Terry Fator enters his fourth year at The Mirage with surprises for returning fans.
By Matt Kelemen
Life isn’t all fun and games for Terry Fator. His longtime second banana, Winston the Impersonating Turtle, has reportedly been running up a tab at “The Turtle Ranch” in an undisclosed location in Las Vegas. One of the newest cast members of his show, the former “impact-assessment consultant” (read: crash-test dummy) Wrex, is having a little eye trouble. Other than that, Las Vegas’ pre-eminent headlining ventriloquist is on top of the world, about to observe his fourth anniversary at The Mirage and celebrate the extension of his run at Terry Fator Theatre until 2016. He’s also enjoying the benefits of a healthy diet and becoming increasingly skillful at handling the pack of pet dogs he and wife Taylor Makakoa take for daily walks.
That shouldn’t be surprising though, since Fator earns a living handling multiple personalities in front of thousands of people each week. Las Vegas visitors who haven’t seen his show in a while might notice some new characters joining longtime Fator associates such as would-be country singer Walter T. Airdale, self-described “world’s greatest Elvis impersonator” Maynard Tompkins and vivacious vixen Vikki the Cougar. Tompkins has competition now from lounge lizard Monty Carlo (who has edged out Johnny Vegas), and Wrex gets a turn in the spotlight to sing the Ides of March’s horn-driven one-hit wonder “Vehicle.”
The cast now includes its first gay character, Berry Fabulous, an “entertainment lawyer and singing diva” who hasn’t quite become self-aware yet. “He doesn’t know he’s gay, although it’s pretty obvious to the rest of us,” says Fator, who develops his handheld co-stars with highly skilled designers. “That’s one of the best parts of the success that I’ve had,” he says. “If I come up with an idea for a puppet, I can actually do it. And that’s wonderful. That’s the biggest thing for me, is my creativity is no longer shackled by my lack of funds. I just can’t tell you how important that is as an artist, a person who creates and does things.”
Fator discovered his gift for making impressions when he was 6, and by age 12 had turned an interest in ventriloquism into a lifelong passion. The future winner of America’s Got Talent honed his singing talent before making a do-or-die commitment to Walter, Maynard and Vikki, eventually fusing his two talents. Fator’s show now runs Monday through Thursday, allowing him to book weekend dates and test out new material on the road.
Fator’s relationship with his writers is more important than ever. “We have parts of the show that will be new to people who haven’t seen us for the past two years,” he says, including a turn in the spotlight for Makakoa, who performs a Hawaiian dance that pays tribute to her heritage. Still, Fator hasn’t had a chance yet to consider how he’ll celebrate his fifth anniversary as a headliner next year. “I haven’t even had time to think about it,” he says, as if the thought just occurred to him. “It’s coming up fast, isn’t it?”