Judy Had No Map

Posted on July 10, 2012


I watched a documentary about Judy Garland the other day. (Are you noticing a pattern yet? I’m a documentary fiend!)

If I could time travel one of my trips would definitely be a live Judy concert ca. mid-1950s.

I mean seriously, Garland, Sinatra, Martin. You know you wanna be there, too!

I was struck by two things. 1) How well she wore turtlenecks, mandarin collars and button-down shirts and 2) how low her self-esteem was. I suppose my self-esteem would be shaky too if I had heads of studios telling me I needed to lose weight upon my return to work after a stint in rehab. (She was all of 105 pounds and 5’1″ but Louis Mayer thought she looked pudgy.) Oh, and did I mention she was in rehab to recover from the additction to pills the studio gave her?

I was also struck by the trajectory of her career. It was stellar … until it hit a wall. She was born into a performing family and at a young age her parents moved to California. They got her in front of the right people and at the age of 12 she had a voice that blew away established composers and musicians. She was a true talent and soon became Louis B. Mayer’s favorite in the MGM stable of stars.

See what I mean? Just a button-down oxford but chic, chic, chic.

A Star is Born. One of the best movies ever. Stop reading. Go watch it. Now.

Judy had it all.

Her talent was phenomenal. She could sing, dance, act. She had a passion to perform. She did what she loved. She had a compulsion to work, to connect with her audience, to be heard.

She had no map.

Uh oh.

Ms. Garland has become my new favorite superstar and a cautionary tale. In the absence of her own map, her career was mapped out by very smart and very greedy people. People who made decisions that were right for her career but not right for her soul.

Living without a map doesn’t mean abdicating responsibility.

Nor does it mean letting others decide for you. Like Judy I hope to be compensated for doing what I love and I find inspiration in her dynamic nature, her love for her work, and her adorable little bangs. But her life … at least the version that is out there in documentary-land and cyberspace… has left a valuable cautionary lesson for me. Maybe you, too?

BTW, watching Ziegfeld Follies as I write this. Ah-may-zing