A portion of this piece came from Austin, TX newspaper The Statesman....with additional information entered by yours truly Jungle Jay aka N Jay
Mr. and Mrs. Puppet Keep a shrine to to bygone days in a memorabilia way, such as I, you writer, but must admit his collection has me outdone by a long shot. He has ventriloquist dummies, marionettes, Beatles memorabilia which has been added to the collection by his wife's passion, which Bob has adopted as well. Bobs big hero was the famous Soupy Sales, who took more pies in his face then anyone else ever did.There are magazines with the famous on its cover memories of Happy Days, Sesame Street and the Muppet show, which he keeps out in the open for his guests to see. He has welcome Back Kotter and the 3 Stooges on the second floor. There are three 3 rooms off limits to the memories-the kitchen, not mine, the bedroom, not mine, and the living room again not mine, I keep memories in every room...its just what I like to do, but this is not about me. Mr. Puppet is also a huge Banana Splits collector, I have one item from this memory.
Mr.Puppets is Austin Texas' only full time Ventriloquist, he loves those corny one liners,which comes from the stages of vaudeville, to the radio days and back full cycle to the vaudeville days of television,with stops at the Borscht Belt in the Catskills, guess that's why he loves the art. I keep those same memories.
Mr. Puppet once said ' you want to know why vaudeville died, watch my show...I must state for the records I whole heatedly disagree...Mr. Puppets show is wonderful, make sure if you can to catch it.
Mr. Puppet said the reason for his making people laugh at school programs, lodges, clubs, day care centers and corporate functions is because he never had a childhood. Now on the other hand the reason I do the same is because I have the Peter Pan syndrome "I'll never grow up, I'm a toys are us kid"
A little history about Bob, OK yeah there is also something about me as well... he was born some 50 years ago raised as one of four children,in the area of Fairfield, NJ, which is near Paterson, the birth place of Lou Costello I was born 62 years ago in Brooklyn, NY as one of 4 children, I was able to view all those classic TV shows ( had the pleasure of being part of 2 of them, Howdy Doody Show and Lets Have Fun, Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoneys Show) as a first run live show, not a lets go to the video tape rerun. Another thing in common that we both have is not a pleasant on ..there are few pictures remaining of my childhood, but I guess if i searched hard enough I might be able to find more then I thought. Abdou says few pictures exist of him as a child. His mother was busy working as the secretary to the board chairman of a chemical company, my mom was a sec to senior supervisor for the Welfare Department his father a "professional alcoholic, my dad owned a dry cleaning business". Birthdays came as a once in a while pleasure for me, my friends were few but they were friends, my best friend was the happy children shows I was able to watch on TV, Bob didn't have birthday parties, except the time when he was turning 13 and his mom and his step dad said he could invite anybody, so he invited his whole class from school. And one kid showed up. They spent the whole party putting together the airplane his guest had given him. Its amazing not having many birthday party's but now helping other kids have a happy one themselves. "I was devastated," Abdou says. "And now I'm in the birthday party business."
BUT there was one other birthday of note, when he was about 11, when his aunt and uncle gave him a Danny O'Day dummy. That was the seed of Mr. Puppet, although it wouldn't sprout for some time. My first puppet came from a family who is a mystery, but it was a Jerry Mahoney toy, with a string, of which I played with everyday till the string broke.. As a child growing up I has a passion of collecting whether it was sports/non sports cards-from the 50s and 60s my collection stood taller then me and piled up against the wall, hundreds, maybe thousands...magazines of all types from show biz, sports and comic books. One day after comming home from school I went to go get some cards to flip with a friend, one of the few I had and the cards were missing, when going to mom to find out what happened to them she told me she thought they were getting out of control and tossed them, I didn't get over that insodent for sometime. That maybe why later in years I went into the sports collectible/comic book dealer business. At her home in Fort Myers, Fla., Phoebe Abrams, Abdou's mother, makes it politely clear that she doesn't like to dwell in the past, that things weren't perfect but she loves her children then and now as do all good and imperfect parents. I wasn't into sports like most of the boys in the neighborhood, but i did assist as a coach,or gopher or what ever so i could be involved. I did have a baseball glove and ball myolder brother brought back on his leave from the service on his leave. "Robbie loved baseball and his mother loved to play catch with him," she says. "He didn't have a father figure growing up. He did not have it easy. We had no money. He never grew up hungry or without clothing but he never had some of the things other children had. We never went on vacation."
I need to make people smile or laugh I find that very important in a childs life.
"He IS making up for that," Phoebe Abrams says. "And he's giving everyone that sees him some sort of smile."
When I got to be college age there wasn't money left for me to go due to the fact that my two older siblings were doing that. When it was my turn, not enough money to send three, so I struck out to the work aday world, making money in one job or another, but never staying long enough in one to make a career out of it, and my desires were still in the world of show business of one form or another..I sang since 1st grade in the school choirs till graduation..I was the only one in the graduating class to receive a sheeps skin for 13 years of continued membership in the school choirs, as well as staged programs. After leaving school I joined the local productions of the musical stage. I got married in 1970 had two children and decided not to keep the secret any longer and we agreed it was best for both of us to be open and honest so we devorced.
By 1986 Bob was married, going to Braves games, running a printing business that was "too successful" and, eventually, volunteering weekends at the Center for Puppetry Arts Museum, which is where, as much as any place, he learned the craft — "the art of everything," as he puts it. He ordered a real dummy, not a toy one, of himself and "when I opened the box a beam of light shot out and I heard angels sing," he says. "I became one of those guys who took their dummy everywhere. I took it on sales calls. If you can make them laugh, you can make them buy."
My love for ventriloquism came back to me in a later part of my life, in fact as of this writing I am still considered a newbie and I feel the same, there is so much to learn about vent..I go to the puttery guild as a member as well as attend many vent and puppet functions. I am a grad of the Maher Basic home study, Steve Taylors course, Paul Winchells home study and just so many others.
You know tragedy is comedy turned on its head, most people have their share of the tragic monster, I have been bit a few times through out my life.
Bob abdou had been hit more then he wants to remember...By 1997 he was divorced, bankrupt and about to apply for food stamps. But he hadn't lost his sense of humor. He commemorated his divorce with a Mediterranean feast for friends,and topped it off with the grilling of his ex's wedding dress.
By then he'd also become Mr. Puppet. Chuck Field, a mentor from Chicago whom he'd gotten to know at the annual VentHaven convention for ventriloquists told him that printing was keeping him from doing what he really loved. He pored over joke books, wrote his own material as well as culling jokes from the history books of jokes..remember that jokes may be old but to someone who never heard them before they become new again.
I an proud to say that I am an aquaintence of Bob Abdou's throught the world of vent, meetingf him at VH Con 2009 and hopefully again 2010.
For those of you who know Bob please leave a few thoughts to be posted or those who were at one of his performances and want to share I know he would love to see it......