Friday, April 11, 2008

Señor Wences And Wences' Imposters

video
see the context of the señor wences imposter on the left
from wikipedia
Señor Wences (April 17, 1896 – April 20, 1999) was a prominent 20th century ventriloquist whose popularity grew with his frequent appearances on CBS's Ed Sullivan Show. He was born Wenceslao Moreno in Salamanca, Spain, He became famous as a ventriloquist in many countries.
Señor Wences was known for his speed, skill, and grace as a ventriloquist. His stable of characters included "Johnny," a childlike face drawn on Wences's hand, which he would place atop an otherwise headless doll, and with whom Wences conversed while switching his voices between Johnny's falsetto and his own voice at amazing speed. Wences would create Johnny's face on stage to open his act, placing his thumb next to, and in front of, his bent first finger; the first finger would be the upper lip, and the thumb the lower lip. He would use lipstick to draw the lips onto the respective fingers, and then draw eyes onto the upper part of the first finger, finishing the effect with a tiny long-haired wig on top of the entire hand. Flexing the thumb would move the "lips."
Another popular Wences character was the gruff-voiced "Pedro," a disembodied head in a box. Wences was forced to suddenly invent the character when his regular, full-sized dummy was destroyed during a train accident en route to a performance. Pedro would either 'speak' from within the closed box, or speak with moving lips--simply growling, "s'awright"--when Wences opened the box's front panel with his free hand. A large part of Wences' comedy lay in the well-timed, high-speed exchange of words between himself and his two creations, and in the difference in their voice pitches.
Wences usually built to a big finish that combined ventriloquism with graceful juggling and plate-spinning. As Wences performed his routines, Pedro and Johnny mercilessly heckled him with flawless comedic timing.
Wences was an international favorite for decades, appearing regularly on TV variety shows including a memorable half-hour turn on The Muppet Show. His last TV appearance was on The Very Best of the Ed Sullivan Show, #2, a CBS retrospective in which nonagenarian Wences talked about "Suliban" and performed a brief spot of ventriloquism.
Señor Wences died just three days after his 103rd birthday. He had been residing in New York city on 54th Street, just around the corner from the Ed Sullivan Theater. That section of 54th Street has been named "Señor Wences Way". His portrait can be seen at the Players Club in New York.

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