Idol ChatterAlthough the cameras and cue cards are gone, Bill "Wallace" Thompson still raps with fans of Wallace & Ladmo — Arizona's iconic television show.
By Steve Goldstein
Phoenix Bill Thompson — "Wall BOY" to his friends and just plain Wallace to anyone who grew up in Arizona between 1954 and 1989 — is used to having an audience. He and his partners in comedy, the late Ladimir "Ladmo" Kwiatkowski and radio icon Pat McMahon, entertained kids and their parents from KPHO-TV's studios for more than three decades on The Wallace and Ladmo Show.
Though the cameras and cue cards are gone, Thompson is still happily holding court with old friends and fans every Friday at noon at La Siena, a north-central Phoenix retirement village. For more than 60 years, the same location was a Western-themed restaurant named Bud Brown's Barn, and Thompson and pals still refer to it that way. What everyone else calls "Lunch with Wallace," he calls "Lunch with Sandy" — after his longtime friend and Arizona actor Sandy Gibbons. The weekly gatherings started when Gibbons called Thompson — "out of the blue," according to Wallace — and asked him to lunch. Thanks to word of mouth, the gathering expanded from low-key reminiscing to a chance to pay homage to an idol.
Former Phoenix Suns center Alvan Adams, the NBA's Rookie of the Year in 1976, stopped by to break bread and deliver his own autographed bobblehead doll to Thompson. Historian and author Jack August brought his books about former senators Carl Hayden and Dennis DeConcini as gifts.
"You never know who might show up," Thompson says. "The doors are open, and it's out of control."
Former Hollywood stuntman Ron Nix and author/psychic Allison DuBois have sat at the long table. Some of the guests have arrived under the impression that they'll be speaking to the group.
"But the speakers never get to speak," Thompson explains. "That's part of the charm." That said, he does recall one guest who wouldn't be silenced. "[Theater owner] Danny Harkins just got up and started talking, and he wouldn't stop."
Harkins is one of the legions of fans who stop by to reminisce about the old television show and praise their childhood hero. One of the lunches, though, revealed hopes of bringing Wallace and Ladmo to a current crop of kids by way of the big screen.
Writer Ben Tyler, who penned a trilogy of plays about W&L, told the gang about a Hollywood production company that's looking into a movie version. With fingers crossed, the crowd called for Arizona-raised comedic actor David Spade to play Pat McMahon and for late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel to portray Wall Boy, their man of the lunch hour.