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Somewhere over
the pride rainbow

Somewhere over
the pride rainbow


A young gay man examines the legacy of Judy Garland with the PBS American Masters Series production of Judy Garland: By Myself.

You think you know the back story: Child prodigy impresses film execs; said prodigy sings on the radio, stars inThe Wizard of Oz, and holds that last note in "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" just long enough to make the country fall in love with her.Then MGM starts plugging her full ofpep pills to keep her awake through project after project until the arc of her rise and fall almost single-handedly provides the boilerplate for a thousand episodes of E! True Hollywood Storyand VH1'sBehind the Music. That is exactly whenJudy Garland: By Myself--airing August 30 on PBS as part of theAmerican Mastersseries--starts to get interesting.

Unlike any self-respecting Friend of Dorothy, I lacked any knowledge of Miss Judy before watching American Masters. I had always known she was a gay icon (albeit a cliche one) for the ages, and after two hours of PBS I think I finally understand why.Judy Garland: By Myselfdoesn't state unequivocally that Garland was a gay icon, but for those who knew she was (i.e. everyone), the film breaks down the myriad reasons why.For example, as the voice-over narration puts it, "She was often drawn to men who evoked memories of her father," who, we learn, was probably gay. Surrounding herself with this kind of personality (loves to shop; has a girlfriend, but she lives in Canada, so you'll never meet her, etc.) made Garland one of Hollywood's most famous fag hags. This is tragic only when you consider that these men were not just her adoring fans, they were her father and one of her husbands--the latter of whom cocreated another gay icon, Liza Minnelli. The subtlety of the documentary can be found in the revelation of her father's probable homosexuality in a scene juxtaposed against a shot of Judy singing the song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," specifically the line, "Make the yuletide gay."Nicely played, PBS.

Judy Garland: By Myselfis a thoughtful, effective documentary thatreminds us that in many ways, Garland was one of us.She was a woman of strength and conviction who would nevertheless on some days cancel her live performances because she was suddenly feeling too delicate to go on. She lived a life filled with irony, humor, camp, endless singing of tragic torch songs, and lavish costumes.And in the final analysis, watching her sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" will still cause you to dab at your eye with a tissue and unironically whisper to yourself, "She hadsucha tragic life." Nearly 70 years later,Judy Garland: By Myselfshows us that it's a pretty amazing feat to be adored by all audiences, gay or otherwise. But especially gay.

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Daniel Blau