FLASH: On the life and times of Judy Garland.
Lost on the Yellow Brick Road, co-written by Michael Selsman and Michael Simpson, published by Troika Publishing Group, says that, “Judy Garland is the story of a woman in terror much of her life, who had obstacles to climb, pitfalls that may as well have had knives at the bottom, fleeting moments of joy and, ultimately, an end that so many have succumbed to. Her infectious charisma never failed her, not even on the darkest of nights, the most troubled times. “She wasn’t just a tortured artist; she was a kind, suffering soul.” So says Michael Selsman, who represented her in 1962-1964, the years before she made her last, and final comeback.
Mike, What did you like about representing Judy?
She was a true talent. Everyone knows Garland had outstanding credits to her name—The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, A Star Is Born—but it’s a rarity when someone knows the true Judy Garland. Besides drugs and alcohol, Judy received solace from men. Not the sex or physical aspect—proven by her marrying several gay men throughout her life—but the love, the adoration, and most of all, the attention she so desperately needed since she could walk. “Judy had her heart broken into too many pieces.”
Judy brought the house down with her soaring, booming voice; her parents were in show business long before she was born, with a stage mother that was as ruthless as the Wicked Witch of the West; MGM took her in as its own at the age of thirteen, where she made countless classic films yet consequently grew up to be excruciatingly insecure and unequipped to deal with life on life’s terms. Her short forty-seven years was an inspiring voyage
Hollywood’s cruelty lies just beneath the surface. Just like today, the public is morbidly fickle. Until she died. Then the stream of “stunned” and “sad” celebrity comments started flowing. “Everybody loves you when you’re dead,” Judy said. The Wizard of Oz is identified as the most influential film of all time in a study published in the journal Applied Network Science.
You represented many stars in your career – what was it like to speak for Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland?
“Judy Garland was my all-time favorite star. She led a fractious and sad life when I knew her, but unlike Marilyn Monroe, whom I also represented, whatever demons pursued her the night before, she was kind, generous and warm to me. As much as I disliked having to work with Monroe, that was how much I looked forward to spending time with Judy.
Judy’s morning was early afternoon, and one day, as I visited her in her rented house on South Rockingham Drive, in Brentwood, Liza, 14 at the time, had already become the successor to her mother, as Judy retreated into childhood and dependence. Judy descended the staircase from the second floor, wearing a robe and nursing a black eye and a couple of reddened facial bruises. She told me she had walked into a door. And then smiled. And insisted on making me tea.
We had interview dates to set up, and PR arrangements to make for her comeback (again), this time at the Hollywood Bowl, to a star-studded audience that would include all the studio heads. Everybody loved Judy, but were unsure as to her hireability, given her drug problems, prescription and otherwise, and her fondness for champagne. A socko performance, which she was always capable of, but didn’t always deliver, would put her back on top. Everyone wanted her to succeed. Judy deferred the details to her 14-year old daughter, Liza, who took notes, supervised the household staff, looked after her younger brother and sister, and made Judy’s appointments with her hairdresser, her make-up people, her agents, and lawyers, their family travel arrangements, and ran interference with her step-father, Sid Luft. I was amazed at how efficient this young girl was. She clearly adored her mother, and I could see why. Judy was a doting and loving parent, no doubt because she had missed out on just those qualities from her own mother and father. My heart went out to this small woman with the amazing talent that I had grown up watching and loving onscreen.
What was the relationship between Judy and Vincent Minnelli like?
Vincent Minnelli, Liza’s father, was one of MGM’s top directors, and Judy fell for him because of his maturity, gentleness and grace. He was also bi-sexual, which probably surprised Judy, naïve and childish as she was, as a protected ward of the studio.
Judy later married Sid Luft, a rough former bouncer, who took over Judy’s management and career. She wanted someone to look out for her interests because she had outgrown MGM and was now an international star, with global travel commitments, movie, concert, recording, and stage contracts. She thought Sid was just the man she needed. It turned out that Sid had fallen into the score of his previously unsuccessful life and, tough guy that he was, intended to make the most of it. Many actresses immediately become pregnant to prove their love to their new man, and Judy sealed the deal with two more children, Lorna, and Joey. By then it was too late to get out of the marriage and her well-known depression, aided by drinking and drugs, put her once more in the awful, but oddly comfortable victim role again.
You had admiration for Judy as an actress – why?
Judy had had a small but stunning comeback role in Stanley Kramer’s “Judgment at Nuremberg,” in which she portrayed a Jewish concentration camp survivor, cross examined by war crimes prosecutor, Maximillian Schell. She astounded audiences with the power of her acting, but in reality, it was a role she had been playing all her life, that of victim.
Once or twice, I found myself driving from Monroe’s house to Judy’s house on some PR function or other, and marveling at the difference in the two women. Monroe had had a hard childhood, but so did Judy. Probably a lot tougher. To me, that was part of the reason emotionally lost children became actors – to live lives more agreeable to them, to wear someone else’s clothes, to be called another name, to say words written for you so you wouldn’t have to defend yourself at every turn, and to enter and live in a fairy tale world, at least for a while. The disparity in the two personalities was striking to me. Monroe never lost an opportunity to show you how powerful she was, and to remind you of how many people depended on her good will. She could hire you or get you fired, and made sure you knew it.
You mentioned that Judy was a victim – Why?
Judy was the perfect victim, and had been from the age of three, when she wandered out on stage during her parent’s act and inducted herself into their vaudeville routine. She was always vulnerable because she never felt she could please anyone – three year-olds stumble, or forget their lines. Judy wanted you to like her. It wasn’t hard. She knew what she was, she knew what had been done to her, and she accepted it. Because she had been betrayed by her own parents, especially her mother, her habituation to authority made it impossible for her to act decisively in her own defense – except on screen. She married badly, always hoping the next man would turn out to be her prince, or salvation. In fact, many of the songs Judy made famous contained almost those very lyrics, as in “The Man That Got Away.”
She mentioned to me that there were times she wished she were educated, that there was something else she could do for a living, but singing and acting was all she could do – she was trapped. I said I had always wanted to explore science or medicine, but that I had been corralled into show business myself, and didn’t see how I could leave it. She said, “As long as you’re breathing, you’re always in showbiz. I’m the living example.”
Tell us about the famous concert at the Hollywood Bowl
Her upcoming concert at the Hollywood Bowl was the major ticket in L.A. I was inundated with requests from the media, Hollywood studio executives, friends and friends I never knew I had. There was a genuinely positive mood, tinged with perhaps some trepidation you could feel in the community that she would somehow blow this “last chance” to make it happen once more. No one needed to be concerned. That night, Judy was at the very top of her voice and personality.
The weather had threatened not to cooperate, and we were concerned we might have to scrap the event because of rain in the forecast. It doesn’t rain a lot in Los Angeles, and not usually in September, and the Bowl is, after all, an outdoor venue. But it wasn’t raining, and a huge, sold-out audience of 20,000 filled the Bowl. They came with raincoats, scarves, hats and blankets, ready to stay even if it poured.
When she walked out on a ramp over the pool, a runway deep into the audience, from which Judy could almost reach down and touch people midway through the orchestra level, the audience jumped to its feet for a long, standing ovation.
“What a nice intimate room,” she greeted everyone when she first came on stage. Then, it began to rain – a drizzle at first. But no one would dream of leaving their seat. This was a night to remember, a social as well as entertainment event. And then it rained a little harder, and I began to worry. In 1961, cordless mikes had not made their way into general usage, and Judy was working with a corded mike trailing a long wire. I worried some more – that the rain would somehow work into a fray or crack in the electrical cord and that Judy would, or could be electrocuted in mid-song. At one point, her cord, when it wasn’t tangled around her feet, causing her to do a little dance that elicited a roar from the audience, draped itself into the pool. I thought certainly this was it – that she’d go up in a flash of lightning. A press agent’s dream, even if I would miss her. It soon began to pour down, but Judy didn’t quit, and neither did her audience. She had them pinned to their seats. I especially liked it when, from time to time, bands of young men scattered throughout the bowl would leap to their feet, yelling, “Bravo, Bravo!”
A good thing it was near the end of her program. She was overwhelming, and pulled shouts and mad episodes of rapturous applause from the hardened and cynical show business audience. We were by then pretty soaked, but Judy kept singing – encore after encore, until there was no way to continue. I’ve never felt such two-way love between a performer and an audience, before or since.
There was a story a couple of years ago that Judy was murdered in London – Do you know anything about that?
I read that – it was a story in the London tabloid newspapers that identified Judy’s fifth husband, Mickey Deans, as the one who killed her. These rumors get started by anyone who wants to have their name on the Internet, claiming to ‘know something.” In this case, it was an ‘unidentified’ private investigator. Like Marilyn Monroe, I believe she was an inadvertent suicide.
Mike, I understand that you as the CEO of Archer Entertainment Media (OTCMKT:AEMC) have decided to re-enter the Art & Entertainment business world wide. What prompted that?
Well, Paul a decade ago, a group of us were engaged in manufacturing filmed entertainment under the title of Archer Entertainment Media Communications.
It was a publicly traded Company – its trading symbol AEMC. It still is.
There were more important subjects then to occupy us – politics, regional conflicts, questions about inoculations, and a subject that came before us, boys without dads.
We did not do much about it – until now.
I called together our 1st group – some people have moved on into lucrative pastimes, others were unavailable. But our core was intact. We have spent considerable funds to reactivate purchases of new materials – screenplays, book, articles, and treatments, to address some of our more tangled social activities.
What we have learned is that the world has changed, and our now focus are ills that are caused legitimately, or illegitimately, by us.
What we intend to do now is address these societal ills by telling their stories – entertainingly, in satire, even comedy, because you cannot influence pubic behavior by preaching. Our politicians do that, mostly unsuccessfully.
We have decided once again on producing entertainment, only this time taking into account digital short films for Smartphones even as we make films for theaters and television. Where possible, we are producing series – TV and movies, subjects that cannot be told in one episode.
Among our plans, we aim to tell the subject of Boys absent Dads, and the societal problems that arise from that into adulthood. We are in late stage negotiations to acquire a TV pilot script by an award wining writer.
Some of our ideas are, as follows (we already own the properties):
A scientist who stumbles onto the genetic cause of violence, and does something about it.
Another, is to explore young love, a G-rated movie about how to treat one another when immature – a most important highlight.
Another is a comedy about why people, who should know better, get divorced, and how they survive.
The time to re-invigorate Archer Entertainment is here.
President, Archer Entertainment Media Corporation
Have a terrific weekend
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