Today: A man who built a wonderful business by doing what he loved.
Many people dream of becoming entrepreneurs, while others want to be entertainers and learn to tell jokes, act or sing. Steve Meltzer’s dream was to do all of these things.
So in 1998, Steve started a business, one that let him to entertain children and their families and he called it the Santa Monica Puppetry Center, for he was a puppeteer.
It was a one man theater and puppet museum and it became very popular. Shows included hand puppets and often marionettes and ventriloquist dummies and an audience sing-along.
Eventually, Steve had over 400 puppets, any of whom were happy to entertain.
He also ran a profitable puppet restoration business and did contract work in Hollywood such as his marionette work in the 2004 movie, “Team America: World Police,” made by the creators of the famous television series, “South Park.”
What was Steve’s background? Trained as a school teacher, including a Masters Degree from the University of California (Irvine), Steve taught third and fifth grade students in the Los Angeles School District. He was also a stage actor, performing in local theaters.
But as a boy, he loved watching the highly popular ventriloquist team of Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney on television. Winchell was made of flesh and blood and had a quick wit.
His partner Mahoney was made of wood and a cute little outfit and sat on Winchell’s lap or along side him and got most of the laughs. The show was done so well, that for millions of children like Steve, Mahoney was real and very funny.
Steve’s childhood love of their show left an indelible impression. Many years later, while teaching school, on the side he began doing puppet shows at children’s parties. Their laughter and the joy it brought them gradually led him to doing puppetry full-time.
But after a long 11 year run, in 2009, the Recession had taken too great a toll and he reluctantly brought the Santa Monica Puppetry Center to an end. However, it was his life and just two hours after his final performance, he had a stroke. Steve passed away three months later at the age of 56.
Yet Steve had accomplished his dream and lived his life on his own terms. And as an entertainer, he brought laughter and happiness to thousands of children and their families.
Maybe some day one of those children will follow in Steve’s footsteps just as Steve did in Paul Winchell’s and create entertainment bringing joy to tens of thousands of children.
Success Tip of the Week:
If you have an unfulfilled dream, act on it at least part-time as Steve at first did. You can then find out if it is really right for you.
Steve is survived by his mother and two sisters. To learn more about him, please see two Los Angeles Times pieces at: latimes.com and
To find out more about the Winchell-Mahoney shows, please see: http://www.tvparty.com/lostmahoney.html
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