THE INTERNATIONAL JUDY GARLAND CLUB – IS IT A SCAM?
That was the question recently posed to me by several of the Club’s members. “Is it a scam?” After reading the facts presented here, you be the judge. I received enough questions that I decided to find out what’s going on. It’s easy to see that the Club has consistently failed to deliver what has been promised to its members/subscribers since rebooting in 2009. Yet they still expect, and actively seek, membership renewals while at the same time giving excuse after excuse for why they’re not living up to their promises.
The centerpiece of the Club, and the main reason most people subscribe is their gorgeous magazine “Judy Garland: a Celebration.” The magazines are “bursting with rare photographs of Judy from both a professional and personal perspective. Each issue includes anecdotes, reminiscences, news and reviews. The design is stunning and the magazine is produced on high quality paper.” That’s what their website proclaims. They’re right. It’s beautifully printed and includes quite a plethora of photos, many rare and/or unpublished.
The quality of the Club’s publication is not an issue. What’s making people raise their eyebrows and question the Club’s motives is the fact that the Club has been taking yearly membership/subscription fees under the guise of providing “two beautiful glossy magazines a year, with newsletters, special membership offers and a Club membership card.” That’s what the Club’s editor Gary Horrocks said in a post to the Judy Garland Message Board on December 20, 2010. That declaration was also printed in Issue #1 (image at right) as: “Judy Garland – a Celebration is published twice a year; in spring (March/April) and autumn (October/November).” That’s not what members have been getting. Not by a long shot.
I am not a member of the Club, so I have no interest in whether they do or do not deliver on their promises. I’m not affected in any way by their inability to deliver, nor am I affected monetarily. I had noticed that something was going on prior to receiving these questions from Club members, but I didn’t pay much attention. After researching the facts from the beginning of the “new” club in 2009 to the present, it’s very clear that the club has been taking members’ subscription renewals each year, but has not delivered what was promised as the perks (and incentives) of becoming a member.
I emailed the Club several times to get an official statement from them on this subject. My emails were ignored. A few days later, Club editor Gary Horrocks posted a long post on Facebook, the message boards and the discussion groups about the upcoming publication and a new, retroactive “phase” method for calculating what issues members should and should not have received since 2010. This comes off as a very clever “out” for the club’s continued inability to deliver on their promises, but still expect people to keep paying yearly membership dues. This “out” is conveniently retroactive to the beginning of the new Club yet still does not fully address the fact that the Club took yearly membership fees without delivering what was promised – year after year. Any fan club that takes membership fees for several years but doesn’t deliver what’s promised, and then retroactively puts in effect a new “phase” system like this one, is automatically suspect. The specifics of this new “phase” method are detailed towards the end of this article.
A BIT OF CLUB HISTORY
The first Judy Garland Club was started by Albert Poland in 1955. Poland produced the “Garland Gazette.” In 1956 Pat McMath took over the club as its president. McMath had tried to start a fan club in 1949, but Judy’s manager Carlton Alsop politely turned the offer down, stating that Judy’s hold on the public was such that she didn’t need a fan club. The club prospered, until 1963 when Judy asked that the club be disbanded. She was unhappy with how some of the fans had been abusing privileges. McMath continued the club until 1966. In the 1960s Max Preeo published “The Garland News” and Sonny Gallagher published “Newsflash.” There was also “The Judy Garland Collector” that ran from the late 1960s into the early 1980s. From 1990 to 1995 Sonny Gallagher published “Beyond Rainbows” and from 1995 to 2009 Scott Schechter published “Garlands for Judy.” I re-booted “Garlands for Judy” in 2012 as a free, online webzine (go to www.thejudyroom.com/garlandsforjudy.html for details).
In 1963 Lorna Smith began publication of the “Rainbow Review” in London. Judy gave Smith her blessing and the club, and publication prospered until the mid-2000s. This is the club that the new incarnation ties itself to, touting that it’s the only club with Judy’s blessing. In light of this new incarnation’s activities, it’s doubtful that if Judy were alive she’d continue giving her blessing. This new incarnation is arguably not the same club as the 1963 version.
THE NEW INCARNATION OF THE “INTERNATIONAL” CLUB
November 2009: New Club editor Gary Horrocks emails a PDF newsletter announcing the new Club and the new publication “Judy Garland: a Celebration” which would replace the “Rainbow Review” that ceased publication in 2007.
Horrocks stated (pertinent text bolded by me):
“The inaugural issue of ‘Judy Garland: a Celebration’ will launch in early spring 2010 as part of a new portfolio of Club services that we are preparing to introduce throughout the year. Each year members will receive two copies of the new magazine that will cover 44 pages and feature over 70 rare and glorious photographs of Judy. The magazine will be produced in a similar style to issues of the Rainbow Review (1998-2007). In addition to the magazine, members will also receive regular Judy news bulletins via e- mail. Members who do not have internet access will be sent print copies of the same news bulletins by standard post… The first two issues of ‘Judy Garland: a Celebration’ are reaching completion.”
In fact, the Club rarely sends out email newsletters of any kind whether via email or “snail mail.”
A QUICK SNAPSHOT
The reality, in a nutshell, is this: The new Club has been in existence for four years. They’ve promised two issues per year. That equals eight issues. The number of issues that members/subscribers have actually received is four. As of the date of this article, a fifth issue is allegedly being mailed out to members soon. If it’s received before the end of this year (2013), that would make five issues received in four years. Not quite what members/subscribers have paid for.
Here is a breakdown of what members have actually received:
2010: Issue #1 – Mailed in the Spring [2010 should have seen Issues #1 & #2]
2011: Issues #2 & #3 – Mailed in the Winter and Autumn [2011 should have seen Issues #3 & #4]
2012: Issue #4 – Mailed in September [2012 should have seen Issues #5 & #6]
– – To date, nothing has been received since September 2012. That’s more than 13 months. 2013 should have seen Issues #7 & #8, if the club stayed on track. Instead, Issue #5 is allegedly “coming soon.”
– – The only year members actually received two issues was 2011, a full year after the new Club began. Those two issues were already in arrears.
A quick visit to their website (see image below) clearly shows their inability to deliver. The image of the “Spring 2012” publication is wrong – that did not go out until September 2012.
Screenshot dated November 2, 2013, clearly reflects the Club’s inability to deliver the promised publications. The last issue shown (“Spring 2012”), is wrong. It actually did not get to members until the FALL of 2012.
THE DETAILED FACTS
When it was announced in November 2009 that the Club was starting up again, an email newsletter went out in which the new Club editor, Gary Horrocks, stated: “The first two issues of ‘Judy Garland: a Celebration’ are reaching completion.” In hindsight, this was a ploy to drum up membership. Neither issue was anywhere near completion.
The first issue of the new publication was scheduled to get to members in January 2010 but it did not get to them until March 2010. No problem there. It’s entirely possible that Issue #1 was “reaching completion” in November.
In April 2010, Gary Horrocks and his partner (who is also in charge of memberships for the Club), Dr. Justin Sturge, attended the “Judy in Hollywood” event in Los Angeles, CA. Did member’s fees pay for part of this trip? That’s a question that can only be answered by the Club’s treasurer – if they had one. They do not list a treasurer in their list of officers on their website, nor have they ever noted that anyone is or was acting in that capacity. Regarding the publication, it would be almost a full year after this trip before the next publication would go out. All that members received in the meantime was a PDF email newsletter in late September 2010.
In his post to The Judy Garland Message Board on December 20, 2010, Horrocks gave what became the first of many excuses to members explaining why they were not getting the promised publication. Horrocks complained that the weather in London (where the Club is based) was very bad and the mail was slow. The implication was that if mailed, the publication would be delayed. Because of this bad weather, Horrocks explained that it wouldn’t be mailed until after the holidays. This turned out to be a smokescreen.
Going on what Horrocks stated on December 20, 2010, issue #2 was supposedly already been published and ready to be mailed out prior to Christmas and New Year. It was the second publication promised as part of the 2010 membership fees. But it was the “weather” that kept it from getting into the mail. In that same December 20 post, Horrocks clearly states: “If you are a Message Board member and have yet to join; this is an unashamed plug to join the party during this festive season. You will receive two beautiful glossy magazines a year, with newsletters, special membership offers and a Club membership card. 2010 rates: UK £19 Europe €24 US/Canada $38 Australia 44 AUD Other $44.”
On the same message board, Martha Steketee posted on January 6, 2011, that Horrocks “reports that Judy Garland: A Celebration issue #2 is off to the printers and should be ready to mail within the next few weeks.” In other words, the excuse before Christmas was a lie. When Horrocks blamed the weather for the delay, the publication was supposedly already printed, but couldn’t be mailed. The reality is that it hadn’t been printed at all. It didn’t even make it to the printers until early January 2011. Issue #2 finally went out (according to Horrocks) the week of January 29th, 2011. Members received their copies in early February 2011.
At this time, I received a personal email from Horrocks: “…congratulations on your 2010 year in review. It was really kind of you to mention the Club. Sorry, issue 2 of Celebration didn’t make December as we hoped, but it is well worth the wait, and, as you speculate, we promise 3 and 4 will also be out during this year.”
At this point, the Club is already in arrears one issue, yet still asking for members to renew their memberships for 2011 and non-members to join. On March 5, 2011, Steketee posted on the Message Board: “The club just posted a call for 2011 membership renewals. Plans for issues #3 and #4 of the magazine ‘Celebration’ sound very exciting.”
Issue #3 should have been sent out to members in early 2011 as the first issue of their 2011 membership. Martha Steketee notified Message Board members that in an August 20, 2011 email, Horrocks provided “some updates on Celebration issue 3, as well as the club in general.” Horrocks’ email, as copied by Steketee, was another excuse for another late issue, and a plea to re-join (i.e. pay more money) to ensure that one would get the issue:
I’m delighted to say that I have just completed “Judy Garland – a Celebration” issue 3 and work is well under way on issue 4.
I’d like to apologise for the delayed publication date. A series of family crises converged and conspired to hinder this issue. I also held on for some last-minute additions to ensure that what you receive in a few weeks in very special indeed. I’ve included all non-renewed members from last year in this email – so if you have yet to re-join please do so in the next week or so if you don’t want to miss out of a really lovely magazine.
Your support is absolutely invaluable to the Club, so thank you for you continued support. Give or take a week or two at the printers we will dispatch the next issue as soon as we can.
Members received their copies of Issue #3 in late October and early November 2011.
Also in 2011, members were offered a 35 minute DVD-R of interviews with Club members. This was one of the “special membership offers” that was touted as a reason to subscribe and one of the benefits of membership. However, this DVD-R was so “special” that members had to pay more money, above and beyond the membership fees, to get one. What they received after paying this extra charge was a cheap DVD-R that was thrown into a cardboard slip. That’s it, no jewel case, no printed chapter listing, just a DVD-R that anyone could make using iMovie. The bottom line is that members had to pay extra for this DVD-R while still waiting for the latest issue of the publication.
On December 31, 2011, Dr. Justin Sturge, who is in charge of memberships, sent an email to members (and those who had not renewed their memberships) that clearly stated just what members were supposed to receive in 2011, as well as a plea to purchase that DVD-R (for an extra fee, of course):
Many Club members who renewed their 2011 subscriptions to receive issues 3 and 4 of ‘Judy Garland – a Celebration’ also chose a special package to receive the DVD as well, and this undoubtedly is the cheapest way to receive the new film. The DVDs have been dispatched these fans all over the world already.
If you have renewed your Club subscription (and already received Celebration issue 3) our records indicate that you did not choose the DVD package option. It costs £8 to upgrade or $12. (If you are a member and unsure if you chose the DVD package please drop us an email at: email@example.com )
If you have not renewed your Club subscription for 2011 the non-member price for the DVD is: $20 ($16 plus $4 postage and packing), £12 UK sterling
However, we would like to encourage everybody to re- join the Club that Judy supported during her lifetime, and which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013.
UK £21; Europe €28; US/Canada $42; Australia 44 AUD; Other $44
($54 or £29 with the special DVD)
The easiest, quickest and preferred way to re-join or buy the DVD is via PayPal. Payments using PayPal can be accepted in GBP, Euro, USD and AUD and should be made to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2011 annual subscription includes membership card, issues 3 and 4 of ‘Judy Garland: a Celebration’ (postage & packing inc) and a newsletter due out in January 2012.
At the time this email was sent out, the 2011 subscription did not include issues 3 & 4 – all anyone got in 2011 was the late issue #2 from 2010 and issue #3.
Finally, in May 2012 (May 10th to be specific), Horrocks announced that issue #4 was “Coming VERY soon! (On its way to the printers).” This was yet another lie. The issue wouldn’t go out until the following September. On September 13, 2012, the excuse was: “…our printing company went bust and left us ‘all dressed up and nowhere to go.’ This calamity hit us during a particularly busy work period; no need to go there today, but some of our followers on Facebook will be aware that we have had a tumultuously traumatic year.”
That’s interesting because in February 2012 Horrocks stated to the moderator of a Judy Garland discussion group, which was posted to the group by that moderator: “Issue 4 of Celebration, as I indicated last week, is delayed as Lorna Smith has been in hospital, but I am working away on it – and it will be spectacular I promise.” Which was it? Was it the printing company going bust or was it Ms. Smith in the hospital. Or was it both? That true facts are unknown. How many excuses does the Club need to come up with to try and appease members?
Issue #4 (which should have been sent out in Sprint 2012) was finally mailed out in September 2012. Nothing notable happened until the following May 3, 2013 when Horrocks gave another excuse for why the latest issue (#5) was delayed:
“…having just emerged from the anarchy and chaos of moving house the dust has only started to settle and I am playing catch-up on everybody’s Judy postings, emails to the International Judy Garland Club and membership enquiries. It’s business as usual for the Club, and issue 5 of ‘Judy Garland – a Celebration’ is well underway.”
Fast forward to September 2013. There had been nothing from the Club at all, nothing on the message boards or discussion groups. At this point, it had been a full year since an issue was sent out. Then, on September 7, 2013, a member of the Message Board asked:
“So what’s happened to Decembers, and this years 2 “Judy: A Celebration” magazines? Does anyone know? It’s all very mysterious I must say? I am all paid up and have received nothing for a year now?? By my reckoning we are all due 3 magazines by the end of 2013… However will they do it? That would be the December 2012 magazine that we never received! And then the two magazines for 2013, which have still not been sent. What on earth is happening? Anyone?”
Five days later on September 12, 2013, came the response from Horrocks. This is the response in which the retroactive “phase” method of membership fees and their correlation to the issues is sprung on members. It also contains yet another excuse for the latest delay:
Issue 5 of the much-awaited ‘Judy Garland – a Celebration’ is complete and will be distributed to members of the International Judy Garland Club in a month or so after printing is completed and quality checked. It will include a separate newsletter and photo index.
For clarity, the Club’s first phase of subscriptions for 2010/11 included issues 1 and 2. The second phase for 2011/12 included 3 and 4. Those of you who renewed for 2012/13 (after receipt of issue 4 in September last year) are due issues 5 and 6 and there will be no further call for renewals until you have received both. If you joined for the first time late last year you are also due issues 5 and 6, and can purchase back issues on request. In an ideal world we had hoped to keep to two issues in a single year, but we have adopted a revised subscription model that includes two magazines regardless. I hope to get issue 6 to you in the first quarter of next year. A huge amount of time and effort goes into researching, writing and designing these gems, so please bear with us. However, we are back on track.
Our printer from the UK distributes the magazine internationally on our behalf, so we are currently updating the subscription database for issues 5 and 6. To ensure that you receive your copy drop us an email to check your renewal status, or renew following the instructions on our web page at: http://www.judygarlandclub.org
This new “phase” method is a convenient, and retroactive, excuse for the Club’s actions, and completely disregards the fact that each year members were expected to renew their subscription fees with the promise of receiving two issues of “a Celebration” per year – per the CALENDAR year. Never did the Club say anything about phases or memberships crossing calendar years. Everything they did say until this September 12, 2013 post was the opposite. They conveniently created this “revised subscription model” to try and save face and divert attention from the fact that since the Club rebooted in 2009 they have quite simply not delivered on what was promised. I suspect that if it hadn’t been for people questioning their actions, they would have simply kept stringing members along with more excuses.
On September 19, 2013, Martha Steketee posted the cover art for the upcoming issue #5 quoting Horrocks’ post on the Club’s Facebook page: “Issue 5 of Judy’s Club magazine, coming soon, is certainly our best yet. It provides a comprehensive overview of Judy Garland, 1962. The key focus is ‘I Could Go On Singing’ but the magazine reviews the entire year, and ends in 1963 with the London world premiere of Judy’s last movie. The issue includes interviews with fans who were there to experience filming, fresh insight from Club founder Lorna Smith and archival photographs never before, or rarely seen by the fan community.”
After that September 19 post about the publication “coming soon” nothing more was said until well over a month later on October 30, 2013, when Horrocks notified everyone that issue #5: “…will be posted to Club members early next week at the latest.” Time will tell.
There you have it. Those are the facts of what has been happening with the Club, their memberships, and their publication. There is a definite pattern here of issues being late, followed by excuses, then followed by pleas for membership renewals (sometimes accompanied by more excuses). The only consistency is the inconsistency of the publications coupled with the consistency of excuses and pleas for more money. The Club does not have By-Laws, a clear Mission Statement, or even a Treasurer (see image below). It’s pretty much just the “Gary Horrocks and Dr. Justin Sturge Show”, so they can do pretty much whatever they want.
Is there even a need for an “International Judy Garland Club”? In the pre-Internet days, fan publications were a much-needed resource. Now, all anyone needs to do is peruse the social media sites or perform a Google search to find information, connect with other fans, and enjoy rare photos and fan’s stories – for free. The current incarnation of the Club claims to have been around since 1963, and that’s where they’re stuck. They’ve talked about gathering video and audio testimonials, yet the only way to get access is to pay even more money for a poorly produced DVD-R. If they’re really serious about archiving, they should make this media available on their website, or a Club YouTube channel. They list a “Digital Archivist” as a member of the Club’s team (see image above), but nothing digital is made easily available.
Their current business model is outdated and archaic. This is a major factor in their apparent inability to function properly. Until 2009, the Club could only accept subscription fees via “snail mail.” They did not even have a viable Internet presence (a decent website) until after that. They don’t operate as a “club” at all but rather as a magazine publisher. They would do better to charge per issue. With a few exceptions, the focus of the Club and the magazine is centered on Judy’s time spent in London and fan’s stories about that time. There isn’t much variety. The only thing “international” about it is the fact that they take money from anyone living anywhere, and some of the contributors to the magazine are located outside England.
Why not go digital for part or all of the publications? They could have some or all of the publications available for download on their website. Currently, if anyone wants past issues, they must pay extra and wait for the postal service to deliver them. Why not make them available for download, in PDF format, for free? Then, if a member wants a high-resolution hard copy of a past issue, they can pay for it. Does the Club need money so badly that they can’t offer anything digital? A great model for the Club to follow is the YouTube channel “The Archive of American Television” which is presented by a branch of the Emmys. This channel features tons of fantastic archival interviews that help document the history of TV by those who were there. Wouldn’t a channel from the Club featuring their archival interviews be great? What a fantastic resource for those doing research on Judy Garland. Here’s a great example: Their interview with Bob Mackie in which he discusses working with Judy.
Hopefully, Horrocks and Sturge will get their act together. The publications, when they’re finally published, are well done. The printing and quality are of the highest caliber. If they begin acting like a real club rather than a magazine publisher, or go the other way and become a magazine publisher, they might get back the respect of members of the fan community that they have lost in recent years. Until then, I’m saving my money.