The Great Tomsoni – 1934-2019

DSC_0282.jpgOn March 9, 2019, the art of magic lost a legend. Sure, more people may have seen Penn & Teller or David Copperfield or Criss Angel or Lance Burton, but all of them acknowledged Johnny Thompson as a true master of the field.

I had the pleasure of knowing and spending some time with him when I was living in Las Vegas, and I certainly have my stories to share, but the following words, by people who knew him far better than I, are a perfect tribute.

Rest easy, Great. You did good work.

 

Ode to John Max Thompson

By Jared Kopf, Alpen Nacar, and Paul Vigil

Even though he wasn’t our real father, he told the three of us we were his sons. Thanks to John, we were transformed from strangers into brothers.

He lived a life of real magic.

These are the facts:

John Max Thompson

Chicagoan
Born under a porch
Orphaned
Cinephile

Dreamer of Mississippi riverboats, Derringer hats, and frock coats

Reader
Erdnasian
Bottom dealer
Second dealer
Middle dealer
Palmer
Mucker
Deck switcher
False shuffler
Cut shifter
A twelve-year-old card cheater

Runaway
Carny
Sword swallower
Glass eater
Fire breather
Beneficiary of Oswald the Human Ostrich
—Vhy don’t you do vhat zey all do?
—What’s that?
—Hit ze hump on ze back!

Cantu and the serape loaded with livestock

Change of gears
Jazz Man
Harmonicat

Like all cats, he had nine lives.
On the road with the band, the driver Jerry Murad fell asleep at the wheel, and John woke up with his face through the windshield.
There was the time that he took a radio DJ’s advice and jumped into the back seat during a head-on collision, dodging the steering column that would have impaled him.
The time the tornado picked up his car and, like Dorothy to Oz, transferred him from one side of the highway to the other; he just kept on driving.
The time he nearly drowned in waste as a Chicago sewage worker. (No matter how bad showbiz gets, it’ll never be as bad as this day!)
Stabbed by his first wife.
Held at gunpoint by gangster Tommy Wonder, not to be confused with our Tommy Wonder.
Escaped Singapore’s death penalty by using sleight of hand to hide the goods.
Then there was that recent near-death experience—visitors from the dead, psychedelic cruising altitude, 35,000 feet.

Gold records
Proud Salt & Pepper
Anti-racist
Anti-ageist
Minority rights activist—all when it was illegal
Humanist
Enlightened

Pratfaller
Professional heckler
Playboy Club stooge
Chameleon
Shapeshifter
Make-up artist
Impressionist
Comedian
Juggler
Ventriloquist
Dancer
Singer
Actor
Wrestler
—Not every mother’s son can be a boxer.
Headliner
Former smoker
Lifetime toker
Polish joker
Want to hear his favorite Polish joke?
—XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
—It’s a one-liner.
—But it gets ’em every time.

Part Pole
Part Irishman
Part Sicilian
—Could have been a drunk janitor that doubles as a hitman.

Entertainer to children
Ladies
Gentlemen
Royals
Nobles Mobsters
And drug cartels

Pitchman
—It happened right where you’re standing, friend! Right where you’re standing!
—Another winner!

Consultant
Designer
Writer
Mime
Escape artist
Illusionist
Creator
Inventor

A floating head via Pepper’s Ghost
A white dress that’s soon red
A cellophane production
Some gum for fun
Two different shoes
And bird poo, too

Globetrotter
Troubadour
Racantour
Balladeer

Animal lover
Bird puller
Overall General Practitioner
Close-up
Parlor
Stage
Anywhere
Anytime

—Hey kid, your fly is down!
—Yeah, it pays the bills.

Cup & Ball worker
—This trick’s so old, it’s older than God.

Egg Bag man
—I tease and tantalize the corners because that’s what they all do
—Can you see the snow white egg in the dark interior?
—Damn pretty stuff, isn’t it?!

Mind reader
—This may be the closest thing to real mind reading that you will ever see. Yeah, I said it, I’ll repeat . . .
—I begged pleaded and importuned you! . . . That’s a good word: Importuned. You can use it.

Luckiest guy ever: If he dropped a coin it’d land in his pants cuff.
Once he forgot the birds. Someone asked, “How’d you do?” He answered, “45 minutes!”

Vernonite
Millerite
(Dai’s contemporary; Charlie’s roommate)
Apparently, he had more friends than all of us.
Look around: it’s evident.

Skeptic
Doubter
Atheist
Roller-coaster enthusiast

King of the combover
Wig wearer
—It’s not a wig. It’s a hair piece.
—What’s the difference?
—About fifteen hundred dollars.

Lover
Friend
Fighter
Brother
Father
Grandfather
—Stop it with that “grandfather” shit!
Godfather
Mentor
(Tormentor)

Master
Poland’s Finest
The Wizard of Warsaw
The Wizard of Wizards
Merlin had nothing on you
I’m just going to say it: the best in the world, the greatest of all time
—Tank you werry much!

“Johnson” to Hayes, the perfect partner in crime
She knew to keep the getaway car running
—Laughs like I never had before!

Husband

She yelled, “Mandrake!” when seas were rough. Sometimes “Johnson!” or just “You asshole!”
—Please ask my wife to swear for you. She thinks it’s a color.

“Mr. John Max Thompson” on paper
“The Great Tomsoni” on stage
He was all this but so much more.

Our gratitude is forever. Our love for you eternal. Our lives forever touched.

He was Johnny Thompson, a.k.a. The Great Tomsoni, but we just call him “Great.”

—Like the shifting sands of the Saharan Desert vanishing into the night’s trade winds, so doth the egg disappear.

Categories: Art, Friends, Personal | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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