Jim Bailey, who impersonated legends like Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and Peggy Lee, has died at 77 of a cardiac arrest from pneumonia complications. His manager of 27 years, Stephen Campbell, told The Hollywood Reporter;
“Heaven is getting a fabulous show tonight with standing room only! Rest in Peace Our Sweet Prince.”
Bailey performed in nightclubs around the world like The Palladium in London and Carnegie Hall and he was a regular in Las Vegas for years. He did a Streisand tribute during the 1978 Super Bowl Halftime. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1995;
“I did jazz clubs in Greenwich Village, went on the Playboy circuit, that sort of thing. I wasn’t doing badly, but I needed that gimmick, something to make me different, unique.”
He hit it big when Judy Garland came to see his show, she jumped on the stage and asked him to sing a song with her: Bye, Bye Blackbird and she became his mentor. He landed a gig on The Ed Sullivan Show, dressed and made up as Garland and singing like her. He guest starred on The Carol Burnett Show, where he and Burnett sang “Happy Days Are Here Again” with Bailey appearing as Babs.
In 1973, Bailey teamed up with Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli at The Flamingo in Las Vegas to re-create performances by her and her late mother in London. He and Minnelli became good friends. The London Times once said;
“He becomes these singers to a degree that defies disbelief, and he’s an uncanny and as classy an act as you could hope to find.”
And the Boston Globe said;
“If he were to appear at Madison Square Garden instead of Barbra, who could possibly tell the difference.”
Three hours of prep were required, so he could only do one impersonation for each show. In an interview he once said:
“It’s my job to make people believe they’re seeing and hearing Judy Garland. Convince them that I’m Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, take the audience on a magical trip.”
Here he is on The Carol Burnett Show in 1972. There will never be another like him.
(via The Hollywood Reporter)