As anyone who’s seen the Broadway musical Tootsie (or the 1982 film that inspired it) can tell you, a makeover can make a world of difference. Julie Halston, one of the show’s stars, recently applied that concept to her home—with ovation-worthy results.
Halston bought her apartment on West 55th Street in 1999 with her husband, famed radio news anchor Ralph Howard. But after he passed away last year, she craved a change of scenery—lighter décor to lighten her mood.
“Show business is chaotic, so it’s nice to come home to a streamlined apartment,”
“I needed my apartment to be brighter and more feminine,” Halston explains. “Ralph was a newsman, so it was always a bit cluttered with newspaper clippings. Also, it was more masculine, with a big leather couch and deep colored rugs.” Working with Patricia A. Langhorne Design, Halston painted the walls in cream tones, added neutral rugs, and refreshed the window treatments.
The new décor has buoyed her spirits and given her a welcome sense of serenity. “Show business is chaotic, so it’s nice to come home to a streamlined apartment,” she says. “Doing eight shows a week, I need a place where I can close the door and shut out everything.” Halston’s renovated bedroom provides the ideal sanctuary. “It’s very spa-like—just cream and beige with one accent wall in a color called Bali that looks like the Caribbean sea.”
The room has also become her favorite writer’s retreat. “I do one-woman shows at Birdland Jazz Club,” explains Halston, who has earned accolades for her solo comedy pieces. “I’ve been busy with Tootsie, but I hope to write a new show. A lot happened in my life last year that is very poignant, and writing is cathartic. I love looking at something in a different way to find the humor in it. I prop up all my pillows, take my notebook out, and write in longhand while my two cats circle around. I do several drafts that are always a mess, then I rework it on the computer. Comedy is very precise, so when I tell a story, I try to distill it down to be crystal clear.”
Dotting Halston’s home is memorabilia collected during her marriage and a career that spans movies, TV, and theater. It includes photos of Howard as a teen deejay, rare posters from the MGM vault, and a signed Richard Avedon print of Halston and two stripper costars from the 2003 Broadway revival of Gypsy. “I have interesting, wonderful things,” she says, “and everything has a story behind it.” What could make a more fitting abode for a storyteller?
—by Kathy Passero
—Photography by Francois Dischinger