Wednesday, 8 April 2015

I want to leave them with something that they`ll remember

"In a cabaret, it`s almost like being in your living room with friends coming in to visit, and you want to give them the best you have, all that`s in you."

"My whole goal in life is to reach the person in some way. It may not happen on every song - it may happen with only one moment in a show. But I want to leave them with something that they`ll remember, that they were touched by."

Sad news. The death of Miss Julie Wilson [read my previous blog about her], on the eve of her icon Billie Holiday's centenary has left another yawning chasm in the pantheon of the great cabaret artistes.

In a 1987 interview, Miss Wilson named Holiday as her major influence. “No singer has ever moved me so much,” she said. “No one has ever had such pain and emotion in her singing. She is why I wear a gardenia in my hair every night.”

Writer Deborah Grace Winer in her book The Night and the Music called Wilson "the undisputed Queen of cabaret, the doyenne of the night chanteuses." Hers was a long road to that pinnacle in her career, however.

From her roots in Omaha, Nebraska, she emerged in the New York nightclub scene in the 40s, found stage fame in musicals in London's West End and on Broadway in the 50s and 60s (and appeared in couple of largely forgotten movies), then retired in the early 70s back to the Midwest to raise her family. It was not until the 1980s that Miss Wilson revived her cabaret career, and became the legendary performer of Sondheim, Porter and Weill standards so beloved of audiences at Michael’s, the Kaufman and the Algonquin. She had her comedic moments, too:
On Jack Paar's Tonight Show in the late '50s, guest host Arlene Francis discovered that Wilson was a yoga enthusiast and asked her to do a headstand.

"I was wearing this exquisite, sequinned gown from Neiman Marcus, but I figured I had the situation under control"

"Well, while I'm on my head - live on national television - my skirt came falling down right over my head. And I was only wearing pantyhose! They immediately cut to a commercial."
She will be very much missed. And her she is with her version of the Sondheim/Stritchy classic The Ladies Who Lunch:

I'll drink to that!

RIP Julie May Wilson (12th October 1924 – 5th April 2015)


  1. Lovely post, Jon. So glad I got to see her in person a few times. Like Stritch, never a "pretty" sound, but always riveting, and never less than fully committed to the material. She'll be missed...

    1. In my experience, one doesn't need a "pretty sound" to make for the best entertainment - that is why we adore the likes of Miss Stritch, Miss Merman, Miss Faithfull, Miss MacLaine, Miss Hagen... and, of course, Miss Julie Wilson! Jx


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