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BREAKING NEWS: Cabaret World Mourns As Singing Legend JULIE WILSON Dies at 90

Singer and actress Julie Wilson, arguably one of the greatest cabaret chanteuses to grace a stage, died early this morning at the age of 90, according to her long time accompanist and friend Christopher Denny, who posted the news on his Facebook page. As of 8:45 this morning, the news of Wilson's death had not yet broken through major news outlets. Denny reported that Wilson "died peacefully, surrounded by people who loved her, after having sustained two strokes over the last several days." Up until the past couple of months of her life, the energetic Wilson was still being seen at various cabaret shows around town and supporting the new breed of stars, recently having the time of her life at a Mark Nadler show at the York Theatre.

On his Facebook post this morning, Denny wrote: "An extraordinary light has gone out--the irreplaceable, one and only Julie Wilson--as great an artist, friend and human being as I could ever hope, in my wildest dreams, to be privileged to know. Julie was a friend for more than 30 years and a joy to work with steadily for some 15 years, but more than that she was my second mother, one of my life's greatest teachers and an example of humility, compassion, kindness and generosity which I never expect to see equaled."

Cabaret star Ann Hampton Callaway, a singer and performer in the Wilson mold and who dedicated a song to the legend at last October's Cabaret Convention (where Callaway received the Mabel Mercer Award for "Lifetime Achievement"), was profoundly saddened by the news. "When I came to NY to pursue my dreams, Julie was one of the first people who welcomed, encouraged and inspired me," Callaway wrote this morning on her Facebook page. "I loved her contrasts--she was pure glamour when she stepped on a stage and sang great songs with wry wisdom and humor and when she was done, she'd put on her Reboks and fold her gown in a shopping bag and call it a night. She may have left Omaha but Omaha never left her. Always down to earth, she balanced to perfect proportion, lady and broad, and a conversation with her always involved much laughter. I know of almost no other singer who was as generous to other singers as Julie, attending shows of so many of us starting out through the years and always with such love and enthusiasm. Singer, actress, mother and shining light, you will be dearly missed by all of us lucky enough to know you, Julie. They don't make them like you anymore."

Julie May Wilson was born on October 21, 1924 in Omaha, Nebraska, the daughter of Emily (Bennett), a hairdresser, and Russell Wilson, a coal salesman. According to Wikipedia, Julie first found a musical outlet with local musical group Hank's Hepcats, then headed to New York City during World War II and found work in two of Manhattan's leading nightclubs, the Latin Quarter (nightclub) and the Copacabana. Accoring to Wilson's official website, Miami and Hollywood clubs dates followed, including the famous Mocambo. But New York lured her back. There she fine-tuned her stagecraft in musical comedies like Kiss Me Kate, replacing Lisa Kirk as Bianca. When the play moved to London in 1951, Julie went along. She remained in London for four years, appearing in shows such as South Pacific and Bells Are Ringing, and enrolling in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. To study there, she had to give up the chance to open on Broadway as Babe in what would become a long-running hit, The Pajama Game. (Ironically, several years later, she replaced Janis Paige's replacement in the very role she had rejected.) Julie returned to Broadway in 1955, appearing in Kismet, and then touring in shows such as Show Boat, Panama Hattie, Silk Stockings, and Hi Fidelity.

During the 1950's, Julie made several recordings, and she also made some of those wonderful black-and-white movies, like, The Strange One, and This Could be The Night, where she played "Rosebud", a blonde nightclub chanteuse. But her niche, and her reputation, was in the clubs--the glamorous, romantic rooms of the 'Fifties. There she reigned in places such as The Russian Tea Room, The Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room, and Rainbow and Stars, as well as nightspots in California and Chicago, singing the naughty, torchy, gutsy songs she loved.

Among her later career highlights was a Tony Award nomination for "Best Featured Actress in a Musical" in the 1988 Peter Allen show Legs Diamond. In 1992, PBS ran a special of her cabaret show. And in 1999, the Mabel Mercer Foundation spotlighted Julie's 75th birthday with a special evening in her name. The Foundation now each year gives a "Julie Wilson Award" to a rising star cabaret performer. Among recent recipients have been Julie Reyburn, Nicolas King, T. Oliver Reid, Jennifer Sheehan, Marissa Mulder, Liam Forde, and Shana Farr.

With her second husband, actor/producer Michael McAloney, Wilson had two sons, Holt and Michael, Jr., Holt McAloney is an actor who performes under the name Holt McCallany. Michael McAloney Jr. died in 2000.

On Wilson's website, the cabaret reviewer Elizabeth Ahlfors wrote: "In a world where privacy is grasped and where so many are alone, she weaves an aura of intimacy with those who have come to see her. She is the hostess of a party and embodies a sense of being right where she belongs. It's contagious. The audience leaves with the realization--unfortunately all too unfamiliar--that everyone's actually been together for an evening, embracing real emotions, having fun. And the hostess of it all--Julie Wilson. She brings it all together, everything Julie needs, everything her audience wants."

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