Terry Fator and Duggie Scott Walker
photo by Tom Donahoe
“Christmas is a time of joy,” says Terry Fator. “I feel joy is something that everyone needs. People get to be kids at Christmas. I can be that every day – I’ve never had to grow up. But I’m even more of a child at Christmas.”
That is the gift the renowned puppeteer/ventriloquist/impressionist gives to his audiences with his annual Christmas show, “A Very Terry Christmas,” in his theater home at the Mirage. From a revolving door of party “guests” ranging from a turtle who occasionally gets a little frog in his throat (that would be Kermit, thank you very much)) to a stoner who has created his own “Juana” holiday and follows it up with a few too many “Juana” brownies in Fator’s kitchen, Fator is up to his elbows (literally) in the holiday hilarity, singing, spirit, and fun.
Fator’s right-on singing impersonations and ventriloquism include classics such as “Winter Wonderland,” “Sleigh Ride” and “White Christmas” and some original Christmas tunes written by him and Pete Mitchell, one of his two writers and his graphics designer. While Fator comes up with the main ideas for the show and his puppets, his two writers help punch up the characters.
“A Very Terry Christmas” also features Fator’s wife Angie (who obviously bakes good brownies), pre-show star Ben Harris, and Terry’s most lovable characters: Winston, the Impersonating Turtle (who, at one point, even imitates his idol, Kermit the Frog); Vikki “The Cougar;” country legend Walter T. Airdale; Duggie Scott Walker, the stoner (who comes dressed as the Easter Bunny to the fete); Emma Taylor; the world’s greatest Elvis impersonator Maynard Tompkins; Latin lover Fernando V Francisco (the V stands for Viagra); “Elton John;” “Donald Trump;” “Michael Jackson,” and a special performance by “Bing Crosby” and “David Bowie” together.
Additionally, this year’s holiday surprise is the debut of three brand-new celebrity characters: Justin Bieber; Dolly Parton, and Ozzie Osbourne.
“I had a friend who made my Michael Jackson puppet,“ Fator explains. “He called me three years ago and said that he wanted to make a puppet with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. It took us three years to put it together. Dolly is the angel and Ozzie is the devil and the devil wins out. Justin sings in the Christmas show while Dolly and Ozzie will sing more in my 10th anniversary show in March.”
He added: “For the Christmas show, I look forward to doing Duggie more than any other character. In my regular show, I look forward to performing Maynard Tompkins more than any other, Of course, by far, my favorite is Winston. He is my inner child. He is the epitome of innocence and sweetness.”
Speaking of goodness, last year Fator, who has always contributed to organization like Snowball Express, which is dedicated to veteran causes, started The Terry Fator Foundation. While the majority of the proceeds still go to military and first responders, it also has branched out into helping causes such as cancer, Opportunity Village, arthritis (which took the life of Fator’s sister), and the Nevada School for the Blind.
“I want to help as many people as I can,” sums up Fator, who donates 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of his memorabilia to his foundation. “My father always wanted to be an evangelist. My job is to be an evangelist of joy to my craft and my audiences.”
Fator, as you may remember, was the winner of Season 2 of “America’s Got Talent.” He says that he always assumed when he was younger that he would get to the place he is at now and that he would get discovered. But when he turned 40, he began to think that it wasn’t going to happen and that he would be performing at country fairs the rest of his life. Then, when he was 42, the TV competition show happened and the rest is showbiz history.
Despite his success, having had a very difficult childhood, Fator says that he didn’t begin to heal from his past until he met and married his third and current wife, Angie, three years ago.
“She gives me unconditional love,” he relates. “She adores me. She heals me in ways I never knew with my other two wives. I’ve always been a giver but I have been surrounded by takers. It took me more than a year and a half with Angie to realize that someone can make you breakfast in the morning without wanting something in return as my previous wives did. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
“A Very Terry Christmas” goes to show that when it comes to the spirit of giving. the shoe fits all the way around.