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You shouldn't be told you're completely irresponsible and be left alone with too much medication. It's too easy to forget. You take a couple of sleeping pills and you wake up in twenty minutes and forget you've taken them. So you take a couple more, and the next thing you know you've taken too many.
~ Judy Garland
(prophetic quote, since this is generally accepted to be how she died)
Breakfast: Fruit bran cereal
1 mile walk around the dog run
Getting to know me....
JUDY, JUDY, JUDY
10 March 2004
Today is my friend Gayle Tarzias birthday. I dont know why I remember that. Gayle was a good friend during grammar school and I probably havent seen her since about 1956 -- and her name hasn't been "Tarzia" for years, but I still remember that March 10 is her birthday. (If you ever stumble across this site Googling your name, Gayle--even though thats not your name any more--hi!)
Gayle and I used to walk to school together each morning. (in case my children are reading, that would be barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways...) She had a TV at her house and we didnt, so she would usually spend our walk talking to me about things shed seen the night before--mostly "Superman," to which I had become addicted, while visiting her house. She also went to the movies more than I did, and when she had seen a movie she liked, shed tell me the plot of the movie too.
Gayle may be the reason I became a Judy Garland fanatic.
It was the 1950s and A Star Is Born had just come out. I probably had seen Judy Garland in Wizard of Oz in the theatre, but I know I hadnt seen any other of her movies. Gayle went to see A Star Is Born and on our walk to school she told me the plot of it. It sounded like a good movie.
When I had the opportunity, I, too, went to the Alhambra Theatre on Polk Street to see A Star Is Born for the first time. I fell instantly head over heels in love with Judy Garland. At one point, early in my obsession, I asked my mother to put me up for adoption so Judy Garland could adopt me (hey--I was only 10 or so).
Judy Garland became my obsession. I started keeping scrapbooks, collecting every single piece of information I had about her--even two line newspaper entries would get clipped out and pasted in the scrapbooks. The adult Judy was my principal obsession, though I collected anything and everything.
I joined the Judy Garland fan club and spent a fortune ordering photos, more newspaper articles, lobby posters, etc. (I was so stupid! Those lobby posters would be worth a fortune today, but I cut them up to fit into my scrapbook!) I bought every record (remember records?) that I could find.
And A Star Is Born. A Star Is Born was my passion. I was so certain Judy would win the Oscar that year, and joined with hoards of others in our anger that she lost out to Grace Kelly (for Country Girl).
Long after the movie was off main movie houses, it played frequently at the little Powell Street Theatre, which was on Market and Powell Streets, right where the cable car turned around and started its return trip to Fishermans Wharf. The Powell Street Theatre charged fifty cents for entry and it was a fee I could afford, so whenever A Star Is Born played there (which seemed very often--must have been run by a gay guy), I was there. After high school, I went to the University of San Francisco at night, taking a French conversation class. I came home by bus, and transferred at Powell and Market to the cable car which would take me within a block of home. If A Star Is Born was playing, I went to see it every night. I always got in late, and missed all my favorite parts of the movie, but I sat through the end of it over and over again anyway.
She came through San Francisco after she ended her run at The Palace Theatre in New York. It was a revue type of production, with Alan King as the comedian and it ran for a week at the Opera House in San Francisco. Tickets were expensive, but I had enough money saved that I could see the show three times. At this period, she was quite heavy and had been through a lot with drugs and alcohol and I still remember calling my mother when the show ended, excitedly telling her "She was great...and she wasnt even drunk!"
She came back to San Francisco again with her acclaimed Carnegie Hall show in 1961. I was out of school at that time, but hadnt yet started classes at UC Berkeley, so I had lots of time available. I found out through the fan club that she would be checking into the Fairmont Hotel, so I went and joined a group of other diehard fans, sitting in the lobby on a Sunday afternoon, waiting for her. She never showed up.
The rest of them had to go to work the next morning, all but one of the fans (and me) had to go to work, but the two of us were back at our posts again, waiting.
Suddenly she was there. Checking in at the front desk. I cant remember the last time I shook so badly. Though Id carried the parts of my brownie box camera with me, I hadnt set it up and tried to put it together, put the flashbulb in the flash holder, all before she left the desk. Miraculously, I managed to do it.
I approached her. "Judy?" I said, tentatively. She looked up. She was so tiny. "Can I have your autograph?" I asked. She took the photo Id brought and signed it for me.
Then I asked if I could take her photo. "Well, Im kind of a mess, but I dont mind if you dont," she said. I snapped my one photo of her and then went back to my post, still shaking.
My companion and I spent a lot of time talking about how wonderful it had been to actually meet her in person and as we sat there, suddenly she came sweeping through the hotel lobby again. Something was wrong with her room and she was checking out. She got into her car and drove off to another hotel, waving at us as the car pulled out of the driveway.
The next day was the concert. It was the only time in my life I ever acted like a crazed fan. I ran with a bunch of others, chasing her car as it drove toward the underground garage of the Civic Auditorium. We could just barely see her hair, still in curlers.
I sat in the fourth row of the huge auditorium. Cost me a mint, those tickets did, but it was worth it. I managed to take a few photos and then, at the end of the concert, I did something this shy person has never done before or since--I rushed up to the stage with everyone else. She made her way down the edge of the stage, shaking hands with all of us who had our arms raised up trying to touch her. I still remember that her hand was so small and icy cold. (I've tried to find the photos I took at that time and they seem to have disappeared)
Years ago when A Star Is Born was re-released, including footage that had been cut from the original and then restored, there was a big media hoopla about it. There was a major event at the Paramont Theatre in Oakland, complete with searchlights, red carpet, ridiculously priced tickets, and appearances on stage by her co-star James Mason and by Lilian Gish, who was working to preserve old movies.
We went to the event and sat directly behind Mason and Gish during the showing of the movie itself. Later, when it was re-released to the general public, we went to see it again on the big screen, all those cells that had been cleaned and restored to its original brilliance
When VCRs came into the world, I began recording everything of Judy Garland that I could, and ended up with the complete collection of Garland movies, and now all of her TV shows on DVD as well. I also have almost every book that was ever written about her.
For quite a long time I did it more out of habit than out of the obsession that once drove me.
But when I started this massive clean-up around here, I decided that time had come to get rid of it all. Well, almost all. I just couldnt bring myself to just throw it all away, so I searched for and found the Judy Garland fan club on line. I wrote to their archivist, who was thrilled that I wanted to donate everything to them. I emptied all the scrapbooks (cause I didnt need the weight of heavy binders) and packed everything into a huge box. The problem is that the fan club headquarters are in London, so it cost a fortune to mail it, but Ive now passed on the Garland legacy, and maybe some new people will come to appreciate Judy through all that stuff I lovingly collected all those years.
Ive kept the books, and the VHS tapes and the CDs and the big poster sized photos, but 99% of the collection is now gone.
But if A Star Is Born comes on TV, even though I have it on VHS and DVD, you can bet Ill probably be watching it.
I wonder if this whole passion would ever have come to be if Gayle Tarzia hadnt gone to see A Star Is Born in the first place.
Happy Birthday, Gayle...wherever you are.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
This is the famous portrait that she autographed for me
Weight Lost to date: 43.8 lbs