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My Judy Garland Life

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How It All Began

I’ve been half or more in love with Judy Garland all my life. Since my earliest beginnings, when I was so sensitive that my heart went out to everything – strangers, ants, even that sad cluster of abandoned items in the supermarket next to the cashier’s till – Judy Garland has inspired and enriched my inner world.

Her presence, through her films and her recordings, her concert footage and her television shows, has consoled and invigorated, educated and disturbed. The imperative intimacy I feel with Judy Garland is similar to that which I feel for my mother or my children. It is a sort of profound kinship, a peculiar personal connection, an emergency of friendship and sympathy that has the same passion to it as a crisis. This sense of attachment to Judy Garland allows me to sidestep others’ ignoble concerns about the way she lived, the way she worked and her reputation in the world at large; it makes me feel I have a reasonable claim to call myself her friend.

And, although Judy Garland died five months after I was born, this has always seemed to me a two-sided affair that has suited us both. I’ve felt Judy Garland’s acute need of me and this prolonged fantasy – you might call it – of intimacy has been both sustaining and exhilarating. It has been a central part of my development as a person, as real as meat, as tears. I know for certain that something at the heart of Judy Garland connects directly to something at the heart of me. I feel implicated in her myriad struggles and triumphant in the face of her success. There are flashes of understanding between us, almost supernatural shocks of intense recognition, which assail me when I hear her sing or speak, or watch her dance.

As a young child it seemed that all anyone ever said to me was: ‘You must learn to toughen up. You mustn’t take everything to heart so. You really ought to try to control your feelings more or you just won’t have a happy life.’ This then, I learned, was the job of childhood, the work of adolescence. If you could only gain mastery of your emotional world, why, you would be set up for ever! But how to do it? Nobody said. Was I to arrange myself so that I had no feelings at all? Was I to turn everything I felt into a secret? Or was it more a question of keeping very still and quiet for a few years until my mental capabilities could match the intensity of my heart, which had simply outgrown its casings?

Into this fragile environment, one day, came the voice of Judy Garland. At the cinema for the first time with my mother, I listened, transfixed, to Dorothy singing ‘Over the Rainbow’.

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