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Peter Tomarken

Peter Tomarken in a 1983 publicity photo for the game show Press Your Luck.
Born Peter David Tomarken
December 7, 1942(1942-12-07)
Olean, New York, U.S.
Died March 13, 2006 (aged 63)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Cause of death Complications from a planecrash
Occupation Television personality
Years active 1976–2003

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




Early life

Born in Olean, New York, Tomarken was the middle son of Barnet and Pearl Tomarken, who owned Dee’s Jewelry store in Olean. Barnet 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 identical 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, including Young & Rubicam.

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 at least two failed pilots for NBC, Rodeo Drive in October 1980 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 in January 1983, which lasted 13 weeks. Tomarken also 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 1 season. He was slated to host Monopoly, however, not enough stations signed up to launch the show, and it was eventually aired as a weekly game show on ABC with a different host, 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 also hosted Paranoia for Fox Family Channel from April-May 2000.

Other work

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. 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. Tomarken hosted a documentary for GSN, Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal (which focused on winner Michael Larson), in March 2003.[1] 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,[2] 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.[3]

The aircraft had engine trouble 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 if they had been wearing shoulder harnesses along with their seat belts.[4]

The Tomarkens, who were volunteers with Angel Flight West, a non-profit organization that provides free air transportation to needy medical patients, were enroute 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.[5]

Tomarken and his wife are buried in the same plot at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.


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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