Julie Andrews Reflects In "Home"

Dame Julie Andrews, who authored the memoir "Home"
Hyperion Books
When Julie Andrews was 14, her mother took her to a party at the home of a man in a nearby town. At her mother's bidding, the girl sang a song for the guests and sat down for a talk with the host, who was "tall and fleshly handsome."

Andrews drove home because her mother was too drunk to drive. On the way, her mother blurted out the news: "That man was your father."

The girl was shocked. All her life she had thought her mother's husband was her father, a schoolteacher named Ted Wells, and she loved him as a natural parent. The fact that Wells was not her father was one of the many travails of Andrews' life, which included dealing with alcoholism in the family and spending nights in bomb shelters while the Germans bombed London.

Photos: Julie Andrews
"I thought about it for years - that my dad was not my dad," Andrews said in an interview with The Associated Press at her eighth-floor office in a Brentwood high-rise. "Was my mother sure? Was it a flight of fancy on her part? I finally asked my aunt, and she answered that my father did know that he was not my (biological) father."

Julie Andrews at 72 seems little changed from when she was starring in Hollywood extravaganzas. She talked excitedly about plans for appearances, including two at the Hollywood Bowl, in dramatizations of children's stories that she and her daughter Emma wrote.

She didn't even seem dismayed by the loss of her singing voice, the result of an operation when she was in "Victor Victoria" on Broadway.

"It's over," she said with a note of finality.

Andrews talked with zest about the success of her new autobiography, "Home," which hit No. 1 in its second week on The New York Times list of best-selling nonfiction. The origin of the book's title came from when young Julie and her parents arrived at a new residence and the child uttered her first word: "Home."

"About 15 years ago, I was asked by a publisher at Hyperion, Bob Miller, if I could write my autobiography," Andrews recounted. "I didn't know if I could or would write an autobiography or if my day job would get in the way."

Miller kept after Andrews until she signed a contract in 1999 and received an advance. She began jotting down memories about her family and her early years in vaudeville during its dying days, and interviewed her brothers and sisters; her parents and her older relatives were all dead. She began writing three and a half years ago.

"Emma came on board two years ago, and that's when proper writing started," she said. "She and I have done 16 books together, and I had done four books before that."

Born Julia Elizabeth Wells, Andrews got her start in show business at 9, when she joined her pianist mother in her vaudeville act. Andrews was soon winning audiences on her own with what she called her "freakish voice," which spanned three octaves.