The Great Lester: Grandfather of Modern Ventriloquist

The “Grandfather of Modern Ventriloquism” was born in Poland in 1878 (birthday unknown). His real name was Maryan Czakkowski; his full stage name was Harry Lester (when in doubt, a vaudevillian is always named Harry). His dummy’s name was Frank Byron, Jr. — a name I find hilarious in its specificity.  Among Lester’s signature bits was talking while drinking a class of water; he was one of the first to do so. He also established a tradition of education for the budding ventriloquist. As you might have anticipated, Lester was a major influence on the young Edgar Bergen. Another of his famous bits had him calling up Heaven and Hell in search of his deceased sister. He finally followed her to one of those destinations in 1956.  

To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


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