Judy Garland: Queen of Them All
To call Judy Garland a gay icon is something of an understatement. Her life and legacy is more entwined with the gay cultural and gay liberation movement than perhaps any other star in this series.
Garland’s relationship with the gay community began with what has become her signature role, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Her journey from self-persecution to self-acceptance was one that reflected the collective struggle of the gay community. Her heart-felt rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, her dream of a better world where trouble and suffering melted away, resonated with the persecuted minority. The song has since become somewhat of an unofficial National Anthem for the LGBTQ community and has obviously had an influence on the aesthetics of the culture.
Of course, Garland’s most influential moment in the gay community had to do with her death. When Garland died of an accidental barbiturate overdose in June of 1969, the gay community was stunned. After her funeral in New York City, a few mourning fans gathered at a small underground gay club called Stonewell Inn. Known by the police to be frequented by the gay community, the tavern faced random police raids and mass arrests. On June 28th, 1969 one such raid happened. However, this night was different. This night, fueled by the loss of an icon, a few cosmos had tired of being persecuted for merely existing, so they fought back. Police soon lost control of the crowd and a full-scale riot broke out. Within weeks the riots lead to protests, and protests lead to mass political organization for the creation of safe spaces for everyone regardless of sexual identity or gender.
Judy Garland, tragic, beautiful, a beacon of hope for for last 50 years.
The Stonewall riots are considered the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement. And for role as catalyst to this event, as well her influence of all things rainbows, Judy Garland in THE Screen Queen.
Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub