Ventriloquist Wences Dies at 103
By POLLY ANDERSON
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- Senor Wences, the master ventriloquist who delighted ``Ed Sullivan Show'' audiences by bantering in a comic Spanish accent with his puppet-in-a-box Pedro (``S'OK?'' ``S'awright!'') and his falsetto-voiced hand puppet Johnny, died Tuesday at 103.
The Spanish-born Wences, whose real name was Wenceslao Moreno, died at his home in New York City.
During the Golden Age of television in the 1950s and '60s, Wences bickered and bantered with his puppets while he drank, smoked and juggled. One of his puppets was gravelly-voiced Pedro, who consisted only of a head in a box. Pedro was born out of necessity when Wences' ventriloquist's dummy was damaged and only the head was spared.
Another puppet was Johnny, whose comeback line was: ``Deefeecult for you, easy for me.'' Wences created Johnny by scrunching up his fist, drawing a mouth where thumb and index finger met, and draping a blond wig over the top.
Wences would talk to his puppets with his face right in theirs, as if daring the audience to watch his lips, which, of course, never moved. Pedro's voice would become clearer as the door to his box opened, and muffled as it closed. Audiences forgot the sound was really coming from outside the box.
Wences would stuff a hankie in Johnny's mouth and have the puppet speak with a muffled voice while he himself smoked a cigarette. Then he would give Johnny a drag, and the puppet -- that is, Wences' hand -- would somehow emit perfect smoke rings.
``Most of us were in awe of Wences,'' ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson once said. ``He could get laughs just by saying, `S'awright!' And I still don't know how he got those smoke rings out of Johnny.''
(ęCopyright 1999 Associated Press)
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