Judy Garland Retrospective

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All good queer men like Judy Garland, right? Probably that was once more true than it is now. Gay male identification with torch singers and bitchy movie actresses is fading.

A few years ago a guy whose taste I greatly trusted said he found a Judy Garland CD that he really enjoyed. Since my friend's taste ran to rockabilly and jump blues that was quite a testimony. Pity he couldn't remember the title of the disc.

So on and off I try Saint Judy. It never takes. I know her singing mostly from her days as an MGM movie star. Much of that material is too hearty for me. Often seemed like the MGM studio execs thought their movies should be a poor man's grand opera.

I knew Judy Garland's 25th Anniversary Retrospective was probably a losing proposition. A long career to be reduced to a single disc. Too heterogeneous a selection. I was right: the range of songs is really too diverse. I'm not one for listening to a singer go from tragic to bouncy. And I have a strong bias toward bouncy.

But listening to the disc left me with the impression that I will eventually find Judy Garland CDs that I'll enjoy. I knew from watching the movies that she could sometimes swing. But in Easter Parade she was with Fred Astaire. Still see did a surprisingly credible performance of Purple People Eater. Irritatingly but inevitably in a compilation you find yourself going from perky to It's A Great Day For The Irish (doesn't really sound that way to me).

I wish there were more late material when all the mannerisms drop away. Probably this is a good CD for people who only want one Judy Garland CD and no more. But I'll keep my ear out for more focused collections.


I still have never joined the Cult of Judy. I just can’t romanticize self-destructive people. There’s so much baggage… I don’t doubt her power as an entertainer - I just don’t find her entertaining.

After posting that I remembered that almost every Garland disc my shop has sold has been to a gay man. When I’ve seen her in an old movie I’ve felt her eyes tell the whole shuddersome story.

I cannot understand the unkind sentiment toward Judy Garland. I’m sure that it is partly due to the fact her name is mentioned in about 987 of the 1,000 most classic and worn-out homo jokes of all time. No gay or bi-sexual human being, closet or otherwise, can help but feel knifed every time he or she is blind-sided by insensitive remarks whether by Jay Leno, Joan Rivers or your neighborhood pharmicist!

But most gay people I’ve known got more out of the arts than the average person has the capacity for. This, I think, goes a long way in explaining the fascination with Judy Garland. What is there about Judy that was not fascinating?

In the first place, Judy Garland was talent personified. We realize this now in bigger ways than we did even when she was alive thanks to cable TV, digital re-mastering technology of both sound and visual recordings, etc. If you want to really step out there and take issue with her singing, you need to borrow or purchase a CD box set of her Decca or Capitol catalogue and really listen. If you are not a stone, then I think you will quickly find her touching your heart in a way you’d never experienced! And aside from that was her superb acting! I’m sorry, but Judy Garland could act circles around Joan Crawford or Lana Turner even at her worst! I don’t know if I’d put her up against Bette Davis, but Judy just might have surprised us in such a challenge! And then there is the most underappreciated aspect of her talent—her dancing and the way she carried herself. She was put up against two of the best in the universe, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, and she was marvelous even by today’s standards.

I’ve read every book and watched every documentary they’ve done on Judy—I’ve heard it all. I choose not to take all the tragedy to heart—what good comes from that? Some of my classmates went through worse than that with drugs and alcohol and misfortune and are still in and out of rehab. But I still love them. Judy Garland had a big, humongous drug problem that dates back to before her puberty for Christ’s sake! She was and is the perfect poster girl for substance control! Combine this circumstance with the fact that she was a money-making machine for the movie industry and was used and abused in the most blatant and unforgiveable ways and died flat broke at the age of 47, going on 17, and you tell me, how could anyone feel anything but compassion and humanity for Judy Garland. She sacrificed her own life and happiness to make the world smile. To this day, to hear someone trash Judy Garland—those are fighting words to me. She comes from the days when giants walked the earth! I would love to have met her. Some people tell me I wouldn’t like her if I knew her, but I think they’re wrong. I think I could have connected with her on some level even at her worst.

So people, don’t be too quick to judge our legends who left this world decades ago. They’ve all touched our lives, even if we don’t realize it They are a big part of why we are able to live such a high quality of life today!

Randy Francis.

Sikeston, MO


You are clearly more interested in Garland than I ever can be. I’m just fishing about for a CD or two of hers that I really enjoy.

I don’t dismiss the pain she endured, but it does make me uncomfortable to see it in her face in the old musicals.

That said I’ll be watching her in Easter Parade with Astaire again tonight. But mostly for Astaire and Irving Berlin.

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