Terry Fator Biography: In His Own Words – Video Exclusive, News, Photos
Terry Fator Biography
Famed ventriloquist and impressionist Terry Fator was born June 10, 1965 in Dallas, Tex., to Jeptha and Edith Fator. He has two siblings — sister Deborah and brother Jeptha Jr.
Fator became interested in ventriloquy in the fifth grade, while searching for a book on Valentine’s Day for a school project. He came across Paul Winchell’s Ventriloquism For Fun And Profit and avidly began learning about the art. He purchased a Willie Talk dummy a few weeks later and soon after won a prize for his ventriloquy at a church picnic.
Fator entertained his family and friends for years with his ventriloquy and impressions, though he didn’t get his first professional-quality puppet until he was 18. He perfected his impressions and ventriloquy by practicing in the car.
“Some of the people that were the big influences were obviously the ventriloquists that I grew up with,” Fator told Uinterview.com exclusively. “People like Paul Winchell. Jimmy Nelson was a big one. I had his album and where he taught us how to do ventriloquism. I was a big fan of Jeff Dunham growing up! When I was 10, I got to meet him I had only started a few months earlier and I got to meet Jeff and so he was a big influence. Jay Johnson who was on Soap. Dan Horn, you can look up all these people Shari Lewis, Willie Tyler and Lester.”
Terry Fator In Freedom Jam, Texas The Band
Before he began ventriloquy professionally, Fator was the lead singer of the band Freedom Jam from 1987-1988. The band toured over 200 high schools and middle schools across North America.
In 1988, Fator became the lead singer of the band Texas the Band, and incorporated his ventriloquy into the show. “We would do music and I would do singing impressions,” Fator told Uinterview exclusively. “I would have characters come out and they would sing and do impressions as well.”
The band nearly signed with a major recording label, but when Fator was asked not to do impressions and just sing in his regular voice, he hated it and decided to turn down the offer. “I loved being in the band. It was a lot of fun, but I don’t miss them at all not at all,” Fator told Uinterview. “One of the big things was five of us we were constantly arguing over what was going to be best for the band and what was going to be the best for all of us, and I like being a solo entertainer because I don’t have anybody to argue with if I want to do something I do it.”
Terry Fator: Ventriloquist Before ‘America’s Got Talent’
Fator pursued a solo career that combined ventriloquy and comedy after seeing an impressionist in 2005, but found little success.
Fator almost gave up ventriloquy, as there were few ventriloquists in history taken seriously, but his family’s support encouraged him to enter the America’s Got Talent competition. Before the competition, however, Fator used his talents to open for Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Styx and Neal McCoy.
Terry Fator ‘America’s Got Talent’
Fator entered the second season of America’s Got Talent hoping to make it far enough to make the talk show circuit, like the ventriloquist from the first season. He auditioned with his puppet Winston the Impersonating Turtle. “My favorite impression would have to be ‘At Last’ and I think the reason ‘At Last’ by Etta James, is because that really was the one impression that completely was the game changer for me,” Fator told Uinterview.com exclusively. “When I walked out on America’s Got Talent, I had a little puppet with me and all of a sudden that puppet opens its mouth, and I gotta say all of the expectations were very low because they didn’t expect much from ventriloquists, and then the puppet walks out and goes [as Winston] ‘At last, my love has come along!’ And when that happened, everything changed for me.”
Before the competition’s end, Fator performed for Christian rock star Larry Norman’s 60th birthday and flew him out to America’s Got Talent tapings.
Fator went on to win the competition. “I was totally not expecting to win it,” Fator told Uinterview. “I thought Winston [puppet] and I would get on 2-3 episodes, and I was okay with that.”
Terry Fator After ‘America’s Got Talent’
Almost immediately following his win on America’s Got Talent, Fator was signed by the Las Vegas Hilton. “My dream since I was 15 was to be a Vegas entertainer,” Fator told Uinterview.com excitedly. “While I was there the people at the Mirage came out and saw me and it literally changed my life.” While he was happy to have won the prize money, it wasn’t his favorite thing to come of winning the show, but rather it was the ”opportunity to be seen and to become the Vegas headliner that I dreamed of since I was 15.”
Fator performed three shows a month at the Hilton from January-May 2008 for $1.5 million. The Mirage signed him to a five-year $100 million contract that had Fator performing nightly. The theater was renamed the Terry Fator Theatre.
Fator appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show with infamous judge Simon Cowell. Fator was floored when Cowell referred to him as one of the two most talented people on the planet.
Fator returned to America’s Got Talent in 2008 as a guest for the Top Twenty Results Show, performing Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” with Winston. In 2011 he returned again to perform at the show’s finale with soul singer puppet Julius. In 2013 he returned for a third time to perform at the Top 12 results show.
In 2013 Fator voiced a character on Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse and celebrated performing 1,000 shows at the Mirage Hotel.
Terry Fator Dating History, Personal Life
Fator is married to Taylor Makakoa, who appeared on his first DVD as his onstage assistant and was credited as Taylor Dew. Fator and Makakoa were married November 3, 2010, which was one day after his divorce to first wife Melinda Fator was finalized. Their wedding ceremony was held in Hawaii on Nov. 7. Melinda and Fator had been married since 1991. Melinda filed for divorce in 2009 and 2010.
Fator is a supporter of the Ronald McDonald House Charity and a member of the charity’s board.
In 2008 Fator wrote the book Who’s The Dummy Now. He has two DVDs, Terry Fator: Live from Las Vegas and Terry Fator: Live In Concert.
Fator and Makakoa supported Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.
Get Terry Fator: Live From Las Vegas here: