Hidden Heroes — Hero #4 (Diane Dupuy)

If you missed the INTRODUCTION to our Hidden Heroes series, or haven’t read about Hidden Heroes #1 thru #3, click here. Otherwise, continue below to read about Hero #4…


Once upon a time, there was a girl named Diane Dupuy. It was the early 1970s, and the puppeteer was having a talk with comedian Bill Cosby about her career.

“You know what you should do?” asked Bill. “Start a theater company featuring blacklight puppets.”

Blacklight puppets. Puppets created with flourescent colors, and performers dressed all in black, so when the UV light was turned on, all you could see was the puppets… magically floating through the air.

Diane took things one step further

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As a show biz professional who had overcome learning disabilities, she decided to give the same opportunity to people who were developmentally challenged, mentally and physically. It was her way of proving they were regular people, and integrating them into society.

Diane’s new theater group, the Famous PEOPLE Players, launched on June 1, 1974 with an ode to Liberace called Aruba Liberace, featuring a life-size caricature puppet playing the piano. The company consisted of Diane, her mom making costumes and props, and 11 performers.

When Liberace saw the show, he was more than impressed… he was blown away, so he invited the troupe to perform with him in Las Vegas. At the time, he had no idea the performers were developmentally challenged… and when he found out, he made sure they understood that he wanted them on stage because of their talent, not their disabilities.

So in October, 1975, the Famous People Players — the little group from Toronto, Canada — debuted in Vegas, baby! Over the years, they performed with Liberace there many more times.

In 1980, the troupe re-opened New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. In 1982, they toured China. In 1984, their story was broadcast as a CBS Movie of the Week called Special People. In 1986, they performed on Broadway, and again in 1994, to rave reviews.

They had a seven-month run at Orlando’s Sea World, breaking attendance records, and have toured around the world — in Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, Chile and Hawaii.

They’ve been seen on A&E, the Jerry Lewis Telethon, the Academy Awards, the Phil Donahue Show, Regis and Kathie Lee, Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight and the drama 7th Heaven, where Diane made a guest appearance as herself.

Ann Margret hosted a CBS documentary about them called A Little Like Magic, and it won an Emmy. They appeared in an ABC Feature Film called Different. And CBC TV made a documentary for their 25th Anniversary in 1999, called Black Light Dreams. Also appearing in the movie were Phil Collins, Paul Newman and Tom Cruise.

But despite all that success, they’re just a bunch of dedicated performers, doing what they love to do and entertaining people along the way.

Recently they decided to move their Toronto-based dinner theater for their 35th Anniversary. The new theater is supposed to open next weekend, but after being slapped with a bill for almost $200,000 from the City of Toronto, they had to ask for help from fans and community members. A gallon of paint here, a $60 donation there. Ironically, the bill is because of a new development charge that came into effect May 1, the same day they took possession of the new building.

No doubt they’ll pull through and open on time. Their dinner theater has always been loved by those who experienced it. The entire staff — the chefs, the waiters, the dining room management, the arts administration, and all the cast and crew — have physical and mental disabilities.

Following their hearts is what has caused people like the Rolling Stones, Paul Newman, Tom Cruise and many others to take notice, and donate parts of their original theater, kitchen, and dining facility.

Ten years ago, for their 25th Anniversary celebration, they did their first full-length musical called Leave the Porch Light On. I was lucky enough to attend the opening night performance, and interview Diane face-to-face.

Then, as now, she was a woman just following her dream, and helping others to follow theirs… people that normally wouldn’t be given a chance in the working world, let alone the cut-throat entertainment industry.

Diane has written several best-selling books, been invited to speak around the world, and has received numerous awards, accolades and recognitions, including the Order of Canada — the highest award a Canadian citizen can receive.

“She can take complex matters of the heart and make them simple, beautiful, entertaining and inspiring” – Brenda Hampton, creator of the TV hit series, 7th Heaven

But Diane’s not about the recognition. She’s not about the spotlight… she’s about staying behind the black curtain (or rather, the black lights) and giving all she has. And she’s about inspiring others to do the same thing.

Her message is to always strive for new heights of excellence, and to achieve even the most impossible of your dreams.

Here’s a video of Diane and some of her blacklight pals:


“Truly inspirational straight from the heart. Diane is warm, passionate and delivers her thoughts with utmost emotion and charm. This is a remarkable woman with a will to fulfil a lifelong dream.” – Scotia McLeod

What dreams do you have that you’ve put on the backburner, or decided it was probably too hard?

When in her life do you think Diane Dupuy ever gave up because things were too hard?

She takes responsibility, figures things out, and does what needs to be done. So do all the developmentally challenged people she employs as staff and performers.

So you’ve just gotta ask yourself: if she can achieve everything she’s done — and affect as many people as she has — just what exactly can you do?

Leave your comments below

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7 Responses to “Hidden Heroes — Hero #4 (Diane Dupuy)”

  1. Heather:

    That indeed is Great … Thanks for bringing us such inspiring stories!

  2. Putting on any stage show with live actors is a challenge. Every performance has so many potential pitfalls that only non-paranoids and those immune to panic attacks should apply.

    To do what your “hero #4” does with her great crew is nothing short of miraculous!

    Thanks for another inspirational and get-off-your-ass motivator!

    I’m up! I’m up!

    More power to you,


  3. Awesome…. what a way to Balance Out the World with sound and light.

  4. Another gem from your Hidden Heroes series. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – LWL’s is the one newsletter I actually look forward to receiving. There’s always something new and inspiring. Thanks again

  5. I am deeply interested in LD and believe that LD is not a disorder… simply a difference- a variance from the usual. For someone to be labled in any way less than their peers acts as a further impetus for people to achieve.
    Thanks LWL for bringing such stories to our minds and midst.
    What was the LD Dianne overcame?
    Warm regards, and best wishes from India,

  6. Great and inspiring story!

    Few have really taken the courage to get out of their shell and follow their hearts because of fear and uncertainties. If only we all get rid of all these hesitations and unproductive thoughts then all would be celebrating the beauty of life. Probably, the first thing we need to look into is to discover the power that lies within each of us, then we will all be ready to soar!

  7. This post is especially poignant today.

    Earlier this morning, Eunice Kennedy Shriver passed away.

    JFKs younger sister was instrumental in advancing a position for the disabled in our society. She started the Special Olympics. That gave the disabled a place in our socity’s athletic arena.

    Diane Dupuy has done the same for the disabled on the artistic stage.


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