Who didn’t grow up watching the annual broadcast of The Wizard of Oz? One of the networks would air this movie once a year when I was a kid, and EVERYONE I knew tuned in.
Minnesota proudly claims Judy Garland as our own, even though she lived here only the first four years of her life. She was born Frances Gumm in Grand Rapids and lived here until her parents took the family to bigger and brighter possibilities in California.
Since I was in Grand Rapids for the first time this past weekend, I knew I had to visit the Judy Garland Museum. I’m not a huge Judy fan, but I’ve always liked her work. She’s also a little fascinating as dead-too-young icons tend to be (Marilyn, Elvis, James Dean, to name a few).
The museum visit makes me want to learn more. I’m struck by how sad her life became. The information in the museum seems to indicate Judy had a happy childhood and enjoyed those early years performing with her sisters in Minnesota. As she got older, perhaps the pressures of show business became too much. She seems to have been unlucky in love, always searching for something more, turning to alcohol and prescription drugs to dull her reality.
If you have time, listen to this 13 minute clip from APM The Story about a flight attendant who had a brush with Judy Garland. I listened to it a few months ago and it’s a great story. The flight attendant was working first class, with Judy and her hairstylist as basically the only passengers. The hairstylist was bitchy and overprotective, but the flight attendant managed to still make a connection with Judy. Maybe having handlers like the hairstylist is what brought Judy down.
I knew she had died young, but I didn’t realize she was just 47. She always looks older than that in photos from her later years. Maybe it’s the hairstyle, maybe it’s the matronly, bedazzled evening gowns, or maybe it’s the sadness that lines her face.