Saturday, December 21, 2013


 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."


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."


"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…" 


"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."


Judy VH and Margo, with friend and fellow Bette Davis fan, Dick Hudman

"My BFF, Judy Van Herpen, and I (as well as the rest of "Judy's Gang" - Eleanor Lyon, Maureen Davis, Ken Young, etc.) met in the no-ticket line at CBS in our teens at the beginning of the taping season for "The Judy Garland Show" TV series. Discovering our mutual love and admiration for Judy Garland during that time period, we all became fast and close friends. After the Judy Garland TV series was canceled in 1964, Judy VH and I were at very loose ends and started scheming on how we can meet another one of our all-time favorites, Bette Davis, who had just completed "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte". I had always been a big fan of Bette and Judy VH was fast catching up.

We'd heard of Max Preeo, a fellow Garland fan, who had a publication in Hawaii. So we wrote him and ask if he'd like us to try and get an interview with Miss D. And he said "Yes."

My job was to write Miss Davis...and I did, with much trepidation. We doubted anything would come of it and we went on with our lives. I was working at an insurance company at the time and was called to the phone one afternoon. It was Judy VH and she sounded funny. A hand-written note (below) had arrived at her house.

This is a copy of the actual note Bette Davis sent to Judy Van Herpen, agreeing to be interviewed. 

The note said "My phone number is... Call me." "Can this be real?" Judy asked. "Well," I said, "if it's not, it isn't the end of the world." And she came back with, "Damn close to it!"

Guess who the designated caller was? Right! So help me, I paced around my tiny apartment on Crenshaw Blvd. for an hour, rehearsing what to say and trying to get up the nerve to dial. I picked up the receiver half a dozen times, only to put it down. Finally, I dialed and waited, heart pounding. One ring...two...then that voice! "Bette Davis here! What is it?"

Thank God this conversation was never recorded! Anyway, we set up a date and time for the interview and I got hold of Judy, who must have been having a coronary by this time. What to do now? I asked my papa, who chuckled and said, "You got yourselves into this, now get yourselves out."

We decided to ask our friend and fellow "Judy's Gang" member Maureen to join us. Since it was the holiday season, she baked Christmas cookies and I picked up several stocks of holly at the florist for this very special event.

Editor's Note:  Prior to the interview, Bette Davis had attended the Golden Apples Awards earlier in the day.  According to Margo, Bette kept on the same dress.  So this is how Bette looked like on the fateful night they interviewed her.

Collage of photos and clippings from the December 20, 1964 Golden Apple Awards

The day came - Sunday, December 20. Judy did the driving. We drove around the block three times before finally pulling up the Honeysuckle Hill driveway to Bette's New England style house in Bel Air for our 5:00pm meeting time. It was cold and drizzling. We went up stone stairs through a small rock garden on the south side of the house, while carrying holly, cookies and Judy's reel-to-reel portable tape recorder.
We rang and Michael answered the door, blond and cute as the devil at age twelve. He had a Coke in his hand and offered us one as he led us through the kitchen area to the den, explaining that his mother would be with us directly. (One of Bette's wigs á la "Dead Ringer" was lying on the counter between the rooms.)

Editor's Note:  If you want to get a visual idea of how Bette's home looked like when Judy, Margo and Maureen visited, check out this interview clip from THE TODAY SHOW.  Despite what it says on THE TODAY SHOW website, this interview was broadcast live on February 22, 1965, not in 1962, according to Margo.  She has photographic evidence to prove it.  This video shows you the same room where the ladies interviewed Bette and you also get to meet her son Michael!

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Above is Bette Davis on THE TODAY SHOW on February 22, 1965, which was shot inside her home, and Bette's son Michael Merrill is also seen briefly.

Michael showed us the electrical outlet behind a huge oak table and Judy got down on her knees to plug in the tape recorder. Just then, Bette burst into the room from the hallway in her stocking feet! Hair pulled back in a ponytail, looking about forty and four feet tall and projecting a life force that almost knocked those of us standing to our knees, along with Judy!

Bette's hand shot out as she approached us (a firm grip!) and introductions were made. She asked if Michael had greeted us politely etc. and we assured her he had. She exclaimed over the holly, telling Michael they could now make a "wreath for the pool house door!" She admired Maureen's cookies and the work that had gone into them. Michael was excused and left.

She then asked what we'd like to drink and I blurted out, "What have you got?" (What possessed me?!) She answered, "Hard drinks, soft" I had heard she drank scotch and requested that. The others went right along. She was pleased. None of us were of legal drinking age :) Out came these HUGE tumblers. Ice was applied and we sat down at the huge table. Bette explained it was Early American and that the chairs were "potty chairs." She lifted up the seat on one and sure enough! We all acted suitably impressed.

Judy and I had prepared a list of questions (below), which she placed on the table before her and we got down to business. Thus began two unforgettable hours with probably the greatest film actress of Hollywood's Golden Age. (Later, Bette said the questions were ''very intelligent" and that's why "it had been such fun!)

Judy Van Herpen's rundown of interview questions, which she checked off after Bette Davis answered each question.

We had a great time, smoking our heads off. Bette used these tiny, shallow ash trays, one for each of us. At one point, she got up to empty them and exclaimed happily, "You're worse than I am!!"

After awhile, Maureen, understandably, asked to use the ladies' room. Bette jumped up hollering, "Yes! Oh, God yes!" and escorted her to the bathroom where Maureen, true to her nature, managed to stow a few souvenir disposable guest towels monogrammed "D" (below) in her purse.

At one point, Michael (Bette Davis' son) came in and announced that Gig Young was on the phone and Judy quipped, "Gig Young never calls me!" Bette ran to get it vowing, "He never calls me either!" She returned to say he'd called to invite her and Michael for din din over the holidays.

After two glorious hours, we ran out of tape - but went right on talking (or listening really) for two more hours. Bette finally got up to "put some potatoes in" for Michael and herself and we realized it was time to go. Bette insisted on walking out with us (still in her stocking feet) holding her umbrella over us and the tape recorder.

Editor's Note:  After Bette Davis edited the transcripts of the interview, the material was indeed used in Max Preeo's 1965 publication about Bette Davis, which was entitled "Someone Special - Bette Davis".  Also, Judy VH, Margo and Maureen published amongst Bette Davis fans the interview too, with the title, "Bette Davis Speaking", as evidenced below.

After that, Judy and I saw Bette's every appearance -- until
she left California for her beloved New England. Shortly before that move, the Hollywood Women's Press Club threw her a big award dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which we attended, snapping away with our Brownie lnstamatics. 

We were also there for rehearsals and tapings of her Hollywood Palace appearances. We also had phone conversations from time to time and I have saved her letters.

Snapshots taken by Margo Slaughter, after Bette Davis' Hollywood Palace TV Show appearance on November 10, 1964.

* * * * * *

Shortly after Bette left town, I met my future husband, who
was in the same theatre group where I performed and Judy worked backstage. (Photo of Judy at my wedding, below, with Maureen standing behind me.)

While awaiting the birth of my first son, Judy kept me company. We played Yahtze endlessly and ate ice cream. (It was a hot summer!)

Judy liked to carry my kids around because they looked like her as babies - blond, with chubby cheeks. I'm a brunette, so everyone thought they were hers. She loved it!

Besides our experiences with Miss Davis, Judy and I kept up with all of Judy Garland's appearances, even driving to Vegas when she played Caesar's Palace. We were at the Hollywood Palace for all her appearances (and non-appearances) and all her other TV guest spots.

Eventually, Judy went to work for Gavin Mcleod in his "Love Boat" years and wound up working for Lily Tomlin for ten years.

But through thick and thin, Judy and I remained best friends for 50 years, until her death in May, 2013. 

I miss her. And I always will."


* * * * * *

Editor's Final Note:

Above was the introduction to the Bette Davis interview, when Judy Van Herpen, Margo and Maureen published it in the 1960's.  Margo and Maureen has generously consented to share excerpts from this never-before-heard audio interview with The Judy Garland Experience, as a tribute to their beloved friend, Judy Van Herpen.  

If you listen carefully to the links below, you can hear Judy, Margo and Maureen ask questions, react and giggle as Bette shares some incredible insights and stories about her career and life.  ENJOY!





Judy VH and her friend Russell acting silly for the camera -
with Judy giving us one of her "big fat close-ups", Judy Garland style!


Hugo Nogueira said...

Great interview.

Wayne Lawless said...

Durig the '60s, Judy Van Herpen and I were great penpals. She wrote such lengthy entertaining letters and with such beautiful penmanship. She was always so helpful to me in finding out about Judy Garland appearances. We lost touch somehow but I will never forget her.

Gary Horrocks said...

A wonderful and touching tribute xxx



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