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Blasts from the Past

Gary Owen  Al Getler Val Hilliker
Bill DeMar Al Semok
Phillip Jones Don Bryan
Lynn Trefzger-Joy Tim Selberg
Bob Rumba Liz VonSeggen & Mark Wade
Jerry Layne Pete Michaels
Bob Isaacson Bob Hamill
Greg Pakarklis Ronn Lucas
Jimmy Nelson & Jeff Dunham Dale Brown
Hospitality Suite Crew Nacho Estrada
Tom Ladshaw Meghan Casey


February 2008

This month's Blast from the Past is Val Hilliker from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  She writes, "I was 21 when the photo of Melvin K the moose and I was taken. The puppet was designed specially for me to be signature "Canadian" by designer Sennett Dolls and Puppets. The rights were then bought out by the Gants Brothers, who still exist. Melvin K was my third puppet and this was my first promotional photo.

My first one was a Danny O’Day Sears string puppet, so it is quite an honor for me to sit on the pro panel this year with Jimmy Neilson himself.

I can still remember sitting down in a library and devouring a book on how to be a ventriloquist when I was 17. I read this book every day from cover to cover for a week and walked to Sears to purchase my Danny O’Day doll. I couldn’t think of anything else for two solid weeks as I waited for my first real vent doll. Two weeks later, I graduated High School and was hired to do my first out of town gig.  After that first show I was hooked.

For 20 years while raising my children I put venting on hold, and five years ago I returned to be a full-time ventriloquist. Now I travel across Canada and do school shows, festivals and fairs and walk-arounds.

I have three children, 50 fish, 22 puppets and 1 dog. I was able to study comedy with Joe Flaherty and Judy Carter. I am now a certified world laughter leader and a Virtues Project Master Facilitator.  My youngest daughter travels with me and runs my sound and audio. It sure is wonderful to be able to have a roadie now."

Val will be back at the Vent Haven ConVENTion this summer appearing on the International Show.  To find out more about Val Hilliker, visit her at her website  

Thanks to the following people for guessing:

John Hopper Margaret Davis Pete Michaels
Jim Barber Adam DeFilippi Al Stevens
Wilma Swartz Neale Bacon Doc Lowery
Jerald Bell Joan "Cookie" Jensen Chris Johnson
Gary Koepke Michele Acquin Bob Rumba
Donald Woodford Brenda Otis' grandson Tom Basso
Chris Morse Oliver "Twist" McMahon  

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January 2008


This Junior Vent who has been around ventriloquism since birth is Meghan C. from Colorado.  Meghan and her father Ed have attended the Vent Haven ConVENTion for many years performing in the Junior and Senior Open Mics, respectively.  Meghan was even lucky enough to be photographed with Candice Bergen at the 2004 Convention.  To find out more about Meghan, go to the new Junior Vent Feature on the Junior Vent University page.  

Thanks to the following for submitting guesses: Bob Isaacson, Doc Lowery, Matt Bronsil, and John Hopper!  

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August 2007

This month is indeed Tom Ladshaw, a familiar face in the Dealers' Room and on stage at the convention, this past July as emcee of the General Open Mic.  Tom is also an avid vent historian, collector, and advisor to Vent Haven Museum.  The picture to the left is called "AstroTom" from about 1965 when our young friend wanted to be among the stars, literally.  His website tells us, "By the age of five, he had discovered magic (via a "My Favorite Martian" Magic Set) and ventriloquism (via a "Danny O'Day" ventriloquial doll). By the age of eight, Tom's musical interest was manifesting itself...he studied piano and later, drums and percussion (in his early 20's, he would go on to travel and perform as a musician with numerous name acts). At the age of 12, Tom became a child actor, appearing as 'Whitney' in a revival of the long-running Broadway hit, "Life with Father". The lure of variety entertainment was never far from Tom's mind, and following a successful career in music, he decided to pursue his dream of making people laugh."  



Thanks to all the people who emailed a guess.


Bob Isaacson Sheree Brown-Rosner Dale Brown Dan Horn Dan Willinger
Stevo Schuling Adam DeFilippi Gary Koepke Pete Michaels


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April 2007

April's Blast from the Past is the friendly face of Nacho Estrada.  This photo was taken at the 1980 Vent Haven Convention.  Many know him at Vent Haven for his warm greetings and microphone feedback noises from the back of Canterbury Hall.  He is also widely known outside the Drawbridge for his drop-out prevention, drug abuse presentations and his environmental programs which he performs in both the United States and Mexico.  He's performed for more than a million children during his career.  

Thanks to the following people for guessing:

Matt Bronsil Carol Greene George Boosey Barbara Baxter 
Donald Woodford David Crone Bill DeMar Dr. Joan Jensen
Tom Basso Tim Cowles Ken Florentine Pete Michaels
Stacey Michaels      


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December 2006

Yes, this month is Dale Brown, pictured with his original Chip Martin.  The Chip Martin on the left was made by Craig Lovik and now resides in Vent Haven Museum.  The current Chip that Dale uses was made by Alan Semok and is pictured above on the right.  Dale Brown started his marketing firm of Brown & Martin, Inc. in 1984, and has been a leader in this field ever since.  According to his website, Dale is a "business owner, marketing professional, author, keynote speaker, ventriloquist, racecar driver, Harley Davidson enthusiast … B&M’s humble leader is a busy individual. With almost 30 years of experience in marketing and public relations, both on the corporate side and the agency side, Dale is able to provide expert advice to clients. But let’s face it … he’s where he is today because of his wife … who tells him to go to work everyday."

Thanks to everyone who guessed this month:

Gary Owen                                Al Stevens

Val Hilliker                                 Jerry Layne

Matt Bronsil                               Rodger Perkins

Neale Bacon                               Ken Florentine

Pete Michaels                             Tom Basso

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November 2006

If you guessed Ronn Lucas, you guessed right.  With those suspenders and that mustache, Ronn said, "What can I say? I was victimized by the 80s."  

Ronn's website biography ( states: "Ronn currently headlines year round t the RIO Hotel in Las Vegas in his own afternoon comedy show.  He sells out 4-6 days a week...Before he evolved into this wonderful amalgamation of comedy, improv, vocalism, and audience interaction,...Ronn Lucas was just a ventriloquist.  As a young man, he had put in over 13 thousand hours practicing his art.  It all began when he was seven years old and discovered a TV program in which ventriloquist Edgar Bergen appeared to make a baby talk.  Bergen then brought his wooden companion Charlie McCarthy to life and provided Charlie with an acerbic personality.  The audience loved Edgar and Charlie, and they became one of America's most beloved duos."

"Young Ronn Lucas purchased the novelty album, 'Instant Ventriloquism' by Jimmy Nelson, and spent three years diligently working on mastering the art of talking without moving his mouth...By the time he was in high school, he found he could call himself out of class by making his voice sound like an announcement on the school's PA system, 'Mr. Lucas, come to the principal's office now!'  The teachers never knew."

"While in college, he took his act, the traditional ventriloquist/dummy routine, and played bars, honky-tonks, nightclubs, shopping mall openings, retail store promotions, private parties, and anything else that came along.  He logged 500 performances in one year.  The experience was invaluable."

Today, Ronn has created his own unique show and cast of characters.  As you can see, success like Ronn's doesn't happen overnight and takes a tremendous amount of hard work and imagination!

Thanks to the following people who submitted guesses.  Everyone guessed correctly!

Evelyn Hickam                             Liz VonSeggen

Donald Woodford                         Tom Basso

George Boosey                             Gary Koepke

Neale Bacon                                 Al Stevens

Jerry Layne                                   Bill DeMar

Gary Owen                                   Pete Michaels

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October 2006


Even that wig and sunglasses can't hide the fact that that Skinny Elvis is really Gary Owen!   Gary writes, "The 'Skinny Elvis' came about in a rather humorous way. Several years ago I was asked to host an 'Elvis' night at the Oklahoma Opry, a family country music show held weekly in Oklahoma City . I thought it would be FUNNY to do a COMEDIC Elvis impersonation. It went over BIG time. 

Anyway, I’ve done this routine as a show opener for other shows throughout Oklahoma and Texas . The show starts with the 2001 Odyssey theme with floating stage lighting and spots. As the band goes into the C C Rider theme…I always come from the back of the auditorium with FOUR security guards or body guards down the isle in SPOT light only. Waving, shaking hands with audience members, comically kissing and hugging a few of the ladies….then I rush to the stage and sing the song. I usually do two or three more numbers and hand off a scarf to a STAGED girl in the show.  The audience gets big belly laughs as I OVER ACCENTUATE Elvis moves with my skinny butt. The voice is a GOOD Elvis which goes over well."  If we know anything about Gary Owen's vocal talents, we know he does Elvis better than 'good.'

Gary hails from Oklahoma City, OK.  He serves on the Vent Haven Board of Advisors and conducted the Advanced Ventriloquism workshop at the 2006 ConVENTion.  

Thanks to everyone who guessed (everyone guessed correctly!).  There were more responses this month than ever before!  It's great to hear from people checking out the website.  

This month's guessers were:  George Boosey, John Byrd, Barbara Guyll, Clinton Detweiler, Ray Guyll, Matt Bronsil, Bill DeMar, Pete Michaels, Val Hilliker, Al Stevens, Lee Cornell, Tom Basso, Curtis Jones, Laverne Seibert, Doc Lowery, Liz Von Seggen, and John Parisi. 


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September 2006

Yes, this is none other than Bill DeMar from 1952.  Several who responded with guesses said this was too easy.  Nick Pawlow and Ray Guyll even recognized that the figure was made by J.C. Turner.  

Thanks to Lee Cornell for submitting this picture and he even sent some Bill DeMar Fun Facts.  Here they are:

1.) Built his first "Chuck Norwood" figure in 1949, out of balsa wood, using a saw and a kitchen knife as tools.
2.) Within a weeks time in 1949, Bill learned to perform ventriloquism well enough to win a local talent contest with "Chuck."
3.) The Chuck Norwood he uses today is a Frank Marshall figure, which he purchased in the 1950's.
4.) Edgar Bergen was his inspiration to become a ventriloquist.
5.) Has been a professional ventriloquist, entertainer and comedian since 1951.
6.) Has also performed as an impressionist, magician, fire-eater, mind reader, hypnotist, escape artist and actor.
7.) He toured with many famous performers of his era - Frank Gorshen, Lash LaRue, Homer and Jethro, The Ink Spots, The Four Aces, and many more.
8.) Bill is known in the world of ventriloquism as one of the best figure and puppet manipulators - ever. During the late 1970's and early 1980's, the Vent Haven convention awarded a "Bill DeMar Manipulation" trophy as a prize to the contest performer with the best manipulation skills. Jeff Dunham won several times.
9.) Bill is the author of "Ventriloquism for Dummies and Related Subjects" book, and has produced two DVD's - "The Bill DeMar Show" and "Bill DeMar: Upside Down and Backwards on Ventriloquism," both available (and autographed) from

This is Bill DeMar at the Vent Haven ConVENTion 2006.  Thanks to Al Stevens, Ray Guyll, Val Hilliker, Conrad Hartz, Ed Leahy, and Nick Pawlow for guessing.  



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June 2006


Yes, this month is Phillip Jones, the official photographer of the Vent Haven ConVENTion.  Many of you recognized him even without his camera.  Phillip is pictured above in another role for which he is well-known at our convention, and that is as host of the Hospitality Suite and member of the Hospitality Committee.  Phillip, along with Bob and Marty Hamill, welcome all ventriloquists to room 181 during the convention.  Be sure to stop in and say hello.  Also pictured above is Phillip Jones and Bob Hamill, puppet-style.  These look-alike creations were done by Verna Finly, and this was sent out as a Christmas card in 1995.  Pretty amazing.  




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February 2006

February features Lynn Trefzger-Joy, pictured here with Chloe whom she introduced to vents at her lecture at the ConVENTion last year.  Three year old Chloe has been a popular addition to the act when Lynn performs on the Disney family cruises.  Her vocal illusion talents were first brought to national audiences on TV’s popular “Star Search” and she has since performed with artists including Jeff Foxworthy, Ray Romano, Smothers Brothers, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Her performances are tailored for both family and adult audiences.  Lynn has been a long-time attendee of the Vent Haven ConVENTions and we look forward to seeing her back in 2006 as the "Women in Vent" Panel Discussion moderator.  

Thanks to everyone who guessed and kudos to Tom Basso who even knew that the figure on the right was made by John Arvites.  In fact, that figure now resides in Vent Haven Museum. Uncle Johnny, made in 1979 by Arvites, was awarded to Lynn at the age of 12 when she won "Most Deserving Young Vent."

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December 2005

December Blast from the Past Revealed















The December Blast from the Past guessed it, Bob Rumba!  The master of creative promo shots himself with his turkey figure, Tobadia Turkey.  Bob was also seen at last year's convention emceeing as Barney Fife and entertaining the kids with balloon sculptures before the Saturday Night Show dressed as Charlie Chaplin.  In addition, Bob can do hundreds of cartoon voices.   Like most vents, he is multi-talented. 

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November 2005


Jerry Layne is a familiar face to many as everyone who responded guessed correctly.  I reinserted the original signed picture as it appears in the Vent Haven archives.  Jerry is well-known at the Vent Haven Convention as an excellent emcee, lecturer, and performer.  Also, many of you may know him from his figures in the dealers' room.  Like most people in this business, Jerry Layne is multi-talented.  

W.S. Berger prided himself on collecting 8x10's of ventriloquists from all over the world.  He called it his Rogues Gallery.  Vent Haven today carries on the tradition by displaying pictures of current vents, both amateur and professional.  Have you autographed an 8x10 for Vent Haven Museum?    


Thanks to the following people who responded this month:

Mike Brose                    Stacey Michaels

Lee Cornell                    Madison Faile

Liz VonSeggen               Curtis Jones

Pete Michaels                 Les Lamborn

Tom Basso

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October 2005

Several people emailed and guessed correctly.  October featured our good friend, Bob Isaacson at the tender age of 16 with his J.C. Turner figure.  Bob is well-known at our convention for emceeing the Junior Open Mic session and for his classes on Vent Basics.  He is pictured above with his figures Orville Sweet and Speedy Wheeler.  Bob made Orville Sweet in 1962 and Speedy Wheeler was made by Frank Marshall.  Thanks to Tom Ladshaw for submitting this month's Mystery Vent photo.   

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August 2005

This young vent is Greg Pakarklis.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get an updated picture of Greg and find out what he's doing currently.  Perhaps we'll hear from him soon.


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July 2005

This month is convention favorite Jimmy Nelson and Jeff Dunham as a young lad.  As you can probably tell, the picture was taken by the outdoor pool at the Drawbridge back in the late 1970's.  You might have thought the picture was taken after the Group Photo picture, but that convention tradition didn't start until the mid-1980's.  The early Group Photos were taken outside London Hall until the group got too large for that location.  The Group Photo has been by the outdoor pool ever since.  Jeff is holding his Finis Robinson figure, Monty Ballew.  Monty currently resides in Vent Haven Museum in the W.S. Berger Building (where Jacko is), so be sure to check out Monty on the tours.  By the way, nice hair-do...uh, Monty.



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June 2005

Well, this month was just too easy.  The Party Team is the Hospitality Suite crew, of course!  Bob Hamill emailed with the figures' names.  Pictured below from left to right are J.T. & Mr.  Jim Ellis, Chew Cho and Carlos Maldonaldo, Clyde and Bob Hamill, Phillip Jones with Hogeye.  This year will be their 21st year in suite 181.  Congratulations on a great tradition of hosting the party room.  Anyone planning to attend the conVENTion this year, be sure to stop by the Hospitality Suite, especially if it's your first time at the conVENTion.  It's a great place to meet other vents casually and talk shop in comfort, plus they provide yummy snacks!

Thanks, Bob, for letting us know who the wooden guys are and for continuing a terrific tradition at our conVENTion! 

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May 2005

That's Al Getler pictured above with his three characters at the time.  Here's what he writes about the picture:

I want to say this picture was taken about 1980 at a playground across the street from the church where I was working at as a Youth Minister. The horrid looking monkey was my first entry into using a monkey character. Each has never had a name, always been just 'Monkey' or 'Monkee'.  I made this puppet from a carnival stuffed animal. Today's monkey is a Mary Ann Taylor puppet. The bird puppet was named Jay Bird and he was purchased from Maher Studios. Floyd, my Semok figure, is the sole survivor in the shot. This is about the time he joined the act.

I spent the summer that year touring park programs in a state funded program. I was teamed up with a musician and an artist doing two shows per day. Our 'tour bus' was a 70's vintage, black, county-owned, Chevy Impala that had served as a sheriff's car previously. Our roadie was a guy that eventually became a studio sound man who works with Doug Pries in NYC from time to time.

Today I primarily work business/corporate type shows but do the occasional family show or special event. Currently the Getlers are moving to the Boston area where I will re-establish my regionally base performing business. I have always combined my newspaper career and my performing.

That is a group of Naval Reserves that were on their way to Iraq. This was the second wave of the unit and the second time I performed for the families as they spent their informational day on what to expect there and how to cope at home. One fun thing is that for two of the guys, nicknames that Floyd called them in the act stuck and became their names while in Iraq. I am told that several other lines became running gags as well. I have had a good relationship with the government's DSCC (Defense Supply Center, Columbus) and the Naval base (logistics) in Columbus where I've not only entertained, but have spoken on management and leadership to their leaders.

Great job, Al!  Thanks!

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April 2005

That bearded face this month is none other than Alan Semok, the Dummy Doctor.  Alan is pictured with the original Howdy Doody which he restored.  Read his story below:

"He first came for a short visit for minor work in 1990, prior to a rare TV appearance. The boy arrived here again in April of 1995, showing the signs of numerous temporary emergency repairs and hurried patch-jobs and touch-ups, not to mention two fairly recent total repaintings that just didn't do him justice. Howdy had been refurbished and repaired over the years with little sensitivity to his historical "look".

After some very thorough research and careful preparation (using scores of vintage photographs, and after numerous telephone conversations with the original artists who created him), the lad was carefully restored (preserving the original elements) to the way he looked when he took his final bow at NBC in 1960...he was once, after all, THE biggest star on television. He deserved nothing less. The end result was that Howdy's facelift was more a restoration than a renovation.

To say it was an honor to have him as a houseguest would be an understatement. Suffice it to say that it was a pleasure to have a part in bringing him back to the way we all remember him, ready to entertain again!"

Thanks, Alan!

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March 2005










This month's Blast from the Past was too easy for some of you. Of course, it's Don Bryan and Noseworthy from Canada who appeared on the International show at the convention last year.  It's nice to know Noseworthy got to get his hair cut too, keeping him more in current style.  Let's hope we see them again at this year's convention.  Thanks, Don!  

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February 2005









If you guessed this was figure maker extraordinaire Tim Selberg, you were right!  That blast from the past picture goes back to 1983.  Tim writes of the figure in the picture: 

"The figure pictured was finished in January 1982  for a person named Mike Henson who lived in Noblesville, IN.  The entirely hand-carved figure (down to the hand-carved teeth, tongue, hands and head and handmade basswood body) went for a whopping $550!  The even more interesting thing is that I took a trade from him on a Ken Spencer figure that needed to be seriously reworked and gave him a $500 credit so I actually only received 50 bucks in actual payment!!  I reworked the Spenser figure extensively and several years later sold it for less than $700  I believe.  This was only the 8th figure I'd ever carved but I still look back on it now and like the look of him - I named him Quinton.  If Mr. Henson should happen to read this I will gladly buy him back for $550! I might even throw in a Spenser to boot!!"


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January 2005

Is that Liz VonSeggen and Mark Wade? Yep, it sure is. The picture was taken at the 1977 ConVENTion back when Liz and Dale VonSeggen's One Way Street was still pretty new.  Last year, 2004, marked the 30th Anniversary of One Way Street.  Congratulations!  Our hairstyles may get wacky, but our smiles never change.  

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December 2004

Our rock star ventriloquist is none other than Pete Michaels! Thanks to those who responded and recognized that Pete smile!



Thanks Pete! 



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November 2004

Krusader Identity Revealed!

Have you spent the whole month wondering who this dashing hero in tights with his wooden, caped sidekick is?  Well, it's none other than our own Bob Hamill who performed on the Saturday Night Show last year.  Bob and Clyde worked as the national mascot for Tastykake, a snack-cake company, doing promotions, commercials, and personal appearances.  What a gig! 



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