Julie Newmar

Julie Newmar Fan Page

Roberta Haynes, John Engstead and an NYPL Catwoman Pie Chart

Roberta Haynes died a few days ago, at 91.

You may have only vaguely heard of her, as several of her prime years were missing due to blindness caused by a special effects movie set accident. Fortunately, her loss of sight was not permanent.

Like many glamorous ladies of the 50's, including Julie, she was a favorite of photographer John Engstead. Here's one of his images of her:

John Engstead took some great pictures of Julie, and when Julie and I visited the Lincoln Center Library, we saw quite a few. Below, you'll see a John Engstead photo, top left.

Jeremy Megraw is the Photograph Librarian at the Lincoln Center Library (aka the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center). A few years ago, he posted a blog asking readers to VOTE for their favorite Catwoman. The images above come from that post. He had choice pix of other women who played Catwoman, too.

The delicious pie chart of results:

JULIE becomes JULIA thanks to..."DARK SHADOWS"

Just as Diana Rigg won new fans thanks to "Game of Thrones," some new blood will be dripping in Julie's direction thanks to..."Dark Shadows."

Yes, the vampire soap opera from the 60's is alive, and, well, the latest incarnation is on radio.

The last time Julie's expressive voice was part of spooky radio doings was a role in an episode of "CBS MYSTERY THEATER" in 1974.

Really scary stuff, kids. Julie even performed her part under somewhat eerie conditions...

Julie plays Julia Hoffman. On the original TV show, the late Grayson Hall played the part of the scientist who sought out vampire Barnabas Collins and, like Catwoman and Batman, developed an interesting love-hate relationship.

According to the collinsporthistoricalsociety.com website, which obsesses on all things "Dark Shadows," the producers of the radio version often thought of reviving the iconic character. Co-producer Joseph Lidster noted that there were several script ideas for bringing back Julia, but the question was who could play the role:

"“Julie agreed to read the scripts and we think she fell in love with the character. Trying to sum up Julie Newmar is pretty much impossible. She’s an actress/singer/dancer/writer/lingerie inventor/real estate mogul/gay rights campaigner and so much more, so we’re thrilled that she agreed to take on the role.”

"Dark Shadows : Bloodline" is going to be available both as a download and on CD. For more information:

https://www.bigfinish.com/news/v/dark-shadows-bloodline2

The BIG FINISH website

"You Are the Best Catwoman"

There are few things that are CERTAIN in this world.

One of them is that whatever Julie Newmar posts on Facebook, whether it's political, or a promotion for a gay artist or gay photographer or a gay pride parade, the response will have almost nothing to do with the subject.

It will be a shout out about how she's the best Catwoman.

Depending on whether it's 30 or 60 or 90 comments, there will be room for: "You were my first crush" and "Wow, what legs."

Another thing you can count on, is for gay artists to have hilariously insane ideas about how a woman's body is shaped and what is attractive about it.

Social media is a great way to spend the day.

Another fine thing that Facebook "friends" so, when they ignore the celebrity's statement and message, is post a picture of the celebrity. The thinking here is to show that no matter what the celebrity is trying to do, the celebrity will always be liked for something from the past. This is a comfort.

Also, in case the celebrity has forgotten what he or she looks like, familiar images are posted in place of any kind of intelligent remark.

Yes, ye, social media is a fine idea when you have time to kill.

"Gay Interest"

Before the drag queen comedy "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" came out, Julie was not a "gay icon."

Her film roles made her an awesome symbol of female perfection...for men. Her first fame with "Stupefin' Jones," in "Li'l Abner." Men's magazines of the day featured her constantly, in "cheesecake" and "bathing beauty" poses from some of the most red-blooded heterosexual photographers of all time, including Bernard of Hollywood, Peter Gowland and Peter Basch.

Of course, she had a percentage of gay fans, but it was "To Wong Foo" that brought more gays (and heterosexual transvestites) to see that there were more women to sigh over and emulate than just Bette Davis, Judy Garland and Carol Channing. Unlike those women, who were almost caricatures of certain types of females, Julie's main distinction was her height. Tall men could become a woman...like Julie. Her voice was not ridiculous, like Bette's, Judy's or Carol's. No outlandish frocks. No bitter campiness or "Yellow Brick Road" vulnerability. Just height. But after the movie came out, rumors circulated that Julie was born male.

While Julie, beautiful as ever, continued to pose in lingerie and even ran a campaign to call attention to the fact that older women can still be active in the boudoir, the "To Wong Foo" element gained traction. She was asked to appear at Gay Pride Parades amid the outrageous drag queens and jeering leather boys in their backless outfits. Having a gay brother, she had every reason to be interested in gay rights. She once went to San Francisco to pick up an award at a screening of "To Wong Foo" and it was a gay audience. Gay artists began to draw bizarre caricatures of her.

One of them devised a mocking new character for her to play: "Pussy." This would be a take-off on Catwoman. A premiere of the artwork for this endeavor brought an all-gay crowd screaming with laughter.

While memorabilia shows and comic-con crowds continued to be mostly heterosexual, with their "Catwoman" fascination, the gay element continued to grow, and "gay icon" became a familiar way of describing Julie Newmar. It was certainly not the way her contemporaries, from Brigitte Bardot to Tina Louise were described. Gay photographers photographed her looking ghostly and mourning AIDS victims, and a gay fashion designer dressed her in bizarre outfits. Gay George Michael featured her among the drag queens in a rock video in which she played a jealous older model with jet black hair and anger in her eyes.

Even on Facebook, amid a few nostalgic older photos posed by hetero photographers for hetero viewers, the slant became more and more gay, with promotions of gay photographers and designers. So it wasn't that much of a surprise to note that on eBay, images of Julie now bear the "GAY INTEREST" tag. Sellers use it because gays have come to "surf" for that catch-phrase. "GAY INTEREST" could mean drag items, magazines such as Honcho, or "campy" nostalgia which some think must include Julie Newmar.

Here's an eBay dealer who makes part of his living doing cheap computer print-outs and mailing them to stars so they can autograph them and he can sell them. The gimmick for a dealer is to get bang for his postal buck, and send in a half-dozen different photos, as if he's SUCH a big fan, he needs a whole set for his wall. Another gimmick is to pretend to be a teacher: "Please sign these 8 pictures, as I will give one away each month to the student who has the best reading score." Another gimmick? Well, a dealer at a memorabilia show had a stack of Robert Stack photos for sale, and ALSO was selling the "hand signed letter" he received. The letter to the dealer said: "Here are the photos you asked me to sign. You sure have a lot of cousins."

Stack didn't disappoint. And Julie? One of the half-dozen or more print-outs included a label on the back, noting that she has autographed photos for sale on her website. Just in case the six free autographed ones weren't enough.

Here's a random bunch of the items the dealer has on eBay at the moment. Note the ONLY star with "GAY INTEREST" after her name:

To quote the Seinfeld show's catch-phrase, "Not that there's anything wrong with that!"

When I began Julie's website years ago, and handled the e-mail (before she learned all the Internet ropes herself), I noticed the gay fans mirrored the gay population in general. Maybe one in ten. There was also a transsexual who enjoyed dressing up as Catwoman and even strolling around memorabilia shows while people took her picture, delighted by seeing a Catwoman as tall as Julie herself.

Today, the link between Julie Newmar and "gay interest" is much stronger, and she's affirmed it on Facebook. Why be concerned that this may turn off some who think "gay" means "pervert?" Those types need to be educated. Dropping away, too, are those who are insecure ("why do I like a woman GAYS like? I would never have attended a Judy Garland concert!") With the passing of Carol Channing, Julie is probably THE gay and drag icon for fans of Hollywood glamour.

"GAY INTEREST" as a selling tool for dupe-photo dealers? That's just another example of gay pride.

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.

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