Sunday, February 26, 2006

JUDY & SAMMY & ME


Of any given afternoon or evening, I surf around all these special movie channels I pay extra for with the digital cable box, and cannot find anything to watch. I’ve either seen the movies before and never care to see them again, (with a few exceptions) or I didn't want to see the movies in the first place and these are all shown all the time, over and over and over....ad nauseam, good and bad, included...! Then I go to Turner Classic Movies and I can almost count on finding something I’d really like to see again. These old films really are better to my way of thinking.

As a kid, I went to the movies all the time. I have always said, the movies saved my life, though MGM basically ruined my life, too, you know? I believed all the romance and ‘happy endings’ in those MGM films, because I needed to, (there were no happy endings in our house)… I could lose myself in those movies.
I could forget about all the bad things that were happening to our family and I could dream of all those wonderful romantic things that were happening to Lana, happening to me, and that helped me to survive. I was in love with Lana Turner and I wanted to be Lana Turner, too. (go figure!) I kept scrapbooks on many MGM Movie Stars....(don’t ask...it seems like a really strange thing to me now, too!) I was such a baby in so many ways back in those years; and in fact I was the baby of my family, and as I’m sure many of you know who are the baby's of your family's—that position never changes, no matter how old you get.


On the first day of Drama School in New York City, I met a beautiful young man from Alabama, named Sammy.
It was the beginning of a life long most loving and trusted friendship which ended only because he died much too young—we were truly soul mates in every sense of that phrase. The only thing we weren’t was ‘lovers’, though I feel if that had been in the cards we would have been….we skirted around that in conversations and decided it would ruin our friendship which we both felt was very important---too important to each of us to ruin it just for a ‘role in the hay’, as Mrs. Chisholm said, in “Petrified Forest”... So we always decided to maintain our friendship just as it was---and, he was, back then, sometimes gay, (eventually, pretty much all gay, if there really is such a thing---lots of debate about that one) and I didn’t really know what I was….that feeling of being ‘in love’ with Lana when I was 11, had confused me, even though I had been in love with Hugh, at 9....oy…and I certainly found out later, but during those first years, I was like a Nun who has taken a vow of celibacy.


One of the many things we shared was a passion for movies. He was just as much of a movie junky as I was, so we had a great time going to films together and both of us felt the same way about ‘heads’ in front of us at the movies. So, we didn’t care how many times we had to move our seats in order to avoid having anyone sitting in front of us---sometimes if the theatre was really crowded we would end up in the first row with our necks craning, but most of the time we just ended up sitting closer to the screen than anyone else, which we both loved—that connection to the movie screen—each film being shown, just for us. And we never talked during a film, ever, ever. It wasn’t something we even needed to discuss; it was just what we did from the first time we went to a film together.



When Judy Garland's “A Star Is Born” was going to open in New York City, we had to go see it the very first day it played. We both loved her and had both seen her at ‘The Palace’—a life changing experience, for me----I had seen a lot of wonderful performers even though I was very young because as I said in a previous blog, going to the theatre was something my family had always done on a regular basis as long as I could remember. But, I had no concept that the young woman in all those MGM musicals when seen ‘live’ was going to be so magnificently electric....that she would be such a powerful performer. But she was, because she reached into her guts and tapped into her own emotions and artistry, touching the audience in a way that I had never seen before. It was an awesome thing to behold and to feel, too. I saw her three times at The Palace. Thrilling, beyond words. I’d also never seen an audience respond this way to a performer. It wasn’t like Sinatra or later "The Beatles" and fans screaming through all of the songs so you never understood anything they said....No, Garland's audiences were worshiping at ‘Her Alter’, riveted to her every move and gesture and being swept away with the emotion she projected and in turn the emotions she made you feel….the screaming of Bravo would erupt at the ‘finish’, you know? It was much later when her die hard fans, (and I include myself), knew every note of every arrangement that people would scream at the first notes of the first 4 bars played by the orchestra---knowing what gem was about to be sung...but that's where the screaming stopped....or whooping at a crescendo reached during a song that they knew was coming…(think: “Rock A Bye My Baby”…YES! Or “Swanee”, just as she was changing keys to a higher register and slowing down the tempo---screams of recognition—almost orgasmic in nature…)then....quiet as we would let the performance sweep over us, savoring every moment of the artistry....She was something else.



So, Sammy and I met up on that very first day at The Roxy Theatre where “A Star Is Born” was opening, and sat through this masterpiece of a film, twice. And when we finally felt we had to go home…we truly hated to leave and swore we would come back. But as it turned out that was the first and last day anyone ever saw the uncut, unbutchered version of this fantastic film. It was pulled out of the few first run theatres across the country where it was playing and a shorter version was in order because of the money that was being lost with this longer version----(what a travesty)---and now, all these many years later with the magic of digital restoration, the original version can be seen, but not in it’s original state of course. With the use of photographs and ‘voice-over’s’, much has been put back---whatever musical numbers that still existed...were found and were lovingly put back---but, much was lost forever…..and so it will never be what it originally was....A true masterpiece of a ‘movie musical’. I remember that both Sammy and I were bowled over by the kind of performance that was captured on film of Judy Garland’s singing---it had the most ‘live’ feel to it of any musical film she had ever made up till that time. (Rent from Netflix: “I Could Go On Singing”; it’s the last film Garland ever made and her musical performances in that movie are superb, though the film itself is not the best of her career---but yet again, her acting is astounding--) And in “Star”, her acting is superb, too---truly riveting and heartbreaking.
That scene in her dressing room when she talks about her husband’s alcoholism and then proceeds to go out and sing, again, “Lose That Long Face”, which had been cut...(Give Me A Break!!! OY OY OY)…..Well, Garland was robbed that year at the Academy Awards…..and James Mason was robbed too…His thoroughly stunning performance didn’t even get a nomination!
THAT...I will never ever understand...his was a deeply layered and sensitive performance of a tortured man who's life and career are pretty much over, struggling to hang on to one last beautiful moment or two...

The last time I saw Judy Garland perform, was at the Hollywood Bowl…..There were times in-between, but, The Bowl was particularly memorable for various reasons, not the least of which was the fact that Sammy and I were sitting waaaay up in ‘The Peanut Gallery’....And it was memorable also because it was the same concert that she had sung at Carnegie Hall...that landmark concert that was recorded 'live'...some months before this concert. So it was pretty special. It was drizzling as it sometimes does in California and Miss Garland was late coming on, but she did come on—I think she was waiting for the rain to stop and when the audience began applauding almost as ‘one’ the show began.
What was remarkable about this performance was that even though Sammy and I were very far away from her, she owned that place and transcended that space which is huge, and it felt like she was singing just to us…as if this was a personal performance---just for the two of us. How she managed that, I’ll never know because any other performer would have at best—looked like a little ant up there. I cannot explain this—but she looked like she was 30 feet away, at most. No big TV screens on either side of the stage as they have now….just her 'there', looking big! Amazing! I’ve seen quite a few performers there at the Bowl, and very few can actually transcend that space. Very very few—I think that is why they have those screens now.

But this woman—this Judy Garland---was a true ‘force of nature’. No one like her before or since that I have had the privilege to see "Live & In Person"....to witness and be moved by….yes, there have been lots of very great performers, but no one quite like Garland…Thank God for the magic of film, and recordings, and Video Tape. And I will be grateful for all of my life to have been lucky enough to see her not once or twice, but many times....to be transported by a performer of this caliber stays with you forever, and inspires you forever, too....







In the interest of honesty, this piece was posted on my other blog, without photographs...and only about two people actually saw this...now that I know how to put the photographs on and having edited this just a bit...I wanted to re-post it, so I did! Hope you enjoyed it...







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43 Comments:
had this to say:

Hmmm...I thought I left a comment, but it's not here now, so hopefully it won't show up and be repetitive.

I was only 2 when Judy died so I never got to see her perform live. I love her singing, her acting, her voice. She was just wonderful, and I envy you having been able to see her in person. She truly was one of a kind.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 1:43:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

What a wonderful post1

I see a lot of TCM movies as well.

I never saw Judy, but have seen her daughter Liza Minnelli in concert twice.

Michele sent me here.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 2:28:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

As a child, I joined my parents watching movies of Judy Garland and at that time she was really the favorite of many viewers. She surely is a Hall of Famer.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 2:45:00 AM PST 

Blogger mar
had this to say:

What a nice sunday reading! Judy Garland is unforgettable...I am lucky I have a couple of Sammys in my life! Sorry he left so early. Have a nice sunday!

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 3:01:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Just wonderful. Reminds me of my friend Amy, who also died very young, and her friend Antonio.
Great memories.
I am on my way to visit my Great Uncle on his 99th birthday. His essence just about froze in the Hollywood imagery of the 1940s, as far as I'm concerned. A Dashiell Hammett kind of guy.
Great post,
Rick

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 3:46:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

hello michele sent me.

however, i'm delighted you were the one who was above me. what a DELIGHTFUL posting i walked into (i'm a movie nut). how lucky was i?

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 4:09:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

As one of the two people you mention who read this on your old blog, I enjoyed it even more this time. WHERE are those old movie star scrapbooks that Kendall and I need to see? I'm terribly afraid you're going to say that your mother threw them out! I'm sure Betty has some great Judy stories, no? I remember seeing a clip of one of those MGM luncheons where they sat the stars at long tables in alphabetical order and Betty and Judy were chatting away close to each other (Garland/Garrett). Did you hear about the show that Rufus Wainright is going to be doing at Carnegie Hall soon where he's going to exactly recreate Judy Garland's famous concert there? By the way, I've always read about the Roxy movie theatre which looked gorgeous--is it still there or did the destroyers of our culture tear it down years ago?

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 7:15:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

This was a beautiful piece. I love TCM movies and like to curl up and watch them when I'm in a quiet mood.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 8:57:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Hello, Michele sent me.

I love "old" movies. TCM is my favorite channel. My parents thought I was crazy growing up (and still do). I hate that people don't watch them.

I loved you post and felt I was right there with you. You described it so well!

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 9:48:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

wonderful post, naomi! i, too, love judy garland. most people my age hardly ever know of her but am proud to say i am truly a fan. :)

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 10:18:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I never could get into these older movies.... here from micheles

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 10:50:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Great post Naomi!! I love all the pictures too. Too bad Sammy died so young, but he was a true friend and it's great that you both loved those movies! I think the scrapbooks you kept is a neat idea! I wish I had done more things like that back then.

I hope you answer Danny's questions on here, because I'm curious about the same things he is!! Thanks dear Naomi. Great reading this Sunday afternoon. I truly enjoyed it.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 12:07:00 PM PST 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

Hi, This is the first time I've read any BLOG stuff and wow! you are quite a writer! I love all that you have to say. I have enjoyed reading and learning so much from you. I love you and can't wait to find time to come back and visit here again and finish reading more.....
Love, Audrey

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 12:56:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Hi! This is just a note to let you know that someone has given you a kudos in this week's kudos post on my blog! Congratulations!

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 2:22:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Naomi, I enjoy everything you post! You bring such passion to the forefront when you talk about movies you like or actors you like; it is almost like knowing them for me. Please continue.

Michele sent me tonight.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 2:53:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

What a pity the long version of the film was lost. How wonderful to feel in the immediate presence of Judy Garland. She sounds wonderful.

Michele sent me.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 2:57:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

A strong post and from the heart.
I also catch up on some of the good movies on TCM (we have it here in the UK too - with commercials during the films though - sky doesnt do that.

In addition to Judy's films I really like the performance by Liza in Cabaret.

Here tonight via Michele's.

rashbre

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 3:20:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

nb not sure why, but the pictures are not showing up on my Windows PC, but seem to work on my mac?

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 3:21:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

That first B & W picture of Judy is a beautiful one. Here from Michele's this time.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 3:23:00 PM PST 

Blogger jac
had this to say:

i always love reading your stories. i always, and i do mean ALWAYS, smile when i visit your site. today was no exception.
i love classic movies such as those you mentioned. they just don't make 'em like they used to. i'd love to see some remakes though, just to see what today's entertainment big wigs could come up with.
i'm here from michele's today!

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 3:26:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

great post and I could not agree more..
Judy Garland was a beauty and a lady. My and what a wonderful performer..

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 4:15:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Another wonderful post! One of my all time favorite movies is "Wizard of Oz"...listening to Judy Garland sing "Over the Rainbow" always sends shivers up my back. Seeing her in person...wow!!

Here via Michele's tonight!

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 4:32:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

that was wonderful just a real pleasure to read. i always love visiting here.

michele sent me but i'm going to have to start coming on my own.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 6:20:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

My mom was a HUGE Judy fan (me, not so much, but that's because (and don't faint here) I am SO not a musical fan) and I know she saw her in Las Vegas in the 60's, but I don't know what the show was.

I'm just to antsy to sit through musicals. I know why people love them, but me...not so much.

Here from you know who!

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 6:26:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I think it's really nice that you have this wonderful memory of Judy, and the Roxie, but also of your friend Sammy.
Thanks for re-printing this story
Here via Michele's this time!

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 6:33:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

That's so sweet that you voted for me when you don't really "do awards!"
When I was growing up all they seemed to have for matinees was Jerry Lewis or Elivs Presely. I saw The Misfits but I was too young. I thought it was as boring as dirt.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 6:38:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

What a wonderful post... Oh to see Judy Garland perform... lucky you!
Here from Michele's today!

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 7:48:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

One of my favorite older movies is with K. Hepburn, "Baby". :)

Here from Michele's.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 8:00:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

What a truly wonderful post. When I was growing up, I hung out with all the theater-types, and Judy was all we listened to! Thanks for writing this. You are SO lucky to have actually seen her perform. Hope you had a great weekend. Michele sent me tonight, and I'm SO glad did!

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 8:11:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Hello Aunty !! :)
I sent you an email with my comment because there was something I didn't want to post here.
Miss Rebecca my four year old walks around the house singing the Trolley Song all the time it is a worry lol
You are blessed to have been able to see Judy perform live.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 9:30:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

How sad that Sammy passed away. I'm sure there's a spot in your heart that will be empty always.
TCM channel is the best! I'm always scrolling ahead and setting the DVR to record movies from that channel.
It is so wonderful that you got to see Judy Garland perform live. What a memorable experience!!

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 10:09:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I liked Judy Garland. When I was a child I loved to see her movies especially the musical ones. I've also liked her daughter Liza Minnelli.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 11:17:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Gosh, what an amazing story. You have such a crisp memory. I can't even remember what I had for dinner yesterday! Thanks so much for sharing this story. I wish I had seen that movie the way you saw it.

Michele sent me!

Monday, February 27, 2006 at 3:55:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Hello again, here from Michele's again. Wonderful article. I too like to watch TCM when there is time as I do prefer to watch a movie where the leading actress / heroine looks & acts femanine. This is not meant to be a sexist remark and as such shouldn't be taken that way. I just think movies are more appealing to the eye (and so more watchable) when the actresses aren't wearing trousers & baggy tops. Old movies had leading ladies you felt for, you wanted them to succeed, you wanted to fall in love with them, you wished you were the leading man. Now I'm hard pushed to find a leading lady who is worthy of my adoration. Just my $0.02 worth lol.

Monday, February 27, 2006 at 4:13:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

What a wonderful tribute to Judy. You're so lucky to have been able to be there in person. I've noticed when listening to singers of her calibre compared to singers now, that hardly any singers "now" take a song and truly sing it, stylize it, make it their own. It's always amazing when you see a performer who feels the music and shares that, compared to someone who sings the right notes, but doesn't really connect either to the song or the audience. *sigh*

Monday, February 27, 2006 at 5:31:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Hmmm, I posted something, but it never showed up. No time to repost in detail, I'll try to redo it later.

Monday, February 27, 2006 at 5:33:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Hi, Michele sent me

Monday, February 27, 2006 at 8:16:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I LOVE Judy Garland. "Somewhere Over The Rainbow"... is there a girl alive that hasn't dreamed to that song.

Here from Michelle

Monday, February 27, 2006 at 11:36:00 PM PST 

Blogger dan
had this to say:

Don't feel too bad. I'd be Lana Turner too if I could. ;)

Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 1:14:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I really like your reposts with pictures!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 1:46:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Once again you've completely entertained me with an incredible story. I love Judy Garland....how could anyone not?

Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 7:34:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Great post. A friend and I used to move seats, too, in a movie theater just so that no one was in front of us. Wendy directed me here today.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 3:48:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Reading your post on Garland, I felt what you were writing. And I can imagine. I wish dearly I could have seen Garland. That kinda of presence, of filling a theatre with their spirit, their soul, is so rare. To get goose-bumps, feel yourself expanding into the moment of the performance... these are some of the most special moments I can remember. And yet, Garland... she must have been even bigger than that.

Great post.
~S :)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at 1:40:00 PM PST 

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