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

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The FLOP system: Learning what the competition charges

Today is my birthday. I use the occasion to announce the release of a product that every ventriloquist in the world needs.

Everyone knows that ventriloquists won't tell other ventriloquists how much they charge. Or if they do quote a fee, they lie.

(This is the secret shame of the business. No one would have thought that ventriloquists, of all people, would ever be less than truthful about anything. It pains me to let the cat out of the case, er, bag.)

This circumstance is an impediment to novice ventriloquists trying to break into the business. They cannot determine the going rate. They don't know how much to charge. It is also a competitive disadvantage to the professional performer who wishes to underbid the competition.

To solve this problem I developed a system called the Fee Learning and Outing Program (FLOP) with which you can instantly learn the highest and lowest rates charged by your fellow ventriloquists.

Development of FLOP involved extensive research. For ten years a team of data collection specialists have been calling agents and ventriloquists around the world pretending to be looking to hire a ventriloquist. Each specialist had a performance type in which they specialized. Birthday parties, banquets, libraries, etc. The specialist requests and negotiates for a quote.

From this research we developed the FLOP Online Storage Data Interchange Cooperative (FOSDIC), with which subscribers can instantly retrieve the fees quoted by ventriloquists, and, in many cases, the amount finally agreed upon. This additional feature reveals to those wishing to hire a ventriloquist the extent to which many ventriloquists will negotiate.

To implement FLOP, we hacked the websites of all active ventriloquists. Hacking websites was the least challenging part of the project. It seems most ventriloquists use one of two passwords to access their servers. They use either their main dummy's name or the word, Farfel. Our team of twelve computer hackers was unable to determine the origin of this odd word.

To access FLOP, a subscriber opens the website of the ventriloquist in question, places the mouse over the crotch of the dummy, and simultaneously triple-right-clicks the mouse while holding down the minus key on the numeric keypad, the Caps Lock key, the F12 key, and the door to the 5.25" floppy diskette drive.

(Remember, FLOP software was developed ten years ago on a home computer. We're working on an upgrade.)

If the dummy's crotch is not visible, use the ventriloquist's.

A popup window appears.

(There might also be a popup advertisement window for Victoria's Secret, particularly if you put your mouse on the ventriloquist's crotch. Ignore the popup. So to speak.)

Enter your userid, password and the cube root of your hat size. (Sorry, you'll have to compute that number on your own. Our team of programmers has not figured out how to compute a cube root.) Once you are granted FLOP access, the window then displays the ventriloquist's fee structure, adjusted for inflation.

It also includes links to any and all published reviews of the ventriloquist's past performances, including those printed in church bulletins, written on venue restroom walls, and posted on the blogs of left-wing extremists.

If you are a Premiere VIP Member, you can display a graph showing how the ventriloquist's rates have changed over the years. Note that the graph does not go past October, 2008. Contemporary screen resolutions do not support increases such as Jeff Dunham's or drops such as recorded for the entire rest of the community.

An additional link downloads the complete library of issues of Barker Magazine including all text and graphics from the entire run of the publication. If you have a 1200 baud modem, be patient; it takes approximately 12 seconds to download the zip file.

The FOSDIC archives are available in a data dictionary titled, FLOP's Yesteryear Dictionary (FLOPYDIC).

The success of the FLOP project will determine its future. If enough folks subscribe, we will add to it other performance types. We've already begun prowling the web in search of mime, balloon twister, and face painter websites.

(Did you ever listen to the audio clips on a balloon twister's website? Makes my skin crawl. Lucky for us there are no audio clips on mime websites.)

Footnote: I began the FLOP project almost ten years ago. The question of performance fees came up on the then-legendary and contentious, monopolistic ventmail discussion group. No one there would post their fees, except one member who quoted $7.42 for a five-minute act with a Juro doll. The Doll did not move or speak during the act but merely sat still while the performer read all the lines from cue cards stolen from Col. Bill Boley's garbage can.

(It turned out that not only was the fellow not really a ventriloquist, but the doll's jaw string had retracted into the head, and the fellow did not know how to retrieve it. The ventfigures discussion group did not exist then, and he had no one to ask.)

The act was named Herman and Herman. Those who had seen the act reported a certain degree of confusion as to which character spoke which line. Most requested a refund. Herman and Herman are not included in the FOSDIC data collection research. They were deleted when Herman retired from show business to become caretaker of the family's pet memorial garden and strawberry business.

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