Jan 17, 2016

The Judy Garland Mystery

I am asked, more frequently than you'd imagine, "Why are all gay men such big fans of Judy Garland?"

Depending on my mood, I answer:

1.I don't know, I haven't finished reading the Gay Handbook yet. 

2. Who's Judy Garland?

3. It's more about her hunky costars, Jackie Cooper and Mickey Rooney.  Watching them takes our minds off Hitler and Mussolini.  You're pretending that it's 1942, right?

What caused the firmly-entrenched Judy-gay men connection?

1. Her movies?  37 of them between 1936 and 1963. I've seen a lot, searching for gay subtexts.  But by now they're mostly obscure.  Chances are the average gay man under age 70 has seen only The Wizard of Oz.

2. Her music?  She released 75 singles and 22 albums between 1936 and 1965.  Mostly about falling in love with men or losing her man: "But Not For Me," "Meet Me in St. Louis"; "The Trolley Song."  I doubt the average gay man under age 70 is downloading them from itunes regularly.

3. Her tv series, The Judy Garland Show?  It was apparently a train wreck, ruined by the weird decision to make fun of the star.  I've only seen the Christmas episode, which pretends to take place in her home, with guest stars "dropping by."  Daughter Liza pretends that she's been practicing a dance number with her boyfriend (actually choreographer Tracy Everitt).  And it hasn't aired since 1963.

4. Her relationship with gay fans?  She did marry two gay men, Vicente Minelli and Mark Heron, but her attitude toward gay people was mixed at best.  There were much stronger allies, even in the 1960s.

5. Stonewall?  Legend has it that Judy's death, on June 22, 1969, sparked the Stonewall Riots and the beginning of gay liberation -- the patrons of the Stonewall Inn  were so upset that they refused to take the police harassment anymore.  But they were college students and hippies, more interested in Boomererson Airplane than Judy Garland.  It's just a legend.

I'm going back to her hunky costars Mickey Rooney and Jackie Cooper.  You're pretending that it's 1942, right?

See also: 10 Things I Hate about the Wizard of Oz