Wednesday June 10, 2020. It was very warm yesterday in New York with the thermometer hitting 88 or thereabouts. And there was some YU-MIDDITY. But the Sun was shining and it was a beautiful day and we were all very lucky to have those elements in our lives today.
Today is the birth anniversary of Judy Garland. She was born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 1922. She would be 98. She died at 47. The facts of her life are rough. Yet the talent of the child that kept growing and growing made Little Judy Garland into a world symbol of joy.
Lillian Burns Sidney, who was the Acting Coach at M-G-M from 1938 to 1952, and worked with her during her entire time at the Studio during the Golden Age of Movies (and Hollywood), said that Judy was “the greatest performing talent of the 20th century.”
She started out in vaudeville at age 4, a trio of singing-dancing sisters in the mid-1920s. The earliest film footage of her definitely shows the seeds of that remarkable talent she possessed And she was cute too! She could sing, dance, act, make you laugh, make you cry all in a single performance. And it all looked as if it came naturally. Which is the way it’s supposed to look, but it has a psyche of its own. If you watch enough of her performances you can see all of those movements for effect on the audience. Charm there too. Yet the other side of that, in her private life she was a mess and it got messier as she got older — although 40 turned out to be old for her. Nevertheless, it was genius left behind for any and all.
Another: last Monday a week, was the birthday of Norma Jean Mortenson Dougherty known to the world as Marilyn Monroe. Another born under the sign of Gemini, and another brilliant performer who was able to transform herself into a character that the audience believed was who she was in real life.
Like Garland, she too was wracked with the problems of her early life which was damaged by fate. Yet to the public that talent to amuse remains in memory. I saw her first in a film “How To Marry A Millionaire” with Grable and Bacall. Her role was the dumb blonde. Dumb lusciously beautiful to the eye. Her character was near-sighted and she didn’t like wearing glasses. In one scene, all dressed up and ready to go, Marilyn walks across the room to exit door but misses it by a mile and walked into a wall. She played it so matter-of-factly-dumb-blondie that you couldn’t help laughing.
June 1st was her 94th. She died August 4, 1962. That day — a Sunday — I recall very well because I was awakened that morning by a girlfriend who said quietly, “David, Marilyn’s dead.” I had no idea who “Marilyn” was but at that moment she was almost immortal in her fame. “Fame is fleeting,” she told the writer who interviewed her for a spread in LIFE by Bert Stern, published only six weeks before.
So Happy Birthday you Great Ladies out there in immortality! We still think of you every now and then, and always with great pleasure and a smile and sometimes laughter. With Garland I personally tend to fall in and sing along.
“Forget your troubles, c’mon get happy …
You better chase all your cares away …
Shout hallelujah, c’mon get happy,
Get ready for the judgment day.”
Times like these right now recommend it. Because, as you know personally, this has been a very difficult time for many many individuals and their loved ones, and their children and their pets. I mention all because they are the primary (potential) elements of our life together on this planet. I know from experience but also from many others that it has been mentally depressing, not to mention even more crucially, financially.
The overall feeling has mainly been what people used to call “cooped up.” The lockdown isolating us, locked down a lot of us kind of spiritually. It has probably been most apparent to those of us who are single (and without family/loved ones nearby). Although if I were a parent, I could see how that could make it even more difficult.
However, to get back to the day: Yesterday in New York looked like the lockdown was over. The traffic was the kind that can leave you cursing at the moon, aka losing it (at the other drivers, of course). Terrr-raffic! New York style. I hit it mid-afternoon. First came the just reopened household supply shop called Price Wise Discount on East 86th Street between First and Second. Things my cleaning lady would need if I had a cleaning lady. Secondly was Citarella where you still have to wait outside separated by six feet. I told myself it was a chance just to take in some of those rays with Vitamin D3.
Monday, we had actually three separate protests leading up to Gracie Mansion beginning in the early afternoon, followed by a second a couple hours later and then one later. They were peaceful and quiet other than protest leaders shouting out phrases which I couldn’t hear clearly enough to know what they were saying, but I got the picture. There have been police/cops present in all instances but there was NO problem. Both factions stayed away from anything confrontational. We could call it Mutual Respect. A greater number of the demonstrators were “white.”
I am always reminded, as I’ve written here before, of those days when I was participating on protests and demonstrations having to do with the War in Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement. I recall how deeply serious we all took these matters. Change was “in the air” then as much as now, if not moreso. Although the temperament as portrayed in the media now is far sharper and often with an ongoing edge, than it was in those days.
I watched the first episode of the new documentary “Laurel Canyon” on Sunday. If you don’t know about it, it’s about Hollywood in the late ‘60s, and specifically the bursting rock music scene. For those of us who’ve been there, or near there, or listened to what came out of there (billions have), it’s a trip you will enjoy beyond expectation. Because it takes YOU back to that moment; and you’re there. (not here!)
I’ve thought about Dr. King often throughout these days, wishing and wondering how he would have presided over the issues before us. In his brief life he turned many heads around with his words and his peaceful actions. And the leadership was tolerating him more than accepting him. But he succeeded way beyond what any other leadership could or maybe would do for the world.
As I watch the parades of protesters along the avenue, I think how few of those marchers would know about the benevolent universal leadership of that one man. Who was not liked or respected by many of the Powers That Be, which would be clearly demonstrated. He was 39 when he was murdered.