In the grand scheme of showbiz, talking puppets seem better suited for children’s television than a Las Vegas showroom. That’s probably why, in 2007, ventriloquist Terry Fator—booked to perform at a county fair—took to the stage but there was only one person in the audience. Producers on The Strip wrote him off.
Later, in Los Angeles for a convention gig, Fator had a couple of free hours at the same time auditions were being held for America’s Got Talent. His puppet show was unique enough that, several months later, he was crowned the winner.
The celebrity status that came with that victory propelled the ventriloquist back to Vegas. This time, however, he had a multi-year contract worth millions of dollars at The Mirage. Today, he and his entourage perform five nights a week.
Following his career’s turnaround, Fator published his autobiography, which he fittingly titled Who’s the Dummy Now?
How do you determine what new characters to add to the show?
I create characters specifically for the songs I want to do. For example, Vikki the Cougar is an older lady who loves younger guys. And she sings a lot of the female vocals, such as Tracy Chapman, Eartha Kitt and the Eurythmics.
You have a new puppet in the show this year, right?
Yes. His name is Monty Carlo and he is a lounge singer who does Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, and we basically do Rat Pack songs with him. And then I’m adding another new puppet who’ll be doing Sammy Davis, Jr.
Do you have a favourite “get-away-from-it-all” destination?
Hawaii. My wife’s Hawaiian. She was born in Honolulu, so that’s going home.
Any particular recommendations for visitors to Oahu?
We love eating pork hash. It’s kind of like a sausage dumpling and we get it from a place called Libby’s [Libby Manapua Shop in Honolulu]. We’ll fly in on a red-eye and go straight to Libby’s and get three dozen pork hash and stuff ourselves for the rest of the day. Turtle Bay Resort [on the North Shore] is really nice. We spend a lot of time on the North Shore. We like to go to Haleiwa for some shaved ice and to Haleiwa Joe’s for something to eat.
What about in Vegas? Do you have a restaurant you recommend?
We’re pretty much homebodies and I’ve become a bit of a health nut. However, the one restaurant I highly recommend is Kokomo’s at The Mirage. That’s not just product placement, either, since I perform there. It’s spectacular. When we have special guests, we’ll take them there. Steve Whitmire, who’s the voice of Kermit the Frog, came to see the show and we took him to Kokomo’s. The food’s great and the atmosphere is great.
To what do you owe your large Canadian following?
The year that I was on America’s Got Talent, I got loads of emails from Canadians saying they wished they could vote, but weren’t able to. Canadians are incredibly supportive of what I do. The following is beyond what I could have conceived. In the next year or two, we’re going to do some shows, a tour, in Canada. We’ve already started talking about it, and I’m looking forward to it.