Julie Newmar

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Of Shithouse and Blackface

Julie's recent "editorial" on FACEBOOK addressed "offensive" words and concepts.

She said she was not offended when described as "built like a brick shithouse."

It was intended as a compliment.

She then theorized on the motives behind the Governor of Virginia's use of "blackface," including darkening up to enter a contest as Michael Jackson.

We'll probably never know what was behind the governor's infamous yearbook picture: someone in minstrel black standing next to a Klansman. The governor denies it was him in either guise on his yearbook page. Hopefully it was intended to point out that the KKK should not be targeting black people, and instead posing together as one.

We do know that the governor of Virginia has not been "racist" in appointing blacks or in allocating funds to black causes. His black classmates in college say he treated everyone the same.

Julie's point is how far do we take "being offended?" To the point of forcing people to resign their jobs?

"Shithouse" just on profanity alone could offend some people. Some feminists might resent the term.

But if Julie and many others aren't offended, should the term be avoided now, and worse, censored in any book or movie made years ago?

"Blackface" as well as "Yellowface" has led to the virtual banning of everything from "The Jolson Story" to old Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto movies on the late show. Al Jolson would be surprised to know he is now viewed as a racist and a hater. He thought he was being sympathetic. Of course it was a naive time, the minstrel age, but those shows involved singing joyous songs. For hate songs, don't look to blackace 78's, look to the angry "Johnny Rebel" 45's sold on indie labels in the South not too long ago. The ones now being offered as downloads in hate forums.

Just how much steam the governor of Virginia was letting off, we don't know, but we do know that "blackface" as performed by Al Jolson, involved ballads known as "tearjerkers," because he sang them with such sincerity. The upbeat songs, such as "Camptown Races," were sung with guileless enthusiasm.

Minstrel shows and racial 78's were motivated not by hate, but by humor. Humor is often a device to break down fear. If people feared blacks, the Minstrels were showing that these people were harmless, "colorful," and good natured. The "coon songs" of the 78 rpm era did not tell people to hunt down and string up blacks. The songs, in essence, said, "don't be frightened, these people are harmless. They like watermelon and fried chicken and playing the banjo." Simplistic? Now un-PC and offensive? The intent at the time was not so malicious, nor was it restricted to one minority group.

78rpm records had plenty of "ethnic" and dialect humor making fun of anyone un-assimilated, and talking funny. "Cohen on the Phone" was a huge seller. It was stereotypical but not intended to incite hatred. There was Italian dialect, Dutch dialect (Weber and Fields) and Irish and German comedy, too. Some top comedians of that era performed in a variety of dialects.

People even back then were aware of the line between comedy and ridicule. Joe Welch, a Jewish comedian who presented himself in a very stereotypical way, was once arrested for "impersonating a Jew" on stage. Even he was surprised there was a law against such a thing.

One of the most successful comedians of the day was Bert Williams. He was black, but light-skinned. He "corked up" for the stage. His classic song was "Nobody," a serio-comic lament. Ziegfeld made him a star, and he rivaled the era's other top stars, Eddie Cantor and W.C. Fields. Talking about racism, Bert once said, "Eddie, it wouldn't be so bad if I didn't still hear the applause in my ears." Bert wasn't talking about racism from the audience. The audience loved him. The racism was in being denied the same hotels as white performers. What happened off-stage to black people was more racist than "blackface" on stage.

Today the cry is "no blackface," because blacks were oppressed by slavery Southern states. There isn't a similar cry against "redface." The Washington Redskins haven't changed their name, and in this case, it wasn't slavery in the South, it was an entire people swept off their land, North and South, and confined to a few desolate reservations. Nobody is too offended by anti-Semitic humor even though 8 million Jews were killed in the 1940's and today, an Orthodox Jew is going to be targeted for his appearance. Around the world, Jews remain the most persecuted minority on the planet and their homeland is regularly threatened with obliteration and sanctions.

It comes down to intent. Kenan Thompson on "Saturday Night Live" last week, appeared in a sketch in which he told a group of people that blackface was "NOT ALL RIGHT," and that included "COSTUMES." Yet, "Saturday Night Live" had Darrell Hammond playing Jesse Jackson and Fred Armisen playing President Obama. Should those shows be banned?

Today's PC craze has led to Scarlet Johansson withdrawing from a film role as a transgender. She's an actress...but she's NOT a good enough actress to play a transgender? The role must go to one?

If that type of thinking was around some years ago, Julie Newmar would have not been cast in "MacKenna's Gold" or "F-Troop." She played Indians. In "MacKenna's Gold" she most certainly was made-up to have darker skin than her own.

Would she have won a Tony Award? Maybe not. In "Marriage-go-Round" she played a Swede. Julie is not even 50% Swedish in ancestry, was born in California, and has no Swedish accent. Today, the role would go to a Swedish woman. Or, oddly enough, to someone black. Recently the French woman Joan of Arc was played by a black woman on stage. Everyone applauded this. People applauded when the white founding fathers in "Hamilton" were played by blacks and Latinos, and when casting calls for replacements specified that whites need not apply.

Was Julie "racist" when she played Hesh-ke in "Mackenna's Gold?" Of course not. Was that role implying that all Apache women are murderous? No.

Some years ago, some comedians openly declared that their aim was to be "offensive." From Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce to Sam Kinison and George Carlin, they acknowledged that being "tasteless" was a choice. They felt making people laugh and making people think, and challenging our views, was a good thing. Now? Megyn Kelly was fired for even asking if "blackface" was so bad on Halloween. She was racist? No, she was wondering if a little white kid could wear a Black Panther super hero outfit or an Obama plastic mask. If dressing up as an Indian was wrong. If wearing the Michael Jackson white glove and spangled outfit was wrong. Of course, dressing up as Jolson now would be wrong. Obviously. But also, obviously, Jolson sang in blackface with good intentions. That should be recognized in liner notes to a "Jolson Story" DVD. We don't tamper with "Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain and we don't tamper with Shakespeare's Shylock which many find anti-Semitic, or Dickens' Fagin which also, depending on who is playing it, can be quite offensive and stereotypical.

Years ago, in a letter Julie sent me, she wrote "morality is how you behave toward people." The Governor of Virginia, today, has not been racist. Al Jolson was not racist. George Jessel (who also wore blackface on stage in the vaudeville days) once walked a black actress/singer into a restricted club. When blocked at the door and asked who had reserved a table, Jessel said, "Abraham Lincoln."

How people behave toward each other is their morality and it should define them. The comedians such as Don Rickles who "offended" everyone? Not racist. Malcolm X, who routinely called out Jews as despicable, and had no use for any "blue eyed white devil," was a racist. That he pushed for civil rights in his own way, does not mean he wasn't offensive.

Equality would mean that we allow the Wayans Brothers to make a movie called "White Chicks" and not only be in whiteface but in drag, too. "Dragface" is allowed because not a lot of women are "offended" by men prancing about lisping, mincing, and cartooning femininity with their effeminacy. We do not want "blackface" now, but perhaps under special circumstances, we would. If "Black Like Me" was remade, would a white man be hired to play Griffin, the white man who darkened his skin, or would it be played, ala Godfrey Cambridge in "Watermelon Man," by a black man who "whites up" for the start of the movie?

Similarly, if a transvestite is allowed to use the ladies room because he "identifies" as a woman, should some white woman who "identifies" as black be forced to resign her job? Or would it be all right as long as she admits, on bended knee, "I am white, I know this, but I "identify" as black. Genya Ravan, a brilliant R&B singer, was acknowledged, as Dusty Springfield was, as Janis Joplin was, as someone who sang soulfully. And yet when she met Etta James, Etta sourly grunted, "How DARE you sing black?" Really? Should Maria Callas have said to Leontyne Price, "How DARE you sing Italian opera?"

Dick Gregory's catch-phrase was: "We all have problems."

A problem is whether to constantly point the finger, declare our suffering greater than somebody else's, and to also insist that what WE find offensive must always be banished from everyone's view.

Female Director, Gay Co-Star, Lesbian Star -- "Can You Forgive Me"

The ever-surprising Julie is raving about a new movie...and, no, it is NOT a loud, gruesome "Super Hero" blockbuster.

It's not a musical either.

Some intellectual foreign film perhaps? Wrong again.

Quoth the Catwoman, "Can You Forgive Me" is...

"A daring movie. Be surprised.

If I tell you what it's about you might not see it. See it.

Every scene pulls you in.

Superb female director.

It's so good you can't tell they're acting.

You won't stop watching."

Should Julie have mentioned there is a "cat woman" angle? Would that help poor "Batman '66" fans who need SOME reference to cling to? Here you go...

I would agree with Julie: "if I tell you what it's about you might not see it..."

Indeed, I happened to see some promo for it, and when a clip was shown, it didn't seem to be too compelling. It was presented as "based on a true story" (we all know how THOSE are embellished). The clip showed a sour-looking Melissa McCarthy (resembling a cross between Roseanne Barr and Seymour Philip Hoffman) and her flamboyant friend (Richard E. Grant) who flirts with a gay waiter in a diner. Not the best choice of scenes. The plot line was discussed, and that didn't exactly grab my attention either.

BUT...Julie's "SEE IT" was good enough for me to see it, and it IS a very unusual, quirky, original film. The acting is indeed excellent (watch for a restrained, excellent supporting role from Jane Curtin). The film resists "opening up" and being commercial with flashy moments of comedy, sex or violence (hence the quandary of what clip MIGHT sell it). Instead, it goes its own way, figuring anyone who has paid to sit in the theater, or stream it, is going to stay with it. And yes, if you do, you will be rewarded.

"You won't stop watching." Indeed.

I've enjoyed McCarthy's comedy on "Saturday Night Live," but here, she proves herself as an actress with a lot of range. Richard E. Grant showed tact, taste and restraint in a role that could've been over the top, instead of realistic and affecting. Hell, even the cat in the film showed a lot of personality.

In a year of "Black Panther" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "A Star is Born" among others, this quiet little "New York" movie has been overlooked, but not by the keen eye of Julie Newmar.

"A daring movie" these days, is one that does not rely on special effects, pandering to Millennials, or pushing an R-rating for those with no attention span.

As of this writing, "Can You Forgive Me," and another odd quirky small film, "Stan and Ollie," have yet to make back their $10 million production cost, but they're close to that mark. Of course, when you add in the price they'll get for streaming, and DVD sales, they'll both double or triple the investment, if not more. That's some sign that individualistic films can still be made and find an audience.

Getting Foreword with Julie

As visitors to the julienewmarwrites.com website know, Julie is a very skilled author. From essays to memoirs, the site is loaded with fascinating things to read.

Julie's latest foreword (she did one for a book on cats, for one on the "Mothers of Invention...") is for something called "Dynamic Dames," subtitled "50 Leading Ladies Who Made History." While not much thought went into the title (in this PC and #metoo era, do we call women DAMES???) a lot of thought certainly went into the foreword!

While the opening line might startle a few insecure males ("My heroes have all been female...") soon enough Julie is calling out the French fashion designer Thierry Mugler, Franz Liszt (well, she does suggest a female Liszt might be a good thing), and Gary Cooper, whose "face alone made female's hearts melt." Likewise, she name-checks Adam West, the effeminate comic character actor Eric Blore, and "the impossible talent of Buster Keaton. He was barely 5'5."

So, while there's nothing like a dame (as the song goes), a few males have managed to make it into the Foreword. Look for Julie's trademark wit and way with words, and her ability to "nail it" within one sentence:

"Gal Gadot may deflect this insidious mental crud with her bracelets, but my constant complaint is that there is too much noise."

While not a "Dynamic Dame" of the world of movies, Julie takes a detour for what many consider the most beautiful and intelligent first lady since Jackie Kennedy.

Concluding...

The book, a formidable tome checking in at 248 pages, is available via Amazon/Kindle ($12.99). Sloan De Forest, writer of the book, is of course, female.

Save Your High School Yearbook - It Could Be Worth Something!

There's something to be said for being a packrat: "You've Got CASH!"

While most stuff in the attic or basement isn't worth much, you never know. Take your high school yearbook.

If a celebrity was in your class, that yearbook could be worth...

$898 is the asking price for the yearbook featuring a certain "Julie Newmeyer."

The same dealer also managed to find Batgirl Yvonne Craig's yearbook. Yes, same price.

Last month, Raquel Welch's high school yearbook (she was Raquel Tejada back then) went for $125 and Diana Ross's got a final bid of $383. And who out-sold both of them combined? Err....

Acting as a Model

Throughout Julie's career, she's acted many roles. A more subtle form of acting involves being a photographer's model.

Over the years, for the needs of record album covers, commercial products, and magazine editorial desires, Julie has played many roles. You might remember her as the Smirnoff cowgirl, or a tanned Coppertone beach beauty, or the sultry focus of "How to Make Love to a Blonde.

She even was Elvis Presley for Esquire!

Even for magazines where she was promoting herself, she was also promoting the skills of the photographer. The deal, in some cases, was free publicity for Julie and her latest film, and the photographer selling the images for whatever he could get. If it was summer, a magazine might want outdoor or beach photos. A swanky magazine might want to see Julie in expensive lingerie and in a beautifully decorated apartment. Some other magazine might want to stress her Amazon height in a leotard and some high-kicking poses.

Here are two very different examples of what a photograph can do with or to Julie.

Two similar poses?

Yes, but is the viewer's reaction equal? Not at all. It's like Julie is playing two different roles. Actress as a Model.

What's similar in both pictures is: it's Julie, the hair is tousled, and the hands are under the chin.

The early picture is warm, even in black and white. Julie's luminous brown eyes are focused on YOU.

She has a Mona Lisa-type slight smile that is beckoning but mysterious.

The focus shifts from her eyes to her hands, which are in a prayerful pose. Complicated, yes, but with a promise...to YOU.

This could easily be a publicity picture that "sells" Julie as someone open, interested in YOU, and brimming with promise. No heterosexual magazine editor or casting director could resist this image!

Next, here's Julie not really as herself, but acting as a model.

The eyes are at half-mast. Looking away. No connection to YOU.

The lips are made up in an artificial "don't smear" manner, compared to the other, more luscious pose.

The "lollipop on a stick" pose for the hands are "ME" and not "YOU."

Instead of bare wrists, there's the almost royal silver ornament sleeves. The Queen.

This is a woman to be feared. Because she is a woman? Because she is Marie Antoinette or someone equally frosty and imperial?

Perhaps this image would interest a jewelry company trying to get some fearful Norman Bates to buy something expensive for Mother.

There was a time when glamorous actresses of the Bette Davis and Joan Crawford type, turned up in horror films, often with a transvestite (Henry Cossins in "The Anniversary") or homosexual (Victor Buono in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane") trembling in fear. Perhaps a producer looking to re-make a Davis or Crawford vehicle would get the idea from this second picture, that Julie could play such a role.

Some models are always the same (Cheryl Tiegs, Heidi Klum, etc.) and they are paid to always be themselves. But when a model IS an actress, the possibilities are limitless.

Art is in the Eye of the Beholder, ok?

The question:

"Is this a movie still? Her hands are handcuffed behind her back? Was this a horror movie I missed?"

No. It's just Julie being a model and letting the photographer do what he wants.

She may have that uncertain look that isn't the joyful expression one expects in a website cover photo, but no, that's NOT some film about a stalker with woman-problems. She's not looking in the direction of Norman Bates.

The picture on the front page does change from time to time. Check back.

In the SHOP section of the site, you'll find all the photos that fans really love. You've got about 70 choices from some of the great photographers (Bernard of Hollywood, Peter Gowland and Peter Basch and other red-blooded lensmen). Julie autographs these PERSONALLY.

Not many stars take the time to PERSONALIZE. You'll find great Julie poses, like this classic from Peter Gowland...THERE's the joyful smile we all love to see...

Also you'll find Julie "in character" as Stupefyin' Jones, Miss Devlin, The Princess from "Star Trek," Robot AF-709, and (some of them beautifully colorized) Catwoman. It's almost all there. I say almost, 'cause the question: "Where is a picture of Dorcas?" can't be answered the affirmative. Not yet!

The Monkees love JULIE NEWMAR and so does SANTA

What a Christmas surprise.

There's a NEW Monkees album featuring holiday songs. And JULIE is featured!

"What Would Santa Do," done comic-book style, offers panels in which "the boys" wonder what would SANTA DO about the grinches who aren't in the Christmas spirit.

The music video revisits Julie's famous character "APRIL DANCER." That one episode is an all time favorite for everyone!

"What Would Santa Do?" He'd say Merry Christmas, Thanks for Everything, JULIE NEWMAR.

And thanks to Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork (yes, Peter, we remember you sitting a few tables down from Julie at the Supermega Show in New Jersey some years back!). How can you not be in the holiday mood NOW?

Check out "WHAT WOULD SANTA DO" by THE MONKEES via YOUTUBE.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZfEFtSoWBI&frags=pl%2Cwn (AHEM, they re-used a lot of the comic book panels, including some images of Julie, for the slightly rude "(I can't wait to) UNWRAP YOU AT CHRISTMAS." OK, guys, you can DREAM...)

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