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Astrological Profiles

Judy Gemini, Born Today: An Astrological Profile [by David Lehman]

Judy Galrand

Born to sing America’s all-time favorite movie song, Harold Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow,” Judy Garland was as natural a Gemini as you will find – totally binary, loyal to a fault yet fickle, cheerful and proud yet sometimes suicidally desperate.  She habitually came late to the set fortified with bottles of “Blue Nun,” “Liebfraumilch,” and similar white stuff, which tasted terrible but did the job.

    On June 10, 1922, Judy Garland was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, at 6 AM. With her moon in Sagittarius, and her Mercury and Venus in Cancer (her rising sign), the great singer had the heart of a poet, the sensitivity of an eternal diva, and a really good voice. If only there had been more Virgo in her chart, and four inches more height, the girl who embodied Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” might have had greater career endurance. Great as her later work was, in the movies, in concert, or on TV with friends Sinatra and Martin, she peaked as a child actress. She is why the "Andy Hardy" movies are still worth watching. The absence of earth signs doomed her to a nervous disposition and the likelihood of an early death. The 2019 movie Judy did Judy no favors.

          Born Frances Ethel Gumm, Judy craved the approval of father figures, was easily bruised by criticism, sometimes affected nonchalance but really cared very deeply about other people and wanted to be included in group activities. Her Saturn in Libra helps to explain her outstanding musical talent, and her will to succeed in motion pictures may be inferred from her midheaven in Pisces conjunct Uranus.

         The death of Judy's father at age thirteen stunned the young actress, who eventually broke off relations with her mother. The amphetamines helped in the short run. She had five husbands and a torrid affair with lyricist Johnny Mercer when she was eighteen and he, thirty. He wrote the words of “That Old Black Magic” and “I Remember You” with her in mind.

Judy Garland Wizard of OzAn old astrological adage: The stars favor the stars.  From the moment the teenage Garland sang to Clark Gable's photograph ("You Made Me Love You"), her astonishing rise to the heights of Hollywood glory was in the cards (Queen of Hearts high) as was, alas, the inevitability of internal conflicts and demons postponed but not resolved by the habitual use of narcotics. She was still in her teens when she and Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Bert Lahr sang as they danced along the yellow brick road leading to the wonderful wizard of Oz. That was in Technicolor. Already in the black-and-white of Kansas cornfields, she sang the anthem of eternal aspiration, “Over the Rainbow,” which was named the greatest song of the twentieth century in a survey conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Recording Industry Association of America in 2001.

          As kids Judy and Mickey Rooney teamed up in movies, and their duet versions of “Our Love Affair” and “How About You?” are the best out there. She did “The Trolley Song” in one picture and “The Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe” in another. The two best versions of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," the best American Christmas song not writen by Jews, are hers and Sinatra's. She would have made a great Annie Oakley in Irving Berlin’s “Annie, Get Your Gun,” and we still have tape of the one song she did (“Doin’ a What Come Naturally”), but she was too fucked up to do the movie and the part went to Betty Hutton.

         In Chinese astrology, Judy was born in the year of the dog. Her element is water. This is consistent with her destiny. Her relation to Minnesota mirrors that of Dorothy to Kansas except that there was no home to go back to. The three farm hands in the dream were almost recognizably there, surrounding her bed, when she awoke in Hollywood. Why did gay men have a thing about her? Because (a) they had good taste, (b) they could identify with her suffering, (c) they could admire her indomitable will, (d) they could smell the tragedy on her breath, (e) even macho boys could identify themselves with Dorothy Gale, (f) where gossip and conjecture overlap, anything goes, or (g) all, some, or none of the above. And remember: she was the mother of Liza Minelli, and all you need to do is see the 2014 revival of Cabaret (2014), good as it is, and compare Michelle Williams’s performance as Sally Bowles with that of Liza in the 1972 movie, and you will see the difference between an actress who is trying as hard as she can and a natural-born diva, with the vocal cords of a heroine and the soul of Judy Garland’s daughter.

            In the 1960s Judy was hell on wheels to work with, if Mel Tormé's account in The Other Side of the Rainbow is to be trusted. Mel Tormé was the music director on her short-lived television program, “The Judy Garland Show” on CBS, and Tormé says she tormented him. Judy would call you in the middle of the night, make you come over and hold her hand, make capricious decisions, stand up guest stars like Lena Horne, skip rehearsals, tell fart jokes on the set. On the other hand she was who she was, and you loved her when she lifted her glass and said “l’chayem.” She was so earnest you couldn’t help pulling for her. “This television jazz is all new to me,” she said. “The Blue Lady helps to get my heart started.” She couldn’t stand what she called the Smothers’ Brothers “goyishe humor,” and the show had other guests of that ilk. But when Barbra Streisand was the guest star, it was incredible. The two divas did a duet of “Get Happy” and “Happy Days Are Here Again” that you can listen to over and over again – it is the ideal rendering of two of the Depression’s enduring hits.

           Judy sang and danced with Gene Kelly (“For Me and My Gal”) and with Fred Astaire (“Easter Parade”), and the saints of St. Louis marched in and sang "The Trolley Song" in unison on June 22, 1969, the day of her death. She had a natural talent for the Al Jolson songbook ("After You've Gone"). At Carnegie Hall in 1961, with composer Harold Arlen in the audience, she sang "Get Happy," "Stormy Weather," "The Man That Got Away," and "Come Rain or Come Shine." Five Grammy awards! She was dead at 46.

            If Judy and Frank Sinatra had been lovers, they would have scored very high in passion, high in intimacy, average in synergy, and below average in commitment.




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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark


from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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