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....
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.