Dumbstruck - the Movie

Adelia and I had the special opportunity this past weekend to screen the soon to be release movie, Dumbstruck, written and directed by Mark Goffman. Dumbstruck follows five ventriloquists at all levels of ability over the course of a year, letting you see into their lives both on stage as well as behind the scenes. Entertaining, thought provoking, and more. All ventriloquists should see this movie.

If you are fortunate to live near locations of one of the upcoming screenings, be certain to make plans to do so: Atlanta, GA, April 15; Washington, D.C., April 22; New York, NY, April 22; Los Angeles, CA, April 29; Dallas, TX, May 6; Indianapolis IN, May 13; Minneapolis MN, May 20, and St. Louis, MO, May 20. For further details and locations: http://www.dumbstruckthemovie.com/ .

While I'm sure the selection of ventriloquists featured in the movie will always be debated by the vent community, I thought the presentation was fair and balanced, with excellent editing which kept the movie flowing logically and smoothly to an appropriate conclusion. I enjoyed the fact that the ventriloquists themselves were always the focal point. Never was an interviewer seen or heard. And the content was such that I, as a grandfather, can without hesitation invite my granddaughters to join me for viewing.

On the downside, and perhaps a bit selfishly, I do not feel the movie will inspire many folk to take up the art. As one who has spent 40 years teaching ventriloquism, I was hoping for more than this work seems to provide in the way of motivating folk (especially young people), to take up the art. But before pointing fingers at those who produced the movie, perhaps there's some self-examination that needs to take place in our community. Decide for yourself. If you enjoy television reality shows, or shows such as Undercover Boss, then you'll likely enjoy this movie.

Watch for Dumbstruck, the movie coming to your area. Or watch for its release on DVD. You can view a trailer HERE , now.


Healing Art

Andrew Mrkvicka sent me these photos to show me how he has fit his Ventrilo-ett with a small wheelchair. He uses this setup when visiting young cancer patients in the hospital, and he says the puppet's design "works perfectly" with this unique presentation.

At Andy's request, I am now working on a ventrilo-ett that will be bald, and dressed in hospital scrubs to replace the character you see here. With a character more appropriately designed for the task at hand, the presentation is expected to be even more effective.


Sunday's Winners

For a period of about 12 hours this past Sunday I offered one of Rev. Ed Smith's dialogue books free to the first six who responded to my offer. In the end, I'm sending a book to all who responded during that time period. The winners follow. (Those marked with *asterisk took advantage of my offer to sell a complete set of Rev. Smith's six gospel dialogue books for $12.50). All books have been shipped - winners need not respond to this post.
Bob Barrett, Frank Beasley, Jeff Brown, Rolan Corley, Ed Cima, Karn Climer, John Degel, William Duff, James Elliott, Barb Gregerson, Dean Guymon, James Hess, N Jay, *Canon John Jordan, Israel Juarez, *Bob LaBelle, *Penny Lubben, *Chuck Lyons, *Jim Maurer, Joshua Minetree, Andy Mrkvicka, Dan Peters, Charles Prouty, Kirk Rabe, Ron Schultz, Harry Schwab, Dr. Jeff Scott, Bob Steininger, David Wagner, Frank Wescott.

Mark Wade's Mentoring Program

Now in its second successful year, Mark Wade is proud to announce the continuance of his Master Mentoring Program. The program consists of three days with Mark at his home in Ohio, going out on shows, having classroom time, and learning what YOU want to learn!

Each program is custom designed with your wants and needs in mind and all of it is to make you a better performer. Although Mark is well known as the Premier Kidshow Ventriloquist in the country, he has also done shows for the "grown up" adult market as well. ("Adult" meaning "not a kidshow" - not, "dirty material".)

Mark has opened around the country for country stars such as Garth Brooks, Reba McIntire and others as well as having performed at banquets, meetings, conferences, retreats, cruises, and trade shows. So he is well experienced and qualified to help you become the best that you can be as a successful ventriloquist performer. To get more details and a prospectus with outline, eMail Mark today at: markwade@kidshowvent.com .



This puppet chair was one of the commercial product spin-offs from the Saturday morning children's show, Pee Wee's Playhouse. The setting was Puppetland where everything and anything could be expected to be alive. The bluish green chair was known as "Chairy', voice by Allison Mork. This toy version of "Chairy" has a couple very slightly soiled areas but is in otherwise very good condition. It has eyes that move (controlled from the back) and mouth that opens in the usual manner of a hand puppet. The hand opening fits child or youth (it is too small for my large hands). Size of puppet: 15" tall x 9" x 9". (Sold)


Goodbye Professor Thumbs

Canadian, Reverend Edward Smith (aka, Professor Thumbs) passed away Feb. 15th, 2011, just a week shy of his 87th birthday.

Many of you know of Rev. Smith having used one of the several ventriloquist dialogues books he authored that were published by Maher Studios. Humor with a ministry message.

Audience Tested Gospel Dialogues

Bible Based Gospel Dialogues

Christ Centered Gospel Dialogues

Duty Defining Gospel Dialogues

Enlightening and Entertaining Gospel Dialogues

Holy Day and Holiday Day Gospel Dialogues


Our sympathies to Lois, Rev. Smith's wife, and their family, daughter Colleen and her husband John Wood and Peter and his wife Kim Smith. And four grandchildren.


A Quintet

We had owned Maher Studios exactly one year when this photo was taken August, 1970. Usually we completed figures pretty much one at a time, but at the time this photo was taken we had completed five vent figures in the same week. No, they were not built in one week's time; I was never that fast! They had been under construction for several weeks, and brought to completion in the same week, so we could pack them up before we made a trip from Littleton to my hometown of Harper, Kansas. Yes, I know there are six figures in this picture, but only five are Detweiler workmanship. The sixth, on my lap in this picture, was built by Madeleine Maher with George Eazer as mechanic. This figure was my personal buddy and made the trip with our family while the others went their separate ways. My "Skinny" now resides in Vent Haven Museum. I'd love to know where the other five are located today!


Two Cent Slogan

Okay - enough! Ha!
Some 50 readers of this blog have submitted nearly 200 possible slogans and phrases for my planned TWO CENT ventriloquist coin. I'm going to pick two - maybe three, but it won't be easy. You are a clever group! Priceless, even! Thank you for your entries. At some future date I will post a selection of the entries along with the two or three selected for engraving on the coin.
You're the best!

First Show

From Maher Student: I performed tonight. I think the 25 kids that were there, and 3 adults, thought it was very entertaining. I checked out the room in the church earlier today and set up my stand and PA system (the Florida Magic system with rechargeable battery). I used a clip on microphone attached to my lapel.

In high school and college, I was heavily into drama. I also stage managed community theater while I was in residency. Working with a vent figure has been a whole new experience; the figure has taken a life of his own and has quipped insults at me totally unplanned!

The jokes that I thought would get laughs got no laughs from the kids; the wisecracks from the dummy done by total improvisation got them roaring a couple of times. The Bible message, from Luke 9:23 where Jesus says for us to deny ourselves and take up our cross, well it was preachy, but I directed it at the dummy. So it went over all right.

I then unexpectedly finished sooner than I planned. There was unexpected feedback a few times from the speaker; I decided to invite the kids to ask questions. When it was over, I got medium applause, and more outbursts from kids requesting to touch and play with the figure. At which point I made my exit, taking the figure to a side room and carefully packing him into the new case.

I know this is going to be a great adventure. I need so much more practice and performance opportunities. Best Wishes, Roland

* * * * * *
From Mr. D: Every performance, program, and show is a learning experience. You are amazing in the amount of time and effort you put into your preparation, but you will be rewarded in abundance for doing so. Laughter extends the program time. But as you know, programs with a message generally have a bit less laughter and can go more quickly.

Question and answer sessions can be beneficial, but kid's can get quite silly trying to one-up the dummy (or you) so you'll need to maintain tighter control. I would add that I advise against allowing children to touch or shake hands with the dummy...that can spur multiple negative consequences (and I think I've experienced them all!).

When I gave a program in church, 5-10 minutes was the maximum I liked to perform with one character. Then I would do some visual lesson/effect (magic, etc.), or bring in a second character.

Professional ventriloquist entertainers keep the show moving with ever changing bits/characters/songs, etc. If you've watched the act of pros (Dunham, Fator etc.) you've noticed how they skillfully keep the ongoing show fresh, new, and variety filled.

The first show is the most challenging, I believe. And very enlightening. This is just the beginning of some great experiences for you. All the hours of preparation and hard work you are investing will bring results and rewards. Enjoy.


Another yellow bird (or two)

There may be some truth to the rumor - if you hang around with yellow birds enough, you start looking like one yourself!

This picture is from 198? when I was emcee of the evening show, FCM Conference, Winona Lake, Indiana. I still have the bird...(he's not for sale. I still have the jacket...couldn't give it away.)

The box? I built it to represent a large gift, and while I don't recall the exact application, I do remember that when I lifted the lid the sides were spring loaded so it automatically unfolded into an impressive 4' x 3' cross spelling out the words "God's Love", (the greatest gift).

We must have made our point that night. I remember when we returned to our dealer table after the night show, every similar bird puppet I had brought to sell had been claimed by someone. My dealer table was surrounded by people holding their puppets, waiting to pay for them. Quite a sight!

Note: The puppet was custom made by Carol Brown who long ago retired from puppet making.


Bargain Puppets

On occasion I have spotted puppets for sale in our local thrift stores. But Jack Dill (aka Mr. Gadget) has taken me one better. The lady operating the thrift store near where Jack lives saves all puppets for him to see first. As a result, he has obtained puppets to pass on to children when he does birthday parties. He has also obtained puppets for his own use, including the weekly service he presents every Sunday in a Senior Care Home.

Folkmanis puppets will likely be the most common finds, and a toy ventriloquist doll will be found from time to time, usually with a mouth that doesn't work properly. Years ago we had a customer stop by Maher Studios to show us a Frank Marshall figure purchased from a thrift store for $35! Now THAT is a bargain (more accurately, perhaps, a steal!).


Built to last

There's been some question recently about the use of paper mache for puppets. When proper materials and technique are used, I can assure you, durability is secure and this vent figure is but one example.
You may have read some of the details on how I constructed this ventriloquist figure on my photo album page (Click here) . He began as a large stuffed child's toy, but I rebuilt him with hollow body, head on head post, brass control levers (2) to operate his lower beak (open and close) and his eyes (wiggle up & down).

His head turns, of course, and his arms raise by pulling a cord inside the body.

Prize Photos

5x7 photo reprint of legendary figure maker, Frank Marshall, in his Chicago workshop. Circa. '60s? Quite an amazing sight - I wish I could have been there when the picture was taken! Every face would have a story. I have two of these prints that I've drawn names to receive, one each. The winners are: Larry Bailey and Robert Hicks.


Can you identify maker?

Do you recognize these hands? Never mind the color - they were originally flesh colored. I'm just trying to learn their origin. I'm guessing they came from a commercial doll, not a vent figure. But does anyone know for certain? Contact Mr. D
We do know the hands here were used on an MST3K Tom Servo robot. But the robots on that series were constructed using "junk" parts, so the question here is the "junk" source of the hands on the original Tom Servo. One responder suggested the hands were reproductions of hands from a Jerry Mahoney doll. And while they may have been found on some ventriloquist doll, I've had dozens of Jerrys pass through my shop over the last 40 years, and none had hands like these. Floyd Rathburn believes they may have come from a robot doll produced as part of the Star Trek series products.
Here's the link to a perfect repro casting of these same hands but that still doesn't answer the question of "Whence came the originals?" http://mst3kstuff.com/Products/popup_image.php?pID=217

Mark Wade Writes:


I often go to conferences and observe people buying puppet after puppet and wonder, "What are they going to do with them?" They already have some pretty good looking characters (I've seen them with the vent), but they don't seem to get the mileage out of them that they should. What is the missing ingredient? I feel it's comedy material.
The best puppet or figure in the world will just be another puppet or figure unless they have something special to say. And it seems that is the last thing the vent tries out. Maybe they feel the character itself will carry the routine on its looks. Maybe they figure they can dig up some jokes on the Internet. It's a mystery to me.
My advice is to spend some time developing the character ON PAPER before actually buying a new partner. Write some dialogue ... see what works ... know the character's personality so that the material fits. I know that writing good material is one, if not THE hardest thing to do. But don't let it slide.
Just because it's a dog puppet doesn't mean you run out and find a handful of unrelated dog jokes and string something together. It has to flow and it must be easy to follow, and smooth to the ears of the audience. In other words, it can't sound like unrelated jokes. Your dialogue should tell a story ... it should have a beginning, a middle and an end to it. People love storytelling, so give them something funny to listen to that tells the story of the puppet's victories or defeats. You'll be happier with your results and the audience will too!


A bit of Vent Psychology

By Betty Pelcher

I remember speaking in a school in South Carolina. The program was held in an auditorium, but the puppet's suitcase was left in a classroom. The children returned to the classroom before I could pack my doll away. As I put her in the case one little girl was highly indignant. She said,

"I carry my doll through the streets. I don't know why you can't."

Since that time I try never to put a doll in a case in front of children. It gives them the feeling it will smother.

It's fun to see how real the puppets seem to the audience. When such things happen, I know the listener has identified with the puppet and it's message. He forgets me completely. If you have a message to get across, if you want people to think your thoughts after you, try ventriloquism. A newspaper headline telling about my program, might be true of your work, too. It said, "Teacher is a dummy."


By a whisker...

Question: I'm considering giving my hillbilly figure 5 o'clock shadow/whiskers. Any suggestions?
* * * * *
From Mr. D: I use a brush with short still bristles (similar to a toothbrush) to apply dark paint with fine stipple effect for five o'clock shadow. I put a small dab of paint on a palate, dip only the ends of the bristles in the paint and then get rid of any excess paint by dabbing the brush (do not stroke the brush - just touch the ends of the bristles lightly against the surfaces in a repeated straight "down and up" movement ("jabbing" motion). A "dry brush" variation. Practice on a piece of cardboard. You want pepper sized dots - not streaks.

When fully repainting a head, I sometimes also darken the skin's flesh color over the area where the bristle effect will be applied. But I would not try this if adding "whiskers" to an existing figure that is not being repainted.


Mr. D's Photo Collage

When I order my photo prints from Wal-Mart, they often offer an 8x10 collage print. Normally I pass on their offer, however, I thought this one made up of images used on my blog was interesting. So, I ordered two. I've signed and dated the photos and will offer them as prizes. The winners of today's drawing: Lee Dean and Chris Woodman.


Happy St. Patrick's Day

My heritage is primarily Dutch and German, but I still enjoy the legends and traditions of St. Patrick's Day, (including corned beef and cabbage, which reminds me, what's for lunch?). This Shamrock Puppet was built a couple years ago, but I have just now added its photo and that of a few other characters to my Novelty Puppet Photo Album. Check out the updates Here .


Diva's new Digs

Last week I shipped Jeff Brown the new custom carrying case he ordered, and today he emailed me this photo of "Nicole*" ready to move into her new home. And she does appear to be happy about the thought.
(*Nicole is from the Axtell Diva series.)

Special needs; Special blessings

From Donna DeCalise

I wonder if you remember my request for information on how to perform ventriloquism for mentally challenged adults. I would like to share with you the joy I experienced at a Valentine's Day party held at our local center for those with disabilities.

Using a monkey puppet dressed up in a pretty little Valentine's Day dress I did a little skit about feelings, love, and family. The puppet was sad because she had not received any cards. I sang several songs to her including, "You Are So Beautiful To Me", and presented her with a Valentine's Day card and candy heart. The puppet soon felt better, jumped around, laughed, and acted silly. The audience just loved her.

Then the puppet began to flirt with some boys in the audience and asked one young man to come up so she could sing a song to him. He sang along with her and kissed her on the cheek. It was so moving and tender, I almost cried. As they sang, the audience giggled, smiled and made comments. I asked for applause when they were done singing.

The puppet also gave out candy hearts to everyone because she was so full of love. After the skit I asked several volunteers to come up and work the puppet's mouth as I talked and sang for it. After a few tries they all performed a song and we had a good laugh. I reminded them that we were not laughing AT them, but that they were entertaining us and making us laugh at what they were doing. I gave a lot of praise and encouragement along the way. Their faces beamed with accomplishment and pride. The staff was very pleased with the outcome. They felt the people were not only entertained, but that life lessons were also applied and reinforced throughout the puppet's experiences.

It was such a wonderful experience. I came away feeling very blessed and loved. I praise God for this special opportunity to share ventriloquism with some very special people. It did not take much to impress them, yet they made me feel like I was Terry Fator. God certainly answered my prayer and I just wanted to share with you this blessing in my life.


Pennies for your thoughts

Here's a opportunity for your creative minds. My next coin will be a TWO CENT piece. I'm looking for a short phrase or slogan to go around the face of the coin. Something with ventriloquist theme, of course. If I select your phrase/slogan (8 word max), your initials will be engraved on the coin following your slogan and you will receive a dozen supply of coins for your collection and distribution.

Submit as many entries and as often as you wish. In case of a duplicate winning entry, the earliest submission will be the winner. Email me, Mr. D, here: mahertalk@aol.com Below is one of my ideas. Let's see what you've got.

Ventriloquism: It just makes good "cents"


Today's Prize

Signed and framed photo of four of the original early 1970's Ventrilo-etts.
Winner: Joe Zdeb


Maher Alumni news

From Amy Crome

My mum bought my "Fred" (Willie Winkle) when I was about 13. I did the Maher Course, then went on to win at Ace Christian Conventions and even went to the USA and won 1st place.

Over the years I have performed at weddings, parties, and church where we still give programs from time to time.

I'm now a Pastor's wife with two kids. Recently I taught classes of ventriloquism at my son's Christian School and have inspired some to take up vent. Ventriloquism is rather rare in Australia - but I hope to change that a bit.

God bless.


Okay ...Check out Willie's hair in this shot
and then compare it with his hair in the second photo...

Could Lester have STOLEN his partner's hair?!

My thanks to D. Pries for today's post.


Your Lucky Day!

It's the eleventh day of the month. Time to draw the names of seven more winners of my $7 Dummy Dollar Coins. This month's winners:
Russell Baker, Hunter Phelan,
Rex Duff, Michelle Hammock,
Nick Schols, Jerry Bell, and Ed Cima.


For Sale

There's still time to receive this colorful Leprechaun Ventrilo-ett in time for your St. Patrick's events. There's no way to measure how much Irish luck this puppet might bring, but I can promise the wee one will make a huge hit! (See following post.) $49.95 plus $5 S/H (Priority mail).

Sean the Leprechaun: "a rare thing"

From Canon John Jordan

Sean the Leprechaun arrived safe and sound this morning. As with his predecessor, he was chattering before I could get him out of his shipping box at the receptionist's desk. To say that I am pleased and delighted would be a vast understatement. Again, I had an "instant hit" in my hand.

You will be pleased, I am sure as I was, when I tell you of a short inter-change that took place shortly after the small crowd gathered in the foyer. One of the lady residents came close and said, "Hello little fellow, you're cute." Sean replied. "Hello, Martha, you're kinda cute yourself." She looked at her friend beside her and asked, "How come he knows my name?"

I guess that's the kind of response we all work hard to evoke, but with Sean's help, less than two or three minutes after his arrival, he was hard at work entertaining. I found that in the short time I had him in the dining room, the table audiences provided the other side of the conversation, and I didn't have to worry about "going cold" without a script.

Anything I could say would fall short of the success he has brought already. Every ventriloquist should have a "Sean" in their kit this time of the year. He's one of those rare things that repay us far beyond anything involved in bringing him here. I can't thank you enough!



If you have not read Jeff's book, All By My Selves, I highly recommend that you do so. Not only enlightening and entertaining, but Jeff's personal stories (and pictures) are reminders once again of the importance of focus and goal setting play in building a successful career. Well written, I found the book hard to put down, and when I turned the final page next day after first opening the book, I'll admit I felt inspired to kick things up a notch myself! Thank you, Jeff!
* * * *
And now, also thanks to Jeff, I have a few prizes to award via today's drawings.
Talking Walter Backpack Clip goes to: Kenneth Fulk

Talking Walter Pens: Geoffrey Moran, Mark Edson, Larry Columbo


Abe Buzzard: Fowl play

Nearly a century ago, Abe Buzzard, and his brother Ike, were notorious Pennsylvania chicken thieves for more than 50 years. Periodic prison terms forced them to take breaks from their unusual chosen career, and Abe, while serving one sentence in 1913, claimed to have "seen the light" and was paroled. He stated his desire was to spend the rest of his life "converting other sinners". So weekdays he went from church to church throughout southeastern Pennsylvania giving inspiring talks. Each weekend, however, he returned home to the Welsh mountains where he was subsequently caught robbing a hen coop. In 1929 he drew 9-18 years for chicken theft. Death, however, released him from serving out that sentence.
Although Abe Buzzard is no longer among the living, inspiring talks from a puppet namesake will soon resume. Del Burkholder asked me to create a likeness of Abe Buzzard which he will use in seminars and lectures. Using the life examples of this loveable outlaw from the 19th and early 20th century, wrapped in humor, they will discuss obstacles that create falling away from the faith. The saga of Abe Buzzard takes yet another turn... (And the life of a maker of puppets is never dull. :-)


From Wilma Swartz:

Yesterday, Bishop Kirk Smith, The Bishop of the State of Arizona, was participating in the 50th anniversary of St. Christoper's Church in Peoria AZ. After doing confirmations, he brought out Shorty and VENTertained the children as well as adults. He knew I was a vent immediately because I had made the coin (Mr. D's Collector Coin) into a necklace and I was wearing it over my vestment. (That's me beside the Bishop in the photo.)
Later, Bishop Kirk told me he had bought Shorty from you a ways back and had you repair Shorty recently. He asked me what I do for sticking mouths. I replied by first asking him where Shorty is kept? In his car and garage, was his reply*. I told him Shorty can't be in constantly changing temperatures because it can cause damage. Shorty told Bishop Kirk to take better care of him or he was going to take him out behind the chuck wagon and have a long talk with him!
* * * * *
*Note from Mr. D: I cringe to think of a vent figure being kept in any car or garage anywhere. But in Arizona? Human or dummy, that could be deadly!

Restoration questions

Question: A friend gave me a very old figure, small and in rough shape. I want to restore him. The face is cracking and peeling, but underneath is a very strong shell of something like wood dough. I'm trying to decide how to redo the face. A thin layer of Magic sculpt? Or perhaps spackling?
* * * * *
From Mr. D: The composition material these older dolls were made from can be repaired quite successfully. Just don't let water soak into the cracks as the material swells and breaks down. Spackling works well to fill the smaller cracks. I use plastic wood dough to fill larger cracks, replace missing larger chips, and even close the wide gaps alongside the mouth. (Magic Sculpt would work also, I believe.) Fill, sand, and repeat as often as necessary to get a smooth finish. I then spray the head with clear shellac (at least two coats) before painting with acrylic paints. Take your time - patience is rewarded on jobs such as this.

Today's winner

Today's my youngest brother's birthday, and he's the corporate type in our family, so in his honor (and since I did not get him a gift), I'm awarding this gift today with him in mind!
One framed "Dummy Corporation" postcard goes to: Bryce Gardner
P.S. Happy Birthday, Bro!


Native American Ventrilo-ett

You haven't seen a lot recently about my Ventrilo-ett puppets. It's not because I've not been building them; I do build to order, and enjoy doing so, knowing they are wonderfully easy and effective to use.
However, I try not to let myself get too far distracted from what I consider my true calling - that of figure maker. So when figure orders are "on the board" I don't go too far out of my way to seek other types work.
But, last week when asked by a blog reader if I could build a Native American Ventrilo-ett for use in ministry to US Native Americans, that was a cause I wanted to be a part of in my small way, and here you see the result.
* * * * *
This just in from the owner:
"Thank you for the excellent job you did in creating the Native American Ventrilo-ett. I have used it less than 48 hours after receiving it for a program for over 100 individuals. The placement of the mouth lever is perfect to be used with either hand. I used it with my left hand as I used the ventriloquist figure with my right hand. The ventrilo-etts are perfect to complement an existing routine with one's favorite figure. I'm confident it will be used wonderfully on our mission trip to the Native Americans this next week."


"Hinged Hips"

I built the base of this figure's body with a hinged portion onto which the legs were attached. When placed in the sitting position, the legs extend from the very front of the torso in a natural sitting position. But when held upright, the legs automatically swing straight down in a very natural standing position. It's all about appearance.



During the 1940s and into the 1950s, Fred and Madeleine Maher sold ventriloquist figures converted from the commercial ventriloquist dolls of that time period. Such as the very cute dolls by Regal Doll Company. Some of you will remember the names of Russell and Dale, for example.

When I purchased Maher Studios in 1969 I began, with limited success, to recreate some of those same characters. But I had to give up their construction (or chose to do so) when my backlog of orders had extended delivery times to 12 months or more.

Today, after 40 years figure making experience and with modern material to work with, I know I can do better. So maybe to satisfy my own urges as much as the desire to produce a more accurate likeness of those early figures to market, I've set about to produce a limited series of 36" "Retro-figures". You see one such head here with final imperfections being dealt with.

My goal is to have a finished product ready to introduce by the end of the month. It will be introduced first right here on this blog.


Kid Show Ventriloquism

132 pages of proven advice and tips for Kidshow success! By the Kidshow expert, Mark Wade, who performs more than 400 Kidshows per year! Check out the chapter titles:
1) Why Kidshow Ventriloquism
2) Vent Mechanics for Kidshows
3) Bringing the Act Together
4) Kidshow Comedy Technique
5) Mark Wade's Kidshow Stuff
6) Kidshow Potourii
7) Comedy Props and Visual Humor
8) Kidshow Troubleshooting
9) Showmanship Tips For the Working Vent
10) Marketing Your Show
11) Ask-a-Vent
12) Parting Thoughts

KidShow Ventriloquism: $9.95 each postpaid. Contact Mr. D to order your copy.

And via today's drawing I am giving one signed copy of Kidshow ventriloquism to Joyce Bowen.

Bonus: Chapter Seven contains nearly a dozen suggested ways to incorporate comedy props and visual humor into the act. The following post is just one of them for your enjoyment and use.

Eye See You

By Mark Wade
(KidShow Ventriloquism)
This funny bit involves using the Peachey Keene Giant Binoculars. I bring my puppet friend out and say "Well, Tommy, we certainly have a great audience today! Boys and girls as far as the eye can see!" The puppet says, "I can't see everybody - especially the kids in the back!"
I take out of my suitcase a pair of giant binoculars and put them up to the puppet's face. On the lens end of the binoculars are two giant eyeballs - supposedly the puppet's eyes magnified by the binoculars. This gets a huge laugh and I let the puppet scan the room so everybody can see the puppet's big eyes in the binoculars.
I then have him pan around to me. I'm so close to him that the puppet screams, which gets another laugh. I say, "What's wrong?" The puppet answers, "I thought I saw the Grand Canyon - but it had teeth! Wait a minute - I was looking at your mouth!"


The power of association

From Bob Abdou:

I've always had the belief that one wanting to learn ventriloquism you can read all the books, watch all the videos, listen to all the audio tapes - but nothing beats association, one on one with your peers. I am proof that association can make one a better entertainer.
Having 22 folks, from Texas and the surrounding area, make the effort to associate at our gathering made me feel proud. My wife June and I wanted to make sure all our guests were treated like royalty. Some have asked me about repeating the event next year? My only answer is, "How could I not?"
Everybody left happy, everybody felt good about their craft, and most of all, everybody left with new friends for life.


Guest of Honor

Peter Rich, a resident of San Antonio, is "mostly retired" from his lifetime career as a professional ventriloquist. Health matters do limit his travel, but thanks to Bob Abdou, Peter, accompanied by his well-known sidekick, "Rawhide", was able to enjoy the recent Texas ventriloquist gathering.
Peter still performs when he has opportunity and Tom Rogers told me Peter and "Rawhide" were the hit of the open mic session and continued to entertain during informal chat sessions. Although Peter will turn 90 this June, Lori Bruner said, "he is so quick-witted and has quite the sense of humor!" (I've always found Peter's humor refreshingly unique as you will see in the post that follows.)
During dinner Peter shared stories of Frank Marshall and Paul Winchell. "Rawhide" was carved by Marshall over 50 years ago at a cost of $350. Peter has been invited to return for next year's gathering, of course, as will all vents and puppeteers in the area of Austin (or willing to make the trek).
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Contributing to this post: Thomas Rogers, Charles Prouty, and Lori Bruner

Peter Rich 'Rites

During the 1970s and into the '80s, Peter Rich was a columnist contributor to the Newsy Vents newsletter of which I was editor. Peter was an interesting writer. I never knew what to expect when I opened his envelopes (no email in those days!), although I could be certain his piece would be original and creative. Here's one of Peter's columns from 1980 written while he was working aboard a cruise ship:

Ventriloquism With Porpoise

by Peter Rich

This extended engagement on a Caribbean cruise ship has been fun, but the tropical sun overworks the imagination. Suppose the ship sinks and the only survivor is the ventriloquist figure. It floats ashore on a lonely island where it is found by a talking porpoise.

The sea creature quickly learns ventriloquism. During his practice sessions he attracts whales and porpoises for an audience.

Marlin Perkins finds this duo and puts them on his TV show, Wild Kingdom. Disney Studios signs them for a feature film in living water color, The Prince and the Porpoise.

The ventriloquist porpoise finds himself on talk shows, usually doing his act in a water tank. With so much exposure underwater, the dummy starts warping. The egotistical porpoise doesn't notice his act falling apart. He's too busy blowing bubbles without moving his lips.

Booking agents refuse to book the act because the dummy resembles withered driftwood. To keep the porpoise from visiting the office and dripping on their rugs, the agent books him on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. During the night the cruise director throws him overboard in the Bermuda Triangle.

Ah, but wait - Jacques Cousteau happens to be filming another underwater saga and ... of no, not again!

Now, if all you readers will send a dollar, we'll hire a hit man. Perhaps Charlie the Tuna.