Perry Como’s Early American Christmas in Williamsburg – 1978

I was standing with my parents in a crowd along Duke of Gloucester street in Colonial Williamsburg one autumn day in 1978. I remember the moment well, though I was only six years old at the time. People had gathered to meet Perry Como and John Wayne who were scheduled to make a public appearance in the vicinity of the colonial Printing Office & Post Office. They were in Williamsburg filming the upcoming Perry Como’s Early American Christmas TV special, which aired a short time later, on Friday, December 13th.

My father was a particular fan of Perry Como (though I didn’t know who he was), and so we arrived early in order to find a good spot to meet the celebrities as they came out onto the street. We were waiting there for some time; as I recall the singer and actor were running a bit late (the latter moreso than the former, it would turn out). Finally and to much applause Perry Como emerged from a garden path that ran between two of the colonial houses on the streetside. He was alone, and began shaking hands and chatting with the crowd.

It seemed that I was the only one frustrated that John Wayne hadn’t yet appeared. After staring down that path for several minutes, I turned and loudly cried out in a voice heard by all, “Wait a minute! Where’s John Wayne?!” It was laughter all around and a smiling Perry Como walked over and tousled my hair!

My parents told that story to friends and family more times than I could count, over the years. It’s an amusing little anecdote I wanted to share, as I just noticed that the entire 42-minute Christmas special has recently been placed online (thanks Cost Ander). You can see it above (here’s the direct link) and here is a WAVY TV-10 news report from 1978 in which local anchor Bruce Rader discusses the filming of the TV special.

I have a great pile of movies and TV specials of olde that I watch religiously every year around the holidays — and I drive my wife and daughter crazy with some of them (Little Lord Fauntleroy (1980) yearly is too much for some, apparently). It’s a real treat to be able to add this Christmas special, of which I have a very particular memory, to the list.

UPDATE [Dec. 25 2016]: The Williamsburg publication Williamsburg Yorktown Daily picked up my blog post and did a post of their own about me and the event, “John Wayne came to Colonial Williamsburg — and this boy wouldn’t take no for an answer.” Fun!


  1. Loved the Duke since the ’50’s, watching his war movies and westerns with my Dad. Great appreciation for Perry Como as well, especially his Christmas songs. Wish I could have been there to see them both live. Thanks for sharing your memories!

  2. Did you know that the Duke chose his last name from Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne? His name sake is my 5th Great Grandfather.

    • charles gresham

      April 27, 2021 at 11:34 pm

      not exactly – he had a dog named Duke when he was a child – that’s where he picked up that nickname

      • Charles, the next time you choose to reply to another’s comment make sure you read it to understand and not just to reply! Laura was referring to John Wayne’s professional last name and not to his nickname.

  3. I was there for Perry’s filming of singing of Ava Maria for that special. Don’t remember John Wayne being there though. My Mother was so enthralled with Perry, and my father who died 2 years before had been as well. Magical night, fog on the green, expecting horses to gallop thru the fog.

  4. Perry Latreille

    December 3, 2019 at 9:32 pm

    Thank you for posting this wonderful story, great memory for you. I have copied this Christmas special into my YouTube library, watched the original show in ‘78, and past two years watched it again. I was born in the 1950s my first name is Perry, wonder who my mom was a fan of huh?

  5. My Mom and I were there for this when I was 10 years old! I was able to get a VHS copy of it years ago. Great memories!

  6. My parents, my children and I were there also that day. We waited by the Colonial Capitol for their cars to arrive. My Italian mother was thrilled to shake hands with Perry as he exited his car. They had a short conversation in Italian and he mentioned that he had a sore throat. I do remember John Wayne arriving after Mr. Como. My son, age 7, got to shake his hand, but was knocked to the ground by ladies trying to get to Mr. Wayne. All in all, it was a wonderful day and has been one of my family’s favorite memories.

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