I have interviewed Julie Halston in 2009 and 2011 before about her performing endeavors and friendship with Charles Busch, but this time around Julie and I got personal! Here we discuss her husband, Broadcaster Ralph Howard's, diagnosis of Pulmonary Fibrosis, which has spawned the 2nd Annual Broadway Belts, a benefit for Pulmonary Fibrosis, which will be held on Monday, February 27, 2012 at 7pm at Birdland in NYC (315 West 44th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue). All proceeds go to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation!
I am truly honored Julie has entrusted me with something so close to her. I hope everyone enjoys this special interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it!
1. On Monday, February 27, 2012, you are hosting the 2nd Annual Broadway Belts concert to benefit the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. This is in response to your husband, Ralph Howard, being diagnosed with the disease in 2008. How did his diagnosis come about? First and foremost check out the video of Ralph and Julie's story below -- it's only a few minutes long but I think very effective.
Ralph got the diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in the spring on 2008 -- I was doing "Chasing Manet" at The Primary Stages. We thought he just had asthma because he was coughing a lot and since he has allergies that's what the docs thought as well -- BUT it was not getting better and then one day he could barely walk up the subway stairs. He must have been so scared because he immediately called our family doctor and they called me as well. He was breathing so hard they ordered X-RAYS and they saw that his lungs were completely scarring up. It is terrible because they have no known cause and no known cure -- the ONLY thing that will extend your life is a lung transplant and we were SO SO lucky to get on the list and actually get a lung!
2. What initially made you decide to turn this life altering event into a benefit concert? How did you go about approaching the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation about doing this benefit? How does it feel to be doing this benefit for a second year in a row? The first benefit came about because just around the same time that Ralph GOT a lung a dear friend of ours, Michael Kuchwara, the drama critic for The Associated Press passed away from the exact same disease. He was not lucky enough to get a lung in time so a group of us decided to do some fundraising. It was such a successful show we have decided to make it an annual event.
3. How did you decide who you wanted to perform at Broadway Belts? Sue Frost, the producer of "Memphis," Ed Windels from the ad agency Young and Rubicam, Mike Dvorchak, the producer of "My Trip Down The Pink Carpet," and I are the producers of this event and I couldn't ask for a better team. Carl Andress the director of many Charles Busch shows is our director and we chose our talent and music director based on what the theme will be and of course who is available. This year we went with Broadway Belters and we have Adam Pascal, Heidi Blickenstaff/Julia Murney (doing a duet) Betsy Wolfe, Lindsay Mendez, Andrew Rannells and the divine Darlene Love -- and for comedy -- Seth Rudetsky and ME hosting!! I think it will be sensational -- Many Broadway people have already bought tables! We are so proud.
4. For some people, after a loved one has been diagnosed with a disease or has gone through a life altering event, they long to find the humor in the situation to help them through. I have seen several of your one-woman shows and you do find humor in some of life's heavier situations. Since Ralph's diagnosis, have you been able to find the humor in this situation? If so, how? YES humor helps enormously. I am in touch with many people now who are dealing with this disease and/or dealing with lung transplant and it is crucial to maintain a sense of humor. I am probably going to do a show about it within the next year or two -- so watch for it!
In addition to this benefit, you can currently catch Julie and her comedic talent alongside Tony Award Winners Sutton Foster and Joel Grey in the Tony Award Winning revival of "Anything Goes" at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in NYC.