Like a lot of ventriloquists I know, I started doing ventriloquism as a kid. When I was 14 my brother who was younger, found an ad in a comic book about throwing your voice and sent off for the book.
After he received it, I was fascinated by it so I started practicing. The directions weren’t very good so I decided to go to the library and see what books I could find on ventriloquism. The first book I found was Paul Winchell’s “The Key to Ventriloquism, for Fun and Profit.”
I devoured that book and started practicing. By now I wanted to find more information about ventriloquism, about ventriloquist figures and anything else I could find. I was hooked.
My Dad used to read Popular Mechanics and I remember seeing an ad for the “Fred Maher School of Ventriloquism”. I looked in other magazines and the only ad I would find for ventriloquism was for the “Fred Maher School of Ventriloquism. At the time I knew nothing of Fred Maher, but sent off for the catalog.
When I received the catalog and all the other material that came with it, I was very excited. I read and re-read everything. Of course I looked at the ventriloquist figure catalog over and over and over again.
At the time, my first dummy was a Juro Danny O’ Day with a headstick. But after getting the Fred Maher Studios catalog I wanted a “real” ventriloquist figure. In fact, I fell in love with the “Hal” figure and wanted one so bad (of course being much older now and knowing the full story, as a kid I loved Jerry Mahoney and now I know that “Hal” was an over sculpted Juro Jerry).
If my memory is correct, seems like the base price for the “Hal” figure at that time (this was in 1970) was around $350. Even though today it doesn’t sound like much, back then it might as well have been three thousand or three million, because I didn’t have either.
Now at the time, I didn’t know the story behind Fred Maher Studios. Fred and Madeleine Maher started the Fred Maher Studios. When Fred passed away, Madeleine ran the business. On August 1, 1969, Clinton and Adelia Detweiler purchased it from Madeleine and kept it going throughout the years. So all those years I was dealing with Clinton and Adelia. And by those numbers, Clinton and Adelia ran Maher Studios longer than Fred and Madeleine.
Over the years, I’ve purchased dialogue books, joke books, videos, cassette tape courses, etc.., even bought the ventriloquist course. There have been times I actually talked to Clinton or Adelia on the phone about one or more products.
Through all those years I remember getting mail from “Maher Studios” with information and pictures of the latest figures and puppets. Not to mention getting the “Newsy Vents” and “The Maher Messenger” that I would read cover to cover when I got it in the mail.
Every ventriloquist that I’ve known, talk to or meet, at some point in the conversation, Clinton and Adelia Detweiler comes up or Maher Studios.
I started looking back over the years when ventriloquism “supposedly” died which really means it wasn’t being shown in mainstream media (such as television) and realized the one constant all those years was the Detweilers and Maher Studios. Through the ups and downs of the wonderful art of ventriloquism, Clinton and Adelia have always been there.
Now you hear that ventriloquism is popular again. This is true mainly because of the talented ventriloquists of today such as, Jeff Dunham, Terry Fator, Jay Johnson and many others.
But to me, the MAIN reason ventriloquism is popular today goes much deeper. The REAL reason is because of the dedication to keep the art of ventriloquism alive by Clinton and Adelia of Maher Studios.
So, in my mind, the reason ventriloquism is still here and going strong was the foresight of Fred and Madeleine Maher for starting Maher Studios and Clinton and Adelia Detweiler for keeping it going. Because of them, the art of ventriloquism that we all love so well is alive and going strong today.
We owe them a debt of gratitude that we can never repay. I know I do.
Think about it!