Sunday, June 10, 2012

Happy 90th Birthday to Judy Garland and the Tony Award Connection

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody
Gertrude Lawrence, Phil Silvers, Judy Garland

 Happy Judy Garland Sunday!
I hope you've been having a wonderful weekend. Yesterday, I went to The New York Sheet Music Society to see Glen Charlow's tribute to Lucille Ball. 
Check out my blog on Friday on Celebrity "Obsessions" in which Glen was featured. I had a great time and it was great to see a lot of familiar faces. Kudos to Linda Amiel Burns for keeping this going. If you are interested in the legacy of the great American Songbook, this organization is for you. Yesterday, was their last meeting of this season. They will resume on October sixth and will meet the first Saturday of every month through next June. 

It was also nice to meet Michael Stern who has the distinction of being called Lucy's "Number One Fan"! 
That title was given to Michael by Lucy herself. 
He has written a new book called, "I Had A Ball: My Friendship With Lucille Ball." 
This book is the only book endorsed by Desi Jr and Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill. 
I am interviewing him tomorrow am for an upcoming blog. 

 Today, Judy Garland would have been 90 years old. It has been 43 years since Judy PHYSICALLY left our planet but her star shines as brightly today as ever.

Today, in honor of Judy's birthday and the Tonys falling on the same day, I thought it would be fun to show the Judy Connection! One of the biggest Judy connections is taking place tonight. How interesting it will be if Tracie Bennett takes home the award tonight for her star turn in The End of The Rainbow.I, for one, will never see this show. I'm sure Ms. Bennett is as phenomenal as everyone says, but I'm not interested in investing my money, my time, and my energy in a show celebrating the tragic end of Judy Garland's life. When her contributions to the world of entertainment are celebrated, I WILL be there!
Turner Classic Movies is commemorating this with a 24 hour retrospective. The Wizard of Oz is on tonight! 
I'm sure that many people will be tuning in although it would be hard pressed to find anyone who has never seen it. 
 However, here in New York, most people will be tuning into the Tony Awards. The Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theater, more commonly known as the Tony Awards, recognize achievement in live American theater and are presented by the American Theater Wing and The Broadway League.

 I will be at a Tony Award viewing party which I am very much looking forward to. The party, not the awards. I used to get very excited about the awards. 
Since the "magic" is gone, so is my excitement. I truly don't understand today's theater. 
I still get excited about the experience of a LIVE show but the experience of going leaves a lot to be desired.
The texting, tweeting, cell phones, eating in the theater, the lack of reverence for the art form. 

Actors taking their bows while people race to the nearest exit: the height of rudeness by the way. 
 Tonight's Tony telecast will play  right into the lack of respect for the past.

Those that will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards will receive little or no air time as numbers from non nominated shows are performed tonight in hopes of boosting ticket sales.

We also will see a NON-EQUITY cast from a cruise ship production of Hairspray.

 Do today's "producers" care? Do they think about their actions? I know one hot shot producer who is more interested in getting butts into seats than on any comfort level of his audiences and/or company. 
If you were to take ALL of tonight's nominated shows and put them up against Judy Garland doing what she did best (sing with just an orchestra, microphone, and GREAT material), I would gravitate towards Judy every time.
Thank God Liza still carries on that tradition. I don't need special effects, just talent, and I'm in heaven.

Judy Garland won a Special Tony Award in 1952 for her contributions to the revival of Vaudeville with her record-breaking 19-week stand at the Palace Theatre. 

Judy broke all previous records for her run at the Palace.
Hugh Martin, who had written songs with Ralph Blaine, for Meet Me In St. Louis,  became a close friend of Garland and was her accompanist at many of her concert performances in the 1950s, including her appearances at the Palace Theater.
 Hugh Martin, who had written songs with Ralph Blaine, for Meet Me In St. Louis,  became a close friend of Garland and was her accompanist at many of her concert performances in the 1950s, including her appearances at the Palace Theater.

She was born Frances Ethel Gumm on 10 June 1922 in Minnesota, the youngest daughter of vaudevillians Frank and Ethel Gumm. Her mother, an ambitious woman gifted in playing various musical instruments, saw the potential in her daughter at the tender age of just 2-years-old when Baby Frances repeatedly sang "Jingle Bells" until she was dragged from the stage kicking and screaming during one of their Christmas shows and immediately drafted her into a dance act, entitled "The Gumm Sisters", along with her older sisters Mary Jane Gumm and Virginia Gumm. However, knowing that her youngest daughter would eventually become the biggest star, Ethel soon took Frances out of the act and together they traveled across America where she would perform in nightclubs, cabarets, hotels and theaters solo. 
Her parents were vaudevillians who settled in Grand Rapids to run a movie theatre that featured vaudeville acts.Renowned for her contralto voice, she attained international stardom through a career that spanned 45 of her 47 years as an actress in musical and dramatic roles, as a recording artist and on the concert stage.
 Frank purchased and operated another theater in Lancaster, and Ethel, acting as their manager, began working to get her daughters into motion pictures.  
In 1928, The Gumm Sisters enrolled in a dance school run by Ethel Meglin, proprietress of the Meglin Kiddies dance troupe.However in September 1935 the Gumm's, in particular Ethel's, prayers were answered when Frances was signed by Louis B. Mayer, mogul of leading film studio MGM, after hearing her sing. It was then that her name was changed from Frances Gumm to Judy Garland, after a popular 30s song "Judy" and film critic Robert Garland.

Respected for her versatility, she received a Juvenile Academy Award and won a Golden Globe Award, as well as Grammy Awards and a Special Tony Award. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the remake of A Star is Born and for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the 1961 film, Judgment at Nuremberg.
At 39 years of age, she remains the youngest recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in the motion picture industry.
After appearing in vaudeville with her two older sisters, Garland was signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a teenager.
After 15 years, she was released from the studio but gained renewed success through record-breaking concert appearances, including a return to acting beginning with critically acclaimed performances.
 Insecure about her appearance, her feelings were compounded by film executives who told her she was unattractive and manipulated her on-screen physical appearance. 
 She married five times, with her first four marriages ending in divorce. She had a long struggle with alcohol and drug use during most of her career, dying of an accidental drug overdose at the age of 47, leaving children Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft, and Joey Luft.
In 1997, Garland was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Several of her recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 1999, the American Film Institute placed her among the ten greatest female stars in the history of American cinema.

Garland's ancestry on both sides of her family can be traced back to the early colonial days of the United States. 
 Her father was descended from the Marable family of Virginia, her grandfather from a Milne ancestry from Aberdeen, Scotland and her maternal grandmother from a Patrick Fitzpatrick, who emigrated to America in the 1770s from Smithtown, County Meath, Ireland.
 Named after both her parents and baptized at a local Episcopal church, "Baby" (as she was called by her parents and sisters) shared her family's flair for song and dance.
 They appeared with the troupe at its annual Christmas show. It was through the Meglin Kiddies that they made their film debut, in a 1929 short subject called The Big Revue. This was followed by appearances in two Vitaphone shorts the following year, A Holiday in Storyland (featuring Garland's first on-screen solo) and The Wedding of Jack and Jill

They next appeared together in Bubbles. Their final on-screen appearance came in 1935, in another short entitled La Fiesta de Santa Barbara.
In 1934, the trio, who by then had been touring the vaudeville circuit as "The Gumm Sisters" for many years, performed in Chicago at the Oriental Theater with George Jessel. He encouraged the group to choose a more appealing name after "Gumm" was met with laughter from the audience.

According to theatrical legend, their act was once erroneously billed at a Chicago theater as "The Glum Sisters".
 Several stories persist regarding the origin of the name "Garland". One is that it was originated by Jessel after Carole Lombard's character Lily Garland in the film Twentieth Century which was then playing at the Oriental; another is that the girls chose the surname after drama critic Robert Garland

 Garland's daughter, Lorna Luft, stated that her mother selected the name when Jessel announced that the trio "looked prettier than a garland of flowers". Another variation surfaced when he was a guest on Garland's television show in 1963. He claimed that he had sent actress Judith Anderson a telegram containing the word "garland," and it stuck in his mind.
 Tragedy soon followed however in the form of her father's death of meningitis in November 1935 and, having been given no assignments with the exception of singing on radio, the threat of losing her job following the arrival of Deanna Durbin.
 Knowing that they couldn't keep both of the teenage singers, MGM devised a short entitled Every Sunday (1936) which would be the girls' screen test. 
However, despite being the outright winner and being kept on by MGM, Judy's career did not officially kick off until she sang one of her most famous songs "You Made Me Love You" at Clark Gable's birthday party in February 1937, during which Louis B. Mayer finally paid attention to the talented songstress.
 Prior to this her feature film debut Pigskin Parade (1936), in which she played a teenage hillbilly, had left her career hanging in the balance. However following her rendition of "You Made Me Love You", MGM set to work preparing various musicals with which to keep Judy busy. All this had its toll on the young teenager and she was given numerous pills by the studio doctors in order to combat her tiredness on set.
 In 1939, Judy shot immediately to stardom with The Wizard of Oz , in which she portrayed Dorothy, an orphaned girl living on a farm in the dry plains of Kansas who gets whisked off into the magical world of Oz on the other end of the rainbow. Her poignant performance and sweet delivery of her signature song 'Over The Rainbow' earned Judy a special juvenile Oscar statuette on 29th February 1940 for Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor.

Now growing up, Judy began to yearn for more meatier, adult roles instead of the virginal characters she had been playing since she was 14. She was now taking an interest in men and after starring in her final juvenile performance in Ziegfeld Girl (1941) alongside glamorous beauties Lana Turner and Hedy Lamarr, Judy got engaged to band leader David Rose in May 1941, just two months after his divorce from Martha Raye. Despite planning a big wedding, the couple eloped to Las Vegas and married during the early hours of the morning on 28 July 1941 with just her mother Ethel and her stepfather Will Gilmore present.
However, their marriage went downhill as, after discovering that she was pregnant in November 1942, David and MGM persuaded her to abort the baby in order to keep her good-girl image up. She did so and, as a result, was haunted for the rest of her life by her 'inhumane actions'. The couple separated in January 1943. 
By this time, Judy had starred in her first adult role as a vaudevillian during WWI in For Me and My Gal (1942). Within weeks of separation, Judy was soon having an affair with actor Tyrone Power, who was married to French actress Annabella. Their affair ended in May 1943, which was when her affair with producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz kicked off. He introduced her to psychoanalysis and she soon began to make decisions about her career on her own, instead of the influence of the domineering MGM and her mother. Their affair ended in November 1943 and soon afterward, Judy reluctantly began filming Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), which proved to make her a big success. The director Vincente Minnelli highlighted Judy's beauty for the first time on screen having made the period musical in color, her first color film since The Wizard of Oz (1939). He showed off her large brandy-brown eyes and her full thick lips and after filming ended in April 1944, a love affair resulted between director and actress and they were soon living together.
 Vincente began to mold Judy and her career, making her more beautiful and more popular with audiences worldwide. He directed her in The Clock (1945) and it was during the filming of this movie that the couple announced their engagement on set on 9 January 1945. Judy's divorce from David Rose had been finalized on 8 June 1944 after almost 3 years of marriage and, despite her brief fling with Orson Welles who, at the time, was married to screen sex goddess Rita Hayworth, on 15 June 1945, Judy made Vincente her second husband after tying the knot with him that afternoon at her mother's home with her boss Louis B. Mayer giving her away and her best friend Betty Asher serving as bridesmaid. They spent three months on honeymoon in New York and afterwards, Judy discovered that she was pregnant.
Two piece top from Girl Crazy (
 On 12 March 1946 in Los Angeles, California, Judy gave birth to their daughter Liza Minnelli via Caesarean section. It was a joyous time for the couple, but Judy was out of commission for weeks due to the Caesarean and her postnatal depression, so she spent much of her time re-cooperating in bed. She soon returned to work, but married life was never the same for Vincente and Judy after they filmed The Pirate (1948) together in 1947. Judy's mental health was fast deteriorating and she began hallucinating things and making false accusations of people, especially of her husband, making the filming a nightmare. She then teamed up with dancing legend Fred Astaire for the delightful musical Easter Parade (1948), which proved a successful comeback.
Judy would do only a few more films at MGM before being fired. Her career would continue to thrive until her untimely death in 1969. To get a TRUE account of Judy's like and legacy, read ANY of the books by John Fricke, the foremost Judy historian. I urge ALL of you to celebrate our rich legacy as we ALL continue to support LIVE entertainment. Thank God for those LIVE recordings of Judy's great concerts but so much more were just fleeting moments and we only have our memories to go on. Carpe Diem. Celebrate with your friends tonight a great Garland movie on TCM, the Tonys, or if you're lucky enough to be there, GO! 

Behind every cloud is another cloud.
Judy Garland
Please visit JUDYGARLAND.Net.  Michael Siewert is the curator for what is known as Judy Garland The Dressing Of a Legend and The Judy Garland Collection.  He has become well known in his help to preserve the legacy of Judy Garland by traveling around the world sharing the collection with others.  This website will give you some idea of what it is that Michael does.   

Mike and some of his Judy dresses

The following is from cabaret entertainer Richard Holbrook:
Happy Birthday Judy Garland On The Occasion Of What Would Have Been Her 90th Birthday. As a long-time Judy Garland fan since I was six years old, I have adored her talents as a singer-actress-dancer-comedienne. She was truly a triple threat performer. She could do it all - and I consider her to be one of the very best dramatic actresses in both musicals and dramas. 
That, I believe, is what made he and her movies stand out as the special events they were. She was my inspiration. People ask me who taught me to sing. Well, the answer is my lessons started by watching the little girl with the big voice belt out her brassy numbers and caress her beautiful ballads on television back in the 1960's when I was growing up. It was the kid who hailed from Grand Rapids, Minnesota who introduced this overweight, insecure little boy from Congers, New York to the Great American Songbook and (don't laugh) she is responsible for giving me the passion to perform these great songs- as well the desire to perform period. If I had to pick a clip of Judy Garland to describe the great musical artist she was, it would be this clip from her 1943 film "Presenting Lily Mars".
Here she is partnered by the brilliant dancer Charles Walters ( who would later become a very fine film director) and the great Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra. Watch this finale of "Where There's Music / Broadway Rhythm" and you'll see why Judy Garland was truly one of the greatest stars ever. Happy Birthday Miss Garland!! You will always be remembered for the brilliant legacy you have left behind for all of us to share and enjoy - Richard Holbrook.

Thank you to Judy Garland  and the Tony nominees tonight and in the past and future for all the gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give!

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!
Do you have any pics? If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at


Join me and Ron Young! (original cast of Hello, Dolly!)
June 29
In his new memoir, "The Only Boy Who Danced: A Journey from Oklahoma to Broadway and Beyond", Ronald Young details an eventful life in the theater. The Only Boy Who Danced: A Journey from Oklahoma to Broadway and Beyond.

Sometimes Broadway dreams do come true. Fresh from the obscurity of living in the small farming community of Grove, Oklahoma, Ronald Young, at 22, is catapulted onto New York City's "Great White Way"... BROADWAY. After arriving in Manhattan on a Friday, he auditions for his first Broadway show on Monday. Bingo! After three call back auditions he snags his first dancing role in the soon to be mega hit "HELLO, DOLLY!" directed and choreographed by Gower Champion and starring Carol Channing. Armed with three music degrees and lots of enthusiasm he embarks on his career on Broadway.
His resume includes working with some of the legends of the theater: Ethel Merman, Shirley Booth, Angela Lansbury, Tommy Tune, Bernadette Peters, Joel Gray, Chita Rivera, Sandy Duncan, Georgia Engel and many others. He appeared in a host of shows: "MAME," "GEORGE M!" "THE BOY FRIEND," "MY ONE AND ONLY," "A CHORUS LINE" and the films "HAIR" and "ANNIE."
"THE ONLY BOY WHO DANCED" is a series of compelling, riveting stories about Ronald Young's personal quest to make it on Broadway. If you or a friend have hidden aspirations to make it on the New York theatrical scene, you will enjoy his tips and suggestions on how to break through this tough barrier.
Richard Skipper and Ronald Young are sitting down for an exploration of Ronald's incredible career in show business. Email Richard at for more info

Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
M blog tomorrow will be..Celebrating Anne Russell's Memories of Hello, Dolly!

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 ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level! 

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