Remembering my time with the Great Lester

Dr. Larry Klock, MD
Spokane, Washington

Thanks, Clinton, for featuring The Great Lester and for the generous gifts. I'm a physician in Spokane, Washington, and had an opportunity to spend two summers studying ventriloquism with Lester when I was a teenager in the mid 1950s. It was an amazing experience.

Lester lived in a small apartment above a hardware store on Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood, California. I spent nearly two months there each summer, and we would have lessons daily in his flat. My parents were with me and we lived in a small, nearby motel room. We worked very hard on voice technique and figure manipulation. Lester had very precise and specific ways he approached teaching. He was in his seventies at the time and was a gracious and patient instructor. He was a perfectionist, but in a gentle way. We would practice for hours at a time and record our lessons on a reel-to-reel tape, so we could listen to our voice.

He emphasized attention to detail. He insisted that one never performed in public unless his shoes were recently shined. He prohibited "touching" the figure with the free hand. Of course the words "dummy" and "puppet" were absolutely prohibited, and we could only use the term "figure." He had many of these "tips." We also worked on the "distant voice" for which Lester was famous. When we would take a break, Lester would perform and teach us magic tricks. I still do his cut and restored string for my grandkids, exactly as Lester had taught.

The wall of his apartment was covered with dozens of glossy photographs of entertainers. We heard many stories of his life as a performer. Various friends would come and go in his apartment each day. There were four or five of us "students" there at same time, but we all received individual instruction and had our own pace. One of my fellow "students" was Stuart (Stu) Scott, who went on to a vent. career in Las Vegas. Bob Bradford was also there, and worked as a professional ventriloquist.

We spent one memorable day with Edgar Bergen, which included lunch at his "studio" and had an opportunity to see his various figures and their large wardroom rooms. Lester had been Bergen's teacher and mentor.

I've performed in various settings as a ventriloquist since those days, and still have clear and fond memories of many of the techniques that Lester taught. I've used an Insull figure obtained from Mrs. Maher for many years and have used Clinton as a resource and supplier for scripts, figures, repairs and cases for a long time.

Thanks, again, Clinton, for your devotion to the Art of Ventriloquism in the tradition of The Great Lester.


  1. Anonymous1/09/2010

    Mr. Klock,

    Thank you so VERY much for sharing this with us, & thank you Mr. D for posting it!! I've always wished more people would share in this fashion having met or known the old masters of this great art! I'm like a kid at Christmas when I read things like this! Thanks again. W.S.

  2. Anonymous1/16/2010

    Dr. Klock,
    Thanks for sharing these great memories!
    - Steve