When I need something to help me unwind/ I find a six-foot baby with a one-track mind/ Smart guys are nowhere, they make demands/ Give me a moron with talented hands/ . . .
"Women love that song!" exults comedian-turned-pop-singer Julie Brown about "I Like 'Em Big and Stupid," the most giggle-grabbing of five outrageous songs on her debut mini-album, "Goddess in Progress."
Booming out of beat boxes on the street and bounced to in aerobics classes, the "Big" beat sounds like the next equal-play anthem for American women, one step beyond Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." Singing in a dementedly animated voice, Brown assumes a macha character, queen of the girls' locker room, sassily boasting about wanting men for more than their minds. "Women just totally identify with that sentiment," she says in a rare serious moment by phone from California. "We also experience just wanting someone sexually and not just for a relationship."
The record may be big, but it's anything but stupid. And though she's an absolute beginner in the record business, Brown has obviously touched a national nerve. Her first single, the maniacally funny "Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun," a kind of "Shock Around the Clock," entered the pop charts with -- pardon the expression -- a bullet. And its companion video, an inspired sendup of "Carrie" that recalls "Airplane" with its laugh-and-you'll-miss-the next-joke speed, is a hit in video clubs (MTV won't play it because of its violent content). Brown's EP, which features her plastic persona on three more minor gems -- "Will I Make It Through the Eighties," " 'Cuz I'm a Blond" and a hilarious "Leader of the Pack" parody called "Earth Girls Are Easy," in which our heroine disports with an alien -- is moving briskly as well. A Rhino Records exec says sales have topped 60,000 so far.
Though Brown talks in high Valspeak, her charmingly giddy conversation littered with "likes," loooong vowels and a musical giggle, it's apparent that the loopiness disguises a wicked wit and a sharp feminist edge. As in the hyperkinetic caricature of California's pop tarts, " 'Cuz I'm a Blond":
I see people working, it just makes me giggle/ 'Cuz I don't have to work, I just have to jiggle/ 'Cuz I'm a blond/ B-L-O-N-D/ Don't you wish you were me?
Brown, who "is not now and never will be a blond," likes to tell people she's "technically a Valley housewife," born smack in the middle of the San Fernando Valley. Previous incarnations include:
* Actual homecoming princess, at Van Nuys High -- which also produced such show biz luminaries as Marilyn Monroe, Robert Redford and Kevin Dubrow, lead singer of Quiet Riot.
* Screen writer and stand-up comic, working the stages of San Francisco with writing and performing partner Charlie Coffey since the age of 14. "I've always thought she was the funniest woman alive," Coffey says. "I just knew she was going to be the Lucy of the '80s." Coffey, who sounds like a pretty funny guy himself, says it was a big thrill to hear "Homecoming Queen" on the car radio. "I'd roll the windows down and sit at a red light and look smug," he says.
* Actress, trained at San Francisco's prestigious American Conservatory Theatre. "I did a horror movie that's never been shown," Brown says. "I did it when I first came to town, and I have this nude scene in which I'm like the slutty best friend of the lead girl. I do this dance, and I'm taking my clothes off and eating Oreo cookies. And then I get an arrow through the eye. So I figure that will come out when I'm really famous. But instead of being all embarrassed and apologetic, I'm going to say it's my best work and promote it!"
Brown's pop career started spinning last year when she and her husband, actor Terrence McNally, formed their own independent label, Bulletz Records, and released the "Goddess" EP. Made up of five songs Brown and Coffey had written during their stand-up stints, the record sold more than 20,000 copies nationally, and when Bulletz ran out of production money the record was picked up by quirky, independent Rhino Records, a label that specializes in novelty discs and classic oldies. "Goddess" quickly became one of Billboard magazine's "most added" records, with many radio stations adding it to their play lists, and Rhino's biggest seller.
Though she's enjoying the success she's having with her jokes, Brown admits that "novelty records are kind of a dead end in a way," and is using her notoriety as a boost to bigger and better things. She has been intermittently touring the country with her singing/stand-up act and, with Coffey, is writing a musical-comedy movie vehicle for herself. The movie has been purchased by a major entertainment conglomerate, and Brown's "Goddess" tunes will probably be used on the sound track. Which means it's likely that Brown will shift labels once again for her next album, to include "regular songs," she says. "Pop-rock with a kind of uplifting nature to it. But it's not like I'm going to turn into Pat Benatar or anything."
At her wedding this past summer, Brown pulled one of her more spectacular pranks. "Terrence is from the East Coast, went to Harvard and all," Coffey recalls. "So there we are at the reception with all these East Coast McNallys at the Mulholland Golf Club. Julie wore this '30s wedding gown that had been in a movie, and she was completely glamorous. Suddenly she changes into this little new-wave blue thing that's slit everywhere. The band stops playing Barry Manilow hits, and Julie pulls out all the stops on 'I like 'Em Big and Stupid.'
"The McNallys were horrified," Coffey says. "They realized at that moment what kind of daughter-in-law they were getting."