by Patricia Grandjean
Nov 4, 2012
06:57 PMBox Office
Q&A Exclusive: Julie Andrews
(page 3 of 3)
I know that you've written more than two dozen children's books. What are the rewards of that for you? And what keeps you going?
The rewards are lovely. I work with my daughter, as you know, and we have this small publishing company, called the Julie Andrews Collection. Working with her is a joy that I never anticipated when she was a little girl and growing up. But now we face each other as two equal women, and the pleasure of writing together is huge. We have two books coming out within a month of each other this fall: One, Julie Andrews' Treasury for All Seasons, is a big anthology of poems and songs that celebrate the seasons, high days and holidays. It's a beautifully illustrated book, and we're very proud of it. And of course, there are long introductory pieces to each group of poems and songs that I contribute, which are greatly biographical. The illustrator is a lady called Majorie Priceman, who is pretty wonderful in her own right and very successful. We're thrilled that she joined us for this.
And the second book is the fourth in a series of books about a little ship's cat that travels all over the world, called Little Bo. So we've done Little Bo, Little Bo in Paris, Little Bo in Italy and now, Little Bo in London, which is the culmination of four books in one, so to speak. It's a story I enjoyed very much. And we've got others in the pipeline, and all sorts of things coming up. But just working with Emma is such a joy, and we find that we have different strengths, so we complement each other a great deal.
I've been wanting to ask you about this ever since I saw it: your interview on The Colbert Report last spring.
[Laughs heartily] That was such fun; I can't tell you. He's adorable. I was scared to death, because I thought, "He's gonna make mincemeat out of me." But in fact, he was so funny and so enchanting and so witty. I enjoyed it enormously, and apparently, everyone liked it.
Was it an improv, or did you plan beforehand?
No, it was an improv! That was what made me so nervous. I said hello to him before we started, and he was just lovely. He said, "You know the character I play; I play an idiot. So I give you full permission, anytime you can, to take me down." I tried to do just that, and it sort of worked. But it was great fun, and very stimulating. He's got this impish, wicked gleam in his eye, and he keeps you on your toes.
Another thing that was fun about it—you may disagree with this—but I think some people see you as being very proper.
[Guffaws] Yes, I would say that is true!
And this segment played against that image in such a great way.
Thank you. I think that image comes from those movies that I was fortunate to be in, that were so successful—and anything that's that big and successful to some extent, kind of labels you. But no, I was thrilled, and as I said, he was just darling.
The other thing I wanted to talk to you about—because it's been in the news just recently—is that you work with the Voice Health Institute in Massachusetts as honorary chair of the advisory board. I understand this is connected with the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation.
Yes! Oh, gosh, I'm so happy you asked. It's in Boston; it's run by a brilliant, brilliant man, Dr. Steven Zeitels. He's probably the foremost vocal specialist in the world these days. And he is doing such amazing things for voices—he's truly part scientist, part genius surgeon. I'm happy to support what he's doing, because I passionately believe in it.
What is his technique, his focus?
He has magnificent skills as a surgeon—he does micro- microsurgery, which is extremely difficult. He pulls it off with such genius, saving many people. Restoring voice boxes; giving hope to, let's say, premature babies who are quite often born and little tubes are put down their throats so they are able to breathe. They often have damaged vocal cords, but as they grow, he's able to restore these and give them back their voices. Orators and lawyers who have lost vocal power because they've had to speak a great deal. And particularly opera and Broadway artists who do so many shows per week. Taking care of and maintaining those voices is his passion. He lives and breathes and eats and sleeps all of that. He rebuilds vocal cords, rebuilds throats, takes out dangerous cancers and is brilliant.
A friend of mine just went up there and was due to have serious, serious surgery, and Steven was able to not do anything invasive; he went in through the mouth and was able to take out everything he needed to, and literally gave my friend his life back. It's amazing what he's doing.
O brave new world.
It is. I mean, it is so intensely focused. He has his own equipment that he designed; he has his own team. Microsurgery is just . . . you have to do it right every time. And there are so many challenges.
Are you working on a followup to your 2009 memoir, Home?
How sweet. I am asked about it so much, and I think about it a lot. There are so many ways that I might approach it, if I do it. Thre are so many stories that I'd like to tell, but what voice I find for them and what style I find for them . . . you know, my beloved husband Blake passed away, and it's not two years yet. And so I'm still adjusting and sorting, and it's a brand-new life in a way for me, without him. And I think and hope that one day, there will be another. And I am collecting notes and diary jottings and things like that. One of the hardest things is, I seem to have blessedly lived an awfully long time, so there are an awful lot of years to gather up and remember when I did what. But I hope there will be another at some point—just not for awhile.
On the first book, I was approached 14 years before it came out. But probably the last five were the heavy writing years. It took some doing—just the research alone, which one forgets about. The truth is, I wasn't sure whether a memoir was anything I wanted to do. I kept thinking, "Why publish?" One could certainly write it for one's family, which I intended to do, so they'd have an idea of what Grandma was all about. But then I remembered the wonderful book by Moss Hart called Act One, about his early days in the theater. It taught me so much, gave me a piece of theater history that I knew nothing about. And I suddenly thought, "Ah, that may be a reason to publish." Because my early days in Engliash vaudeville, when vaudeville was sort of dying and on its last legs, is something not too many people know about. So that sort of gave me courage.
That reminds me—I'm sure you know this—that there are videos of you on YouTube performing as a very young girl.
[Laughs] I know! Thank god for YouTube, because those would have disappeared; I wouldn't even know they existed. People send me things, and I'm just amazed—I think, "Who saved that? Where did it come from?" I'm mostly very grateful.
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