Seaford ventriloquist speaks for himself

SEAFORD — After graduating from Martin Van Buren High School in New York City, Ken Huff spent 20 years as an enlisted member of the United States Air Force.

“I was a contract specialist,” said Mr. Huff. “I was stationed at three different places, but I was also in Air Force entertainment, so I got to travel all over the world and overseas.”

During his military career he experienced many sights and sounds of the world, including much of Europe.

Sounds of that career carry on today through a tag-team act that is immensely popular among children, seniors and those in between.

The television sitcom world has its King of Queens. On Delmarva, Ken Huff, a 58-year-old Queens, New York native now living in Seaford, is king in the world of ventriloquism.

His act, Ken Huff & Mr. Goodwood, has played before numerous audiences, some well beyond the Delmarva Peninsula. They’ve been a crowd-pleasing tandem for about three decades.

Ken Huff and Mr. Goodwood draw endless laughter on stage.

About 18 years ago, they brought the house down at the Apollo Theater, the famous music hall in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan.

“Yes, we did the Apollo in Harlem. We won two times. Standing ovations both times. We did the world-famous Apollo Theater, won the first time, got a standing ovation. And they invited us back. We went back and won again,” said Mr. Huff. “But I said, ‘Well, this is just too far to travel.’ I was coming from Delaware at the time … it was about 1990.”

While in the Air Force, Mr. Huff, accompanied by his sidekick Mr. Goodwood, toured with Tops in Blue.

“It’s a whole traveling road show. It was all over Europe, so I went to Germany, Spain, Greece, Holland, Turkey and northern tier bases in the United States. We went to some of the places like North Dakota, South Dakota where you couldn’t go in the winter time because it was just too cold,” Mr. Huff said.

“So, we did the northern tier of the United States, and Europe. Then with another group we did the western tour and the Pacific.”

After 20 years of military service, Mr. Huff retired in October 1998 at the rank of technical sergeant.

“When I retired, I started working. I got a government job in probation and parole,” said Mr. Huff.

At that time, he was living in Oxon Hill, Md.

“But, I hated it,” he said. “I just didn’t like going to an office every day anymore. I had done that for 20 years. No more. I have got to be free. Life is short. We’ve got to enjoy what we do.”

Senior centers, adult day-cares and charitable, civic and nonprofit organizations are among his more frequent performing venues.

“I do the CHEER centers in Sussex County all of the time — all of them. Pretty much all of the adult daycare places, Genesis, the Modern Maturity Center, mainly all of the senior citizen places,” said Mr. Huff. “They seem to be the ones that are most dependable and keep calling me back.”

Sometimes, all or a portion of their act is donated.

“One thing, I ain’t getting rich from doing this,” he said.

What brought Mr. Huff to Sussex County? His wife, Myra.

“She worked at Family Court in Georgetown and now works for the Seaford School District in the district office,” said Mr. Huff.

They have two children: daughter Najjiyya, 27, who is a dentist in New York City, and 11-year-old son Kenny.

Mr. Huff is in the process of getting a website for his show. For now, the best way to contact him is by phone at 240-505-5114.

How did you get started?

“I guess it was about 1978. I saw an article in TV Guide and I sent away for it. I thought it was funny. Nobody else did. But I thought it was funny. Then it kind of grew from there.

“I entered a talent show and won. They told me I had to get a bigger doll. This was the original Mr. Goodwood, a younger guy. But one of the criticisms was he had to be bigger, so when I went to the studio in Colorado to get a bigger one I saw this old man. When I saw him, I said, ‘He had so much personality just looking at the face.’”

The name: Mr. Goodwood?

“A friend of mine; we came up with that name. We were just throwing around some names. We just said, ‘Well, he’s good and he’s wood,’ and it just stuck. Of course, people may take it in a different way. But he’s good and he’s wood.”

“I ain’t lyin’’’ catch phrase?

I guess because he is an old man. We had to think of something. I said I have to leave everybody with something to say, so

Mr. Goodwood smoozes a smooch from show emcee/performer Tina Washington at a recent show.

that way I got everybody! If I said, ‘I ain’t lyin’ that just worked. He has to say it all of the time.”

Describe Mr. Goodwood?

“He is boarder and hoarder. He has own suitcase — a luxury suitcase.”

Anything else about your wooden pal?

“Well, one thing Mr. Goodwood always says when he goes around the ladies, is that he is trying to replace me with something young and softer. We’ve been together for over 30 years. He wants to smell some sweet-smelling perfume. One of the jokes is when Mr. Goodwood goes to the doctor, they say, ‘How do you stay in shape?’ He says. ‘I’ve been chasing women all of my life. I ain’t caught them, but I’ve been chasing them.’”

How does ventriloquism work?

“It really is voice distinction, because people want to believe what they see. So, if they hear a different sounding voice, then they want to believe it. Everybody wants to believe it is coming from the actual figure. So, it’s voice distinction. If my voice is deep. His has to be high.”

Any particular inspiration?

“I guess growing up, you know, seeing Willie Tyler & Lester. I always thought that was pretty funny. I actually met him. He was doing a show at DelState.”

How about your script?

“I watch the news, because everybody watches the news. So, we talk about current events. And we also talk about being old because everybody can relate to that. But it is mainly the news and age.”

Other memorable moments?

“I guess it was with Air Force entertainment, because that was probably the biggest crowds. It was kind of like the Grammys for the military. We’d go to so many places, and a lot of remote places. Plus, for a while I performed at the ventriloquist convention at Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. But I haven’t been there in a few years because it’s always in July when I am working. That is always a big event, every July.”

What’s your reward?

“It is just really bringing smiles to a lot of people’s faces. Everybody goes through so much and you never know what anybody is really going through. So, when you put a smile on somebody’s face, sometimes you don’t know how much than means to somebody.”

“When we do our show, everything is positive. We don’t come out there talking about anybody, dogging them out, beating them up. It’s all family fun and smiles.”

Singing therapy?

“One time when we were at the Genesis Center in Milford, we were singing, and I noticed a patient there, head looking down, eyes closed. If you sing, they will sing. The lady who was in charge, the memory specialist, she said that is so great that you sing with them because Alzheimer’s patients will forget everything about them but when you start singing they will remember everything. She said, ‘Wow, how did you incorporate the singing?’ I said, ‘Well, singing is international.’ Everybody remembers a song, even if you can’t sing. Mr. Goodwood can’t sing. But we’ll sing! That’s one thing he’ll always say, ‘I can’t sing. But I don’t care if you all don’t like it, I’m going to sing anyway. I didn’t say I sound good. I just said I’m going to sing.’”

Your act’s future?

“As long as I am able and as long as he stays together. He’s 102. You know, tomorrow ain’t promised, right.”

Sussex Post News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.