By Myra Chanin
Julie Budd, unlike all the others who are commemorating The Chairman of the Board’s 100th Birthday, has real memories of Sinatra. She actually worked with him for two weeks at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas when she was going on seventeen, but Mr. Sinatra was not her Las Vegas “first.” That distinction belongs to Bill Cosby for whom she opened when she was a mere fourteen — too young to have been offered anything that contained caffeine. “It was a turbulent engagement.” He asked her to come to his dressing room after her first show on their first Saturday night and told her that after her final show that night he was firing her, even though there were two more weeks on her contract. She wasn’t completely shocked. She’d gotten much better reviews than Cosby had. When she protested, Cosby replied “that he someday planned to be a teacher and that he couldn’t condone someone my age not being in school.”
What did she do next? Get a lawyer? No. She listened to her formerly kvelling and smiling father and sang her big voice and her little heart out for the rest of that night. And? The universe paid attention! She received a visit from the newly hired Artistic Director of Caesar’s Palace, who promised to book her at Caesar’s when he was firmly established. “Two years later he showed Mr. Sinatra my kinescope and Mr. Sinatra personally invited me to be in his show. Mr. Sinatra was very nice to me. One day when I looked unhappy he asked me what was wrong. I told him I felt bad because some of my friends in the business already had hit records and I didn’t. He told me not to worry about it, that in a few years no one would know who they were. He also told me singing great songs was the one way to make sure you would always be around and working and he made me promise to do that … which I did and which I do.”
In the years between then and now Julie Budd has worked constantly and has done it all: Films; TV variety shows from Ed Sullivan to Carol Burnett to the Tonight Show. She was the little girl with the big Barbra Streisand voice who opened for Bob Hope, Joan Rivers, George Burns and Liberace and toured for seven years with Marvin Hamlish. She’s also been a soloist with eminent classical symphony orchestras and appeared at too-many-to-list Performing Arts Centers with her one-woman show. .
At her most recent appearance in mid-September at the Metropolitan Room, she introduced her latest CD, Remembering Mr. Sinatra, in which she and Herb Bernstein, her manager, eminence grise and musical director of 40-something years, fulfilled 17-year old Julie’s promise to Mr. Sinatra to sing great songs – songs that he also found great — but to sing them her way.
Herb Bernstein’s arrangements were symphonic, easy to imagine augmented by significantly more musicians in a concert hall. I would have preferred somewhat breezier jazz-oriented up-tempo numbers. Julie’s delivery on the ballads was flawless. My favorites in performance as well as on her CD was the medley of “More Than You Know,” “The Very Thought of You,” and “The Nearness of You,” which made me remember only too well the delight of being madly in love, and her “I’m A Fool to Want You,” which recalled the pain of love turning kaput. As for her fascinating story, the twists and turns of her journey from Tamarack Lodge to Cosby to Sinatra are intriguing.
Everybody who was anybody in Cabaret was at the Metropolitan Room and this sophisticated packed house gave Julie a standing ovation. She is obviously a great audience favorite because she always gives her all.
And here’s where Julie will celebrating Sinatra in New York City during the coming month. On Monday night, September 28th, she’ll be interviewed by Tom Santopietro, (author of Sinatra in Hollywood) and singing with her combo at 7 PM at Barnes and Nobel on the Upper East Side at 150 E. 86th Street. She’ll also be appearing at the Cabaret Convention at Town Hall on October 14th and will be reprising her show at the Metropolitan Room on October 21 where she is Celebrity Artist in Residence. Tickets: 212 206-0440