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A beautiful tribute to a great artist: Señor Wences!

Wences Poster

This print was designed by Norm Nielsen as a tribute to his friend. Like our other high quality prints, this is a giclée, printed with UV Inks on canvas. This image comes in two sizes

  • Standard - Measuring: 18" x 24"

  • 1-sheet large - Measuring: 27" x 37"

All these prints are signed and numbered by Norm Nielsen.

Señor Wences Poster Print
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Señor Wences - A brief biography
by Norm Nielsen

Wences with JohnnyspThe year was 1896, the town was Peñaranda de Bracamonte, 40 miles from the university town of Salamanca, Spain that another child was born. His name was Wenceslao Moreno. He was one of 17 children. His father was a house painter and a gifted musician. He played in the local orchestra whenever a theatrical company or entertainment group came to town. Papa would take Felipe and Wenceslao with him to see the shows. Both boys loved it. Wenceslao particularly loved the ventriloquists and jugglers. He also loved comedy. In school he would practice ventriloquism by answering for other boys when they were absent from roll call. This got him in trouble and the teacher had him clean ink wells after class. In the process he spilled ink on his thumb and it smudged onto his index finger. He thought Oh, that looks like a mouth and his hand began talking to his teacher. Whenever he would do this the class would roar with laughter and so would his teacher. That was the birth of Johnny!

At the age of 16 he entertained the thought of becoming a rich and famous bullfighter. After 200 bullfights, he was gored in his right arm and had to quit. His doctor told him he had to exercise his arm, so he practiced juggling and also his ventriloquism. He developed an act and began touring with singers and other artists. The money was not very good, but he loved it. He saved his money and in 1928 he left for Buenos Aires, Argentina. After some time he moved to Chile, where he spent several years touring with his act. He began traveling north working his act in one country after the other, but his final goal was the United States. This trip took a couple of years and finally in 1934 he found his new home in California.

He had become an extremely good entertainer. His skill in instilling life into his characters was phenomenal. On a train trip to Chicago the baggage car was damaged and one of his dummies was destroyed, except for the head. He found a wooden box that the head fit into and he called it Pedro. That night the stage manager advised him not to use the crummy box. In spite of this, he walked out on stage and Pedro was born. One of his most memorable catch phrases was “saw’right” and “close de door”.

Wences and Cecilia the ChickenIn 1937 he participated in a command performance at the London Palladium before the King and Queen of England. He performed for Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, and I believe one or two more. He toured with Danny Kaye from 1960 – 1970. He appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show 48 times. He performed at the Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris for 7 years. He received the Key to New York City from Mayor Giuliani and had a street named after him in New York and Salamanca. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from The National Comedy Hall of Fame. He was a National treasure.

I had the pleasure of meeting Senor Wences for the first time in 1974, when I opened at the Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris. There are few people, when you meet them, for whom you feel an immediate friendship. That is how it was with Wences, a feeling of mutual respect and sincerity. He was quite and gentle person and loved drawing cartoons. Many of them were a bit earthy and always humorous. Wences always saw the humorous side of life. On his 100th birthday, he was asked: “To what do you attribute your longevity?” His answer was: “Humor”.

Wences with PedrospWhenever I would visit Senor Wences and his wife, Taly in New York City, we would walk to their favorite restaurant. He carried a cane, but was very spry even at age 100. He would begin his meal with a Harvey's Bristol Cream, then a hot soup (he loved soup) and a full meal and dessert. Then he would take his cloth napkin and fold and twist it until it looked like a duck and it would drink out of his glass. He would do some tricks with his cane. He loved to perform! Taly took him for a walk everyday and maintained a daily schedule for him. Taly was his business manager and spoke 6 or 7 languages. She took care of all his bookings including arranging a publicist for each one.

I'm a magician, but it always amazed me to see Wences instill life into Johnny, his left hand or in Cecilia, his chicken or of course Pedro, the head in the box. It was like magic! I remember when I was in high school, on Monday mornings after Senor Wences had appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, so many of my friends would be repeating his words: "It's eesy!, It's difficult!, It's eesy!' It's ifficult!;..It's difficult for you, eesy for me!". Or when Wences would open the box and Pedro would say: "s'alright, but when Pedro would get annoyed, he would say: "Close d'door!" Senor Wences loved to entertain and was one of the greatest entertainers of our time. I feel so lucky to have had him as a friend.

Senor Wences lived to age 103, in fact he died three days after his 103rd birthday. Taly sent me a steamer trunk and a valise when Wences died. The valise was his act with Johnny, Pedro and Cecilia and in the trunk were many other puppet heads that he used on Sullivan’s show.

 

 

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