When Judy Garland was a budding star at MGM studios, she was constantly cast in movies alongside Mickey Rooney. She was the girl next door; he was the goofy kid. Altogether, they starred in 10 movies together, and remained friends for the rest of their lives.
Coincidentally, the end of Garland's career involved another Mickey. His name was Mickey Deans, and he was Garland’s fifth and final husband. Judy, a biopic out September 27, focuses on their relationship; with Renee Zellweger as a declining Garland and Finn Wittrock as Deans.
The two Mickeys couldn’t have been more different. Born Mickey DeVinko in Garfield, NJ, Deans was a disco owner, jazz pianist, and drug dealer. He was 12 years younger than Garland. Unlike Rooney and Garland, the couple’s meet-cute was not facilitated by a controlling movie studio.
In the movie, Garland and Deans meet at a party. The true story is much stranger. Deans walked into Garland’s life one day in 1966, quite literally. A mutual friend had tasked Deans with delivering a package of stimulants to Garland’s room in the St. Regis. He was dressed as a doctor, and he gave Garland her “medicine."
Garland had struggled with addiction since she was a teenager. As a young girl touring with her family singing group, Garland’s mother Ethel got her youngest daughter hooked on a habit of stimulants and sleeping pills to maintain the rigorous touring schedule. MGM studios put her on a similar regimen to adapt to the grueling 20-hour days, also adding diet pills into the mix — at 4’11,” Garland struggled to conform to Hollywood body ideals.
When she met Deans at the age of 44, Garland was in her worst shape yet. As author Rick Lertzman recounted her final days in The Life and Times of Mickey Rooney, “Judy was on any drug she could get her hands on,” not to mention alcohol. She was broke, owing thousands in back taxes and performing at nightclubs to get by.
Garland once said, "I do like to be in love. A woman is incomplete when she's not in love." After four husbands, Garland declared she was finally happy with Deans. When they finally married at the Chelsea Register Office in London on March 15, 1969, Garland raved to reporters, “This is it. For the first time in my life, I am really happy. Finally, I am loved.”
But was Deans really good for Garland? The sparse turnout at their wedding ceremony indicated what her family and friends really thought of the union. Though several hundred people were invited, only fify showed up. Liza Minnelli, Garland’s eldest child, was not one of them. “I can’t make it, Mama, but I promise I’ll come to your next one,” 23-year-old Minnelli reportedly told her mother over the phone.
The party room in Quaglino’s, booked to fit hundreds, was nearly empty. Rows of Champagne, untouched. The cake, uneaten. According to Garland’s biography, Get Happy, one British columnist remarked it was the “saddest and most pathetic party I have ever seen.” Garland herself was perplexed: “I can’t understand it. They all said they’d come.”
After the wedding, Deans tried to turn Garland’s finances around. He envisioned a documentary and a chain of Judy Garland movie theaters. Neither materialized.
The couple moved into a London apartment, where Garland declined physically and emotionally. “I’ve bounced back often. The spring is shot,” Garland told a friend, John Meyer. In early 1969, Garland persisted with a series of shows at London’s Talk of the Town nightclub. Some nights, she’d be her old entertainer self. Other nights, she’d show up late, slurring her speech, and be booed offstage.
On June 22, 1969, not two weeks after Garland’s 47th birthday, Deans discovered Garland dead on their bathroom floor. The cause of death was ruled a barbiturate overdose.
In 1985, Deans moved to Cleveland, OH and bought the famous Franklin castle, where he lived until 1999. He died of a heart attack in 2003.