Today is Jimmy Nelson's 90th birthday!
I've had the honor of knowing Jimmy for 18 years, and I've never known a more wonderful person. Jimmy is kind, funny, smart, and generous. He's talented, humble, and loving. His contributions to ventriloquism in general and to Vent Haven Museum specifically are endless. To a person, everyone who has been fortunate enough to have met Jimmy feels the same way as I do. Jimmy is a one-of-a-kind treasure of a friend. Happy, happy birthday to the Dean of American Ventriloquists, Jimmy Nelson!
I won't attempt a biography here. That daunting task has already been successfully tackled by ventriloquism historian and Vent Haven Director Tom Ladshaw in his book, A Jimmy Nelson Celebration...70 Years of Laughter. If you are a Jimmy Nelson fan, this book is a must have! (Click on the title for a link to Amazon to purchase this wonderful bio!)
Instead of a biography, then, I thought I would share some wonderful trivia and photos with you about Jimmy's decades long friendship with and commitment to Vent Haven Museum.
Jimmy first joined the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists when he was just 14 years old. He was vouched for by one of his favorite vents, Herman Stoike.
Jimmy's IBV number was 207.
The first direct letter from Mr. Berger to Jimmy was on December 12, 1944. Mr. Berger had read an article in "TOPS" magazine about Jimmy and wanted to get to know him. They would remain friends and correspondents until Mr. Berger's death in 1972.
Mr. Berger saw Jimmy perform several times live at the various theaters in the Cincinnati area, but in 1953, Mr. Berger went to Chicago to see Jimmy perform at the Chicago Theatre.
Jimmy mentored a young vent name Stephen Thurston. Jimmy vouched for Stephen's talent and paid his IBV dues for him.
Jimmy signed many of his letters to Mr. Berger with the humorous reference initials, "JN/do'd."
Jimmy and Betty sent the birth announcements for both Marianne and Elizabeth to the Bergers.
Jimmy has been on the Vent Haven Museum Board of Advisors since 1973.
When the convention was being developed, Jimmy's idea was that he would show movie clips of various ventriloquists to help new and upcoming ventriloquists learn about comedic timing and effective material. He continued that lecture tradition at the convention for decades.
Jimmy was voted the Vent Haven Ventriloquist of the Year in 1979 and into the Vent Haven Hall of Fame in 1987.
One of Jimmy's favorite dummies in the Vent Haven collection is Jerry O'Leary which was used by one of his idols, ventriloquist Bob Evans.
In 2011, the Vent Haven convention was dedicated to Jimmy and his 70 year career in entertainment. It was then that the Vent Haven Museum Board of Directors gave him the title of Dean of American Ventriloquists and the fourth building on the grounds was named after him.
In 2018, the Board of Directors named Jimmy Nelson as the first Director Emeritus of Vent Haven Museum.
Happy birthday, Jimmy. We all love you so very much.