Culture News

Wallace and Ladmo Bronze Statue Coming to Downtown Phoenix in 2016

One day in 1964, while 5-year-old Neil Logan was home alone watching The Wallace and Ladmo Show, Ladmo held up a drawing Logan had done.

“They used to ask kids to send in drawings all the time,” recalls the 66-year-old artist, known today for his bronze figurative sculptures. “This time, Ladmo was showing mine! I was jumping up and down with excitement, and then I realized no one was home. No one would see my Ladmo art.”

More than 60 years later, Logan’s Ladmo art is about to get a wider audience. He’s been commissioned to create a life-size bronze of Bill Thompson, Ladimir Kwiatkowski, and Pat McMahon to be placed in front of the Herberger Theater Center this spring. Thompson played Wallace, Kwiatkowski was Ladmo, and McMahon was everyone else on the locally produced kiddie show, which ran for a record-breaking 36 seasons on KPHO, then a non-network local station.

The sculpture, valued at $300,000, depicts the trio posing around Mr. Grudgemeyer’s park bench, a well-known locale of the show. Wallace is seated, Ladmo is offering one of his locally famous Ladmo Bags, while McMahon as Gerald, his most renowned character among many, leers at the duo.

Born and raised in Arizona, Logan submitted a similar design some 14 years ago, in competition with other, out-of-state artists. His was chosen, but then the statuary scheme got put on hold — for 14 years. Now rebooted, the public art project has morphed into something larger: an ongoing Wallace and Ladmo Foundation that will offer education grants and scholarships to Arizona kids who want to go into the performing arts.

“It’s keeping with what Wallace and Ladmo did so much of during their lifetimes,” says local author and longtime Ladmo fan Pierre O’Rourke, recalling that the Ladmo team hosted a young Stephen Spielberg’s 8mm film screenings at Fashion Square. O’Rourke is, he explains, the CEOmo of the foundation. “CEOmo as in Ladmo,” he explains. “I didn’t want to be too snooty about my title.”

“We’ll raise money via private donations,” O’Rourke says, “and performing arts students will be able to apply via an online website. Ideally, we’ll give out the first grant to a boy or girl when the statue is unveiled in April.”

Logan was asked to make the statuary to scale, so that visitors can, as O’Rourke puts it, “sit with the guys and get a picture.” The artist is working in a downtown Phoenix studio on North Second Street, not far from the old KPHO studios.

What would Wallace and Ladmo have to say about their soon-to-be unveiled public effigies? O’Rourke has an idea. “Ladmo used to always say, ‘I never want a statue made of me, because pigeons shit on statues.’”

Sorry, Ladmo.
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela