Saturdays With Ray Guyll
By Steve Hurst
(AKA - The Webmaster)
As I am hard at work on my
"project", which is working on a dummy’s head, Ray asked,
“What do you think?”
I look up and he was holding a dummy head that he had been painting.
I looked at the dummy head and said,
“I think it looks great. A perfect paint job.”
He looked at it for a few seconds and said,
“Nope, I don’t like it”, and proceeded to start all over again.
Another Saturday with Ray.
It’s no wonder the dummies he builds are so good. It’s that
perfection he demands of himself that’s hard to find in a lot of
I guess I’m one of the lucky ones that have been taught by the
“Master” himself…Ray Guyll. To sit in his shop and have him show me
his secrets of dummy building, I feel very honored. But how did this
all come to be….I should probably start at the beginning.
I was born on…..(no wait…that’s going too far back). Like a
lot of ventriloquists, I started at a young age, 14. Played around
with vent through junior high and high school, got married then
All through my life I wanted to build my own dummy. I don’t really
consider myself that artistic and that fact held me back…but I did
keep trying. I think the real reason I wanted to build my own,
was I could not afford to buy a “real or professional” dummy.
I remember at some point getting the Maher dummy catalog and falling
in love with Hal #108 .....with all the “extras” that I wanted on
him, he would have cost over $500.00 (this was in the late 60’s). It
might as well have been 5 million….I didn’t have either. So the
desire to build a dummy was always there.
In my late 30’s while living in Northern California, I decided I was
going to build a dummy no matter what. At this point I had tried
probably a dozen times or more, but had always quit.... thinking I
just couldn’t do it. But this time, I was not going to give up. I
bought every dummy building book I could find.
At this time I had not heard of Ray Guyll, but one of the dummy
building manuals I bought was a copy of, “How to Make Your Own
Ventriloquist Figure” (which at the time I didn’t realize I
would end up getting many more copies of this great manual…and I’m
even selling them, check it out on the
Shortly after this, we moved to the Great Pacific Northwest, up to
Bellingham, Washington (about 2 hours north of Seattle). To make a
long story short, I finally was able to finish my first dummy.
The first ventriloquist I met in Washington was Captain Dick
Wightman. I talked with him on the phone and he was having his
yearly get together (called DAFT-Dummies and Friends Together, I
believe) and invited me to it.
This was the first time I had ever seen “REAL, PROFESSIONAL”
dummies. I also heard all these stories about this “master” dummy
builder Ray Guyll and that he lived in the Seattle area. I even got
to see some of his work. Captain Dick brought out this hobo looking
dummy and I fell in love with it immediately. He said his name was
“Louie” and Ray Guyll had built him.
I kept thinking to myself I would love to have that dummy….maybe
someday I could afford a “Guyll” (side note….I own that EXACT Louie
today….but that’s a story for another time).
I went home and found his dummy building book and in the back of the
book it had a phone number. So, one day I thought I would try and
call this “Master” of dummy building.
I was so nervous…in fact to this day I remember the exact pay phone
I called him from. You see, I was working, (I was a sales manager at
the time running a vacation route for one of my salespeople) and I
had some time to kill. I was in Kingston, Washington, at a little
strip mall in front of a drug store.
I picked up the pay phone, dialed the number and quite frankly
thought that I would get the answering machine, but to my amazement,
Barbara (didn’t know her then) answered the phone. I don’t know how
I sounded, but inside I was stuttering…I asked, “Is Ray available”,
to which she responded, “yes, hold on”.
The next voice I heard was Ray’s. I was in awe. We started talking
and he was very nice, pleasant, answered every question I asked,
gave me all kinds of advice about dummy building and ventriloquism
in general. I was impressed with all the knowledge he had
about ventriloquism. We talked for almost an hour.
I remember hanging up thinking “what a gracious person”.
All of this happened in 1995. The next year, in 96, I was getting
ready for Captain Dick’s DAFT get together. The first “vent list”
had been established, people were getting into computers, the
Internet and since I knew about this, Dick wanted me to give a
presentation about the “vent list”, talk about computers and the
You have to realize that for the past year, I had met other
ventriloquists in the area (I’ve always been amazed at the
ventriloquist population in the Pacific Northwest….Oregon and
Washington have their share) and in meeting these vents, I kept
hearing more and more stories about Ray Guyll. He was almost like a
Howard Hughes…..he had this “mystery” about him, which made him so
intriguing to everyone.
When I arrived at the 96 DAFT get together, Captain Dick said that
my computer “presentation” would be later in the day…..he said Ray
Guyll was going to be there and wanting to hear my presentation. I
was going to meet RAY GUYLL…..I was as excited as a kid at
I kept watching the clock, no Ray and finally around 4:30pm, Dick
told me to start the presentation, Ray probably had something come
up and wouldn’t make it. I was disappointed, but decided to start.
Just as I was standing up to speak, someone said, “Ray and Barbara
just pulled up.” So, of course, Dick told me to wait. As we were
waiting for them to get out of the car and walk to the house I said,
“Everyone….play along with me, we’re going to have some fun.”
As Ray and Barbara walked through the front door I said, “And that
concludes my talk about computers and the Internet….are there any
Ray’s eyes got big….then everyone burst into laughter…..and that’s
how I met the “Master” dummy builder, Ray Guyll. Little did I
know at the point, we would become great friends.