Bill Thompson of Wallace and Ladmo Has Died

Categories: Film and TV

bill-thompson-wallace-ladmo-wallace-watchers.jpg
Courtesy of wallacewatchers.com
Bill Thompson (left) is pictured with Pat McMahon and Ladimir Kwiatkowski.

Here is a true story about Bill Thompson, known for decades from Seligman to Scottsdale as Wallace of The Wallace and Ladmo Show: I ran into him in the lobby of the Herberger Theater Center about 10 years ago, and before I had a chance to introduce myself as someone who had interviewed him for my newspaper column several years before, he patted me on the back, shook my hand, and said, "Hey, I thought you said you were going to come over to the house to look at my soldiers!"

See also: The Last Days of Ladmo

The soldiers in question were the miniature toy soldiers Thompson voraciously collected. The warm greeting and the fact that he remembered one of the hundreds of newspapermen who'd interviewed him over a long career in local television were pure Wall-Boy, as he was known by generations of local kids. I remembered his invitation to come look at his vast collection of hand-painted tin and lead soldiers, but I'd thought he was just being polite. But Thompson, who died yesterday at age 82, wasn't that kind of guy. If he said, "Come on over!" he meant it.

He created, produced, and starred in Wallace and Ladmo, a local children's program that ran on then-independent KPHO for more than 35 years, from 1954 to 1989. (Viewers were known as "Wallace Watchers.") Where most kiddie shows pandered to its audience, Wallace, in its various incarnations, offered sketch comedy for children and parents alike. Political satire, sly commentary on civil rights, spoofs of surf music and the hippie scene -- Wallace and Ladmo was closer in spirit to Saturday Night Live than to Captain Kangaroo. If you grew up in Phoenix in the '50s, '60s, '70s, or '80s, you watched Wallace and Ladmo -- and you were changed by it.

Thompson taught generations of kids about the joys of sarcasm and the pleasure of pushing a pie into the face of some asshole. His co-stars were Vladimir Kwaitkowski, who played Ladmo, an ingratiating man-child and Wallace's sidekick, and Pat McMahon, who played everybody else, most memorably Boffo, a party clown who hated children, and Gerald, the bratty foil to Ladmo's Everyboy. The trio brought to life comic misfits that Thompson himself created, but refused to take any credit for. (McMahon's characters, Thompson confided in me, "were all based on the frailties of human nature. There was something desperately wrong with each of them.")

For 35 years, Wall-Boy and his pals raised the bar on children's shows with camp and lampoon and something that kids needed but weren't getting from pretty much anyone else: Respect. "We never talked down to the kids," McMahon told me once. "That was the secret to our success."

That, and Bill Thompson. Today, Wallace Watchers all over town are heaving a sigh, laughing about their favorite Mr. Grudgemeyer skit, and feeling pretty darn lucky that we got to spend some time with Wallace every day, not so very long ago.

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Herberger Theater Center

222 E. Monroe St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: General


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25 comments
Peg Wolfe
Peg Wolfe

Keep it to yourself, OK? Am I correct in assuming that you don't understand The Onion, either? #SMDH

jeanjb
jeanjb

in 1967 our teachers hated wallace and ladmo as bad influences on us second grade terrors of the sccool yard (formerly a japanese internment camp from WW2)

ToRo RoJo
ToRo RoJo

I always wanted a ladmo bag :(

Nicole Marie
Nicole Marie

Oh darryn.. My auto correct on my phone spelled your wrong..... I am not a contributor on a news paper. Difference.

Nathan Kilburg
Nathan Kilburg

Ah phoenix new times...someone is enjoying their medical marijuana and posting .

Greg Guerrero
Greg Guerrero

best episode was the last "ending/jerry crying",... and that cop falling over the front of that santa on the motorcycle

Conni Colella-Ersland
Conni Colella-Ersland

There is an Edit button up on the right of the post that will allow the poster to fix this error!

Richard Garrison
Richard Garrison

Condolences! That show was a such big part of growing up in AZ! Time has really flown by!

Nicole Marie
Nicole Marie

But Thompson? Well you're editor is awesome!

Daniel Buckley
Daniel Buckley

Costumes from Wallace and Ladmo are on display at the Arizona Historical Society's branch in Tempe, Az.

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

This man was a businessman who provided a vehicle for local businesses to ply their wares to unspecting children - why are so many of us overweight? - LADMO BAGS.

travisfields
travisfields

I grew up with these guys and still miss the show!


jeanjb
jeanjb

@ExpertShot ladmo bags are what sherf joe feeds inmates(moldy balogna)

djkrol
djkrol

@ExpertShot Obviously you have no appreciation for one of Arizona's most beloved citizens, local culture or, for that matter, accurate spelling. Fooey on you!

irysherin
irysherin

How can you blame a Ladmo bag? I won twice and weigh well within the normal range for my height. You are probably over weight because you never learned discipline or self control

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

@jeanjb @ExpertShot All the good little consumers were indoctrinated by these jokers to buy as much CRAP as possible.  A lot of the product they hawked were just plain toxic!  Ladmo Bags were no better than doing Halloween in a Jewish neighborhood.

Some of the bits were funny, but most were just painful to watch.  They needed REAL comedy writers for their show.  NO creativity, NO intelligent points being made, NO boundaries being pushed - just comedy at the lowest common demoninator to keep the kiddies eyes on the tube for the constant commercials, product placement and crass consumerism!  Know what was a GREAT kids show?  Mister Rodgers Neighborhood and Kaptain Kangaroo.


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