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William F. Nolan Stand-Up


WILLIAM F. NOLAN (image courtesy of

(image courtesy of

What do Portland area writers do the first Tuesday night of every month?

If they don’t attend the Willamette Writers meeting at the Old Church, they ought to.

The first Tuesday in March brought William F. Nolan to downtown Portland to talk about his thirty-three years in Hollywood.

He was an eighty-five year old man out and about with a little help from his friends.

By the end of his talk, he had new friends, lots of them.

One part Carl Reiner, one part Louie CK, William Nolan peeled back the years until he took the whole room back to his writing roots in the 1950’s.

Was he a favorite of Portland baby boomers? If he wasn’t at the start, he was at the end. He was awesome. interviewed him, which gives you an idea of his topics Tuesday.

But it doesn’t tell you what happened before he got into his subject.

Spend time with senior citizens and you’ll learn how they cover for what they can’t do anymore. Not Nolan.

“When you’re eighty five, climbing steps is not easy.”

He didn’t try to make it look easy, or play it off. It was hard for him, but he did it and talked about it.

Call that refreshing honesty.

Mr. Nolan stood in front of his audience and mentioned his birthday the next day.

When was the last time he stood in front of an audience who sang Happy Birthday? When is the last time for you?

Boomerpdx believes in singing Happy Birthday. He and his staff (wife and kids) all leave singing messages on birthdays. It’s a tradition worth passing along.

On the news of Mr. Nolan’s birthday someone broke into song and the whole audience picked it up, filling the room with good wishes.

It didn’t throw him off stride. William F. Nolan is a writer, an active writer, not one taking a last bow after a long career.

He’s got friends who keep him rolling along.

He’s got a new book.

He’s appearing in documentaries.

You could say Nolan is living the life writers dream of, that he grabbed the silver ring on the merry-go-round, and you’d be right.

He says he’s not a planner. You’d be hard pressed to lay out his life like a plan and expect it to make sense.

Instead, he’s filled with the joy of hanging tight each day and making something of it. That’s a message from the heart, and he shared it with people who might need some of that magic.





About David Gillaspie


  1. David Gillaspie says:


    Your comment proves that the man on center stage in the middle of Portland was not a mirage. I felt the sincerity and goodwill and thought “He doesn’t sound all Hollywood.” When there’s a chance to pay it forward with writers, take it. You did. Sending him flowers on his birthday makes singing the song in the Old Church even more special. Great tribute to such an engaging character. More proof that writers rule their world…and others.

    another fan,


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