Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Paul was - - in my opinion - - the GREATEST VENTRILOQUIST of the 20th Century!

The characters he created - - JERRY MAHONEY, KNUCKLEHEAD SMIFF, and his own PAUL WINCHELL persona, were vividly alive and magically manipulated.
This book is STILL the best written tome on the subject. When I was a kid I would take it out of the library, return it, wait until they restocked it on the shelf and then took it out again. As my birthday approached my dad & mom wanted to get me the book, but they couldn't find one. So he wrote to Paul at the Little Little Theater off Times Square (currently the Helen Hayes) where he did his HARTZ MOUNTAIN SHOW and a few days later the copy above arrived in the mail. Autographed! What a way to encourage a young boy with stars in his eyes (and dummies on his knees).
This picture is from his first TV series for kids "WINCHELL/MAHONEY TIME". He would begin the show coming down on a slide with Jerry by his side. I was 3 years old and remember thinking that the kid is make believe, but he's also alive! Something kicked into my consciousness because right then I said to myself "I want to make other kids feel the way he makes me feel right now."
Paul was also profoundly inventive - - adding moving arms and things to his dummies. He also invented an upside-down chin face he called OSWALD.
Now get this: he was working Jerry, performing his voice without moving his lips while lying upside down on an inverted camera/split screen shot in extreme close-up on national television.
This shot is from his KTTV-11 series. The little girl is his feisty daughter APRIL WINCHELL (today a very funny, biting, voice-over artist.)
How did Paul bring the dummies arms to life? With the help of two talented "PUPPET COORDINATORS" JAY LLOYD (l) & SKIP LUDWIG, pictured below in this ultra rare shot with Paul's wife and April's mother NINA RUSSELL.
Along the way, Paul invented the artificial heart and did the voice of GARGAMEL on the Smurfs and TIGGER in Disney's Winnie The Pooh. But the dummies would continue to make furtive appearances in his life.

The last time we saw Paul was at a party thrown for him by his friend and confidant, producer Burt Dubrow. As he was giving a speech, Burt (an avid puppet collector) reached around the corner with a Jerry Mahoney replica. Winch went "Ohhhhh" like he was seeing an old friend, took him from Burt and launched into an hysterical, impromtu act. Unbelieveable and unforgettable.

Right after this picture was taken of Olga and me giving Winch the hug he deserves, I put my hands on his shoulders and we looked each other in the eyes. I say "Paul, you're the reason." And he said "Craig, you're the result."

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