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.
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
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
Pedro died of natural causes on February 15, 2006 - leaving
behind two daughters, a son and seven grandchildren.
© John Troesser
shoe horses, don't they?" March 25, 2006 Column
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