Mama’s talkin’ good, Mama’s talkin’ great.
There may be women in the world who are funnier than Julie Halston, but I’m not sure who they are. There may be people in the world who are funnier than Julie Halston, but I’m not sure who they are. It’s just who she is, what she was born with, like some pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, except all the pot holds is laughter. Usually, to see Julie in action you would have to spend the money to see a Broadway play or to go to a nightclub. I’m a big believer in live entertainment – I think paying to see an artist work is the right and proper thing to do, just like supporting the clubs where they work and the food industry professionals who keep you libated and sated while enjoying the acts. Live entertainment isn’t possible right now and, frankly, even if it were possible to attend a live performance, the harsh economic times of the global health crisis make it impossible for many to enjoy a night out. Thanks to Julie’s sense of adventure and her online producer Jim Caruso, though, people can get weekly healthy doses of Halston humor – and humor is good health right now. Boy, do we all need to laugh these days. The added bonus is that even though Virtual Halston happens in real time (this isn’t a filmed chat show that gets edited – it’s like the old days of television when Groucho Marx could send audiences into a shock spiral with one slip of the tongue) it is archived on YouTube and can be watched anytime a person needs a pick me up. And with guests like Mario Cantone on the show, you never know when a Groucho Marx moment might spring up.
The great thing about Virtual Halston, aside from everything, is that you get Julie at her most comfortable and natural place. In a play this great American actress has a character that she wears (and she wears it well) and when she does her club act, she is reciting dialogue that she has written and rehearsed, performing her set to perfection and to hilarious response. When watching an episode of Virtual Halston you get Julie – a woman who is naturally funny. She holds nothing back, she is completely herself, and there is great joy in seeing how funny she is without a script. There are people who say funny things and there are people who say things funny; Halston is both, and she has spent twenty episodes chatting up guests from every walk of the showbiz life. Halston has welcomed legendary music man BeBe Winans, Broadway icon Mary Testa, comedy commentarian Mo Rocco, Tony Award recipient Debbie Gravitte, and bona fide drag superstar Eureka!; she has had a double header with Avenue Q alumni Ann Harada and Barrett Foa, and a chance to talk with fellow talker, Emmy winning television journalist Frank DiLella. Think about this for a second: television chat shows are filmed for a later broadcast. Rarely does any chat show happen in real time anymore -mistakes and moments of spontaneity sometimes have to be edited out. VIRTUAL HALSTON happens in real time, with Julie completely rolling with whatever is thrown at her in the moment, and she never misses a beat; the conversation never runs dry, it never becomes rote, it never feels awkward or forced. She may do a little homework, but she’s not going off notes provided by the research department. Everyone feels like a friend and Julie has a knack for talking to anyone for an hour without losing steam. Of course, she does have Jim Caruso with her, and that’s a big part of the chemistry of the show, as is Ruby Locknar, who joins in on the onscreen proceedings, proving why she herself is a star in the making. When Caruso’s PAJAMA CAST PARTY producer, Locknar, is not on the screen with Halston and Caruso (the name of a Vaudeville team if ever there was one), rest assured, she is the person behind the scenes making all the tech run smoothly.
This weekly gabfest is a really enjoyable break from these days of stress, worry, and ennui, the kind of quality entertainment one has come to expect from the artists who make their home base out of Birdland. For nearly all of these last eight months Birdland has led the charge in online entertainment, bringing into the world Halston’s show, Caruso’s open mic night, Locknar’s own interview program, and all of the Radio Free Birdland concerts. It’s an entertainment factory over there, and what makes it successful is that it is family owned and operated. This is a family, and it shows; and it is clear that Julie Halston is the matriarch.
When Julie Halston sits down with acting icon Bill Irwin tonight, everyone should be there to watch. So be good and don’t keep Mama waiting – besides, you know you missed her.
Virtual Halston airs on Friday nights at 5 pm on the Cast Party Network HERE