Greg's Other Life
comedian • entertainer • ventriloquist
Greg Claassen built his very first ventriloquist figure (dummy) in the mid 1980’s. Over the last 20 plus years, Greg has spent countless hours honing his skills and is now one of a select few in the world who can replicate the mechanics of the“Cadillac of dummies,” the McElroy figure. Starting in the 1930's, brothers Glenn and George McElroy teamed up to design and build these sought-after characters and set the mark for today's dummy builders. George was the artist, sculpting and painting their wunderkinds while Glenn was the master machinist, designing and building the mechanical effects that would be incorporated in to the puppets. A McElroy figure's trademark is the complex mechanical inner workings and the Norman Rockwell like faces.
Modern molding and casting processes afforded Greg the opportunity to replicate George's beautiful designs and then shape rods and metal stock in the style of Glenn's handiwork. Loaded with mechanical movements, these figures operate like a well crafted time piece. Greg's creations, pictured below are in the hands of private collectors and not for sale. For a close up look at original McElroy masterpieces, scroll to the bottom of this page to see "Jojo" and a McElroy marionette puppet, King Kong. Email Greg if you want to talk about the McElroy brothers and their figures. He’d love to hear from you.
After an intense year working feverishly in the “dummy shop,” Greg is pleased to introduce “George.” This handsome fellow is an outgrowth of the infamous “Cecil 2” character. His mechanical movements include all-direction floating eyes, crossing eyes, upper lip sneer, stick-out tongue, raising eyebrows, wiggle ears, a winker and blinkers.
Greg’s close friend and fellow figure making enthusiast Tyler Ellis (owner of Dapper Dummies), worked his artistic magic in the painting of this beautiful masterpiece.
Greg’s desire to create a unique face with all the markings of a McElroy has resulted in “Jimmy.” Greg started with a clay casting of the Abbotts Magic “Super Deluxe” head and then altered the facial features before constructing a new mold and head casting. Jimmy has the upper lip sneer, weighted side-to-side eyes, raising eyebrows and flapping ears.
Tyler Ellis put the finishing touch on Jimmy with an exquisite paint job.
“JIMMY” — ONE OF A KIND!
Duncan is one of Greg’s most prized McElroy replicas. His mechanical movements include all-direction floating eyes, crossing eyes, upper lip sneer, stick-out tongue, raising eyebrows, wiggle ears, a winker and blinkers.
This fellow is one of a kind. Cast from an original unfinished McElroy head, Duncan bears strong resemblance to the legendary “Dudley,” once owned by Dennis Alwood.
This little fellow is replicated from what most McElroy enthusiasts call the Abbotts "Super Deluxe” figure. He is loaded with mechanical movements.
They include floating side-to-side eyes, crossing eyes, upper lip sneer, stick-out tongue, floating eyebrows, wiggle ears, a winker, blinkers, wiggle nose, light-up nose, and a flip-up fright wig. The various combinations of facial expressions little Johnny can accomplish is in the hundreds. Johnny was completed in 2007 and, like Duncan , comes with his very own McElroy replicated custom travel case.
“GREG’S OTHER FIGURES”
Greg has built five other McElroy style 1. All are in the hands of private collectors. At the immediate left is a variation of the McElroy “Ezry” figure. In the top corner is a mechanized Cecil 2 figure, followed on the bottom 2 rows by 3 “Super Deluxe” replicas with varying amounts of mechanization.
"JOJO"—AN ORIGINAL MCELROY
In August 2014, Greg traveled to Hilo, HI to acquire this gem, an original McElroy ventriloquist dummy. Not only is it rare to find a McElroy figure in any condition, it's even more rare to find one with the original paint, working mechanics, original wig, costume and travel case. Ventriloquist and magician Amos Nakamura named his little friend "Jojo" when he purchased him in 1939 through the Abbott Magic Company. When Nakamura wasn't working at his real estate business, he loved performing with Jojo, primarily for children and for service organizations on the Big Island.
Before they were ventriloquist figure makers, Glenn and George McElroy made marionette puppets. The 1933 movie, King Kong inspired the brothers to create their own version of the star. In fact, they not only built 3 different versions of King Kong, they also built a miniature movie set. Glenn McElroy passed along one of these Kong puppets to his friend Bob Isaacson and then in 2012, Bob shared it with Greg. Greg went through the painstaking process of completely restoring the puppet. More than 30 strings operate the puppet which has moving eyes, raising eyebrows, a wiggle nose, upper lip sneer and a lower lip curl. King Kong is truly a masterpiece.
In 2007, Greg Claassen authored an incredible informational source book entitled, “McElroy Magic, Building a Replica.” Reviewers have called it four books in one. First, this book shares an interesting historical perspective of the construction methods of Glenn and George McElroy, two of the most famous ventriloquist figure makers of the 20th century. Second, Greg tells his personal story of the trials and tribulations of figure making, pitfalls to avoid during the process and tools you’ll need to set up the ideal figure making workshop. Third, this book is loaded with photos that give you a pictorial account of Greg’s figure making journey. Lastly, “McElroy Magic” is an extensive “how to guide” with detailed drawings and pictures for building a replica of these magnificent McElroy ventriloquist figures. All copies of this limited print edition have been sold out however if you have questions about the book please email Greg.