Lizzie, a ventriloquist model locked in a Colorado closet for decades, has a new life – The Denver Post



Lizzie has been tucked away in a wooden trunk bearing her name and stored in Linda Mae Glader’s closet for over 40 years.

But the mannequin – a hand-crafted ventriloquist doll with striking blue eyes, squirming caterpillar-like eyebrows and animated limbs – soon breaks free.

Perched on Glader’s lap in OshKosh B’gosh overalls, a heart-spotted turtleneck and sneakers, Lizzie told Glader – whose lips remained still – that she was upset to be locked up for so long.

“I feel bad that it’s been in storage all these years, but it’s so hard to imagine giving it away,” said Glader, a 52-year-old woman in Grand Junction and the only person to ever put in words. in Lizzie’s mouth. “How do you sell something that is priceless?” “

Lizzie is not sold, but she crosses state lines to be honored in the fictitious story.

Glader, desperate for his precious puppet to dust, decided it was time to give Lizzie a second chance. At first, she tried to sell the model on Facebook, but was overwhelmed by the return of commentators speculating on the types of demons that inhabited the doll’s body.

“I get a lot of hateful comments from people who think she’s scary or haunted,” Glader said. “They ask, ‘Is she going to kill me?’ I’m like, ‘Well, that depends on what hand is in her.’ “

A ventriloquist museum has entered the picture, promising Lizzie a life of eternal reverence in a Kentucky shrine with around 1,000 of her retired fellow puppets and a curator who promises to care for them until dusk.

After more than 40 years, Lizzie has a new life and she can tell you anything.

Origin of a mannequin

Lizzie was designed by pioneering ventriloquist supplier and instructor Clinton Detweiler and donated to Glader in the 1970s. Detweiler, who died in 2013, was acclaimed for his Littleton workshop where he made mannequins and educational materials to teach children and adults about the whimsical art form.

Trying to coax his young daughter’s shyness, Glader’s father introduced her to puppets and taught her how to project a boisterous, exuberant personality into dolls.

“We love dolls a lot,” Glader said. “They’re alter egos, so it’s like they are us. It’s our personality that goes through the doll – the bratty part. “

Glader turned out to have a knack for casting his voice. With her father as manager, Glader and Lizzie, 9, took a stroll around Denver to entertain school children, nursing home residents, worshipers and beyond.

Glader was reserved and calm, but Lizzie was a big mouth full of jokes and reproaches at the expense of her owner.

“It was so cool to do shows,” Glader said. “Especially for little kids because they thought Lizzie was real and they really listened to her. My dad wrote all of my skits. I memorized them. I have tons of awards, certificates, photographs – a full story of Lizzie Every time I look at them, I cry.

Glader’s parents divorced when she was 13, and her touring ventriloquist act came to an end. Lizzie found herself wrapped in a personalized trunk and transported to Colorado, never to be used again but too precious to surrender.

“The sentiment that people have around their models and the characters they develop is very, very real,” said Lisa Sweasy, curator of the Vent Haven Museum, presented as the only museum in the world dedicated to ventriloquism. “The closest thing would be a person who plays a musical instrument for a long time and gets attached to it. It is an irreplaceable thing. It’s this idea of ​​creating a comedy team where you have to find an extension of your personality and a lot of creativity goes into creating those characters.

Glader didn’t want to part with Lizzie, but the Grand Junction wife, who now suffers from chronic health issues, said she was not giving her model the life she deserved.

“I don’t know how long I’m going to live… and I didn’t want her to end up like something that no one knew what to do with,” Glader said. “It kills my heart that she’s just sitting in a box.”

Glader hoped to bequeath his doll to a young coloradian interested in the craft – free ventriloquist lessons included. Lizzie’s ice blue eyes caught the attention of Facebook users in the Mile High Sell group, Buy Trade, where Glader advertised the model for $ 1,000.

Instead of a shopper, Glader found a full-time job to moderate the post’s comments, including responses such as “Are the demons that inhabit his body free or are they additional ???” and “Will I need to sign with blood?” “

“There are going to be some people who think it’s dark, but it’s not,” Glader said. “Just watching all the comments come in, there were so many negatives. Like, ‘Is she going to kill me? Is this Chucky’s sister?’

William Woody, Denver Post Special

Old ventriloquist memorabilia are on display at Linda Mae Glader’s home in Grand Junction on Thursday morning, February 25, 2021.

A museum for dummies

Glader feared that a buyer would want Lizzie for malicious purposes when she only wanted her beloved puppet to bring joy. The ventriloquist remembered the Vent Haven Museum providing a home for dummies in need.

In a virtual tour of the museum available online, dozens of mannequins are stacked in stadium seats and seated in chairs propped up around the space filled with ventriloquist memories.

“We don’t just have the model,” Sweasy said. “We have the scripts, the costumes, the photographs, the recordings and everything that tells the stories of the model.”

When Glader called Sweasy, she knew she had found a safe place for Lizzie to leave her legacy.

When the dolls arrive, Sweasy has them appraised for the owner’s tax purposes, cleans them, classifies and archives associated documents, and displays the new arrivals in a special case. Sweasy, who has been a museum curator for almost 16 years, said he receives around 20 to 25 new models per year.

“They spend their day in the sun,” Sweasy said. “Lizzie will still be there. If someone has come in 50 years and said they would like to know more about the model Linda Glader, we can tell. It’s almost like a little piece of ventriloquist immortality. that this expansion – this character that you developed – will always be there.

While Sweasy takes care of the maintenance of the dolls, there is a rule of thumb that no one ever exploits the models except their original owners, who can come and visit them.

“You don’t do that,” Sweasy said of tinkering with someone else’s doll. “It’s blasphemy. It’s hard.”

With Glader and Lizzie’s days numbered together, the 52-year-old held her mannequin in her lap and remembered, rotating Lizzie’s head back and forth as she shared memories of better days gone by. to put words in her boyfriend’s mouth.

“I’m going to scream my eyes out when I ship it,” Glader said. “But I know she will be somewhere safe and loved.”

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