Walt Willey in "Wild Bill! An Evening with James Butler Hickok"
My name is Walt Willey. Many, many folks know me from my almost 25 years playing “Jackson Montgomery” on ABC’s All My Children.
While I enjoyed my time on the show tremendously, I’m now doing something that is an absolute passion for me. A couple of years ago, while back in my hometown of Ottawa, IL, I became aware that James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok and I were born only miles apart.
Intrigued by this fact – and in the market for a one-man show with which to tour – I began my research on this fascinating man. After two years of extensive study and writing and a few performances (to packed houses, great reviews and standing ovations), I am ready to tour with this production: Wild Bill! An Evening with James Butler Hickok.
SHOW SUMMARY: The show opens as we find Hickok in the Number Ten Saloon, the site of his assassination in 1876 at thirty-nine years old. Hickok is trapped there, between life and “whatever may await me, be it the pearly gates of Heaven or the deepest pit of Hell”. He is convinced that if he reveals to the “excursionists” in the audience his “real story, as best and as honest as I can…that a toll may be paid and I may – finally – be ferried to that far shore”.
What follows is Hickok’s account of his life: from humble beginnings in Illinois to his times as farmer, trapper, scout, guide, sheriff, marshal and actor. The themes of reputation, celebrity, heroism and bravery are all explored, as is Hickok’s intolerance for bullies; “I don’t like bullies…not by themselves or by the bunch. I never was much for the stronger taking an advantage over the weaker…or standing by and a-watchin’ it happen.”
In the course of the two forty-five minute acts (followed by question and answer period/meet and greet), Hickok regales his audience with stories of his experience with the “underground railroad”, his time in the Civil War, scouting for Custer, “that damned fool”, and his adventures with “Buffalo Bill” Cody, “How he got that moniker is a mystery to me. Took him six shots to even slow a buffaler down”, “Calamity Jane” Cannery, “Always had this odd odor about her, Jane did”, and “Colorado” Charley Utter, “Charley’s a good friend to me. Kinda keeps my nose clean fer me, ol’ Charley does.” and how - because of his exploits - most “shootouts” in Westerns take place in the streets and a pair of aces and a pair of eights in a poker hand is referred to as “the dead man’s hand”. Hickok talks about several of his gunfights and his times as sheriff of Hays City, KS and marshal of Abilene, KS, his love of women “and they was awful fond of me”, and his untimely end in the infamous mining camp of Deadwood.
Chis Silk of the Naples Daily News says: “A gifted actor, Willey transforms himself into the lawman…delves into Hickok’s fascinating past with obvious passion…His storytelling skills keep the audience entranced.”
Says audience member Sandi:“What an OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE Walt Willey gave! VERY deserving of BOTH standing ovations he received (Sat night and Sun matinee)...”
John states: “As a Wild Bill fan for 30+ years, (I can tell you) you were great and did your homework for sure! The best part was when you called Buffalo Bill a "pip-squeak" - I know the two Bills were friends but James Butler Hickok was the real deal and you nailed him!”
Trish shares: “My husband and I really enjoyed the show and the question and answer session afterwards. The time flew by…would recommend the show to anyone!”
We are currently booking performances for Fall and Winter.
You may view a “sizzle” reel below and the photo gallery.
And visit the Wild Bill! An Evening with James Butler Hickok Facebook site:
For more information and to book, please contact my representative.