Ventriloquist Terry Fator comes home this week

Terry Fator

8 p.m. Saturday

WinStar World Casino

777 Casino Ave., Thackerville, Okla.

$40-$75; for tickets, go to

Posted 7:17am on Sunday, Apr. 21, 2013

Terry Fator talks a good game, but we suspect there's an ulterior motive for his booking a Saturday performance at WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla.

The ventriloquist and singer -- a Dallas native who was the 2007 America's Got Talent champ -- has been the popular headliner at the Mirage hotel and casino in Las Vegas since 2008.

Yet instead of allowing himself to relax next weekend, he's choosing to hit the road, with a Friday show at L'Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles, La., and the Saturday gig at WinStar.

"The main reason I still travel is I don't want to be known just as a Vegas entertainer," Fator says. "I love being in Vegas. It's been the most amazing time of my life.

"But I also want to be sure my show stays relevant everywhere. So I bring my show out to the fans who can't come to Vegas to see me. It keeps it feeling fresh and new and exciting."

Fair enough, but when Fator talks about his love for North Texas, he reveals what might be a hidden agenda for the trip.

"Any time I come through Dallas, I'm like, 'Do we have time to stop at El Fenix?'" he says. "I've eaten there ever since I was a little kid. That's my go-to place."

Surely it's no coincidence that there's an El Fenix inside WinStar, the only one located outside Texas.

Busted. Fator does it for the fans but also to satisfy a hankering for classic Tex-Mex.

Here's more from the 47-year-old "Human Jukebox."

Does it boggle your mind, all the success you've experienced since winning America's Got Talent?

It does, absolutely. Sometimes I have to pinch myself and wonder if I'm going to wake up. Although I will say I have finally gotten used to seeing myself on the billboards and passing cabs. It took me a couple of years where, whenever I would see a cab with me on it, I would say, "Hey, that's my cab."

But you eventually get used to it. I suppose you pretty much get used to anything, right? Of course, I actually got into a cab once that had my stuff on it and the driver didn't even recognize me.

Your shows feature high-tech production values -- lights, music, a high-definition big screen -- but your act is simply making a puppet character look like it can talk. Why all the fancy whistles and bells?

It's all about enhancing the enjoyment of what you see. There's a high-definition camera on me, so the audience can make sure my mouth isn't moving and so they can see the expressions of the puppets.

We put it on a big screen so everyone in the audience has a good seat. The lighting shows and all that, that just goes to enhance what you're seeing. But you're right. It's ultimately just a guy and a puppet.

Which is more important in making an act like yours work? Do you have to master the art of not moving your lips, first and foremost, or can you do it on the strength of memorable characters and material?

Well, the fact that Edgar Bergen was a popular ventriloquist on the radio suggests that it's all about the characters. That's what people fell in love with when he did it. He created great characters and would do wonderful voices that were real to those in the audience.

But I think it's a combination. I think it's just too big of a distraction for people if you don't master the lip movement. Think about it. The first thing everybody does when they watch a ventriloquist is they say, "Do his lips move?" And if they do move, they're going to say he's not very good.

If you hadn't made your big breakthrough on America's Got Talent and landed the contract with the Mirage, would you love what you do just as much, even though you would be doing it in relative anonymity and with much less financial success?

I would. There was a time right before America's Got Talent called me. I had auditioned but hadn't heard back. I auditioned in October of 2006. They said I would hear whether I was on the show before winter was over. It was spring of 2007 and I hadn't heard anything, so I thought I did not make it.

Then, in early spring of 2007, I had done a showcase for three producers in Las Vegas to try to sell my show in Vegas. All three said I would never be a Vegas entertainer, that I didn't have what it took. I was incredibly disappointed. I was crushed. Because my dream was to play Vegas.

But I resigned myself to accepting where I was. I said, "I still get to do what I love for a living. Even though I'm not getting famous, I still do what I love and that's a real gift." And it was about a week later that I got the call from America's Got Talent.

Do you think your success was the reward for no longer being desperate for success?

Yeah, I think that's definitely a possibility. No doubt.

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