Each year with a new crop of interns, I separate them from the herd, one at a time, and ask them, "Do you know who Judy Garland is?"
Yes, many of our longtime readers blanch to think that might be possible. And so far they all have arrived in our hallowed but dusty halls with pre-knowledge of Judy Garland. Mostly it's "You mean that lady who was in The Wizard of Oz?"
Yes, that, of course, but so much more.
For those of you who were born since 1969, you may not understand how Judy Garland belonged to gay men. Sure, there are men who do not have encyclopedic knowledge of Baby Gumm, Dorothy, A Star Is Born, the Carnegie Hall concert, her volatile marriages, and her roller-coaster rides on booze and dope. But were those men really gay? Or were they merely men who had sex with men?
When the closet was the norm, Judy was a plucky, vulnerable symbol of our own fragile identity. Older men I know still reverently say "I was there" in hushed tones when the subject of the Carnegie Hall concert comes up.
On the following pages are not clips of Judy singing her hits from MGM movies. They are mostly interview clips from the last few years of her life. And then there is the funeral coverage. Amazing to watch, she is by turns brutally honest, evasive, ballsy, elegant, and always her quirky, enigmatic self. Her complex love for her children always comes through.
Speculations about the link between Judy Garland's death and the Stonewall uprising in June of 1969 persist. Maybe we should acknowledge her anniversary at this time of year as well as Pride. Cause and effect is a tricky thing. Garland's death may not have triggered anything happening at the Stonewall Inn, but it did coincide with a new freedom and open identity for LGBT people everywhere.
Micky and Judy Reminisce on The Judy Garland Show, June 24, 1963
Jack Parr Remembers Judy Garland