Judy Garland fans are hardcore. I should know, I’m one of them. Garfans (as I call them) are divided into two groups: the fans and the freaks. Call them Garfans and Garfreaks, if you will. Garfreaks constitute one of the most hardcore celebrity fan bases out there. They define the term “fan” in the basic sense: fan. noun. an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc.: a baseball fan; a great fan of Charlie Chaplin. They also define the term in the most extreme sense: noun. 1520s, “insane person,” from Latin fanaticus “mad, enthusiastic, inspired by a god,” also “furious, mad,” originally, “pertaining to a temple,” from fanum “temple,” related to festus “festive.” Meaning “zealous person” is mid-17c. As an adjective, in English, 1530s, “furious;” meaning “characterized by excessive enthusiasm,” especially in religion (of Nonconformists), is from 1640s.
Perhaps only Marilyn and Elvis fans are as hardcore as the most ardent Garfreaks. Maybe Trekkers (Star Trek fans). By hardcore I mean that they will say and do anything to achieve what they perceive as fame within their ranks, even if that means stooping to slander, theft, smear campaigns – you name it, they’ve done it! Think of a spotlight whore on L.S.D.
I should stop here for a bit of clarification before I alienate every fan I know. I use the terms Garfans and Garfreaks differently. Garfans are the nice, well adjusted, regular fans out there. Garfreaks take their fandom to the most extreme level, usually with victims of their nasty deeds left in their wake. When the term “Drama Queen” was first used, it just had to be in reference to a Garfreak!
Garfans and Garfreaks generally refer to themselves as a “community.” Community is not a word I would choose. Not for the Garfreaks. If anything, they’re more of an anti-community. There isn’t much of a communal aspect to be found. Well, not unless you’re part of one of the clusters of covens. If you are, then you’re in over your head and need serious counseling. These covens are part of a subculture twice removed. The largest circle encompasses the subculture of fan bases of all celebrities, with each individual fan base being a subculture of that. Under that we have the coven subcultures. Cult is the word first used to describe Garfreaks by the press in the 1960s. I agree with that. Garfreakdom is most definitely a cult. Look it up. All the players are there: The goddess (Judy Garland); the high priests (self appointed experts); and the rabble (the sheep that blindly follow the high priests).
On the flip side we have the Garfans who really ARE a community. Just regular middle class suburban types who enjoy their common love of Judy Garland. They’ll talk about her, agree, disagree, but always with the upbeat and positive attitude and outlook that Garland herself gave to us through her performances. They’re not pathological. They don’t turn everything into a competition where the stakes are ——— nothing. These are the people who make it all worthwhile. Wading through the minefield of Garfreaks to get to the real fans is worth it in the long run. You’ll make some wonderful lifelong friends if you can endure the trek.
A fanatic is someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.
– – attributed to Winston Churchill
For more than half a century now, the most pathological and and insane of these Garfreaks – who are also the most vocal – have given the Garfans a really bad reputation. “Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t they?” Oh yes. Garfreaks are looked upon by the rest of celebrity fandom, and the rest of the entertainment industry for that matter, as “those crazy Garland freaks.” This is unfortunate. Tell anyone on the outside that you’re a Garland fan and they will probably look at you with a befuddled or confused look. Or they’ll roll their eyes. Whatever the case, they’ll immediately assume that you’re crazy. Or they’ll assume you’re gay. Gay men have been linked to Judy Garland since the 1940s, although it wasn’t until the late 1960s that the media began to remark about the rather odd fellows who seemed to be taking over her concerts. Straight men who are Garland fans hide their fandom as much as a gay men who are still in the closet hide their sexuality. That’s how big that stigma is. Judy Garland isn’t seen as one of the top gay icons of all time for nothing.
Before I go on, let me get this off my chest: I love Judy Garland. I do! Well, I don’t love her in a physical sense of course. What I love and have always loved is her talent. For my money, she was the greatest singer-actress of the 20th century. I love watching her perform or simply listening to her sing. That voice! When people ask me “Why Judy? What IS it about her that attracts you to her?” I always respond with “Her voice. There’s something about the way she sings that gets me every time.” Over the years, I have wafted back and forth as a Garfan and a Garfreak. The freak part was the result of my allowing myself to get sucked into the tornado of drama by the Garfreaks. No, I didn’t steal or anything like that, but I’m not proud of allowing the hardcore Garfreaks get to me. Baptism by fire, as they say.
This web series chronicles my experiences, good and bad, in this wacky world of Judy Garland fandom. I start at the beginning before the Internet came along, and continue up to the present day. It’s all done with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. Sure, there’s drama. There’s mud flinging. There are some really horrible, nasty actions by many people out there. But there is much joy and happiness too! Let’s face it – we’re talking Judy Garland fan stuff here, not state secrets or the inner workings of terrorist groups. No one outside of our community gives a shit about any of this stuff. Really! It’s not a big deal at all. And therein lies most of the comedy in all of this. The passion and seriousness exhibited by the players in these chapters will have you cracking up. Or rolling your eyes. Or maybe their insane zealousness will have you running for the hills. Whatever the case, or at the very least, it’s entertaining. And that’s what Judy Garland was all about wasn’t she? Entertainment!
© 2015 Scott Brogan, The Judy Room & Judy Garland News & Events