2004 Vent Haven
by Anne Roberts,
Vent Haven Board of Directors
Hundreds of ventriloquists! The Vent Haven ConVENTion 2004 wanted to
further people's skills at all levels, and no one could have left Ft.
Mitchell without oodles and oodles of tips, tricks, techniques, and great
memories. This year's gathering was over the top outstanding. Attendance
hit an all time high of more than 450 conVENTioneers which included about
85 first timers. Those red-dotters' amazement and enthusiasm was
Also, this year, 60 Minutes
Weekday came and filmed the ENTIRE time with correspondent Candice
Bergen conducting personal interviews.
the conVENTion got a jumpstart on Wednesday evening with "Beginning
Ventriloquism" by Bob Isaacson, Ms. Bergen was in the audience
too. Her presence was a pleasant surprise and created a nice buzz of
Wednesday night also provided
some "Advanced Ventriloquism" from our
Executive Director Mark Wade. For those who have mastered the basics,
they got some tips on the distant voice and the baby cry.
This session was followed by
an entertaining "Night Before Show." People could have sworn
that Ed Sullivan had returned from the grave, but it was actually the
highly talented Bob Rumba keeping everyone laughing and the show
moving as MC. Kimberly Yeager introduced her new girl figure, Randy
Mallick entertained with his Axtell bear, Phillip Jones proved
he's more than just an excellent photographer; and Dave Turner
closed the show with a standing ovation for his hilarious act about what
vents do behind closed doors. The Dealers' Rooms opened for business with
vents, vents everywhere.
Thursday morning started off
with Registration again, but it was a pretty slow morning for Paula Wade
compared to the overwhelming rush the night before. Probably 80% of the
attendees showed up in London Hall Lobby Wednesday at 5:00pm ready to get
the show on the road. It was obvious that most people didn't want to miss
a minute of the conVENTion.
John Brooking, President
of Vent Haven Museum, welcomed everyone at the Official Opening. After
the general announcements, Mark Wade presented two Distinguished
Service Awards: first to Dorothy Millure for her many years of
running the conVENTion and the museum (a job that's now done by four
people instead of one), and to Pete Michaels for his years of
performing and service to the art. John Main, Jr. was also there to
donate Gutters McGraw, his father's figure to the museum. Gutters was
included in the special exhibit for Johnny Main during the bus
tours to Vent Haven. The museum was honored to accept and appreciated John
making a special trip for the presentation.
the business of the Official Opening, it was back to learning with Jeff
Dunham's technically supported lecture on "When All Fails….Manipulate!"
Jeff's accompanying slides gave great tips for keeping the figure alive.
After a brief delay for a 60
Minutes II interview, Gary Willner stepped up for "The
Ventriloquist: More Than Just Comedy."
Unlike most Julys in
Kentucky, the weather was not beastly hot for the Group Photo by the
outdoor pool. Candice Bergen watched the action from the balcony,
surely amazed at the people and puppets below. The crowd's energy and
enthusiasm was apparent after the photo as many lingered and talked around
Dunham conducted some interviews that will be edited for the bonus
materials of his DVD coming out in the future. Between 60 Minutes II's
three camera crews, Jeff's DVD guys, and a documentary filmmaker from
Dallas, TX, there was filming everywhere. ConVENTioneers were showing how
great ventriloquism is.
After the lunch break, Bob
Isaacson MC and the Junior Open Mic contestants stepped onstage to
show us the next generation of talent. They all did wonderful jobs and had
amazing stage presence. Even technical difficulties were handled with
humor. Those kids can adlib. This was followed by the Senior Open Mic
adults getting a taste of the spotlight with MC Jerry Layne.
The evening was filled with
the useful topics of a "Comedy Writing Seminar" by Steve Roye
and a "Finding Your Niche" Panel Discussion with Bob
Rumba, Tom Ladshaw, Mark Wade, Bob & Marty Hamill,
and Dale Brown moderating.
The evening closed with the
Dealers' Rooms and the wacky General Open Mic session where inhibitions
are shed and new material gets a trial run.
Friday morning it was back to
work with some tough choices about which workshops to attend. Dan and
Mary Fry covered "Voicing the Gospel," Liz VonSeggen
discussed "Creating Character Voices," and Steve Taylor
provided insight about "Fooling Your Dummy: Adding Magic to Your Vent
Act." The afternoon brought a second round of great choices: Dale
Brown gave the ins and outs of "Banquet Performing," Richard
Paul was on top of the "Business of Ventriloquism," and Pete
Michaels prepared everyone for "What to Do If the String
Breaks!" All these talented lecturers offered professional,
well-structured, useful information. Talk about brain overload!
In the afternoon, "The
Figure Makers Speak" with Ray Guyll, Tim Selberg, Jerry
Layne, and Conrad Hartz offered insight into an area of
ventriloquism the public often overlooks, those artistic masters behind
every great figure. Valid dialogue about the process of custom ordering a
figure was enlightening for all.
was followed by the ever-favorite Vent Videos with Jimmy Nelson.
Friday night's International
Show with MC Stevo Schuling of Germany, Fredrik Eklov of Sweden,
and Don Bryon of Canada proved that ventriloquism is popular
worldwide, not just in the US of A. The last event of the night was the
crazy Vent Haven Raffle with those insane tickets sellers and all proceeds
going to Vent Haven Museum. Paula Wade did an excellent job
estimating the tickets as there were only two "dead" numbers
this year and lots of winners. Way to go!
Riding the wave of the
International Show, Saturday morning opened with the International Panel
of Stevo Schuling, Frederik Eklov, Don Bryon, and Darren
The next Panel Discussion
"How Much Do You Charge?" with Al Getler, Mark Wade,
Jeff Dunham, Bob Rumba, Tom Ladshaw, and Ken
Groves moderating, created excellent dialogue about that financial end
of this business. Following this session, issues of the magazine American
Profile were handed out to each conVENTioneer. Last year's conVENTion
was the cover article and the writer did an excellent job portraying vents
- June 20-26 issue
weather continued to be delightful for the afternoon tours of Vent Haven
Museum. There were new things to see: the Johnny Main Special Exhibit
was a tribute to our Vent Haven Board of Advisor member who passed away
Kelly Asbury and Jimmy
Nelson were selling and signing Dummy Days at the gift shop, and Michelle
Miles, a Cincinnati artist, set up a display of her pastels of museum
Just like Candice Bergen who
was overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of the history of our art,
conVENTioneers were inspired by the pictures and figures of so many
masters who have come before them. (By the way, Ms. Bergen even sang the
Nestle jingle during her tour; hopefully that will make the final cut.)
The last Panel Discussion of
"Building Better Ventriloquists" with Jimmy Nelson, Bill
DeMar, Mark Wade, and Jerry Layne brought the learning
portion of the conVENTion to an end. The Saturday Night "All Star
Show" featuring MC Joe Lefler, Bob & Marty Hamill, Darren
Carr, and Lynn Trefzger-Joy closed the conVENTion with relaxing
laughter and fun. Everyone got to see performers at the top of the
What an awesome, exhausting
week of total ventriloquial saturation! Every ventriloquist had to be
better from this shared experience. Although there was some trepidation
prior to the start of the conVENTion, the 60 Minutes II crew made every
effort to be considerate flies on the wall and truly observe the current
state of ventriloquism. What they observed is a thriving, exciting
community of performers.
We hope to see you all back
- Annie Roberts
Michaels along with Dorothy Millure, was
the recipient of the Vent Haven Distinguished Service Award for his years
of performing and service to the art of ventriloquism.
Pete Michaels has been seen
on many national TV shows including: Conan O'Brien, Showtime At The
Apollo, Comedy Central and in the feature film "Dummy" starring
Adrien Brody. Pete is also appearing in "Soul In A Suitcase"
which has received the National Board of Review of Motion Picture Award at
the 2004 Columbia University Film Festival. This short bio-film directed
by Adam Stehle and produced by Hayes Clement, features Pete Michaels and