Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez
The late Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez was honored posthumously with the 2,374th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Leron Gubler, President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, presided over the ceremony. Guests included Samuel L. Jackson and Clifton Collins Jr.
1555 Vine Street on November 14, 2008.
It took the biggest state in the continental U.S. to give us Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, but it took the biggest name in comedy to deliver him to the big screen.
It would be an understatement to say that Pedro was an unlikely candidate for Hollywood stardom. He was born in a small tent used by his family — a vaudeville traveling theater troupe in poor, rural Texas. Although he was known to knock 'em dead with his marimba number, played on frying pans, Pedro specialized in improvisational comedy, a talent that would come in handy as a contestant on Groucho Marx's "You Bet Your Life," where he famously stole the show in an unforgettable moment in TV history. He had no idea the flurry he had caused; he didn't own a television and hadn't seen the show.
With $350 in prize money, and a plane ticket to Hollywood – that, being a family man first, he would cash it in for a bus ticket instead so he could give the difference to his wife, Leandra, to take care of their three children – Pedro was hardly prepared for what came next: Hollywood's dreamed-of knock at the door. His appearance on the show was such a huge success that it caught the eye of legend, John Wayne, who signed Pedro to a contract with his production company, BatJack Productions.
Pedro made his feature film debut alongside Van Heflin in Wings of the Hawk, and appeared in other films with John Wayne including William A. Wellman's The High and the Mighty, Howard Hawk's Rio Bravo, and Andrew V. McLaglen's McLlintock!, Hellfighters and Chisum. Over the next 30 years, Pedro starred in dozens of movies, and more than 50 TV shows, from The Jimmy Durante Show and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet to Wanted Dead or Alive and American Family. This is especially impressive, since he could not read or write English or Spanish, as he never had the means to continue schooling beyond the second grade. His wife of 62 years would read him the scripts so he could memorize his lines.
Not having an education was always a regret to Pedro, he made sure he put his kids through school and became an advocate of education. He was awarded an Encouragement to Students Certificate from the South Side Independent School District Board of Education. Buena Vista School in San Antonio, Texas proclaimed December 9th, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez Day. Additionally, a scholarship fund from the Latin Business Association was set up in Pedro's name last year to purchase books for students in the Los Angeles School District.
Pedro's work in Hollywood extended far beyond the studio walls; he entertained to support organizations such as United Cerebral Palsy and the March of Dimes. Pedro also received the Nosotros Golden Eagle Hall of Fame Award, Latin Business Association's Chairman Visionary Award, USC's Variety Arts Headliner Award, Certificate of Merit by the Latino/Hispanic Heritage Subcommittee of SAG and AFTRA, and a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Los Angeles, to name a few.
In the end, Pedro would be honored to know that the boy born dirt-poor in Aguilares, Texas earned his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.