Sharon Needles Tries To Explain Why So Many Gay Men Worship Judy Garland

tumblr_n6kj8rbN8e1roefaio1_500I grew up loving The Wizard of Oz like any gay boy, but I was that different gay kid, so I was really more connected to the witch. But I know that Judy through the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s was this subculture gay icon, and I think my generation really just spawns new Judy Garlands: Barbra Streisand, Cher, Lady Gaga. I think the appeal is that they are caricatures of femininity that usually emerge from fighting adversity.

Judy was not a classical beauty, but all the faggots thought she was the most beautiful thing they’d ever seen. Barbra Streisand is ugly as sin—ugly as sin!—but every gay man think she’s beautiful. Cher looks like Chad Michaels, and we all know what Chad Michaels looks like out of drag. So again, it’s gay men identifying with unconventional beauty and fighting adversity. I think that’s where the love of Judy comes from, and I think that’s why people see beauty in me. I’m not a classic model beauty, but I think people identified with my struggle and my success story and my unconventional beauty. I am the new Judy Garland! It’s just hitting me now! That wig is not even going to fit on how big this head is gonna get.


Sharon Needles, in an interview to promote her upcoming performance as the Wicked Witch of the West in a production of The Wizard of Oz opposite Peaches Christ as Dorothy

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  • AxelDC

    Gay men like musicals and the first musical any gay man sees is the Wizard of Oz. It’s easy to fall in love with Dorothy as a kid and then follow the rest of Garland’s career when you get older.

  • jmmartin

    I had thought this Garland iconography was passe’ by now, something that belonged to the era of Emory in the play and movie, “Boys in the Band,” might have appreciated; Emory, who replied to a compliment about his cooking, “It takes a fairy to make something pretty.” I worked most of my life trying to escape the Garland Cultus, and although Judy is hardly a religion, she stands out in that religion we call the movies. It was the restored version of “A Star is Born” that did it. The way she sang in that film just blew me away. All it took was pairing the star with the famed “woman’s director” George Cukor, and you had magic indeed. I could never watch another of her films in quite the same way, not even the mediocre ones. And BTW, Cukor’s estate was featured in the biopic about James Whale; it served as a sophisticated way for same sex couples to meet and bed down (in one of the bungalows) so that people like Randolph Scott and Cary (“Judy Judy Judy!”) Grant could have affairs without worrying about the LAPD, fans, and “Confidential” magazine, operators of one of the most successful extortion rackets in history.

  • stranded

    I’m 29 and i began to really love Judy Garland around 16/17. Wizard of OZ didn’t do anything for me, but i liked watching TCM and i got to see a lot of her movies. Like any film fan, i appreciated her magnetism, those large sad eyes that draw you in, the vulnerability she brought. I liked her singing, but i really started being a fan of her singing when i heard “The man that got away” which really just struck my soul or something. Only 2 other torch singers have done that Frank Sinatra’s “that’s’ life” and Shirley Bassey’s “this is my life.”

  • Billy Budd

    I like Wizard of Oz, Meet Me In Saint Louis, A Star Is Born, etc. She was wonderful. But my heart belongs to Maria Callas.

  • Cam

    Weird, I thought it was because of her huge penis.

  • EGO

    Well, I am 72, but I have fond memories of the movies Judy Garland played in, especially The Wizard of OZ/Somewhere Over The Rainbow, A Star Is Born/(from Pocatello, Idaho – I am from Boise), and Meet Me in St. Louis/The Trolley Song.
    My partner of 52 years and I have been married 10 years, we just celebrated with another gay couple.

  • Pete

    Unlike contemporary ‘diva’ gay-icons, our forefathers were simply showing the good taste that seems to have all but vanquished by HIV/AIDS.

    While not ‘classically beautiful’, like contemporaries such as Rita Hayworth, Liz Taylor, and Ava Gardner, Judy was certainly very pretty in a girl-next-door kind of way. But far more importantly, she was prodigiously talented.

    For starters, once upon a time people knew how to actually sing, and Judy owned one of the truly great voices of the Golden Age of American Song, on par with Ella, Billie, Sass, Ro Clooney, Doris, Jo Stafford and among men, Bing, Fred, Frank, Dino, Tony Bennett. Yip Harberg relates that in 1938 LB had just bought the rights to The Wizard of Oz, and was trying to sell Garland to the money in New York (they wanted Shirley Temple). He told Harberg and Arlen to write a song for her. “Here was this fifteen year-old kid who sang like a world-weary forty year-old!” And we all know what they came up with.

    And act! Starting with “For Me and My Gal” Judy showed herself to be a talented dramatic actress. Her first non-musical role, The Clock, opposite Robert Walker, is classic. The of course there’s her riveting performance in “Judgement At Nuremberg”.

    And the icing on the cake was the dancing. The early tap-dancing routine with Buddy Ebson in one of the Busby Berkeley “Broadway Melody” movies. More than holding her own with Ray Bolger in Wizard, Get Happy! and best of all with Fred in “Easter Parade”, especially “We’re Just a Couple of Swells!” She was, along with Astaire, Irving Berlin’s favorite singer.

  • Pete

    @Billy Budd:

    While I’m two generations too young to have seen La Divina (and also Charles Ludlam’s apparently brilliant “Gallas”), the YouTubes are still thrilling!

    Nothing bugs me more than the contemporary misappropriation of the word ‘Diva’ to describe the likes of Whitney Houston, Madonna, Gaga, Kylie, etc. Strictly speaking its use should be limited to coloratura bel canto sopranos.

  • DickieJohnson

    The Wizard of Oz was re-released in 1960-61 for TV. I was an 11 y/o sissyboy in MS. The sheer magic of that movie has never left me! What queen over 50 doesn’t know the words to “Raiñbow”?

  • ScaryRussianHeather

    Go sit down Sharon. Stop trying to make icon happen.

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