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Julie Brown, Queen of the Valley : At Long Last, She Gets to the Screen in 'Earth Girls'

April 30, 1989|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

Perched in the middle of a noisy Ventura Blvd. singles hang-out, working on her second bottle of mineral water, Julie Brown held her earrings out for inspection.

From her left ear, she produced a silver heart which dangled below a matching silver ball. From her right, a huge ruby globe attached to a gold hoop.

Hardly a matching set. "That's OK, I have four holes in my ears so I have lots of choices," Brown said, brushing back a tangled mane of henna-red hair.

If invaders from Mars crash-landed in Studio City and demanded an audience with the Valley's Cinderella of Cool, you'd send them to Julie Brown's castle. Armed with a barbed wit and a fondness for the kookiest corners of pop culture, this tiny, red-headed dynamo is quickly making the leap from video cult heroine to showbiz personality.

To use Brown's Valley Speak lingo--she's a goddess in progress.

Initially known for goofy novelty hits ("The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun"), she's graduated to MTV stardom, courtesy of "Just Say Julie," a weekly half-hour spoof which bashes every video pop tart from Tiffany to Tawny Kitaen--and has quickly become one of MTV's highest-rated programs.

After years of delays, Brown makes her film debut May 12 in "Earth Girls Are Easy," a colorful musical-comedy which, she also co-wrote. Despite the critical kudos the movie is now receiving, the film sat on a shelf for two years waiting for a distributor. In between movie-promotion junkets, Brown has also been shooting "Julie Brown: The Show," the pilot for a proposed CBS-TV comedy series which is described as a "Dinah Shore for the '90's gone awry."

"I think she's totally unique," said co-producer Ann Beatts, whose comedy credits include writing-producing stints on "Saturday Night Live" and "Square Pegs." "You always hear people described as multi-talented if they can simply read cue cards and open supermarkets. But Julie is smart, funny, loveable and has a great body. She can write, sing, dance--I bet she can even roller-skate and paddle a canoe.

"She's very reminiscent of Lucy and of Gilda Radner. They all have this very direct rapport with their audience--they make you feel that it's incredibly important that you like them."

It's easy to see why the ebullient, busty comedienne is such a hit as MTV's resident sex-bomb satirist. As hostess of a show set in a kitchen with an ocean liner-shaped sink, a stuffed white poodle (with shades) and a couch made out of artificial grass, Brown celebrates Valley schlock in all its giddy, giraffe-print splendor. Like Pee-wee Herman and Buster Poindexter, she's created a real-life cartoon character who tightropes across the border between camp and cool.

A parody of an over-amped, bitterly-competitive airhead, Brown's MTV alter-ego gets most of her laughs from heaping abuse on the channel's endless parade of video vixens.

On a now legendary "PMS" episode, Brown throws herself tearfully in front of her TV set, snacking on dog food and dissing a Debbie Gibson video, growling "How does she get guys like that? She's only 16--what sexual tricks could she know?" Later, having mistakenly aired a Tiffany clip, Brown tears the video out of the machine, heaves it across the room and--waving a rifle--shoots it like a skeet target, screeching, "Kill it before it multiplies!"

In person, Brown is considerably less frenetic, but still appealingly fiendish. Exhausted after a long day of rehearsals for her CBS show ("How do you like my stress cough?" she said, hacking away) she marshalled enough energy to take a visitor on a mini-tour of the Valley. The first stop: a neon-drenched Gap outlet on Ventura Boulevard. Brown quickly darted inside, cruising for V-neck sweaters.

As she left the store, two bags under her arm, she pondered her other vices--besides shopping. "Let's see," she said. "Iced coffee . . . Hair dye . . . Is that a vice?" She laughed. "Wait a minute. How about boys? It was so obvious I forgot about it for a second. You don't ruin your life over coffee, do you?"

----

Actually, it was Julie Brown's biggest break that almost ruined her life. After knocking around doing stand-up comedy and bit parts in sit-coms, Brown collaborated with writing partner Charlie Coffey and ex-husband Terrence McNally on "Earth Girls Are Easy," a musical fantasy about a trio of horny aliens whose spaceship lands in a Valley Girl's swimming pool.

The trio sold the script in 1985, with Brown slated to play the leading role. A star was not born.

"I really crashed and burned,' " she explained, heading east on Ventura Blvd. "It was the ultimate professional nightmare. The whole point of me writing it was that the part was for me. But then they told me I couldn't star in it. They could only get it made with a name actress. I wasn't big enough. They wanted a real star."

Eventually, the producers landed Geena Davis. Brown settled for the second-lead of Candy, a ditzy Valley beautician.

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