Carol Burnett has always believed that good luck accompanies a rain or snowstorm. She was delighted — although not completely surprised — when a blizzard blanketed New York City the night she and Julie Andrews taped their first television special together, Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, in 1962. The show, which aired that summer, “won super ratings and lots of prizes,” Carol recalled.
It also cemented a friendship that has lasted more than 60 years. “She’s been a longtime chum, and I adore her,” Julie, 88, gushed about Carol, 90. “She’s wonderful to work with, and she’s loyal and kind, and it’s never changed.”
Julie was starring on Broadway in Camelot when she came to see Carol perform in Once Upon a Mattress in 1961 with some mutual friends. Introduced to each other after the show, it was suggested that they all go out for Chinese food. Carol felt she couldn’t say no without appearing impolite. “When someone pushes you like that, the natural impulse is to run the other way,” she confessed in her memoir This Time Together. Julie would later admit she felt the same way.
The dinner, however, was a huge success. “It took Julie and me a good five minutes of sizing each other up before the dam burst. Then we started talking, telling stories, laughing like crazy, and not letting the men get a word in edgewise,” recalled Carol. “As I remember it, we wound up closing the place.”
Kiss and Tell
Julie admits that Carol brings out the devil in her. “When I’m with Carol, I get naughty and bawdy,” confessed the Mary Poppins star.
While rehearsing for a show to honor President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, the ladies decided to play a prank on their writer, Mike Nichols, who was on the way up to meet them at their hotel. Carol said that Julie came up with the idea to sit on the couch in front of the elevator and pretend to be caught in a romantic clinch. “We figured out a way to hug and make our faces disappear in each other’s necks so that it would look like we were in a mad lip lock,” remembered Carol.
However, when the elevator doors opened, it wasn’t Mike who caught them smooching in their pajamas. It was Lady Bird Johnson, the first lady, and a team of Secret Service agents. “We were both weeping with laughter,” recalled Julie in her memoir Home Work. “Carol slid off my knee and crawled behind the sofa to hide.”
But Lady Bird had recognized Carol, who was then a regular performer on the TV variety series The Garry Moore Show. “Aren’t you Carol Burnett?” she asked. In her memoir, a mortified Carol recalled responding, “Yes, Ma’am, and this here is Mary Poppins!”
A Long Road
The fun Carol and Julie had together inspired talk about taking their act to Las Vegas, but that plan got scuttled when Julie found out she was pregnant with her daughter Emma, who would become Carol’s goddaughter.
The women joined forces for two more TV specials, in 1971 and 1989, and remained in touch even while living in different places. “Happily, ours was a friendship that always seemed to pick up where it had left off,” said Julie.
As the years have passed, Carol and Julie have seen each other through life’s high and lows. They’ve experienced marriages, the arrival of children, divorces, and the death of loved ones, as their careers ebbed and flowed. “We’ve shared confidences, and so often [Carol’s] been the one I’ve called when times were rough and I needed a shoulder to cry on,” said Julie.
Laughter has always been the best medicine. “Julie jokes that if she were ever in jail, Carol would be her phone call,” said a friend of the pair.
When Carol turned 90 last spring and was honored with a TV special, Julie flew in for the show. “[She] sat with me the whole evening,” Carol said. “It was the best kind of birthday party I could ever have.” Julie wouldn’t have missed it. “It is a once-in-a-lifetime friendship,” she says. “She’s a once-in-a-lifetime.”