PHOENIX — Looking for something to do that doesn’t involve a shopping mall on the day after Thanksgiving? Head to downtown Phoenix to check on the progress on the new Wallace and Ladmo statue that’s being built.
You can see the sculpture during an open house on Friday and Saturday at Sculpture Neil Logan’s studio near 2nd street and Adams.
The sculpture shows the three main characters of the Wallace and Ladmo show either sitting on or standing near a park bench. Ladmo is handing out a Ladmo Bag, which was a prize that was the dream of every kid in Phoenix, and was filled with stuff like Hostess Twinkies, Ding-dongs, toys, and other prizes.
The popular kids’ show aired on KPHO-TV, Channel 5 in Phoenix from 1954 through 1989. It starred Bill Thompson as Wallace, and Ladimir Kwiatkowski as Ladmo. KTAR’s Pat McMahon played over 100 characters on the show, including Gerald, the private school kid that everyone loved to hate. Gerald is standing at one end of the bench in the sculpture.
McMahon’s wife, Duffy McMahon, says the sculpture is an emotional sight for her and the families of Thompson and Kwiatkowski.
“Wallace’s widow came down here with her son and, literally, broke into tears. She sat next to (the statue of him) and just wanted to hold his hand. It still gives me goosebumps,” Duffy said. “I look over at Pat and think, Oh my God! I mean, here’s this clay image of my husband!”
Duffy works with the Wallace and Ladmo Foundation, which provides funding for kids to participate in the performing arts. The sculpture is being built to raise money for that foundation. It will eventually be bronzed and permanently placed outside of the Herberger Theater next April.
Sculptor Neil Logan said that the bench scene was not his original idea for the sculpture.
“Originally, when I came up with this concept they were on the (t.v. show’s) set with the three stools,” Logan said. “But I was talking with Pat and Duffy, and we all came to the conclusion that it might be neater to actually have a bench so that people could sit there. So, it’s Grudgemeyer’s bench.”
Grudgemeyer was “Mr. Grudgemeyer,” a character played by Wallace who was always near his bench in a park, only to have Ladmo come by and bother him, resulting in slapstick comedy.
Duffy said that even though “Wallace and Ladmo” have been off of the air for 25 years, the stories that she and Pat hear about how it affected viewers’ lives are amazing.
“You’ll have people come up and say: We moved here when I was 6 years old, and I didn’t have any friends. I turned on the television, and I knew right away that Ladmo was my friend,” Duffy said. “Or that I was a latch key kid, and if it wasn’t for Wallace and Ladmo, I wouldn’t have been able to handle a lot of the stuff that went on my in my life. Or that my parents were abusive, and Wallace and Ladmo were the only constants in my life.”
Duffy said that it’s unfortunate that people who moved to Phoenix after Wallace and Ladmo ended their run really have no idea exactly how important Wallace and Ladmo are to the people who lived here at that time.
The Open House is from 10 am to 4 pm Friday and Saturday. It’s a free event, with people getting a chance to sign the statue by donating to the Wallace and Ladmo Foundation.
“We decided to do what Wallace and Ladmo would do,” Duffy said. “We’re graffitiing in the names. The names of the large donors will be graffitied into the bench. That’s for donors who are doing $25,000 or more to the foundation.”
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton will be the first to sign during a ceremony at 12 noon on Friday.
Logan said that after the status is bronzed it will be displayed on the southeast corner in front of the Herberger Theater.
“This is lifesized, and will be on a beautiful base,” Logan said. “People can come and sit on the bench, and get a Ladmo bag, because Ladmo is handing a Ladmo bag over the bench. So they can have their photo taken of them getting a Ladmo Bag!”
It’s a picture that Logan hopes they will always cherish. For more information about the Wallace and Ladmo Foundation, go to wallaceandladmofoundation.org.