"Judy And I" By Sid Luft, due out March 2017
Here, a little late, is the promised post regarding the upcoming Judy memoir by Judy's third husband, Sid Luft. Sid is probably the most controversial man in Judy's life, as some consider him to be the one man who kept her productive and happy, limiting her pill intake and getting as close to "rescuing her" as anyone could (if it's even possible that one person can save another person, and assuming Judy needed rescuing). Others consider him a control freak who used her, spent a great deal of her money at the racetrack, and alienated a lot of powerful in the film industry who were eager to work with Judy, but didn't want to have to negotiate or hand over any power to Sid, who was part of the deal if anyone wanted to work with Garland at the time. Of course, the thing closest to the truth is probably that he was all of those things.
I for one, always thought that one of the major problems that plagued Garland from the beginning of her life to its end, is that she was never taught to believe in her own strength as a person, nor was she taught to take care of herself. As a result, she went from caretaker to caretaker hoping for someone who would offer her strength, stability, and a business mind that was after her interests. In return, she offered everything she had. She would give these people her trust, her love, her talent, and make her opportunities their opportunities. Doubtless, some of the people in her life started with great intentions, loved her deeply, and wanted to help her. However, truly helping her would have meant teaching her to manage herself, which might have made the person who used to do that job, dispensable. That wasn't a risk anyone wanted to take. And it wasn't an easy task. I mean, it should have been done when she was a kid. Instead, her childhood was spent teaching her to entertain, and to put faith in others to mold her image, tell her what to wear, what to eat, and who to be seen with.
I find it fascinating that Judy was known for being a "less than skilled" dresser, when she had to dress herself. I mean, as a young woman she was perfectly coiffed, well dressed, and on many lists of the most fashionable women, but that was because she was "costumed". No wonder that when she got older and was in charge of dressing herself that she would often put it in her contract that she got to keep clothes from photo shoots and film sessions. And she wouldn't just "collect" these clothes for posterity. She wore them out over and over again, because she knew without a doubt that those clothes made her look good, and as a result they made her feel good. And for someone who needed to be seen at her best in public nearly 24/7, especially given her later reputation, imagine how important clothes were.
But back to Sid, and his upcoming, postmortem memoir. According to John Fricke, Sid tried many times to write a memoir of his life with Garland. After all, of the many businesses he had tried to succeed at, the only one which had really been successful was the Judy Garland business. It was all he had. And surely in his mind, he had earned that right. He had loved her longer and harder than anyone else. Selfishly? Perhaps, but who truly loves unselfishly? He had gotten into the business of managing Garland, largely co-erced by her (though he may not have needed much convincing as he had managed two actresses prior, which he had also been romantically involved with at the time) and never really got out of it. He managed her pill in-take, got her to shows, is largely responsible for her Palace Theatre comeback and for her return to films in A Star Is Born, and then became more and more dependent on the income and ego boosts that derived from it, and made some very bad and some downright cruel decisions in managing her. I'm convinced, that in many ways, he considered her his possession. At the end of her life he had convinced her to sign away a tremendous amount of control to him, in which amounted to a contract of indentured servitude where he controlled everything. When reviewed by a judge, he reported that he wouldn't subject a dog to that kind of treatment.
He viewed her as his domain so much so, that when he read his daughter Lorna's memoir, he stopped speaking to her, as he felt she had stolen his story. Her response was that if he had wanted to tell his side of the story, he had plenty of time to do it, and still could. Well, apparently, he had tried.
Again, according to Fricke (a very trustworthy source as the predominating expert in Garland's career and those around her) he had tried to write a memoir several times, with a number of ghost writers, and all were rejected for being somewhat incoherent. What is about to be published is likely a cobbling together of those prior attempts. Randy L. Schmidt is credited as co-author, and his previous book about Garland was a collection of magazine articles and essays and interviews conducted with, and written by and/or about Garland. So, it seems like he might be a good match for the material in its current condition, and if anyone can shape it into something, he might be the one.
But what will this book give its reader? What I'm hoping it will do is provide us with a number of humorous anecdotes, and earthy details of her life, things that will make me feel closer to her, like a know the real person just a little bit better. It's what I loved so much about the book Judy by Gerold Frank. It was an intimate account of her preferences, what made her comfortable, what she liked to eat, what she aspired to be, and how she lived. Of course, it meant wading through a lot of self serving accounts by Sid Luft, since he had authorized it. Is this new book likely to offer anything really new? Perhaps.
What I'd really be interested to read would be a sympathetic, but somewhat objective account of Garland's life, including Sid Luft, now that the notoriously litigious man has passed on and people can write the truth without fear of his vengeance.