Death of a sidekick

There have been some brilliant double acts over the years, but when one partner passes away, the other can carry on, retire or like Sooty or Basil Brush, find another Human to take over the reins.

Not so with a ventriloquist.
orville orville and chuckles
Keith Harris  (21 September 1947 – 28 April 2015 )

Not that I was a fan, and I still cringe if I hear Orville’s song (it got to Number 4 in the charts in 1982) on the radio, but it is unlikely that he and Chuckles will see the entertainment limelight again.

It got me thinking about ventriloquists I ‘grew up’ with, their shows and humour, which wasn’t all directed at a child.

lord charlesRay Alan (18 September 1930 – 24 May 2010) and Lord Charles

Ray Alan was one of Dad’s favourites, and for years I thought Lord Charles was real, just small.
The conversations between Puppeteer and Dummy were like anything you’d hear between two adults discussing the weather, politics or voicing personal opinions.
Ray Alan was the ‘straight guy’ in the partnership, accepting the put downs from his posh and slightly sloshed ‘colleague’ completely deadpan. In my opinion, he was one of the best ventriloquists ever, as his act was effortless and believable.

lennyTerry Hall  (20 November 1926 – 3 April 2007 ) and Lenny the Lion were another classic act in my childhood. Lenny was more expressive and tactile than Lord Charles, but the charm was there, especially as Terry Hall is credited as being the first ventriloquist to use a non human puppet. Lenny was made out of an old fox fur with a paper mache face, though the original teeth were removed in order not to scare youngsters in the audience!
Lenny would put on a bashful stance and was renowned for his catchphrase “Aw, don’t embawass me!”

shariAnd who can forget Shari Lewis  (January 17, 1933 – August 2, 1998) and Lamb Chop?
Made from a sock, this little puppet had me in stitches, though I can’t remember too much about Hush Puppy and Charlie Horse, two of her other creations.
Here’s a few little snippets I didn’t know either:
Source : WIKI
When Lewis appeared before Congress in 1993 to testify in favor of protections for children’s television, Lamb Chop was granted permission to speak.

An accomplished musician, she conducted major symphonies in the United States, Japan, and Canada.

She was also a strict vegan.

Shari Lewis had a daughter, Mallory, by her second husband Jeremy Tarcher.
Having legally changed her name to Mallory Lewis, she resumed her mother’s work with Lamb Chop in 2000.

muppetsVentriloquism is probably a dying art, having been overtaken by the likes of The Muppets, and yes I was a fan of theirs too (my favourite was Animal!).

The last guy I remember to hit the headlines with a dummy was Nookie Bear  Roger De Courcey.
nookieThey won New Faces, a talent show which together with Opportunity Knocks was a forerunner to Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor of today, in 1976.
I could never warm to him, or the Bear, which apparently was originally called Bollocks.


About pensitivity101

I am a retired number cruncher with a vivid imagination and wacky sense of humour which extends to short stories and poetry. I love to cook and am a bit of a dog whisperer as I get on better with them than people sometimes! In November 2020, we lost our beloved Maggie who adopted us as a 7 week old pup in March 2005. We decided to have a photo put on canvas as we had for her predecessor Barney. We now have three pictures of our fur babies on the wall as we found a snapshot of Kizzy, my GSD when Hubby and I first met so had hers done too. On February 24th 2022 we were blessed to find Maya, a 13 week old GSD pup who has made her own place in our hearts. You can follow our training methods, photos and her growth in my blog posts. From 2014 to 2017 'Home' was a 41 foot narrow boat where we made strong friendships both on and off the water. We were close to nature enjoying swan and duck families for neighbours, and it was a fascinating chapter in our lives. We now reside in a small bungalow on the Lincolnshire coast where we have forged new friendships and interests.
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5 Responses to Death of a sidekick

  1. scifihammy says:

    I remember all of these ventriloquists, except the last one. They were really great entertainment, and as you say, not just for the kids! My Dad particularly liked Shari Lewis and Lamb Chops 🙂

  2. notquiteold says:

    Not sure whether they were stars in Britain, but Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy were huge in America from the 30s to the 70s. Imagine – a ventriloquist on the radio – what a concept! But Edgar Bergen was funny – so people didn’t care. And they didn’t care when he got to TV too, and found that he was a terrible ventriloquist – his lips moved something awful. But again, he was sweet and funny.

  3. Oddly enough, ventriloquism here in the States seems to be enjoying something of a resurgence – Jeff Dunham and Terry Fator come to mind as people currently working as ventriloquists (I think one of them won America’s Got Talent). I can’t say I’m a big fan, but they are popular enough that I know who they are!

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