Paul Winchell was an American ventriloquist and voice actor, whose career flourished in the 1950s and 1960s. During the mid-1960s, he hosted the children’s television show Winchell-Mahoney Time. Winchell was also an amateur inventor, becoming the first person to build and patent a mechanical, artificial heart, implantable in the chest cavity. He has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in television.
Winchell was born Paul Wilchinsky in New York City, New York, the son of Solomon and Clara Wilchinsky. His father was a tailor; his grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Poland and Austria-Hungary.
He was not related to radio commentator and gossip columnist Walter Winchell, whose real last name was Winschel.
Winchell’s best-known ventriloquist dummies were Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff. Mahoney was carved by Chicago-based figure maker Frank Marshall. Sometime later Winchell had basswood copies of Jerry’s head made by a commercial duplicarving service. One became the upgraded Jerry Mahoney that is seen primarily throughout Winchell’s television career. He modified two other copies to create Knucklehead Smiff. The original Marshall Jerry Mahoney and one of the Knucklehead Smiffs are in storage at the Smithsonian Institution. The other two figures are in the collection of illusionist David Copperfield.