Writer, actor, and former All My Children favorite, Walt Willey (pronounced "Willy," as in Wonka, not "Wile e," as in the coyote from 'The Roadrunner' cartoon) brought his standup comedy show to Michigan, Sunday, May 18, 2014. The venue was the very popular Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle located in downtown Royal Oak.
I have to tell you, Walt Willey is a huge presence. When I walked into the Comedy Castle, he was standing at the bar and talking with club owner, Mark Ridley. Dressed in faded jeans and a black button down shirt, Walt Willey took my breath away. At 63 years old, the man is beyond handsome and he's very tall, about 6'3".
Before the show, Willey hosted an intimate meet and greet with 20 loyal and predominantly female fans. Not all of the fans were local – I sat with Sue and her husband who came all the way from Cleveland, Ohio to see the show.
During the meet and greet session, Willey willingly answered questions from the audience.
Willey said he keeps in touch with some former AMC co-stars including Bobbie Eakes (Krystal) and Alicia Minshew (Kendall).
"I talk to (Susan Lucci's husband) Helmut (Huber) sometimes too," he said with a chuckle.
When the question of who JR (Jacob Young) shot in the final ABC episode of AMC was raised, Willey had an interesting answer.
"I think JR shot himself. Jacob was already on Bold and Beautiful at the time, so it would make sense," he said.
Willey shared a bit about his personal life, speaking very highly of his two children. When asked if he's currently married, Willey said he's going through a rough divorce at the moment.
After watching him captivate the meet and greet session, it was clear this man enjoys working in front of a live audience. He's very engaging and not at all apprehensive. And it's clear Walt Willey loves his fans.
"What's really fun for me is doing the VIP Meet & Greet before the show. I've always loved interacting with fans and it serves as kind of a 'warm up' for me, and I'm always very candid - never did learn when to shut my mouth," he told me in a previous interview.
The topics of the comedy show itself ranged from women and marriage (and divorce), to getting old. There was a bit of drug talk, too. Willey called marijuana "God's gift to us." He talked a lot about his kids, revealing that his son Chance has Asperger Syndrome. An actor and artist, Willey describes Chance as "very literal" and extremely intelligent. Daughter, Merit, is clearly the apple of her father's eye. Willey described her as strong and independent. Willey said his kids "are his life" and he obviously adores them.
Honestly, the dirtier Willey got, the funnier he was. Without my being too specific, he described a situation where he was fooling around with a woman and he broke his nose. So the following day, it was evident that something was wrong since both of his eyes were black. At work, Michael Knight (former Tad Martin, All My Children) asked Willey how he broke his nose. Upon hearing the story, Knight, who is quite quick-witted himself, said "When I grow up, I wanna be you."
After the meet and greet and before Willey hit the stage to work his particular brand of humor on the crowd, he sat down and talked with me one on one. Once I got over how really great looking he is, it was all good.
Willey said he's never had to deal with stage fright and he doesn't worry about the audience laughing at his comedy.
"I much prefer working live," he said. "I'm totally jazzed after a live show. If nobody laughs, then I'm doing something wrong and I won't do it again," he continued.
Being a virgin to Walt's comedy, I was curious (and a bit leery) about what was ahead. I did my homework, so I knew the show was anything but G-rated.
So, how do the soap fans react to the somewhat risqué comedy of Walt Willey on the topics of women, marriage, and sex?
"I've never had a complaint," Willey told me with a sly smile.
On the subject of All My Children, Willey said he has fond memories of his almost 25-year span on the soap.
"My first scenes were with David Canary (Adam). When he opened the door I remember hearing the song from Bonanza (hums the Bonanza theme song)," Willey told me.
"I had done so many days as a day player on All My Children, I was practically part of the cast. I didn't audition for the role of Jackson," the actor shared.
As for the kindness and generosity of his co-stars back in the day, Willey said that "Peter Bergman (Cliff) and Louis Edmonds (Langley) were so giving. They helped me 'get' the process."
As for an AMC moment that he's most proud of, Willey said he "liked it when Erica and Jackson got married, because the fans had wanted it to happen for so long."
Willey says at the moment his children are his life. He talks to his son, Chance and daughter, Merit multiple times a day.
Surprisingly, this father of two chooses not to go "out" a lot, and instead prefers to stay home and write, spend time with his kids, or "do something constructive."
"From the time they were born, I would much prefer to hang with my kids rather than go out," he shared.
"I always knew I wanted to be a father.... But I had a lot of growing up to do myself before I could raise kids," Willey admitted.
A seasoned writer, Willey says he's generally very disciplined when it comes to putting pen to paper.
"I don't have to discipline myself in the winter, but in the summer I do. I'd much rather be outside hiking.... I solved some of the writing problems on 'Wild Bill' in a dream.... I woke up and wrote them down," he shared.
Willey is currently touring with his one-man show "Wild Bill! An Evening with James Butler Hickok," which he wrote and stars in. He became interested in the subject after learning that he and Hickok are from the same county in Illinois.
Willey did his research, and the one man show was born.
"There are some obvious parallels between us – we're both blond and blue eyed and from small towns. I was interested in the story beyond the legend. He was an amazing man," Willey told me.
At that point in our interview, Willey admitted he needed a cigarette break.
"You smoke?" I asked, trying very hard to hide my disappointment.
"Ok, the interview is over," he said with a sarcastic grin on his face as he headed toward the door.
And end scene.....
For all things Walt Willey, visit the entertainer's official website, Willeyworld
Soapdom would like to thank Walt Willey, along with Comedy Castle's Mark Ridley and Mary Coyle, and the wonderful Bonnie Vent who helped set the whole thing up.
Photos (c)Soapdom/Laurie Bedigian