Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Saturday, June 30, 2007

What constitutes a pro figure?

Earlier today I tried to post a response on a Forum where figure making was being discussed under the subject, "Conversion Figures." Participants were weighing in with their opinions about whether people ought to sell modified vent dolls and call them pro figures. Some participants even went so far as to state that any figure made from a kit is not a pro figure and neither are figures that employ components not made from scratch by the figuremaker.

My response was automatically rejected by the server with a snide canned message from some entity named ADMIN. I'm not sure why. It looks like an open forum. Perhaps not. Anyway, here is what I tried to say there and will instead say here. Perhaps someone who has permissions there will read this account and pass it on.

(Note: Since I posted this report, the administrator of the forum relented and allowed my message to be posted. He also deleted his rejection message. My thanks to Dan Willinger, the owner of the forum and the one who intervened on my behalf, for this courtesy.)

I guess some of you folks think that Rickie Layne's Velvel wasn't a "pro figure." Guess how Velvel was made.

It doesn't matter what it is made from. To suggest that to quality as a pro figure it has to be made 100% from scratch in the workshop is just plain naive. You just disqualified all the figure heads and hands that Marshall had duplicarved. Chances are very good that Charlie McCarthy himself was a stock Mack head made from a duplicarver master.

We all use components from other places. I recently built two dummy's dummies for a client. Why bother sculpting little hands when Braylu sells perfectly usable casts of Juro hands. And, oh yeah, guess what I made the bodies from. Mustard jars. I guess I should hang my head in shame.

Do you think the McElroys manufactured their own typewriter keys and ping pong balls? Conrad makes control post levers from plastic toothbrushes. He taught me how to use rollers from patio doors for pulleys. Marshall used teakwood chopsticks. He also used commercial doll eyes in some figures.

A figure built from a kit isn't a pro figure only because it started out as a kit? That's simply ridiculous and evinces a complete lack of understanding of what traditional figure making is all about.

Last week I saw and handled Eli, the bumpkin figure that Chuck Poole, one of our CFVA members built from a Brose kit. Yup, he used Apoxie Sculpt to give Eli a facelift. Great sculpture, exquisite paint job, and quiet, smooth mechanics. As nice a pro figure as ever came out of any workshop. Any of you ventriloquists would be proud to have it in your show. (I can't speak for the collectors.)

Paul Winchell used modified Juro Jerry dolls to represent Jerry Mahoney as an infant and smaller boy. Were those not pro figures, not even in the hands of the master?

How about Senor Wences's left hand? "For you easy, for me difficult."

A pro vent figure is any figure that a pro ventroquist wants to use in a pro performance. No more, no less.

But opinions are like, well, you know what they're like. Everybody has one. Except maybe ADMIN.