Makers of "Hard"
Ventriloquist Figures

(or, as they used to be called in the good ol' days, dummies)

These makers build ventriloquist figures out of wood, fiberglass, polyurethane, paper mache and other materials to make what is known in the vent world as "hard" figures.

 


 

 

 

 

 

Ray Guyll being interview by Dan Willinger making comments about Ventriloquist Central and
"The Ultimate Guide To Building Your Own Ventriloquist Figure, Volume 1"

 

 

 

  

ALBERT ALFARO

www.imaginariumgalleries.com

Albert Alfaro has been sculpting and designing fantasy puppets for over 30 years. Back in the early 70's he invented and created the first original animated moving pet. He holds the patent on his creation. His puppets include dragons, griffins, fairies, and woodland creatures.

Alfaro has designed for Fortune 500 companies as well as the movie industry.

DOUG ANDERSON

  

WILLIAM ANDERSON
1920-2011

Anderson was also the first maker to offer a do-it-yourself, make-your-own-dummy kit.

ROBERT ANTHONY

From Fort Myers, Florida.

JOHN ARVITES

Steve Barry with Dan Willinger Figure

STEVE BARRY
gepettosworkshop

eBay Store Link

Steve Barry's Blog Link

COLONEL BILL BOLEY

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

JOE BOLEY

Located in Kentucky.  Ventriloquist and Figure-Maker.  Son of Bill Boley.

DANO and RENEA BRATTON

West Virginia.  Makers of Bratton Buddies.

HERBERT BRIGHTON


 

MICHAEL BROSE

www.puppetsandprops.com

See the article on Brose at www.talkingcomedy.com/SI-Vent-2005/books-siVENT05/MB-BK-siVENT05.html

 

FOY BROWN

Ventriloquist & Figure-Maker from Kansas. Picture:  Brown poses in 1946 with  figures B. O. Baily and Lon Lundy.

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

WILLIAM KIRK BROWN

Miami, Florida.  Circa 1950s.

PASTOR SCOTT BRYTE

pastorscott@aol.com

 

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

Ony Carcamo

http://www.geocities.com/thepartyzoo/Carcamofigs.html

GLENN CARGYLE

 

VIDEO CLIP

Knock on Wood

GO TO VIDEO PAGE

Cargyle created the twin dummies for the 1954 movie Knock on Wood.  They were made to resemble the star of the film, Danny Kaye.

 

 

JOHN CARROLL

New York figure-maker Carroll created the ventriloquist figure seen in the Tareyton cigarette ad from the 1960s. This historic figure was made circa late 1940s or early 1950s. Carroll was known for his association with pro vent Roy Douglas and made the figures that Douglas sold through his mail order company. Carroll worked very much in the style of legendary Frank Marshall.

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

   

GREG CLAASSEN

Click Here For Greg's Website

Claassen is a professional ventriloquist who has been making figures on the side since 1990.  He has built 4 or 5 McElroy replicas, and he also restores vintage figures for others on occasion.  In addition, he has teamed with Bill Nelson on a couple of projects.

  

BRYAN CLARKE

www.punchandjudyman.com

Clarke is primarily a maker of Punch & Judy figures.  He is also a performer of Punch & Judy shows under the name of Prof. Jingles.

JACK COATS  1931-1973

bellsouthpwp.net/g/k/gkoepke/jack.htm

Ventriloquist and figure-maker.  Coats made figures during the late 60s and early 70s for Paul Stadleman, Jimmy Nelson, and many others.

The two figures in the pictures were rebuilt and photographed by Al Stevens and belong to ventriloquist Jerry Goodspeed, who uses them regularly in his performances.

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

Jack Coats - By Gary Koepke

 

TIMOTHY COWLES

www.dummyworks.com

Timothy Cowles is owner and operator of The Dummy Works, a company specializing in the production of fun and colorful ventriloquist characters. In addition, he is also a performer at international ventriloquist and puppetry conferences.

Tim and and his wife Amanda have relocated from northern California to Dallas, Texas to work as full time performers for Nana Puddin' Productions (see www.nanapuddin.com).

CHARLES CRISTADORO

www.sandiegohistory.org/journal/89summer/sculptorimages.htm

Cristadoro sculpted Effie Klinker for Edgar Bergen.

Cristadoro worked at the Walt Disney Studios where he became a character model artist. He created a figure of Pinocchio to assist the animators of the film.  He also made the acquaintance of movie actor William S. Hart around 1917 and produced a number of statues of the film star.


 

KENNY CROES

 

http://www.kennycroes.com

 

http://ventintothemic.blogspot.com
(Vent Into The Mic)

 

VIRGINIA AUSTIN CURTIS   1903-1986

Curtis sculpted Mortimer Snerd, the Effanbee Charlie, and the face which Rene Zendejas and Jerry Layne use on their standard cheeky boy.

Virginia Curtis was an honored member of Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry. She is best known for her Clippo the Clown and for her creation of Edgar Bergen's Elmer, who became famous as Mortimer Snerd. She was a dedicated puppeteer.

Click here for Video about
Virginia  Austin Curtis

A very young Curtis appears in Unusual Occupations in volume II of Bergen/McCarthy Shorts. This  is a color "documentary" on how Mortimer was created, from drawings, through sculpture and casting.

 

 

CLINTON DETWEILER

www.newsyvents.blogspot.com

Located in Colorado.  Detweiler began his career as a ventriloquist in the late 1950s.  He built his first ventriloquist figure for his own use in 1958, and built his first figure for resale in 1969. Detweiler and his wife Adelia purchased Maher Ventriloquist Studios from Madeleine Maher in 1969.   They closed Maher Studios in 2006.

           

LEE DUNN

Email address:  vent.figurerepair@yahoo.com

Click here to read more about Lee Dunn

See Ventriloquist Central Collection


 

JAMES "JIMMY" EISENBERG

http://ventriloquistsideshow.com/

D.T. ELLIS

From England, Ellis sold his figures through Davenports, which also sold Insull figures.

GEOFF FELIX

www.geofffelix.com

Located in Middlesex, UK.  Felix is a puppeteer, ventriloquial figure maker, and Punch and Judy performer.

 

BRANT GILMER

brangilm@adelphia.net

Located in Ohio. Gilmer has been carving figures from basswood since 1985. He also occasionally makes musical instruments and furniture. His vent figures include standard boys or girls, old men, animals, and even a talking bar stool.

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

CECIL GOUGH

RAY GUYLL

Click Here For More Information

Located in Washington state.  Although he has been a professional ventriloquist, Guyll focuses on making dummies.  Guyll started building figures professionally in 1968.  In 1971Guyll was hired by Chicago television  for a program on ventriloquism that featured legendary ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson.  In 1984, Guyll went on the road for three years with his own act. His original character was Lucky Louie, who started as a Western sheriff and morphed into a hobo.

Guyll's creations include (1) an Al Gore figure for ventriloquist Taylor Mason and  (2) Jose Jalapeno on a Stick for ventriloquist Jeff Dunham.

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

 

BRIAN HAMILTON

Brian Hamilton was a flash in the pan so to speak, as far as figure makers are concerned. He started at the age of 14 and at 15 he was making carved wood figures in the Marshall style. Unfortunately passed away at the early age of 28 in 1988. He was such an accomplished builder that he actually acquired all of Frank Marshall's tools to do his work.

He carved heads out of wood and then went on to build figures out of Fiberglass. The McElroy brothers George & Glen took Brian under their wing and taught him a lot of their techniques in building figures and he made some very fine McElroy style figures of which there is less than a handful known. He also did repair work too. We can wonder what would have been had he still been alive and building today.

Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

  

    

CONRAD HARTZ

personal.lig.bellsouth.net/g/k/gkoepke/hartz/

Hartz Puppetry Workshop. Hartz has been building a variety of puppets since 1975 and has developed a reputation as one of the finest makers of quality hand puppets, marionettes, and ventriloquist figures.

All of his puppets are hand carved from basswood, the traditional material for making quality puppets and figures. Being completely hand made, no two are exactly alike.  He uses brass mechanics for quiet, smooth, and trouble free movement.

The Mandarin Head-in-the-Box pictured on the left is an example of Hartz's novelty-type figures.

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

CHARLIE HORNER

www.charliehornerboys.homestead.com/figures.html

Horner acquired the entire shop of Finis Robinson.

 

  

LEN INSULL   1883-1974

Began a stage property business around 1918, and later made his first figure for Tom Coram.  Later he made figures for Peter Brough and Ray Alan.  His son, Len Insull, Jr., carried on the family business.  The son also was known for installing pneumatic devices in figures and for the Toby jug.  Insull Jr. died before his father in 1957.  Insull Senior died in 1974.

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

  

  

CHUCK JACKSON

Produced figures for Maher Studios in the mid-1980s.

 

LES LAMBORN

Lamborn comes from Michigan and makes figures in all mediums (carved, sculpted, etc).

 

 

DAN LAVENDER

www.dlavender.com


Click here to see more about Dan Lavender
and one of his ventriloquist figures

JERRY LAYNE

www.jerrylayne.com

Professional Ventriloquist and Figure-Maker for over 35 years.

Layne makes 40" replicas of Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff in addition to his own original creations.

Jerry Layne ventriloquist figures have been featured on many TV shows such as: "Tales from the Crypt", "Captain Kangaroo", "Three's Company", "News Radio", "Nash Bridges", "Everybody Loves Raymond", "Sister Sister", "The Drew Carey Show", and the motion pictures "Zapped", "Beautiful", as well as many TV commercials.
They are being used by ventriloquists all over the world.

JOEL LEDER

www.dummyproductions.com

ALFRED LEMARE

Began business in 1861 making property for theaters, but he later specialized in magic and ventriloquial goods at his shop in Manchester, England.  Supplied figures for Fred Russell and Arthur Prince.

 

CRAIG LOVIK

Began making figures in 1965.  He was also one of the major figure-makers for Maher Studios for many years.

FEATURE: Read an article about Craig and Keith Lovik that appeared in the March 2006 issue of  Seattle Business Monthly.

  

KEITH LOVIK

www.lovikspuppets.com

Keith is the son of Craig Lovik.  From 1996 to 2006 Keith Lovik has built all the 35" and 40" figures sold by Maher Studios.  In 2006, with the closing of Maher Studios, he went independent.




 

 

 

 

THEODORE MACK

The Mack woodworking shop first opened in 1880 by Theodore Mack's father.  Later Theodore worked with son Charles Mack in Chicago.  Their first figure was Frank Byron Jr., carved for Harry Lester.  They also employed Frank Marshall when he was just 14 years of age in 1914.  Both Theodore and Charles died in 1923.

QUESTION: Who made Frank Byron? Lester or Mack? In the book by Stan Burns and in the TalkingComedy.com article (which used Burns' book as a source), Lester reportedly stated that he made his famous figure himself with a little guidance from Theo Mack. Yet in a 1945 article in Coronet magazine, Mack is credited with the making of Frank Byron. Mack is more likely the actual maker. Lester is not known for making any other figures. Read the article: CORONET.

QUESTION: Who made Charlie McCarthy? Mack or Marshall?  Both Mack and Marshall can take credit for Charlie McCarthy.  Mack made an early version (see photo on left); but Marshall made subsequent versions, as the 1955 article in Mechanix Illustrated  indicates. Read the article: MECHANIX ILLUSTRATED.

Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

FRED MAHER  1896-1952

Figure: Skinney Dugan, built by Glenn and George McElroy.   Founder of Maher Studios.

  

JOHNNY MAIN  1938-2003

Figures: Gutters McGraw; Archie, made by Frank Marshall.  TV personality during the 1970s and 1980s.  Voted best ventriloquist in the world in 1981.

Main also made figures, including Gutters.

 

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

Tribute To Johnny Main

 

JAMES MANALLI

http://www.jamesmanalli.com

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

 

FRANK MARSHALL  1900-1969

BORN: Frank Marzalkiewicz, Poland, 1900 (died 1969).  First Great Vent Figure Maker.  1914: Begins work at Theodore Mack & Son Furniture Factory.  1922: Charlie McCarthy made for Edgar Bergen at Mack Factory (possibly made by Marshall).  1937: Jerry Mahoney made for Paul Winchell.  1945: Danny O'Day made for Jimmy Nelson.

Frank Marshall's creation of Jerry Mahoney is more securely confirmed.  In fact Marshall even appeared on the television show What's My Line in 1956 and mentioned his work on Paul Winchell's famous figure.  Comments about the episode are available at www.tv.com/episode-320/episode/95470/summary.html.
 

Frank Marshall Catalog 1931

 

Frank Marshall (Marzalkiewicz) - By Bob Isaacson
Click Here

 

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

Frank Marshall Audio Interviews
Click Here

 

 

JOHN MATHENY

John Matheny works out of VentWorks, a sculpture studio specializing in creating unique, custom-made ventriloquist dummies. Each original figure is hand-carved from basswood. His figures are lightweight with smooth operating, brass levers and mechanics. Note: Matheny's website (ventworks.com) is no longer operational.

 

 

ROBERT McCRAY

www.robertmcray.net

McCray turned professional at only 13 years of age. As an actor in Hollywood, he starred in many television shows and feature films, becoming known as the sidekick to "Conan" on the television series. "Since my character was mute from birth, I utilized many of the figure manipulation skills I learned as a ventriloquist to bring the character to life."  McCray has also worked as a writer, producer, and casting director for both feature films and television (comedy and drama).  He has worked for Disney/Touchstone Studios and Showtime.

McCray later returned to the world of ventriloquism.  From his rural location in the mountains of northern Idaho, he creates large scale sculptures. His "BIGHEAD" mechanical creations have many celebrity performers and serious art collectors considering him to be the "McElroy" of this generation. Using only a 4 or 5 sentence description from a client, McCray hand-sculpts incredible characters, which are capable of amazing movements.  He creates only three or four each year for select clients.  However, neither the client nor McCray ever knows what the final figure will look like until it has been finished.

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

 

 

GEORGE & GLENN McELROY

BORN: circa 1912 in Harrison, Ohio.  Great Vent Figure Makers, Figures are the "Cadillacs" of the Vent World.  c. 1932: King Kong Marionette -- Tribute to Movie.  1937: Cecil Wigglenose created for Valentine Vox.  1939: Jacko the Monkey for WS Berger.  George created the designs and models.  Glenn created and built the complex mechanisms.

The entertainer Rudy Vallee (pictured at left) was a big fan of ventriloquism and owned several McElroy figures.

 

Ventriloquist Central Collection

NO PHOTO

FRANK MILLIS

Working c. 1883, Millis was from Australia.  Used a red-headed Irish doll, among other figures, in the British Music Hall.  During the 1890s Millis used pneumatic bladders to animate figures.

  

   

BILL NELSON

nelson_studios@hotmail.com

Nelson is also a professional illustrator whose works have appeared in The Wall Street Journal and Playboy Magazine.

  

HOWARD OLSON

Died: 1992.  Figure: Cowboy Eddie.  For 11 years  Olson hosted Circus 3, a TV show for kids in Madison .  It ran daily throughout the 1960s.  During the late 70s and early 80s, Olson made ventriloquist figures and conducted ventriloquism workshops.  Trivia: Howard Olson is the son of The Great Chesterfield.



 

     

     
 

MIKE PALMA

Ventriloquist Workshop

http://www.VentriloquistWorkshop.com

 

Click here to see Mike's work

Click here to read Mike's story

 

 

 

FRANK PARIS

Operated his Distinctive Puppets shop in New York City.



 

JOHN PARISI

johnparisi51@comcast.net

 

 

DAN PAYES

www.danpayespuppetry.com

 

 

REVELLO PETEE

Made figures used by Foy Brown, among others.

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

 

  

MADAM GRACE PINXY

Pinxy and her husband George Larsen made figures from 1916 to 1948.

The figure of Uncle Sam (pictured) was made by George Larsen and used by Stanley Burns.

SPECIAL FEATURE: Ventriloquism by Pinxy.  Available on MEDIA PAGE.

 

Dan Willinger's Pinxy Collection

 

KEM POYNER

www.ventriloquistdummy.com

Born circa 1959, Poyner now lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Kem Poyner and his identical twin brother, Kern, performed regularly at parties and church functions when they were young.   Later, the twins were booking shows from Nashville to Las Vegas.

Kem sat in on a workshop about Ventriloquist figure-making taught by Ray Guyll. Based on the knowledge gained by that workshop, Poyner built a couple fiberglass figures that resembled the twins themselves. A short time later he was designing and building his own figures.

RICK PRICE  1953-2002

"Outstanding maker of molded figures with a superbly artistic finish and excellent quality mechanics."

ARTHUR QUISTO

Lived 1882-1960.  Real name: Edwin Simms.  Known primarily for his Punch & Judy Shows, Quisto also built figures for Coram and Prince.  He used pneumatic devices and was the first to use electromagnetic devices to animate his figures.

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

 

GLEN RAPPOLD

glenvent@san.rr.com

Glen Rappold was born in Connecticut in 1955. Drawing
inspiration from Paul Winchell and Jimmy Nelson, Rappold started performing and making figures in the late 1970s. He worked as a ventriloquist and actor for eleven years in Los Angeles. In 1991 Rappold moved to San Diego. He continues to make classic style figures in the tradition of Frank Marshall. Rappold also plays guitar in a jazz ensemble.

RENE

www.ventfiguresbyrene.com

Professional puppeteer and maker of puppets, marionettes, and ventriloquist figures.

Rene’s television appearances began on the Dave Garroway, Ed Sullivan, and Hollywood Palace shows. His own educational program for children, “Domingo,” enjoyed a run of three years on ABC-TV in Los Angeles, and won a local Emmy award for excellence in children’s programming.

His creations have been seen on “Fantasy Island,” “Fridays,” “Benson,” “You Bet Your Life,” “Mrs. Columbo,” “Bill Cosby’s Christmas Special,” and many others. His special work in movies and television commercials has found him animating a Model T for Coberly Ford, hamburgers for McDonald’s, the Pillsbury Doughboy used in their television specials, and characters in the Lily Tomlin film, “The Incredible Shrinking Woman.” His puppets have also been seen in commercials for Toyota, Continental Airlines, R. C. Cola, Bill-Mar Farms and the California Dairy Association.

Rene also created Bob, which was used by Jay Johnson (playing Chuck Campbell) in the popular TV series "Soap" from the 1970s.

JEREMY ALBERT RINGERMACHER

Ringermacher  is a sculptor and illustrator in the United States. He is a graduate of the California Institute of the Arts with a bachelors degree in fine art.  He launched JAR Productions in the Fall of 2003.

FINIS ROBINSON  1908-2001

George "Pinxy" Larson took Finis under his tutelage, teaching how to make great figures.

SPECIAL FEATURE: See a double-page flyer advertisement for Finis & Co.

 

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

RAY ROSEBERRY

Circa 1940s.

Pictured: 6" basswood head.  Repaired by Detweiler: for details, see newsyvents.blogspot....mystery-revealed.html

 

SHANNON SCHRUM

SCHRUM STUDIOS

http://www.schrumstudios.com/bergen.htm

Schrum sculpts figures in the style of Maher, Mack, Insull, & The McElroy Brothers.  Pieces include Jacko (from Vent Haven) and Toby Jugs.

Schrum Studios is officially authorized by the Bergen Foundation to create non-working museum replicas of Edgar Bergen's famous characters. Designed primarily for private and museum exhibitions.

  

 

TIM SELBERG

www.selbergstudios.com

As a young boy Selberg became fascinated with the art of ventriloquism. "As a kid, I saw Jimmy Nelson do commercials on television with his characters Danny O'Day and Farfel. I wanted to be the next Jimmy Nelson, so my mother got me his record Instant Ventriloquism and a plastic Danny!

By the time he was 12, Selberg was making dummies and performing. . He carved his first basswood head at age 16.  He studied art at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, as well as Cranbrook Academy, and NOVEC.

In 1987 he opened Selberg Studios.

Selberg was featured in Belly Talkers, a documentary on ventriloquism, and given credit as the top figure maker in the world. He was also exclusively featured in a documentary for Japanese television entitled The Worlds' Greatest Craftsmen.

Selberg lives in Michigan.

  

ALAN SEMOK

homepage.mac.com/asemok/dummies.html

Also known as the Dummy Doctor.  Born in 1952, Semok has been building ventriloquist figures and puppets since 1966.

Obtaining a theatre degree in 1975 and embarking on an acting career, Semok also took up the tools again and began making dummies on a larger & more complex scale to supplement his show-biz income.

When not in his workshop studio, Alan works as an actor, having appeared on stage, film and television in a variety of dramatic and comic roles. In February of 2000, he appeared as Aaron Burr on the PBS series, The American Experience.

Bottom Photo: Actor Adrien Brody with a Semok creation in the feature film Dummy.

 

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

JIM SMITH

Lived in Florida. Died 2002.  Smith began performing ventriloquism in a circus.  Later, during the 1970s, he managed his own magic store and sold there the figures that he built himself.

 

JOSEPH SMITH

sloperjoe@netzero.net

Located in Washington.  Smith builds each figure completely from scratch starting with a new clay head sculpture, so each one is unique.

GERALD SNELSON

faculty.frostburg.edu/engl/snelson/gallery.html

Snelson is a native of Frostburg, Maryland, and was born on April 10, 1943.  He works as an English professor at Frostburg State University and makes musical instruments in addition to figures.

KEN SPENCER

Ken Spencer was born in Fontenelle, Iowa, August 30th, 1899.

Ken's interest in ventriloquism started in 1915, but his first lessons were not entirely satisfactory. Later he met Harry Fetterer, a professional ventriloquist working with a colored figure with a soft squeaky negro voice. Harry agreed to teach Ken, for $1.00 per hour.

Ken purchased his first good professional figure from Theodore Mack & Son, then located at West Harrison Street, Chicago. Ken loafed around the carving department so much that Charlie Mack decided to put him to put him to work roughing out hands, etc.

In 1934 Spencer began figure-making professionally as well as continuing with his performances.

See Ventriloquist Central Collection

 


                           

JOHN STALLKNECHT

  

  

AL STEVENS

www.alstevens.com

Located in Florida, Stevens is a jazz musician, comedy ventriloquist, and figure-maker.

MARTIN STEVENS  1904-1983

Stevens was a marionette entertainer who occasionally made figures.  The figure of Eddie (pictured) was used by Earl Estenson and later by Dick Weston.

JAMES TATTERSALL   1917-1999

James (or Jimmy) Tattersall was both a ventriloquist and maker of life-sized dolls. Among his figures he had a life-sized drunk doll and an old lady who traveled across the stage by remote control and landed in the old man's arms. Tattersall was well-known for the figures he made with big eyes and big expressions.

During the 1940s Tattersall performed as "Tattersall and Jerry'" (top photo).  He also also used a figure named Tony, a Liberace-like pianist (2nd photo).

Tattersall performed in a children's series on Scottish TV, Mr. Fixit, which featured puppets Rosabell and Hoppy. There was one human in the show, Mr. Fixit, who was played by Roddy McMillan or Roy Kinnear.

 

Click here for more information about
James Tattersall

 

Click here to see Tattersall Figure in
Ventriloquist Central Collection

 

JOHN TURNER

Turner made figures circa 1940s and 1950s.  He made Elmer  Jones (in Salinas, California) for Harry Lester (in picture at left) and also a figure for Maxine (Lillian Dawes).

See Ventriloquist Central Collection



Kirk Wickizer

Resides in Huntsville Alabama. He has been building vent figures since 2004. He also paints and draws when he gets a chance. He had a Danny O Day dummy as a kid and thought it would be fascinating to build his own someday. He has been a product designer in different industries for 30+ years and enjoys building figures more than anything else.

kcwickizer@gmail.com