Special Edition Rebel Royal of Yore: Judy Garland

13 Jul

Hello, Lovelies! It’s Kj. Every week I write Musings on my own, then hand it off to my awesome pre-readers/Betas for review. Today’s Special Edition of Musings is featuring a contributing writer, Bouffant. Remember, when I told you I would have different folks stop by and drop knowledge on all things Rebel Royalty? Yeah, well today is our First Ever Rebel Royal of Yore essay. Bouffant is my dear friend, and one of my pre-readers every week. Additionally, she is a talented thinker and writer in her own right. She keeps me in line when I go rogue (which, um, is frequent). Her hope is to introduce us to some of the Forgotten Queens. The Royal Misfits who blazed trails for our Other Royals today. I’ll post my regular Musings on Thursday. We just get a little extra treat this week. I’m going to settle into my bean bag chair and enjoy story time. But since I can’t keep my pie-hole shut, I’ll probably pop in from time to time. Look for me here **…and near gratuitous pictures of our Reigning Queen The Stew and her Rebel Partner In Crime: JawPorn** Ok. Take it away, B.


As with many of you, my friend KJ’s weekly thoughts on Other Queens have captivated me.  KJ elevates us all- because who among us not an Other Queen, on the inside if not the outside? – by placing us in the court of Rebel Royalty.  Princess KJ honored me by asking me to contribute to her musings, and I leapt at the opportunity. But what to talk about?  KJ’s writing is like poetry to me, and I don’t mind telling you it’s slightly intimidating, adding my voice to hers.

*Oh, B. I’m blushing.I am honored that you’re contributing your voice. Here, this is for you and all our Rebel Sisters who have something to say:*

Our reigning Other Queen (and if you need me to tell you that’s Kristen Stewart, you need to turn around and read this blog from the beginning) has talked in recent months about her decision to play Joan Jett in The Runaways.  She said she wanted to make people her age aware of The Runaways.

*(throat clearing) Just in case, you know, you lost focus.*
um. Ohai DakotaStew. unf.
Here, I’ll confess to two things.  First, I’m old (relatively speaking).  Second, I am usually not aware that I’m old.  Both of those things will happen to you too someday, if you’re lucky. Anyway, I’m about three years younger than Joan Jett.  I remember the original Runaways lineup.  And I forget that people Kristen’s age wouldn’t know a lot of the music and bands from that era.  Kids today!  OK, I’ll stop.  BTW you have my permission to shoot me if I ever say that and mean it.  So, like KJ, I am using Kristen as my writing inspiration today.  I want to tell you about Other Queens from past courts.  Not Joan, not today, although she definitely owns a crown (which looks awesome with her leather pants, incidentally).  Today I’m going to talk about Judy Garland.

You may only know Judy’s name because she starred in The Wizard of Oz.  I hope you’ve seen it!  It’s a classic film and a cultural touchstone.
*absolutely agree with you on this, B. But those freaky-ass flying monkeys are a hard limit for me, just sayin’*
Judy delivered a lovely performance in it, and gave the all-time definitive rendition of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.  If you’ve never really watched/listened to her sing that song in the film, do yourself a favor and pay attention to it.  Judy’s innocence and yearning in that performance is heartbreaking.  Judy often performed it live in later years, and said about it:
“…but maybe I get more emotional about ‘Rainbow.’ I never shed any phony tears about it. Everybody has songs that make them cry. That’s my sad song.”

Everyone loves Judy Garland.
What makes her Other?
Sometimes you can have the admiration of everyone you know, yet still feel Other on the inside.
“If I am a legend, then why am I so lonely?”

“Hollywood is a strange place if you’re in trouble. Everybody thinks it’s contagious.”

‘In the silence of night I have often wished for just a few words of love from one man, rather than the applause of thousands of people.”

“As for my feelings toward “Over the Rainbow”, it’s become part of my life. It is so symbolic of all my dreams and wishes that I’m sure that’s why people sometimes get tears in their eyes when they hear it.”
— Judy Garland

Judy was 16 years old when she made The Wizard of Oz.  She had been performing on stage since she was two and a half (her parents were vaudevillians), and signed with MGM at 13 years old; around the time her father died of meningitis.  Louis B. Mayer recognized her extraordinary talent, although he had no idea what to do with her at first.  He referred to her as his “little hunchback”, had her fitted with caps for her teeth and prosthetics to alter her nose, enforced a restricted diet for her, and had the studio doctor prescribe Benzedrine to shrink her waistline — all with the complicity and approval of her stage mother, who Judy once called “the real Wicked Witch of the West”.
*that is all kinds of ridonk messed up. So she really was only seen as ‘pretty’ when she was bound and prostehtically-enhanced? um. NO.*
She attended studio school with teen queens Ava Gardner, Deanna Durbin and Lana Turner, which did nothing to alleviate her physical insecurities.

Co-stars at study… or a photo op?

Mickey Rooney was another classmate, and Judy’s co-star in the Andy Hardy films.  Andy and Betsey (their characters) were about as wholesome a pair of kids as you could find on the silver screen.  Mayer hit on a winning girl-next-door type for Judy to play, and the  series was very successful.  The following year, Shirley Temple being unavailable, Mayer cast Judy in The Wizard of Oz, ordering her to bind her breasts to appear younger onscreen.  Her drug cocktail was increased – she was given uppers to get her on set and downers to get to sleep.  She talked in later years about being allowed to sleep for four hours, then being given more uppers to continue filming.

At sixteen years old.  Not just sanctioned, but ordered by the authority figures in her life.
*The LiLo of the 30’s? Thank goodness there weren’t rabid papz then like there are now.*

As we know, Judy knocked Dorothy Gale out of the park.  At the 1940 Academy Awards, Judy received a “Juvenile Award” Oscar celebrating her performances in 1939.  Her star rose.  Judy transcended adolescent parts and made a slew of successful films, some classics. If you haven’t seen Meet Me in St. Louis, Judgment at Nuremburg or A Star Is Born… just do.

As film roles dried up (due in part to her mental instability), Judy segued into live concerts and television appearances, solidifying her legend with the stunning combination of her astounding vocal quality and her personal charisma.  Like Fred Astaire did with dance, Judy disguised her considerable artistry.  Her vocal appeal was open, vibrant and warm, much like her personality.  Her technical skill was unmatched, except perhaps by Frank Sinatra.

You won’t be surprised to learn that through all this, Judy struggled with drug addiction, while denying it publicly. There weren’t any rehabs back then for Judy.
*No Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew? No Intervention on A&E? Whaaa?*
She did visit psychiatric hospitals now and then, for breakdowns and suicide attempts.  Her addiction and health problems meant that that she was not dependable professionally, particularly in later years.
*The chick’s hardcore*

She also struggled to find lasting and true love, marrying five separate times, beginning with an engagement to David Rose at the tender age of 18.  MGM pressured them to delay the announcement for a year as being married did not jibe with her girlish image.  (Not to mention that Rose was still married to Martha Raye when he proposed to Judy.)  Her next four marriages each had their own unique set of problems, but the result was the same – disappointment.

How do I get to Carnegie Hall?
Practice, practice, practice

As turbulent as Judy’s personal life was, her talent was such that she worked consistently, was excellent frequently, and now and then made truly great art.  In April of 1961, Judy gave two concerts at Carnegie Hall.  The audience was packed with superstars of the day (and lucky regular folks).  Judy was at the peak of her powers, and faced with an audience who really knew her (professionally, and for many, personally), she created magic.  Judy’s vibrance, vulnerability, voice, and her incomparable ability to connect with her audience were fortunately captured for posterity by Capital Records:

The April 23rd performance has become commonly known as “the greatest night in show business history”.  Almost 50 years old, it’s hardly wrinkled and dusty.  It commands one’s attention.  It strikes straight through to one’s soul.  It’s a magnificent triumph.  It’s still a touchstone for performers today — in fact Rufus Wainwright actually recreated it four years ago in a live Carnegie Hall show.  I was fortunate enough to be in the balcony that evening.  Everyone present, from Rufus up to the last row in the house, was there to honor Judy’s spirit.  It was a daring effort, and I doubt many performers alive today could have pulled it off, but Rufus approached it with the correct measures of dedication, devotion, talent, historical perspective, humor, and balls.  As an homage to a legend, it fit the bill.

Judy died eight years after her landmark performance.  She spent that time working, mostly on stage, and battling her demons.  She divorced her fourth husband in 1963, and married again in March of 1969.  Two months later, she was dead of a barbiturate overdose, at age 47.

That’s the age I am right now.
That’s a short fucking life.

Beauty Marks: 1. One of the most technically accomplished voices of the 20th century. 2. Oscar winner. 3. The one and only Dorothy Gale. 4. Credited with creating the greatest night in show business history.

Offenses of Otherness: (Per Other-Hunters, Mother-Exploiters, Studio Heads, and AssClowns) 1. Looked like a normal, pretty young girl. 2. Had breasts. 3. Defied manipulation attempts by parental authority figures as soon as she was old enough. 4. Battled drug addiction (with little to no professional help).

“After 9/11, when we first were going to war and the state of things looked pretty dismal, I bought the rerelease.  Somehow that album, no matter how dark things seemed, made everything brighten.  She had this capacity to lighten the world through the innocence of her sound.  Her anchor to the material was obviously through her devotion to music.  You never feel that she didn’t believe every word of every song that she ever sang.”
–Rufus Wainwright

Judy had no family stability, no parents to turn to for support.  She was expected to be an adult while still a child.  She was professionally exploited before she was old enough to drive.  She was in the grip of addiction from adolescence on.

*I am being schooled in the legend of Judy. I’m in speechless awe.*

Yet she gave so much of herself.  She laid herself bare in performance.  She received love from the world, but what she gave of herself must have cost her much.  Because she can still touch us 40 years after her death, because she’s the girl who taught us how to get back home even though she couldn’t, because she laughed and sang through her pain, Judy Garland is an Other Queen.

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
–Judy Garland

Judy is Other.
Kristen is Other.
Others push onward despite lack of parental support
Embrace your Other.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

wordpress visitors
%d bloggers like this: