Sunday, August 19, 2012

What a Year in WilleyWorld!

Hey Everbody!  

Welcome to a new era of the “Wild and Willey” blog! 

First stop, the brand new, all-inclusive, state-of-the-art website!  So many of you – and quite correctly – have pointed out that I need a new website…or at least update the one I have!  Here you go!

Go right now and subscribe to updates at:
Take a look around the site.  I’ve put up new resources and entertainment areas.  This website will be the most complete destination for all things in Walt Willey World…hope you like it!

As most of you undoubtedly know, we are very near the anniversary of that dark day that All My Children rang down the curtain for the last time - so far…hope springs eternal!

My year since that fateful day has been an interesting one;.  I toured for three months with my stand-up comedy act, Wild and Willey, (check it out at: during which I taped my shows in Jackson (of course!), Tennessee.  

The finishing touches are going on that DVD and I’m hoping it will be ready for distribution in a couple months.  We are taking time loading it with some “special features”, like a photo tour of the Crystal Mesa Farm, , my B&B in Santa Fe, New Mexico and excerpts from my one-man show, Wild Bill! An Evening with James Butler Hickok.

Speaking of which…as much as I love working in television and film, live performance is a passion and a thrill for me.  There is a magic to it that you just can’t find in studio work; the energy flowing both directions across the footlights.

I began looking for a one-man show with which I could tour.  I read several shows about notable and worthy subjects, but none “spoke” to me. 

While doing Arsenic and Old Lace with my son Chance and the wonderful WilleyWorld Community Productions Players in Ottawa, IL, my hometown, we drove over to the train station in Mendota, IL to pick up my wife Marie and daughter Merit.  On the way, we passed a sign saying: “Troy Grove, Birthplace of James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok”.  I had no idea that “Wild Bill” and I were born in the same county, and only a vague notion of the man.  Gunfighter, right?  Lawman?  Hmmmmm.

I believe everything happens for a reason.  Serendipity, fate, destiny, happenstance, plain old coincidence – call it what you will – has always played a big part in my career and my life.  It was apparent to me what I needed to do.  I began to research Hickok…

Six-foot-two, blonde and blue, Illinois born, left small town to begin a journey that would propel him to fame.  That sounded familiar enough to “speak” to me, for sure.  As I dove into resource after resource, I found a captivating, complex and often contradictory man.
Hickok – in his time – was a farmer, teamster, trapper, scout, guide, gambler, sheriff, marshal…even an actor!  Hickok – in our time – is the reason that in every western film the “showdown” is in the street, and a poker hand comprised of a pair of aces and a pair of eights is known as “the Dead Man’s Hand”. 

After over a year of research and just under a year of writing the show - with friend Kim “Howard” Johnson’s helpful suggestions - I had a one-man show.  And I had researched and written it.  No one was more surprised than me!

 In March, I did a staged reading of Wild Bill!... with my friends The Island Players of Marco, Island, FL
I’d worked with Pat Berry – of Southwest Florida Soapfest fame - for years and her theatre there seemed like a perfect partnership to get Wild Bill!... on its feet.

Four nearly sold-out shows, a standing ovation, and a great review!  We were offand running, "Bill" and I!  Since then I’ve done this show for “Wild Bill Hickok Day” in Troy Grove, IL, at the ACME in LA – where we taped it! – and hither and thither around as I tuned the show.

Wild Bill! An Evening with James Butler Hickok has become an absolute passion for me!  The reviews and audience reactions have been wonderful and it gives me the opportunity to get out there and entertain you live!
And now I’m building a national tour!  Check out my Appearance Calendar for performances near you.  And if you have a suggestion for a venue, please let us know!

I’ll see you on the road, buckaroos and buckarettes!  Until then, keep your powder dry and happy trails!

So what else have I been up to this last year?  Spending time with my kids!  Chance, now seventeen, decided around Thanksgiving of last year to teach himself musical theory so he could set his incredible poetry (he really is very good!) to music.  Nine months later he is a songwriter and accomplished musician who can play the ukulele, mandolin, banjo, guitar, dulcimer, piano, melodica, washboard and musical saw!  Of course, this handsome young man can’t remember to charge his phone, pick up his clothes or water the animals…  Such is genius!

And speaking of “genii”: daughter Merit, now thirteen, is absolutely brilliant!  Never had anything but “A”s.  High Honor Roll.  Spelling Bee champion.  Does artwork – beautiful paintings and intricate drawings and fashion designs  - every day.  Reads incessantly.  And has no interest in boys…thus far.  She’s blonde and blue and 5’ 8’’.  Pray for me…

I am blessed to have these wonderful children and spending time with them – in between road trips - has been the most wonderful experience! 

And how about those Tribute to Pine Valley events!?  Weren’t they great?  I had so much fun hanging with my castmates and seeing all of you!

And – rumor has it – there may be more!  Keep checking at:

In July, I returned to my hometown of Ottawa, IL to once again kick off Riverfest with WilleyWorld Community Productions’ Summer Show.  This year – our fourth – my good friend Vincent Irizarry – following in the footsteps of former friends/guest artists Jill Larson, Julia Barr, Taylor Miller and Kale Browne - joined our Resident Company as we presented Harvey.  

Vincent was fantastic in the role and just as helpful, gracious and hardworking as he could be!  A truly fabulous experience for all!  Ah, the theatre!  Check out photos from these productions at:
Vincent and I, along with Bobbie Eakes and Jacob Young, have put together a cabaret act and I gotta say – it ROCKS!  Check it out at:

We’ll be at no less than B. B. King’s in New York City, baby, on October 28th!  We’ll see you there!

Well, that’s been some of my years’ highlights.  Thanks so much for your love, support, and patronage during this time of so much change…it is greatly appreciated!

Talk to – and see - you soon!