Jerry Mahoney Controls by Ventriloquist Paul Winchell

Jerry Mahoney











A few weeks ago I did a blog about the great manipulation and controls of the Jerry Mahoney figure by master ventriloquist Paul Winchell. I had my own thoughts on how he accomplished his manipulation but I was not quite correct (click here to see the blog).

My good friend Jerry Layne has supplied the correct information on both the manipulation and the controls for Paul Winchell’s “Jerry.” He was even so kind as to include for us pictures of Mr Winchell’s head stick showing the placement of the controls. Man, Paul was genious.

Hi Dan,

Hope you get these pictures. I think this is the secret to how Winchell worked or gave the impression of the eyes moving, while controling the winkers.

He held the stick with three fingers. He worked the mouth with his index finger (in the front of he stick). The eyes (left to right) AND closing eyes (both on the left side of the stick) with his thumb. In these pictures (my hand), the thumb is near or on the eye control. Just above the eye control is a small brass box, with a brass lever extended. This is the closing lids control (both lids together). In the center of the box was a slight nitch, under which the lever could easily be locked into position, holding the eyelids at a half closed position. Then he could go back to the eye control, and still move them left and right, while the lids were half closed. Giving the impression that the eyes were moving, while the lids were in motion. If the lids were closed completely, he didn’t need to use the eye control. Once he released the winker control from the nitch, they opened all the way. Of course, Winch was a brilliant manipulator, kept “Jerry” moving, and alive. So, the illusion was both eyes and lids were moving at the same time.

jerry mahoney controls 01

Also, though “Jerry” didn’t have self-centering eyes, Winch had a tack or screw imbedded into the control stick, in line with where the eye lever would be when the eyes were centered. When he felt the tack and the lever at the same time with his thumb, he knew the eyes were centered.

jerry mahoney controls 02

Pretty clever this Winchell…..and an amazing craftsman!

Hope this gives you the answer you were looking for.


Jerry I want to thank you for sending this in to me and allowing me to share this information with all my readers here at Ventriloquist Central




Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are 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:

Copyright 2011 by Dan Willinger

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4 Responses to Jerry Mahoney Controls by Ventriloquist Paul Winchell

  1. bob isaacson says:

    Thanks to Jerry for sharing this terrific bit of information as how Paul operated Jerry’s controls & of course the photos. Also thanks to Dan & Steve for publishing all this for us to enjoy. A wonderful look at how the genius , Paul Winchell , operated his wonderful character, Jerry Mahoney…..

  2. Marshall Smith says:

    What a treat! Where else could I see this? Thanks a million. Jerry Lane makes a fine figure as well. I’ve got one. Love it.

  3. dave markham says:

    Wow ! That was really fascinating ! Like most vents of my generation ( I’m 54 ) , Paul Winchell was a tremendous inspriration , and I’m constantly amazed at his genius ! His intellect and artistry were off the charts !

  4. Oh my God. These are the stunning secrets behind the magic. THANK YOU JERRY! Reminds me so much of the slightly larger (14 percent) Walter head Mr. Dunham created by 2003. He allowed me to handle the headstick and it was a very light beige or tan basswood, very soft, oddball shaped carving with what appeared to be a vagina-like hole in the center for his fingers. It was lovingly and perfectly crafted to be as comfortable. Reminds me also of when he and I met Edgar Bergen in Dallas after a show he did there in 1976. Bergen showed me and Jeff Charlie and Mortimer’s heads up close and they had flat wide sticks as their spines, which is a good word because that is exactly what they looked like with half-holes cut out each side, like bites down the flat wooden rulers. Also reminds me of the time Jeff saw his very first professional custom made ventriloquist dummy in person. At my house, with Marty, a Finis Robinson creation that I let him hold and manipulate with all the bells and whistles.

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