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5.30.2006 

senor wences


Senor Wences, was a master ventriloquist who delighted "Ed Sullivan Show'' audiences with his puppet-head-in-a-box, Pedro, and his falsetto-voiced hand-puppet, Johnny.

During the Golden Age of television, the Spanish-born Wences, whose real name was Wenceslao Moreno, bickered and bantered with his puppets while he drank, smoked and juggled.

His character Pedro was a gravel-voiced head in a box, born out of necessity when Mr. Moreno's ventriloquist's dummy was accidentally damaged and only the head was spared. He created Johnny by scrunching up his fist, drawing a mouth where thumb and index finger met and draping a blond wig over the top.

Mr. Moreno 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. He 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, Mr. Moreno's hand -- would somehow emit perfect smoke rings. There were no jokes, just what one writer has described as "bizarre, farcical, Spanish-accented patter."

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