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It’s the 43rd anniversary of the death of Judy Garland, who passed away on June 22, 1969. For most of her career, Garland was beloved by gay men, who appreciated her talent, her tumultuous private life and her camp appeal.
Legend has it her death sparked the Stonewall Riots (though that’s been debated).
But have the gays moved beyond Judy? For many of us who came of age well after her death, worshiping Judy Garland was an insult homophobes lobbed at queers. Many of us didn’t really know who she was—beyond the girl who played Dorothy Gale—until we were older and re-discovered her in YouTube clips.
Now, as barely legal pop singers are touted as gay icons with their first hit, it’s hard to imagine such fierce devotion to a singer.
(Especially one who didn’t thrust her sexuality in our faces)
In April, writer Robert Leleux discussed Garland’s waning appeal in The New York Times:
I have this theory that because of the holocaust that was the AIDS epidemic and its annihilation of the previous generation of gay men, the faith of our fathers risks extinction. Today, Judyism, like Yiddish, is little more than a vague cultural memory.
If we have taken Judy down from the pedestal, could that be a good thing? That we no longer need a glamorous surrogate to experience life’s peaks and valleys for us? Have we moved passed the need for an icon who, while tolerant of her gay following, never really stood up for us?
Or have we just become victims of the short-attention-span culture, which sucks up divas and spits them out in rapid succession?
We’re going to toss it back to you, Queerty readers. Are you still a Friend of Dorothy or are you over the rainbow?
Below, Peter Allen sings a tribute to Garland, his one-time mother-in-law.