Saturday, May 30, 2015

Jimmy Nelson (TV)

(1928 – )
Wikipedia Entry

Sometimes the key to a long career boils down one word.  Jimmy Nelson is the next in our parade of ventriloquists, one who was known for many years even without starring in his own show.  And that word was “chocolate.”

Nelson was born in Chicago and started on his path to success at the age of 10, when his aunt won a ventriloquist’s dummy in a Bingo game.  She gave it to the young boy, giving him a reason to learn how to throw his voice and, after turning professional at the age of 17, he quickly became a success, appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1950 and became a regular on The Milton Berle Show.

Nelson’s main dummy was Danny O’Day, a fairly standard personality for a ventriloquist’s dummy – a wisecracking boy.  His second was Humphrey Higsbye, who was a departure from the usual second banana in a ventriloquist act:  instead of being somewhat dim, he was supposed to be a cultured intellectual.  Here’s a look of them on The Milton Berle Show:*

But his most famous character was a hand puppet:  Farfel the dog.  Farfel was a hand puppet instead of a dummy.  Farfel probably would have been just another ventriloquist’s trick if it wasn’t for one thing.

Nestle’s Quik was looking for a spokesman, and Nelson auditioned with Danny and Farfel.  The ad ended with the jingle sung by Danny: “N-E-S-T-L-E-S.  Nestles makes the very best . . . “  And Farfel joined in, adding “Chaaaaw-klit.”  At the audition, Nelson’s fingers slipped as Farfel finished the word, and the puppet’s mouth snapped shut audibly.  That was a beginner’s mistake, and Nelson thought he blew the audition.  But the company loved the snap, and he got the job.

Farfel remained the spokesdog for Quick for most of the 5os and 60s, giving Nelson a steady job even when his TV appearances were few.** At this point, he’s retired, but occasionally shows up a local events.
*For some reason, the video lists his name as Ed Nelson.
**I saw Nelson at a county fair in the late 70s.  He did his comedy act, but it wasn’t complete until Farfel said, “Chaaaw-klit” <snap>

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