Gumm's Last Tape
December 28, 2011 3:49 PM   Subscribe

Even people who would normally never care about something Judy Garland-related marvel at the incredible pathos and dark insanity of these tapes, which come off like Garland performing in a one-woman show written by Samuel Beckett.
posted by Trurl (27 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Personified and offered up raw for us now: the most painful and schadenfreudish definition of Drama Queen.
posted by kozad at 3:57 PM on December 28, 2011

Jesus Christ.
posted by rainbaby at 4:07 PM on December 28, 2011

Thank you so much for this. It's exactly what I need right now.
/no hamburger
posted by stinkycheese at 4:08 PM on December 28, 2011

Man, no kidding about these sounding like Beckett.
posted by cmoj at 4:14 PM on December 28, 2011

I haven't heard it yet, but let me guess-- Phil Hendry? Somebody please tell me whether or not this is fucking fake before I waste my time.
posted by aquafortis at 4:14 PM on December 28, 2011

The text made me know what I was going to get going in, but all the same I made it only a couple of minutes before I was sad and had to move on.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:21 PM on December 28, 2011

How did these tapes make their way to the person who is selling CDs? Are the tapes in the public domain? I think not.
posted by lukemeister at 4:23 PM on December 28, 2011

Reminds me a lot of Nina Simone, particularly her 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival performance.
posted by hermitosis at 4:24 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Really loving these, especially the third clip in the post. Thank you so much for posting.
posted by hermitosis at 4:37 PM on December 28, 2011

I don't think these inspire as much schadenfreude as pity and a bit of understanding about the machine that built up, used up, and spit out Judy Garland. I've heard most of these before in bits and pieces, and they're pretty much heartbreaking.

When Judy says, "Nobody ASKED me," I understand just how much becoming a star really had very little to do with her at all.
posted by xingcat at 4:40 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Did anyone else get the advertisement for Dewar's in the upper right hand corner?
posted by deanklear at 4:53 PM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

kozad, if you were drugged on a daily schedule to force you to work exacting schedules throughout your entire childhood, you might be a tad bit dramatic, too.

She was the victim of near-continual abuse, continuing into her adulthood (when the studio heads picked her suitors for her), but since she's famous, it's OK to poke fun at her eventual downfall. Yay.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:04 PM on December 28, 2011 [13 favorites]

In Seattle, the now defunct Open Circle Theater, used to sponsor a yearly dramatic recreation of the Judy Garland Christmas Special, a dark comedy drag studded evening that painted this side of Judy in a more humorous light.
posted by nomisxid at 5:06 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Painfully sad.
posted by parki at 5:10 PM on December 28, 2011

These are heartbreaking. I couldn't get through them. It's horrible that she had to live it.
posted by dejah420 at 5:11 PM on December 28, 2011

Yeah, I can't listen to more than a few minutes. Still love you Judy.
posted by Splunge at 5:12 PM on December 28, 2011

OCT's Judy Garland Christmas Special was brilliant and hilarious. What really killed me was after the show, when they played the actual show for us, and we realized that nearly all the weirdest shit from the play was in the original.
posted by hades at 5:14 PM on December 28, 2011

I know these were recorded over a few years but, in case anyone's interested, she says she's 44 in the first part and 41 in the third part.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:18 PM on December 28, 2011

A one-woman show doing Garland coming to NY in March of this coming year--Broadway.
posted by Postroad at 5:24 PM on December 28, 2011

if you were drugged on a daily schedule to force you to work exacting schedules throughout your entire childhood, you might be a tad bit dramatic, too

I once had a therapist who, during one of our sessions, brought up that fact of Judy's life. He went on to mention how they had bound her breasts while filming The Wizard of Oz so she would seem more girlish as Dorothy Gale.

It wasn't clear to me what any of that had to do with what I had been talking about. And suddenly I felt very uncomfortable.
posted by Trurl at 5:59 PM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

The singer/guitarist Erin McKeown was inspired to write her album 'Grand' after listening to these autobiographical tapes of Judy Garland. [/obscurefacts]
posted by pxe2000 at 6:24 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

"...but all the same I made it only a couple of minutes before I was sad and had to move on."

Yeah. I really want to listen and hear what she has to say, but it just made me sad for her. It was painful and I had to stop listening.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:31 PM on December 28, 2011

The washed up silent era star was a favorite topic of movies in the late 30s, 40s and 50s (Sunset Boulevard, "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.") In these tapes, Garland was playing into that archetype, almost playing the part in a movie about herself as the scorned star. One wonders why she made these tapes.
posted by stbalbach at 7:53 PM on December 28, 2011

A star is burnt
posted by hal9k at 3:15 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

"The world is so full of a number of things that I think we should all be as happy as kings. And you know how happy kings are." --James Thurber

What a terrible price Judy paid for her talent.
posted by kinnakeet at 7:46 AM on December 29, 2011

I'm an enormous fan of Judy Garland, and I think I love her as much as a raconteur as an interpreter of song. But what's she's talking about on these tapes needs to be taken with a very big grain of salt. She was alone and tired and (in some places very obviously) the worse for alcohol and other substances when she recorded these. Perhaps even more to the point, through her whole career a major factor of her talent was a sort of autosuggestion: the ability to make herself believe wholeheartedly and without intellectual reservation the plight of Dorothy Gale or Esther Blodgett or Jenny Bowman -- or, for that matter, the character called "Judy Garland."

Note, for example, a YouTube clip from her TV series where she first adopts an arch and ironic tone in telling about an experience that must in real time have been utterly traumatic. Because she wants the audience to laugh with her, she makes it into a terrifically funny story, and the fact that she is clearly embroidering the history is part of the fun. It's not journalism, it's entertainment.

See also how she emotionally turns on a dime and adopts the weary-but-not-defeated attitude of the "one-man woman looking for the man that got away." Out of context (i.e., not prefaced by the hospital anecdote) this song might look like "poor sad Judy." But in context, it's a dazzling example of what you might call her autosuggestive imagination: she simply believes in what she's singing about, and it seems transparently true, unfiltered.

I don't deny that Garland was in a lot of pain when she was recording these tapes. But I do think that there is at least a slight performative quality here: she is not only suffering, but she is also enacting "sad Judy" for her unseen audience. (The tapes were never meant to be private, but rather to serve as notes for an autobiography.) So at least in part, the anguish communicated her is an acting performance; it seems so real because Garland was incapable of playing any scene in a false way.

One more point here is that Garland's treatment at MGM, though admittedly rough to the point of being brutal, was not qualitatively different from the way all the big popular talents were handled: worked to exhaustion, nagged into taking drugs to control weight and boost energy, needled about appearance. And yet many of Garland's colleagues seemed to emerge from the experience a good deal less scathed than she was. Mickey Rooney worked every bit as hard as she did, and he was still functioning very well into the 1980s; Lana Turner and Ava Gardner had personal live even more tempestuous than Judy's, but they both sustained acting careers into their 60s; Elizabeth Taylor fought both weight problems and prescription drug addictions for decades, only to die happy and wealthy at nearly age 80.
posted by La Cieca at 10:26 AM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

"I've laughed at myself when I should've cried."

These are incredible.

If this kind of studio-enforced pathos is of interest to you, try to track down From the Journals of Jean Seaburg, a film essay/biopic about growing up as a star in what was then a very new medium. Chilling stuff.
posted by emilycardigan at 12:44 PM on December 29, 2011

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