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Saturday, November 15, 2008


A scupter and wood carver who specializes in the worlds best Vent Dummys. Today he is known for his big head one of a kind Dummys. From age 9-17 he was a professional ventriloquist. Some of his acting credits were as the side kick to Conan the Barbarian on TV, in 1998 or you might remember him in 2002 Legend Of The Phontom Rider a movie he wrote and starred in. Or as a guest role on Walker, another TV show.Robert is well remembered for his Australian Croc a funny croc who need not speak a work, but just by the way he looks around and behaves, makes him extremely funny.

The first figure he owned was a plastic Charlie McCarthy doll, he wasn't happy with the face so he began to charge the characteristics. When he turned 16 someone ordered a dummy from him so he cast his first dummy from fiberglass.

Edgar Bergen made a guest appearance on Romper Room and guess what, Robert was on that show as part of the kids group, it was love at first sight...
Soon fiber glass took a back seat to his one of a kind wood carvings, this way each dummy was unique, Roberts feelings about this is that when the Ventriloquist takes the stage he brings with him something no one else has seen before.
At the age of 17 Robert joined the Navy, when his time in the Navy was through he found himself in California, he did what most good looking guys do he tried his hand at acting, well he did more then try, he found success, but not just actihe also found success at casting, producing and writing. He played a good guy at the beginning but once he was cast as Conans sidekick, he got roles as a bad guy and enjoyed it because he got a chance to play with all the mechanical toys.

He begins each character with 14 planks, then makes its shape, based on the discription the client gives him, he shapes the head and gets the feel for that head. Smataleck types might have the nose turned up.. but not till the head is finished does anyone know what its going to look like, not even Robert. He has no set rules to his creations, not set guide lines, he doesn't set out to build thetypical Jerry Mahonewy style, his clients eather speak with him about the temperment or character of the puppet they want or write a few sentences as to discription, and Robert goes to work."The look is exaggerated there's good reason for that. Kids and even grownups are very apprehensive about a ventriloquist puppet when it comes on stage, partly because of their reputation as being evil … the demonic possessed puppet. It even goes back to Egyptian times when they were called belly talkers, and they were always considered witches. So you have a barrier to cross in the first five minutes to get the audience comfortable with the character. My theory is that once you walk up on the stage with one of my characters, the audience already knows the story of the figure ... it's in the carving. It's already funny, so you don't have to go through that buffer zone, and you're already into your act. And kids aren't afraid of the big head, it reminds them of Saturday morning cartoons!"
Sculpting is more the feeling Robert wants then carving, when creating the characters personality. Sculpting can always be altered. Using a product called Magic Sculpt, he feels he can make the characters a little more in-depth than he can with wood.
Sketching is a rarity with Robert, he pulls the figure out of the wood by carving down into it. He uses a Fordham rotary tool to get the basic shape, but then goes to a Dremel for the detail. And each piece is already purchased before he starts. Though he loves working with ventriloquists, about 80% of his work goes into private collections. And many of his customers want whatever he comes up without any input.
"I'm fortunate right now to have a known body of work. People will say, I get your next piece and put a deposit down ... no matter what it is. I like the freedom to let the character develop itself. The more restrictions they put on it, the more generic it becomes. I can do that, I used to be a celebrity caricaturist [working in clay], but I tell them they're taking the fun out of it. When it's done, they say, it is more than I expected and exactly what I needed."
The final step in creating the dummy is painting. You can still change a character's features, Robert noted, with paint. Robert described how characters don't often feel right when he's done carving, but adding paint can change the look and bring a character to life. Which brings him to the best part of the process ... being finished. Like much creative activity, the work can be agonizing and painful, but he loves the results.
For a dedicated, professional ventriloquist, Robert offers a deeply discounted price. The usual range for his puppets is five to eight thousand dollars.

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