‘No More Over the Rainbow’
The Tragic life of Judy Garland
March 31— Long after her death, Judy Garland's star still shines bright. But biographer Gerald Clarke found a woman who led a tragic life due to shattered self-esteem. Using Garland's own audiotapes and long-lost manuscript, Clarke tells her story.
Moderator Welcome to our conversation with Gerald Clarke.
Toby asks: How, and where, did you find these lost audiotapes of Judy Garland?
Gerald Clarke The audiotapes have been circulating in the Garland underground fan network for a long time. One of the fans gave them to me. I compare them to the manuscripts that used to circulate in the Old Soviet Union (called Samzidats).
Lucilla asks: Did anyone know she was working on a book?
Gerald Clarke Yes. She was contracted to write a book by Random House in 1959, when she was very ill with hepatitis, and she was working on it with a ghostwriter while she was recovering. Then her career got going again at the end of 1960 and in 1961 she abandoned the project. The manuscript amounts to 68 pages. It has been lying in the archives of Columbia University for many, many years, unread by anybody.
Treaty asks: Were there any surprises for you as you did your research on Judy?
Gerald Clarke Oh there were many surprises, the biggest perhaps was that Judy had been sexually molested when she was at MGM as a teenager. Everyone knows about the Hollywood casting couches but nobody thought that Judy had been subjected to any sexual pressure from the higher-ups at MGM. But she was, and she writes about it in her autobiography. She said "Don't think that they didn't all try from the age of 16 to 20". This was the period of time she was making Wizard of Oz. She was a picture of innocence--pigtails in a gingham dress.
The worst of the lot, she said, was Louis B. Mayer, the head of the studio. Mayer would tell her what a wonderful singer she was, and he would say "you sing from the heart" and then he would place his hand on her left breast and say "this is where you sing from". This went on for about 4 years until finally Judy got up enough courage to say to him: "Mr. Mayer, don't you ever do that again. If you want to tell me where I sing from, just point." Instead of firing her or getting into a fury, Mayer sat down and cried and he said "How can you say that to me, to me who has treated you like a father."
There was another man, another very high executive at MGM who called her into his office and without any chit chat demanded that she have sex with him. Something that he did with all of the young stars. Most of them apparently gave in to him. But Judy did not. He began screaming at her and told her she'd be fired. She would be out of a job. And Judy very coolly replied, "Oh, no. You will be out before I will be." And he was. A couple of months later, Mayer fired him. Not because of anything the man had done to Judy but because Mayer thought that the guy was after his own job. Nobody knew about the sexual pressure until I found this autobiography. I talked to hundreds and hundreds of people, many who knew Judy intimately, and nobody knew this story.
Another surprise for me, which Joel Siegel talked about on television, was news of Judy's abortion. What surprised me was not that she had an abortion, which many stars did, but that she was a properly married woman and was forced into it by her mother, her husband, and the studio. She desperately wanted children. Loved children. That's one of the reasons she got married in the first place and it was devastating to her to be taken to some abortion mill and be forced to give up her baby. Her marriage to David Rose never recovered.
Lisar. writes: Was Judy's mom a classic "stage mother"?
Gerald Clarke Absolutely. She was the prototypical stage mother. None worse.
Tellert asks: What are Judy's kids by Sid Luft doing today?
Gerald Clarke Lorna Luft is a singer and a performer and is touring the United States with an act called "Songs my Mother Taught Me". Judy sings along with her in recording and there are films of Judy on the stage behind Lorna. Joey Luft, who is Judy's favorite child, has just had a series of jobs--and has never really made his mark on life.
Uytrf says: What have her children said about growing up affected by both her fame and her neglect?
Gerald Clarke They have said different things at different times. In past years, they tended to dismiss a lot of the troubles they went through in the 60's, particularly when Judy was suffering from drugs and lack of money. In more recent years, they have described how really terrible it was for all of them. It was very destructive and a very hard time for everybody.
HasBenn asks: Why didn't Judy get help for her addictions?
Gerald Clarke She tried. Judy tried to get help for her addiction. She went to a series of psychiatrists beginning in about 1943. One doctor at that time, a very famous doctor, suggested that she go to his clinic in Kansas--the Menninger Clinic but of course, Judy could not take a year off as he recommended and so she went to psychiatrists in Los Angeles--one after another. But psychoanalysis never worked for Judy, and she was rather bitter about it in later years-laughed about it. In those days, the 40's and 50's, addiction was considered a moral failing rather than an illness that should be treated. And there were no drugs such as we have now to treat the kind of manic depressive behavior Judy suffered from. If she were alive today, her story might be quite different, perhaps treatment would be successful.
Haddyt writes: Can you speculate as to why Judy married men that are rumored to have been gay? In your book, are you able to confirm any of these rumors?
Gerald Clarke Yes, I do confirm rumors and I name names. Two of Judy's husbands were gay: Vincente Minnelli and Mark Herron. In fact, Judy once returned unexpectedly from the studio and discovered Minnelli in bed with a man who worked for them. The shock led to her first suicide attempt. She ran out of the bedroom into the bathroom and slashed one of her wrists, not very seriously, fortunately. She later told a friend about this another actress, and the actress said "you should have cut him, not yourself." Although she did not know it, Mark Herron, her fourth husband, was having an affair with Liza's boyfriend (and later husband) Peter Allen. I don't think Liza herself knew that until she read my book--if she has read my book. But not all of Judy's husbands, or the men she was interested in, were gay. Judy just liked interesting men.
Sparky says: How does this book differ from your first book on Judy? (Great read by the way.)
Gerald Clarke This is my first book on Judy. My previous book "Capote" was a biography of Truman Capote, the writer. But oddly enough, there were great similarities between Truman's life and Judy's life. Both had enormous early success, tragic downfalls and early deaths, and both were ruined by drug addiction.
Haswer asks: Was what Judy went through typical for female actresses in Hollywood?
Gerald Clarke Yes. Unfortunately just about every good-looking actress in Hollywood was subjected to some form of sexual harassment. Judy's case was no different from any others except perhaps that she resisted.
Asder says: I can't believe someone of Judy's talent had to put up with so much meddling from the studio. Did she ever rebel outright?
Gerald Clarke Judy's rebellion consisted of what psychiatrists call passive aggression. She began to show up late on the set, which cost the studio enormous sums of money. Sometimes she was unprepared. Sometimes she didn't show up at all. That was the way she got back at them.
linds381 says: What was one of the most happiest times of her life?
Gerald Clarke The happiest time of her adult life was probably the months after her marriage to Vincente Minnelli in 1945. She and Vincente had a long honeymoon in New York just as World War II was ending. They took a beautiful penthouse apartment overlooking Sutton Place one of the best spots in Manhattan. They went to shows. Vincente, who had spent many years in New York, introduced Judy to his theatrical friends, people like Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Everybody loved Judy and Judy loved New York. Even the cops would stop her on the street and say "hello, Judy". Her dog ran away and the entire police force went out to search for it. It was eventually found, wet but alive, in the East River.
Terrybrown asks: What do you think was Judy's greatest triumph?
Gerald Clarke Judy had many triumphs, not just one. One of the biggest, for me, was her appearance at the Palladium in London in 1951. She had been fired by MGM, she was considered a failure in Hollywood. People said she would never come back: she was finished--ruined--gone. But she went to London and had one of the biggest receptions that old town had ever given anyone, then she came back to America and had an even bigger reception at the Palace Theater in New York. Her career was on track again, and even Hollywood greeted her like the prodigal daughter. She was even given another movie. One of her very best "A Star is Born". Another highlight, probably equally as important, was the Carnegie Hall concert 10 years later in April 1961. At that time, Judy was at the peak of her ability as a performer. Her voice was superb. Never better. She was never as good again.
glowacki says: How did Judy get out from under her mother's influence?
Gerald Clarke Judy had put up with her mother through most of her early adult years. Even after her first two marriages to David Rose and Vincente Minnelli. What finally caused the break with her mother was the birth of Liza in 1946. As Liza grew older, to 2 or 3 years old, Judy saw her mother doing to Liza what she had done to Judy herself. In other words, she was becoming a stage grandmother and it made Judy sick to watch the two of them together. This is what Judy herself said. And she knew to protect Liza she had to end her relationship with her mother, which she did. It was very bitter and painful for both of them.
Jertty asks: Do you think Judy had one particular fatal flaw?
Gerald Clarke Well, her fatal flaw was her inability to shake the drugs--the pills. That was the greatest problem of her life and the one that killed her.
Hasdfg writes: Where were her Hollywood friends? Didn't anyone try to help her?
Gerald Clarke Oh, yes. Many people tried to help Judy. But they didn't know how and helping Judy then and later proved to be a task beyond anybody. Katherine Hepburn tried, but then discovered that helping Judy was a full-time occupation something that required 24 hours a day and this is what Judy's husbands also discovered. Judy could not have a man for very long anyway, who had a strong career of his own. As she grew older, she required--and demanded--constant attention. Being around Judy was like being in a hurricane.
jasonfrazier says How long have you been at work on this project?
Gerald Clarke Ten long arduous, pleasurable and painful years. But it is done, it's out, and I'm as happy as the picture of Judy on the cover.
Heytbone says: What's the biggest misconception people have about Judy Garland?
Gerald Clarke The biggest misconception is that her life was always unhappy. It wasn't. There were many periods of great happiness in her life. Judy had many, many lows, but she also had many, many highs. One of her friends said that nobody could laugh like Judy, and nobody could cry like Judy. There was no in between with Judy. It was always either great happiness or great unhappiness. But when she was happy, you knew it. She had the most wonderful laugh in the world. One man I talked to compared it to the sound of a waterfall. Happiness just gushing out of her. You can still hear it in her movies, and in her TV shows--A wonderful, throaty, infectious laugh!
Terrybrown asks: What do you think Judy would think of her fan following today?
Gerald Clarke Judy loved her fans and I'm sure she would be delighted to know that she had so many fans still, and they seem to be everywhere.
UTERt says: At the end of her life were her children still in contact with her?
Gerald Clarke Judy died in 1969: Liza was 23. Lorna was 16 and Joey was 13, and they did not have much contact with their mother at that time. In fact, Liza (who lived in New York and was married to Peter Allen) gave instructions to the doorman in her building not to take calls from her mother.
Asner asks: Why do you think Judy remains so popular today?
Gerald Clarke Judy was and is a magnetic performer. To watch Judy is as mesmerizing now as it was when she was making movies and TV series and her voice on records is as compelling today as it was 40 years ago when she was at Carnegie Hall. She had an unquenchable talent and it will never die. Compare Judy with some of her contemporaries: Lana Turner, for instance, and Heddy Lamar. All 3 of them were together in a movie called Ziegfeld Girl in 1940. Heddy and Lana were among the most beautiful women in the entire world. Judy was not beautiful, but if you watch that movie today, you scarcely notice Heddy or Lana. Your eyes are always on Judy.
JudyRules says: Do you feel your book will help keep Judy's legacy going and bring her new fans?
Gerald Clarke I do feel that. I think (and let me toot my own horn a little bit) I've given a new picture of Judy. I've not only discovered new information, and a lot of it, but I've given a more accurate, and I believe, passionate picture of this electric performer and unforgettable woman.
tgw44 asks: What were the significant events in the mid to late 60's that led to her poverty and death?
Gerald Clarke Her biggest disappointment in the 60's was the failure of her television series. She had been told, and she had every reason to expect, that it would make her financially secure for life and indeed, a very rich woman. But the series was a failure largely because of mistakes by the network, and Judy ended up as broke as she had begun and for the rest of her life, for the next 5 or 6 years, she went from city to city and town to town singing her heart out, just to make enough money to keep her family together. In the summer of 1967, she sang before 100,000 people at the Boston Garden outdoors. People sat through two downpours just to hear Judy. A year later, in the summer of 1968, things had gotten so bad that she was singing at a little bar on the upper east side of Manhattan for $100 a night.
Glenn says: Why do you think Judy's movie career never really took off after the triumph of "A Star is Born"?
Gerald Clarke A" Star is Born" was not a triumph. It started out as one. It was critically successful and at the beginning, it was financially successful. But the movie theater owners objected to its length. It ran over 3 hours. And Warner Brothers drastically cut it and after that, audiences just dwindled away. So it was not a success. Not because of anything that Judy had done but because of the incompetence of Warner Brothers. So her movie career never really got on track again.
PrincessKimberly asks: Who presently owns the licensing rights for Judy Garland's image and work?
Gerald Clarke Who owns the rights to Judy's work? That's a mystery. Her husband, Sid Luft, owns some of them. And her children own the rest. It's all extremely complicated, as everything was concerning Judy. It would take an accountant two days to tell the real story of what happens now with Judy's money.
Moderator What impression of Judy would you like people to have after reading your book?
Gerald Clarke I would like people to appreciate what a remarkable woman, what a remarkable person, she was. Deeply flawed, but deeply human. I don't look upon her life as a tragedy as many people have done. I regard it as a triumph because she overcame so many obstacles
Moderator Gerald Clarke, thank you for joining us tonight, and thanks to all those who submitted questions.
© 2006 Gerald Clarke
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