A short nod to the multi-skilled Richard “Dick” Bruno (1901-1986), best known as the faux French ventriloquist Monsieur Brunard, with his dummy Joe Flip.
Bruno’s original orientation was musical. His father and grandfather were professional harp players; Dick took up the sax and played with jazz bands in his youth. But he also frequented magic shops likes Hornmann’s and Max Holden’s and learned from the likes of Frank Ducrot and Will Park, who had been as assistant to Adelaide Herrmann. Through the ’30s, Bruno worked in night clubs as an emcee and musician, working sleight of hand feats into his appearances. He became a ventriloquist circa 1941 through the tutelage and inspiration of John W. Cooper and The Great Lester. It was while touring with USO shows during World War Two that he got the idea to adopt a French persona, while “Joe Flip” remained a wiseguy New Yorker who took the piss out of him. An associated of Dai Vernon and Ramee Sami, Bruno is also said to have taught Shari Lewis.
To find out more about the variety arts, please consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous