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Judy’s Connection to Her Many Gays Fans

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While no film exists of Judy Garland at her final concert in Frederiksberg, Denmark on March 1969, the concert's audio on YouTube is poignant. The last song she sang? Over the Rainbow.

Long her signature song, it went from being her song of hope to a torch song for drag queens and the larger GLBT community. To fans, Judy later traveled to the Land of Oz, a place over the rainbow. She died three months later at the age of 46.

The next two or three generations of gay fans never saw her perform live. But 42 years later, drag queens pay tribute by singing Over the Rainbow. The Academy Award-winning song comes from Garland's 1939 classic, The Wizard of Oz. Garland was 16-years-old.

Three indelible links remain with this consummate entertainer: gays fans were drawn to her as performer; she was one of the few stars to acknowledge gay fans in the homophobic '60's; and Over the Rainbow, some say, represents the rainbow flag of GLBT community.

An Internet search, including the claim her death helped precipitate the Stonewall Riots in NYC marking the modern gay rights, is revealing.

Psychiatrists at the time explained the phenomenon of her gay fans: "In Judy's case, the attraction (of gays to her) might be made considerably stronger by the fact that she has survived so many problems" said Dr. Leah Schaefer, a Manhattan psychiatrist to TIME magazine in 1967.

The magazine's review – a hit piece on her gay fan base - of Garland's 1967 Palace Theater concert includes another medical opinion: "She has the power that homosexuals would like to have, and they attempt to attain it by idolizing her," said Dr. Lawrence Hallerer, another Manhattan psychiatrist.

Some claim drag queens and others fought back as the police raided Stonewall because of Garland's funeral a day earlier on June 27, 1969. However, to this day the truth remains unknown.

What is true is that Garland was one of the few -if not the only - '60's entertainer who acknowledged her gay fans.

"I've been misquoted and mistreated but I'll be damned if I like to have my audience mistreated" she said to a Chicago interviewer in 1967 in response to the TIME magazine review.

"When I die I have visions of fags singing 'Over the Rainbow' and the flag at Fire Island being flown at half mast," she apparently said. A quote either so brutally honest or cleverly manufactured. Either way it ties Judy forever to gays.

'What's that flag?' said Garland grandson's to Judy's daughter, Lorna Luft, years later when he saw a rainbow flag. She told him it's a rainbow flag representing gays.

"Does that mean it has something to do with your mom?" "Duh!" Luft replied. Even as this article is being finished, another song from YouTube, Woman in Chains by Tears for Fears, is playing. One can't help but think of Judy.


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