American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2012 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 56

The Great Tomsoni

John Thompson 1934

Pamela Everest 1936

Most movies inspired boys of John’s generation to become cowboys or fighter pilots, Jack saw a film about a riverboat card shark and decided that he would deal and cut the cards ion his life rather than leave it to fate. He studied every book he could locate about sleight-of-hand and card manipulation. He mastered quite a few tricks but, at 12 years old, was a bit young for gambling parlors. So he learned to play harmonica and became on of the Harmonicats. He was 16 and performing in mob-owned nightclubs.

Magic was his first love, however, and witnessing performances by Cardini and Dal Vernon set the standard for John. After debuting his magic act in nightclubs, he worked his way up to the Playboy Clubs, in which he introduced his alter ego, “The Great Tomsoni, an egotistical magician whose ineptitude is really a demonstration of deftness. He dressed form ally, but telltale signs—untucked shirt or mismatched shoes gave a foretaste of his act. A dove faultlessly materialized only to dump on John’s shoulder. A flurry of scarves transformed into a bowling ball instead of the promised rabbit.

John wife, Pamela, joined the act as the bored, seen-it-all before assistant and their success led to Las Vegas.