S’OK? S’OK, S’Alright, S’Alright
Señor Wences was the creator of a catchphrase that millennials who don’t even know who he is, use.
April 17, 1896 in Salamanca, Castilla y León, Spain
April 20, 1999 (Yes, the math is correct, that is 103) in New York City, New York, USA
Born Wenceslao Moreno in Peñaranda de Bracamonte, Salamanca (Spain), Wences began performing ventriloquism as a child An early career in bullfighting proved unsuccessful so he took up ventriloquism and juggling professionally. The Spanish born ventriloquist Senor Wences was one of the highest paid vaudeville acts in the world. Wences toured all over Europe in the 1920s before coming to America in 1935 where he made his New York debut at the Club Chico. Becoming hugely popular with American TV audiences Wences was also a top nightclub favorite.
He became an overnight sensation on "The Milton Berle Show" and later made appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and TV specials with Jack Benny and Perry Como. In 1947 he had stand-out cameo in the film comedy Mother Wore Tights (1947).
Among his famous vent characters were 'Little Johnny', ingeniously formed by one of Wences' hands. He actually tells a story of how he came up with little Johnny in school because he spilled his ink and to keep the teacher from punishing him, he used the ink to make a face on his hand and tried to make the teacher laugh. Little Johnny actually showed us that puppets could be made with just our hand.
Pedro is another famous puppet, a torso-less head in a shoe box. In the middle of a routine Wences would lift the lid of the box and say "Are you alright?" to which Pedro would reply "S'alright". "S'alright?" S’alright! - became a classic catchphrase that is still used today. Pedro came about by happy accident. Literally, on the train, there was an accident that destroyed Pedro’s body. Not having time to repair it and needing Pedro for performance, he placed the head in the box and revamped his act on the fly. It was such a success, Pedro never got his body back.
In 1986 Wences toured America with Mickey Rooney in the musical Sugar Babies. He also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Comedy Hall of Fame which was inscribed "For his devotion to entertaining generations of audiences and bringing countless hours of joy and happiness to millions throughout the world."
Another tribute that he received that you can see to this day is just around the corner from the Ed Sullivan Theatre on the street where Wences lived, that section of 54th street in now named after him.
On his 100th birthday, when he finally retired, he was made a lifetime member of the New York Friars CLub.
He passed away at the age of 103 of natural causes and to this day there is only one performer that was given the rights from his estate and family to perform his material and use his characters. Michele LaFong impressed Wences so much that, on his retirement, he took her as his protege and taught her all of his acts.