Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Frances

Thanks to my dear Stephen at Post Apocalyptic Bohemian, I am reminded that today marks the birthday of probably the single most identifiable gay icon of the 20th Century, Judy Garland.

As someone who spent his adolescence in the late 70's, I've never fully embraced the whole Judy thing. I mean, I get it. She was a beautiful and talented young woman tragically exploited and enabled by the studio system into a spiral of self-destruction. A story we see again and again in real-life Hollywood. Does no one learn from the past?

According to LGBT mythology, the Stonewall riots were an almost direct result of Garland's death. The Stonewall was supposedly packed with fans who had come to mourn the loss of their heroine when the infamous raid and resulting riot took place.

I think this is the thing: Dorothy never really feels like she belongs, throughout the whole movie. When she's home in Kansas, she's dreaming of somewhere far away. But when she ends up somewhere far away, all she wants to do is go home. She makes new friends; has a glamorous makeover; kills two witches and exposes (well, her dog does, anyway) a fraud, while helping her new friends discover they've already had their fondest wishes, all along. Is there any one of you out there that cannot relate to at least one aspect of this story? I doubt it. No wonder gay men embraced this movie (and Garland) so much. And let's not even mention the Ruby Slippers...

Personally, I think Garland's best performances came well after The Wizard of Oz. I am especially enamored of her in Meet Me in St. Louis, in which she sang several of her signature songs:

And then of course, there's this from 1950's Summer Stock:

If you're a Baby Boomer, I hope you get it. If you're a Gen X'er or younger... well, you have no idea what you missed.

More, anon.

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