Friday, February 8, 2013

February 9, 1973 - Back in the Studio with Julie


Friday, February 9, 1973

In the morning, I practiced two hours at my residence for what I thought would be “my debut” at the studio that night. I had never sung better, but I was terribly nervous. Then, I waited in the library for my friend Alice. She had promised to come and critique me, but called to say she was sorry; her mother was going to drive her home to West Covina.

After Alice called, I washed my hair and got ready for the evening.

The historic Prospect Studio as it appears today,
corner of Prospect & Talmadge
Arriving at ABC Studio’s Prospect Avenue entrance, I walked right through the gate and back to Studio C. I looked inside the studio, but no one was there, so I came out. Then, one of the pages I knew saw me and jokingly asked me my name. Another page joined us and I told him I had a note for Rich Little.

“What? A telegram?”

They told me Rich was not going to be at the studio that night. I felt both disappointed and relieved. After that, I went back and stood in line for the show with everyone else. While I was waiting, I had a nice conversation about acting with a lady who had her two teenage children with her, a son and a daughter.

When it was time for them to start seating people, one of the pages took me right down to the front and sat me directly in the front of the producer’s station. He sat me next to an older woman, who turned out to be Julie’s secretary, Joan’s mother. She told me, “I wanted the other girl to sit here, but she was afraid they wouldn’t let her. Then, she moved to another seat.”

That statement put fear in my heart. I figured ABC (or whoever didn’t want us there) was going to give us girls a hard time. I was right. Just as Julie walked out onto the stage, one of the pages came down and told me I couldn’t sit there.

“The man in the back will explain,” he said. As I walked to the back, I realized “the man in the back” was my ‘friend,’ Bill.

“I don’t know who gave the order,” he told me, “but they don’t want the “regulars” sitting in front.”

Well, I thought that was fair. People who had never see the show should get a chance to sit up front. Still, I whispered in his ear,

“Can I move up as the audience leaves?”

“I guess so, “he said. “Sit up there next to the girl in the pink. “

The girl in the pink was Patty.

“Oh, they put you up here too,” she said. “I was sitting down there in a real good seat and they came and moved me up here.”

“They’ve got our pictures on file,” I joked. But it wasn’t funny.

Once I sat down, Vivian came and sat next to me for a few moments. She told me that Joan’s mother had asked her to sit with her, but Nick Vanoff’s secretary, Carol, came and told her,

“You have to sit in the back or you will not be allowed on the studio lot again.”

“She wouldn’t tell me who gave the order either,” said Vivian.

While we were talking, Vivian confessed that she had told the page on Patty, when she saw her sitting up front. She wasn’t going to be in the back, while they were getting away with sitting closer. Hearing that, I couldn’t help wondering if Vivian had told on me too, but I didn’t say anything about it.

Meanwhile, Julie was onstage, wearing a gorgeous white chiffon gown with green design on it. When she was introduced to the audience, she said something like, “I’m really at a loss for words, so let’s begin.”

A little while later, someone in the audience asked her why they have to pre-record the music, and Julie, who usually doesn’t speak to people in the audience, went into a lengthy explanation.

“If we just did these songs, my voice wouldn’t be balanced with the music… so every Wednesday night we go to RCA and record. It really takes several hours…”

Julie was standing right on the edge of the stage, all by herself, looking out and talking to us in the middle of the taping. “That’s a first for her,” I wrote in my diary. I had only seen a few shows with an audience, but on those occasions I had never seen Julie say more than a few words to the audience. It seemed to me she was getting more comfortable with the public.

***

For the beginning of the show, the entire Nelson Riddle Orchestra was situated on stage in a “U” shape, with Julie standing on a platform in the center. To be honest, I didn’t like the routine, or rather; I didn’t like the resounding trumpet. Julie had to repeat portions of the song over and over and over again. At first, this was because there were lines in the picture. Then, they found that her lip-syncing with the pre-recorded material was not matching. Later there was some static in the sound.

Meanwhile, I was sitting so far in the back, I felt I had no part in the show, I was just a very distant observer. I was seated directly in front of one of the cameras, which made me rather uncomfortable. I wanted to move, but the cameraman said,

“You can’t move. I want your shoulder in the picture,” so I had to stay there.

After they had done many takes of this number, Julie got tired and sat down. The main music for the number was “Strike Up the Band,” with a medley of songs joined to it. During the taping, there were a lot of breaks, during which the audience talked and made a great deal of noise. As time went on, they seemed restless; some people even got up and left.

After Julie had done the number over and over and over again, I felt so bored sitting in the back, unable to see and so far from the action, I actually thought about going home. It surprised me to have that thought—something I’d never felt before at the studio, but I guess I was also feeling hurt. I thought, “In my diary tonight, I’ll just write ‘I went to the Julie Andrews Hour,’ and I won’t write anything else.”

During the taping of “The Strike Up the Band” number, I noticed that at a certaom time in the music, Julie did some bumps, but when I looked up at the monitor, the camera only showed the musicians. For the grand finale, she mounted a platform in the center of the stage. Other than that, it didn’t seem too exciting.

Then, at one point, I heard Julie say, “Tell Joan to come here.”

She whispered something, and a little while later, went behind the wings where she met Joan. I was surprised, however, to see that although Julie had gone back there with the intention of being out of the audience’s view, she clearly visible.

The interior of Studio C had been designed for The Julie Andrews Hour, and part of that design included smoky mirrors along the right and left walls, from the back of the studio all the way up on stage. Because of where Julie was standing, her reflection was visible to the audience or at least, those of us in the back of the studio. Joan had a box of powder and she was dusting Julie so that she wouldn’t appear to be sweating on camera. It got very hot up there under the studio lights. I wanted to tell someone that Julie was visible to the audience, in case she wanted to move, but from where I was sitting, it seemed impossible.

Julie and the band worked on this one musical scene for four hours. Finally, they discovered the main cause of the problem (as I was given to understand it.) There was a big animal on the show (one of the Muppets) named Thog. Apparently, Thog’s pa system was the cause of the static and various other problems during the taping.

© Michelle Russell

Coming next …. Julie, Emma Kate and Thog

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Photos are for entertainment purposes only.

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