10 Weird, Tragic, & Over-The-Top Things You Never Knew About Judy Garland

Photo:Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
As any Judy Garland fan will tell you, there was so much more to the actress and singer than "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." But as anyone who has seen the new movie Judy — or other biopics and books about the legend — also knows, there's also a lot of Garland's life and death that has made her the textbook example of the perils of Hollywood stardom.
Those are the broad strokes. We're here to fill in the picture with some trivia about Garland's life, some tragic and some amusing. She only lived to be 47 years old, but man, did she pack a lot into that lifetime.
1. "Jingle Bells" was her first signature song. Frances "Baby" Gumm, the youngest of three girls born Vaudeville performer parents, was 30 months old when she first took the stage to sing this Christmas carol in 1924. The three Gumm Sisters performed together for the next 10 years. Comedian George Jessel apparently saw the audience laughing at their name and suggested they change it to Garland, either after film critic Robert Garland or a just plain garlands of flowers.
2. Her father and at least two husbands were her first gay fans. According to multiple biographies, Garland's father had affairs with men while he was married. Garland's second husband, Vincente Minnelli, and her third, Mark Herron, were also gay or bisexual. It's hard to know if she was very open-minded about their sexuality at the time, because she clearly didn't like it when they cheated on her and was quick to file for divorce.
3. "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" was her second signature song. Here's an especially sad story about this song, which she sang on numerous occasions: A 13-year-old Garland was about to perform it for a radio broadcast when she was told her father was dying and would be listening to her sing. He died the next day.
4. MGM made her wear rubber caps on her teeth and nose discs. As if being a teenager isn't the worst already, Garland had to endure constant abuse from adults about her looks and weight. Nose discs, which are rubber inserts made to change the appearance of a person's nose from the inside out, sound really uncomfortable, too.
5. Garland was paid only $500 a week for The Wizard of Oz. Before you say anything about inflation, compare this to the fact that Ray Bolger got $3,000 a week for playing the Scarecrow.
6. Judy Garland was sort of saved from doing brown-face in a movie. So the brown-face footage actually exists, in archives from Annie Get Your Gun. But that production was scrapped completely and then made with a different star and different director. (The cringeworthy song "I'm an Indian Too" is courtesy of Irving Berlin, the musical's writer.)
7. Gay Purr-ee is a thing that exists. Every time we are reminded of this animated movie voiced by Garland and Robert Goulet, we decide that the drugs back in 1962 must have been very, um, effective.
8. Garland was giving birth to son Joseph Luft during the 1955 Academy Awards. Because she was a favorite to win for A Star Is Born, there were cameras ready to film her in her hospital bed. Then she lost to Grace Kelly.
9. Garland used to sing to John F. Kennedy over the phone. She regularly rented a summer home next to the Kennedys in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts and when JFK was president, she apparently used to call the White House out of the blue just to chat. Multiple sources later confirmed that she would end her calls by singing the end of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," at the president's request.
10. Around 20,000 people attended her funeral, but she didn't cause the Stonewall riots. The world mourned Garland after her accidental overdose, and her open casket funeral was quite the event on June 27, 1969. She was already an icon for the gay community, and trans activist Sylvia Rivera did recall being distraught on that day, so maybe Garland was an ingredient in the mix. But yeah, Stonewall happened because LGBTQ people were tired of being beaten and arrested just for existing.
10. Garland's body was disinterred and moved across the country in 2017. While her fifth husband (of just a couple months) Mickey Deans was alive, she remained buried in upstate New York. Several years after his death, Garland's three children put her in her proper place with the other stars at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Not sure she cares at this point, but her fans do.

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