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Julie McCullough is the Funny Bunny!

Empowered Stand-Up Comedian JULIE MCCULLOUGH Revisits her "GROWING PAINS"!

 

 

She is the closest thing our generation knows to a modern day Marilyn Monroe- no exaggeration. A southern transplant who came to Hollywood possessing perfect white teeth, luscious lips, a radiant smile, sunny blond locks, twinkling eyes and a killer body, iconic classic crush Julie McCullough immediately stole hearts as she set screens ablaze. By bombshell standards, the heavenly beauty is easily off the charts, and when it comes to charisma, she’s got it in spades, so it’s no surprise that the ideal dream girl quickly became America’s Sexy Sweetheart in the 80’s- a role that Monroe had filled so perfectly in the 50’s and 60’s. And the comparisons between McCullough and the classic screen siren from “Some Like It Hot” don’t end there- they both got their start posing for Playboy.

Notoriously one of the greatest Playboy Playmate’s of all time, McCullough immediately became every man’s Valentine when she was the illustrious “Playmate of The Month” in February of 1986. After that, she immediately solidified herself as the it-girl ingénue when she landed a role in the wholesome family sitcom “Growing Pains” as the hot new nanny- and love interest of mega-star Kirk Cameron. All across the world, guys wished they could trade places with the popular male heartthrob as he locked lips with the most beautiful girl in the world…but, behind the scenes, there was trouble in paradise. The righteous Cameron was notoriously newly a Born-Again Christian, and unlike every other hot-blooded man, he didn’t take too kindly to McCullough’s posing for Playboy. The story goes that upon finding out, Cameron exploded in anger and walked off the set- refusing to work with the new nanny again- even though they had now set her up to be his fiancé! After he told them it was her or him, McCullough was fired, and Cameron stayed for several more years.

But, is there more to that story?

Wingman got the chance to sit down with McCullough and take a little walk down memory lane, giving us the opportunity to find out a little more about what went down behind the scenes where everyone asked you to “Show Me That Smile Again.” Apparently, while the end of the story is very much true- and Cameron did in fact get the beloved actress fired for her Playboy past due to his religious views, the beginning of the story isn’t quite the case. Truth is; Kirk Cameron is the one that demanded she be hired for the role in the first place! And that’s because they had met in the past- before he became a Born-Again Christian, and when he was very much a fan of her Playboy pictorials! He was well aware of the blond beauty’s former work, and like the rest of the world- very impressed!

But, McCullough doesn’t let her hurtful past with Cameron get her down. While the cruelness and hypocrisy of her firing stung at the time, she has totally risen above the backlash. A major pioneer of standing up to slut-shaming, the gorgeous stunner stands firm in the fact that she is proud of her Playboy days- saying that she was always treated right and with respect, and that it was her choice and no one should take that away from her. She also stands tall knowing that during a conservative time like the 80’s, she didn’t back down or run and hide when social pressure was put on her- always having the courage to be able to assert her own identity. Put like that, we can’t help but applaud her as well- not just because her photos are nothing short of legendary, but also because she is a savvy survivor who recognizes that she would rather be treated with respect for who she is at Playboy, then try and be someone she’s not only to be treated with disdain at “Growing Pains.”

And McCullough’s admirable traits don’t end there as she is also vehemently supportive of other women. As beautiful as she is, she is never the type of female that wants to watch other women fail. She’s not catty, or self-obsessed, but instead, she’s constantly trying to lift other’s up. Just recently she did a film with two of our favorite beauties; Jemima and Lola Kirke, and praised their work ethic and the team she was surrounded by as the director and stunt choreographer were also both female, and she even has a best friend that is another one of our classic crushes, none other than the amazing Tia Carrere! Gushing when she goes on about Tia, Julie coos about how even when they would audition against one another, they would never have a fight! Two women that beautiful with absolutely no rivalry who are best friends? Sounds like a dream!

Since her Playboy and “Growing Pains” days, McCullough has had a whirlwind of a career. She continued her hot streak of guest starring roles with classic hits like “The Golden Girls,” “Beverly Hills, 90210,” and “The Drew Carey Show,” and also recently has starred in another iconic hit; “Sharknado!” And while her story on that experience is nothing short of hilarious (how could it not be?), it really comes as no surprise since another of the feisty female’s greatest attributes is her ability to tell a joke!

Now a professional stand-up comic, the hilarious hottie known as the “Funny Bunny” performs all over as she defies expectations, proving that not only can women be funny, but attractive women can be funny! And what’s better than that? A beautiful girl that can make you laugh? Sounds like a winner!

With plenty of movies on the way, a fascinating career, and a gripping life story to tell- filled with laughs, McCullough easily became a must-interview as we became desperate to find out all the details of her “Growing Pains” from Southern Sweetheart, to Stand-up Siren! To find out all about what the talented funny lady had to say, read below!

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So, why don’t you start by talking about how you got into doing stand-up?

Well, when I first moved out to L.A., one of the first places I went to was the improv comedy club and they had classes there given by an acting coach named Bill Hudnut, and he had situation comedy classes. It was almost all comedians in the class and I started taking them, and wound up being there about six years. It was incredible taking classes with esteemed people like Bill Hudnut and all these comedians. At the time, I was a playmate, so shortly thereafter I went into acting and tried to get acting jobs, so, you know I really feel like I owe so much to Bill because he was such a wonderful coach in teaching students about stage, and about stage presence, and all the tools of the trade. So, I really started doing comedy there at the improv comedy clubs in Los Angeles.

Can you talk a little bit about being underestimated for your humor because you’re so beautiful and a woman?

Sure! There is a lot of people that just don’t want to see an attractive woman on stage, no more than they want to see an attractive man on stage, so I believe it is just a double standard all across the board- not just against women, but also against attractive men. A lot of times people just think anyone who is attractive should lead a great life and they should have nothing to complain about. A lot of people see comedians as self-deprecating, so, I think people will generally will look at an attractive person on stage and just not feel any empathy for them when they’re talking about the demise of their own personal lives on stage. [Laughs sweetly]

You also just booked a new film, “Untogether, starring a great cast; Jemima and Lola Kirke, Ben Mendelsohn, Jamie Dorman, Jennifer Grey, Alice Eve, Scott Caan, and Billy Crystal! Can you talk a bit about that, and what we can expect from the film?

Yes- Jemima and Lola Kirke- they are the main stars, and they are wonderful women and I’m thrilled to be a part of their film. I love collaborating with strong women who don’t feel threatened by other women. The director is Emma Forrest, so there’s really a great team of women behind the film. Everyone else is playing mostly smaller roles, and I actually play the little crack-head whore. [Bursts out with laughter] Nobody will recognize me! My own mother would not recognize me in this role! I hope they don’t recognize me, to say the least! [Laughs harder] I owe that job to the stunt coordinator, Julie Michaels, whom I’ve known for many years. She messaged me and asked me if she could submit for this because she thought I could do it, and she told me what they wanted and originally I really wasn’t what they were really looking for, but she said; “Can you make yourself up to look bad, like you’ve been on crack and on the streets?” And I said; “Oh, ABSOLUTELY!” [Laughs again] So, I sent her a couple of initial pictures and she asked me to go even further with the look- and so I did! I put bruises all over myself, I put bruises all over my body, I made my hair look horrible, I oiled it down, I put on a shirt so that it almost looked like a mini-skirt, and there were bruises all over my legs, and I looked horrible! So, I sent in the photo to her and I told her that she could never show those photos to anybody for as long as she lives- especially if I don’t get cast! {Laughing]  She took the photos and sent them out to a few of her friends, and told them they were looking for an actress for this part where the scene calls for the crack-head to physically hit Jemima in the face, so it had to be part of a stunt- that’s why she was the one casting that particular role. So, anyway she told me later that she showed the director the pictures of myself and a few different people, and the director immediately pointed to my photo and said; “That girl, I want that girl!” And that’s how I got cast- off of a photo that I did of myself where I looked absolutely heinous! [Cracks up]

You also were in the first film of one of the biggest grindhouse franchises of this decade; “Sharknado”! Did you ever possibly think it would be that big of a hit? 

Absolutely not- and neither did the main star; Ian Ziering! I had worked with Ian on “Beverly Hills, 90210” many years ago when I stole his car on the show, so when I was there on set getting made up to do my scenes, he was going on and on about the title and saying; “‘SHARKNADO’!? ‘SHARKNADO’!? DID YOU HEAR WHAT THEY ARE GOING TO CHANGE THE NAME OF THIS MOVIE TO?!” [Can’t stop laughing] Because originally it had a different title! And I just kept giggling and he said “You know that they know that we know that we would not have signed up for this if it was going to be called something as silly as ‘SHARKNADO,’ right?” And, so I couldn’t stop laughing and I just told him; “YEP! And you know what? YOUR NAME is probably going to be above the title! ‘Star of SHARKNADO- IAN ZIERING!’ Suck it up, cupcake!” I am telling you, we were dying of laughter- howling. Then, later I see as the movie comes out that it becomes such a massive hit, and I see him on television on an interview program saying; “Yep, I am the star of ‘Sharknado!'” and he was all proud- it was the funniest thing ever because of my own interaction regarding that particular title when I was with him on set. It was very funny.

Right- this reunited you with Ian Ziering! Had you kept in touch, or was that the first time you saw each other again since “Beverly Hills, 90210″?

Oh, no, I would see Ian over the years here and there, but this is the first time we worked together since “Beverly Hills, 90210.” But, I’m actually friends with a few of the people from that cast! I don’t stay in touch with them a regular basis, but I certainly see them here and there.

One of your best friends is actually one of Wingman’s favorite people and another one of our classic crushes; Tia Carrere! Talk about that friendship a bit. You both are so funny and beautiful- you should get your own sitcom together!

[Gushes] My best, best friend! Seriously! I would love to do a sitcom with Tia! We talk about that all the time! We would love to do a sitcom together. She is absolutely my best friend. We were roommates way back in the day- back in the late 1980’s, and early 1990’s, we lived together. It’s funny because we have been friends for so long and we used to see each other at auditions. During the time when I was on Growing Pains, I was actually an apartment manager in West Hollywood, and Tia showed up on the doorstep one day asking about an apartment for rent. She told me that she recognized me, and we got to talking about how we knew each other from auditions, and started talking about work, and that’s how we first met and became friends, and sure enough she moved into my building. Then a few months later I moved out and moved into a duplex house- I had quit my job as the apartment manager, so, she calls me and said they were going to raise her rent, and I told her that I needed a roommate and I asked her to come move in with me- and that’s just what she did. She wound up moving in with me and she became my roommate, right then and there. We used to both go on the same auditions all the time, and we used to laugh about it- and that’s how we knew how the producers obviously knew nothing about what they wanted because she was so Hawaiian with dark skin, and I was Irish, and white, with this blonde hair- we were total opposites! It clearly meant that production teams had no idea what they wanted! [Laughs]

Of course, another show that you famously starred on was “Growing Pains”- and you were let go for deciding to pose in playboy, which of course did not jive with Kirk Cameron’s religious views. Can you talk about how this was really an early form of slut shaming, and how your body is your body to make your own choices with?

Absolutely. I love that I did playboy. I am proud that I did playboy. I have no misgivings about it whatsoever, and no bad stories about doing it whatsoever. I look back at it even more now with a retro feeling of pride that I did it- especially at a time that was so conservative in the 80’s. So, looking back over the years, I know people will sometimes try to shame you for having made that choice, and I felt like I got a major religious backlash for it at the time, and I just didn’t quite comprehend it at the moment. When I did “Growing Pains,” The truth is, I had actually already met Kirk Cameron and Alan Thicke. I met them at a car show in Philadelphia. I was signing autographs as a playmate, and they were signing autographs for this new TV show called “Growing Pains.” So, I met them there and Kirk and his friend kept coming over to me. There were several of us playmates at the show- about a dozen of us, and I was the youngest looking one by far. I was in fact the youngest one there, but I also looked like a teenager and so the two teenage boys immediately went right to me. They were asking me for autographed pictures and I would sign them and send them over, and at one point Alan Thicke came all the way across the car show with Kirk Cameron riding him on his shoulders because there was this flood of people following them, watching them as he brought him over to come see me. They wanted to know if I was going to go to the Chubby Checker concert after the car show that day- which I was, so, I wound up doing the twist with Kirk Cameron there in Philadelphia. That’s how I originally met them. Then a couple years go by and I go in to audition for the show and immediately when Kirk Cameron saw me we were happy to see one another. I was auditioning for one role, but Kirk kept saying to the casting director; “The nanny! The nanny!” So, when I got out of there, the casting director pulled me aside and she said “We’re not going to cast you in this role, however we would like you to come back for another role that’s shooting next week and it’s for a character that’s known as the nanny.” I thought it was all great. I went back and auditioned with Kirk and got the part. He was happy I was there, and I was happy he was there- it was fun, and I was set to play his future love interest and the nanny on the show. So, then I did a couple episodes on the show and they were great. Then the holidays and Christmas came that year, and once they past, I came back to work to do another episode and I was now set to be his love interest- but, in the mean time, Kirk had become a born-again Christian and started separating himself slowly but surely from the entire cast, and that’s when it all happened. So, they knew I was a playmate when they hired me on the show, and then I got word when I came back after they had engaged our characters only to find out that I was completely written out of the episode- and they didn’t tell me until I read the script! I was told by the producers at the time that Kirk held the contracts over their heads for the next two seasons. His mother was his agent or manager at the time, and they held the contract up basically saying that they refuse to resign for the last two seasons of the show unless they wrote me off. So, once they wrote me off, Kirk then re-signed for the next two seasons. So, I came in, did the table read, found out that I was written off the show, and then they started celebrating later that afternoon because Kirk had re-signed on for the last two seasons. That’s how it went down. That is the exact story. When I left there I didn’t even know how to feel about acting, because as guest stars you weren’t treated well. So, after that show, my first guest star spot on a was then when I got a role on “The Golden Girls.” I played a character named Mary, their pregnant neighbor whose dad kicked her out and the golden girls took her in. It was just such a different experience. They were the most lovely, amazing female actresses I have ever worked with! They were so amazing! But, everyone was wonderful; the production crew, the director, the producers, everybody was so unbelievably cool, and sweet, and kind, and I had just gone through that whole thing with “Growing Pains” and I was so scared that was really the way shows were, and then I had this blessing as “The Golden Girls” show me the way it’s really supposed to be, so it really just brought back my faith in the acting and entertaining business.

You really have been on so many great shows, Julie- “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Growing Pains,” “The Golden Girls,” The Drew Carey Show,”… are there any shows now that you would love to be on? Who else would you love to work with, and what kind of roles would you love to play?

I am southern, so I actually have an accent- which is something a lot of people don’t know because I’m always working so hard to hide it, so whenever I get to play someone Southern I’m pretty happy. I have my accent on a few shows. On “The Drew Carey Show” I got to basically play myself when I played a country girl who was his hillbilly redneck neighbor that always hitting on him. Blake Clark played my dad- and he’s a great actor. He was In “50 First Dates,” and almost all of Adam Sandler’s movies. I would love to work with him again. He is one of my absolute favorites! I really enjoyed working with him. He’s another southern gent- he’s from Macon, and I thought that was funny because the woman who played my mom on “The Drew Carey Show” was also from the same town as him and they discovered that while they were shooting. I thoroughly enjoyed doing that program. I love Drew Carey- he was awesome and just a barrel of fun. There was a CBS pilot that wound up being shot as a CBS movie of the week called “Arly Hanks”- and that had an amazing cast! Look that up! It was a great, great show. I would love to do a show like that. I am so sorry that show didn’t get picked up as a series. They tried to- they really did. When they ran it as the movie of the week it wound up winning its slot by such high numbers that I think it was the highest rated show they had the entire year. Then they scrambled thinking that they should make it into a series. It was sort of like “Northern Exposure,” but set in the south. It was based on a series of books called “The Maggody Murder Mystery Series,” and it was really a wonderful, wonderful dramedy. I loved it, and I would love to do a program like that again- it was just fantastic and fun.

And of course, a sitcom alongside Tia Carrere, right?

Oh my God! My best friend, I’m telling you now! We talk about it all the time! I would love to do a show with her! I even came up with a great sitcom idea with her as the main star and me playing one of her side-kick buddies! I love it. I can’t tell you how much I would love to work with her. I worked with her on a couple of shows. I did an episode of “Relic Hunter” playing a magician and our characters got into a big fight on the show- which was just funny because we never had a fight in our real lives ever! [Laughs] And I did “Top Of The World” with her, which was a movie where I play a casino girl. We’ve worked together a couple of times. We love working together. It’s fun. I mean, how many times do you get to work with your best friend?

And you have yet another movie on the way also, correct?

Yes! I just did a new movie that’s coming out. It’s an independent movie called “Savant” and it’s about a kid with autism. I play a character that is very much like a Judge Judy. So, basically, I went from being America’s sweetheart, to crack-head whore, to judge! I’ve come so far! [Bursts out laughing] It gives me new material for stand up! The movie was great fun and it is now being shown at the Hoboken Independent Film Festival in Greenwood Lake, and I’ll be there in order to hopefully get to see a lot more independent filmmakers because I thoroughly enjoy doing them and they’ve been a great part of my life. So, that’s me; The girl that goes from Playboy Bunny, to America’s TV sweetheart, to Stand-up Comedian, to reporter that gets eaten by a shark coming out of a tornado- cause you know that can happen, to Crack-head Whore, to Judge Julie!

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And if anyone has managed to remain completely magnetic and compelling in every incarnation of their wild ride of a career? It’s definitely the funny bunny- a bubbly beauty so lovable that no matter what she does, she can rest assured that she will have a swarm of fans following her. That said, can we please have a Julie McCullough/Tia Carrere TV show? Let’s start petitioning to make that happen, ASAP!

 

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