Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I sculpted the full-size Otis model to look like the 2T Otis, or at least as much as possible. I'm at the point where I'm doing the initial sanding of big Otis. I also did some fill after the first sanding. The PaperClay fill will dry overnight, then more sanding. I'm also working on the jaw so it'll fit nicely in the mouth opening.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Noise abatement

One of the many benefits of attending the Vent Haven ConVENTion is that I learn more about what ventriloquists value in their figures. Appearance is always a factor. Smooth operating controls is important. But another aspect of a well-made vent figure is that it be as noise-free as possible. You don't want the mechanics to be clacking, banging, scraping, or squeaking. So when I hear an annoying noise, I go in looking for the offending apparatus and do whatever I can to eliminate or suppress it. Sometimes it's in the head. Sometimes it's on the control stick. After all, most vent figure owners will find themselves to be... shall we say... a "vent into the mic" (LOL). We don't want undo racket to be amplified, too.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

There was a crooked smile

Some of my figures don't conform to the straight up-and-down slits on each side of the jaw. They meander a bit to form a more crooked smile. Some may think it's a little weird, but I think it adds character. My Earl castings, both big and small, are examples of this nutty technique. I tend to over-cut the mouth openings, mount the jaw so it swings freely, then use Magic-Sculpt and/or PaperClay to narrow the gaps. I make sure the jaw has smooth clearance on both sides. My next step will be to add to the underside of the jaw so it keeps the neck gap narrow as it swings open. This approach works best with elderly characters that have jowls.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Raffle buzz

Buzz James, "Marcel" and Jimmy Eisenberg
The Vent Haven ConVENTion showroom lights up like a pinball machine during the Vent Haven Raffle. Executive Director Mark Wade turns into a carnival barker as celebrity ventriloquists work the room selling raffle tickets for eight minutes and eight minutes only. Prize packages of vent memorabilia, DVD's, and some really nice (and expensive) vent figures and soft puppets are displayed on stage. My colleague and friend Buzz James of Braylu Creations was one of the night's big winners. He took home a Ventriloquist Sideshow vent figure by Jimmy Eisenberg called "Marcel". Jimmy makes some of the most unique and wonderful vent figures on the planet.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Coupon comedian

One of Taylor Mason's funnies is when he describes himself as the "comedian you can afford" or the "coupon comedian". In truth, I'd put Taylor Mason in the top echelon of working vents. He's funny, clever and very creative. His show at the ConVENTion was a big hit this year and last. He gave a lecture last year where he said he writes three jokes a day every day. He said they don't have to be good jokes, but he never ends his day without writing those three jokes.

Taylor's act also confirms that you don't need an expensive figure to pull off a great show. In fact, one of his funniest bits is with a puppet that has no mouth, speaks no words, and isn't really much more than a glove. (Because I make figures for a living, I hope that doesn't catch on). He also has impressive keyboard skills as he demonstrates with his wicked blues and rock chops.

Taylor Mason is a ventriloquist and comedian I really admire.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The gang's all here

623 ventriloquists made the journey to the 2013 Vent Haven ConVENTion this year, me among them. I didn't bring a figure, but if you look closely at the blow-up, you'll see a pair of "Peepers" on my left hand. I bought them in one of the Dealers Rooms. It's a portable puppet!

Me and Alan Semok
I hung out at the Hospitality Suite one evening. I talked shop with Alan Semok, a fine vent figure builder, actor, ventriloquist and all-around nice man. His workshop on the care and feeding of your vent figure was very informative. His comments also made me feel confident about switching from acrylic paint to latex.

Me and Dan Horn
Dan Horn's seminar on puppet manipulation was excellent. There's probably no one better at it than Dan. The nuances of puppet movement he suggested can really bring an inanimate character to life. Three of the most enlightening tips were to have the puppet take a breath now and then, add a very slight mouth movement when a word ends with a plosive consonant, and lean the puppet back a little when he turns to look at you. I wish every celebrity judge on those TV talent shows could hear Dan's lecture, especially the ones who disrespect ventriloquism acts. I think those celebrities would be very impressed with the degree of detail it takes to build a great ventriloquism show.

Monday, July 22, 2013

On the road

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Oh, Canada

It was such a treat hanging out with fellow vents, builders and some of the folks who have purchased my figures...like Gary Green from Vancouver, B.C. We had dinner together and later ran into each other at the airport on our way West.

This year's ConVENTion was so much fun. More later, but right now I need to hit the hay.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Vent vets

Bill DeMar and Bob May are veteran vendors of laughter. Bill traveled the country for a lot of years bringing joy to millions as a master performer of magic and ventriloquism. Bob May entertained many of us on TV and in person as Ronald McDonald. He's making kids laugh today by bringing his puppets to a children's hospital here in Cincinnati during the ConVENTion. These are fellows we all look up to.

Friday, July 19, 2013


There is probably no ventriloquist more beloved than Jimmy Nelson. Anyone from my generation will certainly remember those Nestles commercials that were often more entertaining than the cartoons they sponsored. Most of us were inspired by his humor and many of us were taught the art of ventriloquism by his courses. It was a deep honor to have met this amazing man at this year's ConVENTion.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Show and tell

This is the talented group that performed tonight at the Senior Open Mic at the Vent Haven ConVENTion. They received expert judging from working pros. Lots of fun and laughs.

The tributes to Clinton and Adelia Detweiler were quite poignant. So pleased his daughter, son and brothers were here to honor them.

Time to hit the Hospitality Suite. More later!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Made it

I'm pleased to say I made it to the Vent Haven ConVENTion today. I've already visited many friends from last year and made a few new friends at this year's gathering. Buzz James from Braylu Creations is here, too, which is special for me since we have worked together for so many years. But I'm pretty tired from the travel, so I'm retiring early tonight so I can be up for the rest of the festivities. More later!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On the road

Sunday, July 14, 2013

My oh my, how I carry on

The Vent Haven ConVENTion is only three days away. So I'm packing because I leave a couple of days early to hang out with friends in Springfield, Oregon before I fly out of Eugene on my way to Cincinnati. I'm looking forward to seeing several folks I met at last year's convention and a bunch more I have yet to meet. It's fun to marvel at the variety of figures ventriloquists bring to the gathering. Then there's the field trip to the Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky and the Terry Fator show to look forward to as well. It's a very special time for me and my fellow vents. I'll be blogging from the ConVENTion each day, so join the fun even if you can't be there in person this year.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

All's well that ends well

The photo on the right shows my PVC pipe end caps. I install them now because a customer complained that the sharp edge of the raw PVC pipe bothered his hand. The eyehook in the end cap is for the elastic band that attaches to the base of the body's interior to secure the head.

The photo at left shows the work that awaits me upon my return from the ConVENTion. Today I prepared and attached the PVC headsticks to the heads. Before the headsticks are secured with Magic-Sculpt, I drill and smooth the holes for the cords and install an eyehook to the top of the PVC pipe for the jaw spring. I also attach the jaw spring itself because it's darn hard to do it after the headstick is molded to the head. I know because I've forgotten several times and had to reach way down in the neck area and attach it using long-nosed hemostats. (Much cussin'.)

The guy in the middle sans headstrick is my full-size Otis sculpture I'm still working on.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hair today...gone tomorrow?

My reworked Jackie figure won't be ready to find a new home until after the Vent Haven ConVENTion next week. I still have to paint the hands on his new body and I won't have time before I leave. But I found a nice wig for him and he works really well. Wish I could bring him along.

I hope he finds a happy new partner when I get back.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rockin' Roller

I've been enjoying Tom Crowl's interview series.This week he's talking to ventriloquist Lisa Laird who specializes in library shows for kids in the Midwest. During their conversation, she describes library performance venues and mentions her rule of "one load in, one load out". Lisa recommends the use of a "Rockin' Roller" cart that bends and folds into various configurations, then folds flat in the car. I immediately googled it and found it for sale at several online music stores like Sweetwater. It's around $100. Click here to watch Tom Crowl's interview segment with Lisa Laird.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Which one's the dummy?

It all depends on your point of view. If you're one of my family members, a former employer, an old girlfriend or one of my college professors, then you might pick the guy second from the left. Otherwise the other candidates pictured might fill the bill. This posting is actually about my most recent Kenny Croes Dummy Store website fiddlin'. I just can't leave well enough alone.

Monday, July 08, 2013

It all starts again

These three castings, Big Earl, Little Otis and Little Earl get their start today. You can't see it, but I've sawed off their trap doors so I can begin messing with their heads. I'm seriously considering, however, making the Big Earl head into a Big Auntie Pearl figure, thus introducing another character in the Kenny Croes Dummy Store.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

A face revisited

The very first Jackie figure needed some minor jaw adjustments, which I have procrastinated ever since his beauty shots were made. He's now repainted completely . New eyes and mechanics. I'm thinking of making those wrinkles in the corners of his mouth a little longer and thinner . If I don't like it, I can always repaint those small areas.

I have a few nice wigs to try out, too.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Happy 4th

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Ready for a refill?

My "Uncle Earl" figure, renamed Uncle Len by his co-conspirator, is apparently a party animal. Here he is seen at a 60th birthday party in England entertaining guests. Thanks to ventriloquist Timothy Lowe for the photo.

Bottoms up!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Never nice

My full-size Mr. Winkle has been added to the stable of characters I offer on my website. This one, however, has been spoken for. He'll wear a disguise (photo at left) and play a role in an upcoming student film being produced at the New York Film Academy.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Backwoods bum

Otis the Moonshiner is ready to cook up some white lightenin'. He'll be heading to the backwoods of California to provide job security for the local constable. He likes to go barefoot because he can run from the law a lot faster.