Over the years, I have received emails from people hoping I was Prince William, the Prince of Wales, son of Lady Di. No, as you can see, I’m the other William Windsor.
Surely we must be related! There just aren’t that many Windsors in the world. Not everyone realizes that Windsor is the British royal family’s surname. Queen Elizabeth is a Windsor, Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry — all Windsors. Windsor Castle. Surely that’s my fam…
No, we probably aren’t even related.
You see, I am the first person born in my family with the last name “Windsor.” Now, how might that happen?
I was named after a theatre.
My grandfather was a vaudeville performer. He was a song and dance man, and he produced and managed other singers and dancers. Kind of a poor man’s Ziegfeld Follies show.
For those too young to know what vaudeville was, it was the entertainment at theatres before movies were invented. Live performers. Have you ever wondered why theatres have a stage in the front? That’s because that’s where the vaudeville performers used to be. Over the years, theatre owners have maintained the tradition of having a stage up front.
My grandfather was German. He was born Walter Winkopp. His act was billed as “Walter Winkopp & Company.”
In vaudeville, the performers would generally get a one-week engagement at a theatre. They would travel and rehearse one day, and then they would perform the next six days.
In his twenties, my grandfather arrived at a theatre in New York for a one-week engagement. He rehearsed his act, and then he walked out the stage door and went around the corner past the front of the theatre as he headed home. The theatre manager was up on a big ladder putting up the billing (the names of the acts) on the marquee.
The manager looked down at my grandpa, and said: “Your act is great, but with that name, you’re going nowhere in show business.”
My grandfather looked up at the marquee. He was performing at the Windsor Theatre. He told the manager to change the name from “Walter Winkopp & Company” to “Walter Windsor & Company.” From that day forward, he was known by his stage name, Walter Windsor.
Grandpa knocked up the wardrobe mistress, and they were married in New York City. Maude was my paternal grandmother.
Their only child was my father, born Walter Winkopp, Jr. (shown here 54 years later with my wonderful mother, Mary. Dad was also an entertainer – singer, pianist, actor, radio and television announcer. His family knew him as Walter Winkopp, Jr., but everyone else knew him as Walter Windsor. When he returned from Europe after World War II, he had his name legally changed to Walter Windsor. He met and married my Mom, and 10 months later, I was born William Windsor, the first person in my family born with my last name.
I think it’s cool to be named after a theatre. Windsor is a very regal name. William Windsor. I’m just glad my grandfather wasn’t performing at The Ritz or Radio City Music Hall. William Ritz or William Radio City Music Hall just don’t have the same nice ring to them. I’m happy to be William Windsor.