Here’s another installment as told by RJ about ventriloquist figure maker, Ken Spencer.
Ventriloquist Figure Maker, Ken Spencer as Told by RJ, Part 4
So, we went back to Ken’s studio/back porch, and what I saw next, NOTHING could have prepared me for; First off, the initial major impression was of having entered a Cartoon morgue! – Bodies and heads seemed to be EVERYWHERE! when I got past the sensory overload, I could see that the ”bodies and heads” were, #1, his famous Rubeville Five set-up, consisting of a whole group of ventriloquial figures, seemingly ready for their next show, except that the part of it that was a two-faced character[s] was being worked-on somewhere; [I believe you have a photo of this group of figures on your website] What threw me more than a little bit was the ‘walking’ figure, which was MUCH larger than I had anticipated.[I had already gotten the big postcard w/ the photo of Ken with his ‘guys’.]
I immediately asked about ‘him’, since I had never seen such a figure in my life! [As an aside here, it was Ken who personally taught me NEVER to call a ventriloquial figure a ”dummy”, as I did when I showed up there. He was adamant about that. He felt very strongly that to refer to the object that had earned his living for decades as a ”dummy” was very disrespectful. Asking if I intended to become a professional ventriloquist and hearing my reply in the affirmative, he had me promise that I would hereafter call my ‘friend’ a FIGURE! ] Back to Ken’s walking figure,[which, by the way, was his own design] he took me through the mechanics of it, which were so incredibly complex that I got lost half-way through it all. Now, when thinking back on it, I of course wish that all of it could have happened when I was twenty, so I could remember more of the tiny, complex details. But, still and all, I remember the big picture VIVIDLY! Then, without any prompting from me, he went to the other side of the room, grabbed the ”two-headed” head, put it in place, and launched into his act. I was treated to a personal performance of the highlights and inside secrets of his act, things he said, about which he told NO ONE outside of the business! The pie’ce de Resista’nce was when he fully animated ”The Rube”, his walking figure, which had; a fright wig, moving eyes, legs, arms, eyebrows, ears, and could expose his teeth separate from the moving jaw; think about all that for a moment; imagine all those mechanics stuffed inside the figure’s body cavity, LET ALONE becoming proficient enough to work them all smoothly! Frankly, I was stunned! It made my toy dummy at home feel just like it was – a TOY DUMMY!
Next Episode; It gets even BETTER! Stay tuned, kids. RJL
If you’ve missed the previous versions, click below:
If you’re like me, can’t wait for more….
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: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
Copyright 2010 by Dan Willinger
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