas.
My very best wishes to all the readers of this blog.
Dave Showler (and Haywood).
Simon Sez:
"Season's Greetings to all,
and to all a good day. 
What fun to do Mr. D's bidding,
 laughing all the way."


"Holiday alert - avoid Mr. D's shop this time of the year - he'll
put you to work ... and you have to dress for the season!"
Note:  This fellow is newly completed and available for purchase: http://mrdsfigures.blogspot.com


Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season, and a very merry new year!
Melissa & Phil
Charlene, Bosworth and Charlie

Check out "Santa and Harvey"

From Greg Claasen:

Just wrapped up a 16 show tour of corporate Christmas events-was as far north as Regina, SK, Canada and as far south as Pampa, TX. Thankful to be home and just in time to miss the winter blizzard that has passed through.

To get you in the Christmas spirit, I thought you might like to see another project with which I've been involved. Several months ago Mary Ann Taylor created "Harvey Jingles, the Christmas mouse for the pilot episode of a children's Christmas TV show called "Santa and Harvey." I provided the voice and manipulation for Harvey which was filmed this past fall in Tulsa, OK. The producers hope to sell a series of episodes to various markets around the country for Christmas 2012. You can visit the website with several short clips of Santa and Harvey here:

Have a blessed Christmas.
Phil Nichols and Charlie dressed for their Holiday VENT-gnetts
to be posted on YouTube this week. 


Reader comment: Clothes for puppets

I just read the post asking about where to buy clothes for vent figures or puppets. The places mentioned, discount retail stores and children's used clothing stores are my favorite resources too. But I also keep an eye out in the local 99 cents stores. This year I found a couple of Christmas items sold as 20 ounce soda bottle covers. They worked perfectly as outfits for a couple of my smaller puppets. Here are Lanolin The Lamb (Lambchop's cousin) and Sandy the Sugar Glider in their holiday apparel. So keep your eye out. You never know where you'll find clothes for your puppets. Merry Christmas and God Bless.
Ron Havens


Photo Caption Contest

Here are several reader suggested captions for the above photo.

  1.  "Yep! Definitely a chip off the old block!" - Darl Bennett
2. "Yea, but mommy loves me best." - Donald ?
3. "How do you like my new hairdo?" - Doc Lowery
 4. "I didn't say 'skin', I said 'twin!" - Canon John Jordan
3rd place (tie)5."Toupee or not toupee - that is the question." - Tom Basso
 6. "Think of the money we save on shampoo." - Tom Basso
 1st place 7. "I guess Clinton didn't get the memo about wearing plaid today." Cheryl Keene
3rd place (tie) 8. "Will the real Clinton Detweiler please stand up!" - Bob Albano
4th place 9. "Hmmm, I can't quite put my finger on it, but there is something familiar about you two." - Bill Matthews
10. "Geez, I thought seeing double was bad enough ..." - John Degel
2nd place 11.  "Three D's in a Pod." - Pearce Columb

THANK YOU to all who participated by voting and/or submitting captions!
CONGRATULATIONS to the winners!

Another "Detweiler" figure report

From Bill Matthews: 
Just looked around your site. Nice. I thought you might like to have 
a picture of Larry. Another testimony of your handiwork. He was built 
in 1972 and is still going strong.

I'm a Maher Grad from back in 1978. I've been active in gospel Vent ever since, performing in schools, churches, nursing homes,  jails, prisons, and so forth. Larry (Larry lack-O-Witz) and I have been together the whole time. God has richly blessed our efforts over the years as a youth worker, pastor, and correctional chaplain.


I just got done putting up our Christmas tree and Stanley wanted to sit by it!
John Cassidy


Merry Christmas from Abe Buzzard
(Taken before his 1880's Ephrata Mountain Christmas Show.   Del Burkholder)


The Perfect Vent Figure?

By Alan Ende

If I had a penny for every time I heard some vent tell me they were looking for "the perfect vent figure" I could most definitely retire.  Whatever "perfect" means is beyond me.  I assume these vents believe that a certain figure will transform them into an overnight sensation...when nothing could be further from the truth!  If you look at some of the masters of the art, both past and present, you'll immediately notice the tremendous array of "figures" used.  Edgar Bergen had Charlie and Mortimer, both traditional "knee figures".  Shari Lewis' "Lamb Chop" is a soft puppet.  One of the all time greats, Senor Wences, used his hand to create "Johnny".

I'm sure most will agree that, although the above characters differ in size, material, and personality, they all have one thing in common: They were manipulated and brought to life by tremendous talents!

At Jack Flosso's Magic Shop here in New York, I have witnessed the likes of Senor Wences, Kenny Byrd, and other talents pop in on any given day, pick up a vent figure at random, and ad-lib an ingenious routine!

The magic of vent comes from within the vent, not any figure.  However, the right figure for the right material and presentation will definitely improve a vent's act.  There are a number of very talented figuremakers out there who create outstanding work.

Since I am known for my vast collection of vent figures, I notice there has been a great amount of interest lately in Marshalls (there always is!) and Macks.  That's great as long as these figures fit into the act and enhance it.  If you were attending a symphonic concert, would you be able to spot a Stradivarius?  That's how "Joe Average" audience member would look upon your partner.  So remember: the act comes from the creativity of the vent working his art to bring his character to life...not vice versa.

I hope this column comes to mind when selecting your first or next character.  Happy creativity!
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Reprinted from The Oracle, May/June 1987, Patrick Justian "Ye Editor".


Great debut!

From Andy Mrkvicka:

I am sending a couple of pictures from the debut weekend of (for this season anyway) Karl Kringle! 

He was able to perform back to back parties!  On Friday night we did walk around work and told jokes and sang carols for a huge foster child/family Christmas party!  The kids really enjoyed him, and his goofy jokes like "what did one snowman say to the other?" "Do you smell carrots?"

Then on Saturday morning, we were up early and went with my daughter's girls scout troop to perform Christmas carols in a local nursing home.  Karl and I walked up and down the halls with the girls singing songs, handing out Christmas necklaces and great homemade Christmas cookies!  The residents in this home seemed to really enjoy Karl and his silly jokes like "What do you call an old snowman?' Water!"

Overall it was a good weekend, and a great debut weekend for a wonderful figure!


Ventrilo-etts FYI

I've had to decline several requests for Ventrilo-etts because I am no longer building these puppets.  However, several are available currently on eBay, offered by Ron Shultz from his collection.  I don't have the item numbers, but if you do a search for Ventrilo-Ett, several listings will come up.

Address correction:

It has been called to my attention that I gave a non-valid address for the submission of your photo captions.  My sincere apologies!  The correct address:


Questions:  I was wondering if you are ever planning on coming out with a book or video of your methods of dummy making and mechanics?  I know there are a few out there now, but not sure if they are the same method as what you use.  Your dummies are always good looking and although I don't have one of yours, from what others have said are very reliable and perform excellent as well.
Also, would you mind telling me where you buy your dummies clothes, especially boys vests?  I occasionally find a shirt I like at Wal-Mart, but I seem to have a hard time finding stuff I like.  And I haven't been able to find a vest anywhere.
Also, any chance your son or someone else will take over Maher Studios?  Who is going to supply us whenever you decide to quit permanently?  Thanks for your help!   Lance
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From Mr. D:  No, I have no plans to produce a book or video on my methods of making a figure.  No two are exactly alike and I use at least a dozen tools I crafted myself just for various unique steps.  So my way would take some changes in order to be useful to the masses, and at this time, that thought does not inspire me at all.

My son grew up in my shop and has been building figures his entire life.  And we both scontinue to build figures today.   But the materials and method of mechanics Kevin employs today are quite different than mine.  It's not a matter of right or wrong - each figure maker has his own way of doing things depending on artistic ability, tools, handcrafting skills, etc.   That's the way it's always been with hand crafted products.  I can look at any ventriloquist figure and determine how it was built.  But unless I could find a way to clone myself as the figuremaker himself, I'd never be able to exactly duplicate the work.  In fact, I find it difficult enough trying to duplicate my own work!

I purchase clothes whereever they sell children's clothes.  Wal-Mart, K-Mart, JC Pennys are my favorite retail sources for new clothes.  Thrift stores can be a gold mine for clothes.   A child's vest will be a more difficult item to find.  You are most likely to find them Christmas and Easter seasons - occasions when mother's like to dress up their children. 

Names, models, and titles change, but I feel quite certain there will always be a source for all the types of ventriloquist products and services Maher has sold over the years.  Thank you for your support, and your words of encouragement!


Antique Store Treasures

From Bob Abdou
I wanted to show you my Patrick Justian dummy.  I found him with a suitcase marked Patrick Justian at an antique store in Pennsylvania.   Besides having the name Patrick Justian on the suitcase that the dummy was in, inside the body of the old man/cowboy is a dog tag (metal plate) with the name Patrick Justian embossed on it, so that's proof this is one of his creations.  He is the old cowboy sitting on the horse in the bottom right corner.  I call him Sheriff Ribeye, we perform the act with him on the horse.

I added the horse, cowboy clothes, hat, white hair and beard to him to give him a Texan look.  I'll keep him the same now that I live in Ohio.  Basically he was an old man with one tooth, and big blue eyes.  He is built well and has smooth mechanisms.  The eyes also move side/side.

I was hoping to find a McElroy each time I go to an antique store but found this one instead, less money and just as rare.

Another side note: 3 other dummy's in this photo were found at antique stores:
1)  The pale faced dummy in the left bottom corner - it is British, paper mache, and filled with straw, and only one eye winks.
2) The brown skinned dummy, 2nd on left top, excellent condition.
3) The red haired one, 4th on top middle, a Turner figure with spitter and original spat shoes.
in this photo are 4 dummies found at antique stores, so they're out there, you just have to sift through all the dust and boxes.


Missing ...

Question:  I purchased a vent doll from you in 1985.  I’ve attached a photo of the doll.  Our home was robbed and the doll was one of the items stolen. 
Are there any identification numbers or marks on your dolls that would help the police to identify the doll?

The doll was stolen sometime between May 2010-July 2010.  We were in the process of moving and didn’t realize until Summer 2011 that the doll was actually stolen and not just “lost in the move”.  It was a very ‘sentimental item’ so even though the time had passed, I contacted the Sheriff to see if he could help me find it.
 *  *  *  *  *
From Mr. D:  Your figure was made by Craig Lovik.  It appears to be the character he called "Theodore Bump".  He did sometimes put a label with the name Lovik World on the head post.  But labels can be removed.  The figures he built did not carry individual ID numbers or marks.  If recently stolen we'd advise you and fellow vents to watch eBay, Craig's list, etc. But unfortunately, after so much time has passed, I fear chances of recovery are slim although miracles do happen and I pray that might be the case in this instance. 


How to build your own

Create Your Own Vent Figure (1983) by Patrick Justian takes an overall approach to several methods of building your own ventriloquist figure: wood composition, paper mache, plaster craft, Celastic, wood carved, fibre-glass and styro-putty.  So, as you can imagine, it is not complete in details; rather a collection of basic designs and instructions and simple illustrations.  The extra features covered are moving eyes, raising upper lip, winkers, hair raiser, stickout tongue, wiggling ears, handshaker, knee lifter, nudger, spitter, smoker, light up nose or cheeks, wiggling nose.  This is an unread copy I've saved since it came out in 1983. 

I don't know if Patrick actually built a vent figure himself although his father was a carver and do remember his telling me of a figure he and his father were building.  Certainly he was not experienced in working hands on with all the media he writes about, not did he actually craft all the features he writes about.  Looking through the book I recognize a great deal of influence from several other publications (including one of my own).  Sadly, Patrick Justian II died at a far too young age after an extended illness.  I do not know the year of his death. 

Create Your Own Vent Figure, For sale now:  http://www.ebay.com/itm/260913919322

Holidays - Just around the Corner!

Nancy Rosekrans, aka "Rowdy the Clown", sent me this picture of herself and her boy "Reggie" as they performed for the IBV Ring #186 Holiday Party last December.  I had to smile as I read the words on Reggie's shirt ("Dear Santa, I can explain...")...they brought to mind a cartoon I saw just recently (see below).

By the way - if you or your vent figure needs low cost Santa or Elf hats, reindeer antler headgear or the like,  try your local Dollar Store.  Ours is stocked with lots of such seasonal garb.  


THE ORACLE - Patrick Justian II, Editor

Considering the fact that the editor was little more than a teenager, THE ORACLE from 1986-87 was quite newsworthy for what it was.  The 8-12 page newsletters had noteworthy contributors including, Capt. Dick Wightman, Chuck Jackson, Steve Axtell, Peter Rich, Bill DeMar, Alan Ende. 

Unfortunately, Patrick Justian had a bit of a maverick reputation in the ventriloquist community and his efforts were not received with a great deal of enthusiasm.  So the  duration of this unique ventriloquist newsletter's publication was brief.  This collection of 7 may possibly include all that were published.  If you are a collector of ventriloquist memorabilia, you'll not get this chance often. You will receive the exact issues pictured.  The pro vents featured on the covers are: Richard Bruno, Capt. Dick, Pinxy Larson, Todd Stockman, Robert Ator (non-vent; artist), and Wilson Cronenwett.  For sale on eBay auction now:  http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290644659652

Here's a bit of history - if only he could talk today!

'Douglas', a dummy used by Arthur Langley Handen in his ventriloquist act to entertain the troops when he served with the Royal Artillery during the First World War. The dummy was possibly named after Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, the British Commander-in-Chief.  Used by Arthur Langley Handen in his ventriloquist act to entertain the troops when he served with the Royal Artillery during the First World War. The hole in the case was made by shrapnel from a German artillery shell.  The dummy has painted papier mache hands and head.
More photos and additional information: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30083399

For Sale

This very rare issue of VENT NEWS was the first newsletter published by Michael Rzeminski, owner of Izzy Rizzy Enterprise, Chicago, IL.  I'm not certain but what it may have been the only issue published - certainly there were no more than a handful.  But the contributors some well known names from that era: Toni Vaci (Names In The News); Danny Asbury (Ventriloquism Lives); Mark Hellerstein (Ventriloquism: The History, The Art, The Love); Jim Stukel (Dummy-Line - an excerpt from which is printed below) plus a dialogue, ads, and last but certainly not least, a front page cover feature interview with Jimmy Nelson that is most interesting.  A vintage item from the past; a treasure for the future!  http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290642977886

by Jim Stukel

I feel that sitting on a chair and having the figure on your knee is wrong because your audience cannot get a good view and its also outdated.

Using a chair with your leg on it and figure on your knee is bad because the vent has a tendency to be facing (body position) too much to the side. 

The best is to have a stand with a small board on it for the figure to rest upon and have the figure's top part of head about your shoulder height.  You stand a little in back and to the side of the figure.  It gives you better coverage of the audience.  In fact, it is 180 degree angle. 
*  *  *  *  *
To see several 2011 stands available for purchase today, go to: http://animatedpuppets.blogspot.com


How many Charlies?

By Alan Semok

This question has come up every so often on the forum, and the "number of Charlies" will always depend upon whom you ask. Honestly, I doubt we will ever have an exact number.

For whatever it's worth, years ago (while Edgar was still alive, actually) I was told--quite specifically--that there were 13 Charlie figures made in all.
Since that time, I think I've accounted for at least 8 Charlies (five or six of which I have handled at some point). There may indeed be more, or I may be off by one or two.

In his publicity Bergen claimed more than once that there was only one Charlie but of course, that was just a publicity statement. At other times, he allowed that there were attempts to copy Charlie but all failed miserably.

Either way, given his fame and prominence, relying on a single puppet would have been foolhardy. We know for sure that even as early as the late 1920's there were already at least two Charlie figures since, in several instances, they both appear in various films: in a few of the Vitaphone shorts, the two puppets appear within the same film and it's pretty easy to spot the differences. In one shot we'll see the Charlie that is usually referred to and accepted as the "original", while in another shot (within the same film) we'll see the "moving eyes" Charlie which the Smithsonian maintains is "the original" (without commenting further, I'll leave it to others to sort out the provenance of that particular appraisal).

It seems to me though that in the end, there was in reality only one Charlie since in assessing Bergen's fame and influence on the art, it is unquestionably the character that's most important here, not the physical puppet. The one and only Charlie was in Edgar Bergen's brain. :-)

As vents and students of the art and its history, we tend to get caught up in the minutia of sorting out the differences between the various Charlie figures. Quite honestly, it probably mattered little to Bergen himself, and all the public had to see was the top hat and monocle, and it was Charlie.
The way I see it, Bergen's success was ALWAYS about the characters and the humor, not specifically the physical figures he used.

Thanks for coming to class. No homework assignment tonight. Tomorrow's lecture will be about "lip control". (I'm going to go hide now....)

For sale:

This 78 minute movie comedy classic has long been a favorite, especially with fans of Fields, Bergen & McCarthy.  A harassed circus proprieter (Fields) and his mixed up entourage keep you laughing from beginning to end of the action.  He even tries his own version of a ventriloquist act.  But the biggest laughs is the result of free-for-all banter between Fields and McCarthy, "the woodpecker's favorite pin-up boy".  Great fun for all!http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=260911528335

How about a gift for yourself?

Since I seem to be on a Bergen theme, I dug out an item from my collection for eBay auction.  You probably have on your desk or in your purse a gift list for others.  You might consider adding this to the list as a gift to yourself.  Black and white photo of Edgar Bergen with Charlie and Mortimer.  This photo pose has always been one of my favorites.  Matted and framed, ready for desk or wall display.  The image (under glass) is 5x7 inches; the overall size of the piece is 10x12 inches.


Lots of Charlies

Dave Miller sent me this very fun "Charlie" collage.  I thought about having a contest to discover how many Charlies you can find in the picture, but decided to forgo that idea, knowing we'd get into a conflicted discussion on which dolls/products/prints in the photo are true licensed Charlie McCarthy items and which are "wannabes"!  If one of you experts on Charlie wants to take a crack at it, please do so...for the rest of us everyday fans, including myself, enjoy.

How to be a Strolling Ventriloquist

This RARE 8.5" x 11" booklet (14 pages) was self-published by the author, Steve Williams.  It bears copyright date of 1980, and while the print quality is only fair, I assume this is from the first printing since it is signed by the author.  The chapters tell how to do ventriloquism as a strolling ("walk-around") entertainer.  How to watch and work the audience, what not to do, what type of material to use (with examples) and how to write it, what you can expect from this type of ventriloquist job.  Much good tested and proven information here:  http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290642869458


Final call!

Well, surprise!  This day came much sooner that I anticipated!  While packing some orders today, I discovered I only have 20 or so of the ventriloquist TWO CENT coins left in stock!  2.5M of these coins were struck.  All are now in circulation except this last handful so it's true value is already as a ventriloquist collectible and memento!  I assume most of you reading this have this coin in your collection, but if not, you can purchase them if you hurry.  I just listed a lot of two on eBay:  http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=260910970917

Using the "Ventrilo"

Saturday I mentioned the "Ventrilo" sold by Johnson Smith Company.  The following is their vintage instruction on how the "Ventrilo" should be used (taken from The Art of Ventriloquism).
*   *   *   *
The Ventrilo as an Aid to Ventriloquists
It will be pleasant when the wind is howling without, among the snow laden limbs of the trees, to be reminded of the gay summer by the counterfeit notes of the woodland songsters; or, wandering among the woods and fields in the spring or summer time, how glorious to challenge the feathered musicians to a contest of skill with you in their own sweet language.  This can be accomplished with a device called the "Ventrilo".

The way of using this instrument is to place it in the roof of the mouth, with the side on which is the membrane downwards; then place it gently in its place with the tongue, and blow between the tongue and the upper teeth.  After the fist two or three attempts, you will be able to produce a slight sound like a mild grunt; then as you practice it you will find you can prolong and vary the sound somewhat, so that in the course of a couple days you can imitate the barking of a dog and the neighing of a horse.

 With two or three weeks' practice you will be able to imitate some of the song birds; but, to produce exact counterfeits of the best singing birds, you will probably require months of study; the result, however, will reward you for all your pains, for certainly to be able to carry a mocking bird, canary, thrush and cat bird in your vest pocket, is no small accomplishment.

When not using the Ventrilo, it should be kept in a glass of water to prevent its drying. 

One of the ventriloquist's most interesting feats: "throwing" his voice over great distances.
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The above is a reprint of Chapter 7 from The Art of Ventriloquism, Johnson Smith Co and George W Callahan.  http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290640886646


Before and after ...

  This Knee Pal, recently purchased by Lori Schnell,
had multiple needs when it was delivered (photo below left).  Facial flaws, faded paint, neck opening too large, headpost too long, eye openings too small, grungy wig, fabric on arms and legs was rotten and torn.

But after several hours/days in my shop "Frankie" was looking much better (right)!  I did all the repairs and repainting.  Lori refurbished the wig in the following manner:

After removing the wig from the head, Lori cleaned and recolored the wig by using Speedball brand fabric screen ink, diluted with 71% strength rubbing alcohol.  A spray bottle was used to saturate the wig, then rinsed in cool water before being allowed to dry and then combed. 

Here's looking at you!

The eye openings seemed much to small
be visually effective.

It took patient steady hands with my
Dremel to carve the openings larger
without removing the eyes!

From P. Grecian: "You made the eye openings bigger without removing the eyes first? Wow. THAT impresses me mightily!"
*  *  *  *
From Mr. D: I decided if my dentist could drill on teeth without removing the teeth, I should be able to do this job without removing the eyes!  And my patient looked directly at me through the entire process - never blinked once!  Always smiling and without Novocaine.  Maybe I should have taken up dentistry.


Maher student report

 Enclosed is a picture of me with my figures and one of me with Woody, a Clinton Detwiler figure dated 12/10.  I just bought him used and don't have any paperwork on him. My Danny O'Day was upgraded by you, and my Jerry and Simon were painted by you and upgraded by Kevin. Jake is a Steve Barry figure. I just did my 1st open mike last night it seemed to go pretty well. I use my ventriloquism at church for AWANA club 3rd through 6th graders.  I also have 9 videos on YOUTUBE.  My advanced certificate is dated October 24, 2011.  Thank you for everything, Steve Pataky


Tis the season...

"Have a great holiday"
David Fowler

Signed copy for sale..

By BILL DeMAR, "Master of Sight and Sound". Subjects covered are: 1. Anxiety/Nervousness, 2. Breathing and Breath, 3. Comedy, 4. Hand Puppets, 5. Lighting, 6. Manipulation, 7. Material, 8. Presentation, 9. Props, 10. Practice, 11. Power, 12. Repertoire, 13. Staging, 15. Sound/P.A., 15. Timing/Speed, 16. Voice/Distant Voice, 17. Variety/Versatility, 18. Wardrobe/Make-up, 19. A Routine, 20. Some Thoughts.  For sale now:

I enjoy reading Bill's writings. He writes from a lifetime of experience as a professional ventriloquist and he doesn't mince words.  Case in point.  He opens this work in this manner:

To begin with, I would like to dispel some utterly ridiculous concepts about ventriloquism.
1. It is not the work of the devil.
2. It does not take some abnormal construction of the vocal cords.
3. It is not limited to just a few.
4. No one can make his/her voice travel silently through space and then expect it to be heard in a distant place of their choice.
5. The "ventriloquist" cannot expect his/her voice to sound as if it is coming from behind someone.
6. The "ventriloquist" does not use a tin whistle or any other object in their mouth.
Now let us move on with our understanding of ventriloquism.
(Copyright 1995 by Bill DeMar)
*  *  *  *  *
I to all the above, I say, "Ditto"!

Ahh...the memories...

I don't know if my interest in magic as a kid would have continued without Johnson Smith Company, as they were my primary supplier during the '40s and early '50s.  Growing up on a farm in rural Kansas, there was no local source for magic supplies.  The town library had books which contained some instructions I used to make many of my own tricks, but for anything ready made, Johnson Smith Co was my constant potential source and the mailbox alongside the highway was our connection.  I would peruse each issue of their catalogs until I practically had them memorized. 

So when I went through the pages of this book, The Art of Ventriloquism, How To Throw Your Voice, and read the name, Johnson Smith Company on the Cover, it stirs many fond memories.  Yes, I even at one point ordered one of their "Ventrilos", but had little success and soon tossed in my "junk drawer".  While the small mouth piece came with some simple ventriloquist instructions, they were nothing as complete as this book from the 1960s.  It appears to be authored by George W. Callahan and is amazingly thorough in it's teaching about ventriloquism, explaining what ventriloquism is, where it came from, how and why it works, how to do it, and more.  While there is a chapter on ventriloquist figures and dummies, I suspect this is more for the benefit of the publisher who's ad for  ventriloquist dummies makes up the back cover.  Callahan's writing places more emphasis on the distant voice and its usage.  He never describes how to speak without moving one's lips while performing with a dummy.  A very brief chapter seven does explain how the ventriloquist should use the "Ventrilo".  (I read now that it should be stored in a glass of water when not in us...maybe that was my error! :-)

While Edgar Bergen and Charlie's picture is on the front cover, and Charlie McCarthy dolls are offered for sale on the back cover (for $14.95) there is no mention of this famous pair on the book's inside pages.  I'm not sure how effective this book was in producing performing ventriloquists but it is another piece of the art's history and a fascinating read.  For sale now on eBay: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290640886646


Squeaky Mouth

Question: My daughter pulled out my old Knee Pal, Trixie, who has been packed,away for awhile.The mouth squeaks a little now. I have never taken the wig off, and am wondering what is the easiest way to fix it? Any advice appreciated.
*  *  *  *  *
From Mr. D: If the mouth squeaks it is likely the axle (or the lever on the headpost).  Use clear silicone spray lubricant.  The aerosol can comes with a long small diameter nozzle.  You can usually insert the nozzle through the open mouth and give a shot of lubricant directly onto the point where the axle enters and goes through the mouth unit.  Tilt the head sideways, give the axle a shot of spray and open and close the mouth repeatedly to encourage the liquid lubricant to run along the axle into the mouth unit.  Do first one side and then repeat on the other side.  (Repeat if necessary.)


Who made Charlie?