Jim J. Bullock, best remembered for the role of Monroe in the 80s sitcom Too Close for Comfort will be appearing @ Sterling's Upstairs @ Vitello's Saturday March 5 with his all new cabaret act. Jim has had a varied career in television over the last twenty-five years, also making regular appearances on Hollywood Squares and doing a talk show with Tammy Faye Bakker. He has always gone back to his theatre roots and recently did the Broadway and cross country tour of Hairspray. In our chat he talks about what inspired him to do the club act at this point in time and his overall love of the theatre. His great off-the-wall sense of humor is still in tact, as he had me laughing throughout.
Tell me what inspired you to do a nightclub act at this point in time.
My relationship with show business started in the church when I was a teenager, and I sang and I was a church soloist. I actually was pretty good at it, and I was going to become an evangelistic singer. But in college I got bit by the theatre bug, and I came to Hollywood. So my past made a turn and I came out here.I started off showcasing with Skippy Lowe. I watch American Idol and I go, "That would have been me, and I would have not been accepted!" ...Then an agent saw me in a production of Godspell and she said, "You need to do stand-up if you want a series". She was right; I did stand-up, and I got a series. My journey that was music stopped, and even though I would sing when I got the chance, there was a giant veer. Over the years I've sung, done musicals; I did Hairspray, and so I've sort of come back around to that. What really catapulted me into doing this, to get to your original question...three years ago I started studying, taking class with Carole D'Andrea...singing class and acting class and I discovered a singer in me that I never knew how to get out. I learned to find my way to that person and started exercising it, and then, a little over a year ago, a friend approached me and said "You need to do an act!" I said "Yeah, I do need to do an act, but how?" That was Michael Lorre who has since become my musical director. I premiered it last June at my little gay church in WeHo, and we've been doing it here and there, and now we'll be @ Sterling's on the 5th and then Blame It On Midnight in Palm Springs the 19th and 20th of March.
You're doing a combo of stand-up and singing, right?
Oh no, honey, there ain't no stand-up here! Stand-up was horrifying and something I didn't care for. It got me from point A to point B, but this is...I'm finding my footing each time I do it. The title of my show is Different.
It has many different meanings. One of the things it means is that I'm really different from what people expect to see. They're going to come, expecting to see whacky, zany and they're going to get kind of a mature actor who is a good actor and a good singer. I don't care what it sounds like, but I am good! When I started putting the show together, it was heavy; I dropped my humor and I have to put that back. So, I've been adding comedy songs -which are really hard to find, good comedy songs anyway. Each time I do it I'm finding the balance and getting it better, more comfortable... all that good stuff!
Great! I'm looking forward to seeing it! I see that you have a recurring role on The Bold and the Beautiful. What's up with that?
(laughs) What's so funny about that, Don, is that I did two episodes in 2003 of this giant, over-the-top, gayer than gay character called Serge (he pronounces it Sir gay), then I got Hairspray, so I sort of left for four years and did my Hairspray journey, and when I came back here last summer, my agent called and said,
"B & B called. They want to have you come back." I went back and did 12 episodes. They haven't killed me, but they haven't had me back since then. It may be another five years, but at this stage of the game, it's gay and I'm gay, and I'm happy to have the work. I'm a wedding planner, and it sort of sets the movement back, but you got to get the work when you can get it.
What else is new?
I'm fixing to start a web series called Old Dogs and New Tricks. I've never done one and I think it's very clever about guys around 50. And you never know where that stuff may lead... Justin Bieber!!
You did Wilbur in Hairspray in New York and on the road for a long time. You also a few years ago played Peanut in a favorite play of mine Del Shores' Southern Baptist Sissies. How did they get you to do that, as physically you're so different from Leslie Jordan, the original Peanut?
When Del Shores asked me to guest star and do it, I said "Are you crazy? I'm a good-looking man." This was 10 years ago, and I had a really nice physique, I was cut and looked really, really good. I had worked on my body and I said "I don't know how this could work!" Del said "Leave that to me!" He said he was going to make it like someone whose vanity is in their hair. They got me a really bad wig, because a lot of bald men...their self-image goes right down the drain if they don't have hair, and that was my niche, what hooked me in to the character. I made a valiant effort, I did my best with it, but I'm not right for it and I shouldn't have been cast in it.
I'm sure you were great. I wish I had seen you do it. I did love you in When Pegs Fly and you sang in that!
Funny you should mention that because half of my show Different is from When Pegs Fly. I loved those great torch songs to Rush Limbaugh and Strom Thurmond. I called Mark Waldrop who wrote it and he was thrilled and said he would love to write me new lyrics to replace Strom (Thurmond), who died.
Terrific! What's the favorite show you've done?
I finally got to do A Tuna Christmas two years ago in Kansas City, Missouri. I fell in love with that show the first time I saw it and always wanted to do it. I played 18 characters. I'm from Texas; those people are my family. It came from such an honest place in me. What a challenge that is to do!
Is there anything you really want to do?
I would love to be in an original Broadway cast. Start something in workshop, form it and create it, be on the cast recording, get to have that initial run on Broadway. Everyone who does that part for years and years and years after me will go, "Well this is how it was originally done with Jim J. Bullock!"
Maybe Different will be the start of just that and Jim J. Bullock will return to Broadway in a new show all his own. He's got the comedic talent and drive to do it! Remember Sterling's Upstairs @ Vitello's March 5. Make reservations, as the show will sell out! Call: (818)754-8700