Introducing . . .

Mike Wilson

 

Born and raised throughout the southern United States (both west and east coasts), Mike Wilson has been reading, studying, and enjoying the writings of Jack London since he was a teenager in the mid-1960s. As has been the case with countless others, Mike was inspired by the earthy eloquence of London’s prose in Martin Eden to dream of someday becoming an author himself. Over the years and through the pages of Jack’s great novels like The Call of the Wild and White Fang, Mike’s respect for London’s work grew.

Like millions of other readers, Mike was introduced to his first historical perspective of Jack London through Irving Stone’s Sailor on Horseback. When Mike moved to Sonoma County in the late 1970s, he was delighted at being able to visit Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen. But, he was also surprised to find that many people believed sordid versions of Jack’s behavior and habits to be fact. Mike recognized the source for many of these opinions as being Irving Stone’s biography about Jack. The more he learned, the more he found these stories to be inconsistent with his understanding and impressions of the man and his work. It was indeed fortunate that nearby in the town of Glen Ellen at the World of Jack London Bookstore, Mr. Russ Kingman, the acknowledged top world expert on London — his life and works — was very accessible and ready to frankly answer all of Mike’s questions about his hero.

Mike also had the opportunity to frequently visit Jack’s youngest daughter, Becky, before her demise. In fact, Becky had the opportunity to see Mike’s portrayal firsthand on several occasions; she not only enjoyed his representation of her father (“It was just like listening to Daddy”) but also had heartfelt compliments regarding his portrayal.

By the mid-1980s, because of his expanded studies, Mike was recognized by many people locally as an emerging expert on Jack London. It therefore seemed only natural when in June of 1987, as part of the Living History Day festivities at the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa, Mike was approached by Kay Voliva, chairperson of the event, to portray Jack London for the day. At that time, Mike thought this portrayal would be a one-day appearance. However, several schoolteachers who had brought students to the event asked Mike if he would come to their schools and portray Jack London. Mike was surprised and delighted. Because of “word of mouth” recommendations, more and more teachers requested Mike to appear as Jack for their pupils.

The requests for Mike’s portrayal of Mr. London gradually increased. By the end of 1987, Mike had made appearances as Jack London for local school assemblies and classrooms, business clubs, and even the local arts festival! By 1988, the number of Mike’s appearances as Jack grew dramatically, and what had started as a single appearance had become an ongoing activity! “Jack” was speaking to students, teachers, the Lions Club, the Optimists Club, Masonic Lodges, and youth groups. Corporate executives, visitors, celebrities, and tourists were introduced to Mike‘s personalized tours of Jack London State Park.

Since then, Mike’s “hobby” has evolved into a professional portrayal, and many consider Mike to be a “local treasure”. Mike is hired to guide tours of Jack London State Park for a wide variety of visitors and groups, and continues to portray London for schools, club meetings, festivals, and faires. His audiences have encompassed every age group, from young schoolchildren to senior citizens. In addition to his one-man portrayal and lecture, Mike has developed and produced a one-man play about Jack London which he presented to 1,500 schoolchildren — three shows in one day! The one-man play has since been utilized as a fund-raising event by several non-profit groups.

Mike’s portrayal reveals much of the true character of the man who is considered by many to be the best American author of this century — good-natured and adventurous, self-educated and astute, yet witty and vivacious. Mike’s shows and lectures trace Jack’s life, from his birth in 1876 through his many adventures and experiences, his efforts to become a successful writer, his move to Sonoma County in 1905, and his death in 1916 at the age of 40. Filled with winsome anecdotes, personal glimpses, and insights into turn-of-the-century America, Mike’s sensitive and in-depth portrayal has been enthusiastically applauded by educators, business groups, and audiences of all ages. When Mike portrays Jack London, you really believe you are in the presence of this legendary author!

For most of the 1990s, Mike also brought Jack London to life for thousands of visitors to Jack London Square in Oakland. And, in 1994, he was recruited by Disney Educational Productions to work as a consultant on their Jack London CD which was released in conjunction with their movie version of “White Fang”.

Mike continues to expand his knowledge of Jack London’s life and work through constant reading and research. His book on Jack London’s experiences in the Klondike Gold Rush, Jack London’s Klondike Adventure, was published in Spring 2000 and continues to receive accolades. Mike has completed a definitive book on the first half of Jack London’s life; it is currently in the process of being edited. In 2011, he finished a musical — the text and the songs, both music and lyrics — about Jack and the oyster pirates and life on the Oakland waterfront in the 1890s; final touches on the instrumentation for the songs are now (February 2012) being completed.

From 1990–1995, Mike and his wife Margie served on the Jack London Foundation’s Board of Directors. They continue to volunteer their services. Mike also served for several years on the founding Advisory Board for the Jack London Museum (in Jack London Village, Jack London Square, Oakland, California).

In January 2005, Mike received the coveted Jack London Man of the Year award from the Jack London Foundation. Click here to see photos of the event. He has been nominated for inclusion in 2000 Outstanding Writers of the 20th Century and the 28th edition of the Dictionary of International Biography. Previously, he received a Certificate of Merit from the Jack London Foundation (1995) and the Valley Merit Award from Santa Rosa Valley Scottish Rite (1992).

Mike and Margie also work together professionally in their writing and publishing business. They currently reside in western Sonoma County.

NOTE: As of June 2007 and after more than two decades of bringing Jack London to life for literally thousands of people, Mike has decided to retire from his first-person portrayal. However, he will still be available to do guided tours of Jack London State Park or come to your class, event, or symposium as a guest speaker. He will utilize all the knowledge and expertise from his years of studying the life and times of Jack London, but he will no longer be dressed and speaking as Jack London.

If you wish to reach Mike, you can e-mail him at: mikewilson@getyourwordsworth.com

Want to learn more about Mike’s book? Click here.

 

Home Page . . . Mike Wilson as Jack London . . . Mike Wilson as Jack London Appearances
Tours of Jack London State Historic Park
Recent Photos of Mike as Jack London . . .
Chronology of Jack London’s Life . . .
Jack London’s Klondike Adventure and The Wit and Wisdom of Jack London . . .

updated February 2012