Mo-o-o-ore (than I’d ever have guessed)

I had a somewhat unusual childhood — as you may know if you have read some of my previous posts.

Most of it was “normal” (in a privileged, white, male, upper-middle-class way).

I grew up with a mother, a father, three siblings, and various animal friends.

I had chicken pox.

I listened to James Taylor, the Beatles, Buffy Saint Marie, Cat Stevens, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Carly Simon (among others) for hours on end.

Carly SImon

One of my favorite Carly Simon/Jacob Brackman songs is “The Carter Family” — from her great album, No Secrets — which I recorded a few years ago with pianist Doug Hammer during a rehearsal for a show called Songs about Parents and Children.

You can listen to it using the player at the beginning of this post.

3600 Porter Street Aerial View

Up until the age of ten I liked to walk, run, bike and climb around our neighborhood in Washington, DC after school (which was Sidwell Friends, where the Obama daughters have been educated in recent years).

3600 Porter Street2

We lived in a semi-attached house on the corner of Porter and 36th Street.

One of my best friends was indeed a girl — named Eve — although (unlike the song) it was me who moved away from Eve…

Next we lived for a year in Queens, NY (in my grandmother’s house where my mom had grown up) while I was a standby for the very small role of Theo in the original production of Pippin.

Grandma Jo's House 3

When my mom moved there as a child, it was the first house standing on the block — and by the time my siblings and I knew it in the 1960s and 70s, it was the only house on the block which still had open space on both sides of it.

My grandmother had an organic garden; blueberry, gooseberry and currant bushes; lots of trees (I remember scaling oaks, mimosas, hemlocks and locusts); and big lawns on which we could play with our neighborhood friends.

I don’t recall my grandmother ever “nagging at me to straighten up my spine” (as Carly Simon sings in “The Carter Family”), but I definitely miss this childhood eden.

When my grandmother died, my mother sold this house and a developer immediately built two big houses in what had been her side yards.

Grandma Jo's House1

I definitely miss this place “mo-o-o-ore  than I’d ever have guessed.”

In fact, I dream about it on a regular basis…

Then we moved to the northwest corner of Connecticut — where I attended our local public school and rode my bike up and down the hilly country roads, exploring the woods and fields around our house.

10 White Hollow Road Aerial View

We did not have a swimming pool. Someone else added that after we sold this small log-cabin-style house…

Interspersed within my relatively privileged and relatively normal childhood were days, weeks, and sometimes months when I worked professionally as an actor.

Will Toddler Head Shot

That was not normal.

That was walking into a room full of strangers and doing whatever one needed to do in order to be hired for the job.

That was a lot of anxiety and disappointment interspersed with a few moments of elation — when I learned from my agent that I had been hired to do a commercial or modeling job or voice-over or theatrical production or made-for-TV movie.

WIll Smiling Head Shot

The elation inevitably morphed into fear as the date for the actual gig approached.

And then — depending upon the kindness and patience and generosity and humor of the people in charge — the filming or recording or photo shoot or performance was more (or less) bearable.

I do NOT miss working as an actor mo-o-o-ore than I’d ever have guessed. It’s a very stressful life.

Since this was before the era of the VCR, most of the commercials, voice-overs, and TV movies I made were lost along the way — ephemeral bubbles in the incessant flow of popular (and to a large extent disposable) culture.

So I was happily shocked when two of my cousins looked up a TV movie I had made in 1975 called Bound For Freedom and discovered that it had recently been uploaded in four chunks onto YouTube!

If you are curious to check out the first chunk, you can click here.

That’s me being sold into indentured servitude by my father during the opening sequence.

I played a character named James Porter, and I had a lot of strawberry blond hair back then…

Will Bound For Freedom

This is a photo from that movie which I found for sale on Ebay.

If my memory serves me, Bound For Freedom was originally broadcast on NBC during the Sunday night time slot usually filled by a Disney movie.

However, the husband and wife team — Suzette and David Tapper — who produced and directed the movie also managed to incorporate it into the social studies/American history curriculum of a few elementary schools in the late 1970s.

I learned about this when a friend in high school, John Gallup, told me how he and some of his classmates at Salisbury Central School had sometimes quoted lines from the movie to each other in jest.

Today I am VERY grateful to a man named Ethan Hamilton (as well as his teacher who at some point loaned him her VHS copy of Bound For Freedom) for recently uploading it to YouTube.

The main thing I remember from making Bound For Freedom is how kind and generous Fred Gwynne was as a fellow actor.


I may have written about this in a former blog post… but it made an impression many decades ago and bears repeating.

Often a non-actor on a movie’s staff will fill in for the star of the movie and read their lines off camera when other people’s closeups are being filmed. This gives the star a break.


But Fred, although he was the recognizable star of this project — having been a main character in the hit TV series Car 54, Where Are You? as well as in The Munsters — willingly stood off camera and interacted with me when my closeups were being filmed.


And something in the kind and empathetic way he made eye contact pulled all sorts of emotions out of me which I doubt I would have been able to access otherwise.

If you have time or interest to watch any of Bound For Freedom, you will see that Fred shines in a gentle, understated way throughout the entire film.

And I AM surprised to find that I miss him mo-o-o-ore than I’d ever have guessed.

Thank you, Fred Gwynne, for your generous spirit.

Thank you, Carly Simon and Jacob Brackman, for writing such a wise and beautiful song.

Thank you, Doug Hammer, for our decades-long creative relationship.

Thank you for the astounding magic of the internet which allowed me to find the images for this post.

And thank YOU for reading and listening to another blog post.

21 thoughts on “Mo-o-o-ore (than I’d ever have guessed)

  1. Thank you Will for this sentimental, musical travelogue of your early years. Loved your version of Carly’s song, I’m sure she and Jacob would approve. Your voice is sweet and pure, like your soul. 😘✌️

    • Hi, Jane! Thank you for making the time to read and listen. I’ve been listening to 10 years worth of rehearsals with the wonderful pianist (and engineer/producer/composer) Doug Hammer, and each time I find a good take of a song, I am setting it aside as inspiration for a future blog post…Very gratefully, will

    • You have born witness to everything from Pippin (when I think we first met you during the tryout period at the Kennedy Center (??) until the present day! Thank you for all of the ways your life has intertwined with the lives of many different members of my family, Mary. Maybe it’s time to make some “Mary Bloom Chicken” in your honor — which we learned how to do when staying overnight with you and Leighton and Bree and Anush and Bird and Poppyseed and others at 473 West End Avenue… Yum.

  2. What a very interesting life you’ve had, Will! Those pictures of the freckled-face boy are wonderful and your insider memories are fun to read–who knew that Herman Munster was such a nice guy (although, as I recall, even as Herman he was a big softie.) And your list of the music of your youth made me smile–so very much the same music I listened to and loved.

  3. Hurrah! Thank you for listening and reading, KerryCan. Another person I once worked with (on a pilot for a TV series which was not picked up by ABC) was Barbara Feldon — who had played Agent 99 on the TV show Get Smart. She was also very generous and not-diva-like. The only thing I remember her once gently telling/reminding/asking the director was that she would prefer if he could shoot her from a certain side of her face. It was the first time I heard anyone make that request — but I guess some models and actors and performers become very aware of which angles make them appear most attractive on camera…

    • The past few years have been a time when different family members have needed help with big life changes… and I have had more time (though less money) to pitch in and help. Once a few exciting challenges have been resolved, I’ll be ready to travel to visit beloved friends again!!! Thank you for listening and ready, dear Patrick!

  4. Dear Will, You were also nice to me during the filming. As a non actor ( they even spell my name incorrectly on the credits), and 11 year old kid, I was nervous to say the least. You were a sweet boy and I always got a kick out of the postcards you sent me in the following years. Fred Gwynne was astonishingly nice to me too. What a lovely kind man. He was lots of fun and I never forgot his kindness to all of us kids on the set. He was a very large man , I remember him thrusting his hands into the flames of the fire we were all gathered around. He amused us during our long days. Thank you for sharing your memories of him. It is so cool that someone finally posted this!.
    Amy (Bozarth) Shaw

    • Hi, Amy! I am glad that your memories of Fred Gwynne are congruent with mine. It was a long time ago — but I have a sense that things we do as children and teenagers can carry extra weight/significance in our memories and life history. THANK YOU for reading my post!!!

  5. And thank you, Will, for this marvellous post! I have learnt so much about you…what a great voice you have, and a professional actor too, wow! Fascinating to read your take on the experience, quite gruelling in parts, without the emotional swing. Tough career. I loved Fred Gywnne (his character to which you attest shone through his roles, nice to know those good feelings I had about him have proved true, a real gentleman by all accounts…) mostly, of course, from The Munsters. This English girl, growing up across the shining sea from you in the same era, listening to the same music and watching similar TV shows, I’m sure, mostly American imports, although we only three channels back then: BBC 1, BBC 2 and ITV. How vastly different things are today… I loved reading about your growing up years on the East Coast. I lived in California for almost 20 years from my mid twenties on (Having lived there for 18 months a few years earlier, that time and what happened during that time is the main story of the memoir I’m in process of finishing up, hopefully!) but one of the places I most want to visit is Connecticut. The photo of your ‘little’ house sandwiched inbetween those two monsters, reminds me of a story I used to read to my children! How wonderful to have all that room in which to play and ride your bike in your childhood, as did I. And how wonderful to share those memories, having met through blogging. We remember a childhood without modern technology, yet without it, we would not be communicating in such ways now. Such is life, ha! Great post, Will, loved everything about it (and what a little cutie you are in your pics… and hope to check out your film asap!). Sherri 🙂

    • Wow. THANK YOU for listening and reading AND for writing such a long and lovely reply! I met one of my longest-lasting friends on the set of a movie (which her dad was helping to produce in Calgary, Alberta). She followed in her father’s footsteps, working as a young adult in LA as a production assistant and gradually working her way up the ladder… She, too, has tales (especially in this long-overdue “Me, too” era) to share from her time as a woman with a delicious English accent in Hollywood. I think she even temped in Harvey Weinstein’s office for a couple of weeks at one point. I look forward to reading YOUR memoir when it is ready for publication. And if you ever need a “please help me get out of bed in the morning and get to work” song, and I wrote one along those lines a couple of years ago sitting in her Toronto backyard… ( However, you do not need to listen or respond to any more comments right now. You need to return to working on your memoir! Very gratefully yours, will

      • Hi Will! Apologies for my delay in responding, having signed off the weekend as I tend to do. What a fascinating story your friend has to tell – ha, and as for temping for Harvey Weinstein…hopefully, her time there was uneventful… I did my share of temping when I first moved to California, but not for anyone famous! Although I did meet Clint Eastwood while horse riding through the Hollywood Hills once, ha! I’ve posted about it, will send you the link, if you’re interested. My first stint of life in America was in LA for about 18 months, where I lived and worked for a law firm. When I returned a few years later, I lived on the Central Coast of CA, where I raised my three children for 17 years, until we moved back to England in 2003. California is in my blood and although I am ‘home’ now, I will forever be drawn, like a moth to a flame, to it. And goodness, thanks so very much, Will, for your enthusiasm about my memoir, I am of course absolutely thrilled that you want to read it! I must get to work and finish it, then. But of course, I look forward to keeping in touch here as I tread-water in blogland for the time being. I will now listen to your song, as your message is one I need to hear every morning! 🙂

  6. Now that I am back from my precious 13 days of camping on Cape Cod, I find it ten times harder to focus on my own creative work — especially songwriting — first thing off in the morning. There always seem to be more urgent things to attend to… Keep writing, and I will continue to look forward to reading your future posts AND your memoir when it is ready.

  7. Pingback: Magic To Do, part two… – amusicalifeonplanetearth

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