Where Were You When...
- March 16
You always hear about this once a generation. Where were
Kennedy got shot, Reagan got shot, the
Challenger exploded, John Lennon got shot, the U.S.
declared war on Iraq for the first time in the early
1990s. For game show fans, the new one is where you
when Peter Tomarken died.
What makes this special isnt exactly who he is. I mean
lets put away the rose-colored spectacles for a second.
Peter Tomarken, as much as he is one of my favorite
hosts (and a severely underrated one at that), was on
less than 10 game shows, and only one of which lasted
more than one season. Hes been a host only once in the
past 10 years, and while he has been doing documentaries
and cameo appearances on television shows, his light
wasnt nearly as bright as it was 20 years ago.
But what a show that one show was that he did. The show,
Press Your Luck, has run in syndication for over 10
years. The game show that idolized The Whammy has been a
staple for kids growing up for the past 20 years. Even
my friends who arent huge game show fans know exactly
who that Whammy Guy is.
What made Tomarken special was the way that he not only
interacted with the contestants, but the way that he
meshed himself with the game. Peter always knew how to
make the game run and he was able to go through the
rules during the course of the game in a seamless
fashion. Post-PYL, Tomarken still showed his craft in
both Wipeout and Paranoia, and Ive always wondered how
well we would do if he actually was able to get on a
game show with a masterful concept behind it.
Yet, for all the praise that I have given him (and he
has earned it), thats not in my mind why us game show
fans are taking this one hard. For many of us, the death
of Peter Tomarken represents the end of innocence and
the end of a stage. This now starts an era for us 20-30
somethings where the people that we grew up watching
will start fading away like pictures from an old
Polaroid. There have been deaths in the game show
industry over the past year, but the main ones (Ralph
Edwards, Nipsey Russell, etc.) were either of people who
were only in the fringe or people who were around before
we really started to watch television shows. Gene
Rayburn was painful, but Match Game was more something
that was picked up via Game Show Network not really
something that we grew up watching.
This one hurts. It hurts bad.
This one gets posted up right next to Rod Roddy.
ironically enough Tomarkens old partner in crime. But
not even Roddy has that same effect because Roddy was
never the star of the show. Tomarken was the person
who everyone looked up to and wanted to be. I know if I
ever decided to get into that field of being a game show
I wanted to emulate the style of Peter Tomarken.
On an almost daily basis, people ask me what is so
special about the Game Show Congress. Without being too
morbid, this would be an appropriate enough answer you
get to see and talk to your idols and people that you
emulate before they disappear. I was fortunate enough to
be able to talk to Dick Clark at GSC 3 one of the last
events that he was at before being felled by a stroke.
How much longer will people like Tom Kennedy, Betty
White, Bob Barker, Monty Hall, Wink Martindale and
others be in good enough spirits to be gracious enough
to attend these events? If you were wondering about
going to something like GSC 5 and wondered why to go,
this would be as good enough reason as any if not for
the simple reason that you can see these people and
relive those events while you still have those people
around to relive them with.
E-mail Gordon Pepper at
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