A MORE DETAILED LOOK...
AT JULIE'S LIFE AND CAREER
Beauty, brains and
a fantastic sense of humor. Julia Chalene Newmeyer was born on August 16,
1933, in Los Angeles.
Her father Donald was a professor and one-time Chicago Bears football player,
her mother Helen Jesmer was a star of the Ziegfeld Follies of 1920.
From an early age, Julie studied piano, dance and classical
ballet. She graduated from high school at the age of
15, and spent a year touring Europe with her mother
Julie became prima ballerina for the Los Angeles Opera.
She attended UCLA studying classical piano, philosophy
and French. Quickly breaking into films as a choreographer for "sword and sandal" epics, Julie was also a featured dancer in many of them. She was the original "Golden Girl," painted to be a statue-come-to-dancing-life in "Serpent of the Nile." She came to Broadway in 1955 as the ballerina in "Silk Stockings." For "Li'l Abner," Julie was the reverse-Medusa, "Stupefyin' Jones" turning men into statues by her beauty. Though 90 seconds of Julie standing still was turning Broadway on its ear, she was ready for more: a speaking role in a hit comedy. As she told the New York Times: "Tell me I'm funny,
and it's the greatest compliment in the world." Her next Broadway role? She won a Tony award for
"Marriage Go Round!"
her various Broadway and off-Broadway show appearances, Julie
often turned up on the cover of top entertainment and men's magazines. Most writers were amazed that Julie's legs were insured for one million dollars. Asked if it was true, she replied, "Yes, but not, however, in the event of theft."
Making the transition to TV, Julie had many memorable song and/or dance moments (a Jonathan Winters Special, the Danny Kaye Show, the Mike
Douglas Show) but is best known for her dramatic
and supernatural roles. She was the complex and
alluring motorcycle babe on two episodes of "Route
66" (written for her, and "pilot" episodes for a
proposed solo series) and starred in a "Twilight
Zone" episode as The Devil. She was cast in the lead for "My Living Doll," still a cult sitcom favorite.
In 1966, urged on by her brother, she accepted the role of Catwoman (a character she had never heard of) in
"Batman." Her sense of humor and physicality matched up with both the show's heroes and the male villains (such as Frank Gorshin's "Riddler" and Vincent Price's "Egghead") and those vintage episodes have been re-run ever since.
Having purred at and preyed on the dynamic duo through many an episode, Julie turned her attention to other projects, and handed her cat claws to Lee Meriwether (the Batman movie) and, for the show's final season, Eartha Kitt.
Julie was very busy in the 1960s and 1970s, making guest appearances
in many TV shows and on stage. She was killed off in "Columbo" but slayed audiences as Lola in "Damn Yankees." She was given a chapter in the book "Mothers of Invention" for having created "Nudemar," a new design in pantyhose. In 1977 Julie appeared in People Magazine wearing her provocative new invention.
In the 1980s, Julie appeared in nine films while she was busy raising
her son. She attended UCLA and took courses so she could more effectively run her own real estate business. The fun "Eat a Pita" restaurant is in one of the buildings she owns. In 1991 Julie toured in a stage production of "The Women." then astonished Broadway a few years later in a revival of "Li'l Abner" returning to her "Stupefyin' Jones" role. She
was in demand for bombastic fashion appearances, taking to the catwalk for Thierry Mugler designs and appearing among the fashion world's most
dangerous divas in George Michael's music video
Few women have had a movie named afer them. Julie's name literally became box office via "To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar," a film from Stephen Spielberg's company. Literary types from John D. MacDonald to Harlan Coben have written characters based on Julie or alluding to Julie's "special...beautiful and animated...incomparably feminine" personality. (Thank you Mr. MacDonald for the latter syllables, found in the book "Where is Janice Gantry?"
She was persuaded to make a "Return to the Batcave," via a made-for-TV movie, and was the subject of her own "A&E Biography." A feud over "quality of life" issues with neighbor Jim Belushi ended in a historic and hysteric guest spot on "According to Jim," which once again proved she's as active and attractive as ever. Batman's formidable feline, Belushi's archly attractive enemy...from the 60's into the 21st century Julie is still fascinating. When all the attention becomes too much, she retreats to her favorite hobby, gardening...her botanical skills have led to roses and other flowers named in her honor.
Julie's A&E Biography episode is part of the 2-DVD set "Holy Batmania," and it features clips from Julie's films and even home movies, as well as comments from brother John and various friends and co-workers.
-Ronald L. Smith