14 comments on “End of the Rainbow

  1. Since accepting myself as gay I’ve always felt particularly deficient in not appreciating Judy as so many other gay men have seemed to, including those (the majority now), who hadn’t known her as a performer when she was alive. When Liza started singing and becoming well known it was her, Liza’s, voice that I preferred to her mother’s – and still do (the Liza of the 70s and 80s, I mean) – though I admit that it’s Judy’s ‘back story’ which provides a poignancy that others can’t equal. I recall Judy when she was alive and performing, though it was evident then that her celebrity status was being severely tarnished, no doubt largely because of the personal struggles you refer to, of which most of us, humble members of the public, weren’t aware at the time. She’s one of the few (like Elvis, Lennon, Karen Carpenter, Brian Epstein, Mama Cass etc) who, on hearing of their demise, I can remember what I was doing when I heard the news.

    I can’t recall having heard of ‘End of the Rainbow’ right now, though I must have read about it when it first appeared. You raise a number of interesting issues in your post, particularly in your final paragraph. It now makes me want to investigate the subject more, someone whom I’ve always taken for granted but never had the inclination to dig deeper. With your recommendation here it looks like the time has now come.

  2. I remember where I was when I heard the news of Lennon and Cass Elliot but not Elvis or Karen Carpenter. Brian Epstein is an interesting name on that list. I knew of him but her never entered my consciousness to that degree. Had I been asked, I’m not sure I’d have known he was dead.

    I find it intriguing that Quilter’s works seems to be produced internationally so much before their West End or B’way runs. I found End of the Rainbow much more engaging than Glorious! but that might be because of the subject more than the writing.

    • H.K., I’ve always tried to get my head around the idea, first(?) promulgated by Oscar Hammerstein, and subsequently echoed by his protege, Stephen Sondheim (among others) that, in order for a musical to be successful, the most important thing is for the STORY to be absorbing. Once that aspect is established, only then do the quality of the music and lyrics come into play. It’s an interesting idea which may well be true, though I still find it hard to accept that the story is the most important thing of all.

      • I had not thought of that recently. Certainly it is not the way the world of musicals seems to have developed given with the rise of the “juke box musical”…. collections of songs strung together with only the thinnest pretense of a story.

  3. Early on in my blogging adventure (2009) I wrote “A mystery to me particularly is how you accumulate tastes and behaviors un-coached that one day spell out Big ‘Mo.” Harper’s Other Dad replied ‘Synchronicity’. Still, buying as I did ‘Judy at Carnegie Hall’ when it was released in 1961 as a fourteen year-old is a little strange.

    Have you read Gerald Clarke’s ‘Get Happy’? It’s been a while, but I recall that though it walks us through the sequences of her life, it seemed flat and un-insightful. Disappointing after his ‘Capote’.

    As to remembering ‘where you were when’, my two are JFK and Marilyn, indelibly. Judy, I can retrace where I was, but no pinpoint, which is odd. Every time I read that she was only 47 when she died, I’m staggered; she looked 80.

    I suppose after a while, praise for your writing could get to be a bore. When on another occasion I asked if you had ever done this professionally, you said ‘no’. I think you are a big liar;-)

    • I’ve not read the Clarke book. I’ve added it to my queue at the library.

      Re: synchronicity, the same week I saw End of the Rainbow I watched Valley of the Dolls for the umpteenth time. That movie is one of my guilty pleasures (though I’d forgotten how often they say “fag”.) JG would have been terrific as Helen Lawson though the line “Broadway doesn’t go for booze and dope” might have tested her acting ability.

      Never a writer beyond corporate memos and the odd procedures manual.
      But I never denied being a big liar – who could resist that paradox?!

      Thanks for the kind words and, again, thanks for the encouragement.

    • Dave, I should have said that the names I listed in the ‘Where were you when….’ category were limited to the entertainment world. Of course I recall JFK’s death (who doesn’t who was around at that time?) – as well as Marilyn, of course, whom I ought to have included. But where does one stop?.

      • I understood your list was entertainment only. I don’t recall where I was when I heard about Marilyn but I was a little young for that one. She died when I was 6. I’m not sure I was too aware of her then. Certainly I recall JFK even though it was only the next year but, obviously, it got a lot more coverage.

  4. Never been a Garland fan. I agree that in her younger years she was a great talent, unfortunately I feel she took her talent for granted thus destroying it as she did her life. I didn’t walk in her shoes but understand that the studio contracts of the 1930s & 1940s were overwhelmingly demanding unfortunately causing personal stress that may have contributed to the downfalls of more than just Judy.
    The two versions of Over the Rainbow that you speak of is quite interesting. I don’t see them as two versions. I see them as a song sung by two different people. One is sung by the character in the movie, Dorothy as directed by a director, and is a beautiful positive melody with an enlightening message. The second to which you refer is actually a tragedy sung by a woman who didn’t get the message of the story of The Wizard of Oz and apply it in her life. The irony I find here is that the while young star could deliver the message as intended for a movie, she wasn’t capable of applying the intended message in her own life thus she reveals later in her life through her own personal tragedy.
    I’m not buying the implication that her being a Gay Idol led to her down fall. Circumstances of her career may have amplified her down fall, but I believe she ultimately caused it through her own personal choices.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Your point about the two ‘versions’ being different because they were sung by two different people is another (perhaps better) way of making the point I was trying to make; that the meaning of the song is different to the listener even though the words and music are the same.

      I too reject the notion that her gay following contributed to her dysfunction, if anything I think the reverse is more likely true, her dysfunctional life led to the glamour/tragic persona that appealed to so many. That question is raised in the play by a straight man, as I recall, about the same time he was helping her ‘off’ the wagon by giving her pills and whisky to get her back on stage. It was not a point the playwright was attempting to make.

      Ultimately we are all responsible for the choices we make in life. I do think, in her case however, he ability to make better choices was hampered by misuse and ill-treatment at the hands of those who should have looked out for her when she was a child. By the time she became an adult and needed to make choices for herself she’d already had a couple of decades of abuse, bad examples, and poor role models. It’s too easy to blame a bad life on a bad childhood. Many people overcome far greater obstacles. It is unrealistic, though, not to acknowledge the deck was strongly stacked against her by the time she became an adult. It’s a cautionary tale for a variety of reasons.

      Thanks for reading and commenting

  5. Pingback: Buyer & Cellar | Harper's Valley

  6. I missed the Judy gay idol time frame. She died when I was 9. But I have always liked her story and all the sorted details. Maybe it is that we like to see our heroes fall. We are constantly knocking them down. Here a woman free falls into despair because no one understood her but everyone wanted a piece of her. Not unlike any famous person. She was ill prepared to deal with life. It was her larger than life dramatic stage presents that attracts the drag queen to imitate her. Exaggerated movements are much easier to imitate the subtle feminine ways. She was a caricature of herself as it were, similar to Mae West or Ethel Merman who are also drag favorites.

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