Sunday, April 13, 2014

A QUEEN AND HER CONSORTS


An essay/review by Jared Kenwood
Featuring interviews with Billy Stritch and  Ross Konikoff

After twenty-one years, the legendary Liza Minnelli returned to the Broward Center For The Performing Arts in FT. Lauderdale, Florida on February 16th. This time kicking off a brand new tour called Simply Liza, A show devoted to songs that have been most requested by her fans. It’s an hour and a half of just Liza, and her band of seven, in a very intimate show.  

One could only feel a wave of exhilaration and anticipation sweeping over them as the band played the overture. Then Liza walked out onto the stage, sending the sold-out house into rapturous applause. Dressed in all black, draped with a red scarf around her neck, and looking absolutely stunning, she greeted the audience, “Wow! Hi Guys!” And immediately launched into her opening number, “Teach Me Tonight”. A reminiscence of her Radio City days, despite the voice having changed since, she sounds strong and determined to give it her all. And boy, does she deliver.  

Being the daughter of Hollywood’s greatest director, Vincente Minnelli, and legendary entertainer, Judy Garland, it was only natural that talent would be in Liza’s DNA. Lets not get carried away though because success was something that she had achieved all on her own. For years it has been over emphasized that Liza is the daughter of two famous people, and that paved a way for a show biz career. But for Liza, it only meant that she had to work twice as hard. Minnelli is a star in her own right. In 1965 Liza landed the title role in Flora, The Red Menace, and at 19 years old she was the first young person to win a Tony award for Best Actress in a musical for her performance. Not long after was she releasing albums and performing in nightclubs.  By 1973, Liza Minnelli reached legendary status, receiving an Oscar for the 1972 film Cabaret and later an Emmy Award for her first television concert, Liza with a “Z”. 

Liza then sits down and goes right into her second number, a beautiful medley of “Here I’ll Stay”/ “Our Love Is Hear To Stay”, it’s touching lyrics cause Liza to choke up, “I get emotional,” she admits to the Broward audience, who respond with cheers of empathy. 
“Listen, do you mind if I just keep sitting down?” Liza asks the audience, and explains about her injured foot, a consequence resulting from trying to get a handsome man’s attention at the pool.  Not even an injured foot could keep her from the stage. Having already sacrificed both knees and hips from a lifetime of extensive dance numbers, what’s a sprained ankle? Nothing seems to stop her. 

The next number she performs is a quaint and rather jaunty number, written especially for her by Fred Ebb and John Kander, “Liza with a “Z”.  The song serves as a reminder that its Liza and not Lisa. There is a moment of Minnelli on Minnelli as Liza sings a beautiful song, “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?” from her Father’s film, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever. As she sings the song, she jokingly throws in her own lyric, “What did I have that I don’t have? ‘Balance’ ” The audience roars with laughter. 
The set-list continues with two Charles Aznavour songs,  “You’ve Let Yourself Go” and “What Makes A Man a Man”. 
Then comes the beautiful ballad, “Maybe This Time” more famously known from the film Cabaret, she is singing it more beautiful then ever. There is a solo behind the voice, while she sings “Everybody, oh they love a winner, so nobody loved me,” Ross Konikoff on trumpet creates the most lovely bit of music to fill in her phrases. “I love playing big, beautiful solos,” says Konikoff, “ always aspiring to play the way Harry James used to, soaring into the sky with his incredible, emotional sound and style, and the fact that Liza lets me do that is reason alone to love her forever.” 
And love her forever is what her fans will continue to do, and so comes the next song, the title song from the film Cabaret where she can only love her fans in return by reassuring them that when she goes, “I’m NOT going like Elsie.” 

Liza then decides to take a break and hands over the mic to another singing talent on the stage. “Ladies and Gentlemen, it should say, the show is ‘Liza Minnelli with Billy Stritch, my wonderful arranger and composer. Wait until you hear this. Oh Billy, I’m crazy about you.”
 Billy Stritch, a talented singer and pianist, croons “No Moon At All”.  Originally recorded in the 1940s by Nat “King” Cole, “No Moon At All” is a perfect song for Stritch’s unique vocals, his ability to scat and play piano. He sings like the singers of the 40s but better and with a modern day twist. 
“It has been in my repertoire for a long time,” says Stritch, explaining why he chose to sing this particular number. “ It’s a great chance for me to scat sing and improvise, and it’s a song that’s not done by many people, so I like doing it.” To hear more from Billy Stritch look for his albums, especially Billy Stritch Sings Mel Torme which is overwhelmingly breathtaking. His talents have no limits. 

The two entertainers, Liza and Billy then come together and perform a beautiful duet of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” dedicating it anyone who has a birthday in the audience. 

“Singing “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” with Liza is one of my favorite parts of the show,” says Billy, “I think it’s a nice moment in the show, not only for me but for Liza as well. It shows our collaboration and affection onstage and the audience seems to enjoy when we harmonize and sing together. We’re always thinking of new songs to do and perhaps there might be another duet or a different one in the show at some point. People seem to love when Liza sings the old standards and we always get a great response for “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”. 

Billy has been with Liza for almost a quarter of a century. He had been working for nine years prior to that with his vocal group, Montgomery, Plant and Stritch
"We had already made a splash in New York,” Says Stritch. “having worked many engagements at the Algonquin Hotel Oak Room as well as concerts at Town Hall and Carnegie Hall, so I had somewhat of a following in New York by then.” Then one night he was playing the piano in a restaurant and in walks Liza Minnelli, who was immediately drawn to him. 
“Liza was beginning rehearsals for her show "Stepping Out At Radio City Music Hall" and she invited me to be part of the creative team, crafting vocal arrangement for her and the twelve women who co-starred in the show. That was the beginning of my collaboration with Liza and the rest as they say is history. I've learned so much from this collaboration and I think Liza would say the same. She's made it possible for me to work all over the world and has certainly promoted me in ways that I never dreamed possible. She is unfailingly generous and kind and it has certainly been the most important professional relationship in my life. Twenty three years and counting....”

Liza continues her show with the song “Ring Them Bells” and three songs from her 2010 album Confessions. Proudly, Liza introduces her Band, “I love them so much and I’ve been with them so long. They are really the best. There’s not a lot them up here but we make quite a sound”.  The gentlemen in her band, dressed in white tuxedos, each play a very crucial role in creating this beautiful show. Some of these men have been with Liza for practically her whole career. Ross Konikoff first started out with Liza back in 1977 as a trumpet player for the Broadway musical The Act. 

“In the summer of 1977 I was called for a Broadway show called The Act, starring Liza Minnelli. I had certainly known of Liza, but until that point I had been primarily a jazz trumpet player.” Konikoff left Berklee College of Music in 1971 and moved to New York City and began performing with Show Bands. In 1973 he toured with Kiss Me Kate and in 1974 No No Nannette. Then from 1975 to 1977, Konikoff joined the Buddy Rich band, being offered the Jazz soloist position.
“The Act was great fun to play, “ Konikoff recalls. “The large orchestra was lined up against the back wall of the stage, all dressed in tuxedos, in full view for the entire show. I was seated next to Jay Leonhart, Liza's first bass player, and Bill Lavorgna, who had already been Liza's drummer for a few years. Liza was a ball to work with every night, looking back at the band or doing something to make us laugh.” 

Konikoff reflects on how he permanently joined Liza’s band, “When they announced the closing, Bill Lavorgna had a little talk with some of us and told us that Liza was taking her night club act on the road and that she wanted twelve of us to go with her to be her permanent band. I loved Liza and I loved traveling, so I accepted happily.” 
The places they traveled to have been all around the world, and it’s been quite an extraordinary journey, one that Ross Konikoff is very proud to be a part of. 
“I love traveling, and with Liza, it has always been absolutely first class. Nobody is more loving and respectful to her musicians than Liza. She let's me stand up and play my heart out on a few tunes and that makes me very happy. Then of course, playing for her as she sings has always been exciting and rewarding. We make music history every night. Who could ask for more? I am 50 times the trumpet player I might have been had I not met Liza and played in front of millions of people over these past 35 years.” 
In the 70s Konikoff had the privilege of being Liza’s dancing partner in a number “Everybody Gets The Blues”. “I was scared to death. I had never danced anything with anybody prior to that routine. Fred Ebb told me I could do it, and that he would make me a star! Everybody Gets The Blues started with me playing some soulful, bluesy licks all alone, indicating that I was feeling very sad. Then Liza turned around and asked me what was wrong. We had a little back and forth, then I walked down next to her and she sang as we danced this routine. I played at her, she sang at me and by the end I was all cheered up and ran back to my chair.” 
Simply Liza draws to a close with Liza singing her two highly anticipated songs “But The World Goes Round” and of course,  “New York, New York.” She then encores with an emotional rendition of, “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”, leaving the audience wanting more. There is simply no other performer like Liza Minnelli. 

For those who missed this One-night only performance at the Broward Center, perhaps in the near future Liza Minnelli will bring her Simply Liza show back to South Florida. The Broward show was most certainly a success. 
“I love Florida,” says Konikoff, “Getting my life batteries recharged by that beautiful, pure sunlight is the best thing there is to keep one alive and healthy. Any time I have the opportunity to go to Florida, I am thrilled. In addition, the Broward Center theater is a fantastic place to perform. The whole group looks forward to performing there at every opportunity.” 
Liza Minnelli and Jared Kenwood

Special Thanks to Ross Konikoff and Billy Stritch for allowing me an unforgettable interview. I want to also thank Daniel at The Judy Garland Experience and Steve Rothaus for helping me to share my story. This article is dedicated to my Grandmother, Beverly Yablonka who passed away a few days prior to the concert. I’ll love you forever. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

JOAN BECK COULSON AND GARY HORROCKS A DUOLOGUE


In the spirit of cross-promotion, I have asked Joan Beck Coulson, author of the upcoming, ALWAYS FOR JUDY, and Gary Horrocks, editor of JUDY GARLAND: A CELEBRATION, to take time out from their busy schedules to discuss their latest projects, the state of The International Judy Garland Club, and what it was like to know Judy Garland personally.

The very first Judy Garland club was created in 1955 by Broadway living legend, Albert Poland, and the British offshoot of that club was created in 1963 by biographer Lorna Smith. Like Al Poland's club, the British club was personally sanctioned by Judy Garland, and according to Horrocks the members of the club made sure that "Judy received regular telegrams of support wherever she appeared in the U.K. and members were in abundance at her opening and closing nights, and many nights in between. Members contributed funds to buy her cards and presents for Christmas and birthdays. In return Judy actively embraced and appreciated her supporters. She arranged for members to attend recording sessions and invited them to first night parties and back stage get-togethers." That club continues to this day and leadership has been passed to Gary Horrocks.

The American club changed hands a few times over the years and eventually closed down to be replaced by internet based entities, including the several thriving outlets of our own The Judy Garland Experience that can be found on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Yahoo, and other forms of social media.  We are proud to have received the blessings of Al Poland, the international club, and the estate of Judy Garland, among others.

Joan Beck Coulson is the fan who became a friend. There are so many photographic records of her and Judy together one starts to wonder "Where's Joan?" when shown photographs that don't include her. Whether it was at press conferences to promote Capitol Records or U.K. appearances, whether it was backstage at the Dominion, the Palladium, whether it was at album or soundtrack recording sessions, or  at opening night parties in London or Los Angeles, Joan Beck Coulson was there. 
A book detailing her history as a Judy Garland fan (with a break taken to raise a family) will be published this Spring.
Always For Judy is a charming book that creates a remarkable bridge between the fans that appreciated Judy while she was alive with those who have discovered their passion for her long after her passing. Told not only from Beck Coulson's standpoint as a fan, but also from her birds eye view into certain parts of Garland's life,  and with an understanding of the context of the times that those events took place in. It is a unique and rare perspective. Publication is planned to coincide with the 92nd anniversary of Judy Garland's birth on June 10.

Take it away Joan and Gary....

Buzz Stephens

Gary: ‘Joan, what inspired you to write your book?’
Joan: ‘After I left employment at CBS Television City in 1963 I lost all contact with the Judy world and spent the following years bringing up my two children.  After they both married, I treated myself to a visit to Grand Rapids and attended the Judy Garland Festival there in June 1997. I was surprised that the teenage fans were really interested in my memories of Judy. I was also surprised to learn that the Judy Garland Club was still in existence.  I met Roger Cogar and Timm Johnson who were running the Club at the time and they persuaded me to talk on a panel about my experiences of seeing Judy perform live. Afterwards people came up to me, asking for MY autograph, wanting to touch my hand because I had touched Judy’s. I was amazed because I was nobody really, except that I’d experienced meeting Judy. This was the moment when I felt should share my personal recollections of Judy. Roger and Timm invited me to a Club meeting in October that year in London, where I met dear Brian Glanvill, who I’d known from the 1950s, and he put me back in touch with Lorna Smith.  I hadn’t seen her since 1963! She phoned me, we talked and talked, and all of the intervening years disappeared. Her comment when hearing Brian had met me was so Lorna. “Oh, she’s surfaced again!” I spent four days with her in London.  She told me about the six months Judy spent in England in 1964 and gave me back issues of the Club magazine “Rainbow Review” from 1963 onwards, including the very special memorial issue that you reproduced in issue 1 of “Celebration” in 2010 Gary. I thought it was important to recapture this period so I wrote an article entitled “I Belong to London,” which you also published in issue 23 of the Club magazine in 1999. Whenever I visited England I would spend a few days with Lorna and we’d go up to the West End to see a play or a movie and then spend the evening talking Judy. After Judy died, Lorna withdrew from Club activities.  She wrote two books about her and didn’t want to be involved with the Club. She felt Judy was gone and that her work was finished. However, I kept popping up and dragging Lorna back into the Judy world. I remember one night we watched the Ford Star Jubilee TV show and shared our memories of Judy.  In a sense, it was hard for Lorna to open the door to Judy again because it evoked painful memories.  She’d acted as Judy’s dresser at Talk of the Town and witnessed Judy getting steadily frailer in those last 6 months in London. But because we’d shared such lovely memories of Judy and I kept asking questions, she finally, literally, opened the door to the room where she stored all of her Judy memorabilia. When I heard about a two-day Club meeting in May 2002, I asked Lorna if she would go with me. “No,” came the reply, “but you can come and stay with me, but don’t expect me to attend. I won’t know anyone.” The first day was at the National Film Theatre. In the afternoon we had a lovely reception. I went home to Lorna, telling her how pleasant it had been, that John Fricke had brought his mother and had spoken so lovingly about Judy. It was such a low-key function and I said she would have enjoyed it. “I don’t know,” was her suspicious reply. The next day’s event was at the Bonnington Hotel.  “How do I get there?”  I asked. “You know the way; we used to have our meetings there in the old days.” “OLD days,” I exclaimed, “that was 40 years ago and a lot of water has gone under my bridge since then. I won’t be able to find my way.” “You go to the end of the road, get a train to Charing Cross, catch the Tube, get out at so and so and then go down the street turning left, etc.”  I was wailing. “I will get lost and miss the meeting.”  “Oh, all right, I’ll come with you,” she said and so we got ready. I was so relieved. My first granddaughter was two years old at the time and Lorna helped me find presents for her. We arrived at hotel and I was surprised to see John Fricke standing at the door greeting people. The two great icons of the Judy world! I introduced Lorna to John. He shook her hand, went red in the face and I thought he would explode. “So glad to meet you,” he said. Lorna gave a little smile and her blue eyes twinkled as if to say. “So this is the famed John Fricke that I’ve heard so much about.” We entered the room quietly, she didn’t want any announcement.  Roger saw her, but I said “shush….don’t say anything.” Lorna went off and quietly found old friends and enjoyed herself.  So I ended up being the catalyst that brought you and Lorna together, Gary.’

Joan: ‘Gary, how long have you been editing the Club journal for?’
Gary: ‘Seems like a hundred years. No seriously, since 1998. My first issue was the revamped Rainbow Review, issue 21 (new series), in readiness for the Club’s 35th anniversary. I say new series because there were 62 original series issues published between 1963 and 1991, before the Review was re-launched. Issue 21 saw the magazine transition from the new series A5 format into the glossy publication it is today. The cover for issue 21 knocked fans for six. A few thought it was Joan Collins! John Fricke mailed me the original glossy photograph, and, to my horror our postman left the package in a wheelie bin. I was astounded when I saw the rarity of some of the material John shared with me for that first issue. I will forever be indebted to him for his kind support. As confidence amongst Judy collectors grew with each magazine more and more of them shared material with me, which I scanned and returned. Over the years we have covered so many aspects of Judy’s life in great depth, with contributions from superb writers including John Fricke and Steve Sanders. Joan, I remember well the article you wrote. Your recollections and anecdotes are invaluable to any Garland scholar who wants to strip away the myth and legend and see the real woman. My final issue editing Rainbow Review (in fact THE final issue ever) was 34. It was entitled “Why, Oh Why Can’t I?” and was all about Judy’s 1955 and 1956 TV specials. I produced 14 Rainbow Reviews in all, with associated newsletters and so forth. Not bad going, and each one a treasure trove of articles and photographs.’ 

Gary: ‘Joan, what resources did you use to write your book?’
Joan: ‘Well, I’ve bought every book about Judy, whether I thought they were good or not, so I have everything. In addition, I read every article I could find. I have been collecting for 70 years. I’m also very much a theater person, (I even produced two performing arts children!) and have many books on the theater, show business and the movies. I also love the process of research; there is nothing more exciting for me than to find a new path to follow or investigate. Sadly, I wasn’t able to following the academic path I would have liked in my early years but I finally completed three degrees, including a masters, in my 50s. The social sciences and anthropology interest me the most and I was enthralled with Michael Apted’s documentaries, 7UP, which follow the lives of fourteen children through their lives. He uses the Jesuit saying, “Show me a child at age seven and I will show you the man.” I felt I could use his study to look at Judy’s life, which I have done with Michael’s permission. Later, when investigating the mid-to-late 1960s when Judy had disappeared from my radar, I was glad to have Lorna Smith’s Rainbow Reviews to hand. Lorna faithfully collected newspaper articles and reviews, many sent to her by American friends, with their own observations of Judy’s performances. This collection is priceless and is amongst my treasured possessions. I know that Lorna has shared a lot of material with you as well.’
Gary: ‘Absolutely, I’ve meticulously scanned large amounts of her archive to publish in the Club magazine.’

Joan: ‘What are your favorite issues of Rainbow Review?’
Gary: ‘I enjoyed writing about Judy in 1965, “Ovations and Tribulations” (issue 26); Judy in Scandinavia, “Planting Stars” (issue 24); the 50th anniversary special tribute to “A Star Is Born” (issue 32) and “They Tell Me I’m a Legend”, Judy at the Talk of the Town (issue 23.) By far my favourite issues were 27, which was dedicated to Judy Garland in 1951, and 31, which celebrated the 40th anniversary of The Judy Garland Show. At 88 pages that issue nearly broke the bank! Can you believe, George Schlatter recently contacted us for three more copies. These issues are quite rare now, but we have some spare and will advertise back issues to members shortly.’

Gary: ‘What do you think your book will add to the huge corpus of information about Judy?’
Joan: I hope it will show the real person behind the myths and rubbish that has often been written about her. Many young fans have told me that they were not able to finish reading some of the biographies because they find them too distressing. I could not ignore the last few years of Judy’s life but there are so many beautiful and fun moments, which I have documented. Reading many of the books about Judy, I felt they bore no relationship to the person I had met and I wondered where the authors had found some of the material they wrote about. Most of the books portrayed a woman who was nothing like the sweet, friendly, charming person I met. I realize publishers want sensational content, which will sell well. This is why I prefer to publish myself so I have control over what material is included.’   

Joan: ‘What are your plans for future articles for the magazine?’
Gary: ‘We’re always open to suggestions. ‘Celebration’ launched in 2010, with issue 6 pending. My initial priority was to publish Lorna Smith’s extended recollections of her time getting to know Judy. Her 1975 book ‘Judy with Love’ was heavily censored by editors to her regret, and she disposed of the original draft. One day we were sat chatting and decided we would re-build that original, and publish her definitive story. This epic is well on its way to completion, but it’s obviously a time consuming process, and Lorna hasn’t been well. Issue 6 is all about Judy in Australia in 1964, a fascinating and difficult story to tell, but I’m very pleased with how it’s going. Nobody’s ever tackled it properly before.’

Joan: ‘How long does it take to prepare an issue?’
Gary: ‘I’d say six months for the research and another two for nervous breakdowns and the usual day-to-day problems. Issue 4 was badly delayed because our printer went bust, for example. Nightmare! I spend so much time retrieving original articles, networking with collectors, sourcing photographs, and reviewing archival interviews with fans and so forth. I’d like to think the effort is worth it. Members often write and say that good things are worth waiting for. The reviews for our latest issue 5 have been amazing, such an incredible tonic.  When we launched Celebration in 2010 naively I thought I could produce two issues a year, but it was impossible with other commitments, and real life often intervenes, pretty harshly over the last two years. So we have now reviewed the subscription model to two issues (and newsletters) per payment, and we are currently in phase three, for issues 5 and 6. We plan to survey our members to see what they’d prefer from future magazines in terms of content, regularity and format. Marielle O’Neill recently came on board as newsletter editor, which is so exciting. Having such an enthusiastic and committed person to take some of the pressure off is great and she is keen to develop the newsletter into a more informal, member-focused publication, with poems, letters, news, fan photos and so forth.’

Gary: ‘Between 1956 and 1963 the UK chapter of the North American Club (founded in September 1955) provided a focal point for Garland devotees in the UK. What was the like to be a member back in 1950s?’
Joan: Lorna Smith and I met in mid-1950s when Capitol Records put out a blurb about the Club. As I had keyboard skills and Lorna did not I ended up typing her newsletters.  Lorna was, and is, a sincere, sensible, down to earth soul and not the type to be running a “fan” Club. This practical sincerity is probably the reason Judy was so comfortable with her. We used to meet in London for coffee and I would take her handwritten pages back with me to my office, with instructions “to get everything on to one page.” About two weeks later, I would meet her again in London with about sixty typewritten copies.  I should point out that we did not have copy machines then and I had to type the newsletter on special glossy paper with the carbon was on the reverse side. There could be no typing mistakes, of course.  When the original piece of paper was crammed full of Lorna's news about Judy, it was affixed to the top of a drum on a Gestetner Machine, the drum turned (and you prayed the paper would not crease) and mauve copies were made from the carbon from the master.  It was a painstaking task and certainly a labor of love. John Fricke, the clutter bug that he is, still has some of these newsletters! At that time we probably had about twenty members in the London area (about 60 in total) and some of us would meet every couple of months at different member’s houses, listening to whatever new LP was out and talking about Judy's activities.’

Joan: ‘Are there any Club events or projects in the pipeline?’
Gary: ‘We moved to Yorkshire in March last year so our schedule was thrown completely. We haven’t had much time to develop the social side of things, which is our priority. We really need another volunteer to help with this, easier said than done unfortunately. We’ve had two wonderful Club lunches in London already and plan another later this year, with hopefully a big meeting in October, fingers crossed. I’m going on the road doing some Judy Club presentations starting with a National Trust event in May. Did you know we have a bed of Judy roses at the church at Stoke Poges? Anyway, we hope to refresh the Club plaque there in summer. We’ve also started discussions with video producer Frank Labrador to share with him our digital archive of Club interviews to help him with his documentaries. We would love to work with Frank to produce a definitive documentary about I Could On On Singing, based on the editorial I wrote in issue 5 of Celebration. Joe Luft said he was very impressed with the documentary the Club produced about Judy in London in 1957. When we met in Hollywood a few years ago he came over and said how much he enjoyed the magazine. Compliments like that make everything worthwhile.’

Gary: ‘How do you think the Club has benefited you over the years?’ 
Joan: ‘Being in the Club has brought me such great and enduring friendships. Friends are very important to me. I still have friends from when I was seven years old and many from my teen years. I tell people once they are caught in my web I will never let them go. Lorna often refers to herself as “Auntie Lorna” when she advises me on my life and I find I have acquired several nephews and many nieces myself among my Judy friends. I think I met you and Justin in 1997 and although we met occasionally at Club meetings in London, we really didn’t become friends until that afternoon we spent at the Cheesecake Factory in Hollywood with the dear, dear Eleanor Lyon before the “Judy in Hollywood” function organized by Jan Glazier in 2010.’
Gary: ‘I recall copious amounts of red wine were consumed that afternoon!’


Joan: ‘There is so much Judy on the Internet. Do you have any plans to expand on the web?’
Gary: ‘Not yet to be frank. As you say, there are some wonderful web initiatives out there, so we’ve decided not to reinvent the wheel, but to offer a good old-fashioned, nostalgic print resource. All our members say they prefer having a hard copy to hand, to browse through and display on coffee tables. Somebody once told me that they didn’t need to join because everything was free on the Internet. Not so I’m afraid. The rarity and volume of the unpublished material is staggering. As you know Joan, Judy Garland read the Rainbow Review! She jokingly said she read it to find out what she’d be doing next, which tickles me. Fast forward fifty years and Barry Manilow, just off stage at the O2 in London, told me how much he enjoys reading it and how much work must go into producing it. Such a gent and what an honour. I don’t think that level of enthusiasm would be generated in an e-only format. We’ve even made our web site low maintenance. It’s there to provide basic information and encourage new members. Nothing more, nothing less. I’m leaving the web expertise to the web experts! Although, one thing we really want to do is digitise all of the original magazines and index them all so that future researchers can easily identify articles. Not enough time in the day unfortunately.’

Gary: ‘What was it like meeting Judy?’
Joan: ‘When you spoke to Judy she was very serious and her great brown eyes looked deeply at you and listened to whatever words you managed to get out in appreciation of her talent or work.  There was no movie star big artificial empty smile.  She listened. I was so shy and in awe; probably quite inarticulate. I recall at the 1957 party backstage at the Dominion Judy would dart around from one group of people to another, be it orchestra members or fans, talking, signing autographs and smiling for photos. I witnessed her at the party after her first show of the CBS TV series in 1963 and it was the same. Flitting, I would call it.  She was always moving and talking to people anxious that everyone was looked after.’ In July 1960 Lorna and I were invited to Judy’s London press reception. I took these photographs. “Over the Rainbow” was playing as she entered the room, and they put her up on a stage and she looked quite uncomfortable and someone interviewed her.  As soon as she could, she got off the stage and came down amongst us.  She came straight up to us and shook hands thanking us for the flowers and gifts the Club had sent.  Judy had a very firm handshake and later in the day I realized that one of the stones from my grandmother’s antique opal ring was gone.  Such was the energy transmitting from Judy!’     

Joan: ‘How’s membership doing?’
Gary: ‘It’s going really well. Getting bigger every day, and from all over the world, primarily the US and UK, but also Canada, Australia, New Zealand Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, Japan and South Korea! I remember Lorna Smith once told me that even in Judy’s lifetime Club membership never went beyond 500 or so we are very happy that we are nearing this figure. We actively encourage new members, and are always keen for support with publicity. Our selling point is our history and legacy, and we offer a degree of stability - 51 years of it to date - although goodness knows the Club has had its ups and downs over the years. Stalwarts like Lorna Smith, Ken Sephton, Gwen Potter and Peter Gannaway have worked tirelessly to preserve Judy’s memory, from her 1970 memorial service, to her 1970 plaque at the Palladium and the 2000 plaque at the Dominion. Digital preservation is a tricky area; web sites can come and go. I’d love to think we are bequeathing a print archive of exceptional publications for future generations to refer to. Now that’s exciting, don’t you think?’
Joan: ‘I think Judy would be pleased that her memory is respected and so many articles have been published showing her joy and magic. ‘  


Be sure to check out The International Judy Garland Club website for membership information.




Please visit Joan Beck Coulson's  blog and the Always For Judy Facebook page.



Saturday, December 21, 2013

A TRIBUTE TO JUDY VAN HERPEN, WITH MEMORIES AND EXCERPTS FROM THE 1964 BETTE DAVIS INTERVIEW

 by "Judy's Gang" 

Margo Slaughter, Maureen Davis, Norman Chramoff, Eleanor Lyon, and Ken Young


All Images Courtesy of Margo Slaughter's Personal Collection


Judy Van Herpen, 
a much loved friend and devoted Judy Garland fan all her life, 
known for attending almost every taping of "The Judy Garland Show" CBS series and whom Judy Garland herself called one of her "gang", 
sadly passed away in May 2013.

"Our friend (of 50 years!) Judy Van Herpen.  It's so hard for me to share my feelings for our friend.  I think when you've known someone for that many years, and have gone through so much together, you tend to take things for granted. We shouldn't, I know, but I think that's what we sometimes do.


We were born the same year, in fact. We were both just out of high school in June of l963 - that summer when Judy Garland started taping her Series at CBS Television City. We were all of 17 years old at the time! I felt a bond with Judy from the moment I met her. Of course, we always had the Judy Garland bond. All of us who met because of Judy Garland felt that way. But Judy Van Herpen was someone I felt I'd always known.

Judy was super intelligent, had a GREAT sense of humor, and was fiercely protective of Judy Garland. No one would DARE say anything against her - within earshot of her! I'll forever remember her great smile and quick wit - which are some of the things I always looked forward to whenever we were all able to get together over the years. And the fact that she was a good and decent person. How I wish she had taken better care of herself. I know "Judy's Gang" will never be the same now that she's left us. We all saw Judy Garland so many times together over the years - from TV shows to Vegas, to the Greek Theatre, and on and on and on.

We all love and miss you, Judy. You'll be in our hearts forever."

Love, 
Maureen

Judy Van Herpen in her high school years



"Judy was the best. A loyal true friend. Always funny and down to earth. 
Eleanor, Maureen, Margo and Judy VH patiently
waiting outside of CBS Television City in December 1963



Even though we didn't talk as much as she and Margo (Slaughter) did, whenever we did spend time together, it was like yesterday was the last time. 



I will miss her forever."

xoxoxo,
Elly




"As I look back at our fifty years of friendship, I know that I am the better for the fifty years she gave me. I was eleven when we met and she was my first experience with a wit extraordinaire! She was so smart, sharp and funny. Three years ago, when she drove us to San Diego for the strangest Judy concert ever, we had such fun. We never stopped talking and laughing that whole trip. It was as if fifty -- ouch! -- years hadn't passed. 

 Reunions of "Judy's Gang" at CBS-TV City - in 1978 and 2003.
We lived one of the greatest and luckiest experience ever. Glad that we shared so much and she will forever be in my heart and in my funny bone! If she read this she would be complaining about my grammar. I am sure that she continues clipping articles as we speak…" 


Norman





"When we were kids hanging out at CBS, I remember Judy's quick-wit sense of humor. Rapid-response quipster! We kept in touch via mail (remember that?) and reunited 40+ years later at our first Bench-kids reunion with George Sunga at CBS, that I believe Judy organized. Judy, Margo, Maureen, Elly, Norman and I all got together a few years later in the Valley. I'll always treasure our times together…

Speaking of "mail", I have a Judy-Traveling Postcard Story to share. When Judy VH and the Wenches went to see Judy Garland in Vegas, I couldn't be there but Judy VH sent me a beautiful JG picture postcard. On the back of the card, Judy VH signed it "Love, Judy."


Over the years, I often wondered what happened to that postcard. But after my bud, Al DiOrio passed, his sister found it going through his collection! I think I had lent it to Al when he was writing "Little Girl Lost." Thinking the message was written by Judy Garland herself, she sent it to me that Christmas -- where it sits on my computer desk today.


This postcard found it's way back home and remains a constant memory of happy times with Judy Van Herpen."

Ken



Sunday, December 1, 2013

JOIN THE CLUB


The latest issue of JUDY GARLAND - A CELEBRATION has been published and sent to members of The International Judy Garland Club.

The focus is on the year 1962, and what a year that was for Judy Garland! 
Riding a crest of fame the likes of which show business hadn't seen before, Judy Garland was in demand everywhere, and Gary Horrocks and the magazine's staff capture the essence of that year in a life brilliantly. There are insightful and thought provoking editorials mixed in with a cornucopia of rare and exciting images. 
Over fifty breathtaking pages in all!

All reviews for this edition have been glowing, and almost all readers agree that this is the club's best offering to date. 

Like all previous editions, issue #5 is an immediate collector's item.


There is also a chatty and informative newsletter included that was provided by the club's newest edition, ace reporter, Marielle O'Neil.


Here's the link to the club's site:
There you can find out how to join the only current (and official) Garland club or organization that can actually trace it's existence back to Judy. 


Sunday, November 17, 2013

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF OZ


From the promo material for John Fricke's new book, The Wonderful World Of Oz:

The wonderful world of Oz is a magical place—and has been for generations of Americans since L. Frank Baum penned his enduring classic in 1900. With the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland, Oz was forever woven into our culture. Over the course of the 20th century, Oz continued to capture the hearts of the American people—as well as people all over the world.

This book documents that magical journey through beautiful photographs of the world’s largest collection of Oz memorabilia. Whether it’s first-edition covers, a munchkin costume, or the Wicked playbill, the iconic items on these pages tell the story of America’s most beloved fairy tale. Come over the rainbow and see why there truly is no place like Oz.



John Fricke is the author of The Wizard of Oz: An Illustrated Companion to the Timeless Movie Classic, The Wizard of Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History, Judy: A Legendary Film Career, Judy Garland: World’s Greatest Entertainer. He is a two time Emmy Award-winning producer for PBS American Masters and A&E biography documentaries about Judy Garland. He lives in New York City.

John Fricke is seen here hosting the premiere of the 3D version of The Wizard Of Oz at the world famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

Mr. Fricke will be in New York City signing copies of his new book, The Wonderful World Of Oz, on Thursday, November 21 between 5-7 p.m. at Books of Wonder, 18 W. 18th Street.


The following are some sample pages that were shared with us by the book's publisher, 
Down East Books.






The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz is available at book stores everywhere and can also be ordered electronically by clicking on this link:

Monday, November 4, 2013

STEPPING INTO OZ


The Wizard of OZ: The 75th Anniversary in 3D
Reviewed by Jared Kenwood
On September 20th Warner Bros. Pictures and IMAX theatres joined together to present for one week only, in honor of its 75th anniversary “The Wizard of OZ,” re-mastered and for the first time transferred to 3D. The celebration of the films anniversary includes a 25 million dollar promotional campaign including: McDonalds Happy Meals, Simon Mall events, QVC specials, character appearances in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade and a brand new 3D blu release for home entertainment.

Nearly 75 years ago Judy Garland skipped down the Yellow Brick Road as the Kansas farm girl, Dorothy Gale. Could anyone have ever predicted that after all those years millions of people all over the world would still adore the film today? On June 4th when Warner announced in a press release that they planned to release the film in 3D, there were initially a lot of mixed opinions from many moviegoers. The Wizard of OZ in one of the most beloved films in cinema history, and well protected. The concern with converting OZ to 3D was whether or not it would be damaging to the films legacy? Would the film be altered or ruined?  Would its everlasting value that has made it withstand the test of time diminish?  
Despite these original concerns, The Wizard of OZ: An IMAX 3D Experience has been released and played in select IMAX theaters across the country proving to be quite successful. Many have praised the fine 3D work. You literally feel as though you are in the house that lands on the Wicked Witch, as though you are standing in front of the great and powerful OZ himself, or actually being attacked by flying monkeys. Joe Shipbaugh, age 26 who has been a lifelong OZ fan and regularly attends OZ festivals all over the country shares with readers, “I grew up watching The Wizard of OZ. Sometimes two or three times a day. With every rerelease of the film, I was convinced they couldn’t make it any better. The 75th anniversary restoration of the film does just that. While watching the movie on the big screen and in 3D, it was as if I were there in OZ. This American Icon should easily last another 75 years and beyond.”


The process of turning OZ into a 3D film took a team of a thousand people from Warner Bros. In a new documentary, The Wizard of OZ: IMAX Behind The Frame, many of those responsible for bringing OZ to 3D discuss this long and careful process. “The original film elements had to be scanned so that they were sharp,” says Janet Wilson, Digital Colorist at Warner Bros. “ and then all the dirt and scratches and to be cleaned off, all the imperfections that had built up over the years from the handling of these elements had to be taken out digitally.”
 Then a lot of layering had to be done to the film to create the 3D effect. Chris Del Conte from Prime Focus discusses later in the documentary, “ A lot of layering was done from when it was shot in 1939. We had to isolate a lot of different objects, and in 3D when we layer them, make sure that things that were closest to the camera have a lot more volume and as they fell away they were a lot less. That way to the eye it seemed natural, as if you were standing on the set. Being on such a large screen and being in 3D is literally going to put you into OZ.”  
The Wizard of OZ was filmed by MGM in 1939 and directed by Victor Fleming. Based on the book by L. Frank Baum, the story continues to touch the lives of many people. In the new issue of Life magazine, dedicated completely to the OZ anniversary and on stands now, there is a quote from film critic, Roger Ebert on why we continue to watch The Wizard of OZ. “It’s underlying story penetrates straight to the deepest insecurities of childhood, stirs them and then reassures them.” 
Although the Imax showing of OZ lasted for one week only, on October 1st Warner released a new 3D version in stores along with a new standard Blu ray and DVD.


For anyone interested in reading more about OZ, a new book titled: The Wonderful World of OZ by author John Fricke will be released on November 7th.  This new book will not only detail the making of the MGM film but will also chronicle the history of OZ from it’s original 1900 publication to the Broadway success of the musical Wicked. John Fricke is a two time Emmy Award winning producer and historian on the subject of OZ and the career of Judy Garland.


This article has been written in memory of Margaret Pellegrini, who played the Munchkin with a flowerpot on her head in the movie and often attended Wizard of OZ festivals. She passed away at age 89 on August 7th.

Jared Kenwood is a longtime member of The Judy Garland Experience Yahoo group and our Facebook outlets, this is his second article for TJGE blog. His first was an exclusive interview with Judy Garland's daughter, Lorna Luft!

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