Julie London, whose sultry vocals and provocative album covers established her as the ultimate torch-song sex symbol, died on October 18 of natural causes. Born Julie Peck in Santa Rosa, California, London was the daughter of a song-and-dance vaudeville team. When she was a teenager, the family moved to L.A., and she found work as an elevator operator in a department store. She was discovered there by agent Sue Carol, who arranged a screen test for her. In 1944, she made the first of roughly a dozen film appearances. Shortly after, she met Jack Webb, the Dragnet star/producer. They married in 1947 and divorced in 1953.
Shortly after, London met Bobby Troup, actor, pianist and composer (“Route 66”), who encouraged her to sing. In 1955, she cut Julie Is Her Name, supported by a bass-guitar duo. Its single, “Cry Me a River,” became a hit, launching her 13-year affiliation with Liberty Records, all the while epitomizing “torch.” Her version of Willie Nelson’s “Night Life” — “When the evening sun goes down/You will find me hangin’ ’round” — was iconographic Julie: nocturnal sexuality and cigarette-smoked wisdom. In real life, she was a happily married Valley mom. But her seductive vocals and pinup album covers established her as a sexual ideal. She stopped recording regularly in 1968. In 1972, Webb offered London and Troup roles on the TV show Emergency! She said yes, and played Nurse Dixie McCall until 1977, when the program was canceled.
London lived out her days in relative seclusion, rarely allowing photographs or interviews. Troup died in April 1999. London is survived by four children.