Catching up with the original Catwoman, Julie Newmar
Who was the best Catwoman? Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry? Or will it be Anne Hathaway, who it was announced last week will play the role for Christopher Nolan's upcoming film "The Dark Knight Rises?"
My money is on first feline Julie Newmar, who played the villain on the TV show "Batman" from 1966 to 1967. Much to my surprise, she joined me and jewelry designer Kimberly McDonald for lunch on Friday at the Polo Lounge. The two met through Patrick McDonald, the New York dandy and fashion scenester who helps Kimberly with her press, and they have become fast friends.
At *77, Newmar is as feisty as ever. "This looks like Calvin Klein from 1978, and it might be," she said of her outfit, a tweedy navy and white jacket and pencil skirt. Her voice still purrs.
Of course, we all wanted to know her take on Hathaway. "She's going to be marvelous," Newmar said, even as I questioned Hathaway's sex appeal. Now Newmar, she understood sex appeal. She made her own Catwoman costume, and was especially keen to have the belt at her hips, instead of her waist, to highlight her hourglass figure, she said. (The costume is now in the Smithsonian Institute).
In addition to being an actress on stage and screen, Newmar was also a fashion model and muse for designer Thierry Mugler. And honestly, where would Mugler have been if not for his Catwoman-like Latex and rubber suits and curve-hugging silhouette? Newmar walked the runway for him a couple of times in the 1990s, wearing waist-whittling corset dresses, and appeared in the Mugler-directed 1992 George Michael video "Too Funky." (The Mugler label is now in the midst of a makeover, courtesy of Nicola Formichetti, the stylist-turned-creative director. He showed his first men's Mugler collection in Paris last week.)
Nowadays, Newmar keeps busy gardening, appearing at fan expos, and managing her real estate investments. Among other properties, she owns the building on Fairfax Avenue where the Catwalk vintage store resides, appropriately enough. She's also working on a photo-heavy autobiography with Santa Monica Press. It's titled "The Conscious Catwoman Explains Life on Earth," and has an inspirational tone, she said.
The book will be out later this year. She took the cover image (right) from a T-shirt design created by the Los Angeles company Trash & Luxury. (Katy Perry has been spotted wearing a version of the tee immortalizing Newmar as a style icon.) The T-shirts are available for sale on her website, where you can also find Newmar's musings on everything from healthcare reform, to overcoming shyness, to parties at Hugh Hefner's house.
-- Booth Moore
*Updated 01/24/2011 at 8:54 p.m.: An earlier version of the post misstated Julie Newmar's age. She is 77.
Top photo: Cover image of the "Swingin' Chicks of the '60s" calendar featuring Julie Newmar as Catwoman. Credit: Cedco Publishing Co. Bottom photo: Cover design for Julie Newmar's book. Credit: JulieNewmar.com.