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So You Think You Know Julie Andrews?

Fairlady“When all is said and done — I think I am lucky,” said Julie Andrews when I told her “Home” had brought tears to my eyes on more than one page of her semi-autobiography. I say “semi-” because the book begins with her birth and goes up to her arrival in Hollywood to begin her career at Disney in “Mary Poppins.” On April 8 at Disneyland, a “Julie Andrews-Mary Poppins” horse will be dedicated on the park’s grand Carousel — Walt Disney’s favorite attraction. Of course, there will be a book signing of “Home” by Julie. And next week she will embark on a one-week book tour in N.Y. Another week will follow on the East coast, but that’s about all as she readies for another chapter in her esteemed career. It is a symphonic concert tour, one half of which will be devoted to the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein while the other half will be a musical adaptation of the children’s book “Simeon’s Gift,” written by Julie and daughter Emma, to whom “Home: A Memoir of My Early Years” Julie dedicates “with all my love.” She will appear July 18-19 at the Hollywood Bowl, in Louisville on July 11, in Atlanta on Aug. 2 and in Philadelphia on Aug. 7. Will Julie sing? “You know,” she reminded me, that the only time she’s sung since her fateful surgery was at my column’s 50th anniversary dinner celebration, when she talked-sang to me, “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Space.”

Of her “Home” Julie admits “I wanted to write about the last days of vaudeveille — like Moss Hart’s ‘Act One’ — if only I could. I wanted to write it as it happened to me.” But it is about more than vaudeville. It is the story of a young girl’s life through it, before and after. It is the story of growing up in pain and tears, seeing your mother leave a gift for you on your bed and desert you. It is the story of fear of succeeding, fear of living through the Blitz of WWII — when you as a little girl, forget to blow your whistle sounding the all clear as all huddled underground during an air raid. It is the feeling when you fail a screen test set at Elstree by famed Hollywood producer Joe Pasternak. (She was deemed “non-photogenic.”) “But I wanted to write it as it happened to me,” she says honestly, reminding “it is over 60 years old.” Sure there’s plenty of drinking and smoking, but “those were the times,” she reminds. In the book, she covers “a quantum leap of two generations” of her family. Every detail is recalled — descriptions of every location are so real, you feel a part of her travels through the English countryside, as well as London. When she describes her first smell of the theater’s backstage, you smell it. You hear her hit “high D above C” as she starts her singing lessons. “I hated them,” she recalls. “I sang for the Queen — and I knew I was in showbiz!”

Andrews reveals her family’s secrets — warts and all. She heads into B’way showbiz and reveals how Cy Feuer saved her career on the opening night of “The Girl Friend.” Other colorful anecdotes include the history-making meeting of Lerner & Loewe, advice from Rodgers and Hammerstein, the birth and growing pains of “My Fair Lady,” “Camelot,” the secrets of the cast, Tony Walton, the cruelty of Joyce Haber, the meeting with Walt Disney, even the birth of Emma. Now, Julie says she wants to  encourage husband Blake Edwards to write his book. “He could really tell the Hollywood story,” Julie promises. Meanwhile, read Julie Andrews’ “Home: A Memoir of My Early Years.” Blake liked it.