July 13-16, 2005
“Time to Re-inVENT
Vent Haven ConVENTion 2005
here to hear a Convention
With innovative topics
and fresh faces, this year’s convention provided lots of learning,
laughs, and new ways to practice the art of ventriloquism.
Wednesday afternoon saw London Hall Lobby crowded with
belly-talkers ready to go through registration and get the show on the
road. More people had
pre-registered than ever before helping to make this convention one of the
biggest ever with 443 attendees. For
a solid hour it was wall to wall vents.
This year was truly international as well with people coming from Japan,
Switzerland, Israel, South Africa, France, Germany, Great Britain, and
festivities kicked off with Jeff
Dunham in Concert. Peanut,
Walter, and Jose Jalapeno (on a stick) made their expected appearances
much to everyone’s delight. Jeff
introduced a new character, Sweet Daddy Dee, that he made himself inspired
by a Tim Selberg creation.
an hour of riotous laughing, it was time to get to some learning with Pete
Michaels’ Entry Level
Ventriloquism. This gave
the novices a chance to get some basics under their belts right away
before jumping into Stephen Knowles' Advanced
Vent Techniques. Stephen
shared tips on the distant voice, barking, Jack-in-the-box, and the baby
Then it was back to
laughs with the “Night Before Show” line-up of Steve Meltzer, Joe
Boley, and Steve Brogan. Barney
Fife (aka Bob Rumba) stepped in to emcee.
Of course, the dealers’ rooms opened to huge crowds before the
all-nighters settled in at Chaucers.
started with the Official Opening,
though the convention seemed well-underway at that point.
John Brooking, president of Vent
Museum, welcomed the conventioneers, introduced
the Board of Directors, and encouraged everyone to go to Vent Haven on
Director Mark Wade stepped up to get the business elements of the
convention going and present the two Distinguished Service Awards this
year to the terrifically talented Mary Ann Taylor and long-time vent Nick
Tomei, who unfortunately could not attend.
Bob Isaacson presented his figure Orville Sweet to Vent Haven
curator, Lisa Sweasy, and Jerry Layne came forward to share a few memories
of Paul Winchell for a moving tribute and moment of silence.
After the ceremonial
matters were concluded, Dan Horn’s much awaited lecture Make
It Move kicked off. Dan
focused on creating the appearance of weight and mass with a figure to
make it seem anthropomorphic (Dan’s word), and then he showed us he’s
the McGyver of the vent world using paint rollers, hair curlers,
windshield wipers blades, you name it, to help your puppet move better.
Next Gary Owen impressed everyone with Vocalizations
and Impersonations giving excellent demonstrations of polyphony and
voice care technique.
Due to weather this
year, the Group Photo was moved indoors to London Hall.
Many agreed this was much more pleasant than standing in the hot
July sun, and vent partners mingled afterwards.
Also during the Group Photo, the G4 Tech TV crew from the show Filter
were showing gadgets and filming people’s reactions.
Their non-vent interviewer, John Walsh, brought a Danny O’Day
doll and was completely excited to see the real Danny O’Day just a few
Open Mic session followed a nice lunch break with eight juniors
demonstrating their talents. This was the largest group of juniors in many
years. Three of the eight
performers will be graduating to the Senior Open Mic next year, so the
adults better look out for this upcoming talent.
Look for a Juniors Showcase on the convention website in the
upcoming months. Then the
adults took the stage for the Senior
Open Mic session. Performers in both sessions received a videotape of their performance and
critiques from three pro-vents, all useful tools for improving.
workshop featured the creative talents of Bob Rumba with You
Can Have Photos That Talk. The
master of unique 8x10’s, Bob took volunteers from the audience and
crafted interesting shots. The
pictures from this session will be featured each month on the New This
Month page. Be sure to check
them out. After this mayhem, a
panel discussion about Ladies in
Ventriloquism featured moderator Lynn Trefzger-Joy, Michelle LaFong,
Annie Roberts, Wendy Morgan, and Val Hilliker.
The evening closed with the General Open Mic session and
another opportunity to spend money in the dealers’ room.
This year also marked
the 21st year for the Hospitality Suite in Room 179. Bob & Marty
Hamill and Phillip Jones, the official ConVENTion photographer, have been
hosting many a vent in that suite over the years. This is a great
Friday is workshop day
and the hardest part is having to choose from so many great topics.
The morning sessions included Soft
Puppet Care & Repair Tips by master soft-figure maker Mary Ann
Taylor; Puppetolio – Combining
Vent & Puppetry with Steve Meltzer; and learning some hard truths
in Ken Groves’ Breaking Down the
Walls of Showbiz.
afternoon, the tough choices were between Wig
Care for Dummies with David Fowler; Professional
Touch for the Lady Vents with Lynn Trefzger-Joy; and Masterful
Marketing Ideas with the masters Mark Wade and Dale Brown.
By mid-afternoon there definitely seemed to be some brain-overload
with so much learning and great sessions.
Everybody was back in
full-force for Valentine Vox’s lecture Is
Vent a Dying Art? Of
course, we all know the answer is no, but examining the history and trends
of vent proved it. Friday
afternoon would not be complete without Jimmy Nelson’s Vent
there were some technical difficulties, but that just meant we got to hear
great stories from Jimmy Nelson who was completely unflustered by the
problems, a true master on stage. After
Jeff Dunham jumped up and helped solve the problem, we were treated to
some great clips of Paul Winchell on the Lucy Show, Jay Marshall, Jay
Johnson, Shari Lewis, and Edgar Bergen.
Show was a hit Friday night with our favorite German vent and emcee
Stevo Schuling, plus the talents of Val Hilliker from Canada, Tazuko
Tanimoto from Japan (with special appearance by Michael Jackson), and
Wendy Morgan from England.
night closed with the madness of the Vent
Haven Raffle where all proceeds go to Vent
year for the first time, the tickets completely sold out, and it was the
largest raffle donation to the museum in recent history.
Lots of people took home great prizes and one lucky winner,
Sonny Calkins, walked away with a brand new Mary Ann Taylor caveman figure.
Following up from the
International Show, Stevo Schuling, Wendy Morgan, and Val Hilliker
answered questions about vent around the world on the International
Panel. Then Dennis Lee
took the stage for his lecture, the Secrets
of Showmanship teaching people how to work the stage among other
meant bus tours to Vent Haven, and there was lots to see this year.
Mulch Master Bryan Sweasy had the grounds looking immaculate and
curator Lisa Sweasy worked tirelessly to create six new displays.
Each building had something different in it, including the surprise
special exhibit. This turned
out to be a unique McElroy display including the famed life-size Umpire
McElroy figure. Also included
were ear molds, hand molds, body molds, and lots of never-before seen
pictures showing how George and Glenn McElroy made their famous figures
back in the late 1930’s. Tom
Ladshaw was on hand to give a mini-tour about the display.
held a new permanent Jimmy Nelson exhibit
with Farfel front and center and included four of the famous Jimmy Nelson
records. Also in this building was a special Paul Winchell display with
the Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff replicas, and books and games that
have never been displayed before. So
much to see at Vent Haven, an hour is never enough.
Many thanks to all the people who made donations in the box
provided by Bill DeMar. Those
funds help continue the behind-the-scenes archiving and preservation of
W.S. Berger’s vast collection.
The convention was
into the homestretch now with the titular panel discussion Re-inVENTing
Yourself. Moderator Mark
Wade, Bob Rumba, Dan Horn, Jeff Dunham, Dale Brown, and Ken Groves
discussed how to change your act, freshen up what you do, and keep from
stagnating. These pros know
the tricks to evolving as a vent.
night concluded with a bang in the All
Star Show emceed by Valentine Vox and starring Buddy
Mountain, Stephen Knowles, Michelle LaFong, and Dennis Lee.
The show brought the crowd to its feet many times.
Afterwards it was the last chance to buy from the dealers (which
many of you did) and spend all night talking shop in Chaucers.
The convention was a
great success. Everyone had to
brimming with ideas on how to be a better
ventriloquist and how to keep bringing this innovative art form to the
Hope to see you again
A BIG THANKS to Phillip Jones for his
Copyright 2007 Vent
Haven ConVENTion, Inc.
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