Saturday, December 15, 2012

Whew! What a Wonderful Month!

Hey Folks!

First off...HAPPY HOLIDAYS to One and All!

And - in keeping with the season - a commercial anouncement:

More about those later...

Still working on this year's Holiday card, my daughter Merit and me, but it'll be done before Christmas...but not much!  So glad I send and post mine electronically for the most part.  Saves paper and the price of stamps AND gives me extra time...which I need this year!  You'll see why when you read on.

I've been doing my own Holiday cards for over 30 years and enjoy it thoroughly!  My kids, Chance, 17, and Merit, 14, exhibited incredible artistic skills very young and when they got older I made them a part of it.  It's been one our most family-time things to do.  Here are some cards from the past:

On this one, we decided to make a Christmas tree featuring our animal family members here on the Crystal Mesa Farm, our small animal farm and Bed & Breakfast in Santa Fe, NM.

We hemmed and hawed over the order of the animals, ran around the farm taking snapshots for reference, and got to work.  It's one of our favorites!

The golden retriever you see to the left - Olive was her name - we lost a couple summers ago, but she lives on here!  And now holding the space on the tree is VooDoo, our Siberian Husky, who - by the way - has been enjoying our recent snowy weather.  Just lays outside in the snow with a big ol' grin on his face!

This one was a Merit and Dad production the whole way.  Merit had recently been drawing "zentangles", a repetition of different stylized shapes.  Her renderings were so cool I got the idea to set her loose on a Holiday theme and off she went.  

I contributed the "Surfin' Santa" as an allusion to my new home-away-from-home, Los Angeles, and titled the card "surfinsantasychedelia" and off we went!

This card was so much fun, we decided to do something in this vein again this year, maybe doing in color.  Merit's got her part done; a lovely background of "zentangles".

It's now up to Dad! 

This one's another joint effort.  Merit took the photo of the buddha that sits in our front yard, Chance did the rendering work, and I dropped the color in to it.

We found this buddha in our travels to Southeast Asia and shipped it home.  It reminds of us of our many adventures in this fascinating part of the world.

I pass this lovely statue every morning on our way down to the farm and never fail to enjoy its serene beauty.  We rarely get much in the way of snow around here, but when we do this buddha looks especially magnificent!  

We had taken a photo the previous winter and trotted it out for this Holiday card.  

We'll be picking up our Christmas tree today and trimming it tomorrow - accompanied by a little eggnog for the adults to make the damn tinsel go on easier...or care less when it doesn't!

And now, the update!  

I'm going to start with what for me was one the most fun, exciting and weary-making times I've had in recent memory.

I had gotten back to Santa Fe for Thanksgiving with the family.  As always, too much turkey and TV, but playing music with my son Chance - who just in the last year has taught himself music theory and plays, ukulele, banjo, guitar, piano, harmonica, melodica...even the musical saw! - was a blast!  And Merit and I went over spelling words.  She is - as of last week, her school's spelling bee champ!  She was given a special award for having won her class spelling bee for the EIGHTH YEAR IN A ROW!
Nobody can ever beat that record!  Tie, maybe, but never top!  Makes a papa proud!

Then it was off to my hometown of Ottawa, IL to do Wild Bill! An Evening with James Butler Hickok and to launch the Wild Bill! In-School Program.  What an unbelievably incredible experience it was!

Here we're talking about family size in Hickok's time
and comparing it to the kid's families
My first stop was Lincoln School in the nearby town of LaSalle to give a presentation - an excerpt from  Wild Bill!... - including his early life in Illinois and focussing on his dislike for cowards.  This generates into a Q&A about Hickok, his and times, and bullying.  I got to present it to almost 200 4th and 5th Graders.  Now, you never know what you're going to get with kids that - or any - age, but they were interested and attentive, and had lots of great questions afterwards.  After the presentation, one young man waited until I was alone to come over and tell me he was being bullied.  We spoke at length and then went to his teacher.  Just last week I got a call saying that all had been resolved!  What a great feeling to have been a part of that for just that one child! 

Some up close and personal work
Some one-on-one time onstage
Then it was to my alma mater, Ottawa High School, to teach some after school seminars.  Students brought monologues which they presented and we worked on them.  These were some very talented kids that took notes extremely well and worked on incorporating the changes quickly - soap style!  We met for three hours that Thursday and Friday and were all having such a wonderful time, we did it the next Monday as well.  One young man and a couple of young women had some real breakthroughs - they tell me - and I couldn't be happier to hear it!  

And the Wild Bill! In-School Program also raised $1,000.00 for the OHS Theatre Department, raised through their box office percentage and donated by the Illinois Valley Coalition On Performing Arts (IV-COPA) of which I'm a founding board member.  That's such a great thing about the program.  It raises money for the schools Theatre Arts.  In these economic times, the Arts budgets are always the first cut, so this kind of fundraising can make the difference between producing a play or not!

Hickok making a point -
with his Colt Navy!
It was showtime!  Now I've produced a play here in Ottawa every summer for the last four years, but those were ensemble efforts.  This time, it was just me up there and I'll admit to being nervous.  I so wanted the show to go well for the hometown crowd...and it did!  Both performances!

Hickok in a pose of "daring-do"!
With Dave Keely's great set, Brad Johnson's lights and sound, and my ol' pal and co-writer Kim "Howard" Johnson calling the show from the booth, Bryan Willy taking production photos, and the super support of an Ottawa audience (with quite a few folks from Joliet and Chicago's suburbs as well) what could go wrong?  Plenty!  But none of it did...

Mayor Bob Eschbach with the
Key to the City for me!
At Saturday nights performance, as I was doing the post-curtain thanks, I noticed a figure stage left in the wings.  I had my short-range contacts in, so I couldn't make it out who it was.   Finally, I said, as Hickok, "I don't like you a-lingerin' there in the dark.  Makes a feller nervous.  Get out here!"

And out comes Ottawa's Mayor Bob Eschbach with a little gift for me: the Key to the City!  I was dumbfounded!  What an honor!

And a special thanks to Julie Johnson and the staff of the Ottawa Visitors Center for all they do to help get these shows up!

For more information on Wild Bill! An Evening with James Butler Hickok and the Wild Bill! In-School Program, please visit WaltWilleyWorld!

I went over to the Rotary club the day after the show to give another excerpt from Wild Bill!...  this one an "Illinois-centric" version.  Those in attendance seemed to enjoy it quite a bit, as did I!  One thing that always amazes me is how folks who see this show become so interested in Hickok, asking tons of questions during the Q&A afterwards.  He was a fascinating man, and I hope I do his story justice.

Mendota High School was my next stop.  Here I was requested to give seminars in getting started in the business and was treated to a run-through of a student written Christmas play, which was very clever!  

I thoroughly enjoy doing this program and hope to be doing it much, much more!

The Wild Bill! LIVE Steaming Event has a
new date! JANUARY 19, 2013!
On my last night in Ottawa, I was getting all in readiness for the Jackson, TN Wild Bill!... and In-School Program gig, and Wild Bill! LIVE Steaming Event, when I got a phone call.  It was my production partner in the streaming endeavor, Wilky Fain of the Jackson Film House there (who shot my comedy DVD last Fall), telling me there was a flu epidemic in Jackson and they were thinking about closing the schools!  

I headed down there the next day - as scheduled - to have a look.  Sure enough, it was spreading like crazy!  Three schools had already been closed.  My producer, Annemarije de Boer, came in from Houston and we had a conference.  

It was my feeling that it would be less than conscientious to put three hundred people in an auditorium in the middle of a flu epidemic, and with the In-School Program also at risk, we decided to move the event to January 19th, 2013.  Go to the Wild Bill! LIVE Streaming Event Facebook page to let me know you'll be watching! 

Working with a student
during an improvised scene

At the Cooking Show!
There was still plenty to do in Jackson, though.  I met many of our sponsors, did some some radio and TV interviews and even judged a cook-off for a local cooking show!  

I taught a seminar through the Jackson Film House on "Improving Through Improv", and had a 'kick-off" party for my new comedy DVD at the South Street Comedy Club, where it was shot!

"Wild and Willey in Jackson; LIVE at South street",
my newest comedy DVD, is now available in
the Walt Willey's World eBay store!
Speaking of which...there's still time for the perfect stocking stuffer!  My new comedy DVD, Wild and Willey in Jackson; LIVE! at South Street is now available at my eBay store, Walt Willey's World!

I recorded this DVD across two nights in October, 2011 at the South Street Comedy Club in Jackson, right after AMC went off the air.  I added special features like a "teaser" of Wild Bill!..., a photo tour of my B&B, the Crystal Mesa Farm in Santa Fe, NM, and even a rendition of the infamous song Pine Vally Lawyer!

And when I wasn't busy I relaxed at the beautiful Peaceful Oaks Bed & Breakfast just outside Jackson.  A truly remarkable B&B and Johnnie made me feel right at home!

And now let's back up a bit...say to mid-October...

Live at B.B. King's in NYC
Thanks to all who made it out to the Fall in Love Again cabaret act at B. B. King's.  Bobbie and Vincent and I were honored by all of you who braved "Superstorm Sandy" to come out and see us.  

The weather that night, ironically enough, was soft and balmy; all hell had yet to break loose!  We were  all trapped in New York City until much later that week, waiting for planes to begin to fly again.  As I left out of JFK, I could see firsthand the incredible flooding in the area.  It was clear the worst was yet to come.  

So let's all keep a special place in our hearts this Holiday Season for all of those who lost so much.

With "the Boyz"!  Eric and I spent
three weekends in a row together!
Borrowed guitar and all,
the show goes on!
I got back just in time to get ready to leave again.  First stop was New Orleans for the "Fall in Love" event there.  

When Kassie Depaiva couldn't make it, Vincent and I jumped in and the concert went on as scheduled!

The first weekend Eric Martsolf and I spent together...

I then headed to Marco Island, FL, one of my favorite places.  I've been appearing at the SWFL Soapfest for many years, and am an honorary board member of the Island Players there.  It was with their help that I first mounted Wild Bill! An Evening with James Butler Hickok last March! 

This year I headed in early to do some auditions there for Love Letters that we'll be presenting there in February.  I had the pleasure of seeing a local production of Les Liaisons Dangereuse in Naples.  After completing the auditions I headed to Washington, D.C. to be the keynote speaker at the Food Allergies & Anaphylaxis Teen Summit.  I spoke on the remarkable change in my son Chance that came about when we put him on a gluten free diet.

Shoving off for a day of fun in the sun!
Then it was back to Marco Island for the event.  

Beautiful weather, wonderful time spent painting with the autistic kids (for whom we raise money at the event), fabulous dinner and bartender event, and a lovely time "Cruisin', Boozin', and Schmoozin" (and raising more money!) on Sunday! 

And a second weekend with Martsolf!

I raced back to LA do my first episode of The Everyday Lies, a sitcom web series that will be uploaded soon.  I play an acting teacher who is more full of himself and his "method" than he has any right to be!  It was a lot of fun, playing that type of character.  I'll let you know when creator Steve Royall uploads it.

The next night I was at the ACME Comedy Theatre getting ready to do my second and last (for now) turn as "Vincent" on the improvised soap parody Scandal Crest.  

I just LOVE doing this show.  Working with incredibly fast thinking actors like Sean Kanan and Eric Martsolf is a joy!  Add to the mix the great in-house players at ACME like Jen Parker, Dan Kane and the inimitable Diana Costa. I've worked on several ACME productions with these truly talented folks, and it is always the best damn time.  

I'll be doing my stand-up act at ACME some time soon, but in the meantime, take a moment and watch Sean, Eric, and myself have a great time in this very funny series!  And my last weekend with Eric Martsolf!

From there I headed home for Thanksgiving...and that's where we came in!

That should do it, folks!  Talk to you soon!