Will Ahern: The Westerner from Waterbury

Today is the birthday of Will Ahern (1896-1983). Inspired by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West troupe (where he literally learned the ropes), the Waterbury native Ahern made his professional debut as a lariat artist in 1913 at the Lyric theatre in Bridgeport, working there and in western shows and circuses until serving in the army (as an entertainer) during the First World War. After the war was over in 1919 he teamed up with the woman who was to be his vaudeville partner and wife for the rest of his life Gladys Reese. Their fast paced big time act combined rope tricks, jokes, singing and dancing — that’s a lot of skills for one act. They managed to land in some Broadway revues, and enjoyed some film appearances in the 1930s, and worked the USO during WWII, but work was scarce for them thereafter and they gradually faded into retirement. There is a nice interview with Ahern in Bill Smith’s book The Vaudevillians.

To find out more about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


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