Nat M. Wills
Nat M. Wills
(1845–1881) Wills. His birth name is variously given as Louis Magrath Wills, Matthew McGrath Wills  and Edward McGregor, but census records from 1880 show a boy named "Lewis" Wills, and Wills gave his legal name as Louis on official documents. He had a brother, Clarence (1877–1896), and a sister, Maud, born in 1875. He also had a half-sister, Indianna, born in 1855, and a half-brother, George F., born in 1853, from his father's first marriage to Susan A. Wills (1832–1865). Little is known about his early life.
There is no record of his birth in Virginia. An article in the Fredericksburg, Virginia Daily Star, dated Tuesday, October 9, 1923, mentions Maud, and says that Wills was the grandson of James Taylor, a policeman. James Taylor was Wills' mother Sallie's father and is listed on census records as a policeman. Wills' family moved to Washington, D.C. when he was a child and he and began his theatrical career there.
Reportedly, one of his first stage appearances was with Minnie Palmer, a popular actress and operetta star of the day. As a young man, Wills appeared in melodramas and stage shows all over the United States. He alternated between theatrical stage shows and vaudeville performances throughout his life. Wills was one of the first entertainers to perform at the famous Palace Theater, and he appeared in the 1913 edition of the Ziegfeld Follies. Wills was famous for his version of "No News," an old and much copied vaudeville routine. In a monologue fashion, Wills played both a wealthy man returned from a doctor-ordered vacation and a servant reporting the news on the man's return home. The routine begins with the servant assuring the master there is no news to report, "except for one small thing..." which culminates in a great deal of tragic news. Wills tried to help other entertainers by forming, with other performers, The White Rats, the first entertainer's union. He was an original member of the Board of Governors.
The White Rats (rats is "star" spelled backwards) were organized June 1, 1900 to combat the abuses of the United Booking Office, a group of managers who had a monopoly on vaudeville bookings. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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