Whatever Happened To . . . ?
Ventriloquist Senor Wences 'S'all Right'
Michael Guerrero of El Cajon, Calif., asks, "Whatever happened to Seor Wences, the ventriloquist on The Ed Sullivan Show?"
Senor Wences, and his cast of wisecracking puppets, was an "Ed Sullivan Show" regular during the show's 23-year run.
His famous line, "s'all right," said by the puppet Pedro, began as a fluke in 1936 when the dummy was damaged in transit. When forced to go onstage, Wences brought the head out in a box, opened the top and asked, "Pedro, are you all right?" "S'all right," Pedro replied and a star act was born.
Wences also performed for Queen Elizabeth's parents and presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Richard Nixon.
Wences is considered the "father of ventriloquism" and the "greatest of the great," says Tony Bellmont, director of the National Comedy Hall of Fame.
Wences and his characters Johnny and Pedro first appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1948. They continued performing together until 1986, when Wences retired after a tour of the vaudeville review "Sugar Babies."
On the night of his last show, the performer boarded a plane and flew to Spain for a summer of fishing, just as he did every succeeding year up to his 100th birthday.
In 1996, Wences received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Comedy Hall of Fame. Mr. Bellmont says he's amazed at Wences's energy. "He's the only person I know who could get up on stage to do an act on his 100th birthday."