Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Post-Convention Post

Convention 2007 was a hit. Mere words cannot do this event justice. Besides, all the mere words have been said on the vent lists and in countless blogs. So, instead of repeating all the mere words, I offer here only a few of the highlights from my personal perspective.

  • Bill DeMar's rise out of the ashes of retirement to entertain us as opening act for the Saturday Night Show. He did his ticklish frog and his signature tape-on-the-mouth routines that no one can figure out.
  • Trying in vain to repair Bill's Chuck Norwood in time for the Saturday Night show. He'd sprung a spring. His mechanical parts were what can only be described as a Rube Goldberg contraption. Much of it wound up on the floor when we tried to get the sprung spring to come out. It needed a complete overhaul and I had neither tools nor supplies. We had chewing gum, paper clips, rubber bands, and I don't know whatall, but nothing to work with. I'd have given anything for a simple pair of needlenose pliers and some sidecutters.

    Another figure maker, Lee Dunn, who I never got to meet, had his tool kit with him and volunteered to fix the problem sufficiently to get Bill through the show. They tell me he was up with it until the wee small hours. He did not charge Bill anything. A very kind man, indeed. Typical of the unsung heroes of our profession.
  • Lisa Sweasy's thirty-year retrospective of the Vent Haven museum.
  • Jimmy Nelson being there and just being Jimmy Nelson.
  • Mark James' skillful handling of a tricky vent mask that wouldn't stay on the volunteer's head. Mark made it look like part of the show and very funny it was.
  • All the camera crews, directors and interviewers. Somebody out there is taking notice of this art.
  • Amanda Cowles' skillful puppetry during husband Tim's show. Amanda stole the show.
  • The kids of Junior Open Mic. They were all wonderful. Peter Michaels, Jr. walked away with that show. He is seven years old and is already a polished entertainer and skillful ventriloquist. Peter sang with perfect intonation, too, something that you rarely hear from someone that young—and many who are a lot older—and something that can make or break a musical presentation.
  • The auction. They auctioned off a private tour of Vent Haven with Lisa Sweasy and Jeff Dunham as tourguides. We had the volunteer services of a professional auctioneer to run the event. The bidding was down to two bidders with the highest bid at $2500 and the next highest bid at $2450, when an amazing thing happened. Jeff Dunham stopped the bidding and announced that both bidders were winners. In one stroke of brilliance he converted what might have been $2500 for the museum to $4950.
  • The new look at Vent Haven museum. A much-improved layout and display format in the building that houses Charlie, Mort, Effie, Jerry, Knuck, Danny, Elmer, Walter, and many other famous figures.
  • The official hospitality room. I didn't know what to expect. I quit drinking since last year and wondered if it would be as much fun. It was, except that I didn't stay up as late every night, so I probably missed a lot.
  • The fun I had hanging with so many old and new friends.
  • My RV expedition with the ever-patient RV copilot and navigator, John Parisi, who put up with not being allowed to smoke, endless hours on the road with nothing to do, a highspeed blowout on I-95 in the passing lane, and another one while he, the emergency repair guy and I were standing immediately in front of the offending tire. John got his shirt nearly ripped off by flying rubber. We never knew how well he can dance.

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