Search billions of records on Ancestry.com

Will & Gladys Ahern
Vaudeville Veterans


Will and Gladys Ahern. Photo from New York Public Library
Will and Gladys Ahern
William James Ahern was born in Waterbury, Connecticut on October 9th 1896. In 1909 Buffalo Bill's Wild West troupe, with Annie Oakley came to Waterbury and Will, only 13 at the time went down early in the morning and helped out feeding the horses and helping with the canvas tents. He told the head canvas guy that he was 16 and they offered him $18 a month to start work, so he left town with the show. He learned rope spinning whilst working with the show.

The war took Will into the navy in 1917, during this time he volunteered as an entertainer. He left the navy after 40 weeks with the Bluebirds burlesque company. He was picked up by a booker for the Keith-Albee circuit shortly after and started doing Vaudeville comedy, song and dance routines. Four shows a day at the Rialto in Chicago. He also worked a midnight show at Ike Bloom's on 22nd street. This is where he met a very attractive chorus line girl named Gladys Reese. Will & Gladys married and continued doing Vaudeville and also some Broadway musicals.

They tried their hand at acting during the 30's, mainly RKO studios shorts. They then teamed up and went on the road as a Cowboy rope spinning duo, traveling around the world and performing for the troops during the war. (They toured for a time with the Gene Autrey U.S.O. Unit in Saipan). They had a long fulfilling life on the circuit and kept busy in the entertainment industry in various ways until well into their 80's. (Will had a bit part in 'Hello Dolly' when he was 73 years old. in which he danced in the park with Barbara Streisand). Will and Gladys lived out the rest of their days in Burbank California, where they opened The Rainbow dance studio at Hollywood & Yucca (near Vine) as a rehearsal space for both young and old talent.

Will died on May 16th 1983 at age 86 at St. Joseph's hospital. Gladys reunited the famous duo on the 12th of June 1992.

From The Aherns of Tournafulla.        

Here Is Genuine Irish Comedy
———
Laughs and Tears Mingle in This the Prettiest Irish Playlet
Ever Staged. See it at the Bell.
   If you want to see a real good vaudevil show, wherein the idea of “variety” is carried out to a nicety, go to the Bell Theater this week, and you will be more than satisfied. They have a really fine show at this popular playhouse this week.
   Every act is good. Three acts share the headline position, and they are real star acts too. The most beautiful of them is the playlet “A Romance of Killarney,” in which Will J. O'Hearn [sic] and a company of six made an immense hit. Mr. O'Hearn is an actor of too well known ability to need any comment regarding him in these columns. It need only be said that his performance all week leaves nothing to be desired, and the same may be said of his support.
   The playlet, while melodramatic in theme, has a rich vein of genuine Irish comedy running through it, and the comedy situations were all well taken care of by Mr. O'Hearn and his company. Mr. O'Hearn is forced to respond to numerous curtain calls and finally is compelled to make a neat little speech of thanks for the most cordial reception he received.
Oakland Tribune 24 June 1910

IRISH STAR MAKES HIT AT WIGWAM
The Irish star, Will J. O'Hearn and his company will be the headline attraction this week at the Wigwam on the new bill which opens this afternoon. O'Hearn will be assisted by Miss Eilleen Kearney, Howard Davies, Miss Elsa, Ryan Charles Bambrick and Miss Marian Mullen in the picturesque playlet, "A Romance, of Killarney."
San Francisco Call 26 June 1910

Good Bill at Wigwam
One of the brightest playlets which has been seen for some time at the Wigwam was presented yesterday afternoon in "A Romance of Killarney," played by William J. O'Hearn and a clever company. Guido Deiro, accordeon [sic] virtuoso; Loro and Payne, acrobats; Bessie Bacon and company in "Deborah's Wedding Day"; Boutin and Tillson in "A Yard of Music"; O'Brien and Onslow in a skit, and Solar and Rogers in a singing and dancing act are other contributors to an excellent program.
San Francisco Call 27 June 1910

LOS ANGELES —The new vaudeville opening at the Los Angeles theater with the usual matinee on Monday will be headed by the well-known Irish tenor, W. J. O'Hearn and his company of, six players in the delightful Irish playlet of ye olden times, "A Romance of Killarney." The playlet is brilliant with comedy and here and there a touch of pathos. Mr. O'Hearn has great opportunities to display a remarkable tenor voice.
Los Angeles Herald 10 July 1910

Waterloo Iowa Evening Courier, 14 October 1920
Waterloo Iowa Evening Courier, 14 October 1920

NONSENSE ACT IS BEST FEATURE OF ORPHEUM PROGRAM
Raymond and Schram Please With Horseplay; Movie Actress Tells Story
Raymond and Schram do the better work on a fair bill at the Orpheum. They spend a pleasurable fifteen minutes entertaining themselves and the crowd with horseplay and nonsense. The youngsters of the minstrel game when the Civil War was still a topic are now the veterans of "The Minstrel Monarchs." They are not a bit dead in their actions and songs but their influence in merrymaking is still predominant. Zena Keefe, one of a series of movie actresses who appear in person, relates her experiences and finishes with a song. The Stino trio of juveniles apear [sic] in a song and dance number characterized by some mighty fine dancing by the girl and younger boy. Will and Gladys Ahern are rope experts possession [sic] a clever assortment of funny lines. Maude Ellet and her companion make a specialty of trapeze and endurance gymnastics.
Capital Times 2 September 1921

Amsterdam Evening Recorder, 1 December 1922
Amsterdam Evening Recorder, 1 December 1922

Will Ahern in 1922
Will Ahern in 1922

Extra Added Attraction
THE LOCAL BOY
WILL AHERN
Assisted by Gladys Ahern in
A SPINNING ROMANCE
NOTE—Will Ahern is the originator of Russian dancing while spinning a rope.
Bridgeport Telegram 28 June 1923

AT COLUMBIA
Transfield Sisters with Band and Dancers are Featured.
   Transfield Sisters and their Voyagers presenting "Music Song and Dance Aboard Ship" will headline the vaudeville bill at the Columbia the last half of this week. They are extremely versatile, playing saxophones, xylophones, mandolin and banjo. In all of their numbers the Misses Transfield show complete mystery [sic] of their instruments and splendid voice control. The other members of the company are Darl's Troubadours, an efficient seven-piece orchestra, and Eugenie LaBlanc, a spirited clog dancer and singer.
   Will and Gladys Ahern in "Spinning Romance: are expert rope manipulators and while entertaining with lariat novelties, they step from the speedy steps of the Charleston to a Russian dance. Miss Gladys is also a clever dancer and likewise spins her rope in true Western fashion. A younger brother [Dennis Ahern], just lately taken into their act, banjoes his way into the "Spinning Romance" to pleasing results.
The Democrat and Leader 6 October 1926

Aherns Are Unusually Clever, Take Honors at the Keith-Albee
Versatility is a good thing in any walk of life but a stage entertainer who has it is doubly blessed. Three young folks on the new anniversary bill at the Keith-Albee Theater the last three days of this week have what they might be termed "oodles" of it. They display their gift with such ability that they score the big hit of the show, a hit of such proportions that they can be said to "walk away with the honors of the bill" as the theater man puts it. Will and Gladys Ahern are the names on the program, but there is another Ahern in the act, a brother [Dennis] of Will, and he deserves to have his name in print. He gives splendid aid in carryting the hodge-podge of fun, music, hoop spinning and music to the top peak of sucess, so to speak. Will Ahern is a comic and highly talented and the other young man gets a chance now and then to show he is also an artist in his line.
Youngstown Vindicator 18 March 1927

MOVIE FACTS AND FANCIES
Western heroes shoot wise-cracks instead of bullets, according to Will Ahearn, who has just come back from six months in Hollywood where he and his wife appeared in several films. Ahearn is better known on the stage than in pictures, yet he made his first photoplay almost 15 years ago. Fresh from his work as a broncho buster and 101 Ranch rider, Ahearn found plenty of opportunity to make Westerns in those days of the old Biograph Company. He was in great demand as a Western picture hero. But times have changed. "The new Western is based on comedy," says the actor. "The public just laughs at the handsome and fearless cowboy who always got the best of the gang of villains. The new cowboy hero gets bucked off his horse, razzed by the Indians and kidded by his buddies. He drinks orange juice instead of corn-rye and listens to the radio instead of the howl of the coyotes."
The Boston Globe 20 April 1930

CRIMSON PLAYGOER
 . . . The vaudeville acts are no worse or no better than usual. "Mantell's Manikins" put on the best act of the program with a varied assortment of marionettes performing. Will and Gladys Ahern, formerly of Simple Simon, are a close second best with a repertoire of rope spinning and wisecracking. The other acts keep the average down.
The Harvard Crimson 1 October 1930

Orph Offers Four Clean Acts
   Vaudeville at the Orph lacks the smut this week to make it popular with the collegians or even draw much applause. But it's clean and different from most of the acts seen here recently.
   Will and Gladys Ahern with brother Den head the bill with some alleged Arizona humor, rope spinning and dancing that is fair and songs that are better.
   Don Valerio trips the light fantastic on a wire with perfect ease though the Diaz sisters need top smooth their dances some more.
   Bertolino has something different in the way of ventriloquism.
   You'll like Galla-Rini's accordian playing. With his sister they show their versatility a [sic] musicians on 10 different instruments.
Wisconsin State Journal 3 March 1932

Plaza Offers Comedy Program
   The R. K. O. Plaza theater, at Sacramento, offers to the theatre-goers an outstanding comedy riot bill. Arthur and Morton Havel will present "Hot Water." Their offering is on board a big ocean liner and what a lot of fun they create.
   Will and Gladys Ahern and Brother Den offer "Arizona Fun Spinners." They spin ropes and have a fast line of patter. Then comes Healy and Cross, "The Stage Salesmen of Songs."
   Then there are Dawn and Scott in "Athletic Novelties." The feature picture this week, "Cannon Ball Express," is a fast moving railroad story.
Woodland Daily Democrat 30 April 1932

At RKO Keith's
 . . . The co-feature, "Picture Brides," deserves special mention, telling a graphic, intensely interesting story of the mail-order marriage racket. Much of its excellence must be credited to a sterling cast that includes Dorothy Mackailll, Regis Toomey, Alan Hale, Will and Gladys Ahern and Mary Korman.
The Lowell Sun 21 October 1933

Bert Wheeler Heads Sweet's Revue Tonight
   Headed by Bert Wheeler of the famous cinema team of Wheeler and Woolsey, and Helen Twelvetrees, glamorous screen player, just returned from England where she completed four pictures, the Hollywood Stars Revue will be presented tonight at Sweet's Ballroom, Franklin and 14th Street.
   In addition to the world famous photoplay pair, Sally Haines, in private life Mrs. Wheeler, will be featured as a solo dancer. She had roles in many of the Wheeler-Woolsey comedies. Will and Gladys Ahern, for years stars of the Orpheum, and other leading vaudeville circuits, are also headlined. More recently they have been working in pictures, their latest camera chore having been in one of Fred Astaire's features. They are old Ziegfeld Follies' stars, where their comedy was wildly acclaimed.
Oakland Tribune 28 December 1937

HOLLYWOOD HAPPENINGS
   Hollywood—When they figured which of Hollywood's cowboy stars ranked highest at the box-office this year, you can put it down that the name will be Gene Autry. . . . 
   Autry was 30 last Sept. 29. He was born in Tioga, Texas, came to Hollywood via Tulsa, Okla., radio and phonograph recordings. He was first to put music in a western—and it was one of Ken Maynard's westerns at that. In "In Old Santa Fe," Gene sang in a musical sequence or two. Maynard, the star, sang but through the courtesy of a voice double. Now, virtually all the westerns are "singing" pictures.
   The music, plus and attempt to break away from the old "western" formula, gets much of the credit for the popularity of Autry's product. He never uses the plot about the cowgirl, the hero, the mortgaged ranch, and the conniving villain—not in the old sense. He dresses it up in modern clothes, sometimes so nicely that it doesn't seem like that plot at all. There is always enough of it left, and plenty of shooting and riding and open country scenery, to make it a real western.
   He uses "specialties" whenever possible to enhance the entertainment value. Will and Gladys Ahern of vaudeville for instance, and his own Smiley Burnette, and now Lasses White, the minstrel man. . . . 
Appleton Post-Crescent 25 Feb. 1938

Grosse Point News, 25 June 1942
Grosse Point News, 25 June 1942

Vaudeville Reviews
Orpheum, Los Angeles
After a run of bands the Orpheum comes up with a variety bill that hasn't a name to put on the marquee. However, it's well rounded and entertaining. House is banking on the pix. The Pied Piper and Priorities of 1942, to aid the till. . . . 
Will and Gladys Ahern, rope artists, open with a bit of nothing. When act settles down, with Miss [sic] Ahern toe dancing on a hat brim, the turn begins to take shape. Ahern spins lassos and keeps up a steady banter. Material is not the best and some of it is pretty raw. Rope work is OK.
Billboard 24 October 1942

Dance Artist At Lyric
   Starring in the Lyric stage revue for the week of July 29 will be vaudeville headliners such as Will and Gladys Ahern, Rock and Dean, the Great Bender, Gordon and Hughes, and Corrallene Rommeburg.
   Will Ahern, often compared with the late Will Rogers, twirls a lariat as well as doing some intricate dance steps. Gladys adds a spicy note with her songs and chatter.
   It's a comedy dance team—Rock and Dean, who are masters at featured oddities in tap routines and burlesque ballet turns. The Great Bender is a novel contortionist and acrobat, Gordon and Hughes are a singing and musical duo, and Corallene Rommeburg does pantomime impersonations of Betty Hutton.
The Salt Lake Tribune 27 July 1946

Vivacious Mary McCormack, co-owner of the Ritz, is back at her Greenfield Hill home, sporting a beautiful copper-colored tan and getting over the delightful surprise of meeting her dear friends, Will and Gladys Ahern, stage and screen stars from Fairfield, at the Penn Station. With the Aherns was Bert Wheeler, star of the hit "All for Love." The trio whirled Mary to the St. Moritz for Dinner and Will and Gladys then left for Chicago to play a month's engagement at a big hotel there.
Sunday Herald 17 April 1949

Carson Salutes Roster of Notables
   Louis Armstrong belts out "Hello Dolly!" and actress Gloria Swanson makes a rare appearance when "Johnny Carson Presents Sun City Scandals" on the NBC Television Monday, Dec. 7 (Ch. 6 in color, 10-11 p.m.).
   The special a musical comedy salute to swinging entertainers old enough to qualify for Social Security benefits, also features Fifi D'Orsay, Beny Rubin, Billy Gilbert, Julia Rooney, Whitey Roberts, Wilbur Hall, and Will and Gladys Ahern.
   Johnny Carson, host of NBC-TV's "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," also plays the drums and leads a jazz combo comprising Frankie Carle (piano), the late Eddie Peabody (banjo), Buddy Rogers (trombone), Freddie Martin (saxophone) and Manny Klein (trumpet).
Anderson Daily Bulletin 5 December 1970
Back to Index

"Ukelele Ike" Laid to Rest In Actors' Plot
   HOLLYWOOD (AP)—Actor Cliff (Ukelele Ike) Edwards, who died alone and penniless July 17 in a convalescent home, has been buried amid his fellow actors with a last farewell by about 35 of his friends. Edwards, who gave Jiminy Cricket his distinctive tenor voice in Walt Disney's 1940 movie classic, "Pinochio" and sang its Oscar-winning title song, "When You Wish Upon a Star," was buried in a special actors' plot at Valhalla Cemetery in North Hollywood.
   Most of those attending funeral services for the 76-year-old actor, were from Disney Studios and the Actors' Fund. Both organizations quietly helped Edwards meet his hospital and other expenses in later years.
   The Rev. Edward R. Banks, of the First Presbyterian Church of Burbank, conducted the funeral services. The eulogy was delivered by actor Will Ahern, a long-time friend of Edwards, a Hannibal, Mo., native.
   "He was blessed with the ability to make people happy," adding that "his wish had been realized . . . and now he'll be sitting up there among the stars.
Columbia Missourian 30 July 1971

William James Ahern
William James Ahern

A Lifetime of Joy in Vaudeville
By Robert Dawn
Will Ahern died Monday at age 86 in St. Joseph's Hospital. This interview, part of a vaudeville series, took place shortly before.

On Dec. 6, 1918, Will Ahern, Seaman First Class, U.S. Navy, performed his mind-reading act on board the George Washington for President Woodrow Wilson and the U.S. delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference. On Aug. 3, 1945, Will and Gladys Ahern; USO Overseas Unit No. 166, were playing to a GI audience on Saipan. They were on Tinian three days later when the atom bomb was loaded for the flight to Hiroshima. They were on Guam when the war ended. On May 6, 1980, Will Ahern, age 83, opened at the Los Angeles Music Center in "Guys and Dolls" with Milton Berle. Ahern's second-act solo was a show stopper.

When Ahern died he was on the National Board of the American Guild of Variety Artists, and honorary president and past headliner of the Hollywood Comedy Club. Gladys heads the Musettes, devoted to the welfare of veteran performers. They performed as a team at innumerable benefits until his hospitalization just before his death.

The Aherns made their name in vaudeville. Will said they started as "a good No. 2 act," fast and funny, a beautiful girl and a clever man, with songs and dancing, jokes and trick roping, the perfect act to get the bill off to a lively start after the audience had settled in during the opening acrobats. July 10, 1928, the New York Herald headlined, "Aherns and Ted Lewis Top Bill at Palace. Perfect Vaudeville Program in Two Numbers."

The Aherns' act made no literal sense! Will appeared in a comedy cowboy outfit, did rope tricks and told jokes. Gladys spoke with a Mexican accent, did a toe dance inside a spinning rope to the tune of "Alice Blue Gown." They sang Western ballads and danced the Charleston and the Black Bottom. Will used a derby hat with a swivel to spin a rope on his head, and his big finish was a spectacular acrobatic Russian dance. It was simply 12 minutes of pure entertainment, compiled from what they could do best and what pleased an audience most. Their genius was in making these diverse numbers come together into a cohesive act.

Will was born in Waterbury, Conn., Oct. 9, 1896. In 1909, the Buffalo Bill Show, with Annie Oakley, played Waterbury. Will, age 13, was down at the freight yard at 4 a.m., brought water for the horses and helped the canvas men rig the tent. Will told the boss canvas man that he was 16, and when he was offered $18 a month, he left town with the show. The third night he discovered that a couple of the roustabouts had their eye on him, then their hands. He found a place to hide behind some bales of hay on a flat car. "The next morning I was passing Annie Oakley's tent. 'Hey, kid, come here,' she said. Here's $2. Get the hell out of here and don't ever come back.'"

The war took Will into the Navy in 1917, and he was assigned to Pelham Bay Training Station near New Rochelle. He managed to avoid most of the KP duty by volunteering as an entertainer. "Toward the end of 1918, we were hauling cannon around Pelham Bay in some kind of a drill. I got an infected heel and spent two weeks in the hospital. When I got out, my company had been shipped to Murmansk in Siberia. Then came the call for entertainment aboard the George Washington, and we were off on the George Washington, to Paris to work in a show with Elsie Janis and appear at the Palace of Versailles!" Out of the Navy, after 40 weeks with the Bluebirds Burlesque Company, Will was seen by a booker for the Keith-Albee circuit and started working as a single in vaudeville. Playing four shows a day at the, Rialto in Chicago, he grabbed a chance to make some extra money doing a midnight show at Ike Bloom's on 22nd Street. In the chorus line of Ike Bloom's "Midnight Frolics" was a very pretty girl named Gladys Reese. You can get a good Idea of the place and the people from Phil Dunning's 1926 hit play "Broadway." Dunning told the Aherns that they were the models for his leading characters, the cocky hoofer and the innocent show girl. Will and Gladys weren't exactly those people—Will not quite so brash, and Gladys not quite so naive—and no gangster was ever shot backstage at Ike Bloom's; maybe at Colisimo's, the joint around the comer, but not at Ike Bloom's.

In 1927 they were cast in the Broadway show, "Sidewalks of New York," said to have been backed by Tammany Hall as part of the campaign to put Al Smith in the White House. Will was in two more musicals, touring with "Good News" in 1928, and on Broadway in the Ziegfeld production of "Simple Simon," starring Ed Wynn. Gladys kept the act alive on the Orpheum circuit with Will's brother, Dennis. In 1931 the Aherns were booked for six months in Europe and discovered that the act went just as well, maybe even better, with European audiences. The roping, dancing, the pretty girl and the comedy cowboy character all leaped over the language barrier, and Will picked up enough German and French to make some topical jokes between rope tricks.

In spite of the Depression, in spite of the new competition from the talkies, the—Aherns kept working. They made movies—there had been the 1929 feature "Hold Everything" with Joe E. Brown and some early Vitaphone shorts. Now there were several features at Warner Brothers and a bunch of two-reelers, including "Cinema Circus" with Tom Mix and Mickey Rooney. Cecil B. DeMille wanted Gladys to sign a three year contract ("he said I was a young Gloria Swanson"), but he offered her $1,000 a week less than she was making in vaudeville, and they were booked on a 50-week Orpheum tour. She turned DeMille down and seems not to have regretted it.

In 1938 they returned to Europe. They were a big hit. Paris was just as much fun as before, but other things had changed. and their departure this time was sudden and quite different. On Sept. 10, 1939, they managed to scramble aboard a train from Deauville to Bordeaux. They were sidetracked in Le Mans because of troop movements, scurried to find shelter in a railway tunnel during a German air raid. In Bordeaux they contrived to get aboard the liner Manhattan with the last batch of Americans leaving Europe. The swimming pool had been drained and filled with cots to squeeze an extra thousand passengers aboard. Gladys shared a cabin with "a New York society lady and her French modiste," and Will was in a cabin with five other men including Arturo Toscanini.

After Pearl Harbor, as soon as it was possible for USO units to go overseas, the Aherns were on the move. They went to Alaska, to Dutch Harbor and Kodiak, did a show for 25 men at a Coast Artillery base in the Aleutians, and for the sailors, men and women, on board a Russian ship. They traveled into the South Pacific in a troupe with Gene Autry, to Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Tarawa, Eniwetok and Kwajalein. When the war was over, they kept going, back to Europe, twice, for the occupation troops. a second time to Alaska to some of the remote radar stations, and, later to Korea.

They settled, finally, in Hollywood, where Will established the Rainbow Studio on the corner of Vine and Yucca, a place for young talent—and old talent, too—to rehearse. They were still a team, finishing each other's sentences, watching and waiting for the chance to deliver the topper. They were always a team, perfectly complementary, never competitors doing two separate acts, never two people playing the same role, but that magical blend of personalities, always individuals, working together with grace and harmony to produce entertainment.

[photos]
Above, Will and Gladys Ahern were a popular act in the heyday of vaudeville when they played the Palace in New York. At left, Ahern doing his rope-spinning routine at Variety Arts Center in Los Angeles last year.
Los Angeles Times 22 May 1983

Golden Memories of Vaudeville Age Will Never Die
Marc Smith never gives up on any form of theater. He has announced "Viva Vaudeville" as one of the gala productions of his new season at Foothills Theatre in Worcester. It will take a lot of viva to put any life into vaudeville. It has been extinct for 40 years. But there was a time. . .

Will and Gladys Ahern had a rope act. Will, no youngster, came out twirling his ropes into loops which he jumped in and out of. He was followed by Gladys, doing essentially the same thing. For variety's sake, she jumped in and out of his loops. It was strenuous, and they worked up an honest sweat every time they performed.

Worcester Telegram & Gazette 5 August 1989

Gladys Ahern; Vaudeville Singer and Dancer
by BURT A. FOLKART
Gladys Ahern, who with her husband brought song and laughter to thousands of Americans during the heyday of vaudeville and a brief respite from battle to thousands more GIs during World War II, is dead, it was learned this week. Robert Dwan, who writes regularly on the show business stars of the past, said Ahern was believed to be in her late 80s when she died June 12 in a Burbank hospital.

Will and Gladys Ahern provided a potpourri of entertainment unique even in vaudeville, where contortionists and mind readers vied with classical singers and ribald comedians for a headline spot on several U.S. theatrical circuits. She was a dancer and a beauty who wore what in the 1920s were considered scanty costumes. He was a comic in cowboy garb who twirled a rope in the Will Rogers style while keeping up a steady stream of jokes. As he twirled a lariat, his wife stepped inside the spinning rope while singing "Alice Blue Gown" in a Latin accent. Trying to explain the success of that perplexing behavior, Dwan, in a 1983 article in The Times, wrote that "their genius was in making these diverse numbers come together in a cohesive act."

In 1919, Gladys Reese met the man who was to become her husband when he was playing at a speak-easy in Chicago and she was dancing in the chorus. In 1927, they joined the Broadway show "Sidewalks of New York," quickly became vaudeville headliners and toured Europe, where Will Ahern learned enough German and French to make the jokes understandable. They appeared in some Vitaphone short subjects in the early days of sound films and in the 1929 feature film "Hold Everything," with Joe E. Brown. The Aherns were successful during the Depression (she turned down a film contract from Cecil B. De Mille that was $1,000 a week less than she was earning) and returned to Europe in 1938.

They fled the continent after the Nazi invasion of Poland and France and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor began extensive tours of U.S. bases overseas under the aegis of the USO. After the war they settled in Hollywood, establishing the Rainbow Studio, a dance and drama studio they operated jointly until Will Ahern's death in 1983.

Los Angeles Times 1 July 1992

Gladys Ahern
Gladys (Reese) Ahern

Gladys (Reese) Ahern
Gladys Ahern, a headliner in vaudeville with her husband, Will Ahern, died June 12 in Burbank, Calif., after a brief illness. She was believed to be in her 80s. The former Gladys Reese was a native of Sioux City, Iowa, and married vaudeville comic and trick rope artist Ahern in 1921. He died in 1983. As a comedy song-and-dance team, they headlined throughout the U.S. and Europe and, at the mecca of vaude, the Palace in New York. They also appeared in the 1927 Broadway show "The Sidewalks of New York" with Bob Hope and Ruby Keeler. The Aherns appeared in several movies, including Vitaphone shorts and features. During World War, the Aherns toured widely with the USO, in troupes led by Pat O'Brien and Gene Autry. They continued doing USO shows after the war. After settling in Hollywood, they ran the Rainbow Rehearsal Studio. The Aherns were active in such groups as the Masquers and at the Variety Arts Center for the Society for the Preservation of Variety Arts. She was founder-president of the Musettes, an organization of women in showbiz and the arts.
Variety 24 August 1992

Will and Gladys' Steamer Trunk

Will and Gladys' Steamer Trunk
Steamer Trunk Used by Will and Gladys Ahern

Will and Gladys would have lived out of this trunk for months at a time while on the vaudeville circuit.


Return to The Ahern Family HomePage

This page copyright © 2010-2012 by Dennis Ahern.

visitors have accessed this page since August 6, 2010.
This page was last updated 24 September 2012.