A Conversation with Terry Fator
HULICK: You celebrated your second anniversary as a Vegas headliner in March. Has it been everything you thought it would be?
FATOR: Everything and more! Itís been phenomenal. And I canít begin to tell you what a wonderful gift it is to sleep in the same bed every night. I spent more than 20 years traveling all over the country, spending nine to 10 months every single year in hotel rooms. I have a routine for the first time in my life. My wife is my assistant on stage and we go to the show together, we eat before the show, we do the show, we go home, walk our dogs and then watch a movie. Itís so nice.
HULICK: How have things changed as far as the initial surreal feeling of performing in Vegas?
FATOR: It took me about a year-and-a-half to get used to seeing the billboards and the taxicabs with my face on them. I guess when you see that day after day it becomes commonplace when itís your normal daily job, which is amazing. But I will say this: The one thing that hasnít changed at all is the excitement of stepping out on that stage in front of those people. It feels just like the first day I stepped on that stage at the Mirage. I take my job very seriously and it never has been about the fame and money; itís always been about those people. My driving force has always been about having an audience to perform for that was eager and anxious to see what I could do, and thatís what I have now. Thatís what I am most grateful for in my career. In my personal life I am most grateful for my wife, her family and my family. When we leave this planet itís not going to be about the job or how famous we were; we look at how close we were to our families.
HULICK: Do you watch ďAmericaís Got TalentĒ now?
FATOR: Of course I do! My wife didnít and now I make her watch it every time itís on (laughs). She didnít even watch me, so when we met she had no idea who I was, so I forced her to watch it (laughs). I love the show. I just canít get enough of it.
HULICK: This all started for you at a young age, when you picked up a book on ventriloquism. Was it then all your idea to create the puppets and name them or did someone else do that for you?
FATOR: I create all of my puppets and name them. Itís all out of my head. Occasionally Iíll have a puppet that somebody else suggested, but even if they do I take it from there and create the characters, the voices and the comedy. I decide what theyíre going to be. Usually what I do is get a puppet and Iíll name it after I have it in my hands. Itís really hard for me to come up with a name before I have it my hands because I want the name to match the character. So like with ďWinston the Impersonating Turtle,Ē I just ordered a turtle on the Internet and as soon as the box came and I opened it I said, ďOh, this is Winston the Impersonating Turtle.Ē I just knew it. I guess all the characters are somewhere in my head waiting to come out.
HULICK: What an imagination you have. You must be so fun to have at a party or dinner.
FATOR: (Laughs) Yes, Iíve always had quite an imagination; poor mom (laughs). I think some people think I am, but my family is tired of all my stuff (laughs).
HULICK: Could you tell me about your newest puppet, Berry Fabulous?
FATOR: I had one of these flashes of inspiration and I started looking at my show and thinking of what I do not do and I realized I donít do any of the great divasóespecially the gay icons like Barbra Streisand, Cher and Judy Garlandóand I didnít have a character in my show that could really pull that off. So I decided to create a gay character that would be incredibly flashy and just fabulous; thatís where I came up with the name. I certainly didnít want this to be insensitive to my gay fans so I enlisted a gay friend to help me write the routine and make sure everything was ďgay approvedĒ (laughs).
HULICK: How do you sing without moving your lips on songs by Guns ĎN Roses or Black Sabbath? Those lead singers are very loud and I canít imagine how tough it is to project your voice like that without moving your lips.
FATOR: You know, it is very taxing on my voice. Originally I was asked to do two shows on Fridays and Saturdays and I had to say no because my voice would not handle it. My voice doctor has said that what I do with my voice should be physically impossible. I break every single rule of vocalization and singing. Why or how I do it, I have no idea; but I do know at the end of a 90-minute show my voice is exhausted. But regardless of the fact that I am physically exhausted, both body- and voice-wise, I wake up the next morning ready to do it again.
HULICK: You were named a featured celebrity for a week in May of the ďBoot Campaign,Ē a national initiative in support of military members and their families.
FATOR: Yes, I was. I just feel itís so incredibly important for all of us to remember the sacrifice that our military makes. Realizing itís a volunteer force, they are not drafted. Itís really easy for all of us who sit and benefit from this great freedom we enjoy here in America to forget why we have this freedom. Itís because of the brave men and women who serve. I just canít thank them enough and I want them to always feel that gratitude from me. I also work with an organization that helps those that have been wounded in action and the families of our fallen heroes, and another that seeks out veterans who have lost contact with family who might be homeless or alone and they find someone for them if they are in the last stages of their life and help them reconnect so they donít die alone. I am very proud to be part of these incredible and passionate organizations.
HULICK: Once you won ďAmericaís Got TalentĒ things changed completely for you, and very quickly. Any advice for someone who is struggling as you did for years on how to handle the success when it happens?
FATOR: The best thing I can say is if you have a dream, never stop working toward that dream. As long as you keep doing that, the dream will stay alive no matter how old you get. And the best way to handle the success when it comes is to not buy into the nonsense: Youíre not greater than any other person out there, no matter what anybody tells you; and it can be difficult because people start fawning all over you when you become successful in this business, but I can promise you the reason they do that is because they want something from you. So just donít buy into the hype, and realize youíre no better than anybody else out there and that will keep you grounded.