Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ventriloquist Dummies

Good morning! After the banner weekend Saturday and Sunday last that was the "couch and lamp" extravaganza, I guess I couldn't expect my estate sale luck to hold out. My dad and I hit two this weekend, where I DID pick up an amazing, felt appliqued-and-hand-beaded oversized clutch from South Africa in the fifties' (four bucks?!?! Featuring native dancers? It's gorgeous) and the stole I mentioned in yesterday's post. What's most memorable, sadly, for me about the last bout of sales was the bitter taste left in my mouth by dint of my having to leave a perfectly gorgeous Charlie McCarthy doll behind. He looked a little like this, but I'm almost positive his eyes were smaller:

Did you ever get your heart broke by a "dummy"? 
Hahaha....I crack me up. Source

The sale was in Donelson and it had to be the CLEANEST mid century house I've ever been in. And I've been in a lot! Down to the radiator in the bathroom (which, from having one in my own bathroom, I know is notoriously hard to clean, and this one looked like new somehow), everything was spotless. Unfortunately, the owner's mania for immaculateness was probably also reflected in the sparsity of vintage items...I found the purse, which was amazing, and then I saw Charlie. Propped up on a table in the living room, maybe 12'' in height, and just as darling as they come. In a tux! Monocle intact! I flipped over the attached-with-string price tag and felt positively boo-hooey about the three figures presented to me. $100...!! I asked if there were discounts, as it was the second day of the second phase of the sale and an hour before close-- I was told in so many words that there were not. Whaddaya meeeeean!

I know ventriloquist dummies and old dolls freak some people out, but they're a perfect-buying-interest-storm for me in that they mix cuteness and creepiness in equal amounts. I have an eerie little assortment of handmade dolls in less-than-perfect condition and composition dolls (the eye-rolling kind) on a wide vanity chair in my bedroom, and for someone who was very little interested in baby dolls as a child, I sure of a lot of (weird!) ones now!

Speaking for Charlie McCarthy memorabilia, though, I just wanted a companion piece for this guy!

This 1930's hand puppet is closer in the eye-size to the ventriloquist dummy I was so cruelly denied this weekend...my great-uncle George gave one like this to my sister who out of the kindness of her heart (and the fact that I was going to take my own life if I didn't have it) gave it to me sometime in high school. I've always been a biiiiiig old time radio fan and who woulda thunk that a ventriloquist act ON THE RADIO was one of the hottest tickets going back in the day. Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy started out on the Chase Sanborn Hour in 1937 and ran 11 years on that program before branching out into simply The Charlie McCarthy Show (you can hear more HERE). Charlie's feud with W.C. Fields is one of the more hilarious highlights of the show, but know that pretty much everything he says is this funny. Second only to Jack Benny for comedic timing! Catch some gems from his ongoing feud with W.C. Fields on the Wikipedia page (sharp as a tack!).

Trying to drown my Charlie-related sorrows in the rivers of Ebay, I couldn't find one exactly like what I was looking for, but on an auction site I did see THIS mint-in-box- thirties bakelite Charlie McCarthy radio. For a cool $250 starting bid, it's even FURTHER out of my range, but heck. What a snazzy little collectible! Looks like something Andy Warhol would have collected to me. Back when you could get it for $10! Oh, the days.

This dapper little Dan comes from a current ebay listing that calls him "Antique Rare Ventriloquist puppet Doll! Great condition!". And I agree! What a little cutie. Is it the Kewpie-ish face, the tuxedo, the carnation, or the beret that makes this little proto-Boyer such a winner with the ladies? You tell me. Something about the scale of the chair and how tiny he looks in it is also selling me on him. Not as much as the long-lost-Lenore feeling I have for the one I had to leave at the sale, but still.

Thennnnnn....I saw this one:

I also agree with this seller's labelling the doll as "FREAKY ANTIQUE VENTRILOQUIST DOLL DUMMY HAUNTED MAGICIAN DOLL". Down to the all caps! Because that's what my mind does when I see this lidless demon. How can you have this in your home, and still go to bed at night?

If you're interested in ventriloquist dummies of the non-haunting-your-dreams-Twilight-Zone style, your library might have a copy of Bergen's How to Be a Ventriloquist, which is both funny and instructive.

Where do you stand on the "creepy vs. cute vs. both creepy and cute" side of the issue? Will I ever find another Charlie doll in the right price range? Is there one waiting for me out there in an attic or closet shelf as we speak? Do you think I should avoid buying one for fear of finding it at the foot of my bed with a knife in its teeth? You tell me!

That's all for today, see you guys Wednesday!


  1. i love anything creepy. i need to a do a post about the crochet baby/worm that i found at goodwill years ago.
    have you been to the ventriloquist dummy museum in kentucky? i want to go SO BAD but we couldn't get an appointment when we were last up that way.

    1. Re: museum: I just now thought of that after you mentioned it! Man. I don't know if I could take that much concentrated creepiness. The seventies' ones really do wig me out a little, but I can't help loving old Charlie!

  2. Yeah, Charlie McCarthy merchandise might be the best example EVER of where creepiness and awesomeness most perfectly intersect. :)

  3. Haha! That last one is just psychotic looking!

    I actually have the Charlie from the first photo. He was my Grandmother's when she was little and he sits on a little 1920's toddler sized arm chair in my bedroom with his little arm propped up on the pillow. He looks 'mad chill'! Everyone always asks me if I have nightmares sleeping in the same room with Chuck! But I think he's the cutest creepy thing and I love him to bits!

    1. Lucky duck! That's the one that stole my heart! Maybe there's an unattached one still waiting out there for me...



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