Everyone hates April 15th which is tax day but this year I had the pleasure of taking a group of about 25 people’s minds off the idea of having to pay their taxes. They all came to my home and had a meeting of the Victorian Society of Malden.
I can thank my wife and partner Helen for this talk because she bumped into the secretary of this group and gave her my card for Ventriloquist Central and after the secretary perused the site she called me and asked if I would do a talk and show the collection. I of course accepted.
They came and arrived at about 7:00pm and trickled in till about 7:30 pm and then had their monthly business meeting. After they finished their business meeting it was my turn to entertain. This group tries to find different antique venues for talks for their group throughout the year.
I began the talk by giving the group a short but concise history of ventriloquism. I will admit that I did use a script for this part of the talk because I didn’t want to give any information that was incorrect. I talked about how ventriloquism dates back to the ancient times and also it’s relevant passages in the Bible.
I then took a break and had the group follow me into the Ventriloquist Central Collection room. I have a pool table in the middle of the room and the figures are two and three rows deep all the way around same. I had them group around 3 sides of the table and I stood on the opposite side and from there discussed all the different makers from Shaw through to Selberg and Guyll. And picked figures to use for this portion of show and tell.
I showed the different style figures from simple mouth only movement to fully loaded figures and also had great fun talking about Frank Marshall and the famous figures that he created for the most famous of all the ventriloquists of the twentieth century……Bergen, Winchell and Nelson.
They all oowed and aahed when I showed the McElroy figures. They could not believe that two brothers in their early twenties had created these great masterpieces. They also flipped when I showed them the catalogue from Abbott’s Magic and they saw that a Deluxe McElroy was $105.00 in 1937. A kingly sum of money at that time.
After my talk I fielded some very interesting question about construction and mechanics and I was able to show a great Frank Marshall head which I had Ray Guyll send back to me specifically for this talk as it is in the middle of restoration. It was perfect to show what goes into building a figure and the mechanics of same. They only thing I did not discuss was valuation of my figures but I did field questions about pricing on figures made today.
All in all it was a very good time and I can say I had as much fun as the group did. It is the best part of putting a collection together, being able to show it off.
Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. His collection of ventriloquist figures now numbers over 100 figures of which there are over 50 Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
Copyright 2009 by Dan Willinger
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