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Who's The Dummy?

Candice Bergen Visits The World's Largest Gathering Of Ventriloquists

60 Minutes II and actress Candice Bergen, daughter of the legendary ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, recently attended the 29th Annual Vent Haven ConVENTion – "vent" being short for "ventriloquist."

Each year, almost 500 ventriloquists around the world travel to Fort Mitchell, Ky., to celebrate their art and share the tricks of their trade.

What are some of the common misconceptions about ventriloquists?

"Well, we have a lot of people that, you know, we had those shows, those Twilight Zone episode shows," says Mark Wade, a full-time ventriloquist and executive director of the convention. "I love 'The Twilight Zone,' but it always pictures the ventriloquist as somebody not quite based in reality."

One ventriloquist, Jeff Dunham, is just flat-out funny, whether it's with characters like "Peanuts" or "Jose the Jalapeno," or the crusty old "Walter."

Why doesn't he just do standup comedy?

"I happen to be a standup comedian who uses ventriloquism as the vehicle for comedy," says Dunham to Bergen, whose father, Edgar Bergen, and his dummy, Charlie McCarthy, made comedy on the radio.

"I think your father did that. He was such a brilliant writer. And the ventriloquism is very much secondary to the humor, to the jokes, to the characters."

The convention features seminars on "How to pronounce difficult letters without moving your lips," and hosts so-called "Open Mike" performances.

The focal point is the so-called dealer's rooms where every manner of ventriloquist material is sold: books, posters, how-to videos, signed photos, and especially new and very old dummies.

Tom Ladshaw has a premier collection, especially of Charlie McCarthy items. "I have a Charlie charm bracelet that has eight little tiny Charlie heads on it," he says. "And all of them, the mouths move. And that's the only one I've ever seen."

Bergen asked Ladshaw how much the bracelet was now worth.

"Why," asks Ladshaw. "Is it yours?"

"No, it wasn't," says Bergen. "I never saw it."

Ladshaw then asked Bergen if she had a Mortimer: "Those are very hard to find. The talking Mortimer?"

"I don't," says Bergen. "...Maybe we should talk later. … I've got some things at home."

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