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Jimmy Nelson entertains near full-house crowd at Historical Society meeting

By Staff | Oct 12, 2010

MICHAEL PISTELLA Jimmy Nelson and his ventriloquist pals Danny O’Day, left, and Farfel entertain the crowd at Tuesday’s Cape Coral Historical Society meeting at Cultural Park Theater.

The Cape Coral Historical Society kicked off its season Tuesday with 186 people in attendance for special guest Jimmy Nelson and his ventriloquist pals Danny O’Day and Farfel.

Museum Curator Anne Cull said they have never had that many people attend any of their meetings before. She said she believes they had such a great turnout for their first meeting of the season because they offered a nostalgic presentation.

“It was so professional and nostalgic,” Cull said, adding that it really “takes us back.”

Nelson’s career kicked off after he made an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. He said as soon as you appeared on the Sullivan show, that Monday your phone began ringing to book shows. After that one appearance he said he had shows in Las Vegas, Hollywood, Chicago and New York.

A “hobby that got out of hand” when Nelson was 10 years old developed into a career that led to a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Ventriloquists Association in 1998, as well as being inducted into the Ventriloquist Hall of Fame.

Nelson took Historical Society audience members down memory lane by sharing his experiences of the early days of television. He said in the late ’40s TV studios had two cameras and those who appeared live on TV wore purple makeup and powder since they were broadcasted in black and white.

One of Nelson’s earliest memories of doing a show with his pal Danny O’Day was shortly after he had been painted with oil-based paint. He said due to the heat caused by the lighting on stage, the paint began to run down Danny’s face, which ended up running into his mouth creases causing it to remain stuck open during his skit.

In 1952, on New Years Day, Nelson was asked to be apart of Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theatre, which lasted for two years. He said laughing after all these years, “Danny O’Day’s suite still fits him.”

From there his career path changed to doing Nestle Chocolate Company commercials from 1955 until 1965, which was one of the longest commercials to run for one person as spokesperson.

He said since TV was live, by the time it was his turn to do the commercial with Danny O’Day and Farfel, the hot chocolate, which was supposed to appear hot and steaming, was often cold. He explained that one day a stage worker placed a cigarette on the saucer behind the cup, “so you saw the beautiful steam coming from the cup.”

When Nelson brought out the original Danny O’Day, he showed the audience how to piece him together, along with showing the various controls that made him move. Farfel was later introduced to the crowd.

Laughter filled the room throughout Nelson’s hour-long presentation, due to the appearances from his pals Danny O’Day and Farfel.

The meeting ended with Nelson, Danny O’Day, Farfel – and the audience – singing the Nestle jingle … “N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestles makes the very best … Chaw-Clat”

“I’m ready to go buy some Nestle Quik,” Cull said after the speech ended.

Nelson said the response he received from the crowd Tuesday afternoon was wonderful. He said it brought back so many memories, which is what he enjoys the most about making appearances.

He moved to Cape Coral with his wife Betty 42 years ago after hearing about Cape Coral while he was on The Today Show in New York. Now “semi-retired,” Nelson is an active member of the Historical Society.