Paula Stewart is equal parts class and sass and all larger than life. She has performed on stage, on TV and in films with some of the biggest names in show business. But far more than just a talented actress, she’s a singer, gourmet cook, real estate entrepreneur, licensed interior designer and producer. Regardless of what “hat” she is wearing, though, Stewart accomplishes whatever she sets her mind to.
A native of Chicago, Stewart says she was only 5 when she first perfomed.
“I was pushed on stage by my mother at a Kiwanis club to sing ‘Un Bel Di’ [“One Beautiful Day” from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly>,” she recalls. “I hated it!”
Still, something must have taken hold within her. A gifted soprano with an operatic voice, she attended Northwestern University. Upon leaving school, she snagged a spot in the national touring company of Brigadoon. But it was in a production called Seventeen, produced by Milton Berle in 1951, that she made her official Broadway debut.
Around this time, she also met a handsome young pianist and songwriter named Burt Bacharach. The pair met through his father, a noted New York columnist, after she asked him whether he knew of a good piano player who could accompany her on auditions.
As she got to know the renowned composer, she says, “It just blossomed into the most marvelous marriage.” The two were married from 1953 until they amicably split in 1958.