Shirley Dinsdale

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Shirley Dinsdale
Born October 31, 1926
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Died May 9, 1999(1999-05-09) (aged 72)
Stony Brook, New York, U.S.
Occupation Ventriloquist/Television & Radio personality
Years active 1940 – 1986

Shirley Dinsdale Layburn (October 31, 1926 – May 9, 1999), better known by her maiden name of Shirley Dinsdale, was an American ventriloquist and television and radio personality of the 1940s and early 1950s.

She is best remembered for her dummy, "Judy Splinters", and for the early 15-minute children's television show that bears that name. In 1949, she received the first ever Emmy award (first award in the first presentation) for Outstanding Television Personality when she was a student at UCLA.[1] After her television career, she also achieved success in a second career as a cardiopulmonary therapist.

Early life[edit]

Shirley was born in San Francisco, California in 1926. After being badly burned in a household accident, she was given a ventriloquist's dummy by her artist father as part of her recovery. That dummy, which she named Judy Splinters, inspired her to make her break into radio. In 1940, at the age of fourteen, she made her start on local San Francisco radio with a show entitled Judy in Wonderland. Two years later, in 1942, she and her family moved to Los Angeles and she was given a spot on Eddie Cantor's radio program.

During World War II, she was an active member of the Hollywood Victory Committee. After the war, she made her break into the budding television industry on KTLA (also in Los Angeles) doing show announcements, birthday greetings, and small spots. These spots, while not initially prominent, garnered her critical acclaim and her Emmy award. (The award was given jointly to both her and her puppet.) After receiving the award, she was given her own Western-themed weekly children's show (entitled simply Judy Splinters) which ran from 1949 to 1950. In the years following, she also had shows in both Chicago and New York City.

Post-Ventriloquism Career[edit]

In 1953, she embarked on the second phase of her life: getting married and retiring from show business. In 1966 she enrolled at the State University of New York at Stony Brook to study respiratory and cardiopulmonary therapy.

In 1958 she appeared as a guest challenger on the TV panel show "To Tell The Truth".

She served as the head of the Respiratory Therapy Department at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, New York from 1973 to her second retirement in 1986.[citation needed]


She died from cancer, aged 72, in 1999. On May 9, 2011, she was joined by her husband following complications from hip surgery.[citation needed]


  1. ^ To Tell the Truth. Originally aired April 15, 1958 on CBS. Rebroadcast on the Game Show Network on February 2, 2009.

External links[edit]