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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » I'm a real boy! » » How old were you when you started to learn ventriloquism? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Carl Mustaine
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I'm curious to know how old everyone was when they started to learn ventriloquism.

It seems that all the famous vents were proficient before they were teenagers.

Is there anyone on the forum that started somewhat later in life?

I'll start - I was about 12-13 when we took a trip out of town (which in Australia meant driving for hours!). We stopped at a tiny little town and there was a joke shop (which seemed really weird in itself in the middle of nowhere!). I bought a sealed packet which promised "The secrets of ventriloquism". It was an 8 page pamphlet which started by suggesting the user filled the lungs up and forced the air out whilst making a groan as if in pain. I realise now it was referring to the ventriloqial drone.

Needless to say I learnt very little from that booklet!

Regards

Carl
Servante
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I was just short of five years old when I started. Got a photo in my computer that I should probably use for a pro pic!
I watched Paul Winchell on television and fell in love with the idea of ventriloquism, and so my parents bought me an early Jerry for Christmas. I practiced with him and with some other puppets I had as well. Had the Winchell book and the Alexander Van Rensaleur[Sp?] book which I studied. Immediately I was doing entertainment for money with the puppets, the "Jerry" and some simple magic. A couple of years later I got the deluxe Jerry with the ball and socket head. Worked with him that way for awhile and, when I was about 12, rebuilt his head and reworked his body and dubbed him "Louie." Still got him, but in recent years have acquired a Hartz figure that is a dead ringer for him and have retired the first Louie.
Make my living in theatre as a playwright, but still do vent and magic from time to time, most notably for the local developmentally disabled children's hospital each Christmas for the last 41 years.
Probably more information than you wanted!

-Philip
Carl Mustaine
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Philip,

That is exactly the sort of interesting answer I was after!

Regards

Carl
Mr. Pitts
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I think a lot of us from that era had similar influences. I always had an interest in the variety arts (although I had no idea that's what they were called, and I always enjoyed watching Ed Sullivan. My older brother liked the musical acts on Sullivan, like the Beatles and Rolling Stones, but I always looked forward to the variety acts. Among my earliest memories is the excitement I felt when a juggler, plate spinner or ventriloquist would appear. I think the real spark for me was Paul Winchell's appearance on the Lucy Show with Jerry and Knuck. I was 7 years old. I asked for and recieved a 1968 Jerry (which was a little different from the earlier Jerry's) from the Sears catalog. I was thrilled. I also got the Jimmy Nelson Instant Ventriloquism album and read the Alexander Van Rensselaer book. I started doing neighborhood magic and ventriloquism shows within a year or so. I stayed interested in it for a few years, and eventually my father bought me an Insull figure. I started getting more interested in clowning by the early 70's and kind of let my ventriloquism fall by the wayside for a few years. I got back into it about five years ago and found that it wasn't like riding a bike. I had to work pretty hard to re-learn the skills. It's become a feature of my act now. I no longer have my old figures so I built Henry from a Brose kit in late 2005.
David Pitts
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jlevey
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I started age 12... a friend lent me his Jerry Mahoney doll in the green suit(1968) --and I was "hooked". Like Philip and Mr. Pitts (and I am certain, many other fellow vents in my age bracket), I too studied the Alexander Van Rensselaer book -In fact, I still recall placing it on my chest in the library at school while lying on my back to practice the diaphragm breathing methods I had just read about and meprizing the script in the book:


"...Hi there little lad --don't call me little lad --why not you are a little lad, aren't you? My friend the sun is out --whose son?" --not son, s o n , sun s you n..." Smile

That same year , I performed during lunch on the stage in front of a few hundred classmates and continued at summer camp at various talent shows. started charging $25 per Magic show (with my vent act included). By 7th grad (age 14) I was sent out to various non-profit groups to perform by our town's local "operation Community Talent" (Thanks Bob Testa!) where I had the chance to see the healing power of performing magic and ventriloquism during my volunteer shows at the local hospital for kids on Kidney dialysis , and for special needs kids, etc.

Other positive influences and inspirations were:
Watching Shari Lewis, Paul Winchell, Howdy Doody, WC Fields and Edgar Bergen reruns, Nelson on his Nestle commercials (between episodes of David and Goliath and the Gumby/Pokey show... other influences... Wonderama (and having the honor of being interviewed on this tv great kids show with my Danny O'Daty figure --albeit briefly) by Bob McCallister was a thrill, at age 13!). I was a fan of the Cookie Monster on during the early episodes of Sesame Street (=and at age 14, I had the good fortune to perform my magic show on stage in my hometown of Teaneck sharing the stage with the MC for this fundraiser, Sesame Street great Bob McGrath --subsequently, McGrath hired me to do a show for one of his children in his own home (which was also in Teaneck)... watching Kuka , Fran an Ollie --Chuck McMann (?), Claude Kirshner's Circus, Captain Kangaroo, Soupy Sales,

...and so much more...

Ah, those were the days, my friends... Smile

Thanks for starting this thread,Carl, allowing us to tap into our memories and what moved us into this rewarding area of entertainment.

I look forward to hearing more "stories" from fellow Café members. Smile

Jonathan
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Bob Baker
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As a young child, I always liked puppets. Once, when I was 8 or 9, I was running around the house driving my mother crazy. To get me to stop, she grabbed the TV section of the paper, found a show, and sat me in front of the TV.

"Here, watch this," she said. "It's puppets."

Well, I started to watch, and at first I was disappointed. It wasn't puppets as I knew them--no one crouched down behind a little stage. The guy was interacting with the puppets out in front! And how did their hands move in such a life-like manner? And how were they talking???

My mother told me it was something called "ventriloquism." And the man was named Paul Winchell. We found the "ventriloquism" entry in our prized World Book Encyclopedia, and another vent was born.

I started with a sock puppet I sewed with the help of a little girl friend of mine and did shows for the kids. At age 10 I received a Danny O'Day from Sears for my birthday. I used him in magic shows I did for kids. Yes, then there was a more advanced Danny with a ball-joint head. I saved my money from shows and bought a Finis Robinson figure when I was 17. Forty-one years and one Ray Guyll make-over later, he is still with me. (That's he in my avatar.) Along the way I detoured heavily into magic, hypnosis, and--especially--mentalism.

For the past few years I've been doing exclusively vent, creating new characters, doing lots of comedy club shows. It also satisfied my magic bug--without the guilt. Vent is, after all, illusion without deception.

How about the rest of you guys and gals?
Servante
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Wow. This is fun!

-Philip
jlevey
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Most of you probably know this, but the episodes that Mr. Pitts mentions, of Winch with Jerry and Knuck on the Lucy show, can be found on YouTube. Lots of fun to watch! Smile
Jonathan
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jlevey
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Below is the link to part 1 of 4, of Winch on the Lucy show. You can easily find parts 2-4 by doing a simple search on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XYwH1gqT3w

Enjoy!

Jonathan
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ColinDymond
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I was about 33!
I'd bought a realy shoddy magic prop that I wanted to exchange. The dealer was going to be at the Magic Circle dealers day. The prop had cost about £50. I spent all day looking at various props but I kept coming back to an Axtell Parrot. The parrot was £100, more than I'd ever spent on a magic prop at that time. Using my great logic I figured that since I only had to add £50 then I'd get him.
I bought the parrot and a stiff rope and my first vent routine started there.

I'd never spent so much and now he's the cheepest of all my puppets!
CaptKirk
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OK, I'll fess up: 60!!! I first bought a "Willy" figure from Gepetto's Workshop and then acquired an Axtell "Big Bear" and an "Old Storyteller". Discovered that I preferred the more traditional vent figures and now have a Poyner "Bobby" and 3 superb figures made by Albert Alfaros, "Uncle Gus", "Cletus", and "Buckley". Still working on developing voices for each and writing routines. Great FUN, IMHO:o)
Doug Arden
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I started 7 years ago, at age 52. With respect to the overall content of my show, it was probably the best thing I ever did.
tacrowl
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I remember being fascinated with Senor Wences and Jay Johnson as a kid, but I wanted to be a magician like Mark Wilson, Doug Henning, and later, David Copperfield. In 1984 I became a full time magician. In 1991, I got married and my wife joined the show. She left the show in late 2005 to pursue a corporate career. I started looking at vent as a way to recreate myself. So I actually got into it rather late.

The switch-over took a couple of years, but it rejuvenated my career. It was probably the best move I ever made.
Tom Crowl - Comedy Ventriloquist

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Carl Mustaine
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Thanks for your replies - I am enjoying hearing about people who have taken up vent later in life.

The second part of my story is that once I had given up when I was in my teens, never thought about it much until one night last year. My mother asked me what I would like for my 40th birthday. Something special she said as it was my 40th. I sort of mumbled that I had always wanted a ventriloquist dummy (still not too sure where that came from as I haven't thought sbout it for 20 odd years!). So I started searching on Ebay and was horrified at how low quality the cheap ones were and amazed at how much you could spend if you wanted to!

Eventually I found the little guy in my avatar. He came from Tim Cowles and was a lot more than I wanted to spend, but I have him now. Just need to come up with a voice I really like for him. Bizarrely enough, he speaks with a real Aussie accent, and I probably haven't sounded like that for years!

Regards

Carl
Vegasvent
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***1961***
I was 7yrs-old. Funny, I was circumcised, and had my tonsils removed the same year!! Wonder if either or both, had anything to do with the development of my voice!? Two years later I was mentored by Legendary Kid-Show Entertainer, Bob McAllister in Baltimore. I performed my first "TV-gig" at 9yrs-old on his show on station WJZ. Lasted all but 2 minutes. However, I was famous for 15.
Magical Phil-Kidzshow, LLC

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Jimmy Vee
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I saw a ventriloquist at my elementary school and was hooked. I also saw a magician it had the same effect. I then saw a vent puppet at a magic store but my parents couldn't afford it.

When I was eight years old my grandma bought me a Howdy Doody (Juro) pull string toy dummy. I was very disappointed because I knew that wasn't the kind of dummy real vents used. I knew you were supposed to put your hand inside the back and make the eyes move. I was really into the puppets and this puppet discouraged me.

I never learned vent after that. But my love for puppets never went away. I got a Juro figure every year for the next six or seven years from my grandma but I never learned vent. I was very turned off by these puppets.

When I was in college, I started making marionette puppets in my apartment. I had no idea how to make one but I was just trying. I had never even handled a marionette.

Walking through the local mall one day I found a guy with a puppet cart selling marionettes. I told him about my marionettes and he told me to bring them down. I brought one over and he liked it so much he put it on consignment at his cart. I was super excited.

Then I started demonstrating the wrap around Muppets for him and I was selling these things like crazy. He loved me and started paying me to demo the puppets. One day while hanging out, the guy pulled out a Axtell Bird puppet did a little vent for some kids. When I saw that bird puppet and him do ventriloquism I was hooked again. My fire was lit.

I asked him about the puppet and about learning how to do ventriloquism. He told me to get a book from the library and learn it. I went to the book store and at the time the only book in the system on ventriloquism was, "Ventriloquism Made Easy" by Kolby King. I had to order and wait a week. I did.

I got the book and read it cover to cover and started practicing in the car signing to songs without moving my lips. I learned in a week. I was probably 18 or 19 years old at the time.

Then I revived the Central Florida Ventriloquist Association and from there met a few magicians who both had a huge impact on me. One was a nice old gentleman who taught me a few rope tricks that I still use today. My very first magic tricks. He also took me to a IBM ring meeting. The Bev Bergeron Ring in Orlando. I met Kostya Kimlat there that day. He was just an up and comer at the time.

I also met Mike Palma, a local magician who was also a vent. He's a great guy and we becuase fast friends. He opened a magic shop in Belleview, FL and he taught me some magic and always makes me laugh. This is what really got me into magic and vent.

Fun stories guys,

thanks for sharing.

Jimmy
ljlvent
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It's all my children's fault! They started doing puppetry when they were in middle school. Then when the director left my husband and I were asked to direct the puppet team. I knew NOTHING about puppetry. But we had fun working together as a family. Then I went back to teaching when my kids were in high school and having seen how effective puppets are I really wanted to be able to use puppetry in my classroom. Not knowing exactly what to do I decided that ventriloquism was what I needed to learn so at the age of 44 I started with the Maher course. My students were a great audience for rehearsing my lessons. Now, five years later I have "retired" from teaching to travel full time as a children's ventriloquist! THAT is something I would never have dreamed I'd be doing (incidentally anyone who knew me as a high school or college student would never think I'd be doing this either). My children gave me a gift when they introduced me to the wonderful world of puppetry! I LOVE my new career!
jlevey
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Very interesting (and inspiring story) ljlvent. Many thanks for sharing, and to the many other fellow members that are telling us their stories , as well... any more? Smile
Jonathan
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Dynamike
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I can not remember if I started magic or ventriloquism first around the age of 12. My dummy was Lester. Since I got more applause from magic, I let ventriloquism fade away. But every time I see one of Kimmo's videos it encourages me to start ventriloquism again. That is why I bought his DVD. I am not going to make another mistake by letting ventriloquism fade away again.
kidshowvent
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I had an interest in vent when I was a boy and had a "Danny O'Day" vent doll. I got books on vent from the library, but the real learning came when I took the Maher Course (which I feel is still the best thing on the market if you want to learn how to do vent correctly..). In fact, I took the course TWICE...once in the original Fred Maher style (he printed the lessons on a mimeograph machine!), and later on when my friend Clinton Detweiler owned the Maher Course.

I was also lucky as I met Jimmy Nelson, who used the original "Danny O'Day"" and "Farfel", and we became friends. Jimmy is definitely the reason I am in vent. He is a true inspiration and quite a gentleman and he gave me much guidance. In fact we are honoring him at Vent Haven this year for his vast contributions to vent.

My first vent figure was carved by a guy named Foy E. Brown from Lawrence , Kansas. I still have that figure today. My first really professional figure was a Jack Coats figure that I named "Rudy" (and later renamed "Jack" after Jack Coats) that I used for several seasons, even using him when I did the Maher Course's "Successful Ventriloquism" DVD.

I have also had a figure made by Don Bryan of Canada, named "Arthur" which now resides at the Vent Haven Museum. I switched to using exclusively soft puppets a number of years ago and used Verna puppets, then switched to Mary Ann Taylor (with an occasional Axtell puppet being used from time to time).

I'm happy I made the switch from hard to soft figures as I work almost exclusively for kidshow audiences.
As they say,,that's my story and I'm sticking ot it! Smile

Mark
markwade@kidshowvent.com
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