Here, finally, is another chapter detailing the saga of my wild and crazy dealings and even transgressions while navigating the online world of Judy Garland fandom. Is it silly and absurd? Yes! Does it fall into the category of “you can’t make this shit up”? Of course! Is it fun to read and fascinating? Definitely!
This chapter focuses mainly on some choice examples (there were a lot to choose from) that I think are some perfect representations of the ongoing “Garfreak” bizarro weirdness. A friend of mine termed the social media Garfreaks as “Obsequious Sycophants” (I had to look that up, too) in their words and actions. So true!
Also included are my experiences meeting some of the celebrities in “Garfandom” – including the amazing and fabulous living legend, Liza Minnelli.
NOTE: All quotes and transcripts have been copied verbatim from emails and social media posts. In certain instances I have x’d out the email addresses and removed the last names, replacing them with just the first name only or the first name initial – excepting the names of celebrities, known authors, media producers, webmasters, those with published works, etc.
Also, note that “[snip]” means that a paragraph or section of a post has been removed as being irrelevant to the subject at hand.
EARLY SOCIAL MEDIA
After The Judy List was gone, Garfans (i.e. Sane Judy Garland fans) and Garfreaks (i.e. Garland fans who are too obsessed with idol-worshipping to think and act reasonably or responsibly) migrated over to the Yahoo and Google Groups discussion platforms. Actual social media as we know it today did not exist yet. Yahoo Groups began in January 2001, just when The Judy List was beginning its decline, and Google Groups began a month later. Quite a few new groups popped up on both platforms as alternatives to the List. The most popular platform was Yahoo Groups. Of those Yahoo groups, the most popular were: JudyChat, run by the very vocal, controversial, and polarizing late Eric Hemphill; PalaceLite, which focused on Garland recordings, usually of Judy’s concert era; and JustJudyFriends which had a more casual and conversational tone as did All 4 Judy and The Essence of Judy Garland.
There were others. Google Groups had its share of Garland discussion forums although they were not as well known or used. Of interest was a new incarnation of The Judy List. As noted in the previous chapter Steve Jarrett (webmaster of the now-defunct The Live Performances website and friend of The Judy List’s late owner Mark Harris), had attempted to resurrect The Judy List in honor of his late friend. He kept it so exclusive that to date it gets two, three, maybe five posts per month. For all intents and purposes, the group is now dead. It’s still there, fading into the shadows of the wasteland of forgotten discussion forums on the Internet.
On the website side of things, The Judy Room was improving. I didn’t run any discussion forums. Having been burned before, I wanted to stay away from being an owner or moderator of any discussion forum – too much drama! I was a member of several groups though, and they were all generally peaceful. Most of the players that made The Judy List so negative and toxic were elsewhere, lurking. That didn’t last. They found a new home in late 2006.
Because of my site’s high profile, I received (and still do) some rather odd pieces of correspondence. Some of it is amusingly silly, some of it is incredibly annoying, and some of it is downright nasty. One time I bid on a Garland item on eBay. It wasn’t anything substantial, just a photo. I didn’t win. The next morning, I received an email from a guy who claimed to be the person who won. He was heckling me, saying “Ha ha! I won the bid and you didn’t. Now I have it and you don’t! I guess you won’t be able to have it. Ha ha ha …” And so on. I ignored it. There really isn’t any appropriate response to an email like that from a complete stranger that doesn’t open up an unwanted line of negative communication. A day later I received another message from the same email but allegedly from a different guy. He apologized for that previous message. He said that he was the actual winner and that his partner had gotten drunk and sent me that taunting email. He apologized profusely while explaining that his partner became bitchy when drunk. I responded with a “thank you” and said it wasn’t a problem but I appreciated his candor. I really didn’t care. It was just another random email from another random stranger. I’ve often wondered if the two were really the same person who sobered up and felt remorse for his drunken actions the night before?? One never knows in Garfandom. I remember it as a great example of the weird ways in which Garfreaks act online. There are a lot of Garfreaks who seem to self-medicate with alcohol and/or drugs (even the revered late Steve Sanders was a member of a “chem slammers” Google group), which leads to erratic behavior when they misguidedly sit in front of their computers. It’s also more the norm than not that people lose their manners and scruples as soon as they get online. I’ve seen messages come through to this blog in the wee hours of the morning that were obviously written by someone in a very altered state. Yikes!
Speaking of nasty-grams, the ever-reliable-to-be-an-ass, and well known Judy Garland hagiographer, John Fricke decided to engage in some passive-aggressive behavior with me after I mailed out The Judy Room’s annual “Year in Review” in 2006. He ran hot and cold with me at this time. Sometimes he was nice, sometimes not. He seemed to love sending nasty-grams (and not just to me) that were usually dripping with bitchiness. Trust me, I wasn’t that important but apparently important enough to him to be on his radar. In this instance, he instigated a conversation by sending me a deceptively nice email thanking me for the printed version of the “Year in Review” that he had just received (see that printed version here – pdf). He congratulated me on the design. I thought it was odd of him to email me out of the blue like that. I responded with a simple thank you. Shame on me. I should have known he couldn’t be nice with any sincerity. It turns out he was playing another one of his games and was baiting me, waiting to unleash. His reply was:
Well, don’t let those compliments carry you off. I guess you didn’t notice I didn’t say a word about your copy.
Or maybe you did; who knows?
But it was a little disconcerting to see the year recapped with nary a passing nod toward the one person who was majorly involved in the vast majority of the projects you summarized for 2004…including not only her five new-to-disc M-G-M films but in all the special features of the previously released HARVEY GIRLS, STAR IS BORN, and OZ;
…plus two of the documentaries in the TE! box;
…plus the STAR cd;
…plus the American Masters show — whose six Emmy nominations and three “wins” weren’t acknowledged either.
This has nothing to do with jealousy, Scott, but it sure as hell has a lot to do with hoping for credit where it’s due. Lord knows there’s minimal compensation in this work on most other levels.
Okay. Venting over, but I just thought the omission was pretty damn glaring, seeing as I was responsible for much of the material or extras or tone or content of the aforementioned product. (EASTER PARADE plug notwithstanding.)
Model your tshirt with pride, kid.
Petty Patty with her easily bruised ego strikes again. Judging from that missive, his head was as big as his other end. My initial reaction was, “Ugh! Of all the egotistical, passive-aggressive, whiney babies!” If he’s going to have a problem with something, then say so. Childish passive-aggressive behavior is best left in the sandbox (or over at The Judy Garland Experience Facebook Group). But, when considering the rest of the kiddies he associates with online, this behavior shouldn’t come as a surprise. His last comment about the t-shirt was his swipe at me being the “model” for some photos of Liza Minnelli concert t-shirts in Scott Schechter’s book, “The Liza Minnelli Scrapbook.” Fricke hated Schechter with a blinding, poisonous passion and I was guilty by association. It’s funny that he would reference a book printed two years earlier that he dismissed as amateurish and not worth anyone’s while. My photos must have made an impression. In hindsight, I suppose I could have taken his calling me “kid” as a compliment. From all reports (thankfully I don’t have first-hand knowledge) he “likes ‘em young.”
I responded again, explaining that the “Year in Review” was a single sheet printed on two sides only, in color, folded to make four “panels,” then printed and mailed, so space for the copy was limited. There simply wasn’t enough room to list ANY of the production credits on any projects let alone just one person’s contributions. Any sane person who received a copy would come to the logical conclusion that due to the limited space the review provided highlights, not exhaustive details. Any sane person. I told him that when I had the space to list everything I would be sure to list ALL of the credits.” I wonder if he read between those lines to realize that it’s not all about him and contrary to what he might think he’s not the only person who worked on those releases who deserves praise. But his inflated ego sees what it wants to see.
I remember a laughable instance when he wanted so bad to throw shade on the Discography after someone praised it, but he only made himself look like a bitter old Garfreak. He whined that while the main pages were OK the thumbnails of other versions of that recording didn’t give any details so in his opinion it was useless. He either ignored the simple fact that each thumbnail image is a link to a separate page that gives all the details about that version or his self-professed alleged ignorance of techy stuff kept him from realizing that simple and very standard feature of webpages. My experiences would lead me to believe that he just wanted to throw shade. By that point, he had been immersed with the online Garfreaks for so long his usually hidden nasty nature was beginning to show more and more.
Later on, Fricke posted technical information about the “Judy Garland in Concert” shows he was involved in. I quoted him verbatim on The Judy Room’s news page. I got another nasty-gram (see above) in which he said I had the show’s technical information wrong. He didn’t say WHAT was wrong, just that I was wrong about some “vocal track situation.” I replied that I quoted him directly and if he would send me the details about whatever was incorrect, I would fix it right away. I also admonished him for him not being able to get over my opinions about the recent Savoy Jazz CDs (see below). I never got a response. Petty Patty strikes again. Since he never responded nor clarified, the “incorrect” text remained as it was. If he was truly concerned about “setting the record straight” (as he loves to proclaim) he sure botched this one. But he was good at ignoring things he either didn’t want to address or proved any fault on his part. He wasn’t the only one who would complain about something being “wrong” (not just from me) but never saying exactly what was wrong, just that it was wrong. It’s a strange way of the Garfreaks that they love to complain but rarely ever offer up any actual solution, let alone facts. True to the world of social media, complaining about things gives them a false sense of superiority even if they don’t have anything to back up those complaints and/or accusations. A couple of years later I would experience similar accusations by an Internet troll who tried to claim that I stole “his” radio recordings (they’re all in the public domain) but never said which recordings he was whining about. More on that psycho-babbling weirdo in the next chapter.
I’m certainly not above making mistakes. I made a big one in 2008 when I mistakenly identified one of the recent Savoy Jazz CD releases as being too short in length. The Savoy Jazz label had been releasing a series of short CDs that were compilations of performances from Judy’s TV series, “The Judy Garland Show.” In The Judy Room’s “2007 Year in Review” I identified the wrong CD as one of the short ones. Their “Greatest Hits – Live” CD was 77 minutes long and that’s the CD that I misidentified. All I said was:
In contrast, the Savoy Jazz release “Judy Garland – Greatest Hits Live” is an valiant effort, but uneven in the end. The sound quality varies from track to track, and again it’s a very short CD containing mostly previously released material. The CD is geared towards hardcore Garland fans, and not the general public.
I meant to reference the previous releases as being short but did not catch that in the final edit of that paragraph so the correct text didn’t make it into the finished printout. The previous releases were very short: 2005’s “Classic Ballads” was a little over 63 minutes; 2005’s “Judy Garland and Friends – Duets” was a little over 43 minutes; 2006’s “Great Day” was 59 1/2 minutes. After this longer release, the label went back to production of short editions: 2008’s “Judy Takes Broadway” was a little over 44 minutes; 2009’s “Love Songs” was 42 1/2 minutes; 2009’s “Judy Goes Hollywood!” was a little over 57 minutes; 2010’s “Judy On Broadway Tonight with Friends” was just under 46 minutes. In other words, the only one that wasn’t short was the one I mentioned (2007’s “Greatest Hits Live”)! Because Fricke was heavily involved in the series, he took it personally, prompting him to post an “open letter” to “dear” me in The Judy Garland Experience Yahoo group:
You’ve now publicly decried the most recent Savoy GREATEST HITS LIVE TV series compact disc release as “a very short cd.”
About how much longer than its 77-minute running time would you like to have seen it run? 🙂
I just couldn’t win with him and my yearly reviews! “clothedambition,” (see “An Early Experience” below) who was the owner/moderator of the group, and was still supportive of me and The Judy Room at this point, tried to run some interference in two separate posts:
I agree that the CD was too short. The disc was so enjoyable those 77
minutes just flew by! Left me wanting more, just the way Judy left her
audiences wanting more and more and then some.
Here’s hoping there’s a volume two in the works.
Aren’t music CD’s different than MP3 CD’s? The way I understand it, if
you want to retain the integrity of the quality, a music CD shouldn’t
be more than 80 minutes. Whereas with an MP3 CD you can pretty much
cram several hours worth of material onto a single disc. But boy oh
boy does the quality suffer for it.
But Scott, I empathize with you. When one of the better Garland CD
ends I always feel like it was too short too!
My response to Fricke was:
Just my opinion as an avid – and picky – collector. But to answer your question: A Tad.
I hadn’t yet realized my mistake. A discussion ensued about the standard lengths of CDs and why some of the CDs actually were very short. Fricke responded again:
In doing CD production over the last dozen or so years, I’d always been counseled that approaching 79 minutes of running time meant entering a danger zone in terms of potential problems — i.e., the disc playing properly and etc. Thus 77 minutes seemed equitable to everyone at Savoy…as did the generous inclusion of more than 25 different songs. (For the record, that total was only possible in that just about 15 or so of the titles are still under copyright in this country. Otherwise, the licensing costs for so many numbers would be completely prohibitive. )
Still, it’s only my understanding of the basic underbelly that enables me to see how “a tad” here translates to “a very short cd” in a Brogan & Co. forum 🙂
Someone else jumped in and asked about the other CDs that really were too short:
Hi John, first of all, the Savoy CD’s are fantastic and exceptionally
produced and packaged…great job! I do have a question…is the
reason the Judy and Friends Duets CD so short also due to licensing
issues that you mentioned in your post? Don’t get me wrong, it’s
absolutely enjoyable but I was just curious…
Fricke’s response to this query was:
Yes, that’s exactly correct.
It’s the licensing of publishing rights to the songs that keep down the number of tunes on most cds; it’s a very expensive proposition. We were able to skirt the issue a lot on both GREATEST HITS LIVE and GREAT DAY, simply because Judy — throughout her career — revived so many standards that not only predated her own performing life but are now old enough to be in public domain (in the U.S., anyway).
The DUETS material didn’t much fall into a free-and-clear category.
I don’t claim to be a minute expert on all the ins and outs of this, but I think the information I’ve provided here is accurate.
In planning the next Savoy release, I’ll probably be limited once again to 15 song titles, so it’ll be a shorter edition. But I know that they do try to offer those 40-minute packages as “mid-line” in price as a compensation.
Anyway, I give them a lot of credit for doing what they’ve done with the Garland series material. They’re certainly not going platinum on these releases (to say the very least); yet they’re proud to have Judy in their catalog, and they’ve certainly been willing (in one man’s opinion, anyway!) to make sure that the sound, the packaging, the presentation, and the visibility of the product are as exemplary as possible.
I had had inadvertently but effectively insulted him. That wasn’t my intent, at all. To date, all of the CDs in that series were, in fact, very short in length but long on poorly printed (in my opinion) liner notes and all were sold (regardless of length) at the top CD retail price of the time which was usually $24.95. Those were my issues with them. Liner notes are great but I’d rather have more actual content (Judy Garland performances) than a thick booklet of someone’s pontifications about Judy Garland performances. The CDs also had an uneven quality in the sound that was apparent from track to track. My guess is that they simply ripped the audio from the DVDs of the shows without any serious remastering.
Once I realized my mistake I clarified it. But, since I was still, in essence, complaining about something Fricke was involved in (which as we know is a big “no-no” in the Garfreak world) he brought it up seven months later in the various forums including The Judy Garland Experience Yahoo group as well as the resurrected Google Groups version of The Judy List when announcing another (short) Savoy Jazz release:
P.S. I apologize for once again emphasizing the financial/technical aspects of such releases, as I know I explained — in detail in the past — the expense of licensing copyrighted songs for legitimate cd release. But one worthy soul who runs a Garland site has blasted both GREATEST HITS LIVE for including “only” 73 minutes (!) of material and JUDY TAKES BROADWAY for containing just over 40 minutes of material. However, as was emphasized here, GREATEST HITS included many, many out-of-copyright, public domain songs that could be utilized “free”; BROADWAY was designed as a mid-to-budget-line priced disc, and all of its songs were comparatively contemporary to Judy’s time — which meant that Savoy had to pay for them all and thus limit the songs that could be licensed and still hope that the disc could compete in the marketplace. Nonetheless, in ongoing rantings and railings, the “fan” in question never mentioned this clearly-explained rationale or reasoning behind the number of tracks and timings — he just complained and bitched that Savoy was at fault for such brief discs.
Thus this oft-repeated explanation!
Incidentally, his “take” doesn’t bother me at all…but I don’t think Savoy should be faulted for their efforts to keep Judy out-in-front in competitively-priced compact disc compilations of material that was so badly and repeatedly misused for decades.
Those are a lot of words wasted on someone who’s “take” he says doesn’t bother him “at all.” At this point, my transgression was such that even my name couldn’t be uttered, just hinted at in thinly veiled references. I was officially on the Shit List – apparently forever. Naturally, his cult came to his defense. One person proudly stated they’d buy anything with his name on it regardless of quality. Oy! That attitude worked the other way too, in that many Garfreaks will automatically slam something they haven’t heard (or read or seen) just because someone tells them to. See my “Babes in Biasland” article for an example of this sheep mentality.
In spite of that, and in spite of his future actions (such as later when he trolled people on Facebook demanding that if they were “friends” with me on that platform they couldn’t be “friends” with him, trying to get them to choose sides), I do think that he had every right to be miffed that I said a 77 minute CD was too short. Did he take it too far? I think so. I’m still on that Shit List but after this blog series started a few years ago that’s not a big surprise! For my part, I apologized, explained the situation, and printed a correction in the “2008 Year in Review” (below). Attempting to smooth things over, I even noted what seemed to be an improvement in sound quality and that the liner notes were “great.” There wasn’t anything more I could do. Mea Culpa.
FAN ART FREAKOUT
Another example of the Garfreak weirdness, one that I find incredibly amusing although at the time it was mostly annoying, was some Garfreak shenanigans in 2007. This is a great example of how fixated Garfreaks can get on something that’s very minor and blow it way out of proportion – and never admit that they might be wrong even if they know (and we know they know) they’re wrong. This was so funny in its absurdity that I documented it here on the blog at the time in a short series titled “Judy Garland Fandom” which is a sort of precursor to this series.
The short-ish version is this:
Over at The Judy Garland Message Board, we ran a little contest for members to submit their fan art versions of cover art for the upcoming “Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland” DVD collection. No official box art had yet been released by Warner Home Video (WHV), so in anticipation of the release members made up their own cover art. I posted the results on The Judy Room’s homepage which at that time served as both a homepage and a news page. I clearly noted it was fan art. Well, someone posted some of the artwork over at the Home Theatre Forum and all hell broke loose. People thought it was the official artwork because it wasn’t noted as being fan art nor official artwork from WHV. Max Preeo took it on himself to take action.
As Mark [last name removed] posted, the alleged boxed set is completely bogus. Someone went to a great deal of effort to mislead people (the “artwork” looks authentic, but isn’t remotely close to the real thing). George is looking into having the Home Theatre Forum thread on this Bogus Box investigated and shut down.The coming set will *not* include any Judy-Mickey films other than BABES IN ARMS, BABES ON BROADWAY, STRIKE UP THE BAND, and GIRL CRAZY. It *will* include a number of terrific extras, to be announced soon.
“Mislead people,” “having the Home Theatre Forum thread on this Bogus Box investigated and shut down.” Call the FBI! Scotland Yard! “Investigated” by who, The Judy Police? Such a fuss! It was much ado about nothing indeed. Just typing this makes me laugh all over again!
Preeo was so irate that the owner/moderator of the Home Theatre Forum posted an official statement:
It has come to my attention from the folks at Warner Brothers that the information posted in this thread, including the cover art, is totally erroneous.
We are looking into whether this information was purposely manufactured or if it was posted because of something that was posted elsewhere.
In the meantime, you can understand why we have closed this thread.
We deeply regret when things like this occur. As is the nature of the Internet, once in a while there is going to be information posted here that is not correct. We are very fortunate that studios like Warner Brothers monitor activity here and can quickly notify us when incorrect information like this is posted.
Going on what he claimed, Preeo apparently notified WHV although how they reacted is unknown to me (regardless of Preeo’s claims). I doubt they cared. He then blamed me for it all. Since Preeo saw my site as the originator of the fan art (in reality it was the message board) he saw me as the perpetrator of his imaginary public hoax. Here’s Preeo’s first email to me, which was the first time he ever contacted me. Instead of opening with polite (or even impolite) salutations, he goes right into his grievances:
“This is actually a wonderful idea for the artwork for the upcoming boxed set.”
No, it isn’t, because it doesn’t represent what’s IN the boxed set, that cover photo represents the ANDY HARDY films. And it includes a film that ISN’T going to be part of the set. So how can it be “a wonderful idea”?
“I think you’ll agree that even though this is a “faux cover”, it certainly looks like something Warner Home Video could use. I hope they’re watching!”
They are, and they’re PISSED.
I doubt Warner Home Video (WHV) was THAT pissed, if really “pissed” at all. Preeo definitely was! He was so pissed that he also accused me of “stealing” the press releases that he would post on other forums. I did share a few of his press releases, which anyone would logically assume was fine. The definition of a press release is, “an official statement issued to newspapers giving information on a particular matter.” Besides, even hagiographer Garfreak John Fricke liked the fan art and if that wasn’t a stamp of official approval, what was?
As it turned out, Preeo admitted that he would secretly change things in the official press releases, send that altered version out, then monitor the Internet to see who was sharing “his” press releases. Some people have way too much time on their hands! I wonder how “pissed” WHV would have been if they knew he was altering their official statements to suit is own psychotic needs? This was before social media. Now that social media has changed the landscape with everything copied and shared so much and so quickly, I wonder if he still tries to monitor and harass people for “stealing” “his” press releases?
The whole ruckus was ridiculous and absurd, but it’s a great example of how Garfreaks just won’t let go. What annoyed me the most at the time was not just how big a deal Preeo was making out of it nor was it that he was like a dog with a bone. What was really annoying was that he chose to direct his anger at me as if I were the perpetrator of some weird conspiracy to “mislead people” (as he said). Even after he was told (and shown) that it was just fan art, nothing more. Instead of simply saying, “Oh, I see. It’s all a misunderstanding” he kept wanting to argue as though he relished creating drama and then keeping it going. No explanation was good enough for Preeo, and don’t you love how he’s also “pissed” because this fan art didn’t reflect what was actually “IN the boxed set.” Well, duh. The set hadn’t been released so mere mortals like us weren’t privy to the details of the contents. That logic seemed to have escaped Preeo who just got angrier and angrier the more we emailed. But again, it’s a great example of what we Garfans have to deal with from time to time when the more extreme Garfreaks get their undies bunched. Read the complete story here.
LIZA AND LORNA – OPPOSITES
The late Scott Schechter and I had become friends after meeting in 2002 when he was in town for a book signing and presentation around his latest tome, “Judy Garland The Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Legend.” He was always so supportive of The Judy Room and so pleasant to talk to and work with. He not only was able to get a lot of unreleased Garland material out to the public, but he did the same regarding Judy’s daughter, Liza Minnelli. He came to me with the proposition of creating a new and official Liza site. She didn’t have much of a web presence at all. I was happy to help. I grew up with Liza’s movies and records. She’s always been a favorite of mine so being able to create a website for her was a joy and an honor.
In 2005, prior to any talk about creating a Liza Minnelli website, Schechter arranged for my husband and me to see Liza in concert and to go backstage to meet her. She was wonderful both on stage and in person. Actually, she was more than wonderful. She was incredible and amazing. She gave one hell of a show. Everyone in the audience was on their feet cheering after (almost) all of her numbers. A friend of mine who had seen Judy Garland in concert in the 1960s said that Liza has almost the same stage presence that Judy had although, as he said, “Take what Liza has and multiply that by 100+ and that’s what Judy Garland was in person.” Considering the incredible stage presence Liza has, that’s almost hard to imagine. It should be noted too that the audience was not just all gay men as one would assume. Liza’s audience covered every demographic imaginable. It was quite impressive to see everyone from teenagers to octogenarians cheering her on.
Afterward, we went backstage and waited to meet her in a long hallway leading up to what we thought was her dressing room. She surprised us all when she appeared at the other end. To her credit, she made sure to stop, chat, and shake hands with every person in line on her way to her dressing room. That couldn’t have been easy after having just worn herself out giving us her all on stage.
When she got to us, I was – believe it or not – speechless. I had never met her before. I had seen her in concert at Symphony Hall in Phoenix, Arizona in 1982, from the “nosebleed” seats but even from that distance, she was incredible. Liza said “Hi, how are you?” to both of us. She shook our hands, my husband said “Hi” and I finally got out a “Hi” as well. She was charming. She joked with us. My husband said, “You were really great up there” (he had never seen her live before). She said, “I saw you guys, I think you were in the middle towards the front,” and my husband said, “We were further back I think, good eyes!” and Liza joked, “With these fake eyelashes on I can’t see a thing!” We asked for a photo with her and she said, “Sure, but let’s make it quick I’m getting tired.” My husband said, “I’m not surprised, you were really working up there” and Liza laughed, slapped her thigh and said “Honey! I gotta do something about these thighs!” We took the photo and then she moved on.
Liza seemed genuinely touched that so many people were in line to meet her. As I noted, she made sure that she engaged every person in that line, remembering people she had worked with or known decades earlier. She was never fake or gave affected, rehearsed reactions when greeting everyone. She was a truly warm, lovely person. A real class act. A true star.
On the other hand, her half-sister Lorna Luft was the complete opposite. We met her about a month and a half after meeting Liza which probably didn’t help. Comparing the two was unavoidable. Where Liza was warm and friendly, Lorna was cold and rude.
Lorna was appearing in “Lorna Luft – In Concert” at the Empire Plush Room in the York Hotel in San Francisco, California. The hotel is now the “Vertigo” hotel. It’s the location of the room that Kim Novak’s “Judy” character lived in that 1958 Hitchcock masterpiece, also titled Vertigo. The Plush Room (as it was commonly called) was a wonderful cabaret venue and a popular destination spot for cabaret performers from around the world. It was a good size, not too big and not too small, with a nice intimate feel. I was surprised that Lorna wasn’t doing her “Songs My Mother Sang Better” show, which she was performing at the time. The real title of that never-ending show is “Songs My Mother Taught Me.” I thought that perhaps the more intimate feel of the Plush Room meant a change of tone for her. That wasn’t the case. She basically did “Songs My Mother Taught Me” since this “concert” was also all about “Mama.” Poor Lorna. The “Jan Brady” of the Garland clan.
Lorna oversang everything. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone belt “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” She did. She was constantly mugging to what seemed to be some invisible camera somewhere in the back of the room. Down in the front of the room just off the stage (the room was set up in the typical cabaret format with a small stage and cocktail tables peppered about) were two guys who loudly oohed and aahed in a very affected manner at everything she did. They over-laughed at her attempts at humor. It was very annoying and embarrassing to witness. I got the impression they might have been planted there to cheer her on since no one else in the audience reacted that way throughout the entire performance. I also thought that perhaps these were the same types who, so I’m told, ran rampant at Judy’s late 60s concerts most notably from around 1967 through 1969.
It was customary for performers to have a kind of “meet and greet” with the audience in the hotel lobby after their show. They would sign autographs or sell CDs or something else to engage with fans. Lorna was scheduled to sell autographs at $10 each. We hung around and waited. And waited. And waited. Lorna finally appeared, with a towel around her neck affectedly huffing and breathless as if she had just performed a dance-heavy show like “A Chorus Line.” There was no dancing in her show. She sat down at the little table with a man standing over her who apparently was an assistant of some kind. We were first in line. That wasn’t a big deal, there were only a few people waiting. She didn’t look up or make eye contact until she saw the $10 received in her assistant’s hands. Then she looked up, with a glare. Her body language and vibe were negative. It seemed she didn’t want to be bothered or would rather have been somewhere else.
I lied and said, “Hi Lorna. It’s great to meet you. You were wonderful. My friend couldn’t be here but they’re a huge fan of yours, could you sign this poster for them?” Then I handed her the small poster of that night’s show. She snatched it and furiously scribbled “To Kim, Lorna.” I had hoped she’d write something like “Sorry to have missed you” or something quick but also thoughtful. She acted like she was in a rush as if there was a long line of people she had to address. She needn’t be. As I said, there were only a few people in line to meet her and pay the $10 for her autograph. Maybe that’s why she was acting angry? No one seemed to care she was there. Many people came and went in the lobby where this took place and had no clue who this person was over on the side signing autographs. They didn’t stop to find out.
I then paid another $10 and got my second copy of the poster signed. Once again, she didn’t look up until she saw the money change hands. My husband had enough. He said, “Isn’t this great? Last month we met Liza. Now we’re meeting you. All we have to do is meet Joey …” I cringed and thought “Oh Lord, don’t say the ‘L’ word (Liza)!” But he knew that would get at her. And it did. She shot back a venom dripping, “That’ll never happen!” Off we went. Talk about the waste of a good twenty dollars. Needless to say, she was as cold and unfeeling as Liza was warm and inviting. My takeaway was that it’s possible that aside from the fact that she has a nasty disposition, the real reason Lorna had such a contentious relationship with her father (Sid Luft) is that they were too much alike. Not that Sid was necessarily a nasty person but he did seem to be on the hard side. Which, to digress, is probably what Judy really needed in a mate and probably why she stayed married to him longer than any of her other husbands.
So we met Lorna. We didn’t bother trying to get a photo with her as we did with Liza. If I played darts, I might have.
AN EARLY EXPERIENCE
It was around this time that I was contacted by someone who was starting yet another Yahoo discussion group. He went by “clothedambition.” I had no idea who he was but recently I had seen his name and comments pop up in the various Yahoo groups. Because this was a new name/person and judging from the photo he used, I assumed he was someone young and new to the scene. In actuality, he was much older and had been around a while but claimed to be new to the online community.
“clothedambition” asked me if we could chat on the phone. When we chatted, he told me how much he loved The Judy Room and how he wanted to create a discussion group that would be to fan-based discussion groups what The Judy Room is to fan websites. I thought that was a nice compliment. He seemed eager to please being full of compliments. He asked for my help and support. I told him that I supported all of the new groups and was happy to help out however I could. He asked if I would help him promote the new group and encourage people to join. I said yes. He also asked me about my opinions on different well-known people in the current online fan community. I was honest about my own personal experiences with them (good and bad) and told him who I thought he should be wary of. I had no idea at the time that I was talking to the person who turned out to be the most histrionically nasty and petty queen (crown and all – there’s no other way to say it) of all the social media Garfreaks. “Wear that crown with pride, kid!”
Once he created his Yahoo group The Judy Garland Experience (December 12, 2006), he began a crusade to try and be the “be all, end all” online repository of anything pertaining to Judy Garland. He must have either been out of work or retired because it appeared that he had all the time in the world, day and night, to be all over the Internet commenting everywhere (remember MySpace?) and ending each comment with a tagline to check out his group. There’s nothing wrong with some self-promoting. What is unfortunate is that while publicly promoting his group, behind the scenes it was a very different story. He was trying to get other Garland discussion groups and at least one YouTube channel shut down. At this point, Facebook, Instagram, and later social media platforms didn’t exist as they do now. A good example of this Jekyll/Hyde online personality happened in 2010/2011. In 2017, the owner of a YouTube channel relayed the events of that incident and the lengths “clothedambition” (and company) went after him:
The harassment I got from Mr Berghaus was just insane. First it was because I was posting some of the audio recordings he posted in the Yahoo group on my YouTube channel to share with fans who weren’t aware of the group; he constantly badgered me with e-mails and comments demanding I give his group credit and I had no right taking credit for “his” files. The second instance was what Scott mentioned above. He booted me out of the group and threatened to use my ISP address to track my activity online. It felt like nobody could ever say a bad word about him or disagree because he was some self-appointed saint of the Garland fandom sharing all these recordings and images with us peasants. It’s also laughable how he labeled me a “poor kid” when I distinctly remember him telling me that I was a mean-spirited bully who uses my condition as a weapon. His cronies also said communicating with autism is like “talking to a brick wall”.
This is what “clothedambition” had to say about it at the time, on Facebook on January 5, 2011:
But what is my business however is when he lies about me and THAT I will comment on. I am sure the person he was talking about was me and his explanation of the way things went down regarding the comment on his blog is a complete fabrication.
Firstly, I didn’t take a month trying to track the person who made the comment down. I knew who he was, he is a fellow member of the experience and the board.
He is a thirteeen year old kid with autism.
The whole issue was the kid told a lie about me in response to a disingenuous posting Scott made about his removal from TJGE.
This creepy Judy Fan named Mark, who had been involved with Kim and her friend Sally in an insane attempt to take control of TJGE, responded to Scott’s post claiming he had somehow been my victim. My victim???? I didn’t try to take his group from him, I didn’t steal original art from him and then lie about it. All I did was call him out on his bad behavior.
But I digress. So anyway, this autistic kid, who happened to know Mark, jumped on the band wagon and said that he too had been victimized by me. Which of course isn’t true, he said it just to be a part of the crowd.
Months later when I read that comment I was puzzled (and annoyed) and wrote to the kid and asked why he would say such a thing and suggested he remove it or else I would remove him from TJGE.
He felt terrible. Wrote me this long email telling me how he was ashamed of himself for lying etc. He said that he would ask Scott to remove the comment. He wrote to Scott and asked him and his request was refused (which tells you a whole lot about Brogan’s character). So anyway, Brogan told the kid that even though he wouldn’t remove the original posting he would agree to print a retraction from the kid. Fair enough, or so you would think. The retraction was refused as being too apologetic. But if the truth be told, Scott decided that he would rather perpetuate a lie about me than let the truth come out. So much for Scott Brogan having any ethics. So much for Scott Brogan having any credibility as a blogger/journalist. So much for Scott having any traits of decency.
So here is this poor autistic kid who is just trying to make things right, but because Scott Brogan is such a self absorbed and competitive asshole he ignored the boys needs and kept the lie posted because it suited his own personal agenda. Thank god this man isn’t a parent. Can you imagine how fucked up his kids would be? I mean, how selfish of him.
There was no harassment of the kid as Scott claims, and the kid is currently a member of TJGE.
But you know what, I am using too much time up on this. I’m through talking about this with you. I want to go watch Live To Dance.
I think Scott and Kim are both petty, joyless little people and want nothing to do with them. I don’t need their jealousy and hatred contaminating my life. Let them carry on as they do, I don’t care. I’ve learned that they can’t harm me, they can only diminish themselves and their own reputations.
While he was showing his faux concern to his Yahoo & Facebook group, “clothedambition” was harassing “this poor autistic kid” behind the scenes. According to him, I should have somehow known that the person who posted a comment to the blog was autistic, among other things. Shame on me! I suppose I should have known if the person commenting was left or right-handed, too? Had blue or brown or green eyes? But by this point, “clothedambition” hated me so much that anything I did or said was automatically suspect.
“clothedambition” is partly right about one thing. I did decline to alter the original comment although that decision wasn’t made out of maliciousness on my part. I explained to “the kid” that I was not going to change anything because I did not want to allow “clothedambition” or anyone else to dictate the contents of my blog. I did not want to open that door because if anyone would take that as their cue to harass people who posted comments to the blog they didn’t like, attempting to get them to change what they wrote, it would be “clothedambition.”
I was surprised to see such a long rant about me. But this was coming not long after the big blowout over at The Judy Garland Message Board of which he was still bitter, and is to this day. More on that in the next chapter. I was also surprised to have it hinted at that I was somehow involved in an elaborate scheme he claimed some people were involved in at the time, to “take control” of his group. He had accused me of being a part of the “strange forces conspiring against [his] group” that “it turns out are more connected to each other [sic] than anyone would have imagined.” The accusations were baseless and false, but from what I have seen whenever he’s railing against anyone (which happens frequently) he bitterly adds my name. I have a feeling the strange forces were mostly due to some paranoia on his part and not any real threat. Here’s an example of that paranoia as sent by him in emails to people (luckily not me) in 2010 which includes the nutty claim that someone was “removed from the internet completely for their participation in this plot.”) Yikes! He had someone removed from the entire Internet! Now that’s a superpower!
As the example from 2011 shows, the Garfreaks are not above stalking people via their ISP addresses or in other harassing and sometimes criminal (in the legal real-world sense) ways, as I would soon find out on a very personal level.
There were times (still are) when “clothedambition” would rally his platoon of Garfreak minions to work as a team and go after someone who slighted him (or one of his Garfreaks) in one hyped-up way or another. Most of the alleged transgressions were imagined and/or some little thing that was blown out of proportion. They have a strange claim of ownership of audio files and images that are in the public domain and cries of “Judy’s kids aren’t getting any royalties.” In my case, which is covered in the next chapter, a blanket “thank you” to everyone who contributed audio files to The Judy Room (where they’re shared for free) wasn’t enough. They want to be called out individually so their egos get fed but claim “it’s all for Judy, not me.” Sure, Jan. You know what they say and it’s so true, “If you don’t want it shared then don’t post it online.”
To date, “clothedambition” and his Garfreak minions continue to futilely try to control what’s shared online or even what’s sold on eBay by engaging in rage campaigns of targeted hate and personal attacks. More on that in the next chapter, too.
For the most part, and to his followers, “clothedambition” puts forward a facade of the ever-wise Garland guru who is the only sane and calming voice in a cacophony of chatter and bickering (in his own forum). He went by several screen names and identities and continues to do so. “clothedambition”; “Buzz Stephens”; “Daniel Berghaus”; are three well-known public identities. Those are no secret – two are self-professed nicknames. He also posts under his group’s name. It’s amusing to see two or more of the identities appear to converse with each other, although that could be one of his “staff members.” It’s unclear because when a post is made under the group’s name the assumption is that it’s him, there’s no clarification. I suspect that “Cass Cooper” is another one. It was originally “Tjge Uploader” created by him in the early days of Facebook then changed so the assumption is that it’s still him. There are several more identities that are alleged to be him but at the present time, it’s unverified if they are. I doubt he has THAT many. Or, maybe he does? We’ve seen stranger things on the Internet! The multiple screennames coming from the same person should have been a big tip-off from the start. The use of a 20-year-old (plus) profile photo as the only photo of him for years should have been a tip-off, too. In the beginning, though, his Yahoo group started out pleasant enough. It was a genial place that thrived for several years. It’s all but dead now, taken over by its Facebook “outlet.” The move to Facebook is when the real nastiness began.
The point is, people like “clothedambition” can hide their true selves, whether via fake names or other means, for only so long before they show who they really are. In the case of clothed-Buzz-Berg-Cass-etc, it wasn’t long before his true personality (and I suspect some subconscious self-loathing) came to the surface. The result is that his group has the reputation (deservedly so) of being infested with incredibly nasty, petty, and downright mean members. I refer to them as “the nasties.” Most of the decent people have left (usually booted out over something petty) so what’s left are the nasties who have nothing better to do than to bicker day and night and, as noted above, engage in rage campaigns of targeted hate and personal attacks. They have become the epitome of all that’s negative about social media. You can tell a lot about someone by who they choose to be friends with. All of their pointless negativity is a shame, too, because it gives normal Garfans a very bad reputation, and more importantly, it stains Judy Garland’s legacy.
“I AM THE MONARCH OF THE SEA, THE RULER OF THE QUEEN’S NAVY”
What also wasn’t apparent in the early years of the discussion groups was a pattern that developed with the popular (i.e., “approved” by the self-appointed Internet-Garland experts) discussion forums. That pattern is the eventual addition of Garland hagiographer John Fricke into the mix. Anytime he joined one of these groups it wasn’t long before lines were drawn in the sand and things would get quite, um, dramatic. It was usually focused on driving out his biggest competition, Scott Schechter. And it was usually under the guise of “setting the record straight.” Fricke has a way of taking over, with a few buddies and some hysterical – and very vocal – Fricke-cult worshipers. There are many who worship him more than they worship Judy! In the absence of their idol, and out of desperation for something tangible to worship, he becomes their surrogate idol IRL. The result is that they help him harass people he doesn’t like and/or feigns disapproval of. The poor targets of that special brand of harassment were not just those he saw as competition but also those who dared to disagree with him and – horror – continued to disagree even after he had given his final word. In the business of Judy Garland, apparently, there can only be one true wizard. People, including myself, noticed that if any Garland related project came along that he wasn’t involved in, he would trash it. Not that anyone would directly confront him about it in any of the forums. Most people didn’t want to stir things up. Confronting him would create a tornado of trouble. That’s one hot seat no one wanted to be in. For a while, those non-Fricke projects came along frequently enough for that pattern to become obvious.
Another reason people abandoned these groups after Fricke joined was that he suffered from (and still does) what can best be described as “correcting-itis.” He had/has an incessant need to correct anyone and everyone on any and every tiny piece of minutia. Many times this was at the expense of real substantial questions directed to him that he would ignore. Most of the time, he would cover his bases with “I’m not anywhere I can check but…” He said that so many times it became a joke giggled about in private. Normally, “setting the record straight” about the facts wouldn’t be a problem but there’s a right and wrong way to go about it. Posturing at and/or belittling people isn’t the right way. I heard from people who left the now-defunct Judy Garland Message Board (and other forums) because of this “correcting-itis.” They all said basically the same thing, that since he joined the discussions had gotten to the point that members were afraid to post anything of substance for fear of being called out or, as was also his way, accused of spreading lies or perpetuating negative myths and stereotypes about Garland. The end result was usually silence broken only by some strained conversations, rendering the group ineffective.
Getting back to the mid-to-late-2000s, some groups began to fade out due to inactivity or the lack of continued interest from the group’s creator. A few were targets of “clothed ambition’s” previously noted attempts at world domination. It was a shame, really, since groups like PalaceLite and Judy Chat added some needed variety, a variety that wasn’t seen again until Facebook Groups became popular. Once social media became popular (especially Facebook), things changed drastically. As we now know, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like, can be great tools to interact or reconnect with friends and family. They can also be toxic in content and in the harassing actions of those hiding behind their keyboards and fake identities, resulting in some really horrible and evil behavior. Online bullying is not confined to just school kids or political opponents, it’s alive and well in the fan forums.
In 2005 I was contacted by the father of the marvelous cabaret singer Judy Butterfield. They were preparing a new show for the then-15-years-old prodigy titled, “Judy Sings Judy: Songs of a Young Garland.” I went to their home to help out with some of the narration that Ms. Butterfield was to give during the show. I didn’t write any of it, my role was ensuring they had their Judy-facts correct. They had done an excellent job. I only had to correct a few minor items for them.
The show and its star were completely charming. Butterfield performed in the same venue Lorna performed a few years later (the Plush Room as noted above) and needless to say, she was the better of the two. Butterfield has a wonderful voice that is not Garlandesque at all, which made the show that much more enjoyable. She wasn’t trying to “be” Judy Garland, she was singing a tribute show while also narrating Judy’s story to the audience. Because of her young age, Butterfield concentrated on the story and songs of the young Judy Garland. It was a wise decision and helped to make the show a success. One of the highlights was her rendition of the very early Garland song “Hang Onto A Rainbow” which Judy prophetically sang in the 1930 film short The Wedding of Jack and Jill when she was still Frances Gumm, one of the three Gumm Sisters, and just eight years old. It’s not a well-known song outside of Garfandom so it was nice to hear it performed live. Butterfield told the story of Judy’s early film shorts, which I’m sure was news to many in the audience. She was briefly joined on stage by a young 16-year-old jazz musician named Sam Reider who stepped in as “Mickey Rooney” for the Mickey/Judy segment. They were both fantastic.
The entire show was done with taste and respect for Judy Garland and her legacy. It was so successful they took it to New York where it enjoyed more success on the cabaret circuit. It was wonderful to be a part of it not just because of the quality of the show but because, well, it was great to be a part of something out of the ordinary. By that I mean it wasn’t a book, CD, TV or film project that one would assume the webmaster of a Judy Garland website would be involved it. Judy Butterfield is currently enjoying a successful singing career, concentrating mostly on jazz. I wish her continued success!
On the other end of the spectrum of local Bay Area performers is the marvelous Connie Champagne. Prior to my association with Judy Butterfield, my friend Harry, who was a local PR exec, asked me to interview Ms. Champagne for a local publication after seeing her perform her “Imagine Judy Garland: An Evening With Connie Champagne” at the Plush Room. The show was unique in that its premise was “What if?” What if Judy Garland had not died in 1969 and lived to perform songs written after 1969? Ms. Champagne, in the Garland manner, sang a variety of songs including Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” It was delightful and fun. Ms. Champagne sounded enough like Judy Garland to be more and more believable as the show progressed but also kept enough of her own style and impishness. Hearing her sing these songs as Judy Garland gave us an idea of how Judy might have approached them had she lived longer. On the surface, it might sound gimmicky, but it worked. It was a thoroughly enjoyable show. Delightful. Well worth seeing.
Connie Champagne is a kind of female female-impersonator. She has played Judy Garland many times, including the original Los Angeles production of “Judy’s Scary Little Christmas” and the 2015 “An Evening With Judy Garland.” She also played Neely O’Hara (based on Judy) in a successful campy stage adaptation of the classic cult film Valley of the Dolls. When I attended “The Unsinkable Debbie Reynolds” event at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, she impersonated Debbie Reynolds as Molly Brown in a pre-show skit and was marvelous.
When I interviewed Champagne for a local paper, she was quite charming and enjoyable to chat with. It was amusing because I had just received my copy of the new Rhino Records CD soundtrack of Judy’s 1948 cult classic, The Pirate and I selfishly wanted to dash home to play it! Getting to know Connie Champagne (even it was just a little bit) was a treat because she, like Judy Butterfield, has a sincere love, respect, admiration, and adulation for Judy Garland and her musical genius. And like Butterfield, she’s awesomely talented!
ERIC THE TERRIBLE AND THE DISCOGRAPHY
In the early 2000s, the late and very controversial Garland collector Eric Hemphill contacted me about helping The Judy Room by sharing items from his huge collection. He contributed items to the movie spotlights and by 2005 I was musing over the idea of creating a comprehensive Judy Garland Online Discography. Regardless of what happened with The Judy List, I greatly admired the small discography that The List’s late owner, Mark Harris, created with the late Al DiOrio. It was long gone by this point and being the record collector that I am, it was natural for me to want to find a way to share and document Garland’s immense discography. I have collected Garland media since I was a kid beginning with records then tapes, CDs, VHS, laserdisc, DVD, Blu-rays and now the current format, 4K discs. But the records are my passion since they’re what I grew up with and were the only sources (for a while) of Garland performances. Flipping through the bins at records stores searching for any “new” Judy Garland record was so much fun especially when I’d find one that was new.
To say that Hemphill was a volatile person is putting it mildly. He was quite vocal and didn’t censor himself or his actions, even though many times he should have. He had an ax to grind with a lot of people out there! My dealings with him had usually been positive. He liked The Judy Room and for a time he was the owner/moderator of the Yahoo group Judy Chat. He had contributed to The Judy Room’s movie spotlights already, and I told him of my discography idea. He agreed to send me images from his collection. He had a ton of records that I didn’t have. It was great. Once I settled on a standard format the discography section took shape and went live in October of 2005.
Hemphill was a very polarizing figure in Garfandom. He had been around for a long time and was a very vocal contributor to many discussion forums going back to the early years of The Judy List. What usually happened is he would get more and more irate and inflammatory toward one or several people and get himself booted out. I knew his tendencies to go unhinged when we began working together. Luckily, he was almost always on his best behavior with me. I trod lightly and played along when he would ask me to call him and then answer my call speaking as Judy Garland. He would keep going until I would finally say, “Judy, can you put Eric on the phone?” Then he was himself. For what it’s worth, he did a good vocal impersonation of Judy’s speaking voice, circa the late 1960s.
He had some great stories about his years of collecting. While just a teenager, he went to the Sid Luft auction of some of Judy’s personal items in November 1978 and met a lot of the Los Angeles “names” in Garfandom of the era. In those pre-Internet days, it wasn’t as easy to connect with fellow Garland fans, especially if you didn’t live in either San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York. Hemphill lived in Tucson, Arizona.
Hemphill’s stories about meeting “Uncle Wayne” (Wayne Martin, longtime Garland fan and known as “Judy’s #1 Fan” for decades) were amusing and poignant. By that point, Martin was getting on in age and was struggling financially. Hemphill told me that he went to Martin’s apartment and that it smelled musty and very sour. It was dark and sort-of mysterious, at least it seemed that way to the teenaged Hemphill. Martin himself was pleasant and encouraged Hemphill’s budding interest in collecting Garland memorabilia but warned him, “Don’t end up like me, living alone with nothing to show for yourself but an apartment full of Judy Garland memorabilia.” Wise words. Martin did end up alone and half-forgotten (or ignored) by Garfandom and the collector’s world of which he was an early and integral part of. He was seen by many as a relic of an era of collecting long gone. He had sold or given away most of his collection by the time he passed with the result that no one seemed to have any use for him. When the chips are down, one finds out who their real friends are. Today there are quite a lot of people out there in the same position as Martin was, and whose only contact with the outside world is through the skewed prism of toxic social media sites devoted to Judy Garland. The digital equivalent of “living alone with nothing to show for [themselves] but Judy Garland memorabilia.”
Although Hemphill and I usually got along well, there were times when he could be erratic and irrational. I attributed it to the medications he was on. He had what seemed to me to be an array of physical and psychological issues, the details of which he freely shared with me although I think that some might have been made up. At times I would get an email that didn’t make sense or one in which he was accusatory of some made-up slight by me that made him a victim. I realized where it was coming from so I stayed calm while trying to talk him down from the ledge (via email or calling him – and Judy). He would come out of it and apologize and then things would be fine again.
I believe that Hemphill loved being the “bad boy” of Garlandia. He spoke his mind and didn’t hold back and alienated almost everyone at one time or another. He tried to pull me into some of his arguments with his various nemeses. He had a huge competition going with Garland collector Mike Siewert. Hemphill dragged me into the middle of that competition when he found out that I was also receiving scans and photos of various items for The Judy Room’s pages from Siewert and not him. Sometimes of the same item, which resulted in his arguing about who’s scan was better. He was insulted and jealous that I had the nerve to get material from someone else, especially his biggest competition! It got ugly and created a rift in my friendship with Siewert that lasted for many years until we finally patched things up, long after Hemphill had passed. It was a volatile tightrope I walked for some time, trying not to insult either of them and sometimes trying to be the mediator. When I got fed up I lashed out at Siewert that I was done with them putting me in the middle. It caused that rift that sadly went on longer than it should have, due to my stubbornness. I’m happy to say that we’ve made amends and our friendship is stronger because of it.
Hemphill was in competition with several other well-known Garland collectors, including the very odd Charles Triplett. Out of the blue, Triplett emailed me a bunch of photos of his home. He told me to “tell your friend Eric” that he had a nice home that he worked very hard to be able to buy and it certainly wasn’t an outhouse or backwoods hillbilly home. I didn’t know what he was talking about but knowing Hemphill, I had a good idea. I thanked Triplett for the photos, told him how nice his home looked, but also told him that I wasn’t Hemphill’s keeper and that I had no control over what he said or did online, and that if he had an issue with him, he should go to him and not me. I found out that on some forum, Hemphill made fun of the fact that Triplett lives in rural North Carolina. He had a field day making remarks about Triplett being a red neck or hillbilly living in an outhouse, words to that effect. Triplett wasn’t playing with a full deck either, as I would later find out, but this was one of many skirmishes of Hemphill’s that I had no desire to get involved in. I never knew if Triplett ever directly contacted Hemphill about the issue or not.
In spite of his issues, I can’t overstate Hemphill’s incredible contributions to the site, especially the Discography. He worked very hard to send scans of items from his vast collection along with a lot of details. He was, with good reason, very proud of his contributions. The Discography wouldn’t have been as vast as it became without his help. As mentioned, and in spite of his volatile nature, he usually treated me with respect. I think part of that was the fact that he wasn’t interested in website building so I wasn’t in competition with him. I also wasn’t one of the big collectors that he would be jealous enough to consider to be a threat. I also think that he liked the attention his contributions received. Unfortunately, just a few years before his death, he sent me an email ending our friendship. Judging from past experiences, I didn’t think his anger would last long. I assumed it was just another one of his periodic freakouts as noted above. I responded as usual. But that was the last I heard from him. He dropped out of sight, more or less, and a couple of years later we all heard that he had passed away in early February 2012. Apparently, the cause of death was “gastrointestinal hemorrhage and gastric ulcer.” I was surprised because I (wrongly) assumed that his death was most likely caused by the variety of medications he took and maybe they contributed. That doesn’t matter in the long run. What matters is that like Scott Schechter he died too soon. His family sold off parts of his collection piecemeal and I’m told (but haven’t verified) that a well known Garland collector bought much of it. Sadly, most of it hasn’t been seen since.
A NEW DECADE
The 2000s ended on a sad note due to the untimely death of Scott Schechter. Sad for most of us, happy for some of the Garfreaks. When I think about it, I’m still appalled at how quickly some of Garfreaks gleefully attacked his memory so soon after he passed. As noted in this chapter Schechter’s death left a void. He, more than anyone out there before or since, did more to get unreleased Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli media out to the fans.
On a more positive note, the 2000s ended with the expansion of The Judy Room website and this blog along with the rise of social media as we know it now (for good and bad!). Facebook was fast becoming the main social media outlet and I was an early adopter of the new format creating a Judy Room Group, a Judy Garland Online Discography Public Page, and The Judy Room’s Public Page. Although the way social media has turned out, I don’t know if that’s anything to brag about! The Discography was growing and the website was also getting bigger and better. The site had been around for a full decade in 2009 and I marked the event with a redesign and an archives section featuring details and screenshots of the site’s evolution. The 2010s looked to be a great decade for online fandom and The Judy Room. The glory years of social media lay ahead.
© 2020 Scott Brogan, The Judy Room & Judy Garland News & Events