As I mentioned in my last HuffPost blog Peter Quilter's End Of The Rainbow (EOTR) is fiction presented as fact supposedly documenting Judy Garland during her 1968 Talk Of The Town engagement in London. At the request of a Reader commenting on my last blog I will do my best to provide some more insight about the inaccurate and fabricated portrayal of Judy Garland in EOTR.
I am not surprised that Quilters' play has appealed to the more tabloid Biographers who have written very slanted books about Garland and her Family. It should be noted that Judy Garland often truthfully quipped that her autobiography should be called "Nobody Asked Me". She would assure her children "It's all part of the "myth.", but in reality she wanted to set the story of her life straight and attempted to on more than one occasion.
"I don't know if you know what It's like to pick up a paper and read things about yourself, loathsome things that have nothing to do with you or you love or you kindnesses."
Deceitful works commenced right after her death with Mel Torme's ax grinding The Other Side of the Rainbow. George Schlatter (Producer, The Judy Garland Show, CBS) offered
"As a Historian Mel Torme is a great singer."
The late Coyne Steve Sanders, who wrote the well researched book Rainbows End about Garland's CBS series, told me a story about an impromptu encounter between Torme and Judy's Conductor and Arranger Mort Lindsey.
"Mort, who is this Steve Sanders writing a book about Judy's series? I wrote that book!" Lindsey replied in his mild manner: "No Mel, Steve's book is going to be different; Steve is going to tell the truth".
Additionally, David Shipman's Secret Life Of An American Legend alienated many of Garland's friends from ever being interviewed again, because he twisted their words and used them to write his tabloid tome.
As you can see EOTR was not the first work to drag Judy through the mud posthumously. However, it is the first about a specific period of time that was previously well documented and published in the first person. Lorna Smith's Judy, With Love was written by someone who knew her and worked with her having been her original UK Fan Club President. When Judy came to London she asked Lorna to be her Wardrobe Mistress for the entire 5 week run of the Talk of the Town (TOTT) engagement. Their personal relationship lasted over a decade until Judy's death in June of 1969. Judy, With Love offers a very different picture of what was going on behind the scenes, and she should know because she was there, not only at TOTT but at the Ritz Hotel. Ms. Smith rights truthfully and candidly as a keen an eyewitness to what was going on. She writes
"Since Judy is no longer available to defend herself in anyway, there is no limit to what can be written or spoken against her, no matter how cruelly untrue some of those assertions may be."
Lorna Smith still lives in London and attended an early preview of EOTR in the West End. After seeing the production she was so upset about the myriad of inaccuracies that she contacted the Playwright Peter Quilter directly. Ms. Smith offered to sit down and correct these inaccuracies with him. She was told there was no interest in what she had to offer! And there, ladies and gentleman, you have it! As a kid, for me anyway, if you didn't do your homework you got bad grades. Apparently this does not apply to tabloid biographers and dramatists who get applauded (and the critics who applaud them) for ignoring facts and creating their own.
Lorna Smith's memories of TOTT are minutely detailed and are in no way a whitewashed depiction of what happened in an around this engagement. Judy was having problems and many of these were systemic historical problems. The last Producer of The Judy Garland Show, CBS, Bill Colleran perhaps summed I up best: "There were problems and usually the problems were not caused by Judy." As an example at her second performance of TOTT, Judy gave a smashing show despite the fact that an "anonymous" caller had phoned in and berated her to the verge of tears just hours before. One can clearly see that Judy was victimized by those around her.
Much ado has been made about Judy's penchant for being late. Once again Judy made the perfect scapegoat at TOTT. Time was not an issue when Judy was getting made up at the theatre, and in fact this worked quite well at the beginning of the run. However, this changed when Judy's fiancé Mickey Deans decided Judy should get made up at the hotel.
"Unbelievable as it may seem," says Smith, "Judy very seldom realized when she was not onstage on time" She also noted that Garland's hotel room, oddly, did not have a clock. One evening while Smith and Garland were getting ready, "someone" knocked on the door. "It's almost 11' clock, you'd better hurry!" Throwing Judy into a panic "My God, I should be on stage, I thought I had plenty of time!"
Upon late arrival, Lorna Smith over-heard that "someone" lying through their teeth to a musician
"You have no idea how hard it was for me to get her here at all!"
Still the Garland wit was there; she immediately apologized for her tardiness and soon won the audience over for her bare feet (having grabbed two left pumps on her way out of the hotel).
Another piece of distorted dramatization in EOTR is Garland's threat to jump out of a hotel window. For clarification this happened while she was still living and performing with her two younger children, Lorna and Joey Luft, two years prior to TOTT . This was not done on a whim of self- indulgence "Don't you know who I am?!", but because the people who were managing (or rather mismanaging) her career had neglected to pay the bill as was contracted. Simply because Judy was desperately trying to buy time while attempting to pack up with her kids; whatever clothes and belongings they could. Lorna Luft recalls the incident in her book Me and My Shadows.
EOTR also depicts a despondent Judy Garland storming off the stage wandering back to her hotel in the hopes of finding some booze, having just spitting obscenities at her audience. In terms of profanity, family members and colleagues have concurred her vocabulary could get colorful if she was angry. However, the theatre hired a very blue comic to open for Garland one night at TOTT and Judy was disgusted "Unadulterated filth!" she exclaimed to Smith standing by. EOTR also depicts a moment where Judy goes cavorting out on her own, and her fiancé Mickey panics to find her. Judy is depicted inebriated and bashed her head open while on her own. This absolutely never happened, and is actually reminiscent of the final moments of Judy's last film, I Could Go On Singing. Where Garland's Character "Jenny Bowman" gets tipsy and sprains her ankle.
I was misunderstood recently by a Reporter from Los Angeles Magazine relative to my comments about Mickey Deans being canonized in EOTR. The truth is Mickey Deans was the one who was almost never to be found, and any depiction of him being compassionate or loving to Judy at anytime during the TOTT is canonization. The truth is Mickey was completely indifferent to Judy at this period, even at one point documented by Lorna Smith going back to her dressing room while an unruly audience member was threatening Judy during a performance of TOTT.
Judy's Publicist, Matthew West offered in 2001
"Mickey Deans was a scalawag and a party animal."
West stated that Deans would leave Garland alone for long stretches of time and keep her waiting for hours at dinners and social engagements. Often times only to no show, claiming that he was stuck in a "business meeting". That business was, more than likely, that of the "monkey" variety. Deans had quite a reputation for himself before and after his association with Judy Garland. He could be found at "Julius'" a gay bar in Manhattan, an establishment where the older gay clientele went to find younger gay men, the latter usually being paid for services rendered. A very well respected Broadway Author who was acquainted with Deans told my Husband that Mickey's pick-up line to these young men was relative to his endowment having been touched by Judy. He could also be found selling Judy's clothing out of the trunk of his car around the West Village, a practice that he continued up until the time of his Death on eBay. I know firsthand that Mickey was selling artifacts and jewelry that he said were Judy's and were in fact items that he picked up at garage sales and thrift shops. The truth is if Judy had this many artifacts and jewelry she would have not have been in the dire straits that she was financially at the time of her death.
There was also other abuse by Deans towards Garland besides the emotional. Johnnie Ray was working with Garland in the last leg of the European tour after leaving England. His Manager stated in Ray's Biography that Deans was verbally abusive to Garland and he did attempt to strike her one night, and Ray came to her defense. Ginger Rogers also witnessed Dean's abrasive behavior backstage, as she recalled in her biography. Again I believe firsthand accounts are the most accurate, and to that end Lorna Luft recalls leaving her mother's funeral services in a limousine with Deans. He insisted at stopping at a Manhattan office and it became clear to Lorna that he was striking his book deal only hours after her Mother's services.
Judy was sick with high running fevers during the TOTT engagement, and in fact Lorna Smith documents that on more than one occasion Judy was given specific orders from Doctors to not perform. She at Deans' direction went on when she not have. Six shows a week for five weeks with a fever is a Herculean task for any Performer let alone the diminutive Garland. Smith waited for Garland one night at the theatre only to find a grey, drawn and frightened looking Judy enter the stage door. a Garland companion informed Smith: "She is ill and she is being forced onto that stage tonight!" Management had made no announcement of Garland's tardiness; at this point more than two hours causing many present to either leave or miss their last train home. Smith saw the stage strewn with cigarette boxes and trash, and Judy went on amidst the rubble. Smith watched in horror as an unruly patron made rude gestures to Judy while beginning her act, finally leaping onto the stage and trapping her in a body lock. Lorna, a woman and frightened herself, watched as Judy, at 4'11 and weighing less than 100 pounds had to break free on her own and find safety in the wings, seconds before someone hurled a glass at the stage missing her by inches. Where was Mickey Deans? He was eventually located relaxing in Judy's dressing room having a drink.
Again, this is all chronicled, in Lorna Smith's book, Judy, with Love which should be required reading for anyone who considers themselves a true Garland admirer and certainly anyone who has seen a performance of EOTR.
A simple minded Journalist recently stated that dedicated Garland fans do not like EOTR because they are in denial that she had an addiction problem; another stated that most wear rose colored glasses. More than the majority of Judy Garland admirers are all too well aware of her substance abuse problems. While she had indeed struggled with a prescription drug addiction all of her life, Lorna Smith offers that she witnessed her intake of Meds and that Garland was not the "walking apothecary" that more tabloid biographers and playwright opportunists would have you believe.
Biographers, Playwrights and Impersonators who depict Garland as a raging lush desperate for booze are also misinformed. According to Lorna Smith, Judy's alcohol intake over the twelve years she knew her and the five and half weeks at TOTT was very little. Her close friend Peter Lawford affirmed in 1972 that the real problem was the pills. He acknowledged that there were indeed times that Judy drank too much, but there were times she barely drank at all. Jayne Meadows who (with husband, Steve Allen) spent a good deal of time with Garland during her CBS series offered (in her audio commentary for the show) that she was never witness to this kind excessive behavior. Her Ex-Husband Sid Luft maintained that she would often take no more than a sip or two throughout the evening, leaving more than half a dozen of them hardly touched. The core of her problem was prescription medication.
More importantly addiction and tragedy do not define Judy Garland or her talent, or the fact that she still resonates so deeply with the legions of fans more than forty-three after her death. The preeminent Garland Historian John Fricke states:
"What you have to do on her behalf is clarify; you've got to balance it. And that isn't so much protective as it is, Hey, wait a minute! Put in the rest of the story! And when she didn't succeed, and when she wasn't well, it's important to say WHY she wasn't or WHAT were the extenuating circumstances? If you're going to tell anything tell as much of the truth as you can, not one side of it"
Carol Burnett sued for libel; it took her years to win, but she won. Valerie Harper when she was fired for "being difficult" fought and won. Why is it "poetic license "to screw with the details of someone's life? Judy Garland is not here to defend herself. Nor is Elvis Presley, or Marilyn Monroe or any of the others of her kind for that matter. How can one not be offended by EOTR and their depiction of Judy so desperate for pills she resorts to imbibing canine meds and barking on all fours? If this is indeed acceptable by critics then one assumes that it would then be acceptable to depict an overweight person with an eating addiction squealing like a pig, eating out of a trough desperate for goodies. Somehow, I think not. What someone "might do" and what they did do are two very different things, and in the case of Judy Garland, fact is apparently far more fascinating than fiction. Perhaps If Judy Garland were alive she would have injected humor in the face of pain as she did with a Journalist who made up stories about her: "You should have called me, I could have given you much better material!"