In aid of homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth – the worlds of Broadway, folk-rock, television and cabaret will come together for ‘Night of a Thousand Judys’. In its fourth year, the night features performances by Broadway’s Rory O’Malley and Sierra Boggess, “Queer as Folk” star Randy Harrison and singer-songwriter Erin McKeown.
In previous years, ‘Night of a Thousand Judys’ has been timed to coincide with LGBT Pride Month and will benefit the Ali Forney Center, a New York advocacy group dedicated to homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.
The show has really become an event, something each of us on the team look forward to every year. But more so than any of the specifics, it becomes a celebration of this iconic performer that we all adore. At the core of what makes Judy Garland great is her vulnerability. Every song is a master class in giving.
Judy Garland was the stage name of Frances Ethel Gumm, born in the homey state of Minnesota in the U.S.A. to a family of vaudeville performers. With her girl-next-door charm and a craft honed by simply making the performance arts her life from the start, it was no surprise that the talent scouts and casting agents for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studios had her sign on at the age of thirteen. This was an awkward age in the industry, with Judy being too young to be considered a child star, and too young for adult roles. Still, her versatility shone through in her first few roles.
At the age of sixteen, she landed the role of Dorothy Gale in a movie musical version of The Wizard of Oz. Her natural doe-eyed innocence combined with her warmly golden singing voice made Judy Garland a shoe-in for the 1940’s Academy Awards, after which she became MGM’s most valuable member of their roster of talents.
Despite this acclaim, Garland remained deeply insecure. She reportedly felt that her work had stolen her childhood, and grew increasingly anxious about her public image transitioning as she took on more mature roles. Other personal troubles of Judy Garland included divorces, family estrangement, substance abuse and suicide attempts. While Garland would invariably light up the screen with her performances and a seemingly effortless starlet glow, the pressures behind the scenes too quickly wore thin. These may have contributed to her deteriorating heath and eventual death from an accidental overdose of sedatives. She was only forty-seven years of age.
Whether it is her glamour, beauty, and talent that is so memorable, or the admiration for her success despite overwhelming personal struggles, Judy Garland had gained a devoted fan base in gay subculture. In an 1960’s press conference held in San Francisco, a reporter enquired Garland’s opinion on her gay fans.
She simply responded,
I sing to people.”