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Julie Newmar: Young Catwoman And Celebrity Inventor (Lingerie), Then And Now

Entertainment | August 16, 2020

Julie Newmar as Catwoman bites on her glove from a publicity photo of the TV series 'Batman,' that ran from 1966-1968. Color slide. Source: Getty Images / Bettmann / Contributor

There's no forgetting Julie Newmar -- whether you know her as Catwoman from the Batman TV series or from one of her standout appearances throughout the ‘60s (we know you’re out there Trekkies). She struts, she stretches, she invents, and now she invests. Hers has been a career of twists and turns. When one thing gets to be old hat she changes up her whole job description - be it a switch from dancing to acting, or acting to designing. Newmar’s life is deeply rooted in her work. Even if every decade of her life is dedicated to some new pursuit it is very much about taking care of business. 

Newmar’s roots are in Los Angeles

source: pinterest

Born on August 16, 1933, Newmar is an Angeleno through and through. Her father worked as the head of the Physical Education Department at Los Angeles City College while her mother went by the name Chalene while working as a fashion designer. Chalene was also deep into the real estate game, something that Newmar mirrored later in her life. From the time she could walk Newmar was taking dancing classes on top of piano lessons. Whip smart, Newmar graduated from high school when she was only 15 years old, beginning a lifetime of changing things up whenever things got a little boring.

She was a still a teenager when she got her first choreography gig

source: reddit

Newmar spent a little time at UCLA, but her real calling was dancing (or at least at that time). She was hired by Universal Studios as a choreographer and dancer when she was only 19 years old. At the time she was mostly working behind the scenes although she did appear as Dorcas, one of the brides in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Throughout the tail end of the ‘50s she popped up in low budget films like The Rookie and Li’l Abner, but it was really her TV work that made her a star. She spent the early ‘60s playing saucy women who were often at odds with the show’s protagonist on shows like The Defenders, F Troop, and The Twilight Zone.

With 13 episodes of "Batman," Julie Newmar cemented her legacy

source: ABC

It doesn’t matter that there were three different Catwomen (the others being Eartha Kitt and Lee Meriwether) on 1966’s Batman. Each woman who took on the role brought their own eccentricities to the show, but Newmar was first. Even though she says that all she did was arch and stretch in the role, she brought a wicked comic sensibility to the show injected Batman with just enough sly menace to make it feel dangerous.

Aside from acting on the show, Newmar helped design her costume. It was incredibly tight on her body, and it looked great but it accentuated her in odd ways. She realized that her belt was basically cutting her body in half and showing it off incorrectly. Newmar moved the belt to her hips rather than her waist to show off her figure, and that’s how the costume stayed for the run of the series. That was the beginning of her life in fashion.

Newmar continued making big deal TV appearances throughout the ‘60s and '70s, with memorable roles on Star Trek, The Monkees, Get Smart, and even The Bionic Woman, but she was already planning the next stage of her career. 

“Nudemar” helped Newmar transition from actress to designer

source: pinterest

Newmar’s change from full time actress to a fashion designer focused on making comfortable undergarments for women can best be summed up in a quote from a 1995 interview with the New York Times. When she’s asked to describe who she is she explains:

[Catwoman] is a part I will always be grateful for, because it was one of the great parts ever written for a woman. She was sexy, sassy and successful. I played many things, but that is what I will probably be best remembered as. Who am I, really? I prefer to leave that up to the observer, because I will never finish answering that.

In 1974 she created and patented a type of pantyhose that included a shaping band for “cheeky derriere relief,” promoted as “Nudemar,” they’re kind of like Spanx but if they were invented by Catwoman. She also patented a bra that’s meant to be worn with strapless dresses and to “accommodate brassiere designs wherein impressions of a wearer's nipples are visible through sheer outer garments.”

In the ‘80s she got into real estate

source: pinterest

Even after marrying lawyer J. Holt Smith and moving to Fort Worth, Texas in 1977, Newmar continued acting but she didn’t chase roles in the same way that she did in the ‘60s. She didn’t have to. She had multiple patents under her belt, she married to a lawyer, and by all accounts she was living comfortably. If there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s that Newmar doesn’t rest on her laurels. After divorcing Smith in 1984 she returned to Los Angeles and rather than going back to the audition circuit she got into real estate. Specifically, she focused on the neighborhoods around the Grove in LA like La Brea and Fairfax.

Nothing but flowers

source: LA Times

Still pulling down plenty of cash from her real estate investments, Newmar spends her days working in her garden with her son John who was born with Down syndrome, and working to support LGBTQIA rights. In the 2000s she had a lily, begonia and rose named after her - something that she says happened because she simply willed it into being:

With all the love and attention I put onto flowers, I wanted a rose named after me, so I put my word out—I advise everyone to do that about what they want—I wrote something down, and I must have put it in the mailbox, because Armstrong Nurseries called me up, said ‘We have something for you,’ and… It was my rose.

As of this writing she continues to work in her garden, help take care of her son along with her two assistants, and reads voraciously.

Tags: Batman | Julie Newmar | Ladies | Star Trek | Then And Now

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Jacob Shelton

Writer

Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.