Señor Wences - Known internationally for his ability as a
ventriloquist, Señor Wences (born Moreno Wenceslao in Salamanca, Spain)
frequently appeared on television in the 1950-60s, especially on the CBS Sunday
night variety program THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW.
His act consisted of throwing his voice into a number of objects including a
box, his own hand and animal hand puppets like Cecilia Chicken.
The most famous puppet in his gallery of characters was Johnny (Wences' hand
decorated with two eyes, a large mouth painted along the juncture of the thumb
and index fingers). Sometimes, Wences placed Johnny on top of a headless dummy
to create the illusion of a small person talking.
Señor Wences' interest in
ventriloquism was inspired by his exposure to vaudeville acts seen in silent
movie theaters where his violinist father played with the orchestras.
honed his vocal skills by throwing his voice in school sometimes answering
"present" for students not in attendance.
It was one such time that the idea for
his Johnny character was conceived. Punished for causing a disturbance in class
by throwing his voice, Wences had to clean all the ink wells in the classroom.
When he finished, he noticed some ink stains on his hand that resembled
a face. When he moved his thumb, it appeared to be talking. Synchronizing his
ventriloquist talents with the movements of the cartoon like face, Johnny was
born. Originally, Johnny smoked a cigarette, but with the changing social
values, Wences eliminated the smoking from his act.
The Johnny character
appeared in the vaudeville film Mother Wore Tights (1947) starring Betty
Grable & Dan Dailey.
Another of Wences' popular
puppet characters was Pedro, the face in the box. Throwing his voice into a
small black box, Wences carried on a conversation with the bodiless entity. At
the conclusion of each encounter, Señor Wences inquired about Pedro's feelings
by saying "S-all right?" Pedro quickly replied "S-all right!"
Señor Wences usually dressed in tuxedo and tails, as he
entertained in supper clubs and vaudeville halls throughout Spain and South
When Señor Wences translated his act into English, he traveled to North
America, England and Europe.
During World War II he entertained troops at military bases and hospitals.
His contacts with then newspaper columnist Ed Sullivan later garnered him some
48 guest appearances on THE TOAST OF THE TOWN which later became THE ED SULLIVAN
Señor Wences also
appeared on THE PERRY COMO SHOW; at a command performance at the London Paladium
with King George VI, Queen Elizabeth; and with the US Presidents Roosevelt,
Truman, Eisenhower and Nixon. His admirers included Walt Disney, Danny Kaye and
Señor Wences was the mystery guest on the October 23, 1969
installment of the syndicated quiz/panel program WHAT'S MY LINE/CBS/1950-67/SYN/1968-75.
Señor Wences, at the age of 103, died at his home in New York in April of 1999.
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