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Tony Borders likes to tell people that he quit teaching so he could play with dolls. When he heads off in the morning he tells his wife, "I'm going to go play" instead of going to work. If this sounds like a lot of double talk, that's okay, because Borders is a ventriloquist.

When he was 12 years old he saw a puppeteer in a kids' crusade at his home church. Two years later he chose to do an oral report in his 9th grade English class by using ventriloquism he had learned from a Jimmy Nelson record. His puppet was a toy versison of Willie Tyler's Lester from hamburger commercials. The teacher enjoyed it so much she sent him to the elementary next door to perform in two more classrooms.

Tony Borders is a valuable contributor to the
Axtell Customer Discussion Forum.

Borders then became hooked on puppetry and put down ventriloquism for 14 years. Until one day he bought a camel puppet with legs and found it too difficult to use behind a curtain. He started using ventriloquism again and the camel became the favorite part of the show. For 10 years he taught school and performed during the summer months at churches and in kids' crusades. Then he left teaching to go into children's evangelism full-time. For the next 7 years he averaged nearly 300 programs per year in several states and Pacific Rim countries, going overseas once per year to assist missionary organizations.

During his traveling he met his future wife, Nancy, and decided to settle down in the Sacramento area. Gene Cordova, a ventriloquist friend, gave Tony an Axtell Bear for a wedding present. He would open the show with the bear and by the end people were always asking to see the bear again! He started getting calls, "We want you back, but you've got to bring that bear with you." Soon the bear was taking over skits formerly done by other puppets and he was hearing, "you make him come alive" and "he reminds me of Disney's Country Bear Jamboree". As the personality of the bear developed he began opening and closing each program.

But the Axtell bear, named Gladly the Cross Eyed Bear, by Borders, is not in every show. One year he was asked by libraries if he had an Australian theme. He said, I can do one if I get at least five libraries to book it, and he sent them a flyer with pictures of the Axtell Kangaroo and Dodo, which he called the kingfisher, an Australian bird. He added the orangutan and lion and wrote it up as Animals Around the World. Fifty-five libraries booked the show that first year and it has become his Animal Birthday Safari for parties, a creation show for churches, and a "You are Special" show for award ceremonies. The skits are the same, but he changes a few tricks and overall theme for the different topics.

With many libraries wanting a winter theme Borders also bought a polar bear. His next purchase may be the snowman, to really wow the libraries with a winter theme mailout.

Many of you may have met Tony Borders at I-Fest, the International Festival of Christian Puppetry and Ventriloquism, where he has judged competitions, lectured and assisted in the Axtell booth. He is also a regular contributor on the Axtell Customer Discussion Forum, giving tips from booking shows to buying backdrops.

He is inspired by several ventriloquists who show unique strengths: Ronn Lucas for creativity, Gene Cordova for humor, Liz VonSeggen and Dennis Lee for voices, Kevin of Legoland for talent, Mark Thompson for showmanship and singing, and so many more!

His goal is to eventually sing with a puppet, but he has yet to find a partner who can remember all the words.

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