Stanley Burns: Radio Vent

A few scattered word about 20th century magician and ventriloquist Stanley Burns (1919-1998).

Burns, whose real first name was Schlomo, was a friend and cohort of Yeshiva University Professor Abraham Hurwitz, an amateur magician whose daughter became Shari Lewis. Burns was a mentor to Shari, and one of the people who taught her puppetry arts, A performer in vaudeville and night clubs, Burns is widely credited with being the first ventriloquist to rig dummies with radio operated remote control, allowing further movement than was possible with just his two hands, and also allowing the dummy to move on its own once he stepped away. His wooden partners included Cecil, Bruce, sexy Lulu, Uncle Sam, and perhaps his best known, Dr. Lichi. He is known to have appeared in three movies: a 1979 TV documentary called The Art of Ventriloquism, Susan Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan (1985, in those charmining nightclub scenes), and Woody Allen’s Radio Days (1987). His much praised book Other Voices: Ventriloquism from BC to TV, was published by his widow posthumously. His papers reside at The Center for Jewish History.

For more on vaudeville history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.