Johnny Thompson, also known as “The Great Tomsoni,” died in Las Vegas on March 9. He was 84.
The showman was a versatile performer of music, magic, comedy, and drama throughout his decades long career. Thompson was born to Polish ancestry in Chicago in 1934. He began his career as a musician and musical arranger. As a harmonica player he toured with Jerry Murad’s Harmonicats. The performer made his Las Vegas debut with the Harmonicats in 1951.
Afterwards, he joined the comedy team of Lewis and Christie. During this period, he developed his comedy magic act, The Great Tomsoni.
He started his comedy magic career performing as a supporting act in Nevada casinos for performers including Carol Channing, Eddie Fisher, Ed Ames. Thompson’s wife, Pamela Hayes, joined his act as the assistant.
The act starred in the Las Vegas productions such as Folies Bergere at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino and the Lido de Paris at the Stardust Hotel and Casino. The couple toured internationally, performing at the London Palladium, the Theatre Princess Grace in Monte Carlo, Le Caberet at the Casino in Monte Carlo, the Casino Ruhl in Nice, France, and the Scala Melia Castilla in Madrid, Spain.
He made multiple appearances on talk shows hosted by Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, and Dick Cavett.
Thompson was the magic consultant for six seasons of The CW Network’s “Penn and Teller: Fool Us!” He also served as magical technical advisor to a variety of television and film productions such as “Hart to Hart” and “Fantasy Island.” He wrote and developed material for performers including Siegfried & Roy, Doug Henning, David Blaine and Criss Angel.
In 2016, he was inducted into the Nevada Entertainer’s Hall of Fame.
Thompson is survived by his wife and performing partner Pam.