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ENTERTAINMENT NEWS : Ventriloquism Joins the Space Age : * David Strassman will use robotics, lighting and lasers when he performs next week at Universal CityWalk.


David Strassman first learned to be a ventriloquist in junior high school in the 1970s, but now he is pushing the age-old art into the 1990s.

"Capt. Dave's Space Adventure" comes to Wizards on the Universal CityWalk for a week's run, starting Monday. In the family-oriented show, Strassman combines ventriloquism with the technology of the 1990s: robotics, lighting, lasers and CD-quality sound.

"When you think of a ventriloquist, you think of a guy with a bow tie and an ugly-looking, handmade puppet," Strassman said. "My creatures are made with latex foam, the same stuff movie special-effects people use."

Strassman said what he calls his "animatronic" characters move on their own, but they have no wires, so he's able to pick them up and carry them, thus increasing the illusion of life. Strassman emphasizes that this is a live, constantly changing show. He says he does about 85% of the voices live on stage.

"The show, for all its high-tech--lasers, sound, smoke--retains an all-American wholesomeness," he said.

Although he has performed successfully for adults in comedy clubs for years, his future is in family entertainment, Strassman added.

"It's so much fun," he said. "It's really the way I want to go. I love entertaining kids."

MAKING "MONEY": Tonto & Dietz coffee cabaret had scheduled Murray Schisgal's comedy "Luv" as the third offering in its new play-reading series, but failed to secure the performing rights. As a result, producer Marilyn Shapiro and director Joseph R. Sicari are considering replacing it with Jerry Sterner's "Other People's Money," a dark comedy about the corporate takeovers of the 1980s.

"The play is very exciting and suspenseful, with lots of humor," Sicari said. "It's about the greed of today." The show, starring Brandon Maggert, Mitzi McCall, Charlie Brill and Linda Carlson, will be presented at 8 p.m. April 4 and 5 at the 49-seat coffee salon at 12747 Ventura Blvd., Studio City.

HONKY-TONKIN' AGAIN: The Cowboy Palace Saloon in Chatsworth was so badly damaged in the Jan. 17 earthquake that owner Bob Rustigian sometimes doubted whether it would reopen. But after some major reconstruction, the club will be back in business April 1 with the Geary Handley Band.

The nightspot--under several different names and owners--has been a fixture in the San Fernando Valley country music scene for almost 20 years. For those country music purists who won't dance to recorded sounds, the return of the Cowboy Palace comes none too soon.

"I get at least 10 to 12 calls a day from people asking when we're going to reopen," Rustigian said.

The saloon, which bills itself as "the last real honky-tonk," may actually be just that.

Since the Longhorn Saloon was converted into Caballo Loco, a Mexican dance club, late last year, and the Palomino books primarily rock acts these days, the Cowboy Palace at 21635 Devonshire St., Chatsworth, is the Valley's only club that offers live country-Western music nightly.

Rustigian and partner Rhonda Gore have owned the club for 2 1/2 years. They also offer free dance lessons and a complimentary Sunday barbecue. The club also has a hitching post for horses in the rear of its parking lot.

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