Back in the late 1970’s until the early 1980’s there was a ventriloquist who worked the Chicago area named William Pretty Bopp Franklin. Unfortunately most of us have never heard of him because he passed away of a heart attack on Nov 22, 1984 while performing in a west side night club in Chicago.
Franklin was from St. Louis Missouri and was born on Oct.12, 1931. He started out as a comic and was with the Larry Steele “Smart Affairs Show” and arrived in Chicago with them. Black promoter Pervis Spann discovered Bopp and put him to work in all the top black clubs in Chicago. He became the house emcee at the Club Checkmate. He alternated with Tommy Brown in this position.
Pretty Bopp also traveled and was a regular performer at the Apollo in New York. He appeared with such greats as The Jackson Five, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. He also recorded 3 comedy albums and was working on a fourth album at the time of his passing.
Pretty Bopp decided to do ventriloquism in 1976 after seeing a black vent who called himself Alan & Wall Eyed. Bopp was self taught and purchased his first figure from Magic Inc. He called his side kick June Bug and this figure was made by Danny baker and then reworked by John Arvites. You could see Bopp and June Bugg working the streets of Chicago especially on the State Street Mall.
Unfortunately William Pretty Bopp Franklin passed away at the young age of 53 and even though he worked tirelessly with the city of Chicago in Human Resources and later with the Belmont Police in the task force to deal with fire, rape and crime victims he remains for the most part an unknown vent.
I decided to give this history of Pretty Bopp because one of his ventriloquist figures has become a part of the Ventriloquist Central Collection (more about this in a future blog).
Dan Willinger 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. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
Copyright 2009 by Dan Willinger
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Looking for the present whereabouts of John Arvites – can you help?
For Liz Freeman:
John Arvites is in Rockford, IL. He sells cars at Napleton Honda.
I just came across this. This is great. I have been researching African American Ventriloquist since 1998. I was given a 8 x 10 color photo of Pretty Bopp & June Bug around 1999 or 2000. I was trying to figure out his last name. Thanks for this post.
I would appreciate any other information you could share with me on him.
I was so stunned to see this website. I am the daughter of William”Pretty Bop” Franklin. My name is Dallastine Franklin Rich. I am 51 years old now but as a child I use to play with “June Bug” and another doll he had named “Terry”. I use to try to imitate my father as a ventriloquist. I was never as good as he was but I always wanted to be. Thank you so much for bringing back some fond memories of my father, Terry, and June Bug. You made my day!
I’m also one of the daughters of Mr. William (pretty bop) Franklin. My name is Kim Milton. I’m 55 yrs.old and live in St.Louis Mo. I was happy when my daughter called and told me that my father was on this website.So I looked it up , and there it was several pictures and articles about William(pretty bop) Franklin and June Bug that brought back memories also.One time I recall we were on State St. in Chicago and Dad took June Bug out of his trunk , the crowd gathered around laughing an having fun as he entertained them ,and when the entertaining was over and the crowd had scattered. He looked at me and said, long as I can get people to laugh , I’ve done my part.