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    Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez
    A Guy So Nice - They Named Him Twice

    by John Troesser
    They shoe horse

    Almost literally "born in a trunk" - Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez entered the world in Aquilares, Texas (now considered a ghost town) in 1926. His mother was a dancer from Mexico and his father was a trumpet player from Floresville, Texas. Mrs. Gonzalez performed under the stage name "La Perla Fronteriza" (Pearl of the Frontier" and reportedly once danced for Francisco "Pancho" Villa and his troops during one or another of the Mexican Revolutions.

    The family's lifestyle was nomadic. Moving across the harsh landscape and performing at oil camps with no amenities, their audience was made up of entertainment-starved Mexican laborers. It wasn't the easiest gig, but times were hard and at least the audience was employed. As Pedro's entrance into the world approached, the couple extended their stay in Aquilares for three weeks rather than risk having Pedro born between towns. There he arrived - in a tent alongside a dressing room - the sixth of what would eventually become a family of nine children.

    Even before he could attend school (had there been one) Pedro joined one of his sisters in a comedy sketch. Billed as Las Perlitas (the Little Pearls) - it gave little Pedro an intoxicating taste of show business. Gasoline rationing during WWII put an end to the Mexican border circuit and the Gonzalez family sought other venues.

    As a young man who could neither read nor write, Pedro found himself making ends meet by working at a television station in San Antonio, hauling cales and doing general grunt work. During a lull in a local telethon, Pedro was introduced on stage and his personality and style caught the attention of a visiting talent scout.

    He appeared as a "contestant" on You Bet Your Life and received a nod of approval from the host Groucho Marx. His appearance was noted again - this time by John Wayne. He was hired by Wayne and was given a role in the movie The High and the Mighty. It was the first of many character roles - usually comic relief - where Pedro played saloon keepers, cab drivers - or hotel proprietors. He stayed on the Wayne company payroll until 1974.

    Many of the roles he played would today be considered somewhat politically incorrect for "reenforcing cultural stereotypes" - but to Pedro work was work. He never turned down a role when it was offered. During his career he performed alongside such actors as Glenn Ford, Lee Marvin, Karl Malden, James Garner and James Arness.

    Between movie roles, television appearances helped pay the bills and Pedro appeared on shows ranging from Ozzie and Harriett and Art Linkletter (the early days) to Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, I Spy and I Dream of Jeannie.

    Pedro died of natural causes on February 15, 2006 - leaving behind two daughters, a son and seven grandchildren.


    John Troesser
    "They shoe horses, don't they?" March 25, 2006 Column
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