Peter Tomarken in a 1983 publicity photo for the game show Press Your Luck.
|Born||Peter David Tomarken
December 7, 1942
Olean, New York
|Died||March 13, 2006
Santa Monica, California
Cause of death
|Spouse(s)||Dana Jones (August 23, 1963–1993, divorced)
Kathleen Abigail Tomarken (?–March 13, 2006, their deaths)
Born in Olean, New York, Tomarken was the middle son of Barnett and Pearl Tomarken, who owned Dee’s Jewelry store in Olean. Barnett and Pearl moved the family to Beverly Hills, California in the early 1950s, and Peter graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1960. Tomarken graduated from UCLA with a bachelor's degree in English and married his high school sweetheart, Dana, his first wife who later served on the Beverly Hills Board of Education from 1985 to 1993. He and Dana had three children: Jason, and fraternal twin sisters, Alexis and Candace. He worked on the magazines Women's Wear Daily and Business Week in New York City during the late 1960s before moving back to California to work at various advertising agencies. He made an appearance as a reporter in the 1978 film Heaven Can Wait.
Game show career
He later started his own advertising firm, which put him behind and in front of the camera for many commercials in the late 1970s. His agent then suggested that he should try his hand at game show hosting, to which Tomarken replied, "Why would I want to do that?" His agent said, "Because you work four days a month and get paid six figures!" After a pair of failed pilots for NBC — Rodeo Drive in October 1980 (later picked as a series for Lifetime) and Duel in the Daytime in August 1981, both produced by Jay Wolpert — Tomarken got his first network job as host of Hit Man for NBC; it lasted just thirteen weeks, from January 3 to April 1 of 1983. Also, he briefly co-anchored a news show on the Playboy TV in New York City at the same time. Tomarken was then offered the hosting job for Press Your Luck, which he hosted for three seasons on CBS from 1983-1986.
After Press Your Luck, Tomarken hosted the very short-lived Bargain Hunters for ABC. After a year hiatus, he returned to host Wipeout (which he also produced), which ran in syndication for one season. He also hosted the pilot for Wordplay in 1986 with announcer Rod Roddy, but Tom Kennedy hosted and Charlie O'Donnell announced the series.
Tomarken's next project was a pilot for a game show adaptation of the board game Monopoly, which was produced by Merv Griffin and intended to air daily in syndication. After Griffin failed to sell the proposed series to enough stations the project was reworked into a summer replacement weekly series for ABC in 1990 and Tomarken was replaced by Mike Reilly. He hosted at least 2 other pilots, TKO for Mark Goodson, and Two Heads Are Better Than One for PYL producer Bill Carruthers before the game show market stalled in the early 90's.
Tomarken worked with GSN during its conception and early years in the mid to late-1990s and served as host for their evening interactive telephone games, Prime Games, which featured Decades and Race for the Numbers. In 2000 Tomarken took his final hosting position on the Fox Family Channel game show Paranoia. He also appeared on several infomercials and acted in small roles, including on the TV show Ally McBeal, during that time. He semi-retired from television to work as a real estate agent.
Fellow game show host Wink Martindale revealed that when GSN decided to revive the show as Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck, Tomarken taped a pilot episode. Martindale posted the pilot episode on his YouTube channel. Todd Newton was eventually selected to host the revival show.
In 2003, Tomarken returned to GSN to participate in a documentary based on Michael Larson's run on Press Your Luck in 1984. He narrated the program, titled Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal, and also gave his own take on what went down. As part of the special, he hosted a segment of Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck which reunited the two contestants who competed against Michael Larson with Larson's brother, James, for a grudge match (Michael Larson had died in February 1999 of throat cancer).
Tomarken, a private pilot, and his second wife, Kathleen, were killed when his Beechcraft Bonanza A36, N16JR, crashed a few hundred feet off shore in Santa Monica Bay during climb-out from the Santa Monica Airport in California on the morning of March 13, 2006.
The aircraft lost power shortly after takeoff and Tomarken attempted to turn back to the airport before crashing into Santa Monica Bay. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the crash could have been survivable had the plane been equipped with shoulder harnesses in addition to lap belts. The cause of the crash was determined to be an improper repair to the aircraft engine, which resulted in failure of the engine in flight, with complete loss of power.
The Tomarkens, who were volunteers with Angel Flight West, a non-profit organization that provides free air transportation to needy medical patients, were en route to San Diego to pick up a cancer patient who needed transportation to UCLA Medical Center for treatment. The charity has since set up the Tomarken Heroes Fund in memory of the couple.
- "GSN Mourns the Loss of Game Show Great Peter Tomarken". Game Show Network. Archived from the original on 2007-10-17. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
- "FAA Registry". Federal Aviation Administration.
- Nguyen, Daisy (2006-03-16). "Former game show host Peter Tomarken killed in SoCal plane crash". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-05-29.[dead link][dead link]
- "NTSB Identification: LAX06FA129". National Transportation Safety Board. 2007-03-26.[dead link]
- "Former Game Show Host, Wife Killed In Plane Crash". NBC. 2006-03-16. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
- Peter Tomarken at the Internet Movie Database
- Game host Peter Tomarken dead at 63, March 14, 2006, UPI.com
- Olean (NY) Times-Herald story of Tomarken's death
- Peter Tomarken at Find a Grave
Jim Peck on Second Chance
|Host of Press Your Luck
September 19, 1983–September 26, 1986
Todd Newton on Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck in 2002