Wallace and Ladmo entered the decade of the 1980's with the show still
strong in the ratings. The format remained essentially the same. However,
a crop of new cast members and regular guests would soon join the show.
“Fireman Bob” Walp
Wallace expanded the public service
aspect of the show with the addition of Fireman Bob.
tells the story of how he came to be on the show: The [Phoenix] Fire Department started the Learn
not To Burn program back in the early ‘70s. Actually the
They had all these instructors who were firefighters. They brought
us on the show one at a time. Wall says ‘We’ll do a
safety bit.’ So we did a safety bit. Then they’d bring
somebody else on. About a month long it took all the people to
get through. They went on as firefighters and did their talk. Wall
picked me out and says ‘Let’s call you Fireman Bob.’ They
put it on my helmet. So I had a helmet that said Fireman Bob on
it. Over the years the helmets changed so we just kept putting
the name on the helmet.
I did the show from ’79 to ’89. The first two, three
years I was on every day. The department let me go. I’d give
a different tip every day. We’d go over different things. If
we had drownings happening we’d talk about drownings. CPR classes.
Just all the different things you could talk about. Stop, drop and
roll. Never-ending things. Always move over to the right when the red
lights are coming. So the kids are bugging their parents ‘I saw
Fireman Bob say to do this, mom, dad. Pull over to the right”
Then later on, probably in the mid ‘80s, they changed
the format to twice a week and towards the end, the last couple
of years, just once a week. But no matter what I’d go down
and do the show and just enjoy it. I’d call people up and
the last minute and say ‘I need a fire truck down here.’ The
guys would come down and give Lad and Wall a ride in the ladder
truck. Just so many things we could do and have fun at it. It was
the best job I ever had. It was great.
Final Time Slot
In September 1980, the show moved into its final slot of 7 – 8
a.m. Monday through Friday.
Local ventriloquist Dan Horn joins the cast.
how he became a part of the show:
In 1980 I was hired by the City of Phoenix to
present a show on traffic safety to elementary schools. A couple times,
to promote the program, they had made arrangements for me to make a
couple of appearances on The Wallace and Ladmo Show. I noticed that
when I was at the schools directly after having been on TV, the attention
on me by the kids was riveted on me. Then as a little time went by,
the kids would forget that they saw me on TV and they’d come
in to see the show that I was going to put on and it was kind of hard
to get their attention sometimes. I started thinking that if I would
be on regularly where they could see me, I would no longer be some
guy coming in to do an assembly. It would be Dan Horn from TV is here
and I would have their attention before I ever even started.
So I called Wallace and proposed the idea of coming once a week
with a safety tip using one of the puppets. He was at first ‘Thanks,
but no thanks. We have Officer Harry Florian who does safety tips.’ Well,
the contract that I was working under was primarily an occupant restraint
program, meaning safety belts. I could talk about whatever other traffic
safety I wanted, but I had to include safety belts in the discussion
somewhere because that was the contract I was under. I said ‘Well,
what if I only kept my comments to promoting using safety belts in
cars and just come on once a week and using the puppets I would try
to do a different routine every week somehow promoting safety belts.
He [Wallace] was like ‘Well . . . . . . Okay.’ I
didn’t think about it at the time but he was probably being bombarded
with people wanting to use the show as a soapbox all the time. He can’t
say yes to everybody coming on. But he said yes to me and I came on
once a week, I don’t even remember what day it was, but I would
write a little routine. Of course, I didn’t know how to use the
teleprompter so I memorized everything. I would do a little comedy
routine that somehow would work in the theme of wearing seat belts.
After about three months of being on the show once a week, Wallace
approached me about being a regular on the show every day. The
station would then offer me a check for my services and I wouldn’t
have to be under the City of Phoenix contract
so I wouldn’t
have to be promoting seat belts all the time. Of course I was thrilled
at the prospect. That’s how it started.
Dan Horn would use two his trademark puppets, Orson and Cassandra,
as part of his daily routines on the show.
Dan remembers particularly
funny incident with Ladmo:I think the first puppet we built exclusively for the show was
when the movie E.T. came out. Wallace asked me if I would make an E.T-looking
puppet and he called it E.P., Extra Puppet. So I created that puppet.
Of course, after a while the E.T. craze kind of died down but we liked
the character so we kept the puppet in the show. He would appear once
every couple weeks or so. We were trying to come with a name, Craig
Dingle and I were trying to come up with a name of the character. We
didn’t want to call him E.P. anymore. Wallace suggested his name
should be Augie. Craig and I were trying to think of a planet that
would sound funny. We had both seen Saturday Night Live the night before
where they did a sketch between Bill Murray and Gilda Radner where
he was doing noogies on her head. We said he’d be Augie from
the planet Noogie.
Well, in the first taping attempt . . . now, I was doing this
thing where I was shaking my adam’s apple up and down as I
spoke to give him a funny voice. So as I’m working the puppet,
shaking my adam’s apple up and down, I’m reading off
the teleprompter and it came out ‘Hi Ladmo, I’m Augie
from the planet Nookie’ instead
of Noogie. I did not think Ladmo was going to recover from that.
We had to stop [taping] and when everybody, especially Wallace, realized
how close the word was to Nookie, he said ‘No, we have to
have something completely different.’ So he became Augie
from the planet Zoggy. Ladmo just lost it. It was probably a good
ten minutes. The camera people and the director, everyone was breaking
up. Wallace was breaking up. Lad. Pat. I was breaking up because
what I meant to say. But with the shaky voice and reading the prompter
it came out ‘Nookie.’
In early 1981, the gang got a new set. KPHO art director
Greg Brannan and staff artist Forrest Richardson designed an elaborate
new set for the show. It features faux brick walls, an all-new Time
Machine, and a staircase for the characters to make their entrance
along with a door on the floor of the stage. A red phone booth with
a working telephone was added for Call-a-Kid.
Wallace and the
of the Final Set (2005)
Dave the Scientist
In 1982, Dave Harbster began making
regular appearances as “Dave
the Scientist” on the show.
Dave tells how it came about:
was in the doctorate program up at NAU [Northern Arizona
University] and I started my dissertation and I was doing another
research project in the Grand Canyon. I just
basically got burned out so we came down here [Phoenix] and
I was a science coordinator for a school district.
There was a museum called the Arizona Museum of
Science and Technology in downtown Phoenix.
I was on the ground floor of getting that started. That was in
1982. I volunteered my services down at the emerging museum. I
would do workshops for them on the weekend. It was community service
work. One day I get a phone call from one of the [museum] directors
down there and said ‘We
were at some sort of fund-raising party and we met someone from
Channel 5 and they’re looking for somebody to do a science
program as kind of a PSA. Kind of a public service thing. Would
you be interested?’ I
said ‘Well, sure. Yeah.’ They said ‘Well, it’s
for The Wallace and Ladmo Show.’ I said ‘You’re
know, the typical response ‘you’re kidding?’
I don’t know how much time elapsed. I think I had just forgotten
about it and I get a phone call and a secretary comes up to me and
says ‘Dave, Channel 5 would like to speak with you.’ I
picked up the phone and here is this exuberant and direct voice. ‘Hey
Dave, This is Wallace.’ I’ll never forget that phone call.
Oh my God, I was stunned because I had this enormous flashback. Watching
the show and Legend City stuff. It hit
me to be that close even though we were that far on the telephone. [Wallace
said] ‘Would you be interested in trying out for this science
bit for us?’ I said ‘Oh sure.’ Wallace said ‘What
would you like to do?’ I said ‘Well, I got a lot of stuff
I could do.’ ‘Well, come on down. Can you come on down
on such-and-such a date?’ and I said ‘Oh yeah.’ Wow,
I was on cloud nine. I was just so excited and nervous as all get out.
So I came down with what I was going to do and if those little
stinkers down there; I came down and thought I was going to do an
audition. I came and figured ‘When do I go on for this audition
because this looks like a show to me.’ They said ‘OK,
Dave, time for you to come on.’ They were taping me on the
spot. [Wallace] said ‘Do
you have a name for yourself?’ just before I’m ready
to walk on. ‘No, I’m Dave Harbster . . . ‘ He said ‘Well,
from now on you’re Dave the Scientist.’ That’s
what Wall gave me. I get on and I do this thing and Lad was there.
Oh my God, they were just so incredible. They knew how to bring the
best out of somebody. I just walked out of there thinking how wonderful
to be with these people and they were not these snobby-type people
you think celebrities are. They were just so nice to everybody. I
was just so impressed with that. I said to Wallace ‘Did I pass?’ and
he said ‘Of course. See you next week.’ It was for about
five years I did the show.
Dave the Scientist (October 1989)
Sunday Morning Movies
In the summer of 1982, Wallace and Ladmo began
hosting a Sunday morning movie series called Comedy Greats.
The duo would introduce classic comedies from some of their favorite
comedians Laurel & Hardy,
W.C. Fields and Buster Keaton.
30th Anniversary Show/New Cast Members
was reached in 1984 with the 30 th anniversary of the show. KPHO aired
a 90-minute prime time special hosted by Ken Kennedy (Gold Dust Charlie),
Mike Condello, Rita Davenport (former host of KPHOs Open
House) and Dan Horn.
The special featured a local comedy group, the Ajo Reparatory Company.
The group would soon join the show.
Cathy Dresbach explains:
I started on the show as a member of the Ajo Repertory Company.
Ajo was a sketch comedy group formed at Phoenix College and
consisted of me, Jeff Payne, Duke Shirlaw and Ben Tyler. We performed
at various places around town, but spent most of our career at
the NFL Club (Nineteenth
Avenue Food & Liquor). Our act was decidedly adult
in nature, so performing for kids seemed a stretch. But we
soon discovered it wasn’t all that different. You create
an interesting character and write her some jokes. It’s
still set-up/punch line . . . you just leave out the blue part.
character, Jodi of
the Pink Berets, becomes a regular
character and begins to make personal appearances with Ladmo and Gerald.
Other characters that she brought to life was Dottie Flube (an Aunt
Maud type), Penny Dauberfall (the show’s answer to Martha Stewart),
and the Science Lady. Certainly the most annoying character she brought
to life was Perky the Clown. She was Boffo’s rival whose trademark
annoying laugh would drive everyone crazy.
In 1985, the show underwent a budget trim by management. Cathy Dresbach
was the only member of Ajo Reparatory Company to remain.
In September of 1987, Park Central Mall held a 30th anniversary
celebration. A bunch of friends from the past showed up; Ken Kennedy,
Mike Condello, Brian Donohue, Gerald’s Monster, Ray Traynor and
Rich Post (members of Mike’s band). Even Aquanetta made an appearance.
Both Hub Kapp and Mr. Grudgemeyer made appearances to the delight of
the standing-only audience.
Arizona Hall of Fame Museum
On Saturday, October 15th, 1988, the Arizona Hall of Fame Museum opened
an exhibit honoring Wallace, Lad and Pat and the history of the show.
The exhibit opening was the largest that the museum had ever received.
Ladmo Bags were given away. The exhibit was curated by David Read,
who was a frequent visitor to the show. Read even reconstructed a portion
of Wallace’s office at Channel 5. Senator Paul Fannin was there
as a guest speaker. The exhibit was enormously popular, and remained
there for nearly two years.
35th Anniversary Show
The show reached yet another milestone in April
of 1989. Channel 5 held a huge stage show at Encanto Park that was
attended by an estimated twenty thousand people. Many friends of the
show came to celebrate. Hubb Kapp made an appearance. Mr.
Grudgemeyer fought Ladmo for one last time. Ken Kennedy showed
up as Golddust Charlie. Mike Condello was on hand as well. The stage
show was supplemented by a prime time special.
Ladmo & Captain Super
Ladmo and Harvey
It was during this time that Wallace began to consider
retiring. The strain of having produced a show daily, almost non-stop
for 35 years was beginning to take its toll. It was announced in late
November 1989 that the show would have the final episode at the end
of December of that year.
The Final Wallace & Ladmo Show
The Wallace and
Ladmo Show ended its remarkable 35 ½ year
run in December 1989. It still holds the record for the longest-running
daily television show (with the original cast) in US history.
A fan recalls:
I remember exactly where I was when I heard the program was going
off the air. I, at the time, was an attorney in private practice. I
can remember being in the car at Guadalupe and Gilbert Road in Gilbert,
Arizona when I heard on KTAR Radio that Wallace and Ladmo was going
to go off the air in December of 1989. That shows you how important
these guys were to all of us.
Pat McMahon remembers the end of the show:
After the twenty-fifth year, we began thinking ‘One of these
days, one of us is going to leave. One of us is going to die. One of
us is going to get sick’ or else the show will simply fade into
the distance and it’ll be time or whatever. After the thirty-fifth
anniversary, because all that time, how long can a show last? It was
five days a week, 10,000 shows. I think it happened in the best possible
way because what would have happened if one of us really would have
had an illness, or [in] the newspaper that the kids pick up the next
day, all of sudden says ‘Somebody killed in an automobile accident’?
That’s a hell of a way to close a memory.
When you close it the way we did, and people are taping the
shows, in fact, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve
run into people since that taped the show and kept it. I have a
tape of it. We all did. But you know that I watched it for the
first time last month [June 1991]? Not because of a sense of loss,
because my attitude was ‘Wow, what a run! What terrific laughs.’ I’,
so busy doing other stuff, it’s only time I’m looking
for right now. And besides, the guys, I wouldn’t miss
them if I didn’t
see them. They all have other outlets and you never think about ‘Gee,
I wish I could be there at 4 o’clock .’ This
was the first [Arizona] State Fair that
go to, not because I avoided it, I never thought that it was
on. That was the first one in 30 years. I didn’t go because
do a show.
It was the best way it could end. When I didn’t watch
it, I think it was because I had no abiding need to, and finally
somebody wanted to see it and I watched it with them. It was moving.
It was funny, it was every kind of wonderful spoof at ourselves
that Wallace would have included. You see, we never, never allowed
the show to get too serious about itself or take itself too . .
. you can take comedy too seriously and thinking ‘Hey, we’re
big stars.’ The
furthest thing from everybody’s mind. And so even the
last show, Captain Super talking about his next career. Gerald
is talking about breathing a sigh of relief because we’re
finally, after all these years, after 35 years (and he’s
onlytwelve), he finally
got rid of these nemesis of his. Marshall Good just wanted
a place to live under the stairs. Everybody is looking out
for themselves. Isn’t that real life? Bottom line
is ‘Yeah, but what’s going to happen to me?’ And
that was the plot of the last show, and so I laughed and laughed
until the Gerald bit. That got to me.
Wallace wrote the words. I don’t recall ad-libbing around
them that much because the words were so perfect. Wallace allowed him
a certain level of sensitivity that he normally wouldn’t do.
He didn’t feel terribly comfortable about exposing those kinds
of inner soul elements of himself. He didn’t mind if you did
it, but I would like to tell you that it was the result of Stanisloski
training and that I called on my sense of memory about something that
happened with a puppy once or something. But no, I think the real question
is, how did I get through the whole rest of the show? You know, you’re
an actor, and then all of a sudden when you’re called upon to
express that kind of emotion, well, it was close enough to me to real
feelings that Gerald spoke for all of us. Listen, if he had been building
up for all those 28 years that Gerald had been in existence, and you
can only be a little son-of-a-bitch for so long.
“Dave the Scientist” Harbster:
It was hard to be at the last show. Pat, Wall and Lad and the rest
of them, they’re professionals. They can put on that mask of
formality. They’re in that business of entertaining. They know
how to genuinely act. I couldn’t do it. I had these feelings
of anger and hurt. I just had these strong feelings . . . I was sad.
Greatly sad. That’s probably one thing I didn’t learn from
the guys was to hide my feelings because something incredibly special
was coming to an end.
I have a [cast] picture of all of us. I hate that picture. I hate
that picture. I thought many times to throw that away because my face
actually shows the tension. It was really hard to hide my feelings.
I tried. I really tried. I don’t think I did a successful job.
So, I was sad, angry and hurt.
On the surface I tried to be happy throughout the whole thing.
In my heart I was very, very sad. I broke up going home. I had my wife
Patsy drive because I couldn’t drive. I was holding it all back
then all of a sudden the tears just came flying out. It was very, very
sad for me the next few days.
Bill “Wallace” Thompson:
In 1989, the show was going off the air and after the last show
a reporter came up to me with a cameraman from Channel 3 and he said ‘Well,
all done. What kind of memories do you have?’ And I said ‘Well,
actually, the show wasn’t very good. I know that my kids were
not allowed to watch it. As a matter of fact, when I was a kid I wasn’t
allowed to watch it.’ The guy believed me up to the last part
there. He was writing it all down.
A fan remembers:
When Wallace and Ladmo finally went off the air, I can’t
remember afterwards how long that it had been after the show went off
the air, I worked for Chambers Mayflower [moving company] and
was sent out to go move their stage at KPHO. A personal friend of mine
who happened to just start working with us, George Roer, also grew
up here. So he’s going to the same place I was going. We knew
Wallace and Ladmo quite well. We knew them for 35 years, watched them
daily for a long time. To go to the set and tear it down was heart-breaking
to me. It really was.
We moved the set out of KPHO and down into a warehouse in downtown Phoenix at
the [Arizona] Historical Society. Why were we picked
to move the stage that day? We were just one out of 20 people that
worked down there. Anybody could have been sent. They sent us down
there and so we moved the telephone booth, everything out of there.
The walls, everything. Sharon Kelley was there. She offered me
two [video] tapes of the 35th Anniversary Show and of the final
episode. I thought that was so neat that the director of the Wallace
and Ladmo Show would say ‘Hey,
you want a couple of tapes?’ We told them how big of fans
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