Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Trip to Beverly Hills

April 2nd, 1973
I arrived at school early to practice my acting scene with my partner. While I was there I saw a posting on the bulletin board that tomorrow there will be singing auditions for Hello Dolly. I knew I must try out. The audition song must be a ballad.

Tonight I practiced my singing exercises. I decided I would sing “Say a Prayer for Me Tonight,” the song Julie said was originally written for her to sing in My Fair Lady.

While I was practicing, I had some trouble with the song, so I called Vivian up and asked her to play the tape she made of Julie singing the song. It was so nice to hear Julie talking over the telephone. It made her seem near. She seemed to sing the song so easily. It was interesting to hear her phrasing, something she did in a way I had not imagines. Listening to her, I almost felt like I was having a telephone singing lesson.
I do miss Julie. So many times I want to ask her questions and tell her what I’m doing. I’d like to ask her advice, but now she’s gone. I’m so scared about this audition. I’ve never auditioned for anything before and I’ve never sung for an audience either—except when I was nine and sat on a piano and sang like Shirley Temple.
The next day, I went to ABC to apply for a job. It seemed sad that Julie was not there but I was glad to be back on the lot. Apparently, (from diary notes) I told them I wanted to act and the lady who interviewed me said I should go to a production company.  After my interview was over, I went back to practicing and then auditioned on the theatre department’s main stage. After that, I went to work and scrubbed the lady’s floor. I felt like Cinderella.

By the time I got back to my dorm, I was so exhausted I could barely eat dinner. Then I went straight to bed.

The following day, our professor Dr. Martin turned to me in the middle of acting class and said, “A couple of people went to the audition yesterday and to my shock, one was Michelle Russell. What that little mousey girl in my class…she must have said… “I’m going to do that” and she got up there like she knew what she was doing and did it. You two have a very good chance of being cast."

There was a dance audition after that, but sadly I didn’t make it into the show.

April 8th – Pablo Picasso died.

As the middle of the month arrived, as melancholy as I tended to be, I was counting my blessings:
So many dreams have come true. Once I dreamed of being a child in “The Sound of Music” and for a while, there I was under Julie’s watchful eye…
Most importantly, I can sing now. One day I’ll be able to sing for an audience. Remember when that seemed impossible dream? What do you do when dreams come true?

April 18th
When I was growing up, it had always been just me and my mother. We shared a lot. Even in high school we'd gone to see Katharine Hepburn in Coco, Sarah Miles in St. Joan and June Allyson in No, No Nannette, as well as some special films. However, since the birth of my little brothers, she’d had other responsibilities. I’d often begged her to come to see Julie because I wanted to share it with her, but with one two year-old child and a baby only a few months old, she was not going to leave home to sit in the studio with me.

with my oldest little brother,
John, a year later
Nevertheless, by April, with my brothers a bit older, she agreed to take a trip to Beverly Hills. We got up early that day, got the two babies packed in the car and headed for Beverly Hills. I really wanted to see Julie’s house again – in daylight. I’d only seen it in the middle of the night. Now that Julie was safely several thousand miles or more, I considered visiting her house a safe trip.

We didn’t have much trouble finding it. Somehow I remembered how to get there. As we drove up in front of the house, I looked at the driveway and saw some purple and yellow pansies. Seeing them, something struck me and I heard myself say, “Oh, Julie planted those,” and then, “I think I’m going to cry.”

Then I took a couple of photos from the window of the car, feeling very afraid that someone would come by, someone like the police patrol. A man came out of the house next door with a little dog and I saw him bend down, as if to pull a weed out of his garden. Little did I know he was an old movie star – Randolph Scott, I believe.

Julie and Blake Edwards' home in Beverly Hills during
the early 1970s
Finally, my mother insisted that I get out of the car and take a photo of the house. I didn’t want to, but she insisted, so finally I got out and walked to the edge of the drive and took a photo. The house looked so huge. “I bet they really ran around in there,” said my mother.

After that, we went over to Roxbury Drive. My mother had grown up on Roxbury Road in San Marino and told me that they were always getting deliveries for a house on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills. I wonder who lived there.

We parked in front of the Oscar Levant’s house. Levant, a famous pianist and wit died in June of 1972. I was reading his autobiography at the time and was deeply sad about his passing. My mother put my little brother, Michael, in his stroller, and we took a walk up and down Roxbury Drive, past Lucille Ball’s house and other. 

While we were there a tour bus went by. The driver was pointing out various houses and everyone stared at us, wondering if we were anyone famous. It was lovely to be in Beverly Hills. Everyone has such lovely flowers blooming. We saw one lady come home with her children. It’s a lovely place to live, not just a “starry” place as some people picture.

One day after our visit to Beverly Hills, my friend Alice called to tell me that there was a cover article on Julie in McCall’s. Mommy bought it for me and inside we found all kinds of photos of the house, including a photo of Julie getting into a car, right there in the front driveway.

© Michelle Russell

Coming Next:  Julie Andrews in Magazines 1972 – 1973

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