Puppeteer Steve Meltzer, president of the Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry who performed his one-man variety show “Puppetolio” at the Santa Monica Puppetry Center for more than a dozen years, has died. He was 56.

Meltzer, who worked as puppet maker, performer, producer and writer at the puppetry center, died of melanoma in Santa Monica November 30th, his friend Mike Clark said. Meltzer suffered a stroke only two hours after giving his final performance at the Santa Monica Puppetry Center in August and later had surgery for a brain tumor, Clark said.

The longtime puppeteer had closed the puppetry center, which operated at three locations over the years, as a result of the economic downturn.

Working from his theater and museum at the center, Meltzer wrote and performed the Puppetolio show’s music, operated ventriloquist figures, marionettes, and rod puppets and managed the display of over 400 puppets.

“No show is worth watching unless every age can enjoy it,” Meltzer told The Argonaut in a previous interview. “It’s fun to watch a 70-year-old and a seven-year-old laughing at the same joke.”

He was serving his second term as president of the Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry at the time of his death and was also on the Board of Trustees at the Puppeteers of America.

His professional credits include puppetry for numerous commercials and appearances on television including a cameo in the 2008 film “The Great Buck Howard.” Meltzer also was a puppeteer on the 2004 film “Team America: World Police.”

The Puppetry Center was the location for special events created and produced by Meltzer that included famed ventriloquist Paul Winchell’s final live performance and a 2008 festival that featured an evening of top puppet entertainers, Clark said.

Meltzer is survived by his mother Sylvia Falk, sisters Susan Slotnick and Roberta Zwart, four nieces and one nephew.

His friends and fellow puppeteers say they greatly appreciate his enormous contribution to puppetry.

“Steve Meltzer will be remembered for his compassion, sensitivity, quick wit and brilliant sense of humor by those who loved him,” Clark said.

A memorial service will be held at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, December 13th at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles.

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