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Saturday, September 13
No Strings Attached
By LISA INTRABARTOLA
Pete Michaels' appearance in the movie "Dummy" is one of the smartest career moves the Staten Island, N.Y. native has ever made.
You can catch a glimpse of the veteran ventriloquist alongside Academy Award-winning actor Adrien Brody in the new release, which opened yesterday.
But just because Michaels is a big shot in the world of ventriloquism, doesn't mean he's bailing out on the little people -- the ones without hands up their backs. To prove it, he's taking the stage at 9pm tonight in Sayreville to launch the Step Inn Tavern and Ballroom's first comedy night.
As it turns out, Step Inn entertainment director John Romano used to book Michaels with occasional gigs back in the day. For the bar's first foray into comedy, Romano decided to call in his favorite. Michaels says he doesn't mind helping out an old friend.
"I run the gamut. I work everything," he says.
And he's not kidding: It's not uncommon for Michaels to schlep his props from comedy clubs in Connecticut to senior citizen events in Wildwood -- all in one weekend. Tonight, he's bringing along his pals Buddy, a little Italian kid from Brooklyn, and Mr. Johnson, an old, crotchety black puppet, who won over an Apollo theater crowd.
"They loved me. I had a black dummy, and all he did was insult the white guy. what's not to love?"
What makes a limp doll on a guy's lap so funny?
"There's the suspension of disbelief." They want to believe the little guy is real and is doing all these things," he says. "It's actually funnier coming out of a puppet. I say things through a puppet that I could never get away with on my own."
With ventriloquism in the midst of a resurgence, Michaels, who has been making a living performing the art for more than two decades, has been busy.
In exchange for one of his instructional videos, Michaels was offered the cameo in Brody's new movie, in which the Oscar winner plays a shy guy using a dummy to communicate with his crush. Michaels' big silver-screen scene comes when Brady's character attends a ventriloquism class, where Michaels' character is a fellow student. How big a part is it?
"Well, don't go to the bathroom," he says with a laugh. "The scene is maybe ten minutes long, I think."
OK, so Michaels' name isn't on the marquee next to Brody's, but it's still not a bad addition to his resume, which includes an NBA.com commercial, appearances on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" and a gig as a featured performer in an HBO documentary on ventriloquism due out this winter.
Veteran ventriloquist Pete Michaels, above, appears in "Dummy," starring
Adrien Brody, top. "Dummy" opened yesterday.
All Content, Materials, Images, Photos & Original Characters Copyright: Pete Michaels