Bill Thompson

Few people have called him by this name since 1954. Bill, better known as “Wallace” or “Wallboy” (or as Gerald used to call him, “Mr. Wallace”) was the creator of the show that would be beloved by hundreds of thousands of people in Arizona. How did it all begin?

Bill was born in New York City in 1931. Even as early as his high school years, he knew he wanted to make people laugh.

Bill "Wallace" ThompsonWallace explains it in his own words:
“In high school, besides the usual stuff, football, track and that kind of thing, I got interested in getting laughs. I loved to write funny stuff, draw cartoons and perform in any skit or play or assembly or anything where I could do a funny part. I was a little smaller than most of the kids. Hard to believe now, but I used humor to get out of bad situations. It’s good defensively. People tend not to take you too seriously and they laugh and you don’t get punched around too much.”


Wallace (2007) on how he got the job
and how Ladmo joined the show

After high school, Bill looked for a liberal arts college in which he could indulge his love of drawing cartoons, writing funny essays and radio scripts. He chose DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.

Bill "Wallace" ThompsonHe continues the story from here:
“I went there and I took every single course that I thought would help me later in life to make people laugh. In fact, in the seventh grade I had written a report. It was one of those career choice things where you wrote a report on what you would like to be when you grew up. I started out by saying ‘I want to make people laugh’ and then I told about these different options where you would do funny stuff.

So DePauw was really great. But I only took the courses that I thought would help me. I had no intention of staying and graduating. I wanted to get rolling. So I took all these courses. Donna and I got married and we moved out to Phoenix . We went out in a ’32 Pontiac with wooden spoke wheels and jump seats in the back. It was a great old car. At DePauw I had had my first Model A.”

Bill Thompson
Early Wallace

When they arrived in Phoenix, Bill’s cousin Ned told him of a new TV station in town, KPHO Channel 5. The station had begun in radio and then switched to television in 1949. Bill and Donna arrived in 1952.

Bill "Wallace" Thompson“When I got out in ’52, they were going strong and I went and I applied for the art department, the floor crew, the studio crew and writing continuity. Whatever. I got on after coming back three or four times. I guess they got tired of seeing me. They said ‘Yes, we will hire you four hours a day running the mike boom in the studio crew and four hours a day in the art department. OK. So I had a couple of things covered there but the next was how do I get into the performing? The kids’ show at that point was Golddust Charlie. Ken Kennedy was Golddust Charlie and I asked him two or three times, begging, ‘I got a character. He’s called Wallace Snead and I know what he looks like. I know what his costume looks like.’ Because in high school and in college I had written essays and funny stories and done cartoons about a guy named Wallace Snead. Obviously it was me doing biographical stuff but not putting my own name on it. So, Wallace Snead. I thought that was a funny name. Then when I said ‘Ken, I’ll deliver a bit every day, I’ll take care of the prop. I’ll take care of coming up with one idea a day where you and I could do a comedy bit.’ He said ‘OK.’ So he got permission from Bob Martin, the program director, [for me] to come on. And it worked! That was in April of ’54 and at the end of that year, December of ’54, the station bough a package of Scrappy and Krazy Kat cartoons. All the announcers, all the staff people turned it down. They didn’t want their image hurt from selling Blakely tires at night. None of them wanted to wear a clown suit.

When I heard that Bob Martin was trying to get somebody to do the kids’ show and he wasn’t having any success, I started begging. It was pitiful. I begged and begged. Finally he let me do it. And then I was doing three things; art department, studio crew and I started my own show which was a spin-off from the Golddust Charlie Show. It was just me. Then I found out there was no money for a set so I was working in front of a bare wall. So I would always drag out whatever props or chairs or tables or ladders or boxes that would be involved in that day’s skits. It was a half-hour show and it ran from 6:30 to 7 at night. Two Scrappy and two Krazy Kats and three bits interspersed between the cartoons.”


Wallace Snead
Early Wallace Snead
Gold Dust Charlie, Ken Kennedy
Gold Dust Charlie

Bill, now established as Wallace, would do his one-man show for a little over a year. In Wallace’s words, “the one-man shtick ran out real fast.” Now enters Ladmo.

Ladimir Kwiatkowski

Ladimir Kwiatkowski was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. After graduation from high school, Lad had a baseball scholarship to Bowling Green University in Ohio. At the time, Lad was torn between going to college, getting a full-time job, or getting a car. He decided to work and earn enough for a car and then go from there. As the years went on, he realized how important a college education was. In 1949 he decided to come to Arizona State University (ASU) and study sports broadcasting.

Ladmo's Early Outfit
Ladmo's First Outfit

The prime reason for wanting to come to ASU was the baseball. The weather was good year-round and the Cleveland Indians were training in nearby Tucson. Lad played baseball at ASU and continued with his studies. There he met his wife, Patsy Lou, and they were married in 1951. Lad would eventually graduate with a degree in journalism. Upon graduation, he had an offer from the Indians to report to Cleveland. By this time, Lad and Patsy had started a family. Lad decided to try and get a local job in television. If he couldn’t get a job in TV, then he would accept the baseball offer.

Ladimir "Ladmo" KwiatkowskiLad tells what happened next:
“I graduated from ASU. The next day I went to KPHO [Channel 5] at 9 a.m. and met with Mr. Dick Rawls and explained my situation that I’d like to become involved in television because I thought that was the business of the future. I wanted to stay in Arizona also. So, talking to him was great. We laughed, we had a good time and at 10 o’clock I got home. At 11 o’clock that morning I received a call from the program director from Channel 5 and he asked me when I could start working. I said ‘Anytime.’ He says ‘How about 1 o’clock this afternoon?’ And I says ‘I’ll be there.’ When I reported at 1 o’clock I’ve been with KPHO since then. That was a long time ago. 1953. May, 1953.



I started off as a floor director. I swept, set up sets and then I later became a cameraman. I ran the camera, lighting. Then I became a director, directing a lot of news shows, commercials. But in the meantime I became a Ladmo on the Wallace & Ladmo Show when it started in 1954. That was less than a year later. Bill [Thompson] worked in the art department. [He] put in 20 hours in the art department and 20 hours in the studio. So we became very good friends. We goofed around a lot. One-upmanship you might call it, and we had a lot of fun. Seems like there was all this comedy going on around the studio. The art department, the whole building, really.


After he got the cartoons and started the show, a few weeks later he asked me if I’d appear with him in front of the camera, because I was behind the camera. I was his cameraman as he was goofing around. So he asked me if I’d appear in front of the camera with him. I said ‘Sure, what the heck?’ I thought it’d be easy because we were goofing around in the studio anyhow. When I got in front of that camera, I blanked. I blacked out. I swear, that’s the honest-to-God’s truth. When that camera went on, because the word had gone around the studio. The studio was full of crowds. Mr. Rawls was standing back there. I think that’s what really put the fright in me. Everybody was standing there watching me. I just blanked out. When Wallace gave me the joke, I was supposed to come in with the punch line and I forgot it. He kept on asking me and asking me. In the meantime, everyone was laughing. They thought it was part of the gag. When Ladmo the character, and ever since then Ladmo was that character that happened on the air. It was funny and everybody thought I did a terrific job but I was scared. They never knew how scared I was and that I goofed until later when we told everybody. But it was one of those crazy things that happen that was very, very funny to a lot of people I think except probably Wallace and myself. That established the character right then and there.


Early Wallace and Ladmo
Tee Vee Wallace and Ladmo
Early Wallace and Ladmo
1958 Tee Vee Guide
Wallace and Ladmo Tee Vee Guide
Its Wallace
1959 Tee Vee Guide Article
Feb. 5, 1959 Hair Machine

Wallace gave me, tagged, the name ‘Ladmo’ to me. At the time there was a commercial called Babo, the Flaming Cleanser. I was tagging everybody. Bob Martin, Bob-o. Jim Sparrow, Jimbo. I tagged everybody’s name with an ‘o’. Ladmo. It was funny and it stuck. That was it. Instead of going on as Lad or Ladimir, it was Ladmo. I’ve been Ladmo ever since.


[The show was] a lot of slapstick comedy. Lot of Laurel and Hardy stuff. Pie in the face. Lot of pie in the face. Boy, I got hit by a hundred pies, maybe. The boxes were coming and dropping off the catwalks. It was a lot of sight [gag] stuff. Lot of visual stuff. That was the early Wallace and Ladmo stuff. We always felt we needed one more thing to make it kind of perfect. Then up came Pat McMahon . . .”


It's Wallace: 50's Clips

It's Wallace Theme Song
The It's Wallace theme was the instrumental called "Oriental Blues" by Hoagy Carmichael. It was also the music used by comedian Ernie Kovacs for his comedy series in the early 1960's.

(Download Clip - 2.19MB)


The Wallace and Ladmo Drive-Ins
At this time, Wallace’s cousin Ned suggested that the duo branch out into drive-in restaurants. With Wallace, Ned and Ladmo pitching in the start-up money, two of the drive-ins opened in 1959. By 1966, there were five restaurants. They were located at 2402 West Thomas Road, 1528 E. Bethany Home Road, 6219 North 7th Street, 1336 West Indian School Road, and 4011 N. 32nd Street.

The specialty at these establishments was the Ladmo Burger, touted as being as big as a 45 rpm record. Also, you received a gallon of root beer with the purchase of ten burgers. The drive-ins also sold Wallace and Ladmo memorabilia (Ladmo tie shirts, Hub Kapp and Commodore Condello records) as well as trinkets from local rock station KRIZ (things like KRIZ license plates, shrunken heads, Big Daddy Spiders, furry key chains and Surfer Crosses). There were also Wallace and Ladmo food stands at the Arizona State Fair.

Wallace eventually backed out of the drive-in ventures as he didn’t feel right competing with show advertisers Burger King and McDonalds. That left Ladmo and cousin Ned in charge of the restaurants.

KRIZ Drive In Coupon
Ladmo Drive In Ad,
A Closer Look Magazine
KRIZ Newspaper,
Free at W&L Drive In's
Ladmo Drive In Ad,
KRIZ Newspaper
Ladmo Drive In Coupon
Cardboard Ladmo Ties
given out at Drive In's
Ladmo Drive In
Drive In Cup
Early Wallace and Ladmo
Ladmo Drive in Coupon
Wallace and Ladmo's
Ladmo Drive In
Surfer Crosses
sold at Drive In's
Ladmo Drive In