Valley of the Ventriloquists


Recently, to feed my Gosling-film quota, I saw Lars and the Real Girl, in which a 27 year-old man presents a blow-up doll as his girlfriend. accoutrements. A Slate article from last year discusses the intrinsic creepiness--or not?--of ventriloquism:

"While the ventriloquist's dummy merely embodies the extension or expression of the ventriloquist's own personality," writes Valentine Vox, author of I Can See Your Lips Moving, a history of ventriloquism, "it is evident that many artists develop a certain attachment to their figures." For the world-famous Charlie McCarthy, Edgar Bergen maintained a separate room in his house, with a bed, writing desk, and wardrobe. British ventriloquist Arthur Prince was buried alongside his favorite puppet, Jim, in 1948. When Sally Osman, a singer, filed for divorce from ventriloquist Herbert Dexter, she named his puppet, Charlie, as a co-respondent—charging in court that Charlie had shrieked cutting insults during her stage act and even physically abused her.

I know I've already gone into the deep weirdness of my childhood, including my "backwards phase," but I haven't yet mentioned those certain months in my early double digits when I thought I was a young, female Mr. Bergan. If I didn't suffer this ambition, I probably would have been aphasic anyway, but I truly lived a monastic life for the purposes of developing what the Greeks called gastromancy. I didn't have a homunculus picked out, exactly, because to me the real thrill of it lay in the ability to throw one's voice and look innocently around. I could never make eggs disappear into kerchiefs or make the nine of spades appear in someone's hand, but still I longed for some kind of legerdemain. Did any of you ever meet success as a ventriloquist, or otherwise have an infatuation with a doll?