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Wenceslao Moreno was born in Salamanca, Spain, on April 17, 1896. After a brief career as a bullfighter he took up ventriloquism, and was a sensation in Europe before coming to America in 1935. He made his U.S. debut at Club Chico in New York City. Wences had a cameo role in the movie Mother Wore Tights in 1947, but he hit the big time with an appearance on The Milton Berle Show on June 8, 1948. He made the first of his eighteen appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show on March 31, 1952.
Throughout his career Wences only had two principal characters -- Johnny (left), who was actually just his left hand with a mouth drawn on and a wig; and Pedro, a head in a box. Although his dummies were simple, his routines were not. Wences was so talented as a ventriloquist that even people sitting next to him during a routine belived Johnny to be a full-fledged dummy, even though they could clearly see his hand move. His routines often ended with Wences juggling or spinning plates while talking to Johnny, who frequently heckled Wences during the performance. Pedro was usually just a sideline act, with Wences occasionally breaking from a routine with Johnny by asking Pedro if he was all right and then opening the front of the box long enough for Pedro to say "s'alright."
right: cardboard cut-out of Senor Wences with Johnny and Pedro
Although Wences's television appearances became less numerous over the years as the popularity of variety shows declined, he never stopped working. In the late-1970's he and Pedro starred in a series of Parkay commercials in which Wences would tout the taste of the spread by saying that it tasted like butter after which the voice of Pedro would emanate from the tub of Parkay saying "Parkay" in his trademark Spanish accent. In 1986, Wences toured with Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller in the musical "Sugar Babies." He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Comedy Hall of Fame that same year. At a celebration in honor of his 100th birthday a young comedienne by the name of Michele LaFong did a ventriloquist routine that so impressed Wences that he took her under his wing and taught her all the tricks to doing Johnny and Pedro; LaFong is still the only person ever authorized by the Wences estate to perform his routines.
Seņor Wences died in New York City on April 20, 1999, just three days after his 103rd birthday.
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This page was last updated on 04/12/2017.