If you grew up in Phoenix, Arizona during the fifties, sixties, and seventies, you’ll remember watching The Wallace & Ladmo Show. What was it that kept us glued to the TV, Monday through Friday, for 35 years to watch these two crazy guys?
Bill Thompson and Ladimir Kwiatkowski Team Up
The Wallace & Ladmo Show first aired in black and white, just a silly kid’s cartoon show. Who would have guessed it would turn into an iconic television phenomenon that propelled two unlikely cartoon hosts into local stardom?
Bill “Wallace” Thompson was born in 1931 and came to Phoenix in 1952 right when KPHO, Channel 5 was just a start-up local televison station. He talked his way onto a show called the “Goldust Charlie” Show” playing the nephew , Wallace Snead. In 1954 he landed the spin-off show, which started off as “It’s Wallace“. Shortly thereafter, not realizing the partnership he was forging, Wallace brought cameraman and former ASU baseball player, Ladimir Kwiatkowski, in front of the camera for a skit and nicknamed him “Ladmo”. Voila– The Wallace & Ladmo Show was born!
The Wallace and Ladmo Show Characters
As Phoenix kids, we raced home from school each day and hurried to get our homework done before the “Ho Ho Ha Ha, Hee Hee, Ha Ha” theme song started up. Then for a full hour, we stayed glued to the television set, hardly noticing that our parents had pulled up a seat to watch too! We enjoyed the classic cartoons, the slapstick comedy and crazy character skits, but our parents were rolling with laughter due to the adult humor buried within.
Each show included slapstick, Laurel-and-Hardy-type comedy skits involving Wallace and Ladmo. When playing themselves, they were both dressed in clown-like apparel, sometimes with huge polka dots or stripes, bow ties, straw hats, and vests. But Wallace became known for his straw panama hat with a polka dot band and Ladmo’s signature was a giant gawdy tie and oversized, black top hat.
During the show, we cringed as we watched Wallace and Ladmo in stunts with boxes dropping on heads, magic acts that went wrong, people falling off ladders, and pies thrown in faces, At times Wallace played an unique character named Mr. Grudgemeyer , who was a grumpy old man who felt possessive over a park bench. Ladmo played “Mire” in the Muck and Mire duo, a twosome who told bad jokes and got their hats smashed by Wallace. But hold on– the silliness didn’t stop there. A host of other characters stepped on stage to make us laugh as well!
Pat McMahon Enters Stage Left
When Pat McMahon joined the show, so did his multiple personalities. McMahon was to The Wallace & Ladmo Show what Tim Conway was to The Carol Burnett Show. He played a wide variety of bizarre characters on the show, including Gerald, a spoiled rich kid, Boffo the Clown, a clown who couldn’t stand kids, Marshall Good, a has-been cowboy, Aunt Maud, a silver-haired senior citizen who would read ghastly and tragic stories to the kids, and a wanna-be superhero named Captain Super, who would attempt feats of strength that he could never pull off! Due to his humorous and sometimes controversial performances in the show’s skits, McMahon became a fixture on the show and a celebrity in his own right.
The Ladmo Bag and Other Memories
Wallace and Ladmo gave away prizes to their audience on a regular basis, pulling a postcard from thousands in a barrel or awarding a kid for his drawing in a contest. The winner came to the studio, appeared on the show and received what became a coveted prize: The “Ladmo Bag”. The Ladmo bag was nothing more than a paper bag with the words “Ladmo Bag” stamped on it that was filled with fun goodies, but winning it became THE big deal. To this day, some Phoenix adults still have their Ladmo bags as a souvenir from their childhood.
Over the years, the show gave thousands of loyal fans “Wallace Watcher” cards, honorary fan certificates, Wallace beanies, and mailed out newsletters. Shamrock Dairy honored the show and characters on trading cards. Kids taped Wallace & Co. and Captain Super posters on their walls, and wore “Wallace Watcher’s Club” or “Gerald is a Brat” buttons . There were Ladmo ties, comic books and coloring books. In addition to performing on TV, Wallace and Ladmo became local celebrities entertaining us in theatres and malls, the Encanto Park Band Shell, and at Arizona’s now-defunct amusement park, Legend City.
The Wallace & Ladmo Show earned a special place in Phoenician’s hearts that will last forever. Those two crazy guys made laughter and fun a family event for decades. In honor of their years of entertainment, Wallace and Ladmo, and Pat McMahon were inducted into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2005. But the fun isn’t over, because we can still catch some of the slapstick antics of The Wallace & Ladmo Show in the re-runs being shown on KAZT-TV. After all, the Wallace and Ladmo brand of humor is timeless if you like to laugh!
KPHO.com, “Brief History of “Wallace and Ladmo”
Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame