Scott Moon and I were doing CREATURE FEATURE Tribute shows with Northern California TV legend BOB WILKINS. We always tried to include GARY TOMSIC in these shows because Gary was one of Bob’s favorites. Over pancakes the morning after Bob’s appearance on Cinema Insomnia, Bob complimented us and expressed a dream of being young again and buying a “big building” to create advertising and TV shows–on his creative dream team would be some of his favorite “children of Creature Features” including Ernie Fosselius, Scott Moon, myself and, of course, Gary Tomsic.
After Bob passed on in 2009, I wrote a proposal for the “Wilkins Building” project–The idea is that it would be a sort of artist colony and fun factory. It never materialized and we all kind of went our own ways. However, I always felt that whenever any combination of us collaborated–Scott and I, Gary and Scott, Ernie and I, Gary and I, Ernie and Scott–however it went–in my mind–we were in the “Wilkins Building” and making our mentor proud. Gary was always the hardest to pin down because of his turbulent lifestyle, love for travel and adventures, 10,000 personal projects, and a serious struggle will alcohol abuse. I always imagine Gary with a glass of scotch in his hand and a broken nose from a bar fight.
Recently, Scott and I were talking with Gary about getting a film he shot, the award winning feature film XENIA: PRIESTESS OF NIGHT for my show CINEMA INSOMNIA. It’s about a belly dancing vampire and has a cameo from–who else–Bob Wilkins and was never on TV or VHS or DVD. I also wanted to include shorts and other films he worked on and do a kind of retrospective on his work. Gary was of course busy–he had just bought the COLFAX THEATER and was also trying to create an online site with HD cams catching train graffiti. Supposedly, film had not been digitized and was on 1 inch tape. Gary was very excited presenting this and his short films and commercials on my show–but after a couple weeks of reminders, nothing came in the mail. Gary was MIA. Scott Moon told me that Gary had spent all of his inheritance and the theater hadn’t even opened yet…and that getting his film to me would probably not happen soon. He also reminded me of a quote from the master…
“Gary is Gary is Gary”
At a party at Scott Moon’s or Larry Scholl’s house, I always found him jovial, full of stories, always a new adventure or drama to share, sometimes cantankerous, and anything but boring. He liked to talk your ear off–but he had so much to say. My feeling was that the excessive alcohol was self medication to handle his unbridled genius and overflowing plate of mental ambitions.
Gary Tomsic began making films while attending McClatchy high school in Sacramento California. Some of his films ran on local NBC television station, KCRA-TV. Gary was a frequent guest on Creature Feature host Bob Wilkins’ shows like “CPM THEATRE”, SEVEN ARTS THEATER, and WATCH HORROR FILMS-KEEP AMERICA STRONG. He and his metal shop class built a walking remote controlled robot that also appeared those shows.
Gary wanted to work at the station but never could get an interview. According to Gary, he told Bob that KCRA kept throwing his application in the trash–Bob puffed his cigar and said “not anymore”. While attending junior college, Mr. Tomsic was hired by KCRA-TV in the spring of 1968. By the time he was 21, he was the stations commercial cinematographer responsible for all non-news film production. He left the station in 1975 to take a position with the Vinnell Corporation and was stationed in Saudi Arabia. In 1976 Tomsic was hired to shoot a weekly documentary series that aired in Persia on National Iranian Radio Television/International, There he traveled the far reaches of the world on assignments from Perth, Australia to Damascus, Syria. He returned to the United States in 1977 and immediately began taking assignments and shooting film projects.
At that time, in the wake of STAR WARS Bob Wilkins was producing as new program presenting Sci-Fi for kids as CAPT. COSMIC on KTVU 2 for the SF Bay Area. Bob remembered the robot Gary Tomsic built. Gary still had it in storage, he purchased it from his high school for the cost of the parts. The robot was repainted and rented by the station–it would be CAPT. COSMIC’s Wonder Robot Sidekick 2T2 and thrill children for 5 years as the highest rated afternoon programming in the region.
Bob also had an advertising business in the 80’s and created the original ad campaign for CHUCK E. CHEESE with Gary behind the camera.
That eventually lead to Gary creating a production company that produced a wide variety of projects from movies to public service campaigns for the State of California. He was a Director of Photography with an extensive film/video facility at his disposal. He even worked with comedian Tim Conway on DORF GOES AUTO RACING(1990).
In 2003 he shot a TV series for The Learning Channel (TLC) called SPYMASTER. In 2008 he worked for Indigo Films on a project called 42 WAYS TO KILL HITLER where he shot high speed film with three separate cameras. This show aired on Thanksgiving weekend 2008 on the National Geographic Channel.
Gary also appeared in person on a Bob Wilkins comeback special in 1993 for KCRA, directed by BILL SWAN. Gary wore the same College-Hi Shop jacket from when he appeared in the 60’s on Bob’s show. He again presented his Marlboro cigarette commercial spoof with a cowboy in a cemetery called MARBLE-ROW.
At THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN COSMIC show at the Parkway Theater in Oakland, Bob Wilkins was to be reunited with his Robot sidekick. Will Viharo organized the event and involved Gary, Scott, and Mr. Lobo.
Scott and I rented a van and met Gary at the ranch house where 2T2 was in mothballs. It was muddy and rainy and we couldn’t use the fork lift to get this 400 plus pound metal monster into the van. Gary did something genius with leverage and spare wood and got him in the van somehow. I rode in the back with the famous droid and we drove 2 hours away to Oakland. We had to carry the extremely heavy 2T2 down an alley way to get him into the auditorium–with Gary’s supervision and an engineers understanding of things we somehow got him next to the stage. I kept imagining my obituary…”Middle aged Fan Boy Killed By Robot”. Gary hooked up a car battery installed in the machine and it began bleeping and walking around on two legs. A third leg came down and lifted the entire rig up, rotated, and set him down again–so he could make turns. After 20 years 2T2 was still working and still wowing the crowd–and Gary made him in the 60’s! A monument to his mad creator.
Presented by Bay Area Film Events, Scott and Cinema Insomnia, the CREATURE FEATURES FOREVER show at THE CREST(2007) was a benefit for Alzheimer’s that ultimately claimed our mentors life–Joined on stage by KCRA alumni Geoff Wong and Harry Martin and fellow filmmaker Ernie Fosselius, Gary told some amazing tales from the glory days of local television and Bob and cried…and we all were crying with him.
Now, we are mourning Gary.
After renovating and preparing THE COLFAX THEATER for a relaunch for almost a year…we’re not sure what is going to happen now with that historic movie house without Gary at the helm. WONDER ROBOT 2T2 is on permanent display at Atlantis Fantasyworld — a Santa Cruz comic book shop famous for appearing in “The Lost Boys”.
Gary taught me something very important. He taught me to always be proud of the projects I am involved in. And that as a creative person–you have the power to bring a vision to life or to walk away from it and that that is a responsibility to choose what projects deserve your time and energy.
Gary is now working full time at The Wilkins Building…Bob will certainly keep him busy till the rest of us arrive.