*Three documentary film crews will be attending and filming. Descriptions of each project are listed below.
-Montivagus Productions is creating a feature length documentary entitled I'M NO DUMMY. Written and directed by Bryan Simon, this project "will include interviews with many of the finest ventriloquists practicing their art today and budding amateurs...We will interview figure makers who are currently building ventriloquist puppets and film the handcrafting of a 'dummy'...the documentary will be an insightful and whimsical look into the world of ventriloquism." Mr. Simon has already completed hundreds of hours of filming including interviews with Willie Tyler, Jimmy Nelson, Kelly Asbury, Jeff Dunham, Jay Johnson, Lynn Trefzger, Mark Wade, Tom Ladshaw, Lisa Sweasy, and many others.
-Mono TV is creating an hour long TV documentary for Channel 4 in Britain (equivalent to a major network in the U.S.). Producer Fleur Fekkes and her crew are bringing a British entertainer named Justin Collins who is learning to be a ventriloquist. "We are following Justin's journey so we can learn the challenges and difficulties of becoming a ventriloquist and document all the aspects to this art through Justin's learning curve; from finding an act that suits you to perfecting your skill to writing material to actually performing on stage."
-Mark and Lindsay Goffman of Los Angeles, CA are creating a feature-length film documentary called Figures of Speech. "Our take is to follow five ventriloquists (from a beginner to a professional) over the course of a year. We want to delve into the craft and find out how they got interested, how they selected the personalities of their dummies, how they develop their talent and ultimately where they go to perform and converse with other ventriloquists" (the Vent Haven ConVENTion). Inspired by Lindsay's mother Marlene Cohen, a ventriloquist who has attended the convention, they will be searching for the five vents to profile as well as doing some initial filming. Lindsay says, " My husband and partner is a successful television writer and producer (Touched by an Angel, The West Wing, Studio 60), and he has also written/directed two award-winning festival short films. I am currently a Manager of Scripted and Non-scripted Development at Freemantle Media, which produces American Idol and America's Got Talent."
*The Hospitality Committee this year will be led by Bob and Marty Hamill. With their crew of friendly faces they will be welcoming first-time attendees in London Hall Lobby during Registration and checking for badges at the doors during the ConVENTion. Of course, they will be hosting with Phillip Jones the famous Hospitality Suite in room 179. Joining their committee this year is Bob Abdou.
*A new lecture on Vent Haven Museum - the Past Thirty Years will be presented by curator Lisa Sweasy on Thursday morning. She will show how the museum has evolved since W.S. Berger died in 1972 and the museum began functioning as an independent corporation. Organized by decades and presented with pictures, the presentation will show how the collection has grown highlighting new figures acquired, discuss significant players in the vent community, and demonstrate how the museum is preserving today's vent history for generations to come.
*The Junior Vent University just for young vents is all-new this year as well. On Workshop Friday, the Juniors will have a morning and afternoon session with six different professional vents or Professors covering topics like writing material, showmanship, basic technique, manipulation, getting gigs, etc. It's also a chance for the Juniors to connect with other young vents like themselves. What a valuable experience.
This is just the new stuff!! Of course, the Vent Haven ConVENTion is always packed with favorites like Jimmy Nelson's Vent Videos, the Big Wednesday Show, Open Mics, Friday workshops, and the Saturday Night All Star Show. If you haven't registered, you'll be missing out on a wealth of information and a heck of a good time.
Top Ten Reasons to Attend the 2007 Vent Haven ConVENTion
by Jay Johnson
10. Imaginary friends eat for free.
9. Use the word "dummy" with out feeling politically incorrect.
8. Get advice from other ventriloquists trying to find work.
7. Talk to yourself in public without having to apologize.
6. Lean how to converse with your dentist while he is filling your cavity.
5. Another chance to try and steal Jacko.
4. Hang out with people who can drink and tell bar jokes at the same time.
3. Learn how to steek hithout nooving your litz.
2. A great place to meet people who are into strange relationships.
1. See Jeff Dunham without a two drink minimum.
Senior Showcase 2006
Each year at the Vent Haven ConVENTion, the Senior Open Mic offers attendees a chance to perform in front of their peers and receive valuable feedback from a panel of professional vents. Some use this opportunity to try out new material or a new character; others go for more tried and true dialogue to see where they stand. On a rare occasion the Open Mic is a first performance in front of any audience as it was this year for Tom Basso. This session is only available for the first ten people who get their registration forms mailed in and competition is fierce. There is always a waiting list. One or two comments from a professional evaluator can make a big difference for the performer. Emceed by Jerry Layne, here are the July 13, 2006 Senior Open Mic performers.
Virginia Petersen & Aunt Margaret, Marietta, GA
Virginia has three cats, three cute rats, and a husband Wally. She learned vent at five years old, and currently performs in schools, churches, and community events. Virginia is also a member of a Christian rock band. Aunt Margaret is a retired flight attendant.
Tom Basso aka Nick Carpenter & Oozen Oz, New Canaan, CT
This was Tom's 22nd Convention but his first time performing ventriloquism and his first Open Mic. Using the stage name Nick Carpenter, Tom is also an actor and has appeared in 20 local plays. He played the role of a ventriloquist in a 1996 production of Annie.
Kenneth Florentine & Larry Buckworth, Forksville, PA
Kenneth last attended a Vent Haven ConVENTion in 1992. He is a retired school principal. Larry Buckworth spent 15 years in a suitcase until he began making rare appearances performing locally.
Matt Bronsil & Keetor the Love Beaver, Cincinnati, OH
Matt has performed all around the Cincinnati area and was a contestant in the Funniest Person Contest. This was Matt's last performance in the United States because the week after the ConVENTion, he moved to Taiwan to teach preschool and kindergarten.
David Crone & Jose and Sam, Columbus, OH
David has been doing magic and vent for over 30 years. He also has three daughters who do comedy material. David works for an internet company but has developed his own performing company called I'm No Dummy Productions www.imnodummy.com. In addition, David was also one of the official photographers at the 2006 VH ConVENTion.
Lydia Beebe & Mary, Norwich, CT
Lydia is seventeen years old and a senior in high school. She graduated from the Junior Open Mic to the Senior group this year. She's been doing vent since the age of six and learned from her dad. Lydia is a high honors student and performs at school, community events, 4-H Camp, and church. She performed this piece earlier in the summer at I-Fest and won the Gold Award. She was also on the vent Dream Team at I-Fest.
Donald Beebe & Superman, Norwich, CT
Donald is a lawyer and learned vent as a child watching Paul Winchell on TV. He gave it up for years until Lydia at age six picked it up. They perform together at church, community situations, and the Dream Team of vent at I-Fest in Illinois.
Dr. Joan "Cookie" Jensen & Ophelia and Monster Rumba, East Hanover, NJ
Dr. Jensen has been doing vent since childhood. Just prior to the 2006 ConVENTion, she returned from a ten day tour of China with an Educator's Delegation. This was her second time doing this trip. While there, she performed vent in Chinese for the Education Department of the Chinese government. On one occasion, the audience clapped politely but it was not the usual response. Afterwards, someone asked Cookie where she puts the battery in the doll. Clearly something was lost in translation!
George Boosey & Almar Danks, Durham, NC
George has been attending and occasionally performing at Vent Haven ConVENTions for many years. He moved to Minnesota and Massachusetts, then moved back south which explains the accent of Almar, made by Foy Brown.
Dave Carr, Jr. & R.K. Possum, Havertown, PA
For many years, Dave Jr. watched his dad work, and that's how he became interested in vent. He was in the Junior Open Mic last year and this year moved up to the Senior ranks. His Axtell figure, R.K. Possum's full name is Road Kill Possum.
LA Hudson & Cocoa, Sherman, TX
LA started vent at age twelve learning from the Maher Course. His first figure was a Jerry Mahoney figure and now he's using a monkey figure named Cocoa like cocoanut.
My First Trip to Ft. Mitchell
by Mark James
It was 1977. I was a rather gaunt and fairly awkward ninth grader attending Middleton Junior High School in Tampa, FL. This was during the heydays when I performed as Mark Catledge, before I finally realized there wasn't an emcee to be found in the United States who didn't butcher it into Cabbage or Cartlidge or worse. Mark James (my middle name) is hard to butcher. Anyway, I was known throughout the public school system as a comedian of sorts. The only reason I was popular at all was because I made people laugh -- teachers and students alike. I would especially go out of my way to cheer up a fellow student who was in a bad mood or having a rough time. I was so like my mom in that way.
Thank God for my mom Drema. She was my rock. Never was a soul more in my corner than she was. I was so blessed to have her support and encouragement in all things theatrical, from impressions to singing to dancing to magic to my greatest love, ventriloquism. There was nothing better to me on earth to run into the living room at my mom's urging because a ventriloquist was on television. With my mouth agape, I would sit on my knees, inches from the tube, and watch these ventriloquial wizards bring their little wooden alter egos to life. It was astounding to me!
Eventually I would discover that there was actually a convention designed to foster this rare and precious art! I first learned of the Vent Haven Ventriloquist ConVENTions from Mark Merchant, whom I met at a magic convention in Orlando. I couldn't believe my ears! I told my mom the great news and a plan was hatched. With my mom's help and money I saved up from my shows, I was actually going to be allowed to travel by plane to Ft. Mitchell, KY to attend my first ever ventriloquist convention! The condition that sealed the deal was that I would room with Mark, a fast friend and a positive influence who was of responsible age. I could hardly wait for July 1977 to swing around!
It seemed an eternity but finally the morning came when my mom took me to the airport to catch my very first flight to Cincinnati. What an awesome experience! I was soon in the air daydreaming about the professional ventriloquists I would meet in person after corresponding with them during the school year -- the Kentucky Colonel with the Giant Heart, Bill Boley; the very engaging Mark Wade; the irrepressible Johnny Main; the one and only Jimmy Nelson, my early mentor -- to name a few of the trend setters who made quite an impression on me early on. After catching a connecting flight with Mark Merchant in Atlanta, we landed in Cincinnati and soon found ourselves in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky at what was then called the Drawbridge Motor Inn. I had arrived, and I was a world away from Tampa!
My excitement during that convention never waned, and I had a hard time turning in each night. Sleep, schmeep! I was having the time of my life! And with my own young eyes, I witnessed the magic of the moment unfolding before me in Yeoman's Hall. The highlights of that inspirational year are happily etched in my memory: showbiz folks greeting old and new friends in that southern, genteel way to which I was accustomed; professionals walking amongst us wannabes; dummies being uncased; jokes flying; the excitement of the junior and senior contests, where in those days, one could vie for a handsome trophy; the collective magnificence displayed in the Dealers' Room; and the incredible Vent Haven Museum. I still reminisce, with an aching heart, about Johnny Main holding court at Chaucer's during those wee, wee hours. In addition to enjoying the thrill of this spectacular convention, I also met the great Edgar Bergen in Florida that same year. For me, 1977 was the cat's meow!
**Mark James will be appearing on the Big Wednesday Holiday Show at the 2007 Vent Haven ConVENTion.
Thanks for submitting this story, Mark!
Junior Showcase 2006
Each year at the Vent Haven ConVENTion, young ventriloquists are given the chance to perform in front of their ventriloquist peers in the Junior Open Mic emceed by Bob Isaacson. This is a unique opportunity to get stage experience and to get valuable feedback. Each performer is videotaped and critiqued by three professional ventriloquists. It's useful information that you don't get with a standard performance. Below are the ten Junior Vents ranging in ages from six to fifteen years old. Congratulations to all of them for their performance last July 13, 2006.
Hannah L. & Whiskers, Urbana, IL
Hannah taught herself ventriloquism and started with a Jerry Mahoney figure she found in the back of a closet. She has performed at Mardi Gras, Halloween parties, birthday parties, the Humane Society, Christmas parties, and retirement centers for seniors. This was her 6th convention and her 5th time performing. In addition she was the only freshman to be picked at her high school's Sketch Comedy Show in which she did vent.
Landon L. & Harry Porter, Burke, VA
Landon is 15 years old and has been practicing vent as a hobby for several years, an interest that began because his grandpa, Al Stevens is a vent and jazz musician. Al gave Landon a Simon Says figure to get started and since then he's gotten two Axtell figures, a Danny O'Day, and a Tim Cowles professional hard figure. The convention this year was his first performance for someone other than family and friends.
Peter M. & Gitch, Staten Island, NY
Six year old Peter began his love of ventriloquism at infancy. This was his 6th ConVENTion; his first was when he was three months old. For Peter's first performance he used his dad, Pete Michaels' figure Gitch. Pete, Sr. used Gitch at his first convention back in 1980.
Aileen C. & Cloud Shrimp, Loomis, CA
Aileen is ten years old and the youngest of four children. However, she is the only one to follow in her father's ventriloquial footsteps. She has been learning and practicing vent for two years, performing for family and friends and in the school talent show. Inspired by her 11 real cats, her cat puppet loves to bash dogs, mice, and silly human beings. In addition to ventriloquism, Aileen studies piano, ballet, jazz, tap, and sings in the school choir.
Bryan G. & Rodney, Sagamore Hill, OH
Bryan has been practicing vent for four years and is now 13 years old. His favorite vents are Jay Marshall and Jeff Dunham. His rabbit figure, Rodney was inspired by his father Paul who is a magician.
Audrey F. & Charlie, Denison, TX
Audrey is in the seventh grade and is 11 years old. She's performed with Charlie for a little over a year and has performed in school talent shows. This has earned her the nickname "Puppet Girl."
Kristie L. , Parma, OH
Kristie taught herself ventriloquism from books from the library. This fifteen year old says the fun part is learning how, the hard part is writing skits. She's been doing vent for three years and is fascinated with the art. Before the Junior Open Mic, she had never performed on stage.
Josh R. & Henrietta, Oberlin Park, KS
Josh has been doing vent for five years and performs at church and the talent show at school. He is fifteen years old and discovered ventriloquism from a Paul Winchell video at the library. After watching the first time, he was hooked. Josh says it's good he didn't have a puppet right away because he could concentrate on his vent skills instead of just playing around with a puppet. His inspirations are Paul Winchell, David Pendleton, Dan Horn, and Edgar Bergen. This was his first convention.
Dylan B. & Timmy, Crestview Hills, KY
Dylan is 12 years old and decided to perform in the Junior Open Mic the day before the show. Prior to that he'd visited the convention eight times but this year was his first time participating in the convention. He became interested after seeing Mark Wade perform at his school. His first figure was a Charlie McCarthy doll, and he's performed at Show & Tell at school.
Maria A. & Isabella, Strasburg, PA
Maria learned ventriloquism from watching her figure maker father, Albert. She is seven years old and her Junior Open Mic performance was her first time performing anywhere.
**Photographs by Phillip Jones and David Crone.
On Sunday, January 21st, 2007 the Central Florida Ventriloquist Association was delighted by the talent, wit, and charm of Jimmy Nelson, ventriloquist legend and his lovely wife Betty. Because of this special occasion, the meeting was held at Mimi's Cafe in Brandon, FL in a special room just for this group. Several months ago, John Parisi took the initiative to call Jimmy and ask him if he would be willing to drive up to a meeting and share his experiences in ventriloquism; Jimmy graciously accepted and even offered to bring Danny O'Day and Farfel much to everyone's delight. With star power like that, most everyone in the association was in attendance. Donald Woodford set up the arrangements at Mimi's Cafe so the group would have a private space and be able to set up a sound system for an intimate performance.
After lunch, eighteen year old Anna Elsase opened the festivities by performing a medley of Christmas songs with her puppet Sally. Everyone was impressed with Anna's beautiful singing voice and excellent lip control. There were technical difficulties with her mic but she worked at projecting Sally's voice which came across fine; no one knew of the challenge until after the performance. Al Stevens and Dexter Dorsey served as emcees for the day and got up to introduce Jimmy Nelson by using a Jimmy Nelson joke. There was bantering in the audience in response and even Jimmy jumped in cracking everyone up from his seat before he even got up on stage.
Finally, Jimmy and Danny O'Day stepped up to the mic. He combined humorous bits with stories of stage techniques and performance tips that have worked for him over the years. Eventually, Betty helped pull Farfel out of his trunk and he joined the merriment. Those guys are really funny. Jimmy opened the floor for questions and answered requests about Frank Marshall, painting touch-ups, re-furring, script-writing, and Milton Berle to name a few. Finally, the day ended with a photo session. It was a wonderful afternoon, and the CFVA was most appreciative of Jimmy and Betty Nelson for making the journey and sharing their time.
Picture 1: Margaret Rambo and John Parisi during lunch.
Picture 2-3: Anna Elsase and Al Stevens
Picture 4: Margaret Rambo with Jimmy Nelson, Danny O'Day, and Farfel.
Collage clockwise from left: John Parisi, David Sleeper, Chuck Poole, Aunita Padget, Jimmy Nelson, Jimmy, Danny, Farfel, Dan Bratton, Renea Bratton, Anna Elsase, Nancy Roth, Mark James, Mark Edson.
Copyright 2008 Vent
Haven ConVENTion, Inc.
All contents of this website, including pictures, may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or the use of any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the Vent Haven ConVENTion.