How To Become A Ventriloquist In One Hour

By Jon Conlon

Playing with puppets (no matter how old or young) is fun and simple to do. Little girls/ boys have forever enjoyed dolls, teddy bears, toy soldiers–by making them talk the talk and walk the walk. And that is basic , as natural to children as breathing.

It is not difficult to learn for any one, at any age. Most people have the ability to become a beginner ventriloquist with just one hour of concentrated, serious hard work and study. Of course, the performance will improve later with additional practice and experience.

The foremost internationally star of the art in modern entertainment, Edgar Bergen, explained in his 1938 book that there are two types of “throwing the voice,” the near and the far technique. He says that the near art is easy and relies on merely an illusion created mostly by the dummy or puppet who appears to speak; it’s like a short toss of the voice across a table rather than a long pitch to another room. Using this technique, Bergen fascinated much of the world–and always moved his lips.

The following guidelines, based on Bergen and other professional advice, will enable a serious student to learn the “near” style in sixty short minutes and to amaze friends, family–or at least you.

    1. Start by finding a proper puppet voice. Growl deep in your throat–grrr (like a dog) and adjust tone up or down until you find a comfortable range and can speak clearly in your new voice for an extended time. Do not strain too much.
    2. Sit sideways to audience but with your puppet facing forward at them. Look at the dummy when he speaks but look at the audience when you respond.
    3. Move your lips freely (without worry at first).
    4. Make the puppet exaggerate his head, body movements when he/she speaks.
    5. When you reply or explain, however, do it calmly, slowly in order to keep the focus of the audience attention on the figure. This trick glues the audience’s eyes to the puppet.
    6. Maintain, for the most part, a rapid tempo or fast interchange in repartee with the dummy/doll that again forces an audience to watch the dummy and not you. Make the dummy’s speeches long and yours short.

Soon after learning these starting guidelines you will be prepared for a first performance. Of course, later, you’ll want to practice the basics: voice production, easily speaking the memorized dialogue, and careful control of the figure. Paul Winchell, who inherited the crown from King Bergen, suggests several other tips, such as rehersing in front of a mirror, moving your dummy’s mouth with each syllable to speak for it, avoiding words beginning with BMPVF.

No doubt, few students will be ready for network television, New York stage, or Vegas in just one hour of ventriloquism study but most can enjoy the satisfaction and personal enjoyment that the mastery of the art offers. And there are thousands of children in schools, hospitals, orphanages who might be over joyed to hear you and your puppet pal “throwing your voice” at them.

Men’s Cuts in Fashion

Men’s clothing sits at an interesting place in the world of fashion. The big waves are undoubtedly made in women’s fashion. Female models strut down the runway in an almost climatic fashion, capstones to an evening ogling runway-side the latest and most groundbreaking. Men can often get lost in the shuffle with their usual trousers and suit coats. However, men’s fashion is just as dynamic as women’s, it just take a more discerning eye to notice the incremental changes over the years.

Men’s fashion revolves around a small number of components. Slacks or trousers start off the ensemble and are followed up with a button up long sleeve shirt. A vest can be placed over this shirt depending on the occasion. Finally, a coat rounds out the standard male outfit and may be joined by a necktie.
Bearing in mind this somewhat formulaic outfit, men’s fashion may seem pretty dull and static. Nevertheless, there is a huge variation within these pieces. The biggest variation if likely to be the style of the cut, the shape this cut takes, and the material used. Based off the sheer options available when it comes to materials utilized, one can see how men’s fashion has a great range of diversity to it.

Considering cuts, men’s fashion changes incrementally. Pants cuffs and the number of buttons on suit coats may bounce around from time to time, cuffs either gaining or diminishing in diameter and suit coats going for the single or double breasted look, but the core look remains the same. Today’s men’s cuts largely opt for a slimming look, with tapered trousers, unpadded suit coats, and patterned tops that contrast with the solid colored pants and coat.

Cotton and silk are favored contemporary materials but polyester and wool are still utilized in blends. The heyday of polyester in the mid-20th century has passed, as had padded shoulder suit coats that puff up the appearance of its wearer.

Despite the small range of men’s fashion choices, men’s clothing has a timelessness to it. This enables men to get by despite a lack of fashion knowledge.

William Tuttle

Hollywood makeup artist can often fly underneath the radar. Their work is highly visible, often key to the visual aesthetics of film, yet the person behind these effects can get lost in the shuffle alongside the more prominent actors and directors. However, the personality of a makeup artist can shine through, growing so large that they almost become a brand name. Such is the case with William Tuttle, a makeup artist so well regarded that he won an Academy Award for his work a while seventeen years before an official category for makeup effects existed.

Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Tuttle lived a hard scrabble existence for most of his early life. At one point, he had to drop out of school to help support his family. Nevertheless, this hardworking young man was finally able to piece together enough money to make his way to Hollywood. Although it isn’t clear if a personal affinity for makeup effects or economic self-interest brought Tuttle under the tutelage of Jack Dawn at Twentieth Century Pictures, the fact remains that Tuttle was exposed to a huge number of opportunities at this post.

Working during a hotbed of creativity in Hollywood, Tuttle cut his teeth on “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Father of the Bride”. Eventually, Tuttle became so accomplished, working with stars such as Judy Garland, Esther Williams, Gene Kelly, and Katharine Hepburn, that he surpassed his old teacher.
The highlight of Tuttle’s career came in the 50s, when he provided makeup services for such classics as “Singin’ in the Rain”, “North by Northwest”, “The Time Machine”, and “Forbidden Planet”. These roles cemented his stature as one of Hollywood’s premier makeup artists, culminating in the 1964 granted of a special Academy Award for his work on “7 Faces of Dr. Lao”.

Tuttle also provide makeup effect for episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and the films “Logan’s Run” and “Young Frankenstein”.

He passed away at the ripe age of 95 in 2007.

Walter Plunkett

Walter Plunkett is, to this day, one of the most well remembered costume designers. Originally he studied law at the University of California but he came to discover that his true calling was found in the world of theater and movies.
On June 5th, 1902, Walter Puckett was born in Oakland, California.  It was there that he started his studies in costume and set designs. For some time he moved to Greenwich Village where he began working in his field of study. And upon his return to California he found him spending time in Hollywood. It was a small start, but he was given the roll as a movie extra in the 1925 film, “The Merry Widow”.
Through out his career, had worked on more than one-hundred and fity projects. The two works he is best known for however are designs featured in “Gone with the Wind” as well as “Singin’ in the Rain”. Other works of his include “Little Women” in 1933 and then again 1949 (which is what helped him to get the job for “Gone with the Wind”), “The Hunchback of Norte Dame”, “The Secret Garden”, and “Annie Get Your Gun”. The duration of his career was from 1927 to 1966, with all thirty nine years dedicated to his passion. Eye-catching and beautiful costume designs gave him his name in the design world for media. And it all started with his first credit job as a costume designer in the 1927 film “Hard-Boild Haggerty”.

Although, while wildly regarded for his designs and works, out of the eleven times he was nominated for the Oscar for his respective cateory, he only won one. The award was shared with Orry-Kelly and Irene for the film “An American in Paris”. His works are also found on Broadway and the Metropolitan Opera.

In 1966 Walter Plunkett had decided to retire from his life of design where he passed away in 1982 at the age of seventy-nine.

Helen Rose

During the golden age of cinema, Hollywood truly was glamour. The stars and starlets were always dressed to the nines, especially in their movies. Along with some contemporaries of her day, Helen Rose is one of the figures that deserve more credit for her contributions to fashion design in the movie business than she gets.

As a costume designer, Helen Rose was charged with creating the elegant dresses that the lovely ladies of the silver screen donned during that age. Her talents proved to be more than enough to get the job done, and her success designing clothing for beautiful ladies in the public eye translated into more than just screen time for her designs.

Born in 1904, she honed her craft while she attending the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.
Upon graduation, she designed nightclub and stage costumes for a time before deciding that her true calling would be in Hollywood. Rose packed up and moved to Los Angeles in 1929.

After a brief stint working for 20th Century Fox, she went to work for MGM Studios and by the late 1940s she was promoted to chief designer at the studio. This would prove to be a boon for Rose, whose talents would soon be on display for all the world to see. Her career would span from the early 1940s all the way through the late 1960s.

During this period Rose worked with such Hollywood icons as Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, Judy Garland, Carmen Miranda, Grace Kelly, and Elizabeth Taylor. The list of great leading ladies she has designed for is too numerous to mention. Even a casual movie viewer equates the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe with elegance and sexuality. We can thank Helen Rose for these images. Her designs were, in her own words, intended to be “simple and dramatic”, with an emphasis on the silhouette and a showcasing of the gorgeous women who wore them.

Rose is credited with designing the wedding dress for the real life fairy tale wedding between Grace Kelly and the Prince of Monaco.

Rose may be best known for the many stunning gowns she created for Elizabeth Taylor, which followed her general philosophy of “If you have a magnificent jewel, you put it in a simple setting – you don’t distract with a lot of detail”. Taylor is reported to have asked Rose to make copies of many of the gowns she designed for films to add to her personal collection. Rose won two Academy Awards during her lengthy career, for The Bad and the Beautiful in 1952 and also for I’ll Cry Tomorrow in 1955. During this period she was nominated eight other times.

After leaving the movie business she went on to design for the most wealthy and famous of ladies off screen, opening her own design business. She also delved into the world of writing, penning a fashion column and authoring two books.

Unfortunately for the starlets of today, who could so use the grace and elegance found in the designs she created, Helen Rose died in Palm Springs in 1985, at the age of 81. Her legacy lives on however, in the movies we all cherish from her time.

Mary Wills

Really great movies are those that draw you into the story; they make you believe what you are watching on screen. Making this magic happen is no easy task, and many different aspects of creating the scene have to be taken into account. Of course everyone recognizes the actors as playing a part, as well as the director and even the camera men, but one often overlooked role is that of costume designer.

For a movie to be believable, everything must look in its place. It wouldn’t do to have modern day blue jeans in a movie set in the 1700s. While that’s an obvious example, it’s really the details of a character’s costume that lend it an air of authenticity. Creating that air is the responsibility of the oft forgotten costume designer.

One of the greatest and most respected costume designers to work in Hollywood was Mary Wills. Born in 1914, Wills worked as a costume designer on all sorts of Hollywood films for more than four decades. She was a gifted individual, and was the first woman to study at the Yale Art and Drama School, receiving her Master’s Degree there.

She was also a talented sketch artist, and some of her sketches for costume ideas to be used in the movies could easily be called works of art in their own right. In many of these sketches, she would even include subtle background scenery, which would give the costume context.

Able to breathe life into characters via their convincing clothing, Wills designed costumes for both contemporary and historical period films. In The Diary of Anne Frank, she perfectly evoked the bleak plight of a little Jewish girl running from the Nazis during World War II, and for this she was nominated for an Oscar.

This style of dress was far more contemporary than others she worked on. Her historically accurate costume designs for the 1955 film The Virgin Queen were truly works of art, the sketches for which make the characters really come to life on the page. Wills gained another Oscar nomination for her work on this film.

Throughout her career, Mary Wills was nominated for an Oscar for Best Costume Design a total of seven times. She won the Academy Award once, in 1963 for her work in The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grim”. The film is set in the early nineteenth century, depicting the tale of the Brothers Grimm as they retell three of their most famous fairy tales. This gave Wills the opportunity to showcase her considerable skill at creating costumes for dance, as the film featured ballet performances in addition to the historically accurate costumes for the rest of the cast.

She continued to work on Hollywood films until 1976, when she contributed for the last time to the film The Passover Plot. Once again she was honored with an Academy Award nomination for her work. Mary Wills then retired to Sedona, Arizona. The world lost a great artist when she passed away at age 82, in 1997.

5 Outrageous fantasy costumes

Sometimes, a costume comes along that just blows people out of the water. Either it is so scantily clad that people’s tongues drop to the floor or the level of artistry leaves people star struck. Here is a list of five costumes that can be rightfully deemed outrageous.

Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine: Although she first appeared as a cybernetic killing machine bent on assimilating all sentient life, Jeri Ryan’s costume as Seven of Nine left little to the imagination. While she may be called cold, the audience was undoubtedly hot for her skin tight, feature hugging, one piece jumpsuit.

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi: Princess Leia always had sex appeal throughout the series due to the charming performance and effortless attraction brought to the screen by Carrie Fisher. However, fans had no idea what they were getting into when the character was taken prisoner by the gangster Jabba the Hut. Gone were her cinnamon bun hairdo and long white robes. Hello golden metal, barely there bikini.

Jane Fonda as Barbarella: This campy sci-fi romp featured the always sexy Jane Fonda as a scantily clad action heroine trying to save the planet. Never mind the outrageous opening sequence of her undressing in zero gravity, Barbarella was an underdressed space warrior with a penchant for escaping torture devices that delivered lethal doses of sexual stimulation.

Beau Garrett as Gem: She may be digitized but you won’t catch me complaining about Beau Garrett as Gem from Tron: Legacy. That form fitting white, neon clad, one piece could crash a hard drive. Combine that with the pseudo-beehive hairdo and you have a digital girl with all the right moves.

Zoe Saldana as Neytiri: Fully computer generated characters can get away with some looks that flesh and blood actresses can’t. Take for example Neytiri from Avatar. Not only is she a giant blue cat lady, but she also sports a decidedly minimalist approach towards clothing. Is that an eye patch or a loin cloth? Nevertheless, this animated leading lady certainly won the heart of the hunky lead and the audience by prancing around Pandora in a truly outrageous outfit.

Rick Baker

To those in the movie business, the name Rick Baker is synonymous with mind blowing special effects makeup. He can lay claim to several industry awards and has wowed audiences for three decades, making jaw-dropping special effects in movies and TV since the 1970s.

He was born in New York, the son of a professional artist, and he clearly inherited a talent for creating visual masterpieces. Captivated at a young age by horror movies and of course the creepy creatures that they are filled with, Baker began creating artificial body parts in his own kitchen as a teen. Also during his teenage years, he was the assistant to the legendary effects designer Dan Smith, whose work on such movies as The Exorcist had audiences terrified.

Known for transforming actors into almost unrecognizable versions of themselves using prosthetics and stage makeup, he was awarded the first ever Academy Award for special effects makeup artists for his work on An American Werewolf in London. The creatures he created kept audiences spellbound, and his work with werewolves was far from over.

He was the makeup artist for Thriller by Michael Jackson, bringing to life the creatures that captured the attention of so many young MTV watchers.

Baker has also survived the biggest upset to movie special effects since the beginning of film, the introduction of computer generated imagery. In the early 1990s while working as an effects supervisor on Gremlins 2: the New Batch, he successfully continued his use of physical prosthetics and effects while embracing the new technology. Though some thought the advent of CGI would render the laborious physical prosthetics he creates useless, Baker’s career and adoption of this new resource say otherwise.

One movie that utilized this flexible approach for its effects was How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which relied heavily on the genius of Mr. Baker for the creation of Jim Carey’s character “the Grinch”. He buried the actor under mounds of makeup and green fur to create the grumpy creature we all know and love from children’s book by Dr. Seuss.

Another eye popping film he was involved in that married the art of CGI effects and traditional stage makeup was Men in Black II, where he worked on the makeup for the many weird and varied looking aliens.

He has worked with dozens of A-list movie stars, including recently Benicio Del Toro in The Wolfman, where he continued to use his expertise in all things werewolf to earn himself another Academy Award in 2011. One top tier actor he has collaborated with several times is Eddie Murphy, for whom he conjured up multiple personas in Norbit, The Nutty Professor, and Coming to America. In these films, as well as when working with Adam Sandler in Click, he was able to transform these normal sized men into flabby 300 pound versions of themselves, convincingly.

With digital technology advancing as fast as it has, and Rick Baker’s expertise only growing, audiences can look forward to enjoying his fantastic creations for years to come.

Renaissance life and dress

Perhaps no other period in history has been more romanticized than the Renaissance. It gave us more beautiful art, literature, and important scientific achievements than any other era. Such a time should hold a revered place in history, and of course the Renaissance does. But oddly it has a place in our modern life as well.

Many people in our modern and fast-paced world devote much time and energy to re-creating the atmosphere that those living during this time would have experienced. Almost everyone is familiar with the Renaissance Faire.

These festivals let enthusiasts gather and live like the people who were actually alive during this much revered time did. Celebrants eat, and even dress like people did back in that period.

Life during the age of the Renaissance was far different from what we know today. Obviously all the modern conveniences we take for granted like electricity and washing machines, weren’t available. But life was different on a more basic level.

Society itself was structured differently during that time, with people’s roles being more rigid. One was expected to dress appropriately for their station, and this could mean some elaborate threads!

Dress during the period varied from the beginning to the end of the Renaissance, which isn’t hard to believe considering it spanned a period of almost 150 years. It also varied from region to region. Europe as a whole was experiencing this new era of enlightenment, but various countries had their own particular style.

During the early years of the Renaissance, women’s styles still followed a more Gothic look, but began to trend more toward more natural looks as the years progressed. Ccorsets, which are rigid garments that shape the figure of a woman’s torso into an inverted V, were also popular during this time. These featured low necklines that showcased a woman’s “assets” prominently.

A woman’s outfit would generally consist of a bodice or corset and a skirt attached to an outer robe. Skirts were flowing and long, often pleated to increase their size. At the height of this trend, wire hoops were actually inserted into the body of the skirt to give it a round, drum shape. Luxurious fabrics were popular during this period, with many dresses being sewn out of velvet or brocade. Fashion overall grew far more elaborate for both men and women.

Sleeves for both men and women became puffed, and trim around the entire garment was ornate. Men wore breeches that reached to the knee, with a stocking covering the length of the calf. A tunic would be worn over this, often with a second shirt over it, or if not, then with a cape. Broad hats with feathers and other embellishments dominated the style of the day.

Of course, all of this finery was not necessarily available to just anyone. A peasant would have been sporting a much more simplistic version of these outfits, although they might have wanted the upgrade. Thankfully, nowadays it is generally acceptable to forgo the elaborate getups that were once so popular… that is unless you are heading to the Faire.

Cowboys & Cowgirls

Few images are more iconic of the United States than the lone cowboy working out on the horizon against the backdrop of a lazily setting golden sun. The frontier culture that dominated the United States for centuries has left an indelible mark in the collective unconscious of millions despite the Old West receding into the depths of history for over a century.

However, what made cowboys and cowgirls fashion icons that continue to influence popular fashion long after their disappearance? To understand what constitutes the dress of a cowboy, you have to understand there are many interpretations of the Old West. Are you dabbling with the singing cowboy tradition of Roy Rogers? This interpretation of the Old West is a jolly affair, complete with bright colors and pristine white hats. If you are more interested in the more grounded westerns of the 1960s and 1970s featuring an aging John Wayne and an up and coming Clint Eastwood? How about the modern day dirty and gritty style where the occupants of the Old West are whiskey soaked rakes caked in filth?

The fashion sense of the Old West was predicated on practicality. What worked was in and what didn’t was out. This explains the affinity for wide brimmed hats that provided protection in the hot sun of the American Southwest. Cloth that could stand the test of time was essential as the rough conditions would tear gentle fabrics, like linen and silk, to pieces. Denim was a necessity because it was durable and cheap to produce.
Cowboy and cowgirl clothing was also influenced by neighboring Mexico, giving birth to the sombrero-esque ten gallon hat and making the poncho an important all weather tool. Bandanas and scarves were also important to guard exposed skin against damaging sunlight. In a way, the fashion ethos of the Old West wasn’t far off from the design of traditional Arab clothing, with durable layers of clothing protecting the skin against the ever present sun.

Ultimately, what makes the cowboy and cowgirl stand out as an American institution isn’t so much their sense of fashion, it’s what they represent. The sense of individuality and self reliance that cowboys and cowgirls had made them far more iconic than leather boots and denim jeans.