Judy Garland
By: Adam McGovern | Categories: HiLo Heroes

Garland

We grew up with JUDY GARLAND (Frances Ethel Gumm, 1922–69), first in The Wizard of Oz and then in her catalogue of teenage and mature roles, knowing that she herself grew up too fast and was already long gone, a casualty of the drug culture that our 1940s-era parents were honest enough to tell us was there all along. Hooked by adult handlers who’d pumped her up to perform, she was the embodiment of What You Didn’t Talk About, which made it no mystery that she became a divinity for gays while also being a surrogate sorrowful mother for us Jewish kids (and our relatives often erroneously claimed her). In eternal rerun, she’d be on the 1970s TV screen singing out “But Not for Me,” “You Made Me Love You,” “The Boy Next Door,” all these lamentations for happiness she wouldn’t have. We saw her character grow into the lovelorn teenager, the regretful woman, and when we watched Wizard every year, we understood it was not a tale of eternal wonder like the much-replayed movies of Shirley Temple, who stayed a kid forever in the public eye; it was a story of a girl leaving childhood for good. When we grew up ourselves we might catch her on 24/7 nostalgia channels, appearing on midcentury variety shows, clearly blitzed out of her mind with everyone still not talking about it — but maybe everyone noticing, and even cheering; her lack of control an early episode of the counterculture they were hoping would break out. And in that, a sacrifice once again. When she belted her defiance or sobbed her lonely confessions, she was keeping nothing inside — in fact everything was turned inside-out, and all we can do is hope that somehow, sometime, somewhere over the rainbow, there was something left for her.

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Anita Berber, Maurice Sendak, Nat Hentoff, Howlin’ Wolf.

READ MORE about members of the New Gods Generation (1914-23).

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Adam McGovern blogs on power and superpower at ComicCritique.com, interviews prestigious novelists in pop-culture journals and writes comic scripts for Image, Big If, GG Studio and the Trip City online arts salon.