For Julie London and Bobby Troup,


Is Just What the Doctor Ordered

Caption: Performing minor surgery on her husband’s tie, Julie raises the flag of domesticity on the set of ‘Emergency!’

In a way, they are the flotsam of the musical '50s: he the young songwriter whose pop-jazz métier sputtered and died; she the sultry starlet-turned-torch singer who wearied of the cabaret treadmill. Today, cast up comfortably on the shores of suburbia, they have settled into steadier work. Bobby Troup plays Dr. Joe Early on the NBC hit series Emergency!, while Julie London, his offstage wife of 16 years, plays nurse Dixie McCall.

If there is any lingering resistance to their new lives in lab coats, Troup and London carefully
camouflage it. At 50, Julie says she'll never sing professionally again "unless I need the money"—which the promise of TV residuals makes highly unlikely. And Troup ("I call him Bob now," says Julie. "He's 58 and it's a little ridiculous calling him Bobby") long ago withdrew from the played-out songwriting genre to which he contributed such hits as Girl Talk and Route 66. Both relish the time they can spend with their three teenage kids and each other—even if they mask their endearments as put-downs. "She's quite a girl," says Bob, "but a pain in the ass." What does she see in him? Julie shrugs. "His big nose."

Caption: Julie posed for the cover of her 1957 album ‘Calendar Girl.’ The liner copy for her first LP leered: “No wonder her voice comes out swell. Look where it’s been!”

The daughter of a pair of small-time vocalists, Julie was a bountiful 15 when she left her San Bernardino, Calif. home for Hollywood. At 18, she was "discovered" while running a department store elevator and signed to a starlet contract at Universal. Then in 1947 she married Jack Webb, an ex-department store salesman she'd met six years earlier. After appearing in a half-dozen forgettable films for Universal, Julie quit to become a full-time wife and mother. (Daughter Stacy Webb, 27, is now an aspiring writer; Lisa, 24, is a movie production assistant.) Shattered when Webb's success as star and producer of Dragnet overwhelmed their shaky marriage in 1953, Julie today will say only, "It just ended, that's all." They remain friends, however.

Six months later, in a post-divorce haze, she met Troup, who was leading a combo at a small West Hollywood jazz club. He too was a survivor of a broken marriage and the father of two small daughters. (Cynthia, 33, is now a script supervisor, while actress Ronne, 31, is expecting Bob's first grandchild this month.) Growing up in Harrisburg, Pa., the son of a music store owner, Troup had been an impatient student of several instruments ("If I wasn't getting anywhere after two weeks I gave up") who finally taught himself to play the piano. He composed his first hit tune, Daddy (17 weeks No. 1 on the Hit Parade in 1941), for his senior-year revue at the University of Pennsylvania, where he majored in economics and business. Then came marriage to a Philadelphia debutante, five years in the Marine Corps, and in 1946 the family migrated by car to Los Angeles.

The trip inspired Route 66, which paid for the Troups' first house, and before he'd been in town a week he peddled another hit to Nat King Cole.

By the time he met Julie, Troup had drifted into acting—mostly minor movie roles and TV guest spots. But Julie's smoky delivery excited him, and he urged her to forget movies and sing. He even convinced Hollywood club owner Johnny Walsh to sign her for $125 a week. "My bar bill was more than that," Julie remembers, but her debut was SRO—and on the night she closed, she recorded her first album. One of the cuts was a torchy ballad called Cry Me a River, which Liberty Records shrewdly released as a single. (It sold over a million copies.) "I don't think I had a voice," Julie later observed. "I had a style."

Troup and London didn't marry until New Year's Eve, 1960 [sic - actually 1959]—and this time Julie kept working. After three children, however, she began to resent the demands of her nightclub career. "Every night while I was waiting to go on," she recalls. "I said to myself, 'Why am I here instead of home with my children?' " Adds Bob: "She doesn't have any Liza Minnelli in her. Liza has to perform. Julie doesn't."

Caption: Bob and Julie are flanked by a troop of Troups, including daughter Kelly, 14, identical twin sons Reese (left) Joey, [Sic-actually Jody] 13, and a trio of companionable canines.

Given Julie's stay-close-to-the-hearth inclinations, Webb's 1971 offer of husband-and-wife roles in Emergency! was a windfall the Troups couldn't refuse. It meant adjusting Julie's biological clock—"I was used to going to bed at 6 a.m.," she says, "and suddenly I had to get up at 6"—but the change was welcome. Though Julie and Bob are on the set three days a week, their lives revolve around a sprawling five-bedroom manse in suburban Encino. Their social life runs mainly to bridge at home with friends, a movie a week, an evening of bowling and occasional pilgrimages to the few remaining jazz spots in the area. Though they have a live-in couple, Julie ventures into the kitchen on weekends to serve up her culinary specialty—"Southern cooking, everything in gravy."

Mildly abashed by their homebody image, Bob insists that "we fight all the time about lots of things." Such as? He says he "can't identify with modern music"; she says he could, but he won't. He calls her "one of the greatest singers and actresses I've ever seen," but claims she hasn't made use of her gifts. But if Julie professes to have "not the foggiest idea" why they're still married, Bob quickly comes up with an answer. "We don't get tired of each other," he says, "and Julie has all the important values. She's very fair, and she's not catty or gossipy. She doesn't like women very much, and many of them don't like her, because even at 50, she looks so good and they don't."

"Hell," drawls Julie, "I've looked the same since I was 14, except that my waist is a little thicker now and my bottom's closer to the ground. But I am not my image," she adds with a growl, "and I never have been."


January 17, 1977 - Vol. 7 - No. 2

By Robert Windeler

Caption: Jack and Julie Webb nightclubbed in 1951. Divorce---and a half-million-dollar settlement---was just around the corner.