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Jim as Judy GarlandHe is Judy
-By Tony Giampetruzzi (Innewsweekly.com)

Jim Bailey brings 'Judy Garland' to Symphony Hall.
In the progression of things, there are drag queens. There are female impersonators. And then there's Jim Bailey, the world-class performer who prefers to call himself a "character actor." For more than 30 years, he has wowed audiences (including royalty) with his performances of Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and others.

Award winning and the recipient of accolades for his on-stage performances and his roles in TV and film, Bailey continues to go strong. Next week, he'll be bringing Judy Garland back to Boston and he called Innewsweekly to let us know.

You've played all over the world, but you're coming back to Boston next week. What are your thoughts on Bean Town?

"Boston has always been one of my favorite cities. I've often thought of moving there - the audiences have always been great and responded to my shows whether at North Shore Music Theatre, Cape Cod Melody Tent, Charles Playhouse or Club Cabaret. I've always had a large gay following and a great time in Boston and Massachusetts. Judy and Barbra love it there, too . This will probably be one of my last Boston appearances with Judy so I want it to go really well."

Ally McBeal takes place in Boston and you filmed an episode a couple years ago where you played a gay man? How was that experience? Are things as wacky on the set as they appear to be on the show?

"No. Actually they are very serious and professional in person but they were very sweet when we filmed the club scene where I performed "Don't Rain On My Parade" and "My Man." Most of them came up and introduced themselves - even Robert Downey Jr. was very sincere to me. It meant a lot to me when they said they had (GASP) grown up watching me on TV, on the "Tonight Show," "The Ed Sullivan Show," and "The Carol Burnett Show." I told them I was actually a toddler at the time." I'm glad I could portray a real and positive gay character on the show. The character lost his lover but he had dignity and his work was important to him. I can relate. That's one thing I've always wanted in my TV roles ("Night Court," "Simpsons," "Rockford Files")... they were all interesting characters. But, don't get me wrong - I've played a couple of crazy's and weird roles too. I played a guy that murdered his whole family and posed as them all."

What is your most memorable experience as an entertainer?

" My memorable experiences as an entertainer are performing for Princess Diana because she seemed very genuine and kind. The Queen (of England) made me nervous . When Judy (Garland) came to see me was also very memorable and the concerts with Liza (Minnelli) were unique but I wasn't that nervous…I don't remember why ....maybe it's because she put me at ease."

Performing as Judy Garland seems to be your raison d'etre. What did you think of Judy Davis' portrayal of her in last year's TV movie? Do you think you could have done better?

" I think Judy Davis is a great actress but having all the footage of Judy that I have and studying her for thirty odd years I felt (Davis) didn't capture her, especially her humor. Liza told me once that Judy was upbeat most of the time and she saw a funny side to everything ....even being broke. When I spent time with Judy she didn't complain as much as she did in the movie. Maybe she didn't show that side or maybe they wanted more drama for the movie. I'm not sure I could have done better - my ego isn't that big, but I'd play it different. I could have sung the songs - they are all in my show. Years ago I was going to do a Garland movie but it never happened. I don't think America is ready for a man playing a woman seriously on television or in movies."

Speaking of Judy, what the hell is going on with Liza? I mean, don't you wonder a little bit about this guy she has married?

" Everyone keeps telling me that her husband is gay, but so what ...as long as they are happy. It's not the first time she has married a gay man. Peter Allen and Mark Gero were both gay. So, as long as nobody gets hurt, it's a free world. I can't imagine their sex life, though. Years ago when I wasn't sure about my preference, agents and managers wanted me to marry. I had dated Lucie Arnez, but we were just the greatest of friends. Times have changed now and people can be more honest, thank God. Most of this will be in my book. I don't want to bore everyone. By the way, Judy also married three gay men ....there is a bond between these women and gay men."

Uncanny. Fag hags aside, you are incredibly accomplished. You've been referred to as "first among the world's seven wonders!" and "one of the great showmen of our time." Is there anyone else performing today as a female impersonator that you look at and say - "he could be me someday?"

" Actually, I don't see anyone that does exactly what I do. I try to be serious about my work - I relate more to character actors because they are absorbed by the characters they portray. I try to get as close as I can. I vocalize daily and I'm very disciplined...it takes hours of prep for me to feel right for a role."

What else would you like our readers to know?

"Well, in the coming months I'm working on a Mae West musical and a Broadway production for Judy. In the Mae West musical I'm showing that she wasn't all about campy one liners but was very insecure, so she put the brazen self-assured character out there to hide what she truly felt ...it will have plenty of humor in it. You know she played a man on stage before she did all the sex symbol roles. Other than that, I'm really excited to be coming back to Boston... it has been about six years and Judy plans to give everyone a great show."

Tickets are on sale now for Bailey's April 25 (8 p.m.) performance at Symphony Hall. Call Symphony Charge at (617) 266-6472 or Ticketmaster outlets at 617-931-2000.

Copyright 2005 Jim Bailey. All rights reserved.