Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wesla Whitfield: Girl Singers of San Francisco

The only thing better than singing is more singing.
Ella Fitzgerald

Wesla is thrilled to announce a wonderful project she's just launched through "Kickstarter", a book about girl singers of San Francisco.

I am a huge fan of Wesla's and I really desire this project to succeed. She is writing a book about San Francisco female vocalists titled 'Girl Singers of San Francisco' and so far she has interviewed about 40 singers regarding their careers: when and why they began singing and what possessed them to do it professionally. She is also including stories of their adventures along the way, venues and other musicians they worked/work with and anything else of interest that comes up.
 She has interviewed the "old timers", Pat Yankee, Margie Baker, Toni Lee Scott and Faith Winthrop who can describe the scen in the 40s/50s and 60s combined with singers of Wesla's era who can speak on the 70s/80s/90s.
She is also interviewing people who aren't singers but are part of that strong support group known as 'hardcore cabaret fans' - such as Randy Wallace and others.  And she is including lots and lots of photos.
Those of you who follow my blog know that THIS is also a passion of mine, to preserve these incredible legacies. I have often written of Miss Epps, who was my mentor when I first started out. Miss Epps instilled in me a sense that EVERYTIME I walk out on stage that I am carrying the mantle of every great entertainer that has gone before me on my shoulders. I have never forgotten that. I feel that to this day and feel an obligation and a duty to celebrate our past, a very rich history.
Time is running out on the goal for Wesla's kickstarter campaign. I am asking EVERY singer I know and every fan of great music to contribute AT LEAST $25.00 to this project. It HAS to happen!
The stories of the girl singers in the SF Bay Area from 1946 to 2000. Wesla and I sat down this AM to discuss her and her campaign. Today, I celebrate Wesla Whitfield and the Girl Singers of San Francisco and their bodies of "Worth"!
I'll never forget the first time I heard/saw Wesla Whitfield. It was at Carnegie Hall in 1998 in a tribute to Judy Garland.
I became an instant fan!
Wesla always knew that she was going to be a singer, from the time that she was about two years old. Once she saw someone doing it, she thought, "Oh, that's what I'm supposed to do." From that point on, she couldn't even stop doing it, even if she tried!
It is still fun for her to get to make music.
It gives her so much joy.
What does Wesla do when she needs a little "nonsense" in her life?
Wesla says her life is filled with nonsense. It is not something that she does not have. "The whole day is nonsense." She can't imagine anything less serious than life.
She desires more than anything to keep singing way after she passes on.
The seed of Girl Singers of San Francisco was born in her living room in San Francisco with her husband/pianist/arranger, Mike Greensill.  
Their house is filled with books. Most of those books are about music and/or jazz instrumentalists.
Wesla was sitting in the midst of that one morning and she got to thinking that there aren't that many books about singers. There are NO books about the singers that she has known all her professional life and why not do her own about these singers? All of a sudden, it dawned on her. She gets to be interviewed a lot, but there are many that do not, and they have stories to tell. She is compelled to do this because of the very questions that I am asking her. She finds it absolutely fascinating as to how they became singers and what on earth possesses them to do it professionally. Wesla desires to know the answers to these questions for all these people she has known for so many years.
If Wesla could change one thing about herself, it would be to make her younger. The one thing she would like to change about this business, it would be to create more opportunities for everyone to entertain.
The book project started about six months ago.
Wesla sees the book being completely finished, in terms of writing and rewriting and the important details by the first of September of next year. She would like to see it go into print almost immediately after that.
Wesla has been mostly interviewing, because it is important to her to speak to these singers while that can still be done. She will follow all this up with more extensive research. There is a wonderful performing arts library  at her disposal in San Francisco.
She needs to get those names and places in place to start that process first.
The one thing that stands out among all others is the adventures that people have along the way building a career in show business among those that she has spoken to. There are so many fascinating things that have happened to all of them. There is a life force that keeps them going. It shines through.
Madeline Eastman, Bobbie Norris, Wesla Whitfield, Faith Winthrop, Mary Stallings
photo credit: Bonnie Kamin
The first time that Wesla appeared professionally, it was for her grandmother's lodge. She appeared with the Rebecca Sisters at Christmas time. Those who sang would get a chocolate present. Wesla sang Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. She sang that for years until she got disqualified for being too old.
Wesla admits that she cannot relate to today's music very much.She finds that the emphasis has gone away from the lyrics.
The now defunct Plush Room in SF where I made my SF debut
That being said, someone like Annie Lennox will come along and do an album of standards!   
On one hand, Wesla feels that there is not a huge market for the music she loves, then people keep turning to it. Wesla feels an obligation to hang on. At present, there are very few places to perform. In the early seventies, there were hundreds of clubs in the Bay area. Now, there are four. She hopes that is cyclical and that it will eventually come back fairly soon.

Wesla's husband, Mike Greensill, as mentioned is also in the business.I asked Wesla how they balance a two person showbiz household.
Wesla Whitfield performing at the Plush Room at the York Hotel.
"We don't. We're not good at a balancing act." 24/7, they are doing this. They also try to remain calm and "normal".
The advice that Wesla offers to my my younger readers desiring a career in this business is to work very hard. Be a skilled musician. By that, she means practice. Spend a lot of time practicing. There will be plenty of time to get your mailing lists together and plenty of time to contact wherever you can find to perform. The time that you spend on your profession is going to help you succeed.
Wesla had heard about Kickstarter from so many people. It has been used mainly for the purpose of creating CDs. It occurred to Wesla that if she could do this without expending as much of her own money as possible, that would be the route to go. There has already been a lot of gas money spent! Once she has the manuscript done, the road to getting it published will also be clearer without having to bang on every door. The only business worse than the music industry right now is the publishing business.
If this Kickstarter campaign succeeds, Wesla will be able to launch this book next autumn.
If you love singers, as I do, you will love being part of this book.

The list of singers included is growing daily.
Wesla is alive and well and kicking.Let's make this dream a reality!
This is an exciting project. Please be a part of it! Click HERE for more info.

Thank to ALL mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
With grateful XOXOXs ,
 


Check out my site celebrating the first Fifty Years of Hello, Dolly!

NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!



Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!                



Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!






IF you like this blog, please leave a comment and share on Twitter and Facebook



Keeping Entertainment LIVE!
 
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY


Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com
                                         Dancing Though Life...is not just a show, it is an attitude!


    






Monday, October 27, 2014

Judi Mark: Dancing Through Life

You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth

― William W. Purkey



Judi Mark and Larry ​Kerchner. Photo by: Rose Billings/Blacktiemagazine.com
Judi Mark’s dynamic range of training in theater,
dance, and voice set the stage for her successful performance career spanning from television, film, Off-Broadway and Lincoln Center, to regional theater, night clubs, and the high seas. She studied with the Martha Graham Dance Company and HB Studios.

Dancing Through Life is Judi’s current one woman show, recently seen in New York and Florida, that features songs made famous by the women who danced on Broadway and the Silver Screen.

This unique performance piece combines Judi’s crowd-pleasing singing and dancing gifts with selected film clips as she celebrates the songbooks of Ginger Rogers, Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera, Carmen Miranda, Donna McKechnie and more with a joy and passion that truly captivates her audiences.Tomorrow night (October 28th, 2014), those of you who are in New York and have a passion for dance and/or LIFE, should head over to The Laurie Beechman Theatre on 42nd Street to see Judi Mark's Dancing Through Life, directed by Jeff Harnar.
Photo credit: Jan LaSalle


The finale was spectacular - a great big ending to a truly exciting and entertaining show.
No need for an encore!
-Cabaret Hotline


Judi looks at her career and this show as "unfinished business." She desired to pursue this career as a child. She was talked out of it by her parents. Throughout her life, Judi has gone through her fair share of ups and downs. She had to take certain detours. She did do a cabaret show in the eighties. The last show she did was at the now defunct Judy's cabaret. She needed to make a living, basically. Thank God, she had an education, so she was able to get a licensee to teach dance in the New York City public schools system. All those years she was teaching dance, she was practicing her craft in performance. If a movie or something else would come up, she would try to work it into her schedule. She is in the various performance unions. When she finally had it
with teaching, she just decided to take up where she left off and tell her story on the stage.
I recently interviewed Dawn Wells who played Mary Ann in Gilligan's Island. I brought up a quote about Gilligan's Island from Skipper, Alan Hale. He said Gilligan's Island succeeded because everyone needs a little nonsense in their lives. I asked Judi what she does when she needs a little "nonsense"  in her life.    
Judi admits that she has a rich fantasy life. She really enjoys her own company when she is alone in her apartment. She tries her clothes on. She tries on different outfits. She plays different characters. "It is 'nonsense, because if anyone would see what I was doing with my closet, they would think 'she doesn't even have an audience and she is entertaining herself'".
The seed of Dancing Through Life was planted in March of 2010. She was kicking around some thoughts with a colleague and telling her stories. It may have seemed like "nonsense" to a lot of people, but her colleague was enjoying the stories. Judi feels that everything she does in life is a "dance" of one kind or another. She started stringing it all together with that
premise and started writing. She took a course from Matt Hoverman, who is a solo writing specialist. 
He helped her find a focus with her stories. She shifted gears, realizing that she had to be more "commercial" if she desired to work, so she made a decision that she was going to get an arranger. She asked one of her friends who she used and she recommended Tex Arnold. Tex and Judi started working on the music end of it.
they put together a "first show". They designed a DVD and had projections. It was geared mainly for the population in Florida, the OLDER people because the music is of their generation, Ann Miller, Gwen Verdon, Ruby Keeler, those ladies who danced. She went to Florida and played it for two seasons in different places. She got a great response, but then felt like it wasn't enough.
She talked to some people down in Florida  and was referred to Mark Keller, a booking agent in Florida. He suggested Jeff Harnar as a director. Mark had seen some of Jeff's shows and thought very highly of him. Judi came back to New York after being away for twelve weeks and hired Jeff to be her director. They instantly hit it off. "He is a real gentleman." They went through many changes and had showcases in Judi's apartment. They invited other directors and Judi's friend, Donna McKechnie, and other industry professionals. They did three soirees before they went out and did the first trial of this show. Jeff and Judi have been working together about a year and a couple of months together as of this writing.
If Judi could change one thing about herself, she would like to reverse the clock a little.
She wishes that she was more focused when she was younger. Jilly Rizzo, who was Frank Sinatra's body guard, pretty much, used to hang out with Judi when she used to open for Pat Cooper, said to her, "Judi, What do you want to be? A dancer, a singer, or an actress?" At the time, Judi desired to be all three, because she was inspired by Shirley MacLaine. She saw herself being like her. She was one of Judi's role models. Jilly said to Judi that she could not do that; she would have to pick ONE. Then she could add on later.
She didn't believe him at the time. She realizes she had her own ideas at the time. She believes that if she had had more direction and if she had more family support, she would have done this for a longer period of time and would, most likely, have achieved more recognition.
The one thing that Judi, and I, would love to see is more support from the clubs for the artists in a promotional aspect. Judi and I have had this discussion before. It is so hard for artists to bring in the audience when all your time is being spent working on your art. This business end of it is very difficult
Judi cannot imagine having not done this show. She HAS to. As she said earlier, it is "unfinished business."
It is a passion. 
This is "over the top" with
Judi.
Eric Michael Gillett once said to Judi, "You are going to become a personality."
She didn't get that when it was said to her, but she gets it now. It is no longer just about Judi dancing or singing or acting. She sees herself emerging from this show AS a personality. She is excited about it. She feels as if she is coming into her own skin now. She wishes that she had had this opportunity early on in her life.
Another friend of hers who IS famous said to Judi, "Do you think everybody gets famous in their thirties or earlier? Lots of people achieve that status when they are much older." They end up having great careers. Judi is hoping that that will be her situation.
Back to Jeff Harnar...Judi LOVES him. He is a sincere, hard working, concerned person who is in touch with every thing that Judi is doing. She emails him; she updates him, and he responds immediately. He doesn't make her wait for days before he answers her. When they are not working, they see each other for lunches, and the like, once in a while.
When they are working, they keep a steady schedule. They work with Tex as well. Jeff then goes home and writes up notes and sends them to Judi and she works on them and brings them back to the table. She is a good student. She does her homework.
In March 2010, when the idea first came about, she began jotting down ideas. Jeff was not part of the very early stages. 
That original show has evolved over the years. When Judi was playing Florida, she felt as if she was playing for her grandmother.
She connected with them in that sense, but didn't feel that it was enough. When Donna McKechnie and Judi were talking, she said, "You know, Judi, I want to know more about you personally. Who are you? I want to hear about when you were teaching dance and etc." There was not a lot about that and Judi was shy about exposing herself that way. Jeff and Judi worked so hard pulling out different stories. He managed to get the music that Judi had already selected and piece it together so brilliantly, that Judi started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even now, she goes up and down, but she does feel more confident now.
There is an important man in Judi's life. She says he is the kind of man that gives her her "freedom".
He understands that when she was married before, that was one thing that was almost taken away from her.
Her former husband was a doctor and he expected her to play the role of a doctor's wife. She did her best to comply, but at a price. The man that is in her life now allows her to soar. He supports her dream as much as he can. He desires no part of the business. As of this writing, he is out of town. By living in her own apartment in New York, Judi has the freedom to pursue this at the level she desires. Her apartment has actually become a rehearsal space with piano, mirrors, etc. She just does her thing. Balancing it all means maybe going out to Long Island once in a while and cooking and relaxing and just being a "person", BUT, she has to maintain this very disciplined schedule. She takes dance class every day or yoga or Pilates or something like that. She has to watch her diet. That, in itself, is a balancing act.
Her mother always said, "Take time to smell the roses."
She takes that to heart. Judi does a little gardening on her balcony. She loves plants and flowers and all of that. She has a beautiful view. She balances her life better than anybody can.
Judi desires the audience that spends an hour with her tomorrow night and beyond to feel inspired by a woman who had to struggle on her own for a long time. She wants audiences to see how she did it.
She desires them to have fun. She wants them to laugh at the funny parts and enjoy the connection they feel. She is making that very clear. There are many commonalities that we all share.
We are all dancing on one big cosmic dance floor together. When Judi goes to a show, her biggest desire is to be entertained. She wants no less for her audiences.
Donna McKechnie once asked Judi what it is that she really desires above all other desires. Judi desires a career!
She is willing to work as hard as it takes to make that a reality. She has passion, determination, persistence, and, finally, freedom to dance!

For more information on Judi Mark, visit her Website


Thank to ALL mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
With grateful XOXOXs ,
 


Check out my site celebrating the first Fifty Years of Hello, Dolly!

NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!



Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!                



Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!


Please visit The Laurie Beechman Theatre Website to reserve for Judi Mark's Dancing Through Life




Be sure and see Judi Mark tomorrow night as she is Dancing Through Life!
Upcoming Performances
October 28: Laurie Beechman Theater @ 7 pm  NYC

November 18: Laurie Beechman Theatre @7pm NYC

IF you like this blog, please leave a comment and share on Twitter and Facebook



Keeping Entertainment LIVE!
 
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY


Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com
                                         Dancing Though Life...is not just a show, it is an attitude!



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Happy Birthday, Julie Wilson!

Courtesy: Gui Castro Neves
"Julie Wilson looks the part. She has the humor, the tolerance, she loves doing it, and it comes across so
clearly." Bobby Short, singer/pianist.

Irving Berlin epitomized Jerome Kern's famous maxim that "Irving Berlin has no place in American music -- he is American music."
The same can be said of Julie Wilson and her position in cabaret. She IS cabaret. I think she should be dubbed the First Lady of Cabaret. 

She is the last of a breed. 
Many a cabaret entertainer could take major lessons from her, both male and female.
With her trademarked boa and gardenia, she epitomizes the glamor of a bygone era, the swank supper club. No one can get more out of a lyric that Julie. With her, it was about the interpretation and meaning of a song as the writers intended. Her goal is always to serve the song...and as a result, she best serves the audience as well. Although, at ninety, her performing schedule as slowed down somewhat, I refuse to put her in the past tense. She is still a viable part of the cabaret scene. 
Entertaining has never been an option for Julie. It was something she HAD to do. Over the years, there were many late nights I would see her on the subway with her cloth hat and a brown paper bag that had a beaded gown in it after returning from another gig. She would be on her way back home to her abode in Jersey City. 

I refer to it as her abode because her home is on the stage. 
Two great ladies, Willa Kim, the costume designer and LEGS DIAMOND star, Julie Wilson.
The first time I saw Julie was when I was just an eager starry eyed kid seeing her in Legs Diamond starring Peter Allen on Broadway. 
Legs Diamond is a musical with a book by Harvey Fierstein and Charles Suppon based on the Warner Brothers film The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960), with a screenplay by Joseph Landon. The music and lyrics are by Peter Allen.The show, unfortunately, was ill fated. 
The musical opened on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on December 26, 1988 and closed on February 19, 1989 after 64 performances and 72 previews (far more than the usual 16-24 preview periods). Directed by Robert Allan Ackerman with choreography by Alan Johnson, the scenic design was by David Mitchell, costume design by Willa Kim, and lighting design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer (Associate). The cast included Peter Allen (Jack Diamond), Julie Wilson (Flo), Randall Edwards (Kiki Roberts), Brenda Braxton (Madge), Joe Silver (Arnold Rothstein), Jim Fyfe (Moran), Christian Kauffmann
(Bones), Pat McNamara (Devane), and Raymond Serra (Augie).
I saw the show on Valentine's Day, 1989. It was in celebration of my 28th birthday. The guy I was dating at the time, Frankie, got us the tickets. It, unfortunately, would be the only time I would ever see Peter Allen LIVE. He would be gone three years later. The closest I would get to that experience ever again was The Boy From Oz in 2003.
There was a lot of controversy surrounding Legs Diamond. It was a HUGE production. The preview period extended over and over again. It was constantly being scrutinized in the media. It was the Spiderman of it's day! I can only imagined if it would have survived as long as it did if today's social media was in place at the time. I think the critics and media were out to get Peter Allen because he was a gay man playing this gangster who was also a womanizer. 
I remember the day we went to the Mark Hellinger as one of those crisp cold New York winter days. Crystal blue sky and the excitement of seeing a Broadway musical, especially this one!
It was at the Mark Hellinger theatre, a GORGEOUS Broadway theatre which is sadly now a church.
I actually loved the show. I also remember that Julie Wilson came perilously close to losing her life that day. 
Julie was standing on stage doing a scene with Peter when a cable holding a white grand piano in the wings snapped and came careening on stage! A fast thinking crew member jumped out and pulled Julie out of harm's way. Julie made a joke about it and the show went on as planned! Little did I know that THAT woman would years later become a friend and part of my life.
In 1995, I made MY official cabaret debut starring as Judy Garland, believe it or not, in a show I created along with Lina Koutrokos called Live From Television City in Hollywood. The premise was that the audience was invited to a taping of The Judy Garland Show, a 'ficticious" show that never aired. It was a bumpy road. Someday ask Sidney Myer to tell you all about it! I was constantly competing with Tommy Femia, who was already established in that department! Lennie Watts had the best response of all, "On an island with 50,000 gay men, there should be enough room for two Judy Garlands!" Alas, there was not...at least where I was concerned. I kept the show running as long as I could. What to do next?
Steve Ross, Jerry Laird, John Wallowitch, Linda Amiel Burns, Bertram Ross, Julie Wilson, Jane Scheckter, Lynn DiMenna, Margo Astrachan and others.
After giving it my all, I finally closed the show. In January as I started creating the next chapter in my life, I saw an ad in Back Stage for Linda Amiel Burns' The Singing Experience. I called her up and agreed to take the course.
There were some major plusses that came out of that decision, Linda Amiel Burns, Ivan Farkas, and Carol Shedlin all became good friends of mine and are till this date. I highly recommend this course for anyone who has ever desired a chance to entertain in a nightclub but afraid to take that plunge. For me, it was all about comradery of being with friends each week with no other agenda but to sing and I am grateful for the experience.
The "graduation" took place on by birthday at The Triad on 72nd Street. Special guest star that night was Julie Wilson. I sang Judy Garland's arrangement of  Almost Like Being In Love/This Can't Be Love. After the show was over, Julie came up to me and grabbed me. She said, "You fake! You cheated!" I was more than a little taken aback!
Karen Mason, Julie Wilson, Harold Sanditen
She went on, "Your stage presence! Your style!" You've been on stage before! Why are you here?" I explained my situation and she said, "Consider me a fan! Let me know whenever and wherever you're performing and, God willing, I'll be there!"
By God, she stuck to that promise. I have found her in the audience of my events and performances more times than I can count!
She is probably the most supportive person I have EVER encountered in this business. When she isn't performing, she is in the audience of so many in this business, regardless of what level they are at.
Today, I celebrate Julie Wilson! Did you know she was the first choice to lead the Australian company of Hello, Dolly! in 1965? If she had done it, she
would have been the second actress to take this role, after Carol Channing! Her husband at the time forbade her from taking on this role. Julie told me it was one of the biggest disappointments of her career.
Tonight will be a HUGE disappointment for me.A celebration of Julie Wilson will take place  with an all star line up including Ann Hampton Calloway and Corinna Sowers Adler lead an all star cast for the Mabel Mercer Foundation at their annual cabaret convention — perfectly timed for Julie's actual birthday at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center. Tonight's show will be hosted by KT Sullivan.

"Cabaret is one-to-one, like a party, and you're the hostess who wants to please. Most of all you have to have a good time and hope your audience joins in the fun." - Julie Wilson

From Julie's website: When Julie Wilson's eyes slyly skim the room, her husky voice toying with Stephen Sondheim's,Can That Boy Fox-Trot wow, does she ever evoke that old Maisonette magic of the 'Fifties, when she reigned as hostess over the famed St. Regis Hotel club room. Tossing that scarlet feather boa around her shoulders, Julie can still wear those same signature slinky, silky sequined gowns; her hair is back in a sleek chignon; that white gardenia, a tribute to the late Billie Holiday, is still tucked behind her left ear. But except for that svelte figure, sculptured profile, and generous smile, Julie Wilson has journeyed a long way from her famed niche during the glory days of cabaret.
And today she's better than ever -- dramatic, wise and experienced. Regarding the Stephen Sondheim classic song from Follies that she made her own classic, I'm
with cabaret entertainer, Jerome Elliot
Still Here
, Julie says,
"That song is everyone's survival song."

A few comments
I was at Julie Wilson's table at the Laurie Beechman in October. She was so engaging and affectionate. Just a sweetheart. Her friend, Deborah Lynn, encouraged me to listen to her music and live shows on YouTube. I took her suggestion, and now I'm a lifelong fan!
-Craig Witham

  
I was in London at the same time as Julie in the early 90s and went to see her at Pizza on the Park.  Billy Roy had somewhere to be after the show, so he asked me whether I would walk Julie the four or five blocks home to the flat where she was staying.  Of course, I said yes.  :)
At the time, I was working at a job that I found frustrating, promoting some performers, many of whom did not sing as well as I do, and yet I was trying to get them jobs.  I found it soul crushing.  I told Julie this as we walked VERY slowly.  We walked slowly not because Julie was slow, but because when you're with Julie, even if you are in the middle of a crowd, you are, at that moment, the only person in the world because she gives you her entire focus, even if that means slowing down to a snail's pace in order to do so.  
The only other person I have met who has this same quality is Jeremy Irons.
At one point, Julie stopped dead in her tracks and said "Paul, life is a gamble.  Start taking some chances."
I think I floated home.  And I kissed a statue on the lips on the way.  (Okay, I'd have some champagne at the show.) Her words were so empowering.  I decided to quit my job the minute I got back to New York, and I did. I wouldn't say she saved my life, but she saved my spirit.
I love you, Julie.
-Paul Lucas

The following is from Patty Farmer, author of The Persian Room Presents...
Julie had become a cherished friend, but I must admit I felt a bit intimidated, when we met over lunch at the Russian Tea Room, for the first time. I say we met for lunch, but show-business
Ben Gazzara with Julie Wilson
people keep their own schedules. “Even though its 1 p.m., it’s breakfast time for me,” Julie pointed out. “After so many years of working till the early, early hours and then sleeping until the afternoon, rising late has become a habit.”

Looking every bit the gently aging siren, Julie informed the waitress that she needed black coffee, right away.

“Are you serving breakfast?” she asked.

“No,” the waitress replied,  “but we have a very nice vichyssoise—cold soup.”

“My dear,” Julie replied, delighted with the opening, “I like my men and my soup hot!”
with Glen Charlow
 
I believe Mae West delivered a version of that line, but Julie’s performance was uniquely her own—sweet yet haughty, accompanied by a coy flutter of eyelashes for maximum dramatic effect. The waitress paused, and then gave a good hearty laugh, as if she couldn’t believe the innuendo came out of the grande dame seated before her. She also knew she’d have a good story to tell later.

It only took a little encouragement from me to persuade Julie to share how her showbiz journey began. “I was born in 1924 and my baptism name is Julia Mary. For some reason, I fell in love with a popular song of the time, ‘Mary Lou.’ 
Patty Farmer with Julie Wilson at the New York book signing
One day, my mother went to a PTA meeting at my grammar school, and the teacher told her that Mary Lou was a very good student, helped the smaller children, and was just a well behaved little girl. At this point, my mother stopped her, said she was sorry, but the teacher must have mixed her up with another mother—her daughter was Julia. The teacher informed her that, from day one, I had told them my name was Mary Lou and the school had only ever known me by that name. My wonderful mother replied, ‘Well, if she wants to be Mary Lou, let’s let her be Mary Lou!’ Mother knew I loved show business and that she wouldn’t be able to keep me off the stage. Somewhere along the line, I went back to being Julia—or Julie actually.

“I attended college in Omaha in 1942, and I
with son actor Holt McCallany
remember the tuition was only $64.00—a big difference from today! I dropped-out before graduation because I received an offer to hit the stage.  What happened was that my favorite aunt, Aunt Nori, bet me, she actually dared me to answer an ad to replace a sick performer in this tour that was going through our town. The tour had been put together by a big producer from Hollywood, so it was getting a lot of attention. I found out he was also looking for actresses to train and take back with the show to California.

“When I called the number listed in the ad, the girl who answered told me that Mr. Carroll had already started his return trip. But I asked if there was anyone else I could speak with and she was kind enough to connect me to the manager, Joe. 
By the time his gruff voice finally came on the phone, I don’t know where I found the courage to ask
with Bob Egan
him if they were still looking for replacements, but I did. Of course, he asked me, ‘What do you do?’ To which I replied, ‘What do you want me to do?’What a leading line. I was so young and naive that I could have gotten myself in trouble, but he was very professional and told me they were looking for singers and dancers. So he told me to come down so he could take a look at me.

“All he asked me to do was a simple tap-step and then he sent me upstairs to Minnie the wardrobe mistress. Minnie picked out an outfit for me and had to put five layers of falsies in the bra. When I went back downstairs, Joe said, ‘Well, you don’t have much on top and you’re a little hippy, but you’ll do.’ I started the next day at $50 dollars a week, which was an awful lot of money in those days–the Depression was still going on. That was my start and I loved it. Show business was what I was made for!”

In her day, Julie has had a Sultan follow her around the world vying
My Carol Channing Days with Julie Wilson
for her favors. She told me, “He always bought me huge magnums of champagne at the best night clubs and wanted me to marry him—even though he already had a few other wives.” She was dubbed the Queen of Cabaret more years ago than she wants me to mention, and still attends as many cabaret shows as she can to encourage and support emerging new talent.

with entertainer Peter Rapanaro
Happy Birthday, Julie! Here's to the next ninety years!
Thank to ALL mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
With grateful XOXOXs ,



 
Check out my site celebrating the first Fifty Years of Hello, Dolly!

NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!



Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
            
At a benefit concert at John Bowab’s house in the Hollywood Hills to benefit the Actor’s Fund in the '90s
With Glenn Rosenblum and Steve Fickinger

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

with entertainer Natalie Douglas
Be sure and Save The Date to see Kim Grogg on November 14th in Go Where The Love Is
https://www.facebook.com/events/1488744398052149/?ref_dashboard_filter=hosting
IF you like this blog, please leave a comment and share on Twitter and Facebook



Keeping Entertainment LIVE!
 
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY


Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com