Life Extension Magazine August 2009
Julie Newmar: The Conscious Catwoman
By Kyle Roderick
In an industry obsessed with surface appearance rather than health and vitality, Julie Newmar is living proof that taking responsibility for one’s diet, health, and fitness pays priceless dividends. At 75 and 5’11,” Newmar is still stunning, thanks to impeccable posture, rigorous exercise, a daily meditation practice, and a diverse supplement regimen. “In some ways,” she muses, “A major part of my success lies in having avoided a minefield of drugs and doctors. It seems as if I never went through middle age,” she says, looking directly into her visitor’s eyes. “I flew right over it and hit 75.”
Rather than taking drugs, Newmar visits a holistic Los Angeles physician named Hans Gruenne, MD, eats the freshest foods she can find, and listens to her body to determine what she needs. For example, “If I eat too many heavy foods, I can tell that I need digestive enzymes to help me get back in balance,” she says. “A good diet rule is to only eat that which perishes fastest, and that means nothing processed. Having chosen my parents,” she asserts with great conviction, “I was able to experience the right way through nutrition. My mother’s house served no French fries, sodas, or sweets, even though my grandmother owned a bakery.”
In the presence of this genetic Lotto winner, one has to agree that Julie Newmar made brilliant choices: her mother, Helen Jesmer, was a famous beauty and former Ziegfeld Follies dancer. Her father, Donald Newmeyer, played pro football before becoming head football coach and director of the physical education department at Los Angeles City College. While her parents helped her cultivate her beauty, stamina, and physical grace, Newmar’s attitude and lifelong habits reinforce the gifts of her genetic heritage. I never drank, smoked, or took drugs my entire life,” she notes. Today, Newmar’s exercise routine consists of working out on her stationary bicycle, stretching at the ballet barre, and walking in her extensive home gardens.
An avid horticulturist whose grounds encompass waterfalls, lovingly tended rose gardens, and emerald-green nooks, Newmar spends part of every day meditating and walking in her green spaces. “If I have a problem, I first ask the spiritual Julie, who then guides the mental Julie, who tells the physical Julie what to do. I am a devout listener.” Newmar also likes to cultivate her mind by reading widely.
Sitting at home in Los Angeles, sipping freshly juiced organic vegetables, Newmar reflects on her varied career. Internationally famous for her purr-fectly iconic Catwoman role on the hit Batman television series circa 1966 and 1967, Newmar notes, “For the past 30 years, total strangers have approached me in public to blurt out, ‘Catwoman! You were my first turn-on!’ It’s a wonderful feeling to be acknowledged in such a positive, elemental moment. Whenever it happens,” she says, “It makes me feel like I’m walking on air.” Known for her gracious way with fans, Newmar still makes personal appearances at pop culture conventions. “I have a great sense of joy meeting people during personal appearances,” she says, her entire face lighting up. “It’s a love fest.”
That love fest is now going national in a big way. Newmar’s unique cultural contribution has recently been recognized by the leading cultural arbiter in the US. The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History enshrined her 22-inch waist, skin-tight catsuit in its permanent entertainment collection. “That is a thrill for me,” Newmar says. “It is satisfying to think that people will be looking at Catwoman’s suit for generations to come. It was such fun to play her,” Newmar continues. “She was a beautiful villainess, cunning, and powerful. Batman found her sexy and smart in spite of her criminality. There was a charge there; they shared an intimacy. That could explain why audiences love that character so much.”
When a visitor suggests that Newmar’s Catwoman persona generated the most animal magnetism of any 1960s television character, she smiles mischievously. “There’s a secret to Catwoman’s suit,” Newmar recalls. “It’s all because my grandmother taught me how to sew. After I tried on the prototype of Catwoman’s costume,” she continues, “I turned it inside out, chalked the waistline to make it fit better, and instructed the seamstress on how to sew it up.” Wow, couture Catwoman: who knew?
Today, Newmar’s still-shapely, super-long legs possess the definition and muscle tone that many women half her age dream of. (Those trademark legs were once insured for $1 million by Lloyd’s of London.) Radiating steady calm, Newmar is blessedly free of the calculated charm that most actresses trot out during magazine interviews. “I loved my roles as Stupefyin’ Jones in Li’l Abner and Vera in Silk Stockings,” she says. Although she’s too modest to bring it up, Newmar was also awarded a Tony Award for her Broadway performance as Katrin Sveg in The Marriage-Go-Round. Newmar danced and acted with James Mason in the film of the same name; if you type in her name and the film title on www.youtube.com, you can watch an excerpt from the film in which these two kick up their heels in a sultry dance number.
Since then, Newmar has done varied television and film work. After marrying and raising her only son, John, who was born with Down syndrome, Newmar divorced, studied at the University of California at Los Angeles, and established herself as a successful Los Angeles real estate developer with holdings in the La Brea-Fairfax area. “I love real estate because it is a creative collaboration between professionals as well as a rewarding way to take care of myself and my family,” Newmar says. In 1995, Newmar resurfaced in a movie whose title bears her name. In the drag queen comedy To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo road-trip across the country. As they meet and outwit homophobic characters, make new friends, and evade beatings, the trio holds fast to a totemic autographed photo of Newmar, who they meet at the film’s end.
When not managing her properties or making personal appearances, Newmar generates weekly essays for her website, www.julienewmarwrites.com. She’s also a book author. “I’m putting final touches on a volume recounting my longtime love affair with rose gardening,” she explains, showing some photos from the project. Co-written with Bradley James Bontems, Roses in the Julie Newmar Garden features photos of blooms snapped on her beautifully tended property. While Newmar is too modest to mention it, a nursery created a fragrant amber, gold, and yellow hybrid tea rose with old-fashioned ruffled flowers in her honor. “I’m also in the production process on a photo book that documents my life in photographs,” she adds. “Anyone who’s interested in finding out when my books will be published should check out my website, as I update it frequently.”
While she says, “Today I have no role model, I am my own mentor,” Newmar faces some serious health challenges, for she is slowly losing her ability to walk due to an incurable neuromuscular disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth, also known as CMT. (This affects peripheral nerves, which lie outside the brain and spinal cord; they help power the muscles and sensory organs in the legs and other limbs.) CMT, first described in 1886 by three French physicians, affects an estimated 2.6 million people in the United States.
“My symptoms started around 2000, when I found walking difficult,” Newmar says, without a trace of self-pity. “Last year, the UCLA neurologist I’ve been seeing diagnosed it. Today, I walk—but very slowly. My balance is also affected,” she explains. “If I’m out in public,” she says with a laugh, “I grab on to some charming, darling fellow who can steady me. I’ve been encouraged by the many men who have offered me their shoulders and arms.”
Newmar has also been encouraged by Bill Faloon, the co-founder of the Life Extension Foundation®, who has helped manage her health. “I very much admire his outreach. His columns are always extraordinary.” In addition, “I read Life Extension® magazine to learn about what scientific research is coming out about how certain supplements may positively affect health. If you want to make informed decisions, then you need to stay current with the research and read it carefully.”
Adding that Bill Faloon “…has taken on the huge challenge of fighting against the FDA,” Newmar marvels, “He has spent years gathering and disseminating medical research that helps so many people get well naturally rather than plug into the pharmaceutical drug system,” she says. “My advice to people with any disease is to live above it….you have to live above the pain.” Newmar says.
While the multi-compartment, hand-labeled supplement box on Newmar’s desk suggests how serious she is about managing her health, it’s also true that she is committed to helping those around her feel their best. While her son takes vitamins, so do members of her household staff. “If you live with people, you should also make sure that they have the chance to feel their best and maintain their energy,” she explains. “This is why I give vitamins to my household staff. Everyone has their own shelf where they keep their vitamins, minerals, etc. It’s just another way of keeping the home environment as balanced and positive as possible.”
When asked to sum up her philosophy, Newmar immediately responds with an upbeat prescription. “I believe in banishing negativity whenever and wherever it arises. Negative thoughts and comments serve no purpose; they’re totally irrelevant to the art and business of life. We owe it to ourselves and to the world to think positive thoughts,” she ventures, “For these are the basis of a life well-lived. More and more, you have to think of yourself as a divine being,” she says, her voice purring with confidence. “Why shouldn’t you be divine?” Holy health guru! Thank you, conscious Catwoman!
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Health Advisor at 1-800-226-2370.