Sunday, July 31, 2011

On the road

Back in 1962, my Dad was a city councilman in Bakersfield, California. He was also named Ken Croes. He helped dedicate the Bakersfield Civic Auditorium, thus his name on the bronze plaque imbedded in the wall just outside the entrance. The facility has since been expanded into a large arena. I first noticed the plaque several years ago but didn't have a camera. This visit I made sure to get a photo with my iPhone.

Friday, July 29, 2011

On the road

The historic Fox Theatre in Bakersfield, California (my hometown). It's now a concert venue.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

On the road

Sitting by the creek in Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We get letters

It's always encouraging to get letters from fellow ventriloquists.  Especisally one as nice as this one.

Hi Kenny,

I just saw your nice comments on your blog about Sgt Focker, and want to thank you! The info on your website and blog have been a great help to me, not to mention the quality of your products. I just bought 2 more of your heads. I am making another Drill Instructor Dummy, this time with your Mr. Winkle head, since someone bought my original Sgt Focker right after the performance at the Drill Instructor Reunion, which is posted here:

I am new to this and by no means am a ventriloquist, but with the info on your blog, parts from Buzz at Braylu and Al Stevens blog, the Sgt Focker performance went great and won 1st place at the reunion. It was my first performance and I didn't quite expect the reaction of laughter from the audience.

I've not had the pleasure of meeting Al Stevens yet, but I found out that we live only about 5 miles from each other! I hope to catch one of his performances at one of the jazz clubs in Cocoa Beach soon.

Thank you for your wonderful products and overwhelming inspiration.

Dick Buechler

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A message from Mark Wade



That's right. The Vent Haven International Ventriloquists ConVENTion has a new home. After being associated with the Drawbridge Hotel for 35 years, it has been decided to find a new place to hold the ConVENTion. Starting in 2012 our new location will be the Cincinnati Airport Marriott Hotel in northern Kentucky (Hebron, KY), just minutes away from the Drawbridge Hotel and the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport. Please check this site to get a glimpse of our new ConVENTion home:

I wanted to address your concerns about the Drawbridge Hotel and why we stayed with them as long as we did. Almost a decade ago the Drawbridge Hotel was the only facility close to the Vent Haven Museum that was large enough to hold our event. It had the largest meeting rooms, and was convenient to everything. Until recently there was no other place to rival the Drawbridge for space. But in time the local situation changed with the building of new hotels, but we were looking at a signed contract deal that pinned us down for a long time (done to insure we would have a place for the ConVENTion, in July of each year).

Over the years the quality of the buildings at the Drawbridge Hotel started to deteriorate, new owners came and went and the hotel recently went through receivership. It was barely kept open by a skeleton crew of employees, waiting for a buyer to purchase the property and to make vast improvements. We waited patiently through all of this, all the time being reassured that NEXT year we would see great, new things. That never happened.

Needless to say we were frustrated like you. We were deep into a contract deal in a hotel that was falling apart. It was a long-term contract that began in 2005 and was to end in 2012. The contract was played out to almost the end, and when we could finally step away from the hotel contract with out incurring a huge penalty (it was $10,000 to break the contract) we did so. Being closer to the end of the contract, and having given proper notice, we were able to finally search for a new place. We discovered the Cincinnati Airport Marriott Hotel!

This place is great!! All new rooms, free wireless Internet (which we negotiated and got for you.), flat screen televisions in each room, plus the quality of the Marriott brand to back them up. This hotel is rated in the top 10 of all the Marriott chain. The room rate is a bit more. A flat of $99. Per night whether it is a single or a double occupancy, but the rooms are newly remodeled, with new mattresses and bedding. This place is worthy to be called the home of the worlds largest ventriloquist convention! I will post more in the coming days and give you some further info.

Mark Wade

Monday, July 25, 2011

In living color

I had some fun yesterday projecting what my full-size head might look like with eyes, hair, skin-color, and painted features. 

It'll be fun making him in 3D.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Which way to head next?

I just sent my full-sized head to Braylu Creations so Buzz can make the mold and castings.  It will probably be a month or more before it's done.  In the meantime, I'm trying to decide what kind of character to sculpt in a full-size head next.  I've considered making a full-size version of my 2T character Mr. Winkle.  But I haven't decided, so Buzz thought I should put it to my blog followers.

What (or who) do you think?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Like magic

My wife is an incurable book buyer.  Mostly she buys books for herself.  But today she bought me this old book, Dunninger's Complete Encyclopedia of Magic. This copy was likely reprinted in the 60's based upon the font used on the book jacket. But inside it looks like it dates from the 1920's or 1930's. 

I used to work with a magician back in the day, so it was fun thumbing through the book and recognizing some of the illusions my partner performed.  In the back, almost as an afterthought, there's a chapter on building a ventriloquist act.  There's even a routine.  Here's what the text says about becoming a ventriloquist: "It is a foolish belief that one must be superhuman vocally and have an abnormally developed throat or use some sort of mechanical appliance to entertain with ventriloquism."

What kind of mechanical appliance would that be? 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Now you know the drill

This is a cool video produced by Dick Buechler. He built his character "Sgt. Focker" from an Uncle Earl head. The video is fun to watch. It's also educational if you're thinking of building a character of your own. Nice work, Dick!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Flip side

The rockers from Braylu Creations can be used wings-pointed-up or pointed-down.  I like up.  The eye control cords come through the hole at the top of the headstock.  I drill holes through the rocker's wing tips to thread and tie the cord.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Stick with this

I'm fond of the Braylu headticks made from PVC pipe and a neck transition (the rounded part).  I find it much easier to work with than wood.  I attach the triggers with bolts and washers.  From top to bottom, the triggers control the crossing eyes, jaw and eyebrows.  On the other side of the headstick you can see the rocker, which controls the side-to-side eye movement.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Take a walk

I admit it.  I spend a lot of time in my workshop building ventriloquist figures.  But occasionally I leave the building and take a walk in the woods.  And there are lots of woods to choose from here in Oregon.  This photo was taken while walking along the path behind the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology in Charleston, Oregon. 

It's good to get some fresh air once in a while.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cool tool drool

I've been lusting after a cordless drill for some time.  I actually own one, but the battery is kaput. A replacement would cost nearly $60.  Then I got this email from Sears advertising a cordless drill, variable speed, with battery and charger, regularly $79, now just $49.  Had to get it.  It's not as lightweight as a lithium battery, but it'll work just fine.

Now I gotta go punch a hole in somethin'.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gimme Jimmy

I'm hoping someone will say,"Gimme Jimmy".  The little scamp is all dressed up and ready to go... somewhere.  He even made a video for you to view.  Click here and watch the li'l fella act up. He'll make a fine knee pal for someone.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Take a bite

More goofy dental work as I've finished the lower jaw on the revised Elmore.  After a touch more sanding, I'll paint the jaw with a coat of primer, then start adding color.  The last step will be a coat of clear glossy varnish to give the interior of the mouth a wet look.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Goofy dental work

From a time-spent perspective, I've plowed too many hours into revising my Elmore head and jaw considering how much he'll likely fetch on Ebay.  But sometimes I'll spend more time if there's a learning experience in it for me.  That's certainly the case here.

When forming the lower lip on the rebuilt jaw, I made room for a couple of protruding odd-ball teeth.  The open and close of the jaw moves very smoothly, which really took up my time.  At first it was locking up and I couldn't figure out why.  Persistence eventually paid off after much grinding and sanding. 

Next step is to put lower teeth and tongue in the jaw.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Almost every ventriloquist has a picture like this

That's my little brother Mike standing next to me and my dummy Jackie.  Mike was 6, I was about 10.  I performed with a local troupe of kid entertainers in Bakersfield. 

Rick Davis was a 10-year-old piano prodigy.  He would blow big bubblegum bubbles while playing Bach.  It was Rick's Dad who organized the troupe and booked the gigs at Masonic Lodges, school assemblies, church groups and the like.  Rick's little brother played Fender electric guitar and sang rock tunes.  I thought that was cool.

My little brother Mike played saxophone and basketball.  (He got real tall.).

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Magic-Sculpt is a wonderful substance.  But it's also very dense and can add unwanted weight.  So once in a while I prefer to fill an area with something lighter, then put Magic-Sculpt over it.

In this case, I used a wadded-up paper towel to fill a chin area on the Elmore jaw. I balled it up really tight, then glued it to the styrene plastic.  Then I dripped Elmer's Glue over the top of the paper towel and spread it around.  It's almost like making a paper-mache. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Hair there

Just for fun, I removed the wig from my "Fred Project" figure (the first I ever made) and placed it on my full-size figure model.  The wig adds even more character.  It's easier to see who this fella is going to be.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Chin up

After mauling my stock Elmore jaw, I've begun the rebuild.  I've secured some styrene plastic to the top portion.  That platform will hold the tongue and teeth. I cut the outer edge to fit the basic contour of the head's upper lip.

The styrene below plugs the opening.  Between the plastic on the top and bottom, I'll insert a yet-to-be-specified space filler.  Then I'll sculpt the chin and bottom lip over that. 

Because I've already fit the jaw in the head so it can swing freely, I'll sculpt the bottom of the chin so it will fit nicely in the neck opening. 

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Rough to look at

For some reason this shot grosses me out, but I can't exactly figure out why.  The point of the photo is so make sure folks who work with my Kenny Croes Collection heads on Braylu take a moment for a tip. 

Be sure to rough up the interior of the head so that Magic-Sculpt or like substance will grip to the otherwise smooth urethane.  I used to only rough up the spots where I anticipated contact.  Now I do the whole head's interior to accommodate innovation (or sometimes repair).

I use a Dremel with a small round-ball bit (don't know the actual name of it) to mess with the inside. I hold the Dremel with one hand and the ShopVac with the other to reduce the fine debris.

Is it me or is that picture gross?

Am I repeating myself?


Am I repeating myself?


Friday, July 01, 2011

Wrinkle Winkle

Just for being such an ornery cuss, Mr. Winkle gets a couple more neck sags.  Though the turkey neck was on the original model, the two additional wrinkles  were not, so I add them to each casting.

Try saying the title of this post ten times in a row without moving your lips.

While smiling.