They were made of cloth, glue and wood, but in our eyes they were as real as their flesh and blood counterparts. And to the chagrin of their human partners, often received more fan mail. Letís take a look at some of Detroit TVís classic puppet stars.
Sagebrush Shortyís irascible
puppet partner Skinny Dugan was created by master figure makers Glenn and George
McElroy in 1940. Although the brothers made fewer than fifty figures in their
short ten-year career (1931 to 1941), their ventriloqual figures are regarded as
some of the finest ever created.
Skinny Dugan was originally created for ventriloquist and Detroit
businessman Fred Maher. In 1952 Maher became ill while entertaining a group of
Masons in Findlay, Ohio and died three days later. Ted Lloyd, better known to
Detroit baby boomers as Sagebrush Shorty, purchased Dugan from Maherís widow
with the stipulation that Lloyd not rename the figure.
Dugan was nothing short of a mechanical marvel, equipped with
ten different facial and head movements. He could wiggle his ears and nose,
spit, cry, wink, stick out his tongue, roll and cross his eyes, flip his hair up
and down and have his nose glow bright red. All of these movements were
controlled by a complicated series of cables and levers resembling typewriter
keys, attached to the dummyís control stick. It took an extremely talented
ventriloquist to make all of Duganís functions appear spontaneous and
Sagebrush Shorty and Skinny Dugan appeared on WJBK-TV from
1955 to 1960, and WXYZ-TV from 1962 to 1964.
Ted Lloyd left Detroit in 1967 for the big time in Los
Angeles, but never found the success that he enjoyed in the Motor City. With
cowboys quickly becoming passť, Lloyd traded his trademark Stetson hat and
fancy Western duds for a high top hat and riverboat gamblerís waistcoat. Lloyd
was now known as Uncle Dudley, with Skinny Dugan new moniker being Dugan the
Lloyd never had another TV show, but occasionally performed
at childrenís birthday parties and company picnics while supplementing his
income as a bartender. Lloyd passed away in 1999.
Now pushing 70 and in semi retirement, Skinny Dugan made a rare appearance in the DVD extras section of the 2002 Adrien Brody film Dummy, along with his current owner, ventriloquist Jeff Dunham.