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JIM BAILEY’S LIFE: HOW A BOY FROM PHILADELPHIA BECAME A DIVA
By Lauren Gold (taken from The Palm Beach Post)
It’s not just about imitating Barbra. Or singing like Judy. Or mimicking Phyllis. It’s about transforming...Being.
Feeling the way Barbra would feel at that moment, as she steps into the spotlight and hears the crowd roar. Or pushing away the stage fright and getting swept up in the audience, as Judy would have done.
Jim Bailey has been slipping into the skin of divas since he was a teenager. He can’t describe how he does it-or why, for that matter. “I do it intuitively,” is all he can say. But if there are people who doubt his skill, or his voice, they’re hard to find.
Ostensibly, Bailey begins a 12 night stretch of performances tonight at the Atlantis Playhouse. So says the playbill. Talk with Bailey though, and he’ll tell you; He’s not the one who’s going to be singing.
According to Jim:
“She’s very –oh, how do I say this – there’s like an invisible wall between (Barbra) and the audience. I try to bring that. With Barbra, the voice has to be pure. If I get a head cold, it’s even better. I sing with my head voice for Barbra; I sing in my chest voice for Judy (Garland). With Barbra it really has to be on the nose. I strive to be pure.”
“Her style and her voice are unique. . . I do her the way she was in the early 70s, when she had her big hit Is That All There Is? She does not move around stage - all of the energy is in her eyes and face and mouth and hand gestures. The other ladies move around a lot. It took me a few performances to really get her down. The whole magic was in the face and the eyes.”
“When I decided I was going to do her I asked first – she did not like people imitating her, so to speak – she was very, very touchy about anyone using her material or any of her titles or anything. She sent a friend of hers up to Vegas to see the act, and (her friend) said, “If I wasn’t here myself, I wouldn’t know it wasn’t Mae.”
“(Judy) came backstage to see me many times. It was a very emotional kind of thing. (During one visit) she said, “Would you do something for me – would you not sing Over The Rainbow now? I never did until she passed away . . . She was a great artist and a wonderful human being, and she’ll always be there.”