Peter Tomarken

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Peter Tomarken
PYL Publicity Shot.jpg
Tomarken in a 1983 publicity photo for the game show Press Your Luck.
Born Peter David Tomarken
(1942-12-07)December 7, 1942
Olean, New York
Died March 13, 2006(2006-03-13) (aged 63)
Santa Monica, California
Cause of death Plane crash
Resting place Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery
Occupation Television personality
Years active 1976–2003
Spouse(s) Dana Jones (m. 1963; div. 1993)
Kathleen Eastman (m. 1994; d. 2006)
Children 3

Peter David Tomarken (December 7, 1942 – March 13, 2006) was an American television personality primarily known as the host of game show Press Your Luck.

Early life

Tomarken was born in Olean, New York, the middle son of Barnett and Pearl Tomarken, who owned Dee's Jewelry store in Olean. His family was Jewish.[1] They relocated to Beverly Hills, California, in the early 1950s. Peter graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1960 and from UCLA with a bachelor's degree in English.

After graduating from college, Tomarken married his first wife, Dana, who later served on the Beverly Hills Board of Education from 1985–93. He and Dana had three children: Jason, and fraternal twin sisters, Alexis and Candace.

Tomarken 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, as well as the character Roe in "The Secret Empire" portion of the short lived NBC series Cliffhangers.

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 NBCRodeo Drive in October 1980 (later picked as a series for Lifetime in 1990, ten years later) 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 13 weeks, from January 3 to April 1 of 1983. Also, he briefly co-anchored a news show on 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 pilot for Wordplay in October 1986 with announcer Rod Roddy, but Tom Kennedy hosted and Charlie O'Donnell announced the series. Tomarken then hosted the short-lived Bargain Hunters for ABC during the summer of 1987. After a year hiatus, he returned to host Wipeout (which he also produced), which ran in syndication for one season (1988–89).

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 several other unsold pilots, including TKO for Mark Goodson, Two Heads Are Better Than One for PYL producer Bill Carruthers, Winds of Fortune, and Show Me the World before the game-show market stalled in the early '90s.

Tomarken then turned to working behind the scenes as a producer and writer. He joined the staff of ABC's America's Funniest People as a segment producer for one season in 1991. He also wrote and produced episodes for Real Stories of the Highway Patrol. He returned to the game-show arena in 1994 when he was hired by GSN (which had just started operations) 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 semiretired from television to work as a real estate agent.

Fellow game-show host Wink Martindale revealed that when GSN decided to revive Tomarken's most successful series as Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck, Tomarken taped a pilot episode, which Martindale posted on his YouTube channel.[2] Todd Newton (who also hosted a pilot) was eventually selected to host the revival.

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 the event.[3] 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 that James was the winner of with winnings of $6695. (Michael Larson had died in February 1999 of throat cancer).


March 2006 Santa Monica plane crash
Accident summary
Date March 13, 2006 (2006-03-13)
Summary In-flight engine failure (caused by improper repair to the engine)
Site Santa Monica Bay, California
Crew 2
Fatalities 2
Survivors 0
Aircraft type Beechcraft Bonanza A36
Operator Private
Registration N16JR
Flight origin Santa Monica Airport
Santa Monica, California

Tomarken, a private pilot, and his second wife, Kathleen (b. June 12, 1964),[4] were killed when his Beechcraft Bonanza A36, N16JR,[5] 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 the bay. The National Transportation Safety Board determined, had the plane been equipped with shoulder harnesses in addition to lap seat belts, the Tomarkens' chances of survival "would have significantly increased."[6] The cause of the crash was determined to be an improper repair to the aircraft engine which resulted in a complete loss of power.[6]

The Tomarkens were volunteers with Angel Flight West, a nonprofit organization that provides free air transportation to needy medical patients. At the time of the accident, they 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.[7]

Tomarken and his wife are buried in the same plot at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.[4] Tomarken is survived by his three children from his first marriage.


  1. ^ "Obituaries: Peter David Tomarken". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. April 13, 2006. Retrieved 8 January 2018. 
  2. ^ Wink Martindale (18 May 2015). "Whammy: The All New Press Your Luck Peter Tomarken Pilot". Retrieved 2 September 2016 – via YouTube. 
  3. ^ "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. 
  4. ^ a b "Peter Tomarken". Find A Grave. Retrieved 18 March 2016. 
  5. ^ "FAA Registry". Federal Aviation Administration. 
  6. ^ a b "NTSB Identification: LAX06FA129". NTSB. Retrieved 3 January 2016. 
  7. ^ "Former Game Show Host, Wife Killed In Plane Crash". NBC. 2006-03-16. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 

External links

Preceded by
Jim Peck on Second Chance
Host of Press Your Luck
September 19, 1983 – September 26, 1986
Succeeded by
Todd Newton on Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck in 2002
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