Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mills of the gods

Talking to the dummy

There was a recent story I saw about the annual ventriloquism convention in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky. Ft. Mitchell also houses the Ventriloquism museum, home of over 700 dummies. Boy don't you think that would be a scary room to walk around in at night ?Anyway, there is a fear that ventriloquism is a dying art. Few people under thirty have ever seen the great ventriloquists of the movies or early T.V. perform. Edgar Bergen, Walter Winchell, Senor Wences, these guys were on T.V. weekly. Sadly, the TV variety show is just about gone. I was born too late for Edgar Bergen, my generation's ventriloquist was Walter Winchell, or as he was called by one of his dummies (Knucklehead Smith) "Mr Winkle".

I always loved ventriloquists, or actually, their dummies. I liked the way they made fun of their partners. The guys who made them talk. I always like the mystery shows where the Ventriloquist dummy's personality actually took over the personality of the the Ventriloquist and killed someone. I used to hope that they would arrest the dummy and put him in an interview room at the police station to see if they could get him to turn on the ventriloquist. I don't know why no one ever had a plot like that.

Senor Wences actually talked to his own hand (which had lipstick and a wig on) and made a cigar box say "so right" at the end of every act. I was never a big Wences fan, but I had friends who thought that the pinnacle of comedy was to say "so right ? so right. O.K. ? O.K"I wonder if they have Wence's hand in that museum ? red lipstick smeard on the thumb and forefinger, little eyes drawn in. One of my favorite movies, "The In-Laws" had a scene with a Central American Dictator doing a Wences type act with is hand, "Senor Pepe". Ventriloquist dummies are not as common anymore, although we have one apparently running the country. In the end, Dick Cheney may prove that he was the greatest ventriloquist of them all. Eight years, and no one saw his lips move. So right ? So right. O.k ? not so much.


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