Ventriloquist shines from the word 'go'So far,...


Ventriloquist shines from the word 'go'

So far, it's been a pretty good summer for 8-year-old Spencer Horsman. He became the best known ventriloquist in South Baltimore when magician David Copperfield invited him and "Dexter" on stage in Las Vegas recently to show off their talents.

Just two weeks ago, he placed second in the 17-and-under division of the annual competition at the International Ventriloquists Convention.

After Spencer discovered ventriloquism last March, he began to study the videotapes of Paul Winchell and Edgar Bergman.

"I was kind of good at this on the first day," he confesses. "Then I guess I just got the bug. It was weird."

How'd he get so good so fast?

"Practice, practice, practice," he chants.

A budding magician -- he also does rope tricks and card tricks -- the Park School third-grader gets a lot of support and encouragement from his parents, former Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus clowns Ken and Mary Bernadette Horsman.

The Horsmans perform clown and magic shows throughout the region as well as at their store, Kenzo's Party Palace.

Spencer has already worked parts of his six-minute routine -- Dexter chats about ABCs, struggles with math problems and blows bubbles -- into the family act.

What's the best part of being a ventriloquist?

"Entertaining, I guess," Spencer says. "Nope, I don't get nervous."

At 26, Deborah Trujillo considered herself healthy: She ran three miles a day, did push-ups and swam. Why then was she waking up unable to move her arm and rising stiffly to her feet?

Doctor after doctor offered a different diagnosis: stress, depression, water retention. "They told me it couldn't be arthritis," says Ms. Trujillo, who lives in Baltimore County. "I wasn't 70 or 80."

Five doctors and six years later, she got her answer: She had rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that causes swelling and inflammation of the joint lining and may lead to bone damage.

With medication and regular visits to doctors, Ms. Trujillo, 34, now leads a busy life, taking care of her children -- Erin, 6, and Michael, 5 -- and studying political science at Towson State University. She also belongs to Patient Partners, a program by Searle pharmaceuticals that encourages arthritic patients to give workshops for doctors. (For information, call [800] ARTH-INFO.)

Twice a month, she offers advice on how to talk to patients and even does exams on doctors' hands, sensitively touching them the way a person with inflamed joints would want to be handled.

So far, only one doctor has resisted. "He asked, 'Do you have a medical degree?' When I said no, he said, 'Why would I want you to teach me?' and left," she says.

The job also has its embarrassing moments. Ms. Trujillo recalls the first time she nervously gave a doctor a hand exam. She unknowingly held his hand during the rest of the presentation.

"He was a handsome doctor," she says, "so I didn't really mind."

Mary Corey

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