Gary Koepke Visits the Ventriloquist Central Collection

Img 0964

A couple of weeks ago, Gary Koepke and his wife, Donna, stopped by to see the Ventriloquist Central Collection.

Gary was nice enough to send this note about being here:

Sometime in May my family and I decided to take a trip to Boston to see some of the historical sites. We tried to include something for everyone. My daughter wanted to see Harvard and Salem. My Mom wanted to see the old North Church. On Wednesday June 5th my wife and I got to see the Ventriloquist Central Collection!

Despite a long day driving, Dan welcomed us at the door. The first member of the Ventriloquist Central Collection we encountered was Bob Isaacson’s “Charlie McCarthy” replica. A beautiful work of art that the photos just do not do justice! Beautiful wig, tux, paint, etc. Just a great representation of a great figure. And entering Dan’s pool room/figure collection we came across his counter part, “Mortimer Snerd.” As with Charlie, Mortimer was a beautiful addition to the collection. Great job, Bob!

Walking around the room, Dan kindly pointed out the various figures and gave me the historical information he had on many of the more unique acquisitions. Many celebrities’ figures were there as well as many of the favorites I had seen through the web site and videos of the various figures. The Marshall figures (of course) were of special interest and I noted several special figures from the collection – the figure Dan had brought to his first convention, the Ricki Tic figures that I have long coveted, the Nosey figures, the Tommy Knotts, and so many more. They were all displayed in a very pleasing and professional manner that showed off their characters. Johnny Main and I corresponded from the early 80’s onward and it was a thrill to see so many of his figures.

It was a thrill to meet “Happy Hazard” and his McElroy siblings! I used to correspond with Cy Leonard and had seen some videos he sent me of commercials he had performed in with Happy. In person and restored by Ray Guyll he looked amazing! I resisted the temptation to play with every figure in the collection, but Happy was one I just couldn’t pass up and Dan graciously placed him in my lap for a “test drive.”

Img 0961

Img 0962

Img 0963

One of the thrills for me of visiting any collection is the chance to see figures built by the figure makers that I corresponded with in my teens and early twenties. Dan has figures by Foy Brown as well as the figures that he used personally in his act. Ken Spencer is well represented as well and so is Brian Hamilton. Truly a thrill to see some excellent examples of the characters they created.

And of course for me personally, I enjoyed seeing all the “brothers” of my Coats figures. I used to visit Jack’s shop regularly and enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with several old friends and a new one or two. Some truly pristine examples of Jack’s art from a carver who left us much to soon!

The Ventriloquist Central Collection has finally spread beyond Dan’s pool room into a basement room Dan created to house more of the collection. Beyond the figures, there were excellent examples of heads, carvings, posters, etc. The figures were clothed in period suits, shoes, and bow ties. All of the makers represented would be proud of the way Dan lovingly maintains these figures.

After going through the figures in the collection I had to take a look at Dan’s guitars. Several beautiful jazz guitars including a D’Angelico and a Guild Artist Award which Dan let me try out and his new Les Paul. After a cup of coffee and a chance to meet Dan’s magician son it was time to head back to the hotel. Leaving I knew I would have to make another trip to Boston and visit the collection again sometime soon.

Thanks Dan, for all your hospitality and willingness to let others experience a little bit of ventriloquism history! Hope to see you again real soon!!
Gary Koepke

Gary you’re welcomed back anytime.

Just a reminder to everyone out there, a good way to see the Ventriloquist Central Collection, plus have a great day is to register for the Ventriloquist Central Birthday Bash being held on October 5, 2013.

Click here for more about the Ventriloquist Central Birthday Bash


Have you signed up for the Ventriloquist Central Birthday Bash?


Ventriloquist Central is the brainchild of Dan Willinger and Steve Hurst. Dan is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Steve is a ventriloquist as well as builder of ventriloquist figures. He also has a background in sales, marketing, building websites and computers. Because they both love the art of ventriloquism, the website Ventriloquist Central was born. For more information about the website, go to:

Copyright 2013 by Dan Willinger and Steve Hurst

NOTE: You may use this blog article provided you run it with the bio box intact. Please email a copy of your publication with the blog article in it to:

This entry was posted in Dummy Collecting, Ventriloquism/Ventriloquist, Ventriloquist Central, Ventriloquist Figure (Dummy) Makers, Ventriloquist Figures and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Gary Koepke Visits the Ventriloquist Central Collection

  1. Bob Isaacson says:

    Terrific letter by Gary Koepke. He described the collection in such a wonderful manner; that it seemed as though a person reading the letter was there in person. Glad Gary enjoyed his tour through the Ventriloquist Central Collection. Hope to see Gary again at one of the Vent Haven Conventions. Gary is a very knowledgeable person regarding Ventriloquism and a very friendly fellow.

  2. I value both Gary & Dan’s friendship.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *