//www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> Arizona Stories

Wallace & Ladmo

For more than 35 years, the children's television show Wallace & Ladmo entertained Arizonans with a mix of sketches, live music and cartoons. Bill Thompson, Ladimir Kwiatkowski and Pat McMahon performed in front of a live audience daily (Monday through Friday) for the hour-long show. Much of the humor was political, which kept the adults watching. The humor could also be plain slapstick appealing to kids and adults.

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Learn more

KPHO History

http://www.kpho.com/history/index.html
Information on KPHO's longest running children's show. Includes a Wallace and Ladmo slide show, a brief history of Wallace and Ladmo , and biographies of Bill Thompson (Wallace), Ladimir Kwiatkowski (Ladmo), and Pat McMahon.

The Arizona Historical Society
http://www.arizonahistoricalsociety.org
The Tempe location of the Arizona Historical Society features a permanent Wallace and Ladmo exhibit. Their website includes information on museum hours and admission, collections, research, and upcoming museum events.

Suggested Reading :
The Wallace 'n Ladmo Show Presents Aunt Maud's Storybook by Bill Thompson and Pat McMahon

ASU Hayden Library call #: PN6162 .T468 2000

Hoho! Haha! Heehee! Haha! ... : The Wallace and Ladmo Show, 35 Years of Laughter by Richard Ruelas and Michael K. Sweeney

ASU Hayden Library call #: PN1992.8.C66 R84x 1994

Narrator:
For 35 years, the kids' show Wallace and Ladmo entertained Arizonans with a mix of cartoons, flawed characters, and skits that many times were aimed at adults. And bringing together show founder Bill Thompson and character generator Pat McMahon is like a Beatles reunion. The magic comes back instantly as the two talked about McMahon's legendary tardiness.

Bill Thompson:
We all had our problems. Mine, of course, was drinking, and Lad's was gambling, and Pat's was tardiness.

Pat McMahon:
Yes.

Bill Thompson:
But it was -- you know, it made us more human.

Pat McMahon:
And "tardiness" sounds so much more humane and genteel than, "You're late again!"

Narrator:
The Wallace and Ladmo Show originally started as a spin-off from the Gold Dust Charlie Show in 1954, which aired on KPHO, Arizona 's first television station. The show was an instant hit, so popular, kids would run to and from school to watch it every day.

Richard Ruelas:
It's Wallace gets his show in 1954. By the -- in the spring of 1954. By the end of 1954, every other television show's kids' show is off the air. He took them all down.

Narrator:
At first, It's Wallace was a one-man show with a lot of prop skits.

Narrator:
But Thompson wanted to write for two-man skits. That's when Ladimir Kwiatkowsky, an ex-Arizona State University baseball player and KPHO cameraman, came in. Thompson pulled Lad, as he was called then, from behind the camera, something he did with many other crew members. But Ladmo was different.

Bill Thompson:
He came in, and I said, "Lad, what are you looking for?" And he says, "I dropped my Congressional Medal of Honor." And I said, "Well, where'd you lose it?" He says, "Out in the hallway." And I said, "Well, why are you looking in here?" And he says, "Well, the light's a lot better in here."

Narrator:
Wallace and Ladmo entertained kids for about five years as a duo. Then one day, a guy named Pat McMahon, who had grown up in a vaudeville family, happened to be passing through town on his way to start a showbiz career in New York .

Pat McMahon:
And I watched these two guys do hysterically funny satirical material about the show, about the station, about broadcasting in general, about the town, about the mayor. And I said, "I can't believe this." This is a kids' show? Well, of course, obviously it turned out that it wasn't.

Narrator:
McMahon's vaudeville experience allowed Thompson to expand the skits on the show, adding a whole repertoire of characters, all played by McMahon.

Bill Thompson:
Each one of his characters was flawed. There was something wrong with every one of them. You know, and that was what was so darn funny.

Narrator:
McMahon's most well-known character was a spoiled brat, supposed nephew of the station's general manager and kin to all Arizonans rich and powerful, Gerald.


Wallace and Ladmo footage:

Ladmo:
That was a 10, you know?

Gerald (Pat McMahon):
That was your responsibility. You invited these little jerks down here, you got them out of the alley where they usually hang out. Reminds me, I should pick up a new copy of Lord of the Flies .

Narrator:
The character was inspired by people Thompson grew up with and by pro wrestling.

Richard Ruelas:
He, Wallace the referee, would never see what was going on between Ladmo and Gerald, just like the referee in the wrestling match never saw really what was going on between the two wrestlers. So it frustrated the audience so much, and that's what he did to kids, who would see Gerald do something mean to Ladmo and then see Wallace, having no clue of what was going on, think about punishing Ladmo instead of Gerald. Kids would go crazy. And you really, honestly hated Gerald so much.


Wallace and Ladmo footage:

Ladmo:
I can't understand. Oh! Oh, my plane is broken!

Narrator:
While Gerald played the brat and Wallace was the straight man and the writer of most of the skits, Ladmo was the big kid, everyone's friend.

Bill Thompson:
He was their buddy. He always took their side, and he was just like one of them, you know, like the business about getting blamed for things. And he liked everything that they liked. Yeah, and actually, there was a lot of the big kid in Lad.

Pat McMahon:
Ladmo never was anybody but Ladmo.

Narrator:
Although Ladmo died in 1994, his legacy lives in the Ladmo Bag. It's a collection of sponsors' products put into one bag that spawns incredible desire in those who grew up watching the show but never got one. The Ladmo Bag was awarded through drawings, pictures sent in by viewers, and various other ways. It was given out to the studio audience during the show. Although it was called the Ladmo Bag, it was created by Pat McMahon out of expediency's sake.

Pat McMahon:
It was all because it just slowed the pace of the show down so dreadfully to have a kid picking out one of George Bradbury's toy cottage -- Wallace used to say, "You want the airplane? This is a neat plane." "No, I've got one of those." "Maybe --" "Nah." And the pace of the show had been like this and then went right into the dumpster.

Narrator:
The show continued to change over the years, featuring skits like "The Time Machine" and "Gerald's Monster." Characters came and went, some staying longer than others. Pat McMahon played Boffo the Clown, a clown who hated children; Marshall Good, the cowboy from New Jersey who always bummed quarters from kids; Captain Super, the right-wing superhero that needed a night-light to sleep; and Aunt Maud, the senior citizen that told twisted fairy tales. Mike Condello added a musical element to the show.

Mike Condello:
Soggy cereal.

Narrator:
There were characters added in the '80s:
Dan Horn the ventriloquist, and Jodi, played by actor Cathy Dresbach. She played various female characters on the show. Despite all the changes, one thing remained constant:
the show's spirit of madcap fun.


Wallace and Ladmo footage:

Wallace:
Time's up!

Narrator:
The Wallace and Ladmo Show signed off for the last time on December 29, 1989 , after 9,000 TV shows, 8,000 stage shows, and nearly 40,000 Ladmo Bags. Although it's been many years since the show went off the air, it still remains popular.

Bill Thompson:
I feel like, you know, that...that we meant something to the community.

Bill Thompson:
We love you.

Ladimir Kwiatkowsky:
Yeah, we love you!