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John Max Thompson (July 27, 1934 – March 9, 2019) was an American comedian and Las Vegas illusionist who performed under the stage name The Great Tomsoni with his wife, Pamela Hayes. They had a comedic slapstick act with the well-dressed Thompson and his gum-popping assistant, Pam, performing illusions while enduring a series of mishaps. Within the magician community, Tomsoni was considered a virtuoso, widely known as a mentor and teacher of magic, and a creator of tricks, as opposed to simply a performer. He worked behind the scenes with magicians such as Penn and Teller, Lance Burton, Criss Angel and Mat Franco.[1][2] In 1999, he was awarded one of the highest honors in the magician community, a Masters Fellowship with the Academy of Magical Arts.[3]

Johnny Thompson
John Max Thompson

(1934-07-27)July 27, 1934
DiedMarch 9, 2019(2019-03-09) (aged 84)
Other namesThe Great Tomsoni
OccupationIllusionist, comedian
Spouse(s)Pamela Hayes



Thompson, who was Polish-American,[4] was born in Chicago on July 27, 1934.[5] Along with his wife Pamela Hayes, he performed a slapstick comic magical act in which he played the role of a dapper but buffoonish vaudeville gentleman, with a gum-popping assistant, and they endured various mishaps during their performance. One of his trademarks was producing pure white doves on stage, which were trained to play along with the act once they had appeared.[6]

He had been featured on many episodes of Criss Angel's Mindfreak, the "Hair" episode of Penn and Teller's Bullshit!, and the film The Aristocrats. His wife and assistant, Pamela Hayes Thompson, was featured in the film Women in Boxes about magicians' assistants.[7]

He was the producer on the television program Penn & Teller: Fool Us. As part of that job, he was responsible for making the final call as to whether the performers were able to fool Penn & Teller.[8]


On February 25, 2019, Thompson collapsed during a rehearsal of Fool Us and was taken to Spring Valley Hospital in Las Vegas. He died in the hospital 12 days later, on March 9, at the age of 84 from complications of respiratory failure.[9][10][5]


Thompson's act has performed under the following names:

  • The Great Tomsoni
  • The Great Tomsoni & Co.
  • The Great Tomsoni and Company
  • The Great Tomsoni: The Wizard of Warsaw[11]
  • Tomsoni & Co.



  1. ^ Ernst, Jerry (February 20, 2005). "See what they've got up their sleeves - Magic shows, workshops to offer a look behind the scenes". Flushing Observer.
  2. ^ Smith, Vicki (December 7, 2001). "Mystifying the magician". Press-Telegram.
  3. ^ a b Hunt, Luanne J. (October 12, 2001). "The Great Escape". Press-Telegram.
  4. ^ Hunt, Luanne (October 12, 2001). "The Great Escape". Press-Telegram.
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ Einstein, Charles (July 16, 1995). "It's all smoke and mirrors as showrooms find audiences clamoring". Star-Ledger.
  7. ^ Noyes, Phil; Pallenberg, Harry (directors and producers) (2008). "Women in Boxes" (video). maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^
  9. ^ Katsilometes, John (March 9, 2019). "Johnny Thompson, a Las Vegas magic legend, dies at 84". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  10. ^ Weatherford, Mike (September 14, 2008). "Old-timer the mind behind the magic". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  11. ^ "When magicians convene, it's a night of illusions". The State. January 18, 2002.

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