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December 19, 2014

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Ventriloquist Ronn Lucas winding up gig at South Point

It’s one of showbiz’s oldest acts. It gives the appearance of a lively cast of characters, but the special effects are all the performer’s. The most popular of these one-man shows began in Texas.

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If You Go

  • Who: Ronn Lucas
  • When: 7 p.m. Thursday
  • Where: South Point
  • Tickets: $20; 797-8055

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Beyond the Sun

Texas is known for oil, cattle, the Alamo — and ventriloquists.

Three of the top ventriloquists who regularly perform in Las Vegas hail from Texas.

Terry Fator and Jeff Dunham, both in their 40s, are from Dallas. Fator parlayed his $1 million win on “America’s Got Talent” into a headlining gig at the Mirage. Dunham, another TV regular, recently signed a deal to perform six shows at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace over the next year.

Then there’s Ronn Lucas.

Lucas, 55, grew up in El Paso. He has been a Vegas fixture for more than six years, performing at several venues including the Rio and the Excalibur. He’s winding up a gig at the South Point. His final show at the resort south of the Strip will be Thursday.

During his show he gives a nod to his fellow Texans.

Fator’s widespread fame from the NBC talent show rejuvenated interest in an art form popularized by such entertainers as Edgar Bergen (with Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd), Jimmy Nelson (Danny O’Day) and Paul Winchell (Jerry Mahoney).

Lucas and Dunham are close friends.

“Many mistake me for him,” Lucas tells the audience. “He’s younger and more handsome; I just have more talent.”

There is a smattering of children, from 4-year-olds to teenagers, in Lucas’ audience in the casino showroom. It’s a good thing his shows are family-friendly, whether he’s performing in a casino or in a church, where he first performed in his hometown, on the border with Mexico.

The younger kids won’t understand some of the adult humor that seeps into the show, and the older ones hear worse on the playground and on television.

Lucas has added a couple of dolls, including RU 1-2, but holds onto his classics Scorch the Dragon and Billy. The puppeteer proves a puppet is what you make it — carrying on a conversation between the microphone and his hand.

He also continues to perform the popular routine of turning a member of the audience into a human puppet, placing a hinged plastic mask-like jaw over the volunteer’s face and using a mechanism to make the jaw move when Lucas gives the illusion of throwing his voice.

The closing routine focuses on how his grandfather inspired him at age 7 to become a ventriloquist.

“He did something that forever changed my life,” Lucas says. “He took a Christmas sock off the mantle of the fireplace and made a puppet.”

Lucas demonstrated how simple it was to make something inanimate come to life.

“He wasn’t a puppeteer,” he says. “He was just a farmer in a small Texas town.”

Texas, the state that grows ventriloquists.

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