June is Pride Month for the LGBT community and the allies that stand beside us…and it almost seems fitting that one of the true first Gay icons both entered and left the world during that month…in fact, her death happened just a week before the Stonewall Riots occurred in 1969. So, it is the 50th Anniversary of those riots that lead us to celebrating LGBT Pride every June and it is also the 50th Anniversary of the death of my favorite entertainer to have ever lived: that brassy, eccentric, witty icon that was born Frances Gumm but became Judy Garland.
My obsession with Garland came at a very young age and I always like to joke that my love for her was the earliest sign that I was an old queen who was unaware of his throne because I was in a bolted up closet. I think most people were introduced to Garland through THE WIZARD OF OZ and it goes without saying that I adored the movie, and still do. There was something enchanting about her voice and I can still vividly remember when I first heard her sing “Over the Rainbow”…I was probably 3 or maybe 4 years old.
Moving ahead a couple of years, I was at my Grandmother’s house and she wanted to watch MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS on TV because she hadn’t seen it in quite some time and she told me, “Judy Garland is in this…that lady from THE WIZARD OF OZ. Maybe you’ll like it”. I was maybe 7 at this point…and I had already developed a love for the past when it came to movies and television and music so I was perhaps more gung-ho at watching this movie set in 1904 rather than watching what my then-best friend was obsessed: the Power Rangers.
It was this movie that truly set off my admiration for her. Not only was the movie so glorious to look at with all of its rich colors, but Garland herself never looked more inviting and warm…and it came as no surprise when I learned Vincente Minnelli intentionally sought out to give Garland the best showcase possible.
I was curious to check out more of her work, so I turned to the hot new craze of the time: the World Wide Web. After a few minutes of connecting via dial-up, and knowing I only had a few minutes as my mom didn’t want me to keep tying up the phone lines (if only these young kids knew the struggle of early internet usage), I sought to print out a list of her entire filmography.
Several minutes passed as the dot-matrix printer slowly went line by line printing off each film she made…and from there, I tried to seek out her movies whether it had been through renting them or finding them on cable.
So, for the next couple of weeks, I am going to post a few selections of her work that I love and discuss them (albeit briefly or in rambling mode).
Since I brought up MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, I will start with that and focus on three particular performances from that film:
“THE BOY NEXT DOOR”
-In what is not often discussed as much as some of her other classics, this sweet and sensitive song has always been what I think of when I think of Garland at her most beguiling…and so much so that I chose an image of her from this song to be my Facebook cover photo to coincide with her birthday, death, and Pride. I think the song works so well because it taps into something that many of us have always felt: a longing for someone who is so close but, in some ways, feels so far away.
“THE TROLLEY SONG”
-In what was the biggest success from the film at the time (for example, winning the Oscar for Best Original Song), I would say that “THE TROLLEY SONG” is one of my personal favorites for sure…and I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten on the subway here in NYC and think about this song. In fact, a few years ago, I was on a date with this really adorable guy. After dinner, we walked through Washington Square Park to get to the train and once we got on the crowded train, he rested his head on my shoulder and snuggled up against me…simply put, I was in heaven. At the time, we both lived in Queens, but he lived at the end of the train line in Forest Hills whereas I lived in Astoria several stops before him… I offered to stay with him till his stop. Once we reached Forest Hills, he said to me “I almost feel like I had the closest case of THE TROLLEY SONG I will ever have!”…and with that, I planted a big kiss on him for sharing the same thought I was having. Even though I ended up parting ways with that guy, I often think back on that moment fondly because I, too, never thought I’d get to have my own little “Trolley” moment.
“HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS”
-Every Christmas, this is my go-to post to put up…sometimes traditions are just worth keeping. While this version of the song is somewhat different from the more well-known versions nowadays that slightly alter the lyrics and take on a more hopeful tone, I still can’t help but love the haunting nature of this one. It is such a peak emotional moment in the film and in some ways, it felt like the first moment in Garland’s career where she took on a more adult role as she cared for her younger sister.
So, I leave you with that for now but I do intend to continue my Judy Parade over the next several days!