Saturday, Dec. 19 at 1 p.m. the kids will have a wonderful holiday treat at the Idyllwild Library. Even adults who accompany them may be chuckling and impressed. Local children will have an opportunity to see, hear and learn from a true ventriloquist — Joe Gandelman.
He has been interested in ventriloquism since his youth. After several decades as a print journalist — abroad and in San Diego — Gandelman devoted his full attention to the art of speaking through others.
Today’s television rarely shares the talents of great ventriloquists. “I like Howdy Doody the best,” Gandelman said.
Many Baby Boomers remember Howdy Doody. Gandelman’s work emulates these early performers. But unlike the late Edgar Bergen, Gandelman does not need to move his lips when his sidekicks speak.
“But nobody understands how great [Bergen’s] scripts were. People never noticed,” he said.
As he did more ventriloquism, Gandelman needed to find and meet his own sidekicks and co-stars. But he could not satisfy his expectations as he searched the local toy stores. Fortunately, he wrote ventriloquist Paul Winchell, who told him, “Forget the toy stores, go to the magic stores. That’s what ventriloquism is — magic,” Gandelman remembered. John Raven is Gandlman’s main character.
After graduating from Colgate University, Gandelman wanted to do more work in international relations, but ended up as a journalist first in India for the Hindustan Times and later in Spain, where he contributed to the Christian Science Monitor. In the late 1980s, while writing at the San Diego Union, he experienced two events that altered his life.
One weekend he was talking with a colleague from the paper, a 50ish woman. They were in downtown San Diego and she had a 15-year-old daughter. On Monday, she was dead from a heart attack. Shortly afterward, he was involved in near-death traffic collision.
Ventriloquism, to which he had returned on a casual basis for relief from writing (frequent weeks of 40 hours of overtime), became an end. A former mentor, Jimmy Nelson, star of the classic Nestles commercial, encouraged him to pursue it full-time. Now he performs throughout the country, at libraries such as Idyllwild, workplaces, television, summer camps, parties and more.
Gandelman has not forsaken his love of writing. “I certainly miss the print, it’s in my blood,” he said, and described his blog, “The Moderate Voice,” where Gandelman continues to opine about current affairs
Also, he wants to see this skill passed to future generations. He has written a book, “Tips from a Pro,” for others who wish to “throw their voices.” He also produced a CD entitled “Super Simplified Ventriloquism,” in which he shares his technique.
“It’s not hard. Last week in Ventura, two kids were doing it without moving their lips,” he said proudly.
Besides bringing some of his favorites puppet friends with him to Idyllwild, Gandelman promises a time to remember. And before he finishes, he’ll share some lessons and techniques with the kids in the audience.