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Ladimir (Ladmo) Kwiatkowski

Posted 2009-11-24 by Pat Wilson
'Ladmo' Kwiatkowski, of TV show in Phoenix, dies of lung cancer

Ladimir Kwiatkowski, known to generations of Arizonans as Ladmo on "The Wallace & Ladmo Show," died March 2, 1994 of complications from lung cancer. He was 65.

Kwiatkowski, whose rubber face and trademark cartoonish top hat were a fixture on Phoenix television for 35 years, died at Desert Samaritan Medical Center in Mesa, where he was admitted Feb. 21, said hospital spokeswoman Susan Gordon.

"He was aware of what was happening to him but he was very frail, very weak. He was just drifting in and out," said Bill Thompson, Wallace on the show. Thompson said he saw Kwiatkowski at the hospital Tuesday night.

"The Wallace & Ladmo Show" set a record for the longest-running daily television show in U.S. history, said Steve Hoza, museum registrar of the Arizona Historical Society. It is also the longest running program with the same cast, he said.

The show's 9,220 episodes ran from June 1954 to Dec. 29, 1989 on KPHO-TV, Hoza said. Promotional material distributed by the station stated the start date in April, but Hoza said that was just a gimmick to link the show to April Fools' Day.

Kwiatkowski continued doing personal appearances and commercials using the Ladmo character after the show stopped airing, continuing to hand out grocery bags full of goodies dubbed "Ladmo Bags."

"He didn't want the TV show to end," Thompson said. "He just wanted to keep right on being Ladmo and he did. I think it was important to him."

Kwiatkowski landed a job as a cameraman at KPHO the same week he graduated from Arizona State University, where he spent four years on the varsity baseball team. He started work on Thompson's solo show, ''It's Wallace!'' when Thompson called him out in front of the camera for a skit.

"It was out of necessity. There's only so much comedy you can do by yourself," Thompson said. "But it became very apparent he was just the right guy because he seemed to have a good connection with the kids and the audience."

In that first skit, Ladmo was searching for his missing Congressional Medal of Honor which he tells Wallace he lost in another room. When Wallace asked him why he was looking on the studio set rather than where he lost it, Kwiatkowski replied that the light was better in the studio.

Thompson and Kwiatkowski were joined a few years later by Pat McMahon, a KPHO weatherman who used to hang around the set watching the show. McMahon was first called to the stage to play an anti-litterbug advocate who littered the sidewalk while trying to find a newspaper article supporting his cause.

McMahon also played spoiled brat Gerald, egotistical superhero Captain Super and the bad-riddle telling Wizard, among other characters.

Although ''Wallace and Ladmo'' was a children's show, it featured a lot of jabs at local and national politicians between the pratfalls and cartoons.

"Ladmo was the guy, you know, who was suppose to be the well-meaning, kind of slow guy, the clumsy guy, but he was the athlete of us," McMahan, now a talk-show host on Phoenix radio station KTAR, told the station. "He was the one with the journalism degree, and he was the one that 35 years of kids really loved."

The Arizona Daily Star March 3, 1994

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