Greg Thompson's Autobiography
Born: 24 July, 1942
Occupation: Writer, producer, director
Years Active: 1956-present
Spouse: Sunny Thompson
Children: Alex Thompson, Claire Takeda
Education: Roosevelt High School, Seattle (1960), University of Washington, Seattle (1964)
Greg Thompson is a writer, producer, and director of musical revues, theatrical shows, and special events. Thompson grew up in Seattle, Washington where he attended Roosevelt High School and the University of Washington.
High School & College:
While in high-school, Thompson started the rock and roll band "The Viceroys." When the band was offered a recording contract if they could come up with $500 each to pay for the studio time, Thompson opted to spend his money on going to college, but not before he found a drummer to replace him in the band. While the Viceroys went on to have a regional hit with a song called "Granny's Pad," Thompson was planning a career in journalism.
At the University of Washington, Thompson was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. He was sports editor and advertising manager for the UW Daily student newspaper, while working full time at Champion Display, a local costume and display company. For a few years in college, Thompson worked as the personal driver for Mrs. Eleanor Nordhoff Beck, the daughter of the founder of The Bon Marche' Department Store chain. Beck introduced Thompson to the theater, ballet, and opera. Beck would pay Thompson to go to the theater when she couldn't attend herself, and he would have to give her his review of the performances the next day. Thompson appreciated the athleticism of the dancers, the Broadway singers, and the scenic design.
One show, however, that had a lasting effect on Thompson was on Alan Freed's "Show of Stars" in 1957 that featured a dozen or more of pop music's top acts including Chubby Checker, Paul Anka, Buddy Holly, Laverne Baker, and The Everly Brothers. Thompson made it his goal to provide that kind of variety in his productions, featuring "one hit song after another," giving audiences only what they wanted to hear.
After graduating from the University of Washington, Thompson intended to be a journalist. However when he found out how much newspapers paid their reporters, he decided to go into advertising instead. He worked as Advertising Manager for The Argus Newspaper before moving on to become the Editor of the Corporate Newspaper for General Telephone and Electronics where he wrote a weekly column.
When told he was too young to be promoted to Directorship at GT&E, Thompson left to become Advertising Manager for Sterling Theaters in Seattle, which he renamed "Sterling Recreation" to include the wide variety of Sterling's enterprises. Thompson handled all advertising and promotional work for more than 30 Sterling Theaters in the Northwest while working on special events including the first Ali-Frazier fight, "The Thrilla in Manila", the 1974 NBA All Star Game, and Seattle' first professional baseball team, The Seattle Pilots. While at Sterling, Thompson won the BoxOffice Magazine Award for Motion Picture Promotion for his work on films like Franco Zefferelli's "Romeo & Juliet," "Woodstock," "MIdnight Cowboy," "Funny Girl," "Fiddler on the Roof," and Disney's "The Love Bug."
When Sterling Recreation realized Thompson was managing the new music group Brownsmith in his off hours, Sterling wanted Thompson to sign the group over to their company. Thompson declined and elected to leave Sterling to open his own advertising agency, Sacha-Bleu Productions (named for his two cats), while continuing to manage the band. Thompson was soon hired by ABC Record & Tapes, to produce radio and television commercials for record companies all over the country. Shortly thereafter, KJR Radio's Pat O'Day recruited Thompson to be Creative Director for a new Seattle recording studio, Kaye-Smith Productions. While the studio was producing records for acts like Bachman Turner Overdrive, Tower of Power, and Bette Midler, Thompson was writing and producing radio commercials for 7-11, White Castle Hamburgers, and the 1974 World's Fair.
Thompson produced the entertainment for the 1974 NBA All-Star game in Seattle, working for Zollie Volchek and the Seattle SuperSonics. Thompson sketched the iconic Sonic "Basketball City" logo on a napkin, staged the famous "Spencer Haywood as Superman Photo" with the superstar coming out of a telephone booth, and introduced the first NBA dance team, The "Seattle Sonic Booms.” The "Sonic Booms" were well received but quickly disbanded as Coach Houbreg's wife thought the female dancers were distracting the players.
Thompson got Brownsmith a recording contract with Warner Brothers Records but the group was unsuccessful due to last minute alterations they made to the songs. Thompson walked out and aimed to retain creative control over all of his own projects in the future.
1970's & 1980's Production Shows:
In the mid-70's, a restaurant/nightclub owner, Jack McGovern hired Thompson to produce a musical revue for his showroom. The show was a hit and McGovern told Thompson he wished he had more seats as Thompson's show was selling out his 200 seat nightclub on a nightly basis. Thompson, recalling how Fred Danz at Sterling Theaters had once said the old 7th Avenue Theater in downtown Seattle was "too big for today's movies," suggested McGovern take over the old movie palace. McGovern found a backer and Jack McGovern's Music Hall opened in 1977 featuring "Greg Thompson's Follies,'' a Las Vegas style musical revue.
"The "Follies" were followed by "Follies On Broadway" and "Follies on Ice," which were well received in Seattle. After three successful years, while Thompson was producing another "Follies” show in Bermuda, McGovern found a Canadian producer who said he could produce a similar type variety show for half the price Thompson was charging. Thompson decided to move on, and the Music Hall closed a few weeks after McGovern's bargain-priced show opened.
In 1979, The Boeing Aircraft Company asked Thompson to produce what would be "The World's Biggest Christmas Party" for 120,000 Boeing employees and their families. The Boeing Christmas Party was staged in the 60,000 seat Seattle Kingdome with two shows running back to back featuring a cast of more than 1,000 performers. The event was covered by ABC news nationally and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the "World's Largest Christmas Party.”
In 1981, Thompson produced twelve episodes of a TV sitcom entitled "The Fabulous Follies" which ran for several years on cable television. The Follies starred singer Julie Miller, who had also starred in a number of Thompson's productions before joining the national touring company of "Sugar Babies."
Word spread about the success of Thompson's elaborate Follies shows and by 1982 Thompson was contracted by Princess Hotels to produce cabaret shows for its sister hotel, The Hamilton Princess Hotel in Bermuda. Thompson was then recruited by Playboy Enterprises to produce revue shows for Playboy Clubs in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Lake Geneva, and Great Gorge.
Throughout the 1980's Thompson produced shows in Las Vegas, Reno, Lake Tahoe, Biloxi, Atlantic City, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas, Toronto, New Orleans, Miami, Houston, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Honolulu, Auckland, Branson, and Bangkok, along with shows for cruise ships circling the globe.
Over the years, numerous acts have performed in Thompson's theatre presentations and several have performed in his revue shows. A few of the stars Thompson presented include Dionne Warwick, Jay Leno, Rosemary Clooney, Jimmie Rodgers, Dianne Carroll, Peter Marshall, Dick Shawn, Rose Marie, Frank Gorshin, Margaret Whiting, Helen O'Connell, The Mills Brothers, Ginger Rogers, and Ray Charles.
In Thompson's hometown of Seattle, Thompson created and produced the long running Native American Dance Spectacular, "Dance on the Wind" for Tillicum Village on Blake Island. The production ran continuously for more than eighteen years, racking up more than 1,000 performances.
In the late 1990's, Thompson produced a number of shows in Branson, Missouri including "The Great American Wild West Show" starring Sunny Peterson, a singer Thompson had discovered in Minneapolis and who had gone on to have a successful recording career in Europe and in South America. Thompson would marry Sunny in 2000. While in Branson, Thompson also produced his popular "Golden Girls Follies" starring gold record recording artist Jimmy Rogers.
From 1977 until 2007 Thompson produced more than 500 shows featuring more than 4,000 performers and more than 20,000 performances. Thompson produced more than three dozen shows
for Harrah's Casinos in Reno and Lake Tahoe along with several long running production shows in Las Vegas.
Marilyn Forever Blonde:
30 years of successful revue shows came to a close with the collapse of the economy in 2007-2008. Casinos were suffering all over the country and Thompson, seeing an opportunity to do something he always wanted to do, closed three shows in Las Vegas and resurrected an old script he had written in the mid-eighties. The script was a one-woman theatrical performance based on what might have been the last day in the life of Marilyn Monroe. The play, with music, was called "Marilyn Forever Blonde" and Thompson felt he had the perfect woman to play Marilyn Monroe: his wife Sunny. Sunny had starred in a number of Thompson's shows early in her career and was an international recording artist with hits in Europe and South America. Sunny initially declined saying, "No woman should ever have to be compared with Marilyn Monroe!"
Ten years later with more than 700 award-winning performances around the world including the West End in London, "Marilyn Forever Blonde" finally closed when Sunny said, "I can't play 36 forever." The play was made into the award winning documentary film, "Becoming Marilyn Monroe" and played film festivals around the country in 2018 to rave reviews.
Currently, one of Thompson's longest running shows is the annual holiday production, "Snowflake Lane" a spectacular outdoor parade with floats, dancers, drummers, color guard performers and holiday characters held from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve for The Bellevue Collection in Bellevue, Washington. Having now completed its fifteenth year and celebrated its 500th performance, Snowflake Lane is presented nightly from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, attracting more than a million visitors each holiday season. Thompson has also produced successful holiday shows in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and Branson, Missouri.
Thompson most recently produced a new show for Sunny entitled "Sunny and Her Hollywood Blondes" which premiered in February of 2020 at the Annenberg Theater in Palm Springs as a part of the city's successful "Modernism Week" celebration. Sunny paid tribute to six of Hollywood's most famous blondes: Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, Dolly Parton, Joan Rivers, Carol Channing, and Dinah Shore.
In 2016, Thompson wrote a book documenting his fifty years as a writer and producer entitled, "A Life In Revue" featuring photos and names of the hundreds of cast members and venues he has worked with over his long career. The book sold out of its first printing.
Thompson has two children, Alex Thompson, the owner of Thompson Security in Seattle, and Claire Takeda, the Director of the largest Montessori School in California.
“Behind the Scenes at Snowflake Lane.” King5 News, 20 Dec. 2019, www.king5.com/video/news/local/take-5/behind-the-scenes-at-snowflake-lane/281-ea821a04-bae8-4e4b-9bfb-5628f768694b?jwsource=em&fbclid=IwAR11CUDDcWi8sPKL0DuXV8EYvdrJSzemdc7HGRZnmBSML-FVTow4tH5DrHw.
Dever, Jim. “Greg Thompson Productions Selling Off Surplus Showbiz History.” King5 News, 4 Aug. 2017, www.king5.com/article/entertainment/television/programs/evening/greg-thompson-productions-selling-off-surplus-showbiz-history/461936266.
“Greg Thompson Productions.” Casino City's CasinoVendors.com, www.casinovendors.com/vendor/greg-thompson-productions/.
Hilderbrand, Lisa. “MARILYN MONROE COMES ALIVE! Greg Thompson Productions Will Celebrate Marilyn Monroe's 50th Anniversary...” SeattlePi, 8 Feb. 2010, blog.seattlepi.com/eastsideinside/2010/02/08/marilyn-monroe-comes-alive-greg-thompson-productions-will-celebrate-marilyn-monroes-50th-anniversary/.
Kresge, Joanna. “There's No Business Like Snow Business.” 425 Business, 5 Dec. 2019, https://www.425business.com/lifestyle/there-s-no-business-like-snow-business/article_e9866e15-f5af-5f26-a514-c6a8f46bc864.html.
Milne, Stefan. “40 Years Ago, Boeing Threw a Party for the Record Books.” Seattle Met, Seattle Met, 18 Aug. 2019, www.seattlemet.com/news-and-city-life/2019/08/40-years-ago-boeing-threw-a-party-for-the-record-books.
Seely, Mike. “Fear of Clothing in Las Vegas.” Seattle Weekly, Seattle Weekly, 9 Oct. 2006, www.seattleweekly.com/arts/fear-of-clothing-in-las-vegas/.
“Stage Shows: 'Broadway Showstoppers' at Harrah's Reno Pays Homage to Classics.” Reno Gazette Journal, 14 Aug. 2014, www.rgj.com/story/life/nightlife/2014/08/14/stage-shows-broadway-showstoppers-harrahs-reno-pays-homage-classics/14054103/.
Thompson, Greg. Greg Thompson: A Life In Review. 1st ed., Gorham Printing, 2016.
Wilhelm, Steve. “Positive Revues: Greg Thompson Productions Is One of the Country's Foremost Producers of Vegas-Style Shows.” Puget Sound Business Journal, 10 Aug. 2003, www.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2003/08/11/smallb1.html.