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Stars attending “End of the Rainbow” talk to Greg In Hollywood about the legend of Judy Garland

I’ve just posted – finallyall about the amazing time I had on opening night of End of the Rainbow at the Ahmanson Theater a few weeks ago.

But I wasn’t there just to enjoy our Row F seats, to meet the cast backstage and to attend the opening night after-party hosted by Frontiers magazine.

I was also there to work the red carpet and had such fun asking the stars for their thoughts about Judy Garland who Tracie Bennett plays so brilliantly in this show that runs through April 21 in LA.

First up there was Betty White, the red-hot star of TV’s Hot in Cleveland. At 91, Betty is the same age Garland would be if she were still alive.

‘She was a great and dear friend,’ Miss White told me before she was gently whisked away by handlers.
Thank goodness Lainie Kazan (pictured here with Alec Mapa), was able to give me more time. The great star of stage and screen shared some personal memories of Garland with me.

“I had dinner at her home, I was invited to a Christmas party that she gave,” Lainie said. ‘I took my husband (the late Peter Daniels) who was a wonderful pianist and she asked me if I would sing for her which I did. She said, ‘If you sing for me, I’ll sing for you.’ And she sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I don’t remember what I sang, do you believe that? I was in a fog, I was such a fan. I was so nervous that I was with her, that I was able to sit down next to her.’

I asked Lainie, best known for her roles in the films My Big Fat Greek Wedding, My Favorite Year and Beaches, to weigh in on why Garland continues to fascinate nearly 45 years after her death.

‘She was the great communicator – her pain, her joy, her talent, was there for the taking and everyone felt it. They felt that they were being sung to personally. There was an incredible connection with Judy Garland and the audience and it has continued generation to generation. My granddaughter loves her. The fact that she did The Wizard of Oz is also a big connecting force.’

Also chatted with Alec Mapa – the self-proclaimed America’s Gaysian Sweetheart – about Miss Garland being the original gay icon before Cher, Bette, Diana, Barbra and all the rest.

Alec, best known for his roles on Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives and the sitcom Half & Half, said: ‘She had so many personal problems and she kept on going,’ Alec said. ‘She had a big substance abuse problem and no help and yet she continued to work and continued to entertain audience and remain committed. And she was one of the first performers to outwardly embrace the gay community. She was like, “Yeah, there’s a bunch of gays at my shows and I love ‘em.” And this was in the 50s and 60s when nobody did that. If you have one hit and embrace the gay community, they will love you forever. They are a very loyal audience.’

The dazzling Maxwell Caulfield and Juliet Mills, married 33 years, were being rushed in but did stop for a moment to pose for a photo and share a few thoughts about Miss Garland.

Mills, best known for her roles on Nanny and the Professor and the daytime soap Passions, said: ‘I saw her once at Carnegie Hall and she was unique – so exciting, so talented, so passionate and just wonderful.’

Caulfield, who we know from Grease 2, The Colbys and more recently the British soap Emmerdale, said: ‘Who isn’t a Judy Garland fan at the end of the day? Juliet does know Liza (Minnelli) very well and I worked with Lorna (Luft) so we do have a strong connection. They are showbiz royalty.’

Also weighing in on Garland was Wilson Cruz (pictured with Loretta Devine) who has starred on Broadway in Rent and in various TV series (My So-Called Life, Noah’s Arc) and films (Party Monster, Coffee Date, People I’ve Slept With).

‘My favorite album of all time is Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall. I know every word, I know every song’ Wilson said. ‘She is, if not the reason, one of the top reasons why I’m a performer.’

He believes Garland became and remains a gay icon because ‘people identified with her. They felt her pain and they felt her struggle and they felt she was fighting as hard as they were to realize their dreams. We recognize ourselves in her.’

Loretta Divine, the actress best known for TV’s Grey’s Anatomy, Boston Public and Eli Stone as well as Broadway’s Dreamgirls, said of Garland: ‘She was just so supreme at what she did while she was doing it.’

And finally there is 83-year-old Sid Krofft who is best known for producing such classic kid TV shows as H.R. Pufnstuff, Lidsville, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and Land of the Lost as well as The Donny and Marie Show and The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.

It turns out Krofft (pictured with me) had more of a connection with Judy Garland than anyone else I spoke with that night.

‘I was the opening act for Judy Garland at the Flamingo Hotel in Vegas and then I toured with her for a little over a year,’ he recalled. ‘Wherever we went, all over the country, we were always sold out. I used to take her to work and bring her back to the hotel and I had my own dressing room but I’d dress with her because we liked to laugh a lot.’

‘The first movie I ever saw was The Wizard of Oz. It was August 25th, 1939 at the Majestic Theater in Providence, Rhode Island,’ he added. ‘Judy Garland will live forever, starting with The Wizard of Oz.



(All comments are reviewed before being published, and I review submissions several times per day.)

3 Remarks

  1. Greg: Thank you so much for sharing the wonderful memories of that evening and the show. I am very happy that you had such a magnificent time. However, I do hope that you are feeling better, back problems are no fun at all.

    What a glorious experience it was for you. It is almost like you were there representing those of us who could not attend. We would have felt the same excitement for sure. I was a huge Judy fan in the early 1960′s big time, even before I knew what sex or sexuality was.

    Your first hand reporting makes us feel like we were there. Thanks for continuing to share your thoughts and talented writing skills with your readers. This particular article was another highlight!

  2. Thank you Max for such a kind post – very much appreciate it! My back is much better, gotta remember to do my stretches and get away from the laptop more often!


  3. Um..MAXWELL Caulfield.

    And since I can say absolutely nothing nice about the person who performed as Judy, I will not say what I am thinking.


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