Tuesday, August 31, 2010

performing runs in the family - birth name spoiler alert

Many of you may not know that my great-great grandfather was a famous vaudeville ventriloquist. He toured the country for years under the stage name "Johnny Raymond" and later with his wife (my great-grandmother) as Raymond and Ann.

I apparently look a bit like Ann, which is weird -- seeing a physical resemblance in someone who lived a hundred years before you.

Anyway, recently, I was Googling members of my family as is my periodical wont, and I came across Ventriloquist Central, a major collection of classic ventriloquist dummies and other memorabilia. The blog post that Google found was on my great-grandfather. The collector, Dan, was very excited that he had obtained Johnny Raymond's very first ventriloquist dummy, and also ten of his diaries that he kept on the road. (I wasn't Googling my great-granddad, but he has the same name as my dad and my brother.)

It didn't say on the website where Ventriloquist Central was located, but sometimes I get these... feelings. Call them premonitions if you want, but however you want to describe them, sometimes I just know stuff. Something told me that this place was very close to me, and that I would be able to get there easily. This feeling was supported when I watched the intro video and noticed that the man speaking had a wicked Boston accent. I emailed him.

It turned out the owner of the collection, Dan, did in fact live fifteen minutes away from me. He was super friendly over email and seemed really excited to have me come over and see my great-grandfather's stuff. We made a date and I came by last Wednesday morning.

Have you ever walked into a room filled with nearly 200 antique professional dummies? This picture doesn't really do justice to the experience:

Dan and his wife Helen were extremely warm and friendly. We got along right away. Dan had laid my great-grandfather's stuff out on the pool table in preparation for my visit.

Great-grandpa's first dummy. He has a hollow head and a leather lower lip and smells like old books.

It was incredible to see his handwriting, and the meticulous (some might say obsessive-compulsive) documentation of everyone of his shows. An old picture fell out of one of the diaries when I opened it.

Hey! I know Central Square! I've performed in Central Square. Like, a lot. Funny. I wonder if he ever performed at the Cantab. I know it's been there forever.

An airplane ride must have been pretty exciting in 1930.

Here's me, Dan, and great-grandpa's stuff. I'm so glad all of his things are with someone who really appreciates them. Dan and Helen are wonderful, and Dan is really committed to preserving the legacy of the performance art of ventriloquism.

It was a great visit, and I hope to come back again soon. Thanks Dan!

1 comment:

LeeDean said...

Like you, Jade, and you do look like Ann.