"Thus open the gates of paradise."

In this issue

Senor Wences

06 Apr 2002

Let's see if I can do this without moving my lips.

Wences is one of those people who is responsible for a little bit of deep-brain culture that most of us have. It goes like this:

-- (Straight voice) S'All right?
-- (Gravelly voice) S'All right.

That's Wences in his ventriloquist act, talking to Pedro, a head in a box.

Or how about a hand, with a wig over it, speaking in falsetto, "Deeficult for you. Eeeasy for me." And then blowing smoke rings. From a hand. Neat trick.

That's Wences again. I have only dim memories of seeing him on television, and to be honest, it left little impression on me, then no older than about 13. Ever since then, when I see ventriloquists (usually in person), I'm eventually overcome with an uneasy feeling that whoever I'm watching isn't really fooling anyone, and if we applaud politely and not too enthusiastically, he or she will go away
and we can get back to regularly scheduled programming. I suspect it's because the ventriloquists I've seen don't themselves believe it, so why should I? Who would believe a talking mannequin? But a talking hand, one that can blow smoke rings, that's something to believe in.

Wences died today at the age of 103 at his home in New York City.