Cy Leonard has a number of show biz firsts to his credit He was the first ventriloquist ever to appear on Canadian television in a CBC-TV show called THE BIG REVUE and was in what was probably the first situation comedy show made in Canada called Tugboat Annie. He was also chosen to be one of the performers at the opening celebration of Toronto's new City Hall.
He got his start as an entertainer due to an interest in electronics while in high school. He built a public address system mainly to play records. A visiting neighbour, who belonged to a local golf club, heard the system and booked Cy to run their Saturday night dances. In experimenting with the system, Cy tried out some impersonations and finally developed a little impersonation act which he did at the club. This was so well received he became quite popular with various clubs and service groups in the area. In the days when radio was king he worked on a program called Roy Ward Dickson's Fun Parade on radio station CFRB. One week he did an impersonation of Winston Churchill that was so realistic, listeners called in accusing the station of using a recording. This incident was recorded in the now defunct Toronto Telegram newspaper. Cy claims his original booking to play records back in 1939 probably makes him the first disk jockey in history, as he did this before the words "disk jockey" were even coined as clubs were normally using juke boxes for smaller functions.
In 1941 after switching from impersonations to doing a ventriloquist act he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and was immediately sent to the U.K. to join an Air Force Show being formed of Air Force personnel to tour Air Force stations throughout England, Scotland and Wales. At one point, for several months he was loaned to M.C. shows at London's Stage Door Canteen. Eventually the show was moved to Europe where he played to R.C.A.F. troops in France, Belgium, Holland and after V.E. day, finally to Germany. He has now worked in 26 different countries.
During Canada's Centennial year the Ontario Government organized a show to travel to remote areas of the province where live stage shows would not normally be seen and Cy was chosen as the comedy headliner of this troop. It took them to such remote places as Moosenee and Moose Factory.
In 1978 the Canadian Government organized a show to travel to the Middle East to entertain U.N. troops in Egypt, Isreal and Cyprus with a stop off in Germany to entertain NATO troops. Cy was so popular with the troops on this tour he was asked to do it again in 1980. During 1978 and again in 1980 he was also booked to entertain our troops at Army Base Alert at the Arctic Circle.
His TV work covers everything from appearances on one of Canada’s early situation comedies, Troubles of Tracy to a number of guest spots on the Tommy Hunter Show which ran on CBC-TV and the Nashville Network in the U.S. plus many years on CTV’s Uncle Bobby show as ventriloquist and puppeteer. He also made several appearances on Bozo’s Circus on WGN-TV in Chicago. Some beer commercials he did for Hockey Night in Canada are still remembered by many where he was introduced as "Canada’s Own, Cy Leonard and His Friend, Happy!"
He has done 8 return engagements for the annual Senior’s Jubilee Show at Roy Thompson Hall which is the Canadian equivalent of New York’s Carnegie Hall.
Cy's main ventriloquist character, Happy, has to be seen to be believed. He has 10 moving parts including the ability to stick out his tongue, go cross-eyed, wiggle his ears and flip his hair. Happy is the envy of ventriloquists the world over. Over ten years ago Cy was offered $10,000 U.S. for Happy and he is probably worth close to $20,000 now as he’s considered the Stradivarius of all ventriloquist partners.
During the following years, Cy kept busy doing cruise ships out of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale where he also became an assistant cruise director and his wife Barbara, a social director. When not working on cruise ships he was busy doing Convention dates from coast to coast in Canada, plus many appearances at most of the major resorts in Muskoka including Delawanna, Elgin House, Windermere, Paignton House, etc. This also included two seasons with the Vegas Show at Deerhurst with a repeat at World Class resort, Innisbrook, in Tarpon Springs Florida.
In addition to his regular work as comedian and ventriloquist, Cy can often be seen in movies, TV programs and documentaries being made in and around Toronto and has worked alongside Jack Lemmon, Whoopie Goldberg, Tom Selleck, Angie Dickinson, Bo Derek, Robert Urich, Dan Ackroyd, David Carradine Ann Archer, Leslie Nielson, Larry Hagman and too many more to mention.
Many of his family and family connections are well known in Canadian show business. His son Brian is one of Canada's top drummers and percussionists and regularly plays with, Guido Basso, Boss Brass, Moe Koffman, Toronto Symphony, etc., etc., plus countless commercials and movie backgrounds. Brian's wife is the daughter of Bob Homme, better known on CBC-TV as The Friendly Giant and is now in reruns on PBS. His granddaughter Emilie was chosen as one of the lead voices in a commercial for the 1994 Olympics and is currently doing the voice for Sailor Mars in the cartoon series Sailor Moon plus singing on a number of commercials. His grandson Angus can also be heard singing on various TV commercials. His brother Ron was the magician on the Uncle Bobby Show and his son Bruce is very active as a ventriloquist and also appeared on the Uncle Bobby Show many times. Cy's wife was a singer and dancer on CBC's Country Hoedown which was the forerunner of the Tommy Hunter Show where she was teamed with Gordon Lightfoot. In total, 15 members of the Leonard family and in-laws are either in show biz or have been some time over the years.