Question of Identity

Question:  I wanted to email you this picture to see if you know anything about this puppet.  ThankS!
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From Mr. D:  The potato "Tater Tot" definitely looks very familiar to me. I want to say I put the mouth in it - but can't remember details. I may have picked the novelty pillow up at some store on a whim and installed the mouth.  It certainly would not be the first time I did that (and probably not the last).   Or it could be it was sent to me for such a conversion, but if so, who it was for, I do not remember.  I document almost all novelty puppet jobs now with photo(s), but I imagine that one was done before I got my digital camera.


Bodies for sale

BODY for 35"-36" Figure.  (By Detweiler) I won't describe this as "new" since I've had it in my stock room for nearly 20 years. But it is unused and like new in condition. Wood frame body, fully lined inside and out. Sewn and poly stuffed arms and legs. Latex hands ( hands by Lovik, as I recall). Neck opening "socket" design, ready to receive head with "ball" base on the neck.

Torso is molded rigid latex (composition), naturally contoured chest, waist and shoulders. Partially lined. Plywood base and plywood shoulder braces. Rigid latex (composition) hands and feet. The torso is equipped with two animations. A lever inside the right shoulder raises and extends the right arm as a "handshaker". A lever at the left shoulder, when pulled downward, causes the left arm/elbow to lift and move outward to "nudge" the ventriloquist. The neck opening is designed to be used with a head that has the ball shaped base on the neck, which would rest and turn upon the cushioned shoulder opening. This body was built for the Knee Pal ventriloquist figures built during the late '70s and into the '80s. It is in excellent condition and has never been used, at least not significantly. I'll include the clothes. The shirt is hand sewn just for this figure. 


If you have ever tried to pose your figure with arm raised for a photo, you know it takes some creativity to keep the raised arm/hand in position long enough to snap the picture.  Take a close look at how Bergen managed this with Effie and Charlie.  The cords of their monocles do the trick!  The cord from Effie's eyepiece is tenuously looped around the tip of her finger.  With Charlie, the cord is looped (unseen) around his thumb.  Clever!  (From the poster, ALL DOLLED UP.  See post below.)


Illustrated Current News Poster For Sale

Here's a very eye-cathing vintage collectible poster from 1944.  Titled, ALL DOLLED UP.  The caption (quoted on my eBay listing) is an introduction of Bergen's "Ophelia" character.  Published by Illustrated Current News.   Poster facts:  
  • One of a long-running series of oversized (12-1/2 x 19-inch) posters
  • Published by Illustrated Current News, Inc. of New Haven, CT
  • Distributed both via subscription and at news stands
  • More details here:  http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290768175473


    Question:  Why is the store closing?   The website will continue though hopefully?
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    From Mr. D: Maher Studios officially closed in 2006. I have been selling from the remaining book inventory, but my stock has depleted to the point I've decided to clear the shelves to make room for my newest project, the Hall of Fame Coins www.hofcoins.blogspot.com

    The www.maherbookstore.blogspot.com website will be taken down at the end of September.  Until then ALL REMAINING BOOKS will be clearance priced at $3 each while supplies last. 

    This daily blog will continue, of course.

    For Sale - rare!

    A very funny, yet practical puppet made up of cleaning tools and designed to be assembled during the act! (Routine included.) A wash pail body; arms of scrub brushes; feet of cleaning sponges; two Plungers make the head and mouth; a mop for hair! Add eyeglasses with jiggle eyes attached and "on with the show"!

    The mouth opens and closes from a lever on the "head post" from within the "body" just like a true vent figure! There's never been a ventriloquist "dummy" quite like this one! Only a few were built, so this is both a collectible as well as a very useful novelty figure. I've held this one for over 20 years. It is unused and in perfect condition - now it can be yours!


    Wood Carving

    From Bill Smith

     The current issue of "Wood Carving" magazine I just bought at Barnes & Noble (I'm a whittler), has a great 5 page feature on Lenka Pavlickova and the beautiful "old school" hand carved marionettes she carves. Thismagazine is printed in the U.K., cost $8.99. (July/August 2012 issue.)


    From Bill Matthews

    Our church had  family camp this Summer at Odosigah Bible Conference (pronounced O-da-say-gah) in upstate NY last week. (http://www.odosagih.org.  The camp director  heard I was a Gospel Ventriloquist and asked me to do a couple  routines during the week during evening chapel services. Of course I  said, ye,s and we all had a great time. Even made some contacts with other visiting pastors.
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    From Mr. D:  I love the photos - I can sense the fun.  And seeing one of my early vent figures still in service, and effectively so, is very rewarding! Pretty neat!


    Rare Storyteller Figure For Sale

    I am the original owner of this 40 year old figure. For several months it was used as an office display model. Then it was placed in climate controlled storage where it has remained until I took it out this week so photos could be taken. I considered doing several upgrades on it, including giving it a haircut, then decided I should leave it "as is", because it is one of Craig Lovik's very first ventriloquist figures, and is all original, including clothes, wig, paint job, hands, controls made of wire coat hanger - everything. As a vintage collectible, this is a rare piece for someone's collection!  More photos on the auction listing, where it will be sold with no reserve:  http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=261087669906


    Last One!


    Best sized for 32"-34" ventriloquist figure.  http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=261087165950

    For sale:

    A "Coat of Many Colors" also known as the "Wordless Coat".  Size 2T (for 32"-34" vent figure).  It does have the opening in the back.  Custom hand sewn.  New and unused.  For sale on eBay: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=261087161041

    Dummy to save the day!

    From Melissa Nichols:

    Hi Clinton,
    I wanted to tell you about a play I will be directing this fall, which features a ventriloquist.
    The play was actually written by Phil, and is a murder-mystery comedy in two acts, and is very much in the vein of “Charlie McCarthy Detective.”
    It is about a radio star ventriloquist who is invited to a posh country estate for the weekend to entertain the members of a Billionaire family. During the course of the weekend, the group is cut off by the landfall of a tropical cyclone, and to make matters worse, there is a murder... and another... and another! In order to save the day and everyone’s skin, the little wooden pal of Lester Winchell (the vent) steps up to the plate to solve the mystery and save the day!
    I will also be filming the performances to cut together a DVD of the show.

    September 13-16, 2012.
    The Country Playhouse, Houston, Texas.  www.countryplayhouse.org  
    Melissa (and Charlene)


    Pair Selberg hands for sale!

    Here's a rare opportunity for someone.  I have a new pair of Tim Selberg hands for sale.  They are ready to sand and paint.  The size is most suited to a 34-36" figure in my opinion.  (I'm clearing my stockroom in preparation of my next project.)  For sale on eBay:  http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=261086596622


    I currently have auctions on eBay for wig and dress outfits designed and sized for converting Danny O'Day dolls into cute young ladies.  Add eyelashes (Walgreens) and she's ready to go.

    One wig example: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290764781750

    Dress outfit example: http://www.ebay.com/itm/290764776449
    Book Closeout Clearance Now!
    All Books: $3.00 each*
    *While supplies last. 
    Stock is definitely limited.
    Please email to confirm/reserve titles
    you wish to order!
    Free shipping (USA)!

    Look what I found!

    "It's amazing what you can find if you look hard enough..."
    John Degel
    Montana Magic & Ventriloquy
    *  *  *  *  *
    From Mr. D:   I'd be smiling, too!  And you have one of the rare original models made by the "Talking Tie" creator, himself: Kevin Detweiler.  Oh, how I wish he could still make them!


    Puppet/Doll/Figure Hands

    6 Pair LARGE WHITE CLOWN HANDS by DOLL CRAFTIN'; I'VE USED THESE FOR VENTRILOQUIST DUMMY 30"-32". They were also used by Lovik World on some (maybe all) of the Knuckle Noggin series of ventriloquist figure. I used auto body filler to fill the heart shaped indention on the palm. When painted, they have a very cute, whimsical appearance.
    eBay: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=261086292021

    Size 4T Jacket for sale

    Gold Size 4T Suit Coat (Danny Dare). I purchased this for ventriloquist dummy, figure or doll but never used. It needs pressing, but there are no flaws. It could be worn by a child as well, because the jacket has not been altered in any manner.

    Ebay: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=261086288146

    "He'll move his tail for you"

    This dog puppet is one of the "Nitzie" dogs made by Delores Nitz. But is must have been a "one-of-a-kind" because the fur is not one we kept in stock for regular catalog sale. The puppets were unique in that they used two hand operation: One hand ggoes into the head and mouth, and the other hand's finger went into the tail to "wag" the tail. I loved them! They were so lifelike many people mistook them for a real dog as they were carried around.  This one is listed for sale on eBay auction now:  http://www.ebay.com/itm/Ventriloquist-Dog-Stage-Puppet-/130751400649
    More than anyone I know, Steve Parker is the master manipulator of the "Nitzie" puppets.  Just yesterday he wrote:
    "I still love the Nitzie character. I use Frisky so much. He still looks great after these many years. I do a routine with him using Distant Voice. He has a pet flea who often lives in his paw and we visit with him. Frisky's friend's name is 'Irving'
    I also use a bottle routine with Irving."

    Another rare collectible

    I was pleased to receive for my personal collection, one of Dave Boiano's vent coins.  At 1.5 inches in diameter, it is larger than  most standard coins. 
    It has key components that have been consistent in Dave's vent interests: the original logo he drew and has used since the early '80s is on the front along with the names of two figures that were key for him.  The back has a secondary logo - a caricature done for him, plus a vent saying, also an original of Dave's.  The coin is done in antique copper.  Very nice.  Thank you, Dave!


    "Quack in a Sack"!

    Some of you may remember the "Pouch Puppets".  Puppets with their own carrying bag.  Your hand enters the bag (and puppet) from the bottom of the bag before you even open the drawstring sack, which allows the puppet to make its appearance talking and moving.  Clever and suprising!
    Of all the characters sold, the most popular was the Duck, a "quack-in-a-Sack" Animated Puppets has this one for sale on eBay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Ventriloquist-Puppet-Duck-/130742357118


    VIT Graduate

    Lisa Laird (Left) and Liz VonSeggen (right)
    The Elite Professional Ventriloquist award is the
     highest VIT Certification level.
    From Lisa Laird:
    Just wanted to share this picture with you. I started my training by borrowing the Maher Course from a friend, and then I began the Ventriloquists In Training (VIT) program. I never dreamed that I would end up traveling full-time in a 7 state area doing shows in libraries, schools, churches and other community events. I am blessed beyond belief and the smiles on the faces of the children in my audiences as well as the notes of encouragement are worth more than gold. Thanks for your part in helping me down this new path.

     As a former teacher I feel I now have the best of both worlds, I still get to teach but get to provide entertainment and encouragement as I educate. (And I don't have all the paperwork that teachers have to deal with these days.)

    Puppetry has been part of my family for years and my two sons, who are now grown, are still working with puppets professionally. My husband and I have directed a puppet team for years as well. Although we have been called "One wacky family" by many, we sure have fun!! I am thankful that God has allowed me this great adventure into "wackiness", I wouldn't trade it for anything!
    Thanks Clinton for all you have done for the world of ventriloquism!!
    Lisa Laird and Pockets Full of Fun


    Thank you, Donors!

    My sincere thanks to the three individuals who purchased sets of Hall of Fame Coins to be given to fellow ventriloquists unable to make a purchase for themselves.  On behalf of the recipients of your generosity, "Thank You!"  You have blessed others, and you have also blessed me by going the extra mile in your support of the Hall of Fame Coin project!


    From Andy Mrkvicka:
    Dr. D's emergency response! Thankfully this was an outpatient visit!

    From Mr. D:   Found a new career: "Dummy Doctor on Wheels"!   (Not!)


    From Animated Puppets

    This Slappy (30") has a hollow body, turning head, moving mouth with beautiful side to side self-centering brown eyes and brown hair. Carrying case is padded with foam so Slappy fits perfectly and secure. A 50min instructional DVD course on ventriloquism by Mark Wade included. This is a great package for any ventriloquist or anyone wanting to get started in ventriloquism. 


    2010 and 2011 coins

    For Sale for your Collection!
    All 32mm in diameter
    2011 Jimmy Nelson ConVENTion celebration coin!  $5.00 each
    2011 Original TWO CENT coin.  Only a few remaining.  $1.00 each

    2011 Seven Dummy Dollar Coin (7/11 coin)  $7.00 each

    2010 Five Dummy Dollar Coin.  (This is the one that started it all!)
    500 struck - less than 20 remain: $15.00 each.
    All prices postpaid USA.


    Maher "thread"

    I'm sure you have noticed by now there is special Maher Studios connection with some of the Hall of Fame honorees.  This is intentional and will continue.  Maher Studios was founded in 1934.  After 78 years (I've included my retirement years) hundreds of ventriloquists have connection with Maher Studios in one way or another.  However, I suspect my list of nominees includes most of those you would name on your own list.  I do invite suggestions for future Hall of Fame honorees. 

    I sincerely thank those of you who have supported this project with your purchases of the collectible series.  You will see the complete list of names here: www.hofcoins.blogspot.com  (If you have purchased a set of coins and do not see your name listed, please tell me so I can correct the omission.)



    Here's my two cents!  Actually, here's a lot of twelve for you.
    New this month!
    Plus one BONUS Hall of Fame Coin (Bergen)

    Or without  the bonus coin you may purchase the 2012 TWO CENT coins
    directly from me for $3.00 per dozen.  Use them as your personal gifts, prizes,
     advertising, after show sales, etc.


    Co-op Coin effort

      I've decided that with the coins sets featuring contemporary vents, such as this one (2012-B), I will reserve 125 sets only for general sale and make the remaining 75 coins available to the individual honorees themselves. They can then resell, gift, or whatever. Such a co-op effort will aid the effort to keep the project moving forward.


    Mac Truck

    By Bob Abdou
    I have many puppets in my show, some are instant hits with the audience and some need some work in progress. This truck I call Mac (Mac Truck) is one that was an instant success with my audience. After my regular show I told the children that I have a new puppet I want to show and did some ad libbing with it. The children automatically talked about 'transformers' and 'recycling'. The ideas and material were just pouring in from the audience. Now my new idea is to use Mac to promote recycling, he also sings "I love trash". A great way to add another character to my show with an educational message.

    (Truck Puppet by Kevin Detweiler, www.animatedpuppets.blogspot.com)


    Terry Fator 2012-B Hall of Fame Coin

    When most people think of Terry Fator, they think of America's Got Talent, or the Las Vegas Terry Fator Theater and Show located in the Mirage Hotel.  But for Adelia and me, our thoughts go back to the day when a 9 year old (maybe it was 10) youngster ordered a copy of Ventriloquism In A Nutshell from Maher Studios (a copy Terry still proudly owns, well worn though it is).  Or the exuberant preteen ventriloquist so proud of his NAAV membership eagerly awaiting each issue of his Newsy Vents newsletters which were read every word from cover to cover.  There were also the phone conversations, the orders for dialogue books and figures.  (I remember working one night to complete emergency repairs on a figure so it could be returned by air express in time for Terry's evening show two days later.)  Two characters from the Wood Carved Classic line of figures continue to be main characters in Terry's Ventriloquism In Concert Show today.   In some small way Adelia and I feel like proud parents, having been blessed to watch the Fator career progress successfully over a period of years, and thus it gives me great pleasure to award Terry Fator one of the Hall of Fame, "Gold Medals"!


    Jim Barber 2012-B Hall of Fame Coin

    I honestly do not remember when I first met Jim Barber.  But I'll never forget the first time I saw him walk on stage as Barber and Seville!   It was on a show at the annual Ventriloquist ConVENTion many years ago, and I was blown away by the creative, totally unique and skillful act which I experienced as more than highly entertaining...it was a challenge to my own creativity and for that I will be forever grateful.  Jim continues to combine unique characters with a wide vocal singing range and sound effects to create a one-of-a-kind performance that can be seen throughout the year at the Hamner Barber Theater in Branson, Missouri where he entertains nightly with his on-stage partners, illusionists, The Hamners.  Jim has performed his act for nearly 2,000 Colleges and Universities nationwide and earned the title of Comedy Entertainer of The Year from the National Association of Campus Activities.  His act has been featured on several national TV shows including Late Show with David Letterman.  Speaking personally, Jim is among those professional ventriloquists who have gone out of their way to encourage me in all my coin projects beginning with the first Dummy Dollar coin in 2010.  So it is in the spirit of this month's Olympics that I am pleased to award Jim Barber (and Seville) a Hall of Fame, "Gold Medal"!


    Jay Johnson 2012-B Hall of Fame Coin

    We've known Jay Johnson since he was a teen performing in and around his home community in Texas.  But it was his role as Chuck Campbell in the TV series, SOAP, where he achieved national fame.   The show ran on ABC from 1977 into 1981 and was created as a night-time parody of daytime soap operas.  Chuck portrayed a ventriloquist who believed his puppet character named Bob was real and demanded everyone treat Bob as human.  The lines were skillfully written, delivered, and funny!   The timing of this popular show on TV proved very beneficial to Maher Studios.   Many viewers were inspired to try their hand as ventriloquists and demand for the Maher Course (and figures) increased significantly during the years the show was aired, and was often referenced when fans contacted our office.  Jay went on to star in the CBS series, Broken Badges, and made guest appearances on dozens of other network shows.  In 2007 Jay won a Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event for his original Broadway production The Two and Only.  He is the only ventriloquist in history to win a Tony Award.  The Two and Only is currently being prepared for a Fall presentation to be filmed live for DVD release.  (You may enter to win free tickets to this Sept. 15th show: http://www.facebook.com/#!/JJTwoandOnly?sk=app_192229990808929)  In the spirit of the Olympics, it is my pleasure to present Jay Johnson a Hall of Fame "Gold Medal" award!


    Mark Wade 2012-B Hall of Fame Coin

    While Mark Wade has the skill and ability to entertain audiences of all ages, he is best known as America's foremost kid show entertainer.  His training as an elementary school teacher is put to good use as he blends educational teach techniques with his entertaining ventriloquist skills.   However, my appreciation for Mark goes far beyond his onstage performance skills, great as they are.  For nearly four decades he has been a priceless asset to Maher Studios.   His vent themed products, which include dialogue books, training materials (written word, audio, and video). most produced in cooperation with Maher Studios, have proved valuable to amateurs and professionals worldwide who are seeking to improve their act and skills.
    From his personal experience as a working professional, Mark has shared advice and tips through dozens of columns in past Newsy Vents newsletters and continues to do so today through his popular articles contributed to this blog.  And when I sought a skilled teacher/demonstrator as the on camera face for videos to be used as a supplement to the Maher Course, Mark without hesitation agreed to accept that challenge.  Thus the series of three popular training videos, now available in DVD format, was born.  Back home in Ohio, when he's not planning next year's July International Ventriloquist ConVENTion, Mark continues to create new shows for his busy schedule of library and school shows for the current year.  So in the spirit of the Olympics, it is my pleasure to award a Hall of Fame "Gold Medal" to Mark Wade!


    Gold Medal Winner?


    "Alumni" report

    From Barb Gregerson:
     I continue my work with my church and local childcare centers during the Summer.  Recently I did a neighborhood block party that was very successful and I'm part of the Summer reading program at a small town library.
    The time I Spend with my puppet friends using the ventriloquist skills learned through the Maher Course continues to be the joy of my life.  Thank you for your continued support through your blog.  I never miss it.


    Jimmy Nelson 2012-A Hall of Fame Coin

    Adelia and I were married in 1955.  One of the first purchases for our tiny Winfield (KS) apartment was a 12" black and white TV.  My parents never owned a TV while I was still at home, so this was a significant addition and change to our use of leisure time.  1955 was also the year Jimmy was hired by the Nestle company to sell their products via TV commercials.  I can vividly remember seeing those highly entertaining short TV spots on our newly acquired TV.  That was the beginning of  a relationship that would develop into something far more meaningful and real than any on screen display.  Some examples: During our years with Maher Studios, beginning in 1969, hundreds of Danny O'Day dolls would pass through my hands on their way to ventriloquists around the world.  An amazing tribute to the man who made the character so desirable internationally.  When we decided to add audio cassette tapes to the Maher Course (late 1970's), Jimmy very graciously agreed to provide personal words of greeting and encouragement for the Maher students as part of the Maher Course audio supplement.  And he did so without charge, for which I'll be forever grateful.  But what I admire most about this gentleman is his willingness to graciously give of his time and priceless knowledge to any person, young or old, beginner or seasoned pro.  Jimmy, you have provided an inspiration to many and set an example for all.   It is with pleasure we have featured you as part of the inaugural set of Hall of Fame coins!  (Note:  Our coins went to the engravers before Jimmy's new web site was available which is why the address is not on the coin itself.  But you can check it out here:  http://jimmydannyfarfel.com/ )


    Fred Maher 2012-A Hall of Fame Coin

    Even if Adelia and I had not not purchased the Fred Maher School of Ventriloquism in 1969, I still would have included Fred Maher high on my personal list of "vent heros".   Nearly a decade earlier I had enrolled in the Maher Home Study Course as my first serious study of the art.  Like so many others, I had answered a classified ad found in Popular Mechanics magazine and subsequently enrolled in the correspondence course.  I never had the honor of meeting Mr. Maher personally.  He had passed away some 6 years earlier (1952).  But his writing was personal, his enthusiasm and passion for ventriloquism was vibrant and contagious.  His words of instruction were easy to follow accompanied by a sense that he was sitting by one's side.  The confidence he communicated through the written word was amazing.   I do believe my experience as a student of the Maher Course had a great deal to do with my desire to continue the work and tradition of Fred and Madeleine Maher when the opportunity was presented to me.  And now that I have had years to peruse Fred's notes and files, meet and correspond with hundreds of past students and customers, I have come to think of Fred Maher as a friend and confidant.  It is with pleasure we have produced this coin in his honor.  (Note:  While the number of coin sets produced are limited to 200 per issue, the total number of Fred Maher coins produced was 1,000 - the only Hall of Fame coin produced in that quantity.) 


    Senor Wences 2012-A Hall of Fame Coin

    Born in Spain in 1896, Senor Wences was one of the highest paid vaudeville acts in the entire world.  He came to America in 1936 (the year of my birth) and with his signature characters "Johnny" (formed from his hand), and "Pedro" (the torso-less head in a box), he was an instant hit on television.  And it was on television's 'Ed Sullivan Show' where I first saw Senor Wences perform.  In fact, he was the first ventriloquist I ever saw perform anywhere, and that is one of the primary reasons I selected the legendary vent for set 2012-A of the Hall of Fame coins.  I will admit, however, as a youth, I was more fascinated with his comic and skillful plate spinning act than I was with the ventriloquism portion of his show.  It was not until after we purchased Maher Studios and I began to study the history of the art, and correspond breifly with Wences, that I began to fully appreciate his very creative ventriloquist act which was carried on long after the plates were retired motionless to storage.  Johnny was never fully retired and was frequently seen onstage and off until nearly the last days of Wences life when he died at his home in New York City in 1999 at the age of 103.