"What I love is doing so many wonderful, different things. "

Julie Andrews

Des Moines Register
By Suzanne Behnke

Last lecture in series stars actress Andrews

The woman behind "Mary Poppins," Maria von Trapp from "The Sound of Music" and, just recently, the voice of Queen Lillian in "Shrek the Third" graces an Iowa stage tonight.

Julie Andrews, 72, the Academy Award-winning actress, is the last speaker in the Smart Talk Women's Lecture Series sponsored by The Des Moines Register.

Her 7:30 p.m. engagement at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines is sold out.

Despite her extensive travels - to be a main theme of her talk, she says - it will be her first time in the state.

"I've certainly never been to Des Moines," she said.

She took time last week during a phone interview with The Des Moines Register to answer other questions (even asking one of her own about the origin of Des Moines' name).

What to expect tonight: Andrews will open with a 15-minute montage of her work. She said she'll cover her travels, her work and touch on issues that are important to her. She talked about traveling and said, "I love finding out new things," she said.

What you won't hear live: Singing. "I'll be talking," Andrews says, but the opening will include footage of her singing.

The story behind her children's books: "I fell into it by accident," she said. Her enormous popularity as an actress and performer may overshadow her work as an author of children's books. Titles include "The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles" and "Dumpy and the Big Storm." She wrote her first for her stepdaughter more than 30 years ago. While playing a game on a summer holiday, Andrews was the first to lose. Her penalty was to write a story. "I thought maybe I could write something. I have always loved to scribble," she said. She set out to write something that would teach her stepdaughter, a city girl, something about the country or a positive lesson. Once it was finished and then published, she had to write stories for her other children. (You can find her books on amazon.com or at julieandrewsollection.com.) She goes by Julie Andrews Edwards as an author.

Family: She is a mother to five, grandmother to seven and great-grandmother to two.

What she didn't know: She was unaware tonight's engagement was sold out. "Better to come in knowing you're going to have a full house," she said.

On being known for her children-related works: "I guess the image grows that I'm a lady who deals only with children's issues. As an actress, I've really tried to cover the board." She mentioned her roles in "Victor/Victoria" and "S.O.B." What's been unexpected to her is popularity in newer roles such as "The Princess Diaries" and "Shrek" that bring her into contact with younger generations. Children also get to know her through her older works that brought her acclaim, notably "Mary Poppins" and "The Sound of Music." "I am just the lucky lady who was asked to do these wonderful movies," she said.

Being recognized: "They call me Maria, they call me Queen Clarisse, and (from "Shrek") they call me Queen Lillian. It depends on the child and their age and what they are into," she said.

What's coming up for her professionally: She has completed the first draft of an autobiography. Her memoirs, which cover her life before she came into the spotlight, including her childhood in England, will be published in April. She is working on musical versions of her children's books. She's also considering some projects in TV and movies. "What I love is doing so many wonderful, different things," Andrews said.

To answer her question about Des Moines' name: This explanation is on the city's Web site: "The origin of the name is uncertain, but most historians agree that the name probably initially referred to the river. Some people feel that 'Des Moines' is derived from the Indian word 'moingona,' meaning river of the mounds which referred to the burial mounds that were located near the banks of the river. Others are of the opinion that name applies to the Trappist Monks (Moines de la Trappe) who lived in huts at the mouth of the Des Moines River. French voyagers referred to the river as 'La Riviere des Moines.' The consensus seems to be that Des Moines is a variation of Moingona, Moingonan, Moingoun, Mohingona, or Moningounas, as shown on early maps."



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