Gary Koepke born in Detroit, Michigan May 9, 1957. some of his fondest memories are of Jimmy Nelson, Edgar Bergen Paul Winchell. Liking what he saw drove him to request a Jerry Mahoney figure from his parents, but the early requests were denyed. They thought it was a passing fancy to him. But that didn't stop Gary. azt the age of 8 soon seeing Bergen give some tips on how to become a vent on a tv show. So Gary made his own hand made puppet, got a book out of the library Winchell's "Ventriloquism For Fun and Profit" He watched every variety show hoping to catch glimpses of vents and their banter, especially Ed Sullivans show. And at this time his parents bought him his Danny O'Day figure from a sears catalog.
In 1969 at the age of 11, Gary found a hand-carved figure made by the late Jack Coats in a local magic shop, put a deposit down, and borrowed the money from his parents to pay off the balance. Now with the bug well implanted in him at the age of 12 off he went to Vent-O-Rama in Colon Mich. and a Magic Con as well 'Abbott's Magic Get Together, where meeting and getting good sound advice from the likes of Jack Coats, Bill Boley Howie Olsen and Paul Stadelman. In 1971-2 and 3 he won the junior vent of the year award and origionality award in 1971.
Gary was relocated to Lawrenceville, Georgia in 1974 when his father was transferred with his company. He began performing in his new high school and became friends with another student named Steve Whitmire, now of the "Muppets" fame. They performed together and learned from each other.
The summer of 1975 found Gary performing at the 'Six Flags Over Georgia' amusement park, 8 shows a day, 6 days a week. He also attended the 1st Annual Ventriloquist Convention in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky and performed during the opening evening's festivities.
In 1978 - 1979 Gary, along with Steve Whitmire, co-hosted a local children's TV show and were nominated for a state Emmy award.
In 1982, Gary was laid off from his job as a draftsman and began performing full-time doing club work with invaluable advice from Johnny Main. He continued this pursuit until 1984 when it was discovered that he was going to be a "pa-pa." He returned to working full-time, but kept his interest in vent alive on the side.
Gary has performed for the Amoco Oil Corporation, Exxon Corporation, Motown Records, Chevrolet, Burnam Van Lines Corporation, Pratt & Whitney, the US Dept. of Agriculture, and other major corporations too numerous to mention.
His main characters are Pete Brooks - a 20 year old looking for fun carved by the late Jack Coats, Roscoe Clower - a young country boy from Snellville originally made by Steve Whitmire, but redesigned and built by Verna Finley, and Paco - a Mexican parrot which is an adult sized version of Axtell's 'Burds' puppets. Also included in the figure 'arsenal' are Paul Brooks - Gary's first Coats figure which is an 8 year old boy, Sheldon - a Mary Ann Taylor turtle, Grandpa Jake - a John Arvites figure which was a door prize at the 1982 conVENTion in KY and subsequently purchased from Captain Dick, Georgie - a 19" Coats figure used for fun, Karlton - a talking glove character, and an Axtell magic drawing board which is being used to develop a variety of characters.
Gary's newest hard character is a Conrad Hartz character purchased in May of 1997 which is named R.K. Hill. R.K. is a street person, but one with a difference. He has a job to go along with his IQ of 47. He took to the streets when the premiums were raised on the benefits at his county job. However, R.K.'s always up and his philosophy of life is life's always great!
The year 1996 saw a renewed interest in performing for Gary when his daughter Amber also began performing as a ventriloquist and they attended the conVENTion in Kentucky. He and his wife Vanessa attended the 1st Ventriloquists' Convention in Las Vegas and Gary is a member of the International Ventriloquists' Association and the North American Association of Ventriloquists. He also has 3 younger children waiting in the wings who also have expressed a desire to learn ventriloquism themselves, making this truly a family affair.
Gary's other hobbies include tinkering with figure making and repair, playing guitar and writing music, magic, and administrating S.O.D. - acronym for Speaking of Dummies which is a local vent club in Georgia.