Gery Deer Performs at Annie Oakley Days

979

With an engineering education from Ohio University, a public relations and media communications company, and a whip training studio, one could say that Gery Deer wears many hats. One of those hats happens to be an Indiana Jones fedora.

Gery Deer performed his Indiana Jones-themed whip show on Sunday at Annie Oakley Days. Dressed like Indiana in movie-accurate clothes, Deer showcased his whip marksmanship and artistry skills.

He started learning how to use a whip when he was eleven years old after seeing a whip being used in a movie. Growing up on a farm in Jamestown, Ohio, he wanted to be able to pick up things off the farm’s electric fence without shocking himself. So he learned to pick up items with his whip.

“I had been hurt on a school bus, and I was stuck at home for a while, and there was this movie on tv called Don Q, Son of Zorro,” Deer said. “The first movie was like the Zorro movies guy goes in and rescues the damsel in distress; he fights the bad guy. He didn’t have a whip back then. Douglas Fairbanks gave him a whip for the sequel.”

Borrowing movies from the local library, Deer watched every Zorro movie he could get his hands on. He practiced what he saw in the films and kept getting better.

“My mom was my first target holder,” Deer said. “She was watching me, and I kept having to reset the target every time. So she stood out there, picked up some big long weed, and just held it out there. I cut it down three times and wouldn’t do it anymore. She was like, ‘Keep going!’ and I said, ‘No way!'”

Deer went on to do shows and compete in big competitions.

“Eventually, I went to a competition out in Las Vegas,” Deer said. “I won second place in an international speed and accuracy competition. That puts you on the stage in this world. All of a sudden, everyone knows your name, and I got very busy very fast.”

Deer started performing in 1992. Being able to play the piano, along with being in a family band, helped with his showmanship by teaching him how to work a stage. Alex Green was a teacher Deer had to help learn showmanship with his whip.

“My primary teacher Alex Green was Anthony Hopkins’ stunt double for many years,” Deer said. “He taught him and Antonio for Zorro. I have Antonio’s whip. He taught me things like how to stand, how to get a particular crack you want, and to make it look pretty.”

In 1998 Deer founded The Whip Artistry Studio, a permanent facility for training and lessons. The training is for actors, stunt people, and people who want to learn it for fun. They teach it for sports and performance art. Deer has taught people how to use a whip for a long time.

“I started training people while I was at OU. I gave my very first lesson out in front of Crawford Hall,” Deer said.

When it comes to Deer’s equipment, everything is handmade. The holsters Deer uses are all designed and made by himself. The whips are hand braided, and most of Deer’s whips are Kangaroo hide. Kangaroo hide is used over cowhide because the leather is nine times stronger and 20% more elastic. This makes the whips more durable.

A whip is made in layers. It starts with a braided belly that a bolster is wrapped over. Then another belly is braided over that with another bolster wrapped over. Then the overlay, the outside part seen, is braided over it all. As the overlay is braided, strands are dropped, so the whip gets smaller as it gets to the end.

To get the cracking sound you hear with a whip, a string called a popper is attached to the end of the whip.

Knowing how a whip is made and having an education in engineering means that Deer knows exactly how a whip works and why the crack of the whip is heard.

“When you crack the whip, it travels down the length of the whip; when it gets to about the end, it actually breaks the sound barrier, Deer explains. “It’s moving so fast it hits around 768 miles per hour, and it leaves a vacuum behind it because the air can’t fill in as fast as that. If I didn’t put one of the poppers on, the sound would go in a straight line. If you don’t have something for it to bounce off of, it’s very quiet; you very hardly hear it. So we put a popper on it, and when the energy gets to the end, it opens up like a big carnation, directing the sound in different directions so you can hear it.”

Deer and his troop have been doing shows at Annie Oakley Days for 20 years. He started the Wild West Show in 2002 on his parent’s farm. Deer was performing himself at Annie Oakley Days when he mentioned looking for a place for his troop to someone working there.

“I mentioned to the lady we were looking for a place to do a convention for the Wild West group,” Deer said. “They come from all over the county, and we do contests and all that. She said why don’t you have it here because you are doing what Annie did for a living.”

While this is the Wild West Show’s last performance at Annie Oakley Days, Deer is still doing a lot of performances.

He’s done festivals, schools, and stage shows. He has also done a lot of openings for Indiana Jones movies.

“On September 30th, I’m actually at the Rose,” Deer said. “They are doing Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I’m opening the movie.”

His shows include a lot of audience participation from adults and kids alike. Deer himself mostly does marksmanship and whip artistry which is more precise. Everything is very safe, and there has never been an accident at any shows.

You can check out The Whip Artistry Studio here. You can see their upcoming events and news and learn more about getting lessons.