Puppets: Emma Taylor, Wrex, Maynard Thompkins, Walter T. Airedale, Vikki, Hyphen, Duggie Scott Walker and Julius "The Soul Singer"
Where are you calling from? I live in Dallas, but I am staying in Las Vegas for the nights I perform (at The Mirage). I go back to Dallas to visit friends and family on the weekends. Or, I go to Disneyland. It gives me the chance to totally forget about the pressure and stress of daily life. I never get tired of it. It's not reality. It's just wonderful.
You used to perform with a band, right? I started a band in 1987 and kind of went around playing small bars in Texas and then graduated to doing fairs around the country. In the band, I did impressions . . . and had a comedy act. It was more about the show than just playing music. We did songs by Guns N' Roses, George Strait and AC/DC. Sometimes, I'd have a puppet sing a song. In 2002, I went solo.
How did you get into ventriloquism? It's just one of those things that I always loved doing. When I was 10, I started doing ventriloquism. I didn't understand when I first started that the entertainment community thought (it was) the second lowest form of entertainment, with the mime being the lowest. I didn't realize what an uphill battle it would be. I felt (I was) better than the kind (of ventriloquists) at a birthday party and a church show. I was completely unknown until "America's Got Talent." I'd send DVDs and videos to Jay Leno and David Letterman and to every single talk show, nobody paid attention. I couldn't even play cruise ships. I didn't know about the ventriloquist community. There are a lot of ventriloquists out there . . . who are up there in the entertainment echelon as far as . . . sophisticated and intelligent humor.
Who are your influences? Jim Henson . . . made adults realize that they would enjoy puppets, too. He was reforming a form of entertainment and bringing it to a new market. (He was) my No. 1 influence. I met Jeff Dunham when I was 10 and he was 15. I knew he was going to be a superstar back then. He showed me his workshop and showed me . . . some tricks.
You brought former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on stage recently. Do a lot of celebrities come to your shows? (Huckabee) had contacted us and told us he was going to come . . . and watch the show to see if he could put something on his show (on Fox News Channel). We . . . turned him into Cher. Afterward, we went to dinner and he said he had a great time. Celebrities always tend to be in the spotlight, so I always have my assistant ask to announce them, and if they don't want to (be in the show) I let them stay anonymous. It's the most unusual part of the success that I'm enjoying. It's something that I didn't expect. Jerry Lewis, Mickey Rooney, Mel Gibson, Adam Sandler and Ray Romano (have all been in the audience).
Do you use different puppets for different shows? I rotate some in and out. I had different characters in my show (at the fairs). They have since retired (and) sit in my dressing room on shelves. Pretty much all the characters I use in the show are made by professional puppet makers. One was made by the people who created ALF. The best thing about . . . being a headliner is that my dreams are no longer shacked. If I come up with an idea for a puppet, I have the funds to create that puppet and . . . put it on stage. It gives me so much freedom. My latest (puppet, Vikki) is inspired by "Desperate Housewives." The more time you spend in Hollywood, the more you see ladies who are aging, have plastic surgery and don't really want to let go of youth.
What can people expect from your York Fair show Saturday? It really is a one-man show. I have a live band . . . and assistant. But it really does not feel like a one-man show. The audience will believe that the puppets are real. They are puppets to me, but the illusion is complete. I specifically keep my show appropriate for all audiences. It's not a show that's dumbed down (in a way) that makes you think it's corny. When you do a show that's dirty . . . there is a potential that (I could) offend people in the audience. No one will ever come up (to me) and say, "You're show is too clean."
What is the best part about performing at fairs? When I used to play fairs, they would stick me on the worst stage . . . or in kiddie land with clowns running around. One time when I played, I was literally right next to the petting zoo. To be able to come back as a headliner . . . will make the experience that much better.
- ERIN McCRACKEN, FLIPSIDE STAFF
If you go
Terry Fator and his cast of characters will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday on the York Fair grandstand, 334 Carlisle Ave. in West Manchester Township. Tickets cost $42 for center track, plaza and grandstand seats and $36 for side track, plaza and grandstand seats.
For details and tickets, call 848-2033 or visit www.yorkfair.com.
On the Web
For details about Terry Fator, visit www.terryfator.com.
Read more meet-the-artist interviews at www.flipsidepa.com/musicdirectory.