While Julie Newmar might have gained her most enduring fame by playing Catwoman on the Batman TV series in the ‘60s, there is so much more to her than a pleather catsuit and some kick-butt moves. Newmar had a presence on stage before she even teamed up with Batman, and there is no one quite like her.
Throughout her life, she became a celebrated screen icon, earning herself a Tony award. Besides her dancing, acting, and writing skills, Newmar is also an inventor and real estate mogul. The 88-year-old has a lot of tricks in her bag, so let’s take a look back at Newmar’s life to see how she became the powerhouse woman she is today.
While everyone knows her as Julie Newmar, she was born Julie Chalene Newmeyer to Don and Helen Newmeyer. For her first few credited roles, she went by Julie Newmeyer until the 1954 film Seven Brides and Seven Brothers. However, when her career started to take off, she decided to change her name. It was easier for people to recognize.
As a child, Newmar began dancing at an early age and performed as a prima ballerina with the Los Angeles Opera beginning at age 15. She started her career with small parts and uncredited roles in films as a dancer, including a part as the “dancer-assassin” in Slaves of Babylon (1953). She also played the “gilded girl” in Serpent of the Nile (1953), in which she was clad in gold paint and tape.
Newmar’s parents had pretty impressive careers, which is no doubt where she got her talent. Don Newmeyer played for the Los Angeles Buccaneers, a traveling team with a brief lifespan from 1926-27. Meanwhile, Newmar’s mom, Helen Jesmer, was a memorable performer in the Ziegfeld Follies. Eddie Cantor once said Helen had the most beautiful legs in the Follies.
Helen later started a real estate business, and Newmar followed in her footsteps once again. Her parents greatly influenced her career, and they passed down their work ethic and talent to Newmar. Newmar started taking dance class because her mom was a dancer, and Helen wanted her daughter to follow in her footsteps.
Long before the famous Goldfinger golden girl came along, back in 1953, when she was still known as Newmeyer, Julie was painted head to toe in gold for the film Serpent of the Nile. She showed off her slinky, graceful dance moves before Raymond Burr, who played Mark Antony. While she looked great, the production team had some trouble with the paint.
The production team had problems keeping her belly button under control. Now, that might sound strange, but with all her backbends, swirling, crouching, and dancing, her belly button kept showing. The makeup department eventually solved the problem with some scotch tape. Who knew a belly button could almost ruin a scene. Besides the belly button issue, Newmar said the dance was good, and she made $250 for one day of work.
You might not remember her on the show, but Newmar once had a role on The Twilight Zone. During the lesser-seen fourth season, Newmar pops up with devil horns. This was the time when the episodes were an hour-long, so she got some extra airtime. Being the devil, she makes a deal with a businessman that doesn’t go his way.
While she was in only one episode, wearing devil horns was the perfect training for her cat ears. On the show, she gets the president of a corporation to give her his entire fortune in exchange for returning to a different year before he made millions. She eventually teaches him that you have to be careful what you wish for.
After some memorable appearances on Route 66 and The Twilight Zone, Newmar landed her first recurring role as the beautiful robot on the show My Living Doll. The series only ran for one season in 1964-65. However, thirty years later, the 35mm negatives were destroyed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. They wanted to release DVD copies years later, so they had to leave out most of the episodes.
When they wanted to transfer the show to DVD, the producers had to piece together 11 episodes from 16mm copies they found through collectors. The show actually had 26 episodes in total, so they lost 15 episodes. Unfortunately, they lost so much footage, but fans were happy to have some of the show on DVD.
While Newmar was charming and gorgeous as the android Rhonda Miller, part of the show’s failure was chalked up to her chemistry with her co-star/love interest, Bob Cummings. Cummings was 23 years older than Newmar, and their interactions felt awkward and unnatural throughout the show.
The show could have turned out very differently because the producers initially wanted Bob Crane to play her love interest. Crane was a heartthrob at the time, but he turned down the part for a better offer. Maybe the show would have lasted longer if they cast someone with whom she had more chemistry.
While she was a big star in the Batman series, Newmar didn’t make the jump to the big screen in 1966. Unfortunately, the actress signed on to do a different project, so production quickly found her replacement in Lee Meriwether. Sadly, Newmar made the wrong decision by choosing another project over Batman.
Newmar went to the U.K. to film the racy comedy Monsieur Lecoq, which was abandoned and left unfinished. It hurt Newmar’s movie career, but pictures from the production ended up in Playboy in 1969. It was probably better that the movie wasn’t released.
While Newmar is the undisputable original Catwoman, there were times when she couldn’t give life to the character because of scheduling conflicts, as mentioned previously. For the first two seasons of the series, Newmar donned the figure-hugging catsuit and went up against Batman. She even made the outfit iconic by lowering the belt to accentuate her hourglass figure.
During the third season of Batman, Newmar was filming the Western MacKenna’s Gold, so Eartha Kitt replaced her for the last two seasons of the series. She was also shooting that disastrous film in the U.K., so she couldn’t be in the Batman movie. There was a theory that she could have returned to the TV series for the last season but chose not to.
Newmar made numerous memorable cameos besides Batman. She appeared on shows like Star Trek and Get Smart, and The Monkees. During her cameo in The Monkees, the boys fall head over heels for her as a worker at a local laundromat named April Conquest.
When the boys head over to her house, there is a shot of the exterior. If you were a fan of Bewitched, you might have noticed that the home used in the shot was also the home of Samantha and Darrin from Bewitched. That house was used in many other famous series too.
In the 1970s, Newmar received two U.S. patents for pantyhose and one for a brassiere. The pantyhose were described as having “cheeky derriere relief” and promoted under the name “Nudemar.” The bra was supposed to be nearly invisible in the style of Marilyn Monroe.
In 1977, she posed for People magazine wearing only high heels and pantyhose to promote her product. She wanted to leave behind a legacy that was much more than her acting career. Newmar also wanted women to feel good about their bodies in pantyhose that could be comfortable.
During the 1990s, George Michael cast Newmar to be in his music video for “Too Funky.” Newmar held her own alongside supermodels like Linda Evangelista and Tyra Banks. Her dancing skills came in handy as she moved and grooved to the English singer’s music.
When fashion designer Thierry Mugler designed and created the costumes for the models in the video, he wanted to use some different faces besides the top models of the time, like Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford. Newmar was one of the only two actresses chosen for the video.
Newmar used to live next door to comedian Jim Belushi. The two had a long-standing feud over the fence separating their Brentwood, California homes. Newmar wanted the fence lowered to provide sunlight for her flowers, but he wanted a high barrier for his personal privacy.
Belushi sued Newmar for $4 million. Tensions seem to cool off between the two eventually. Newmar even poked fun at the feud in a guest spot on Belushi’s sitcom, According to Jim. In the episode, the fight was over a dog instead of a fence.
In the lawsuit Belushi filed against Newmar, he stated that she was driving him from his home. He also claimed she destroyed the fence between their home and made defamatory comments about him to neighbors and friends. He really thought she just wanted him and his family to move.
Belushi claimed Newmar caused him and his family emotional distress and harmed his reputation and career because she claimed he was a peeping Tom. After one incident of her throwing eggs, Belushi called the police. Newmar’s defense was that she was aiming at the noisy AC but missed.
The film To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar pays homage to the actress. Naturally, she had to make a cameo in the 1995 film about her near the ending. The comedy featured Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes in drag, which was inspired by a photo of in a Manhattan Chinese restaurant.
However, there had to be a backup plan in case Newmar was not comfortable with the film. Therefore, if she didn’t sign off for producers to use her name in the title, the second option was… Thanks for Everything, Carol Lynly. Clearly, she didn’t mind, and the movie was a pop culture phenomenon.
Newmar is a very tall woman. She is 5’11 or 1.8 meters tall. If she had ever wanted to go into the modeling industry, she would have fit right in with all the glamazon women who stomp the runways. He long legs shined when she would dance because she was so tall, and all her classical training made her look lengthy.
Even at 88, the actress still looks stunning, and she is in great shape. While she probably had a little work done to her face, Newmar could still rock her Catwoman catsuit that apparently had no stretch because it was made before spandex was popular.
While Newmar’s father was “left-brained,” as she liked to say, her mother and grandmother raised Newmar and her brothers as Christian Scientists. She described it as a spiritual education that she valued greatly. Throughout her life, she never smoked or did drugs like a lot of other people in Hollywood.
Throughout her life, she took lots of vitamins but felt guilty taking something like aspirin. While she didn’t get into drugs or alcohol, Newmar did admit she got into the good kind of debauchery. She likes to elevate herself with beautiful things, food, and manners.
Besides her acting, dancing, and entrepreneurial spirit, Newmar is also passionate about many things. Her philosophy in life is that the happiest people can do something to benefit someone else, which is part of her passion for gardening. When she bought her house, it was kind of a disaster.
When she bought her Brentwood home in the early ‘80s, the front yard had ivy from the house to the street, and the backyard was like a dog run with a lawn and three trees. However, she spotted a clump of violets, and it inspired her to create something magical. It took a lot of work, but her home is like a secret garden now.
It took three different landscape designers to create Newmar’s garden that is always in bloom. Her yard is an oasis of color, fragrance, and shade. The narrow, hidden paths lined with ferns and little surprises, like a roaring rubber crocodile to engage her son, make her backyard seem like a fairytale come to life.
Everywhere you turn, there are flowers more beautiful than the next. It is extraordinary because it is where she spends time with her son, who was born with Down’s syndrome in 1981 and lost his hearing to meningitis when he was three. The visuals are a delight to him.
When Newmar was 48, she had her son John. She said he was a last-minute baby, but she was excited to be a mother. He is deaf and mute, but Newmar said he is such a highly developed human and a blessing to be around. The two of them have traveled worldwide to places like Bali and Southeast Asia, where they loved soaking pools and gardens.
However, now that she has trouble with her leg muscles and her son can’t walk, they mostly “travel” around her home. She has help to take care of herself, her son, and the house, and they go to the garden at least once a day. They share a close bond as he is her only child.
Newmar recently turned 88 on August 16. The star has stayed youthful all these years with her vitamins and abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Many stars from her era fell into their addictions and passed away while they were still young, so it is encouraging to see how healthy she is.
Although her health has declined in the past due to Charcot Marie Tooth Disease (CMT), an inherited neurological disorder that damages her leg muscles, she is still going strong and had her most recent acting role in 2019. It looks like staying away from anything stronger than aspirin has helped her.
Newmar has always been a vocal supporter of LGBTQ rights. Her brother, John Newmeyer, is gay, and she has supported him throughout his life. In 2013, she won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing organization in Los Angeles.
Newmar had another brother, but he tragically passed away when he was 30 from a skiing accident. She and John continue to honor their brother in any way they can. However, his accident did change their family forever because they were all so close.
Besides her good looks and acting/dancing skills, Newmar is one smart cookie. She apparently has an IQ of 135 and graduated from high school when she was just 15. That means she skipped at least three grades. It’s no wonder she has been such a successful businesswoman because you need some smarts to accomplish that.
Her brother is also brilliant, so it must run in the Newmeyer family. He is an epidemiologist in San Francisco who instituted a needle exchange and bleach distribution program to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS among intravenous drug users.
When Newmar auditioned for the role of Catwoman for the Batman TV series, she never imagined she would get the part, but she was looking for acting jobs. When she got the call offering her the role, Newmar was visiting her brother at college in New York.
At first, she was unsure about the role because she didn’t know if it would be worth it. However, her brother’s friends were regular watchers of the series, and they convinced her to take the part. We bet they wanted her to do it to say they knew someone on the Batman TV show or possibly meet Adam West.
As the original Catwoman, Newmar started the legacy of this character, and many others have followed in her footsteps. Between Eartha Kitt, Lee Meriwether, and Anne Hathaway, there have been many stars who have tried to fill Newmar’s shoes in this incredible role, but one stood out as hurting the Catwoman name.
In 2004, Newmar accepted the Worst Picture award at the 25th Annual Razzle Awards on behalf of Halle Berry’s remake of Catwoman. It must have been quite embarrassing for Halle Berry and Newmar as well because of this tarnished Catwoman’s legacy.
Newmar is most famous for her role as Catwoman, and she really enjoyed the part. After almost passing on it, she was glad she agreed because she got to be someone most women couldn’t be in the ‘50s, a bada**! It was empowering to her because women were supposed to be obedient and proper.
However, playing Catwoman was liberating because she was kicking butt and taking names. Newmar said that you couldn’t be mean, nasty, or bad unless you were some B-list actress, but she could do all those things in this role, and she was celebrated for that. She also looked fabulous while doing it.
As a former Catwoman, Newmar became accustomed to men stopping her on the street and telling her about their fantasies. She said men would stop her on the street and tell her she was their first turn-on. She would ask them how old they were when they thought about this, and they usually said they were in their early teens.
Newmar has been breaking hearts since she slipped into her catsuit in 1966. She was seductive and easily lured viewers in just because of her looks. Today the costume that made her a sex symbol is in the Smithsonian Museum. When you see it, you won’t be surprised that everyone was obsessed with her.
A few years back, Newmar put her acting career on hold to focus on writing a book. She credited a 1937 self-help book title, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” as a significant influence throughout her life. However, Newmar didn’t leave acting forever because great opportunities presented themselves.
She was working on four books at a time, including one titled “First Fantasy.” It was a collection of short stories to enrich people’s minds. In 2011, she published a collection of her no-nonsense wisdom in “The Conscious Catwoman.” She has lived a full life, and there are definitely things we can all learn from her.
Newmar’s legs might be 37 inches long, and they are her moneymakers. People have noticed her long, lean legs since she was young, and they helped her throughout her career. They are so important to her that she has them insured for $1 million. If she ever got injured, she has a lot of money to fix them.
Her legs also looked stunning when she posed for Playboy twice. She was someone who people stopped and stared at when she walked down the street because of her height and her beauty. No one could compete with Newmar in her prime, and she is still beautiful today.
Newmar began investing in real estate in Los Angeles during the 1980s. When her mother retired from dancing, she did the same thing, so it was only natural for Newmar to follow in her footsteps. Newmar was credited for improving neighborhoods on La Brea Avenue and Fairfax Avenue.
Is there anything she isn’t good at? Most of the time, whatever Newmar touches turns to gold, except that one movie that never made it to the screen, but we will pretend it never happened. She has made a lot of money from investments because she hasn’t had any major acting projects recently.
In 2003, Newmar appeared as herself in the television movie Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, alongside her former Batman co-stars Adam West, Burt Ward, Frank Gorshin, and Lee Meriwether. Julia Rose played Newmar in the flashback scenes to the production of the TV series.
However, due to long-standing rights issues over the footage of the Batman TV show, only the footage of Meriwether was used for the television movie. Luckily, Newmar got the opportunity to voice Catwoman in 2016 for the animated film Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. There was a sequel to that film, and she voiced Catwoman yet again.
Newmar has always had an excellent track record, and her career seemed to be steady since she shot to fame. However, in the late-80s and ‘90s, Newmar’s career stalled. She was only getting roles on low-budget films and minor guest roles on TV shows like CHiPs, The Love Boat, and Fantasy Island.
After a few years, her career seemed to be over because her acting roles were far and few between. That’s not to say she wasn’t successful, but there were fewer and fewer opportunities as she got older. She hasn’t been seen on the big or small screen since 2013.
Newmar played a free-spirited, motorcycle-riding heiress in two episodes of Route 66. Her first appearance was in the second season episode, “How Much a Pound of Albatross?” She returned again as Vicki in the following season’s episode, “Give an Old Cat a Tender Mouse.”
George Maharis had left the series by then. However, these two episodes made Newmar the first and only guest star to play the same character in two nonconcurrent episodes of Route 66. The fans must have loved her so much after the first episode that they had to bring her back for another.
Although Newmar was every man’s fantasy at the peak of her career, she only settled down with one man throughout her life. Newmar married J. Holt Smith, an attorney, in 1977. Together they had their son John, but their marriage didn’t last. The couple split in 1984.
Newmar moved to Fort Worth, Texas, for him, where she lived until they divorced. He was married once before and had three children from his previous marriage. Apparently, Newmar received nine proposals in one year before she finally settled down with Smith.
After her father retired from football, he became a college professor in L.A. Newmar was an intelligent child, and her mother crammed her childhood with ballet, piano, and voice lessons. After she graduated high school early, Newmar briefly attended UCLA but dropped out.
Newmar left school because she won a chorus spot in an MGM dancers’ audition. She was one of the few glamour girls with a brain, and it helped her excel throughout her career. Newmar always looked for ways to set herself apart from the rest of the women who looked like her by inventing and becoming a businesswoman.
Catwoman is one of Batman’s earliest adversaries, initially appearing in Batman #1 (the comic book). She became the best-known and most frequent Batman villain. Therefore, when the Batman show was produced, Catwoman had to be Gotham’s most prominent villain. Newmar appeared in 12 episodes.
Catwoman was more prominent during the second season, and Newmar’s character took another slant. She and Batman had this strange sexual tension, and she asks Batman for a date. The producers developed the love connection to keep adult viewers engaged.
In 1958, Newmar was featured in the Broadway comedy The Marriage-Go-Round. Her performance was so fantastic that she won a Tony award as a featured actress. The show starred Claudette Colbert and Charles Boyer. Newmar played a Swedish bombshell who wanted the married man.
Newmar’s character wanted the married Boyer, a college professor, to father her baby so the child would have brains and beauty. Newmar repeated the role in the 1961 film version with Susan Hayward and James Mason. However, she didn’t win an award for that performance.
After dropping out of UCLA, Newmar was hired by Universal Studios as a choreographer and dancer when she was just 19. At the time, she was primarily working behind the scenes, but she did appear as Dorcas in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
Throughout the tail end of the ‘50s, she showed up in low-budget films like The Rookie and Lil’ Abner, but she really shined on TV. Newmar spent the early ‘60s playing saucy women who were often at odds with the show’s protagonist.
In 2012, Bluewater Comics released a four-issue miniseries title “The Secret Lives of Julie Newmar.” From space aliens and rogue scientists to Abraham Lincoln and Jim Morrison, these comics talked about the most bizarre things, but people loved them because they made Newmar relevant in a refreshing way.
The comics were written by New York Times best-selling author Marc Shapiro, with illustrations by Cindy. V. Kenneth Marion created the eye-popping covers, and they were a massive hit upon their release. Even people who weren’t huge fans of comic books appreciated this miniseries.
Newmar has always prided herself on leaving the party early. She explained that there is a role out there that could compel her to come back to the screen, but she hasn’t found it yet. Newmar added, “As long as they don’t ask me to run. I can’t run anymore. And preferably sit, that would be ideal.”
We guess her options are limited because she just wants a role where she can sit, and the lighting is good. Today, she is keeping busy writing short stories, magazine pieces, and a bi-monthly memoir. She is still a full-time mom who understands how powerful love can be because of her child.
When the #MeToo movement started, it gave Newmar a certain optimism. She referenced the Weinstein case and said she was stunned that it came to this because she always thought it would stay hidden. Newmar said that people just let men be men, but it is a good thing it all came to the surface.
Newmar recalled some similar encounters in Hollywood, but she thought that was just part of being in the industry. She opened up about her experiences with male abuse, and in a Facebook post, she wrote, “Was Harvey Weinstein the hole-in-the-dike that led to our freedom?”