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Friday, January 9, 2009


At the age of 5, I got interested in ventriloquism from watching the Winchell Mahoney Time on TV. For Christmas that year I received a Knucklehead Smiff and the following year I received a Jerry Mahoney with moving eyes. I started doing Venting at my elementary school and a new store opened nearby that sold puppets which I then started working also with them. When I graduated high school, ventriloquism went to the back burner, as I worked for the Evening Bulletin paper, then private investigating work. Venting saved my life once when I had a gun shoved right in my face. I made the criminal think someone had a gun on him and he turned around which gave me the time to grab the gun off of him. After being critically wounded on the job by two burglars in the Chart House restaurant in Philadelphia I was fighting with them when they knocked me down a 2-story waterless concrete waterfall. Doctors told me that if I had stayed down I wouldn't have damaged myself as bad but the criminals were coming downstairs to finish me off. I did arrest one of the suspects while the other got in a boat and rode across to Camden, NJ where he was arrested by the Camden police. Both got out the same night while I was incapacitated for two years, 'spending three quarters of that time with my jaw wired shut.' (sic these are my words, N.J.) This is where ventriloquism came back to me. My husband, George, said I did so well that I should do it professionally. After the removal of the wires, I went pro in January, 1993. But my husband passed away before he saw me perform professionally. This is my full-time job now. I am constantly looking for new ways to VENTertain. Soon, I'll be in the theatrical release of "Figures of Speech" with my characters. In 2008, I got a chance to perform in the Senior open mic at the conVENTion performing for over 450 my peers from around the world, What an honor. I now travel up to 3000 miles to a gig, and if I made 1 person smile I've done my job.
Paul Winchell not only inspired me to get into ventriloquism, but since 2000 and up to his death he'd call me each month and we'd talk for 2-3 hours before he'd hang up. He'd imitate my characters as I would do his. What a dear person Paul was.
1. My first standing ovation was not 1 but 3.
2. The first time I saw my name and my company's name up on the marquee in lights.
3. Getting to be in "Figures of Speech" movie which has been filming for the past 2 years.
4. Talking to my mentor and fellow ventriloquist and later my personal friend, Paul Winchell, each month on the phone.
5. My first conVENTion where I met Jimmy Nelson and his family.
1. The most one was when I brought 1 of the kids up from a Yardley school and saw the teachers faces all get fear-stricken on them. I thought that this child must be a problem one. I handed the girl a hand puppet. I told her that we are going to do "Memories" from Cats. She started off lip syncing her puppet to the song and the puppet had its own voice and the girl herself sang. The teachers and the students were crying. I knew something happened but as a real trooper I kept the show going. After the song, the girl turned to me, gave me such a bear hug and said, "Thank you!" The class went back to their rooms. Several teachers came up to me and asked me if I knew what I just did? I didn't. Here the little girl hadn't spoken for two years after being abused by her father. My performing with her got her to not only talk but sing. After packing up my band and heading out for the last time, one of the teachers asked me and my assistant into her room. We went in and got a standing ovation and then all of a sudden, running from between the class, the girl came up to me. I knelt down and she gave me a kiss and another hug. At that point, I told my assistant to get the puppet that she was using out of the van. When he returned, I gave the puppet to the girl and told her that whenever in the future she becomes scared and afraid to talk, remember her puppet friend wants to talk to her. Another kiss and a hug and then I said I had to go. The teacher then came up to me crying and said, "God bless you for what you did!" And she hugged and kissed me. When my assistant and I got out of the van, neither was in any shape to drive because both of us were bawling. My assistant said that what just happened was truly a miracle from God and he was right. Before I got home, there was a message on my answering machine from the girl's mother also crying in joy and thanking me for helping her daughter.
2. Three kids came up on stage to perform with me. The one of the kid must have had every kind of beans the night before and while on stage decided to exhale. The two other kids kept pulling on my clothes asking if I smelled him? I couldn't answer because I had an open lapel mic and the kid's parents were in the front row. I did the shortest bit with him so I could breathe. It was bad. I know the school didn't have any roaches or mice after that.
3. Being pulled over by a PA state trooper for not having my child in a child safety seat. When he saw that it was a figure he told me to just get on my way. To this day, I don't know what size child safety seat my figure needs.

Wilma Swartz
The VENTertainer

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