A Surreal Moment in Time – My Review of Julie Newmar’s “The Conscious Catwoman Explains Life on Earth,” Giveaway, and Q & A

I find myself reflecting quietly in my own Catwoman style as Julie Newmar brings my life full circle.

Without belaboring the point, my dad was an alcoholic and definitely not a good father to my younger brother and I. He and my mom divorced when I was about 10 years old and we had an intermittent relationship throughout my adult life until one day, approximately 10 years ago, he made the conscious decision to vanish from our lives and has not been seen or heard from since.

I tell you this not for pity or sympathy, but merely to state a fact. I have long since come to grips with this part of my life and no longer let the actions of others determine who I am as a person. Granted, the path to my own self-worth was a long and often difficult journey, but I happen to like who I am now and I have come to learn to look for the silver lining moments in life when the road becomes a rocky one. With my father, finding those moments were few and far between, but one cherished memory that remains dear to my heart were the brief times I would come home from school and watch TV with him.

Even today, some 40 plus years since the Batman series aired, I am still mesmerized by this alluring image of Julie Newmar as Catwoman.

In particular, we would watch the Batman series that began in 1966 when I was six years old and the highlight of those moments would be an episode that featured Catwoman. Already being a cat lover, gravitating to the gentle, non-judgmental friendship they provided me and my young vulnerabilities, I was awestruck by the beauty and confidence of this feline character and somehow all of my shyness, insecurities, and pain would be swept away as I watched, transfixed, the wickedly intelligent and sexy Catwoman played so exquisitely by Julie Newmar.

As time went on, I used her character as a shield growing up – anytime my brother and I played games, I would be Catwoman and it was always a given that for Halloween I would be Catwoman. I found strength underneath the cat ears and for a brief moment, I could be someone else – someone who was strong, confident, and not me. ..

Now, over 40 years later, as the self-titled Catwoman of the blogosphere, I find my life has come full circle, as this woman who I have quietly been emulating and admiring for years has entered my life due to my own making. Years ago, it would have never occurred to me to reach out to her, let alone that she would respond (talk about an incredible high – seeing an email from Julie Newmar in my inbox!). But, when I recently saw the lovely image of her gracing the cover of her book, The Conscious Catwoman Explains Life on Earth, I felt compelled to reach out to her and ask if I could do a book review and Q & A with her for my blog. I had already been told by a gentleman at one of my own book signings that I reminded him of Julie Newmar, so I took it as my own sign that it was meant to be.

I still find it surreal at times that I am an author... then, to be compared to Julie Newmar... well, that was definitely a high point in my life! Here I am at a CWA book signing with Janiss Garza of Sparkle the Designer Cat with her book.

I decided the first task at hand before I reached out to her with questions was to read her book and when it arrived I could not wait to devour it. Quite small and very easy to read in a quick couch cuddle, the book captivated from the moment I opened it to the last word. It is basically a collection of words of wisdom, advice, random thoughts, how to’s, and even a recipe for better sex (page 28 for the impatient). This is not the story of Julie Newmar, her life and biography, but the compilation of all the of  reflections and moments in her life that have made her who she is today in prose style to help inspire, motivate, and empower the reader.

The book is peppered with fabulous pictures of her – some instantly recognized for her iconic role as Catwoman and some more personal and recent, such as a lovely photo of her in her garden. I don’t know if it is my own age and wisdom, racked with personal struggles and victories, that made the connection to this book even stronger, but snippet after snippet, I just wanted to pick up the phone and chat with her –  “Yes, Julie, I can relate.” Or, “Yes, Julie – such simple advice, but so profound.” So much of what she says needs to be absorbed before your move on to the next snippet so that you can appreciate the impact of her words.

So many of her reflections inspired me, but the one that really hit home was ironically the one that was linked to my dad. She writes:

“At this moment, I wholly discovered the possibility of parenting myself, of becoming my own guide and teacher. No one knows as much as you do about what your needs are, and this time you can give it to yourself – with the unconditional love you need to become successful. Therefore, re-parent yourself. Don’t make genes your excuse.”

I could go on, but would rather you enjoy the book for your own personal reasons – it will resonate differently with everyone and that is one of its most endearing qualities. It ranges from profound, to quirky, to deliciously humorous, to useful, to motivational, and, as a bonus from one Catwoman to another, Ms. Newmar has kindly agreed to donate an autographed copy of this book to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment for your chance to win by Monday, October 22nd, PST and the winner will be announced on Wednesday the 24th. I must say however, that I encourage you to get this book regardless of the giveaway. Julie Newmar is a part of Americana and one of the true Hollywood legends of our time. Everyone, not just cat lovers, should have this book as part of their personal library and make a point of opening it now and then for some healthy food for thought.

Now, as promised, on to the Q & A:

For many of us, when we think of Julie Newmar, we instantly think of Catwoman or the 1995 movie, “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” and don’t realize that she has been a Renaissance woman long before her day. She graduated from high school at 15, was on Broadway at 19, had her legs insured for 10 million dollars, holds three U.S. patents for pantyhose and a bra, had her only son in her forties, has three garden flowers named after her, has appeared in numerous movies and television shows, and it looks like there is still no end in sight for this talented entrepreneur and artist who was born in 1933 who can now add author to the list of her accomplishments.  All that being said, these questions come to mind:

DB:  It would seem that starting a career at such a young age in a time when the norm for most women was to get married and stay at home to do the cooking, cleaning, and raise children, would have been difficult for you, yet it appears once you got started, you became an early role model for woman to be independent and  never looked back. Were you ever pressured to have that stereotypical life? Did you even want it? Or have you always known that you walked a different path?
JN:  I’ve always walked a different path. I am an outsider. I think outside the box. What if? Why not? I want to know what’s new. I have a CNN mind.

DB:  Being that I am fascinated with the Catwoman aspect of your life, just how did that happen – were you an avid cat lover who decided you must have the role and pursued it yourself, or did it happen some other way?
JN:  I didn’t pursue the part and I didn’t even have a cat at the time.  When I got the call from the producer, I didn’t even know who Batman was, but my brother John who was with me when I got the call, lept off the couch and told me to do it!  Audiences liked a female villain opposite  Batman and so they produced six one hour shows with Catwoman. Not to mention, Catwoman had the best costume…

DB:  Once you got the role, did you have cats in your life that inspired the nuances of your character, or how exactly did you prepare yourself for the role of Catwoman?
JN:  I’ve had many cats since the shows. After the first show I adopted two kittens so that I could better understand the behaviors of a cat. They belonged to Gypsy Rose Lee’s sister June Havoc. She lived next door to the Actor’s Studio where I was studying at the time.

Julie and the two kittens she adopted from Gypsy Rose Lee’s sister, June Havoc, so that she could better understand the behaviors of a cat.

DB:  I love that you use gardening as a method of reflection and internal meditation. I find that some of my own most inspiring moments come when I garden as it clears my mind of the daily clutter of life. I do not, however, have any flowers named after me as you do. Just how does one go about purchasing a Julie Newmar rose, day lily, or orchid?
JN:  Armstrong Nurseries in California grows the Julie Newmar Rose. It’s available in bare root September-January. Then it comes in a can and has leaves on it. It blooms in April, June, August, October. Mine blooms almost all the time. Six roses will fill a room with perfume. The Julie Newmar Daylily is especially beautiful, like a large orchid. There is also the J.N. Begonia and this is its first year on earth, so I’m keeping my eye on it. It’s in my bathroom. I love begonias, they are virtually problem free. And remember, it doesn’t snow in Los Angeles, California, so I can garden year round.

This lovely image is of Julie in her glorious garden.

The beautiful Julie Newmar Rose.

The Julie Newmar Daylily is absolutely exquisite.

DB:  I found this quote by you very intriguing, “Tell me I’m beautiful, it’s nothing. Tell me I’m intellectual – I know it. Tell me I’m funny and it’s the greatest compliment in the world anyone could give me.” Why is humor so important to you?
JN:  Humor is my way of wheedling out of things, not doing what someone else wants.

DB:  For me, the desire to write a book came later on in life and I think I am a better writer because of it. Why did you decide to write The Conscious Catwoman and did you find writing came naturally to you, or was it a difficult process?
JN:  I got tired of listening to me so I wrote it all down. My favorite shelf in the bookstore is the How-To section.  How-To make life better … I think maybe I wrote a recipe book.

“Never mind changing the world.
Make everything you have better.
People will notice”  — excerpt from my book The Conscious Catwoman Explains Life On Earth  

DB:  Despite all the modern conveniences and technology that we have at our disposal, I often find that life is actually more difficult, harried, and stressful. Times are tough and I worry about the younger generation who are about to embark on paths of their own. Do you have any parting words of wisdom for them?
JN:  I never worry about anyone or anything. When I look around and see what has come out of the needs and imagination of people, I marvel at the genius of life. We are in good hands.

I thank Julie for her time and it is of interest to note that when you see me now in my typical Catwoman garb, that I no longer wear it as a protective mask to hide myself and my insecurities from the world as I did when I was a painfully shy and emotionally wounded girl. I wear it as a celebration of the love of myself and the love I have for cats and don’t need a special occassion to do it. It represents a rebirth and a liberation and that is in large part due to the lovely Ms. Newmar.

To learn more about Julie Newmar and to purchase her book, please click here to visit her site.

Ms. Newmar back during her Batman days posing on a leopard chair…

Me in current day pose in my leopard chair… the full circle of my life!

 

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  1. Christopher Weaver says:

    I remember admiring Catwoman growing up. I’ve learned so much just from reading this interview & now I can’t wait to get the book. Thanks!

  2. Caroline Baca Hayes says:

    I really enjoyed your review of the Julie Newmar book. I plan to buy the book and read it. I remember seeing her as Catwoman as well but I am a “few” years older than you. ; ) The book sounds like it would be a lovely gift for the Holidays. Thank you!

  3. Kelly says:

    Catwoman has been a favorite of mine forever and Julie Newmar is the best Catwoman (like Sheldon on Big Bang Theory I have been kept awake at night counting catwomen)! I am definitely going to have to get this book.

  4. meowmeowmans says:

    OMC, that was great! How exciting that you got to interview Julie Newmar AND meet Sparkle’s human! It was really neat to get a fuller picture of Ms. Newmar — she seems so grounded and well-rounded.

    BTW, we loved Dan’s answers in the “Cat Guy” article. Yay for Cat Guys! 🙂

  5. geoff says:

    Ms Newmar was the best catwoman ever. I also liked the role she played in a tv series called “My living Doll” I put Ms newmar in the same grouping with Sally Kellerman. Two of my favorite actresses from the past which has no equals today.