22-Year-Old Theater Guy Insists: Young People DO Like Judy Garland!

Categories: Advice

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Twenty-two-year-old theater performer Jason Wise wasn't thrilled to read the New York Times piece lamenting the fact that Judy's greatness is lost on young gays (in the context of a discussion about End of the Rainbow, the Broadway play covering Judy's messy time in London towards the end of her life).

Wise was fuming. He didn't "get happy." In fact, it sent him over the rainbow, in a giant snit.

Here's what Wise had to say in a letter he shot off to the paper:


"I am a 22-year-old gay man who is writing to The New York Times in response to Robert Leleux's article claiming that the younger generation of gay men no longer consider Judy Garland a gay icon.

"Leleux seemed to be basing his theory off the opinions of his 30-year-old date who admitted he did not know much about Garland. Leleux then made a blanket statement in a huge publication stating in terms of the new generation, 'Judyism is little more than a vague cultural memory'.

"Robert Leleux, I am 8 years younger than your date and I know that Judy Garland did more in her career than play Dorothy and sing 'that train song'. You said you grew up with Judy Garland records, and you were surrounded with Judy's music by 'a brilliant team of Texas big haired ladies to whom Judy was a kind of patron saint'.

"Robert, no one in my family introduced me to Judy Garland. I was not surrounded by her music. It may seem like a far-fetched theory to you, but believe it or not I discovered her on my own, as I promise you hundreds of thousands of other young gay men have managed to do.

"Therefore, you can not blame it on your date's upbringing as the reason for why his thick head does not understand 'what she has to do with being gay anymore' except for reminding him of 'Whitney and Lindsay and Britney'.

"It is ludicrous to me that you would tell Judy today that her wish for Immortality has tarnished since the millennium. I would only hope she would slap you across the face.

"Before you wrote this article, did you stop for a moment to think about the fact that maybe Judy Garland's resilience has inspired the younger gay generation to not throw themselves off the George Washington Bridge after being bullied? Because I can promise you it has. We STILL identify with her. And elements of her life STILL echo bits of inspiration into our ears when we are going through a rough time.

"While I'm talking about Judy's resilience (which you said yourself was 'superhuman' and held 'enormous appeal for gay people'), I would like to inform you of the dictionary definition of 'resilience': The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress. Yes, End of the Rainbow ultimately ends with the death of Judy Garland, but in the show that I saw, we witness her 'wit, gravitas and glamour' as she proceeds to fulfill her concerts, no matter how many times she had said she didn't want to.

"The whole show is about her resilience, which is educating people who may not know (like your date) why gay men identify with her. So can I ask you Robert Leveux, why you said End Of The Rainbow was 'no way to treat an icon'? Your article does not make the slightest bit of sense and if anyone is killing the legend of Judy Garland it is you, because you just wrote an article informing all 8 million people in New York City that Judy Garland no longer holds iconic status."

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Jason Wise

PS: End of the Rainbow is certainly dividing people--of different ages. On All That Chat, someone started a thread that wonders, "Should we picket the defamation of the genius that was Judy?"


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35 comments
Darnelldexter
Darnelldexter

 While I do love the fact that this YOUNG and clearly ATTRACTIVE kid said a lot that I agree with and proved that Judy's legacy stands the test of time and at the same time getting his name out there(he is an actor..clever move) I wonder would Mr. Musto have paid the same attention to him if he were not some typical pretty white boy? Let's hope so although I have a feeling he wouldn't

Peachfest01
Peachfest01

The Leleux article had no reason to exist.

billyjoe
billyjoe

Check out the numbers of viewer hits on Judy Garland's YouTube videos....she most certainly (and conveniently) lives on via this website, and it ain't just gay men who are watching these clips.

Rogie
Rogie

Can't stand her film performances. I find her too infantile - probably what the audiences of her day found acceptable, but that's also why today, it's the smaller circle of more sensuous and edgy performers that gets appreciated. Plus those roles were really nothing to write home about. She seems to have been stuck in permanent child-star mode as a movie actress, where her Svengalis tell her what to do and she executes their bidding.

Unusually in Garland's case, it's her stage and TV appearances, where she probably had greater control, that have that missing human (rough) edge. And when I sat down to listen to her Carnegie Hall recording, I decided I wouldn't turn away from anything she sang. And that's the thing about Garland - she wasn't perfect, but when she tried to be, sometimes she succeeded and a few other times she didn't.

Bobby
Bobby

The fact that people are still discussing Judy Garland nearly 43 years after her death seems to prove that she's still relevant. Garland did have more than her fair share of problems. But what people don't think about is the fact that she was such a brilliant entertainer DESPITE the addictions that plagued her. The performers of today can only dream of attaining the incredible success that Judy Garland reached in her short life. She worked 45 of her 47 years. She appeared in 34 films, did 30 of her own TV programs and appeared as guest on another 30 shows, she fulfilled over 1100 theater, concert and nightclub performances, recorded a dozen albums and another hundred singles; she appeared on several hundred radio broadcasts; sang and countless benefits and personal appearances for the military and charitable events; and prior to becoming a movie star appeared in hundreds of vaudeville houses with her sisters. Throughout that career she received a special Academy Award and was nominated two other times; she won a Tony Award; Two Golden Globes (one for "A Star Is Born" and one "Lifetime Achievement'); Her album "Judy At Carnegie Hall" won 5 Grammy Awards and Garland received a "Lifetime Achievement" Grammy; Six of her recordings are in the Grammy Hall of Fame; She was nominated for three Emmy Awards; She has appeared on US Postage Stamps on two occasions; The American Film Institute has her in the top ten of their Greatest Female Stars of All-Time and "Over The Rainbow" was named the greatest movie song of all-time. RIAA named "Over The Rainbow" the greatest song of the last 100 years. She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Four of her films are listed in the National Film Registry as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". Her recordings and films are constantly released commercially. Since her death she has been the subject of over 30 books and ten documentaries.

It's not a "gay" thing. Garland's success could not have been attained if she had only a gay audience. Her artistry finds new fans every year. There are dozens of websites devoted to her and a London based fan club that has been active since it's creation during Garland's lifetime.  I hardly think the Lady Gaga's/Madonna's/Rhianna's of the world will be as revered 43 years after they've left this world.

The unfortunate thing is that the play "End of The Rainbow" is being presented as fact. The play is a fictionalized account of the last few months of Judy Garland's life with a few facts thrown in for good measure. The play's author Peter Quilter himself said, "I didn’t research hugely because I wanted to keep the play focused on the characters and emotions.  Bio plays so often get bogged down in facts and figures and a desperate need to be precise.  I was more interested in a dramatic play that is inspired by these events rather than being a factual documentary of them."  People who see the play will believe what they've seen is the truth.  It's a shame that the creators of "End of The Rainbow" felt it necessary to sensationalize the facts. The real story of Judy Garland's life is much, much more interesting.

Is the play being produced by the National Enquirer?

And yes, I am a gay man, age 41 who discovered Judy Garland long before I knew what "gay" was. I didn't identify with her for all those stereotypical reasons gay people are supposed to love her for. I was six years old when I first heard her. I was just captivated by real talent. As I grow older and realize the problems she faced, problems forced on her or self-induced, make me appreciate her artistry all the more.

-Bobby Waters, Miami, FL

Gregorama
Gregorama

Bravo, Jason!  You are mighty savvy for someone of such a young age.  While compelling, I found that article to be very disturbing (there is a very similar article in the 4/8/12 issue of New York Magazine, by Jesse Green called, "Does Judy Garland Still Matter?" which makes a lot of the same assertions, re. Judy's lack of cultural gravitas for the "next" generations of gay men).  I felt that the writer implies that we've all (any Judy fan over the age of, say, 40) been sort of fools for slobbering after this pathetic creature, whose legacy was as ephemeral as....well...a rainbow.  And that this wise new generation of "empowered" creatures wouldn't go for her "love-me-love-me" shtick.  In the end, artistry will out...and at the heart of Judy Garland's appeal was her true, undeniable artistry at conveying the emotions of a song.  I happen to believe, contrary to Mr. Leleux (and his rather vapid little friend), that true talent and artistic genius are eternal and don't go out of fashion.  And she was one for the ages...all ages. 

Jeremymichaellagunas
Jeremymichaellagunas

To be fair, and being part of the younger generation as well, there are different types of people out there, or in our case, different types of gay people.  There are is an EQUAL amount of young men who are in love with Judy Garland as there are with Gaga and Beyonce (if not more).  I don't think ANYONE should assume that they know what every person in our generation has interests in, and to go off of what Jason states in his letter, I too was not raised on Judy Garland, but I found her myself, BEFORE I even saw Wizard of Oz.  And in Judy Garlands defense, yes she had problems, but problems that were displayed for the world to see.  Everyone has issues, maybe not to that extreme, but then everyone is not in the light all the time.  How would you feel to have any problem you had displayed for everyone to judge you?  As people who go day to day having the government decide what we can and can't do as gay individuals, I would expect that we should learn to not judge so quickly. I stand behind 100% of what Jason Wise has written here.

Southern Dave
Southern Dave

Judy's Carnegie Hall poster says it all for me:

"World's Greatest Entertainer."

When I was a teen-ager, I saw her at the Houston Astrodome, with the ORIGINAL Supremes as her opening act.

People who didn't know each other were applauding, cheering, laughing, crying, hugging each other and jumping up and down.

While she was singing, however, we were rapt; astonished at her vocal and emotional power and delicious sense of humor.

Norman Granz, Ella Fitzgerald's longtime manager, said that in his opinion, "There's Ella. And then there's everybody else."

That's the way I feel about Judy Garland.

In her early concerts, when people called out to Liza Minnelli to sing "Over the Rainbow, " she silenced them with three words:

"It's been sung."

Savannah Montgomery
Savannah Montgomery

This sort of discussion kinda makes me yearn for the "good" [ironically,speaking] ole days..when an "older/wiser" queen (not a molester) would take you under his/her wing to give you the "gay culture education"... who usually held your hand through your first "real" breakup (s/he saw it coming)...and taught you how to be a "come-back bitch" with style.

Rlblackwell
Rlblackwell

Jason Wise is really cute, so he wins!!

Tim in SF
Tim in SF

It's a shame neither Robert Leleux nor Jason Wise cited any data. They both spoke exclusively from their own anecdotal experience. Wise should be praised for standing up for Judy, while Leleux should be shunned for writing, in a public forum, such sweeping generalizations based on nothing more than his own interactions.

Mark11n
Mark11n

I'm 35 years old, I dislike Gaga, Britney, Beyonce, and Madonna, plus all  I know about Judy Garland is Somewhere Over the Rainbow and I didn't even know "that song about the train" until last year. "Gay culture" isn't every gay's culture. 

Quills
Quills

Thank you Jason, for standing up for Judy and for speaking the truth about how her legacy endures.

latenitebump
latenitebump

that what he says but check out what´s on his ipod. betcha there´s not a judy insight. betcha if you started playing him some judy garland music he´d fall asleep or make an excuse to go to the toilet."wait! don´t go to the toilet, yet! you´re gonna miss the best part. ding ding went the bell. i know i played it to you 152 times already but i luuuuuvvvvv how she delivers that note when she sings chug chug went the motor."

latenitebump
latenitebump

maybe, jason but i think they´re more into gaga and beyonce.judy doesn´t have a cell phone; doesn´t text; doesn´t sing in her bra and undies with stilettos on stage (or in public). plus, drugs are out. judy garland was a drug addict and alcoholic.it´s about looking fit. dance numbers, today. can´t be drinking alcohol all day.

Platha
Platha

The play makes a cocky all over Judy's memory. Why is this young person defending it??

Theentireworld
Theentireworld

I'm 27 and I don't care about Judy Garland, but that's just me.

Steve
Steve

 EXACTLY!!!

Bobby
Bobby

Rogie - You're probably remembering Judy as a child star when thinking of her on film. The films of the 30's and 40's were much more innocent than what we're accustomed to today. I'm sure some of those early films were corny even back in those days!  All those "Golly" and "Gee Whiz" moments with Mickey Rooney. Judy and Rooney even parodied their films, years later, on Garland's weekly TV series for CBS in the early 60's. Check out Garland's performances in "A Star Is Born", "Judgement At Nuremberg" and her final film, "I Could Go On Singing".

Steve
Steve

Good post, Bobby.  I've always wondered why Judy is pigeon-holed into the gay realm?  I have many straight friends (more than the gays) who think she's wonderful.  By itself, her Carnegie Hall album would cement her as a "star," not to mention all her other achievements.  If she were really only a "gay celebrity," her Carnegie Hall concert album would NOT be a best seller all these 50+ years later.

mookindahouse
mookindahouse

 "In her early concerts, when people called out to Liza Minnelli to sing "Over the Rainbow,  she silenced them with three words:

"It's been sung."

yet she performed it at her 'Liza's Back' concert in '02, but unlike Lorna she's still very selective about singing mama's music (she sang "You Made Me Love You" in '95 at a party for 'The Life'), "The Man That Got Away" at several concerts in the '90s, "The Trolley Song" and "The Boy Next Door" in her Minnelli on Minnelli show, and her mother's Palace Theater medley in 'Liza's at the Palace')

Musto
Musto

If I had seen the Supremes and Judy on the same night, I would have died and gone to gay heaven right there.

Darnelldexter
Darnelldexter

looks like every other pretty white boy to me

Tim in SF
Tim in SF

You can't describe gay culture, then say you're gay so it isn't gay culture. It just means that you happen to not like anything you perceive as gay culture. 

That being said, gay culture goes far beyond singers (most of which I don't care for, either). I'm sure you have some gay culture in you (if, by injection alone) or you wouldn't be commenting on Michael Musto's blog. 

Musicmind02
Musicmind02

Since I know Jason, I know his iPod is full of every recording that Judy ever did. In fact, every gay man I know has Judy somewhere on their iPod right along Gaga and Beyonce. Somedays you feel like Gaga, somedays are Joni, some are Liza, and yes, still to this day, some days it's a Judy day. I mean what better song than "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart!" after a great first date?

Guest
Guest

well, your post explains everything.

Me
Me

untrue - Liza did not sing "Over the Rainbow" at her 'Liza's Back' concerts

Savannah Montgomery
Savannah Montgomery

 ...and?

We're (they're) wanting any "ghost" of Judy...although, I never saw Judy in person.

latenitebump
latenitebump

 don´t make me throw up!new york dolls for life!

Tim in SF
Tim in SF

Dude, the best Judy Garland album of them all is Judy Garland Speaks. 

Holy crap, that's like a bomb goes off in your head. 

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