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Sunday, March 28, 2010


During a conversation I recently had with Dirk Golden, “The Strolling Ventriloquist”, we talked about how he got involved in a dream of his. Dirk, considered one of the better strolling ventriloquists, hails from California.

Dirk was a fan like most of us old enough to remember Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show ‘Winchell Mahoney Time’. He watched the show with his cousin Larry, who owned a Jerry Mahoney Doll, made by JURO, to help him with his speech impediment. Dirk got his inspiration while working with his cousin. He got the ‘VentBug’ and he wanted to learn more on how to do ventriloquism. He bought his first figure for $11.95 from the Sears catalog. However, due to a Truck Drivers strike at that time, Dirk had to wait for his new friend to arrive.

Dirk was 11 years of age, and in the 5th grade, when he found his love for ventriloquism blooming with his Danny O’Day doll. He tried out for his 5th grade talent show and was surprised that he actually got in. He used to walk around the neighborhood and entertain the people on his block.

At age 12, Dirk saved up some money, and for $21.50 at Toy World, he bought his first hollow body figure, a JURO Danny O’Day that he named Dennis. It had a counter weighted mouth. Dirk remembers how he had to pull the string to close the mouth and not the other way around! He went out in public with his figure just to practice and noticed that people were fascinated by it. Occasionally he would go door-to-door in his neighborhood putting on 5-minute shows just for practice. The neighbors loved it!

As Dirk entered his high school years, he was still practicing his vent work. He even won the High School talent show his jr. year. Dirk liked the attention that he got with his ventriloquism. About this time he realized he wanted to have a pro figure, so he bought a figure from Story Teller Studios. He saw one he really liked, which came without the slotted jaw. This was back in the early 70’s, the price for this figure back then was about $260. It was his first Craig Lovik figure. This was before Lovik was associated with Maher Studios.

Dirk said that back in the early to mid 70’s,The Hollywood Magic Shop, on Hollywood Boulevard, would stock a few of these figures. He informed me of something I was not aware of, that my figure from Maher Studios, who I have finally come to call Chipper, after various changes from JC to CJ to Joey, that he was a converted Howdy Doody, which sort of makes me happy in a way, because when I was the ripe old age of 6 I was a member of the Peanut Gallery (the children’s audience) on the Howdy Doody Show.

For 30 minutes, Dirk and I went off on a tangent talking about Chipper. When we went back to his story, Dirk did not miss a beat, right where we left off. Without a cue, Dirk picked up on his world of ventriloquism.

Dirk bought his first Pro figure back in 1973, and he said he has owned about 4 or 5 Lovik figures altogether over the years. Dirk shared with me that he still has a box in his garage, that’s loaded with his ventriloquist memories of the past 30 years.

In 1979, Dirk upgraded to a basswood, it was a Chester Figure from Lovik Maher catalog. Dirk named that figure Joey and worked with it for 20 years !

Right out of High School he began working at Disneyland, his life-long dream since he was 11 or 12. Some friends at his High School got jobs at Disneyland, and Dirk followed suite, applied, and got accepted in March of 1977 as a ride operator. He used to work the Sky Way Ride, Through the Matterhorn. The reason why he did that first was because he wanted to get his foot in the door and audition to become a Disney Character. In May that same year, he went for the character audition and was surprised he made the cut, he felt he was so blessed that he was going to be a World Famous Disney Character! Well, he got the job and worked for Disney 14 ½ years. When he was hired back in 1977 he made about $2.50/hour. How he made it on that small salary he didn’t know, but he loved the FUN of the job he was doing. During his stay at Disney, he did everything from In Park Characters to Launching & Catching Tinker Bell for the fireworks. When he left in 1991 he was making a little over $12/hour. During his stay at Disney he married his first wife Lorraine, in 1980. Sadly, was divorced about 10 years later.

After working for Disney he changed careers and got into the Health Care Industry, working for Kaiser Permanente, where he is still working today. In May 1999, Dirk married for a second time to his current wife, Rita Marie. They have four adult sons.

About two years after Rita and Dirk got married he was looking for a way to make some extra money. So, he retrained himself back into ventriloquism. However, he needed some better equipment. His figure, Joey, was already old, 20 years, still worked just fine. Dirk bought his figure Joey from the Lovik catalog for a little over $500, and sold him for between $700-$800 on ebay, Ventriloquist Bob Carroll bought it. Dirk wanted a Selberg figure but couldn’t afford it at that time so he bought a Kem Poyner figure, a Virgil, named it George, but for Dirk’s type of Strolling Ventriloquism, the figure was nice, but a little too heavy.

Getting back to Dirk’s days at Disney, he did work as the Ventriloquist with the Dog puppet at the Golden Horseshoe Review, Dirk would fill in for Jim Adams, who was the full time Ventriloquist there.

Anyways, so now Dirk needed a replacement figure, so he and a Sammy figure, from Selberg, he named it “Charlie”. While on his way to Las Vegas, Dirk made a stop at Victorville to see his friend Jim Adams, who told Dirk that he needed to add more characters. So Jim introduced Dirk to Steve Axtell’s Puppet characters. Dirks first two Axtell characters were Reginald the RAT, and the Old Storyteller, Clarence.

So, for the last 5 or 6 years, Dirk has been back into ventriloquism and seriously working it. He feels that if you like your puppet characters, your audience will like them too. If you move your mouth just a little, the crowd will overlook it because they build a relationship with your character. Dirk went from Charlie to Stanley, also a Selberg, because he was doing more kids shows and needed a figure that was a little more kid sized. His latest additions to his family of puppet characters are Rocko the Mafioso Bulldog, and Link the Chimp, both from Axtell. Dirk is having Tim Selberg create a new figure for him, a Rupert, and he’s looking to add the hang on monster from Axtell.

He feels that the Vent Haven convention is a treasure of vital information that one needs to move forward as a ventriloquist. He enjoys doing strolling ventriloquism at carnivals, grand openings, fairs, and churches. If you are ever in California e mail Dirk who you can find on face book for his schedule of appearances he always welcomes his friends and fans.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Steve and Faith Treague have a love for children. That is why both of them became teachers. Being teachers allowed the Treagues to develop a summer ministry of Reaching the Children or RTC. (See Living Stones News – Sept. 2006). In 1990 BURNNIE the Bunnie® made his debut.
Burnnie’s character was developed and born in 1990. Steve Treague said, “His personality grew as we presented him before live audiences and received feedback from children. They loved him. He’s a friendly kind of guy with a bit of an edge. He just says is like it is; or at least how he thinks it is.”

That is what gives Burnnie a life like and realistic personality. Burnnie teaches others as he learns from his own mistakes.

BURNNIE the Bunnie® has received two media awards. The Treagues were awarded a CINDY (Cinema in Industry) Award for “Burnnie Goes To The Hospital”, a video to help relieve a child’s fear of the hospital. For their radio program of BURNNIE the Bunnie®, they received the Covenant Award in 1997 which is a national award given for excellence in Christian media. Also winning the award that same year were James Dobson and VeggieTales.

Treague said, “After the first TV show in 1990, we went into radio. Many listeners thought the radio show would make a great TV series, but with teaching and live performance opportunities, we never even gave going back into television production another thought.”

When Steve left the teaching profession, the Treagues were left wondering what God had in store for them. It didn’t take long to realize that God had a plan for the Treagues. One that would require the Treagues to let God take the reigns and work out many of the details that seemed overwhelming. This road led Steve Treague into full-time ministry.

Treague said, “We felt God’s leading to produce what is now known as ‘BURNNIE: Tails from the LIGHT Side.’” After a year of discussion and raising financial support, we had the ingredients needed to begin the series. We now have the first program completed and are moving forward to being on the air in September. God is leading the project in a big way!”

You may wonder exactly what it takes to film a show and prepare it for television. The Treagues needed $80,000 to start production on the show. This money was used to purchase HD (high definition) cameras, sound, lighting and other necessary elements for producing a television show.

Each show is 30 minutes in length and is aired on a weekly basis as a series to over 250,000 viewers. It is seen in the United States on Direct and Dish TV. The United Kingdom airs the show on the UCB network which also reaches Australia and the Netherlands. The program is viewed in Jamaica on the FFTV Network.

The Treagues are targeting children ages 5 years to fifth grade with each episode. Treague said that the purpose is to help these children to know the Savior and make Him known to others.
This is where Burnnie steps in and comes to life on the screen. Treague said, “Burnnie tries his best to live his life pleasing to the Lord. But he makes mistakes along the way. Each program focuses on a specific Christian character concept which children are encouraged to develop in their own lives.”

“In addition to each story’s plot, conflict and ultimate conclusion, we have another very unique component to reach children with God’s message,” said Treague. “The character of BURNNIE the Bunnie® works at the TREGGLLUSIONS Shop where interesting puzzles, games, toys and tricks are demonstrated and sold. Each of these colorful and visual object lessons is presented with a gospel message.”

Treague said, “Live actors are used with BURNNIE the Bunnie® being the only puppet character in the entire series. Having only one puppet, along with Burnnie’s mischievous personality, helps to create a presentation at a fifth grade level and beyond, still maintaining the interest of a younger child.”

Each live filming has a need for about 150 extras to fill the auditorium for the TREGGLLUSIONS Show. Treague said, “It is necessary to call ahead (605) 988-4140 to be an extra in the audience for this segment. Individuals, families and groups are welcome. Be prepared to show excitement, clap loud, laugh a lot and share in the purpose to help spread God’s Word to children locally and world wide through this television outreach.”

Treague spent months adapting his 36 radio scripts into a format for television. He has additional titles in development, too. Treague is set up to film two shows each month. “We’ll need actors, extras, boom microphone handlers, assistant directors for various locations, make-up assistants, set-up and take-down helpers, lighting assistants and more,” Treague said. “This is a large production project with four to six set locations.” He also adds that they are always looking for more people to get involved with this exciting project.

Treague said, “Each location involves set-up, filming, and take down. For example, we filmed a segment which will take up six minutes of the program. We began setup at 12:30 and were finished filming by 5:00. It took four and one half hours to film this six minute piece of the 30 minute show.” This doesn’t include the additional time needed to edit and prepare for the final product to be complete.

Monday, March 22, 2010


If you have a hard figure that wears a turtle neck' s a way to keep the turtle neck part looking good. Men's dress shirts come with a strip of clear plastic to make the collars stand up. Take this strip out and take a box cutter and trim off down one side as needed to fit under your turtle neck collar. Figure out the proper diameter measurement of the collar and trim again leaving an inch or so. Get clear tape and fasten the ends to the diameter of the turtle neck collar and slip under same. You will now have a collar that stands up nice and firm and will probably give you some head turning room to boot.


Before you give a program on bully study what bullying to children is all about,name calling is one great example so instead of discussing what someone might be called you might want to use your figure and call him anyone of these names, watch as his feelings get hurt, and go into a skit as to how someone can turn that name calling around and appologize for his action... TERMITE SNACK, BOBBLE HEAD, FIRE STARTER
RUMMY DUMMY, PILE OF PLYWOOD, WOOD PILE, HOLLOW HEAD, TOOTH PICK FUTURES. NO BRAINER. Verbal abuse is very hurtful not just for children but adults as well. With adults its just a little more difficult to back away, because this has been going on for a much longer time then it has with children. The above names are what a heckler might call on figure or infact being called himself and is using the figure as his escape.
You can use slurs in reverse as well, when the figure is being called by a name he in turn can vent out and say, AIR HEAD, SPACE CADET,WHOSE PULLING YOUR STRINGS, ARE YOU MAKING HIM SAY THAT, LIP FLAPPER.

Know your character, is it an animal, what type how would he respond to this bullying, a goat would say i'll butt in whenever and where ever, A dog might say life being too ruff for you...

Kem Poyner Is Back

Kem Poyner is back on line with a new website I know that most of the readers would love to go see it as well as his new figures just go to


The Top teeth lightly touching the bottom lip method is based on a nice smile. When you smile you automatically assume this position.
A soft smile will do it. Then you're set for the mouth position. Even if you have
to frown at the figure you can frown with your eyebrows and still
have the slight smile on your face. For a title I have called
this mouth position, This is the smile position it allows good arch positions for the tongue to contact the roof of the mouth and all. Plus it gives you a pleasant rather then a stone face look.

It seems as though this method will stop clinching and might just be easier to to the hard letters.

Learning to adjust from a smile position to a neutral.non-smile and back again without moving your lips adds to the reality of two different personalities on stage. With practice you can achieved this very nicely.

The tongue can be arched back in the mouth and move more freely than the other two positions. All this discussion means one thing elaborate more on mouth positions that writers in the past. They usually dedicated It is important to study mouth and tongue position and work on your labials with this mouth position. With this position one doesn't need to worry if his/her lips are moving 15 to 20 minutes into the act.

I have always been disappointed in most vent books that say, "Open
your mouth approx. 1/4" keep your jaw still when speaking for the
figure. Then, they go on with volumes on the drone sound, etc. etc.
Well, I'd like to offer you my opinions on three more positions so you
can try each according to your teeth and mouth physics and then decide
which(if) one may be better than the one above for you:

1) Top teeth lightly touching bottom lip. I currently use and like
this position. It allows enough air flow and locks both your lips and
jaw in one position. Also allows a pleasant smile.

2) Teeth lightly touching. This is good for close-ups. There is a
lower air flow though. Also, some words sound slurred a bit when

3) Canine position. This is where your third teeth from dead cent
touch each other on one side of your mouth to lock your jaw. This one
allows lots of air flow, but kinda make your smile a bit skewed to one

Try all three in addition to the "open your mouth 1/4" one. Again, I
use and like number one above.


I must admit due to my love for the yourger person who roams this globe with us I needed to let you read a story by a puppeteer who has put the hammer squarely on the her story and see for yourself.

Let me introduce to you my first puppet. It will explain some of what you read below as to how I came up with his name, his voice and his personality.

His name is Herman. He is a hot pink furry monster similar to the construction of Cookie Monster. He is a three handed puppet - his mouth and both of his hands can be worked by the puppeteer. If only one person is operating the puppet (which is most of the time), then only his mouth and his right hand are used. The right hand is used so that the puppet can shake hands. If two people are working the puppet then one person works the mouth and the other person works the hands (that makes clapping easier). Herman is now 33 years old and he still can't count past three (he only has three fingers on each hand).

I had never made a puppet or worked with a puppet before, so I had no idea where to begin to determine his voice. I tried several voice types such as a high pitched female voice, a medium voice, a fast talking voice, a soft / shy voice and I finally settled on a male voice. The main reason I selected the male voice is because I wanted a voice that was not at all like my voice. I decided that no one would be able to tell it was me doing the puppet since I would be behind a curtain and it would be a deep male voice totally unlike my own voice. Also, I would feel less nervous when performing if no one could figure out that it was me.

I continued to work on Herman's voice until it became more natural to do a male voice. Sometimes I would even practice doing his voice without him on my hands (mostly when I was alone or with other pupeteers). That helped me to make his voice more natural to me and less like a stranger. How long that process takes depends entirely on how much time you have available and how quickly you determine what voice works best for you. It can vary significantly for each individual. I do not remember how long it took for me to get comfortable with Herman's voice. It just seemed that one day I realized that his voice was as comfortable as my own.

Since I was still a little nervous performing with a puppet I decided to add another feature to his voice. Herman now had a voice of a distinctively less intelligent type. When he introduced himself to others, he usually couldn't even remember his own name without some help. He also said "duh" a lot and had a totally ridiculous laugh. That helped my nerves a lot and made him very popular with kids. I also changed Herman's introduction of himself so that he added that he could count to three. He was so proud that he could count so high. He always laughed after he had introduced himself and after he had counted to three. The kids really liked it because they could usually count higher, so they began to teach him the next few numbers. When that started, my nerves melted away. I knew then that Herman had become real to the kids. And that is the goal of finding the perfect voice.

Since then I have added 14 more voices and personalities. I have a grandma, a little girl, a fast talking male puppet who looks somewhat like a human, but he is blue with long gloves for his hands (his name is Big Blue), a squeaky mouse, an intelligent worm named BW (book worm) and many more. Sometimes I can pull a personality out that I never knew I had and do a show that is a hit with kids and adults.

To me, puppeteering is a gift from God that has helped me and helped many kids get thru some tough times. My puppets have gone to the MD Anderson Cancer Center here in Houston, and brought joy to many kids who were stuggling with some of life's most difficult diseases. The show I did there was a total flop. The reason: most of the kids were from other countries so they didn't speak English, and I didn't speak their language either. But when I let them work the puppets and do their own shows, their faces lit up like Christmas trees. My most popular puppet there was my unfinished (or so I thought he was unfinished) bald human puppet. He was so popular because most of the kids there were bald. That puppet made them feel welcomed and without embarrassement. There were so many kids that wanted to use that puppet that we had to set up a line and limit how much time each kid could use the puppet. That puppet show had nothing to do with my performance, and everything to do with entertainment. And, for a short time those kids were able to forget where they were and why they were there, and just enjoy being a kid.

Nothing is more motivating than that.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share. As you can tell I love talking about puppets.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Walking around the town March 20 2010, 5:59 PM

I find that actually walking from place to place works for me...its gives me new ideas and I bring the mountain to the people instead of the people going to the mountain, but either way works great...while at a fair you might find new ideas to talk about while moving about, a booth that draws your interest might be a great topic to discuss with your listeners as well as another new face to talk to, as you are walking about talk to the people just a bout anything that comes to your mind, maybe your talking to children eating a water mellon or a baker baking his loaf, all is good, but you have to learn to be quick witted, if you want your walk around to be funny, but if you have a message to share like how come you've come to the fair today, nothing better to do, did the wife throw you out, itsa a beautiful day today glad you've come out to join us here today, do you come here often...make sure your telling your friends about this fair, we need more bodies...ect.
So if you wish to stay in one place and have the people come to you or move around which I prefer is up to you, as for portable mics all the above work well,with 6 amps I just have one problem with them, my belly is too large for the belt, can anyone out there recommend something, don't be cruel!! I just wanted to add my nickel, but whatever you do as a walk around have fun because walk arounds are just that is anyone form of Vent.


Another way to get known is in your walk around, if you do walk arounds you can carry business cards and flyers you might want to have a pouch belt that holds your flyers or business cards and if someone approaches you with a nice compliment you could then hand one of those items to them with a smile and a thank you and "I hope to see you again real soon"...


In responce to Al Stevens on Manipulation of your figure... I generally don't add my views here at this site I am more of a reader but thought that this would be helpful
The best way to manipulate a figure is to look at the person sitting next to you when your speaking to them how they move do they scratch their head turn their head from side to side, looks up towards the ceiling or any other direction while speaking to the person shy and can't look at you, is he naughty as you speak and becomes rude and turns away or might even laugh as you speak, finding what your saying as funny, if your figures doesn't have blinkers you can put the figures hands to its eyes scratch its jaw or any other place that may have an itch, rub its brow or eyebrow for that matter place its hand through its hair, don't be ashamed put its hand near its nose as to pick it, its all good, there are 1001 other movements when talking to a child a child can not sit still long even when being scolded he /she is jittery, swinging their feet, looking almost everywhere but at you, it could be deep in thought and thats when he is stearing out into space and you can use the phrase earth to figure come back, which will startle the figure and return it to you which could cause it to shake...I could go on and on but remember that there are times when your figure like a human can stare out into space...