Monday, August 7, 2017

Go Slow - The Life of Julie London by Michael Owen

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

"Beautifully crafted and stunningly researched, this entertaining biography of Julie London reminds us of why she matters, now and for always. It is a great read!"
— Michael Feinstein, singer and entertainer

"Go Slow offers us a long-awaited, highly detailed look at a neglected jazz and
pop singer who has always been worthy of greater recognition and attention.
The author provides lots of new information and historical context, while, to
his credit, resisting the temptation to make outrageous claims for his subject.
I learned a lot that I didn't know and it made me want to hear more."
-Will Friedwald, author of Stardust Melodies and Sinatra! The Song Is You

"Michael Owen tells the unique story of a singular talent and reluctant
celebrity with dispassionate appreciation, weaving personal life and
professional history into the tale of a woman who was steadfast in her
personal passions and career path without the ego and ambition that drives
so many other singers and actors. Neither sycophant nor assassin, Owen
deftly chronicles Julie London's life with both empathy and objectivity."
— Michael Cuscuna record producer, writer, and discographer

"Go Slow is a sensitive, informative biography, inviting the reader to
discover Julie London's unique and solitary contribution to the history
of American music. With an ear for tone and an eye for story, Michael
Owen leads us seamlessly through a life fashioned for style, revealing
an instinctive range where just enough sound can occupy a space,
exploiting every lyrical nuance along the way.

"As Go Slow discloses, through years of struggle and turmoil, an irony
was born that would further distill some of Julie's finest work as an interpreter of popular song. Esteemed jazz vocalists and musicians loved
and respected her. A generous spirit to her family and friends,Julie
London was one grand dame and there will never be anyone like her.

Thanks to Michael Owen, we begin to understand why."
— Kevin Tighe, actor, Emergency!

In his essay for the July 31, 2017 edition of The Wall Street Journal entitled The Versatile Robert Mitchum, Peter Tonguette shares that:

“Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich once asserted that movie stars were not far removed from the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology. “They were no longer actors playing parts,” Bogdanovich wrote in his 2004 book Who the Hell’s in It, because all their roles merged into one definitive character, one special folk hero, similar to but not necessarily identical with the original mortal.”

Stars usually displayed a finite series of easily identifiable attributes — not unlike Greek deities who stood for particular virtues or vices. Think of Cary Grant’s breezy poise or Jimmy Stewart’s sputtering sincerity, qualities that neither performer deviated from too often.”

If we expand Bogdanovich’s analogy to include the late actress and song stylist, Julie London, then perhaps the best mythological comparisons would be with the Greek Goddesses Aphrodite [Venus] and Erato.

Aphrodite (/æfrəˈdaɪti/ af-rə-DY-tee; Greek: Ἀφροδίτη Aphrodite) is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. She is identified with the planet Venus; her Roman equivalent is the goddess Venus. Erato was one of the nine Mousai (Muses), the goddesses of music, song and dance.and love and erotic poetry [later adopted by the Romans as part of their Pantheon of Gods].

But such comparisons would perpetuate the unfortunate fact that, all too often in her career, Julie London was perceived as an object of eroticism and as a chanteuse, a songstress often referred to as a “torch singer,” to the point that when she wasn’t being cast in movies and television roles that capitalized on her beautiful face, shapely figure and sultry voice she was posing provocatively on LP covers for albums filled with songs for young lovers to do what young lovers long to do.

But that was the image.

The reality of who Julie London was is much deeper than these facile and superficial portrayals.

Now, thanks to Michael Owen’s well-researched and explorative biography, we begin to see what a skilled, multi-talented entertainer Julie London was and to understand that the key to Julie’s legacy was her versatility.

One of the central facts that Michael’s book brings home is how hard Julie worked to make a career in show business. From his detailed descriptions, the reader gains an appreciation of the long hours spent in rehearsals, travels, waiting on movie sets from sunup to sundown, studying scripts, learning dance steps, practicing lyrics, dealing with agents, brokers and a host of other “intermediaries,” all of this, particularly in Julie’s case, while trying to maintain some semblance of a normal family and home life.

Michael’s sensitive and insightful biography of Julie certainly takes the glamor off an ostensibly glamorous life.

Throughout her career, Julie struggled to overcome issues of confidence, anxiety, low self-esteem, insecurity, chronic shyness and a dread of performing in public.

But despite these severe emotional and psychological “demons,” Julie got there: she realized her professional and personal goals by not giving up on herself and by benefitting immensely from the love and adoration of her soulmate, pianist and songwriter, Bobby Troup.

Through Michael’s skillful storytelling, readers are treated to an intimate look at what went into developing the creative life that was Julie London, the entertainer, while also being allow access to the family and home life that completed her as a human being.

Sadly, all too often, show business people during this era led personal lives that were ongoing disasters that ended badly.

But this was not the case with Julie and Michael’s description about her qualities of character help us see and appreciate the heartwarming story of how Julie and Bobby were able to make show business a means-to-an-end toward balancing creative expression with the satisfaction of a happy home life.

So if you want to read a biography about a centered, mid-level celebrity who loved show business and left it, so to speak, for the satisfaction of deep personal and familial love and a life in tune with her inner needs, then you’ll find Michael Owen’s Go Slow: The Life of Julie London to be a deeply gratifying book.

Michael closes the book with this all-encompassing perspective on Julie and her career:

“Julie London could have been a star for the ages, one who was remembered as that rare thing: a performer who successfully crossed and recrossed the barriers between acting and singing. That sort of success did not come. Her innate reluctance to exert herself as an actress—to stretch beyond her limitations—and, some would say, her lack of ability, meant that she remained a middle-level star. Clearly, she wanted to work as little as possible and therefore was largely content to leave her career up to the whims of chance. By her own definition, Julie London was happy to be known as a wife, a mother, or a friend rather than as a singer, an actress, or a celebrity.

But did she ever look back and wonder how she had been able to find her place in the sun? Did she ever think about what her life would have been like had she made even a few different decisions? Probably. Yet there is little doubt that Julie London would surely have dismissed any extended praise of her work as a singer or actress with a deep shrug of the shoulders, a long drag on her cigarette, a sip of her vodka and orange juice, and a well-placed expletive.

For all her success as an interpreter of lyrics, in the end a snatch of dialogue from her 1956 movie The Girl Can't Help It may shine a light onto the woman behind the facade and help us understand why she was not reluctant to slip away from fame into a self-imposed obscurity. "If a girl's gonna make it big in show business," talent agent Tom Miller says as he recalls his reluctant star, "she's got to be vitally interested in it." A teenaged Gayle Peck may have vowed to become a star one day, yet it was the older and wiser Julie London who had the final words on her career. "You gotta have the ego for it. And I never really did."”

The Chicago Review Press’ Caitlin Eck, Publicity Manager, and Ashley Alfirevic, Publicity Associate, sent along the following media release which contains more details about the book and you can find order information about the book’s various formats by going here.

Following the Chicago Review Press media release you’ll find a video montage set to Julie performing Free and Easy on a the Stars of Jazz TV program that Bobby Troup hosted.  Free and Easy might have served as an alternate title for Michael’s book about Julie.

Dazzling new biography—Go Slow: The Life of Julie London—explores a storied and sultry career in music, film
and television

“CHICAGO—Julie London was a pop-jazz singer and actress during the height of glamour in Hollywood. Her smoky voice, cool sexuality and self-confident demeanor captivated audiences around the world. The mysterious bombshell persona often concealed a shy and rather introverted manner that remained at her core no matter how many performances she gave. Ironically, it was this lifelong fear of singing to anyone but herself that helped to create the iconic breathy sound for which she became known.

Go Slow: The Life of Julie London (Chicago Review Press; July 1, 2017) by Michael Owen explores the struggles, heartache and overwhelming loss of identity that consumed Julie's youthful start, as well as the many leaps of faith she took in order find joy in the world of entertainment. The book follows Julie London's life and career through its many stages: her transformation from 1940s movie starlet to the coolly defiant singer of the classic torch ballad "Cry Me a River" of the 1950s, and her journey from Las Vegas hotel entertainer during the rock 'n' roll revolution of the 1960s to the no-nonsense nurse she portrayed in the 1970s hit television series Emergency!

A self-proclaimed wallflower, Julie London had little interest in fame. Hollywood scouts were taken by her stunning and curvaceous appearance and she signed a studio contract when she was 16. Her early career stumbled from roles in one unsuccessful movie after another, and over time, the allure of acting began to wane. Marriage to actor Jack Webb turned sour, and the stress of divorce, raising her children, and incessant gossip left Julie adrift. Struggling to find herself, her life was changed when she took the advice of her new sweetheart, songwriter Bobby Troup, to try singing. The unexpected #1 success of her first album—and its hit single, "Cry Me a River," which spent 20 weeks in the Billboard charts—reignited the interest of the movie studio executives who had previously consigned her to the shelves.

Through photos, film stills, thoughtfully collected interviews and exclusive archival materials, Go Slow: The Life of Julie London offers an intimate look at Julie London's memorable public career and the sharp contrasts of her private life.

Michael Owen is a writer, archivist, and researcher. A historian of popular music and culture, he is the Consulting Archivist to the estate of the songwriter Ira Gershwin, for which he is currently completing a scholarly, annotated book of Ira Gershwin's 1928 travel journal as part of the Gershwin Critical Edition project. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and their cat.

Go Slow: The Life of Julie London
By Michael Owen    Chicago Review Press    Distributed by IPG    Music/Biography ISBN: 9781613738573    336 pages    6x9   19 color photos, 36 b/w photos   Cloth    $29.99 ($39.99)”


  1. Well done, Michael Owen -- no surprise, though!

  2. Well done, Michael Own -- but that's no surprise!


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