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Title: The New Set
Description: First taping on the new (and final) set.
I’d been a regular part of the show for about a year and was still being referred to on camera by Pat’s characters as “the new guy” (in truth, I really was the only new thing added to the show for some time) when Wallace decided it was time for a major overhaul. In September 1982, the show underwent a complete makeover, revamped with a new opening, a new set and a new name: Wallace & Ladmo. (Before this, it had been The Wallace and Ladmo Show,which replaced Wallace & Company, which replaced the show’s original title It’s Wallace.)
The new set was just the beginning of a new era for the show. Besides me, those last years saw other cast members whom Wallace mentored come and go. Craig Dingle (who’d been writing for the show for a couple of years before I came along) started appearing on camera regularly; magician Tim Parsons joined the show for a short time, as well as Vern & Charlie, a couple of cowboy character actors. The Ajo Repertory Company (Ben Tyler, Duke Shirlaw, Jeff Payne and Cathy Dresbach), a local comedy troupe who contributed skits to the 30th anniversary show in 1984, rounded out the roster for a while. Wallace hoped to groom a new cast to take over and continue the show another 30 years. Ultimately, the station had other ideas and, of this latest crop of performers, only Cathy Dresbach remained with the show to its final broadcast in 1989.
The show taped every Monday through Friday at 4:00 PM and in order not to disrupt the schedule the plan was for the old set to come down and the new one go up in the course of one weekend. Shortly after Monday’s show wrapped on Friday afternoon before, the studio came alive with the hustle and bustle of the job at hand. However, by taping time on Monday, the new set wasn’t yet complete: the stairs weren’t finished, the monitor over the time machine didn’t work yet, various set dressings were absent, and there hadn’t been time to light the set properly. For Wallace this was not a problem; he just made it part of the show. The set in transition became the theme for that day and several more afterward, and no one made more of it than Pat McMahon did. Each of his characters had something priceless to comment about the new set. I have many favorite bits from the years I spent on the show and one of them is in this episode: Gerald’s list of the ten worst things he’s ever seen. His unscripted comment about Rita Davenport’s hairdo (she hosted the shows Open House and Cookin’ with Rita on KPHO) was enough to merit building a whole new set. (Other moments I love here are Wall’s facial expressions during Aunt Maud’s story in the opening break—a challenge for me not to smile!—and the way Ladmo in the second break pulls the contents from the LADMO BAG and just lets each item drop ignobly to the countertop. In addition, this small point of interest: in the third break you can see our office/prop room/dressing room door—through the set’s upstairs doorway behind The Wizard—displaying its friendly lettering, “KEEP OUT.”)
Our office/prop room/dressing room door
A rare treat from 1982, here is the entire episode (minus the cartoons and commercials) of the very first day on the new set. As a fan, I’m thrilled to watch it again and still can’t believe my luck at actually having been there to experience it.