What is the Missing Link that Binds Elvis and Judy Garland asks Work at Home Grandma?
Gone too soon
Do you have a favorite song?
Most of us have one treasure that always brings tears to our eyes, melancholia to our thoughts or happiness to our soul. There are also several entertainers that can embrace a song in such a way that they become the true mother of the tune. I often think this true of Judy Garland and the song Over the Rainbow. Although it is the one song that sparks in me all those special feelings, I feel sadness that its meaning is so tainted by the many who never reached the other side of their own rainbow.
Judy Garland and Elvis Presley not only shared an incredible talent but both were marred by an age old syndrome that has gone on to destroy the lives of so many.
I listen daily to Elvis gospel as I’m one of those people that rarely sleep at night. His melodic voice set to the tunes I knew as a child always give me peace and eventually the sleep that I so desperately need. As Judy was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and part of my heritage, I decided it was time to read her story. I was amazed at what I discovered. Judy and Elvis were very different, yet they both had one secret ingredient or missing link that played a strategic part in how they lived their lives and why they died.
A Movie Always Remembered
Judy Garland Met Her Fame in the Wizard of OZ
Judy is far and above known for her role as Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz. But at what lengths did she have to go to acquire the role and how did it change her life?
Born on June 10, 1922, Judy came from simple roots and was named Frances Ethel Gumm after her father and her mother. Her mother pushed her into show business because of her melodious voice but it was not an ambition for Judy. Ethel Gumm was a talented woman, gifted in various musical instruments but her nemesis was her overt ambition which she placed in her youngest daughter, Frances. Baby Gumm, as Judy was known, began her career singing Jingle Bells at just two years of age. Ethel exploited her daughter forcing her to appear in nightclubs, cabarets and theaters as a single act. Judy’s childhood was not a happy one partly because of her mother’s drive but because her father was a closeted homosexual. Because of her father’s lifestyle, the Gumm family suffered one scandal after another and often was forced to live out of the family car.
In 1935 Ethel was thrilled when little “Frances” was signed by MGM and her name was changed to Judy Garland. Still her career didn’t seem to flourish. When her father died of meningitis in 1935 Judy was devastated. Ethel saw it as her opportunity to completely take over Judy’s career. When Louis Mayer heard Judy sing at Clark Gable’s birthday party, he was so impressed, he immediately began to look for a way to use her.
Judy’s role in the Wizard of Oz followed in 1939 and her career skyrocketed. It was the beginning of the destruction of Judy’s life by her mother and the entertainment world. The popularity of the hit song “Over the Rainbow” became Judy’s mantra even though it was far from coming true in her own life. She was tiny lady with the height of only 4’ 11 ½”. Judy always had a weight problem during her childhood and upon being placed in the Wizard of Oz and in every other movie, Judy was forced to go on a strict diet filled with barbiturates and amphetamines to help her stay alert while losing weight. Then she would be so strung out at night, she needed medication to help her sleep. It was the springboard that eventually became the catalyst for destroying her life. At one point the studio had Judy seeing six different doctors for prescription drugs. As there was no medical data bank at that time and no computers, none of the doctors knew about the other thus the prescriptions flowed like water.
Judy won a special Oscar for Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor for her role as Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz. The biggest mistake the studio made was selling the rights to the movie to the television industry. The Wizard of Oz became one of the greatest movies of all time and would have continued to draw millions to the big screen for years to come.
After her success in the Wizard of Oz, Judy continued her career eventually branching out into adult roles. Judy always had difficulty on each endeavor which always included a tumultuous affair with her leading man or someone else who was part of the production. In 1941 she married bandleader David Rose and conceived his child. When MGM discovered Judy was pregnant they forced her to have an abortion which her husband agreed upon. The horrible brutality of the act haunted Judy for the rest of her life and destroyed her marriage.
The relationship with her mother had deteriorated over the years and Judy blamed Ethel for many of her problems. After her marriage to Vincente Minnelli and their daughter Liza was born 1946, Judy’s addictions had destroyed her health and she had had numerous suicide attempts. Judy checked into a rehab center, but the act only gave a semblance of change as the drug use and promiscuous behavior continued.
At age 28, she was fired from MGM and well into her third marriage to Sidney Luft. A second daughter, Lorna, was born in November, 1952. She was having another affair when her second marriage ended. Judy’s animosity for her mother continued and she refused to allow her to see her new granddaughter. Judy’s mother died from cardiac arrest the following January, and Judy would add another notch of guilt to her already heavy belt.
After her mother’s funeral, Judy signed a contract with Warner Bros and her career was back on track. Of course another affair ensued and James Mason was added to the already list of men such as Tyrone Power, Frank Sinatra, and Yul Brenner.
Judy went on to receive a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Esther Blodgett but lost the Academy award to Grace Kelly. It utterly destroyed Judy’s confidence and even to this day critics claim the voting was only six ballots apart and Judy actually deserved the award.
Judy went on to give birth to her beloved son, Joey Luft in 1955, but her marriage to Sid was still on shaky ground. Sid’s exorbitant gambling habits had cost Judy millions of dollars and after numerous divorce filings and reconciliations, the 13 year marriage ended in 1965.
Judy was 41 now and losing her beauty and desirability. She married her fourth husband, Mark Herron right after her divorce but that relationship lasted only five months and eventually ended in divorce. Her fifth and final marriage was in March 1969 to disc jockey Mickey Deans. That was the shortest of her marriages as Judy died from a drug overdose in June 1969.
Judy's Final Video
Judy’s iconic, sultry voice will be remembered for all time for her performances in Easter Parade, Meet Me in St. Louis and A Star is Born, but her fame in the Wizard of Oz would be the legacy and the mantra she will carry forever. Her funeral was held in Manhattan in June of 1969 and 22,000 people filed past her open coffin over a 24 hour period. As no one would come forward to pay for the burial expense, her body was stored in a temporary crypt for over one year. The official cause of death was an “incautious self-over-dosage of Seconal”, which had raised the barbiturate level in her body beyond its tolerance.
Judy was remembered posthumously in 1997 with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and in 1998 for her album “Judy at Carnegie Hall, which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Her performance in The Wizard of Oz is ranked number 17 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time. Judy was voted the 22nd Greatest Movie Star of all time by the same magazine.
I’ve included in this hub an interview with Barbara Walters done just two years before Judy’s death. It is extremely poignant to see the love she had for her children, yet her obvious drug addiction so prevalent in her mannerisms. Liza was interviewed about her mother bearing witness that Judy gave of herself to her children so opposite of her own mother. Over the years Judy would discourage her own children from pursuing a career in entertainment because she didn’t want them to become the person she believed her own mother had forced her to become.
Still she took them with her on all her concerts and plays. They were never left behind.
At the end of the video of her final performance you will see a beautiful yellow rose touched with scarlet at the tips. This rose is named the Judy Garland Rose and although it did not appear in the United States until 1991, it is appropriately planted outside her burial crypt and at the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Judy never discriminated against homosexuals even though in the sixties it was frowned upon. Her understanding of her father gave her a tolerance for gay people and she always made a point to let people know. She claimed she sang for everyone and it didn’t matter their personal or religious beliefs. Her death contributed to the beginning of the gay rights advocacy movement.
Interview with Barbara Walters 1967
Elvis – Truly the King
There are of course many other celebrities that also died before their time, but Elvis to me was the epitome of waste. Elvis had a unique ancestry, his name going back as far as 1710 when his family migrated to America. His grandmother was so endeared to her name; she decided to give all her children her own name of Presley.
Born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis was actually a twin whose brother was stillborn. I have often read stories about the lost child and the connection Elvis felt to his dead sibling. It placed a great part of his closeness to his mother. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1948 and Elvis graduated from high school there in 1953.
Elvis received his first guitar when he barely a teen, however, he actually never perfected that talent to a great degree. His singing was always his primary talent. If you watch a great many of his videos you will see that he rarely sings using the guitar.
Elvis loved gospel music and before his discovery he often attended all night’s sing-a-longs in the local area. In 1954, Elvis was driving truck and being turned down for singing gigs because he just wasn’t good enough. Yet with determination he continued until at last his true potential was discovered on his first hit “That’s all Right”.
It was hard to imagine that he never even struggled to reach stardom, his voice was so spectacular and his style unique to the music world. Singing R&B, along with his gospel, Elvis developed a style that often scorned upon by some Evangelical Christians of the day. In reality, shaking his legs was a fluke that happened because the young man was terrified when performing.
Elvis was only 20 years old when he got his contract with RCA so his father had to sign for him. Colonel Tom Parker would go on to be his famous manager. In was June 5, 1956, when Elvis made his television debut on the Milton Berle show singing Hound Dog and doing his sensual gyrations. Although he became an immediate hit, his career didn’t take off until his appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show which made him a national celebrity. It was a humorous notation in the entertainment world that the producers being aware of the public aversion to his gyrations filmed him from the waist up.
Elvis went on to become an international phenomenon which was an incredible feat for a career spanning just two years.
Elvis had a very close relationship with his mother; perhaps an abnormal one. As the family was very poor and only had one bedroom, he often slept with his mother while growing up. They had pet names for one another and spoke baby talk to each other on many occasions. Gladys Presley didn’t like her son to be out of her sight very often. Elvis became known as a mama’s boy and was shunned by girls in his class. Gladys was terribly distraught when Elvis began to acquire the attention of girls in the entertainment world and as his career blossomed. She wanted him to succeed but not to be away from her side.
In 1958 Elvis was drafted into the army and it was the final separation that was too much for Gladys to bear. She became depressed and began to neglect her health. She gained weight and drank daily. Doctors diagnosed her with liver problems and eventually her condition worsened until she was admitted to the hospital in August of 1958. Elvis was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, at the time but he was granted an emergency leave. He arrived home on August 12th and his mother passed away on August 14th from hepatitis. Elvis sobbed hysterically for days after her death. At her graveside he wept, 'Goodbye, darling, goodbye. I love you so much. You know how much I lived my whole life just for you'. It was as if she took a part of his soul with her when she died.
After the death of his mother, Elvis was transferred to Germany where he met Priscilla. They married in 1967 after the seven year courtship. Their daughter, Lisa Marie, was born February 1, 1968. Sadly, the marriage the doomed to failure as Elvis was still mourning his mother. The marriage ended in 1973.
After his army stint, his singing career slowed due to his making movies.It was not until his comeback special in late 1968 that things really took off for him again.
Elvis was keen to record several albums and increase his on stage appearances. He garnered a top notch crew of accompanists far superior to most performers. Elvis could adjust his style of singing to whatever type or design of song he was singing. Whether it was R&B, Country, or Pop, Elvis could perform them all with a style unprecedented to anyone before or after him. His clear mellow voice could melt a heart of stone, and his theatrical performances added to his breathtaking persona. He became the consummate entertainer. He earned three Grammy’s and a Golden Globe. Other accolades include One of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation for 1970.
As his fame continued, his gestures and voice were put together and the “King of Rock N Roll” was born. He still carries that mantra today long after his death.
During his short life and career Elvis starred in 33 movies, made history with his stage and television performances and sold over one billion records. He received a lifetime achievement Grammy at age 36 which was outstanding for a man of his age.
Posthumous Honors include: A postage stamp in 1992, The 1984 W.C. Handy Award from the Blues Foundation, Academy of Country Music's first Golden Hat Award presented in 1984, in 1986 he was among the first group of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1987, Elvis was given the Award of Merit by the American Music Awards, in 1998, into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and in 2001, Elvis the Gospel Music Association's Gospel Music Hall of Fame. It is an extraordinary accomplishment that Elvis is the only person to be inducted into all three halls of fame – Rock and Roll, Country and Gospel.
Elvis is King
When Elvis Died
I can recall sitting in my office when I heard the news that Elvis had died at home in Memphis, Tennessee on August 16, 1977. I sat in shock hardly able to believe what had happened. I knew Elvis had been in poor health and that he was using sedatives to sustain him. Unable to revive him, the paramedics brought him to Baptist Memorial Hospital where he was declared dead. Fans streamed to Graceland by the hundreds and at least 20,000 people walked by his casket to pay their tribute. Over 2,000 bouquets of flowered were received in his memory and Vernon Presley was kind enough to allows the fans to each get a memorial for which they could remember Elvis.
Elvis had a charm and charisma that far surpassed his age and even his death. Elvis impersonators today are extremely successful as people deep down inside wish and dream that Elvis would still be here. Even to this day record sales continue and he is the entertainer that everyone knows and most people loved.
Vernon Presley lived almost two years past Elvis' death. He died on June 26, 1979 in Memphis, Tennessee at age 63. The burial site of Elvis, his father, grandmother and mother is at Graceland in the Meditation Garden. Elvis lies next to his mother where he always wanted to be.
Graceland Mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and still boasts 600,000 visitors per year.
Elvis and Judy – An Oxymoron
The paradox between Elvis Presley and Judy Garland is sad but yet so strange. One might call it an oxymoron.
Judy Garland had an overtly possessive mother as did Elvis. Judy, however, came to hate her mother and wanted nothing in her life to resemble their relationship. Elvis, on the other hand, worshipped his mother so much that it consumed him even after her death. He could not survive without her and no matter how many drugs he took or how much adoration he received, he only longed for the woman whose life he cherished more than his own.
Judy’s guilt over her rejection of her mother and the role Ethel had played in her drug addiction was more than Judy could bear. Her obsession to be a better mother became the driving force behind her quest for success but the drugs were too greatly ingrained inside of her. She was unable to survive without them. Judy’s drug abuse eventually killed her. Did she intentionally commit suicide? We will never really know the answer.
It has been said that Elvis had strange relationships with women, not primarily concentrating on sex but on snuggling, playfulness and just cuddling with them for hours. His frequent houseguests included women as young as fourteen but they were never used in a sexual way. Elvis loved to lie in bed, watch television and talk all night. He was desperate to replace those lost feelings he had with his mother.
Elvis was disappointed when his father married a younger woman not long after his mother’s death. He never accepted Dee Presley and she went on to write two scathing books maligning Elvis and his father before her death in 2014. Dee claimed that Elvis had an incestuous relationship with his mother and died of an overdose of prescription drugs. Elvis hated his step-mother and never accepted her as part of his family. He allowed her sons to become part of his band, yet the rift with Dee was never healed.
It was apparent to everyone around him that Elvis never recovered from the death of his beloved mother. At his mother’s deathbed Elvis said, “She’s all we lived for; she will always be my best girl.
At her funeral Elvis could not contain his grief and threw himself over her body, brushing her hair with his hands and whispering, “just look Mama, look at those hands of God that toiled to raise me.
Friends reported that after her death, Elvis kept his mother’s nightgown with him while he slept. The pain of losing her destroyed his life. The Elvis everyone knew and loved died along with his mother.
It was well known in the entertainment circles that Elvis abhorred drinking and street drugs. He did, however, have many emotional and sleep issues. It is accepted knowledge that his overuse of prescription medication is what caused the cardiac arrest that killed him. Again, we have to ask the question. Was it intentional?
What is the Secret Ingredient and How Does it Influence Your Life?
So how much does the relationship with our parents really influence our lives? We can all ask ourselves the question: What part of your childhood and parental guidance is reflected in your life now?
I know my childhood has made me what I am today. When I was eight years old, my father abandoned his family of five children and left us to starve. Needless to say, the circumstance of my childhood has given me a distrust for men that I will have until I die. But that being said, I cannot forget my mother’s fortitude and stubbornness that has instilled in me the will to succeed no matter how bad things seem to appear. You see, my mother never tolerated disrespect and she didn’t get any. She fought to make a good life for her children but didn’t coddle them or force them to do things her way. I have four siblings, one of whom has already passed away. Three of my siblings still remain and all of us have been affected in some way by the behavior of our parents. That doesn’t mean you will be a murderer because your father was a murderer but it can mean that you will rise above what your parents were and be better for it.
As parents I believe we should love our children for who they are and not because of their behavior. We can love our children without smothering them; we can support our children without dictating the course of their life decisions. We can teach them to be their own person in such a way that they garner respect for themselves as well as the respect of others.
In the last video you will see a portrait of Elvis in a musical rendition of “Over the Rainbow”. The voice of the artist is nothing like that of Elvis but the message is clear. Elvis Presley, like Judy Garland, never found that beautiful place over the rainbow.
Two talented and beautiful people died very early in life for very nonsensical reasons. The world is not better off because they are gone. The world was better with them in it but the sad part is that they didn’t know it.