Johnny Thompson: The magician’s magician

Johnny Thompson, Pamela Hayes, Penn & Teller and Fielding West at the Magic Castle

The Great Tomsoni & Co. Johnny Thompson and Pamela Hayes (center) stand with fellow magicians Fielding West and Penn & Teller.

Just about everyone has heard of Las Vegas magicians Siegfried & Roy, Lance Burton, Criss Angel and Penn & Teller. But what about their go-to guy Johnny Thompson?

Thompson is a consultant to many of magic’s greats. In fact, Monte Carlo headlining magician Lance Burton’s first visit to Las Vegas was on a road trip from Los Angeles with Thompson in 1981. More recently, Thompson worked on an effect seen in Penn & Teller’s show at the Rio in which an animated red ball jumps and moves around the stage, taking on a life of its own.

Thompson, a sweet, mild-mannered man in his mid-70s, performs his own magic act all over the world along with his wife, Pamela Hayes, and helped form the iconic role of the Vegas magician, appearing in classic Vegas shows like the Folies Bergere and the Lido de Pari in the 1970s. Thompson’s act is called the Great Tomsoni & Co. “The ‘& Co.’ is my wife,” explains Thompson.

Penn & Teller’s quieter half says Thompson’s act is hilarious. “He plays the role of a puffed up, beribboned, pompous, classic magician, and she plays the role of his gum chewing skeptical wife,” says Teller. “It’s all about them constantly being irritated with one another and it’s beautiful. It’s a grand, grand piece of totally classic comedy.”

Originally from Chicago, Thompson is also a jazz musician. In the 1950s, he played the harmonica in what he calls “the No. 1 harmonica group in the world at the time,” the Harmonicats. He also used to perform magic at the original Playboy Club, and has appeared on stage and screen.

“He knows everything,” says Teller. “There’s nothing in show business he hasn’t done.”


There are 7 comments for this article
  1. Aggie Usedly at 7:41 pm

    I have worked with, and known many very special Magic people, John and Pam are the BEST!!!!!!!

  2. Aggie Usedly at 6:00 am

    Hi again, I submited a comment yesterday, that John and Pam are the BEST!!!!! This morning on my computer I had mail from Jthomp??????? in my Spam mail and just as I was deleating it I realized it might be from John or Pam, please contact me again.
    Hugs Aggie

  3. Susie Archer Obermiller at 8:02 pm

    John and Pam. The best act ever!! Coming to Vegas for work in 2 weeks
    would love to see you. Love Susie

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  6. Tom at 9:36 am

    As far as several OLDER harmonica players know, Johnny Thompson (although an excellent BASS harmonica player) NEVER played professionally with or was known as one of the “Harmonicats”. He played with the group known as the “Harmonica Jazz Quartet”.

  7. Winnipeg Magician at 10:49 am

    I had the honour of meeting him when I was younger. A very nice guy and very talented. The photograph I have taken with him is a treasured part of my childhood magic memories!