Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall April 23rd, 1961

Dear Miss Garland,

I am writing this to to you and I hope that you'll see it so you'll know...You made us Love You!

 I know, I'll sing em all, and we'll stay all night.
- Judy Garland, Carnegie Hall, April 23rd, 1961

Over the years, Judy Garland was billed as “the little girl with the great big voice,” “Miss Show Business,” and the “world’s greatest entertainer.”
Her April 23rd, 1961 concert at Carnegie Hall has been called "the greatest night in show business history."
There were no flashing lights, no extravagant dance numbers, just Judy. (NPR)
It's clear to say that 53 years ago tonight, the joint really WAS jumpin' down at Carnegie Hall.
 I was all of two months old...but as time would go on, I would come to know the magic that Judy Garland shared and continues to share today.
Photo courtesy John Fricke

I could not think of a better subject today than to celebrate the magic of that iconic night at Carnegie Hall when Judy made the penultimate comeback. 
It is still considered one of the greatest nights in the annals of show business.

I didn't have to go to Oz to find out what I've known all along. 
I simply reached out to my friend and foremost Garland historian, John Fricke. However, in a blog, we can BARELY scratch the surface of the Garland legacy. John has written several books and still there is SO MUCH more to explore in Garland's life and career.
A fan's obsession!The artist can be found at underground tattoos Enfield UK

As much as I desired to focus on John's story today, he insisted that we focus mostly on Judy. 

I will, however, tell you a little bit about John Fricke on our road to Garland. Sorry, John!
He is a historian/author on The Wizard of Oz and Judy Garland. He has been a major figure in the Oz community for many years.

He recently served as consultant for every aspect of the new deluxe DVD set(s) of M-G-M's The Wizard of Oz, released by Warner Home Video.
This includes his participation and appearance in the accompanying L. Frank Baum documentary, The Man Behind the Curtain.

John has been a fan of Garland since he was five, no question. He was vastly encouraged in that by both his parents after he saw The Wizard of Oz on TV in 1956.
His parents bought him the Oz books, Oz albums, and, of course the  Judy Garland albums. 

They also allowed him to get up to watch her films on the late show. Though John was ten when Garland played Carnegie Hall, he was very much aware of her.

Being a ten year old kid and in a world without the resources we have today, he didn't know her day to day activities. That, of course, was impossible to follow at that time.

Also, please take into consideration, that he was also still a pre-teen in Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

Certainly, he knew enough to know when the Carnegie Hall album came out. He saw the reviews and he got it for Christmas.
There were a lot of magazine articles in Life and TIME and women's magazines like Good Housekeeping and Redbook and In the Theatre about her.

 John was researching her for his own pleasure from the time he was a little boy in the Milwaukee public library system, thanks to the reader's guide to periodical literature, and anything he could find. He would trace whatever he could on her, or Oz, or Frank Baum.
There was a huge resurgence, not only Carnegie Hall, but the tour. Then there was Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), the TV special with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin (What extraordinary talents !!!),. A Child Is Waiting, Gay Puree, I Could Go on Singing.
Valley of the Dolls wardrobe test
This period is Judy's life was such a mountain peak for her from 1961-1963. 
That visibility was kept strong by the TV series.

He was "nostril deep" in all of that. Because he was a member of The International Wizard of Oz Club, and the  International Judy Garland Fan Club, he was already contributing to those fan-zines when he was a teenager when there was something he could write about. The Oz Club suggested as early as 1965 that he look ahead to 1969 and prepare an article on the making of The Wizard of Oz  for its thirtieth anniversary.
He did his research and his article covered about eighteen pages in the issue.
Believe it or not, it was the first time that anyone had done an article, or anything, about the making of The Wizard of Oz.

The film was certainly iconic already because of all the TV showings and the annual telecasts that had already gone back for over a decade at that point.
That kind of history was just beginning to be examined in depth.

That was also the first primary thrust John did in terms of journalism. 
He was writing about the concerts he saw Judy do, and that kind of thing, for the fan-zines.

John was lucky enough to see Judy perform three times in concert, once in 1965, and twice in two nights in 1967, always in Chicago because that was the closest she came to Milwaukee.
Garland and kids on stage at Carnegie Hall

At that time, John really wasn't doing any work in preserving the legacy of Judy Garland. According to him, he was a sixteen year old kid who "looked like Opie of Mayberry."

John did meet her after one of her concerts in 1967. It was at 2AM in the Pump Room Restaurant in the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago. John went over to her table when she was done eating. She was as warm and welcoming and kind as he always knew she would be. He really had no right to expect her to be all of those things after having dinner after a ninety minute show. She wasn't "Judy Garland" then.

She was "Frances".
You can talk with thousands of people who had the privilege of meeting her and they will describe the same experience.
"She always focused on you to the exception of all else. She gave you the feeling that she had been waiting her whole life to meet you when, obviously, just the opposite was true."
She couldn't have known then, nor could John, that he was going to be part and parcel of the  preservation and presentation of so much of her legacy in subsequent years.
He is very grateful for the sixty seconds he had with her. The best way to put it, is that he had every opportunity to ask for an autograph, but didn't... although he desired one! He didn't want her to think, although he is sure she couldn't have cared either way, that he was just another autograph seeker.
She meant far more to him than that.

Since then, John has written several books on Judy. I asked his thoughts on the plethora of books on book shelves on Judy Garland's life.
It becomes very subjective, therefore, for him to discuss other authors' work.
That being said, it is difficult for him to steer fans to anything that is a strict biography of Judy.

I bought my first Judy biography in 1973. It was Al Diorio's Little Girl Lost.

Even in that first spate of books that were first done in 1975, the Anne Edwards book, the Gerold Frank book, the Christopher Finch book, Rainbow: The Stormy Life of Judy Garland , all of those books are stymied. Edwards' book is appallingly embarrassing in it's inaccuracy and it's lack of completeness. The Christopher Finch book, Rainbow, was the best of the lot, although it only covers, in great detail, her life up to the point where she left MGM. After that, it tends to rush over the last nineteen years of her life. A Star Is Born gets focus, Carnegie Hall gets focus, but there was so much more going on that isn't detailed in the work she was doing.
The Gerold Frank book had the cooperation of the kids and Sid Luft.
Judy Garland gets her own private concert while husband Sid Luft and friend Sugar Ray Robinson look on. (The Judy Garland Experience)
Sid cooperated because he was being paid A LOT and the kids cooperated because they were, in effect, cooperating with Sid
Lorna, Joey, Sid, Judy

The trouble with any book that came out in that period was the truth couldn't be written. The truth couldn't be told about Sid because he was being cut in on Gerold's book. The truth couldn't be told about Freddie Fields and David Begelman, Judy's agents because they were alive and very powerful.

You couldn't get into the sexuality of Vincente Minnelli or Mark Herron, Tom Green, or Mickey Deans, because they were all alive. Liza's stipulation for agreeing to be interviewed by Gerold was that he not go into the whole issue of Judy's father's sexuality.
That leaves a serious bunch of holes in a book. Gerold Frank, although he loved Judy and desired to present her in the best light, sat down all of these stories of Judy's lifetime, "Judy did this. Judy did that. Judy reacted this way.", he never told why...because he couldn't.
The legalities would have been impossible. What we get is this one sided sense of Judy and we never get a sense of why she is behaving to what she is behaving to.
We don't know if she is ill or if she is angry  or why she was so terribly vulnerable. In the books since then, gosh, it is so difficult to say.
There have been several really appalling books, mostly by British authors.
There is the Sheridan Morley Ruth Leon book, the Paul Donnelley book, there are others.
They are pretty much written from the point of view of a cut and paste approach or negativity or of rumor as opposed to fact. There isn't a Garland biography that John can wholeheartedly recommend.

Getting back to Garland at Carnegie Hall, there is a documentary in the works. John met with the director and producer a few months ago. On their websitem they state, "A kaleidoscopic documentary film, STAY ALL NIGHT is a dazzling show-business and social meditation on the profound bond between Judy Garland and her audience, the nature of memory, and New York City, as seen through the prism of the legendary Judy Garland Carnegie Hall concert on April 23rd, 1961. This night was famously, yet only preserved as a live recording and indelibly in the memories of those who were there. At the emotional core of the film, we are compelled by the power of witness, specifically by new first-hand accounts from Judy at Carnegie audience members. Unfolding in a mosaic of intimate conversations, music, and evocative imagery, STAY ALL NIGHT will transport audiences into an era and a city, mixing past and present to weave a tapestry of personal journeys and unexpected tales.
Remarkably, no film exists of this 1961 concert - something unimaginable in our times – but this documentary embraces the power and mystery of the seemingly untouchable.

STAY ALL NIGHT will create something new and tangible via an innovative use of oral history, archival, found, photographic, newly-shot environmental and representational footage, and an enveloping ambient musical sound scape with echoes of the past and present. This is not a recreation of the performance, but will bring us as close to it as we'll ever be. An emotional and cinematic time tunnel, STAY ALL NIGHT will reflect on the unplanned perfect combination of elements – artist, audience, concert hall, city, era – that still command and inspire our attention nearly 50 years later. In the process, the film will also hold a mirror to the social and cultural parallels and changes in our modern world."

It still is very much on their front burner. It is now a matter of raising funds, not to mention the fact that they have had other commitments.
John feels this documentary is a very good idea. The longer it takes to get it going, the fewer people it is to actually talk with who were actually there that night. Judy had come back in such a way that nobody thought was possible.
 There was a lot of joy about it. Show Business Illustrated magazine, which was a short lived but wonderful bi weekly publication that Hugh Hefner was doing, did a three part story on Judy.

The writer, in summing up 1961, said people had waited for so long for Judy to be happy that they just couldn't stand the fact that she finally was. Their reaction was off the charts.
It was a very timely and very telling estimation about Judy's relationship with the people who love her.
John is not talking about the manic fans who are into the "she suffered and died for our sins" syndrome. He is talking about the cross generational extraordinary appeal she has had to be a best selling CD person and a best selling movie person whose work is timeless and a TV person whose work is timeless. He is talking about the people who react to her joy and her perseverance and her ability to rise above it all and her humor and exultation that watching her and listening to her gives them.
Naturally, they DESIRE her to be happy in turn and thinks she deserves happiness in turn.
Judy at Carnegie Hall
This was in effect throughout her career. John just came from a college film club outside of Detroit two weeks ago doing a two hour and twenty minute presentation on Judy and last week, he was at The Turner Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles doing a similar but different presentation. Those people would still be there. They want to see her, they want to watch her. They want to hear as many funny and happy things as possible about her. They are all looking for perspective. One of the best questions was just presented to John at the TCM event.

Some man asked John, quite sincerely, if he thought there was any time in Judy's life in which he thought things might have turned around for her, if things would not have been as rough. That's the kind of question that someone who genuinely cares asks forty-five years after her passing. People are still concerned about what could have been done to make her life better and easier for her in that she made so many millions of people easier and happier in their own lives.

Judy's appearance at Carnegie Hall was part of a tour. There were actually two Carnegie Hall concerts.
The first was Sunday, April 23rd and it was repeated four weeks later on May 21st. The first concert sold out and they scheduled the May 21st concert immediately thereafter.
This tour actually started in London in 1960.

She performed two nights at the Palladium plus a Royal Variety Show there between August and December.Orchestra leader Mort Lindsey conducted for Judy Garland during the early 1960s (including her famous Carnegie Hall concert). She did four shows in Paris at two different venues, Amsterdam (which was also recorded), Birmingham and Leeds, Manchester in England, she went to Frankfurt to campaign for write in votes for President Kennedy from the servicemen who were stationed abroad. She was pretty much all over the European map. It was the same basic show that she brought back to the States in January 1961. Between January and December of '61, she did the show about forty times: twice in Dallas, twice in Houston, the Hollywood Bowl (where she sold out over 18,000 people in a two hour steady drizzle.

Judy Garland, American singer and actor, with Mark Herron, c 1964. Credit: Science and Society / SuperStock

Nobody moved. They even made her sing San Francisco a second time when she ran out of orchestrations at the end of the show!), The Newport Jazz Festival, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Rochester, Buffalo, DC, down South, Florida, Denver, San Francisco, all over the country.
It was the same two and a half hour show, just Judy. In fact, that's what the program said: Act One, Judy, Act Two, More Judy.

Mort Lindsey was Judy's conductor. He didn't meet Judy until February 1961 when he was pressed into
Mort Lindsey with Judy
service to conduct a show for her up at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills. He was summoned to a NYC rehearsal when it was discovered that neither the hotel conductor nor drummer could handle her charts.
Mort brought in Ed Shaunghnessy from the Tonight Show band and had the whole thing cooking in no time.
Judy and Mort on stage at Carnegie Hall

Judy and her management prevailed upon him to conduct the Concord performance.
Six or seven weeks later, when she began the tour itself, he was brought back and then persuaded to do one show after another, leading to Carnegie Hall later in April. By then, he was ensconced as her musical director, began doing her orchestrations (the first were "Just in Time" and "Never Will I Marry"), and etc. 

He had taken a year off from conducting to compose, but realized that the Garland opportunity surpassed anything else that musically could happen.

Ultimately, they did 30 hours of television, two feature films, several recording sessions, and over 100 live shows together. He's on record as saying she was "head and shoulders above" every other entertainer with whom he ever worked -- whether Streisand, Sinatra, et al.
Judy put the whole show together. She had just done the album, That's Entertainment, for Capitol in the summer of 1960.
That included four jazz numbers and one song with just a piano. She used that to give variety to the program.

She starts in Act One with a forty piece orchestra at Carnegie Hall and ends with them. In the middle, she had four numbers with a nine piece jazz aggregation. The second act is set up the same way except that in the middle she does three numbers with just piano.

She was very savvy and very canny about what a first number should be, what a second number should be, building to the encores. These concerts were all her.
Judy had a very prolific concert career for the remaining eight years of her life. There was also the possibility of her playing Mame on Broadway! Before the show opened in 1966, Life Magazine did a wonderful feature on the show and on Angela Lansbury. In the process of talking about the history of the planning for the musical, they list several people who were supposedly considered for Mame, Judy being one of them.
Angela Lansbury, Judy Garland-- The Harvey Girls
Her real interest in the show, and the possibility of her being in the show, came when the show was running and everyone knew Angela would be leaving the show in New York to do it in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Of course, the show had become such a sensation that they were not about to allow the show to close. Judy loved the show. She had seen it three or four times. She very much desired to attempt this.
She had meetings with Jerry Herman and John Bowab, the stage manager, and the producers. She sang the score for them and everybody was just put away by what she was doing because she was on form and very professional. She wanted to assure them that her interest and dedication was very sincere. She had just done an eighty concert tour around the United States between June of 67 and December of '67 and that had worn her out. There had been three shows that she had missed at the end of the tour when she was in the hospital with bronchitis. There was this sense that she really didn't have the physical stability to commit to eight shows a week.
As much as Jerry begged them to use her, they would not give in. Jerry later said he wasn't sane about this at all. He felt that if she had only done one performance, it would have all been worthwhile. It just wasn't logical for them to give her the part, as much as she wanted it and as much as they all wanted to see her do it. The business had to be a consideration and her health in 1968 just wasn't stable. Celeste Holm, Ann Miller, Jane Morgan, and Janis Paige succeeded Lansbury in the title role.
Lansbury left the Broadway production on March 30, 1968, on a limited US tour while it was still playing on Broadway. The tour played in San Francisco starting in April 1968 and also played Los Angeles.
A huge disappointment for all that Judy as Mame never didn't happen. Another huge disappointment is the fact that Judy did not complete Annie Get Your Gun. The couple of numbers we've seen and in the brief scenes, we see Judy playing Annie as a real human being and not as a cartoon. John loves the Merman recording.
He has only a vague recollection of the Merman TV version in 1966. He remembers a little better the Mary Martin (with John Rait) version from 1957 which is more readily available. He cannot bear Betty Hutton's version, not because she replace Judy, it is too intense for his (and mine) taste. She is so manic. I tried to watch it a few nights ago and could not stay with it. John admits he's tried half a dozen times to watch that film and give her every benefit of the doubt. It just doesn't work for him. So, he's sorry we didn't get Judy's Annie Get Your Gun. He would have dearly loved to see Judy play Mama Rose in Gypsy at some point.
John's first Garland book
Given her own vaudeville background, given her own stage mother, John feels there would have been something absolutely riveting about that. Mame and Gypsy are the two that got away that always come to mind for John.

John has been commissioned to write another book about Judy. He says that is a good eighteen months away. It is just basically in the works. John has a friend that he met because he is a Garland fan, but they've become very good friends. He liked John's most recent book, Judy: A Legendary Film Career and has commissioned John to write the companion piece, a coffee table book with a lot of text and a lot of history, about her concert, TV, recording, and radio career. It is a total labor of love for John. All of these years of research, John has never been able to collect memorabilia . Collecting takes money.
When you are a free lancer, there are many things that you don't endure financially.
A Must Have!
He has amassed so much, however, and there are reports about the recording sessions and the TV tapings and the concerts, both on and off stage. All of that stuff would be great fun to bring together in an accurate and very heavily illustrated history of those parts of her career. The great thing is that it is a career that historically important, not because John says so, but because as all that are reading this realize, she remains such an icon and legendary figure. No matter how cynical some people can get about it, all you have to do is put her up in front of an audience on a screen and people fall apart of fall in love or both. When they showed the clips in California last week at TCM, the audiences loved the clips and the presentation was about her movie career. What really brought down the house was a brief clip from the TV series when they showed her singing Old Man River. The point that John makes when he talks about Judy's career is unlike most movie stars, not all, some of them are wonderful personalities in their own right, but some are not terribly interesting people. Judy was much more interesting as herself as she ever was as Dorothy or Esther (Smith OR Blodgett) or Jenny Bowman or Lily or any of those people.
John has never desired to see Judy's life dramatized. He doesn't think it can be done. It's not like Funny Girl, where, even in 1968 (film), people had only the vaguest memories of Fanny Brice.
Now, with Judy being EVERYWHERE, her history being so mis reported, it has to be REALLY GOOD people who can TRY to get it right. That being said, if the story HAD to be told, the people who did the Judy Davis/Tammy Blanchard Me and My Shadows were the people to do it.
They genuinely cared. It was Lorna's production, in effect. She sent them to John. He doesn't say this because he worked on it, but because they really listened. He has about five drafts of the script that they kept sending John. He kept saying OK but the truth was far more interesting. Virtually every time, they tried to get the story BACK to the TRUTH  as much as they could. Again, they were limited because Sid Luft and Freddie Fields were still alive.
There's just so much, as stated before, that you can tell about these people, as John's brother used to say, who "ruined her out."
That being said, John worked with Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme's son, who was overseeing the music as to which tracks should be used and in what places and which recordings of those numbers were the best and the most accessible. John worked with the costume designer, Donna Granata, went to John's apartment and borrowed a thousand photographs of Judy to make sure the movie costumes and the personal wardrobe were all done with as much TRUTH as possible. It was the same thing with the set designer. John believes that one reason that movie appealed as much as it did and was the success that it was is that they really did, within the legal parameters of what they were able to do, they really got it as right as they could. It also helped enormously that, every ten minutes, either Tammy Blanchard or Judy Davis opened their mouths and Judy Garland's voice came out. 
John Fricke at an Oz event

On Easter Sunday, I was out to dinner and this same recording was being played in the restaurant! John tells me he was at the dentist's office yesterday and they were playing not only the Decca recording of Zing! Went The Strings of My Heart, but all of a sudden, they flashed Time After Time from the Savoy jazz TV series CD series on the screen which John produced.annotated, and compiled!
John's hope is that people will continue discovering Judy Garland for the immeasurable talent that she was. As long as there is film and audio, audiences are going to.
Not because John Fricke says so, but because here we are forty five years after she passed on, fifty years after the TV series, sixty years after A Star is Born, seventy years after Meet Me in St. Louis, and seventy-five years after The Wizard of Oz, every time people are exposed to her, they marvel at the fact that there ever was ONLY ONE like that. Nobody else has really come close in terms of versatility. It's a combination: It's the talent, it's the versatility, it's the communicative power, and it's the reality of what SHE presents. There's no artifice there. That future should continue as the present and the past and on that level. As far as wrapping up this article/blog, you can do no better than to allot yourself two hours to sit down and listen, and really listen, with the phone off, and no distractions, listen to the Carnegie Hall concert and see what one 4'11 woman did with a forty piece orchestra a year and a half AFTER she was told she should never work again. Being told that she was through was always Judy's cue to pick up and come back better than ever. One of the amazing things about it at the time, and now, is that Judy has been doing that ever since she passed matter who writes her off, or minimizes her, or asks stupid questions like "Is she still relevant?" You don't know what you're talking about if you even have to question that!

Thank you Judy Garland! 

Thank you John Fricke for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!  To all who read this blog, IF you like this blog, please leave a comment and share  on Twitter and Facebook for a chance to win fabulous prizes!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
I want this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!

If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

Richard Skipper,                            

This Blog is dedicated to Judy Davis who portrayed Judy Garland so brilliantly in Me and My Shadows. Today is Judy Davis' Birthday! Happy Birthday!! Boy, would I LOVE to interview her!
Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows (2001)



  1. What a wonderful and informative post you've written, Richard! I am so happy that there is a documentary of Judy's concert in the works, and how interesting to hear about John Fricke and all the work he's done and continues to do over the years to keep Judy's work accessible to both new and old fans of her career.

  2. Richard---what a terrific blog. I really enjoyed it. John's a great guy with an incomparable wealth of knowledge. So much fun to talk to. Just an aside here: I got to sit down and interview Judy Davis just after she finished shooting "Me and My Shadows." She had a lot of admiration for Judy. I asked---now that the project was over---how she felt about Judy. She said, quite simply, "I miss her."