Ins and Outs


As the seasons, so go our lives.

Here in Texas we had a brutally cold winter followed by a miserably hot summer. When we’re cold we yearn for the warm, and when we’re hot we dream of fresh, cool breezes.

A couple of years ago I had more work than I could say grace over. it seemed like I just got out of the car in one city and then it was time to move on to the next. I think I complained a lot at that time about “never having time to breathe” – something like that.

Now I spend my time talking about not having enough work. I know it’s not just me; I think we are programmed as a race to always want more, always look to the next thing.

In the 70s, a guru named Ram Dass wrote “Be Here Now”, which became sort of the catch phrase for the hippie movement (of which I was a fringe member, never quite brave enough to be a real hippie). Now it seems so dated, but the sentiment is true and honorable. Centuries before, Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow – tomorrow has enough worries of its own”.

I’m committed to that today. I’m going to be here now. And then I’m going to bed. Here’s hoping for a better year for all my storyteller and ventriloquist friends who are slogging through a tough economy!

A Series of Firsts

Life is a series of firsts; your first tooth, your first steps, your first kiss, your first child. I have been thinking of this recently because my granddaughter Veronica had her first day of fifth grade and my grandson James had his first haircut.

My first grade teacher was Miss Nichols at Lewisville Elementary School, my first date was to see the Harlem Globetrotters with David Bailey, and my first car was a 62 Corvair Convertible that I wish I still owned. (Don’t we all wish we still owned that first car)

My first ventriloquism show was for my daughter Emily’s kindergarten class at Baccus Elementary. I’m sure I was awful, but the kids LOVED it, and I was hooked. A chance encounter with Dennis Lee led me to the fabulous puppetmaker Verna Finly and the start to a career.

Would I have become a ventriloquist without that chance encounter… who knows? I certainly loved it as a child. I adored Shari Lewis and Lambchop and loved Senor Wences on the Ed Sullivan Show with his sweet puppet Topo Gigio. My own Waco owes much to that little mouse, both in character and body. But me – a ventriloquist? I would never have dreamed it.

I hope that I have many more firsts in my life, through my children and grandchildren and hopefully some day even my great grandchildren. I would love to see a bunch of new faces and new schools this year for the first time. If you know of someone looking for a fun, professional, educational assembly program – send them my way!

Sibling Rivalry

No mother has ever raised her children without the spectre of sibling rivalry also raising its head. My own children bypassed some of that because of their age difference. Brody was four years older than Emily, so their ideas of attention were very different. I must say however, that each of them in their own way were a little jealous of their “mannequin American” brothers and sisters.

Emily always said that the only time she was ever popular was the day I came to her school for an assembly. On that day EVERYONE wanted to be her friend so they could ask the questions every child wants to know the answer to: “How do those puppets talk?” The answer of course is a trade secret!

And the answer to sibling rivalry, according to the experts is to treat each child differently according to their age, personality and taste. Easy to say and hard to do.

It’s hard for me to believe, but now my grandchildren are starting to interact with their puppet aunts and uncles — where did the time go? My ten year old granddaughter Veronica recently asked me how did it happen that she and Waco were in kindergarten at the same time and now he’s still in kindergarten while she has moved on to the fifth grade.

Enjoy this picture of my grandson James meeting “Uncle” Larry for the first time. And come back to my blog soon!

Each day a new day …

A new day, a new website.

People under 30 grew up with “computer” as their second language.  It was amazing to me to see my 26-year-old daughter begin the building of this website.  Her fingers fly over the keys and she clicks through screens so fast that I didn’t even know what was there before she was on to the next thing.  My ten-year-old granddaughter can do things on the computer that I can only dream of.  Those of us over 30 (some of us MUCH older) learned computer the same way we learn any foreign language – one excruciating word after another.

Having said that, let me say that I am excited about this new website and pledge to learn as much as I can to keep it up and running, new and exciting.  It’s much like tending a garden in that what grows from it is only as good as the seeds and care that are put into it.  And just let me say now that anything good on this website is probably due to Emily, and anything weird, misplaced, misaligned, misspelled or misshapen probably came from me!  Thank you my sweet baby girl for all your help.

Work has been slow this year, for me and for nearly every other entertainer I know.  Even in the best of times it is a hard way to make a living.  Hotel rooms, long drives, crowded planes, uninterested audiences and bad food are only a few challenges.  Writing new and funny material that remains topical and interesting to children is never easy, and memorizing it gets harder ever year.  (And I must say that watching children’s TV programming so that I remain “in the loop” is getting excruciating!)

And yet… I can’t image doing anything else.  Making children laugh for a living – what could be better? Each and every day I have the opportunity to do or say something that could make an actual impact in someone’s life.  One of the highpoints of my existence was meeting a young woman at a local restaurant who had seen me perform since childhood.  She threw her arms around me and said “You’re the reason I never did drugs!”

An exaggeration surely.  No doubt her parents, her friends, her church and her own sweet self had much to do with that.  And still… what a joy, what a humbling thought that I might have had some small part in that.

Yes, it’s a hard life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.