Friday, July 31, 2009

Jimmy and Sammy
It is a bold sign of getting older when you start complaining about how fast the time is going. At the risk of showing more age than I wish to acknowledge, "Where has the summer gone?" I have now been out of school longer than I was in school, but I still get a knot in my stomach when I see "back to school" ads on television. As a kid it meant that my freedom was about to come to an end. Old anxiety triggers are very hard to over come.

I attended the 2009 Ventriloquist ConVENTion in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky a couple of weekends ago. I had a great time, highlighted by being able to pal around with some of my ventriloquist heroes like Jimmy Nelson and Sammy King. I can't begin to acknowledge the influence each one of these guys had on my career. It was great to get a private tour of the special exhibit Lisa Sweasy and Jen Dawson did for me at the Museum. Even more exciting was being able to invite Jimmy, Sammy, Brad Cummings, Jeff Dunham and Tom Ladshaw to the private venture. It is a time that I will not soon forget.

Jimmy Nelson could be in my opinion the second nicest person in the world, second only to his wife Betty. I call Jimmy the Godfather of ventriloquism, at least in my perception of it. He has perhaps done more for the art form than any other vent. You can talk about Bergen and Winchelle, but they were just highly visible. Jimmy was always approachable, giving and supportive of other vents and young kids like me who wanted to follow in his footsteps. He attends every convention, lectures, discusses and helps anyone he can.

Sammy has always been like my big brother who was always out of town. In the last few years while he was at the Palm Springs Follies he was close enough for me reconnect. He was even in the Follies when my Mother in Law was the performing in the show. She used to tell me how similar I was to Sammy with our love mutual of sketching and creative endeavors. I didn't realize until this trip that Sammy made Francisco the Parrot. He said as one puppet would wear out he would make another carefully taking some piece of the worn out puppet to incorporate into the new. This continuity of the soul of a puppet certainly touches my passion.

Sammy did his last show with Francisco Saturday night at the convention. On stage after the performance donated Francisco to the Museum where he will take up a position of silent spokesman to an act Sammy has done 25,000 times in his life.

I doubt Sammy or Jimmy read this blog, but I lift an imaginary glass to you both. To the art of ventriloquism and two of the best protectors of that holy grail, all I can say is "thanks for the inspiration".

As you were,


Anonymous said...

My 10 year old son (along with mom and dad) was at the ConVENTion for the first time this year. Being new to the ventriloquist world, I was unaware of how much of an impact Sammy and Jimmy have had. Both men were so amazingly kind and accessible to my son and so incredibly talented!!I have to admit, I was crying like a baby at the end of Sammy's performance.

I guess things come full circle, because for my son, YOU are a superhero and have such an impact on him. Thank you for keeping the "holy grail" and the inspiration going.

Roomie said...

You are our hero!!!
Carry on,

the other one said...

You both beat me to it...

Keep it going Mr. Johnson!!!

Bob Conrad said...

You are right Jay, Jimmy and Sammy have been an inspiration to all of us performing vent today. Keep in mind that you, Jeff, and ron are the inspiration of the next generation of vents. Keep performing "The Two and Only" as that show is an inspiration to all vents present and future.

Sammy King said...

Thank you, Jay, for your continued contributions to the art we all love so much.
Sammy King