Tribute to 'Wallace and Ladmo' star Bill Thompson

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Longtime valley residents remember him fondly as a favorite host on a local children's TV show.

Fans gathered Monday evening to pay tribute to Bill Thompson, who was known as "Wallace" on the Wallace and Ladmo Show, which aired for 36 years on KPHO. Thompson was 82 when he died July 23.

The show also featured Ladmo, played by the late Ladimir Kwiatkowski, and spoiled rich kid Gerald, played by Pat McMahon. The show's iconic "Ladmo Bags" also became a coveted souvenir for kids.

Crowds assembled Monday at the Harkins Cine Capri Theatre in the Tempe Marketplace. The event included special guest appearances, performances, a display of Wallace and Ladmo memorabilia, and show clips of Thompson's greatest works.

"I miss Wallace," says Dan Harkins, owner and CEO of Harkins Theatres and a lifetime friend of Thompson. "I miss him and I loved him. He was like my dad. I'm so grateful that we're having more than 600 people come here tonight to pay tribute to the greatest entertainer Arizona ever had."

Wallace and Ladmo started in 1954, when it aired in black-and-white. The show included comic sketches in between cartoons and plenty of guest stars. Some fans called it a cross between Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live.

"Wallace and Ladmo will always be alive in our hearts," says fan Rick Wallace.

Harkins Theaters is planning a film festival next month that will feature Thompson's work.

If you'd like to make a donation in Thompson's honor, you can contribute to Banner Health Foundation for Cardon Children's Hospital, or the Arizona Humane Society.