-I’ll be honest with you,
growing up, I hated “Pinocchio” and lumped marionettes
into the same category as ventriloquist dummies, which means I was
completely terrified of them. But I recently met
two very special people who replaced my anxieties
with a love and admiration for this ancient art. I’m Erin Cantelo,
and this is “SubCultures.” [email protected][email protected]! -Right now you’re up in
my hidden, hidden sanctuary. I have a lot of hidden drawings
in boxes and things. We own the corner here,
and we have the theater, and then we have
a warehouse next to it. There are over 3,000 puppets
in that warehouse. I saw my first show
when I was 6. I went to
a local department store, and we saw the first show
of the day. And because
of certain intriguing things, we saw all six performances. I was in dramatic classes. I was taking piano lessons,
two different kinds of dancing. And my mother said,
“What does he do about learning how to work these things?” By the time I was 8,
I acquired enough puppets to do a half an hour show. I was now an entertainer. [ Laughs ] [ Classical music plays ] I had a business partner
for 50 years — Alton Wood. We traveled all over. Alton was much taller than I am. He had a wonderful laugh. “I’d like to go on your show that you’re gonna be doing
over at RKO.” He says, “I want to see what
you do when you’re on film.” After the filming was over,
he said, “Let me take care of all
of your books and your business, and you build your puppets.
We’ll take shows out.” From that point on,
for 50 years, we performed together
and built shows and did motion pictures,
television. -At the age of 7,
I was helping my uncle. He was Bob’s gardener. And that was actually the first
time that I saw a puppet. What I really love
about puppeteering is getting the crowd
into your show and really making them laugh
and having a good time. [ Ding-dong! ]
[ Laughter ] Just that feeling after —
It’s a very good feeling. -I think that was
the whole thing, really. I figured that this was
a good way to make people laugh. [ Up-tempo piano plays ] [ Cheers and applause ] -When I was 16, I had a tumor growing on the right side
of my cheek, which didn’t allow me
to hear or smell or taste. [ Balloon pops ] Had a good life.
I was never sick. And then out of nowhere,
I become sick. After I had surgery,
that was almost the time — That was my senior year. I went into
a kind of depression, and I was really down
in my own little bubble. I didn’t want to express myself. For me,
if I will see another puppeteer, I always feel like,
“Why did he build that puppet?” And the reason I say is if
you see most of Bob’s puppets, he has something
that he has put in there that’s related to himself. Honestly, after coming
and working for Bob and helping him out
and just knowing that you could project yourself,
project other characters through puppets
was amazing for me. And that was kind of my way
of coming back. -Now that I’ve gotten to be 88,
I don’t know how to act. I’ve never been 88 before. I’d love to be down here
every day and being able to do things
and the thrill, especially. -Bob’s plan is to transform the whole block
into this great place. There’s gonna be
the puppet studio. There’s gonna be
the theater itself. It’s gonna be a gallery. We’re gonna have another
second theater for puppeteers that are coming
out of the country or any performance
coming out of the country. A lot of classes — Puppeteer
classes, building puppets. -I have a few little tricks that other puppeteers
aren’t us– haven’t used. Those are the things
that I want to pass on to somebody else
very desperately. -This has been around
for so long. It’s been a tradition,
and we don’t want it just kind of fade out
and, you know, be lost. [email protected][email protected]! -When you go to the theater,
you pay your admission and you watch a show
with really nothing other than a piece of paper
in your hand. But you take home the idea
that goes on that stage, the illusion, the fantasy,
the love, the drama, the music. And you’ll always have it. You’ll have it forever. I did that when I went —
was 6 years old. And I’m still talking about it.