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Rick McKay Remembers Recently Departed Julie Wilson

As BroadwayWorld reported this morning, stage, screen, and cabaret star Julie Wilson passed away yesterday, April 5, from complications from two recent stokes. She was 90 years old. Rick McKay, the producer/director of Rick McKay's Broadway: The Golden Age Film Trilogy, recently took to Facebook to bid farewell to his friend:

Sad news - the legendary Broadway/Cabaret Chanteuse Julie Wilson left us yesterday on Easter Sunday. She was one of the most generous people I ever met. We shared a musical director, the brilliant William "Billy" Roy, and were often brought together at benefits, etc. She also would come to see me perform again and again. Billy didn't really play for any other singers so Julie would say she was "checking up" on me. This photo is from one of Billy's New Year's Eve parties. Around 11:15 pm the whole party left Billy's in tandem with Julie and Billy to hit a bar a few blocks away, where Billy played and Julie sang for about 30 minutes, then they took the cash and we all went back to Billys' to party more! What days - and nights - those were!

I remember once when my brother, Stephen McKay, and I took our visiting mother to the Algonquin Hotel to see Julie, who was, of course, incredible, head to toe in vintage Balenciaga or Mainbocher, hair pulled back and up with a single camilla behind one ear. After the show she came over and sat with us. We were about 8 people all told and as people went back to their conversations Julie and I talked. I told her how inspired I was by her restarting her career after 20 years or so raising two boys as a single mother, and how rare it was for anyone to pull off a comeback like hers. She took both my hands and looked me deep in the eyes and said, "Rick honey, everybody is on their own time clock. Don't EVER let anyone tell you when and how your life should go. Mine was supposed to take this route and yours has it's own route that is unlike anyone else's - and what you are doing now is exactly at the right time. Remember that. It took me a long time to learn it, Rick."

Well, I did remember it and it has given me so, so much comfort as my life and career has taken twists and turns over the decades since that night. I thanked her a few years when I ran into her again and told her how it had helped me. She winked at me and said, "Told you so!" About ten years after that night, when I had segued into filmmaking, Jamie DeRoy and I thought about making a film called GIRL SINGER about the lives of Julie, Barbara Cook and Blossom Dearie. I had talks with them about it, but the music rights were so astronomically expensive that it proved impossible. But, I feel sad that the film never happened. I wish I had all that footage of these legendary girls who made a life touring the last clubs and live music rooms for over a half century. Alas . . . Barbara is the last of the trio still with us, and is, thank God, still making phenomenal music.

My deep sympathies to Julie's beloved son Holt McCallany, now a successful actor, who she was so proud of. In the 80's and 90's she was always pulling folded up news clippings about him or early modeling jobs ripped from magazines out to show me or anyone who would look. She will be rejoined with Holt's brother, who tragically left us in the 90's, and which almost destroyed Julie. You will be missed Julie. I think of you so much and I guess your time clock said it was time to go. Bon Voyage my friend . . .

Wilson made her Broadway stage debut in the 1946 revue Three to Make Ready. In 1951, she moved to London to star in the West End production of Kiss Me, Kate and remained there for four years, appearing in shows such as South Pacific and Bells Are Ringing while studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. She returned to New York to replace Joan Diener in Kismet. Additional Broadway credits include The Pajama Game (1954), Jimmy (1969), Park (1970), and Legs Diamond (1988), for which she received a Tony Award nomination as Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She also toured in Show Boat, Panama Hattie, Silk Stockings, Follies, Company, and A Little Night Music.

In 1957, Wilson sang with Ray Anthony and his Orchestra, contributing vocals to a number of songs in the soundtrack to the film This Could Be The Night. Wilson also had an acting role in the film, as singer Ivy Corlane.

Wilson's television credits include regular roles on the American daytime soap opera The Secret Storm. She also appeared in a Hallmark Hall of Fame telecast of Kiss Me, Kate and numerous episodes of The Ed Sullivan Show.

Rick McKay is the award-winning Producer/Director/Writer/Cinematographer/Editor of the hit film Broadway: The Golden Age. For five seasons he was a segment producer on WNET13's City Arts, the most honored, locally produced show in television history, which won over 30 Emmy awards. Rick also produced the first story commissioned for the critically successful national PBS series Egg: The Arts Show, garnering another two Emmy nominations as well as helping to create the opening segment of two recent national Tony Awards broadcasts. Rick won four of the industry's prestigious Telly awards for his television work, has produced episodes for the immensely successful series Biography on the Arts and Entertainment network, and has produced for HBO and United Artists. Rick is also an on-air personality on national PBS television, hosting the incredibly successful pledge drives for "Broadway: The Golden Age" around the country and was recently seen co-hosting the non-cable premiere of Liza with a Z with Liza Minnelli on PBS.

His new film, Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age, will be out next year -- support his Broadway Trilogy by making a tax-deductible donation here, and be sure to watch the trailer for the upcoming installment.


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