Judy Garland (1922-1969)
”Why do people insist on seeing an aura of tragedy around me always? My life isn’t tragic at all. I laugh a lot these days. At myself, too. Lord, if I couldn’t laugh at myself I don’t think I’d be alive.”
The ”Judy Queen” was a certain kind of gay archetype from the mid-20th century, an era that brought the first baby steps towards LGBTQ Rights, but it was also a time when gay behavior was coded, and gay stereotypes allowed straight society a chance to deal. Judy Queens flocked to her films, told stories about her at brunch, memorized her albums, screamed and trembled at her concerts, and 40,000 of them showed up to weep at the viewing her body at NYC’s Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in June 1969.
Beginning in the mid-1970s, as LGBTQ people found their footing and began demanding to live an open life, the gay guys had to live down those stereotypes, many of us hitting the gym and butching it up. Now near the end of the second decade of the 21st century, Gay, as we have known it, is on the way out. Getting married, buying a house and having children are the thing. We are assimilating. The journey has taken gay people from Oz back to Kansas. Now, many gay guys disown the notion of the Judy Queen as an embarrassment. The world is going Post-Gay. There’s no place like home.
How did this Judy Queen thing happen? Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler and Cher show strength in their talent, with a kind of nonchalance about how society regards them. These women demand to be true to themselves. Garland, the generation before, lived her life with self-effacement, insecurity and pressed-down emotions. She was willing to be whatever the audience wanted her to be. Garland begged to be loved. Madonna says we are fortunate to get the chance to love her.
How can I come up with a true gay connection to Judy Garland? Let’s see… her father was gay, two of her husbands were gay, the man she handpicked as a husband for her famous daughter was gay, her LGBTQ fans remain the most fervent fans, even in 2018. The fruit of her loins is Liza Minnelli for heaven’s sake. And then there is the matter of that little film titled The Wizard Of Oz (1939).