Monday, March 2, 2015, started out like any other Monday at work. It wasn’t anything special. But in the early afternoon, there was some commotion at the reception desk. I wasn’t aware of what had happened until the next day. Someone called our company’s main phone line ranting and raving. The receptionist didn’t know what to do with it because the woman on the other end of the line was talking in a crazy and hysterical manner. The receptionist gave the call to our VP of Human Resources.
The next day (March 3, 2015), I had a meeting with our HR VP and her assistant. They told me that a woman called (I didn’t have the name yet) the day before, claiming that I was spreading libelous things online about people she knows.
What the crazy woman was ranting about was the content of the first chapter of this blog series. She (and allegedly several others) didn’t like my humorous and very true story about my early “exposure” to their idol, John Fricke.
Our HR VP said the person was obviously unstable, claiming that she was speaking for a “group,” and was threatening to ruin the brand of our company. Our HR VP gave the person’s information to our corporate lawyer to handle which was standard procedure if anyone was threatening the company, no matter how ridiculous or far-fetched. Apparently, there were at least two phone conversations. The crazy woman asked our lawyer to not tell me that she called. But by that point, I already knew. The crazy caller was Kristen Rae Johnson, a former member of The Judy Room’s Facebook group. She even contributed to the first edition of the new “Garlands for Judy” webzine several years prior. She must have left the group quietly because, by this point, I had forgotten she even existed.
Luckily, our HR VP and assistant completely understood the situation, each having blogs themselves. The assistant is also a gamer and has dealt with similar harassing actions himself. We chatted a bit about crazy people online. I told them that I had been dealing with this kind of thing for about 20 years and that as my website became bigger and more popular, so did the target on my back. I noted, “Yep. These people take it all too seriously, and as I say, no one gives a shit about this minor Judy Garland drama outside of their bubble.” Our HR VP said “Exactly! You have your hobby and your website, we have ours. I don’t even read the comments to my blog posts. It’s nothing to worry about.”
The company checked out my blog, saw that it wasn’t anything bad or criminal and that it had absolutely nothing to do with the company. They flatly told Johnson that what I do on my own time is my own business. They told her that they have nothing to do with any of it. That should have been the end of it. It wasn’t.
Late that afternoon, on our way to a restaurant for a team dinner, I was chatting with our executive assistant and asked her what happened when she took the initial call that came into the reception desk. She said, “The person was really crazy and was saying that someone at the company was saying libelous things, and that she lived in L.A. and her boyfriend worked at the L.A. Times and that he was going to have the newspaper print things to ruin the company’s name. She was so crazy and insistent that I went to [HR VP] to have her talk to the person.” Yep, she was crazy!
While still at the restaurant, I had a phone call from my friend Aaron. He was upset over a private message sent to him via Facebook from “Nick Olas” (aka Nick Enchilada, aka Nick Septiembre, and when last I checked, aka Nick Wong). Aaron asked me what the hell was going on. I told him that I couldn’t talk at the time but would call him later. When we talked later, I told him what had happened at work and he told me about the private message he was sent. This Nick person was sending this same or similar messages to others attempting to get people to unfriend me on Facebook. Note that the photo has been blacked out because this is a public page.
The next day (March 4, 2015) the HR assistant talked to me again. He said that Johnson wasn’t backing down with our corporate lawyer and was making threats that she and a “large group” was going to start a “hashtag campaign” against the company.
Side note: As an example of how unhinged these people are, Johnson, Nick, and others in their social media circle were hot to trot over hashtags. They misguidedly thought that weird hashtags like #enjoythephotosam would have some kind of wide-ranging negative effect on their intended target. They hadn’t figured out that for a hashtag to be effective it has to be something that’s actually trending and/or something that people would actually search for. The examples below are from the time they were harassing a Sam for allegedly cropping off the Yahoo group URL from photos before sharing them. Nick was hoping the hashtags would continue that harassment.
The general feeling at my company was that Johnson would go away but if she persisted our corporate attorney was prepared to send her a warning that they would file a harassment lawsuit against her if she didn’t stop. The company attorney told our HR VP, “I’ve never dealt with anything this crazy.” Being a tech company, we had a lot of gamers and so goofy online harassment was nothing new. But Johnson was more agitated and hysterical than most. While we were talking about it all, the assistant said to me, “We see this with gamers all the time but JUDY GARLAND FANS?” I replied, “Oh, you have no idea. They can get really wacky, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone go this far.”
After that, things seemed to quiet down. Several days later, on March 11, I posted this post to the blog as “a slight detour” from this series to let people know what had happened. This time, it was Nick who decided to try to harass my workplace via, naturally, our company’s Facebook page. He posted a couple of times before being blocked, including the following:
In his quest to harass me and my workplace, Nick changed his Facebook profile pic to one of our company’s promotional images and also added “coming soon…” with the company’s hashtag. That was part of the increasing and empty threats that “they” were going to come out with a blog themselves, claiming to expose me by sharing alleged photos of me in my company t-shirt doing nefarious things. And thereby ruining the company. No, I am not making that up. Nothing they threatened came to fruition. I wondered where these photos would magically come from!
Nick seemed to delight in making fun of my job, having previously researched where I work, what type of work I do, and also my full name. “Office Manager” to him meant “janitor.” There were a lot of jokes about “Ed” (me) being the “Kitchen Monitor” with images of janitors, coffee pots, and break rooms. I go by “Scott” so calling me by my first name was meant to be insulting.
Their leader (and owner/manager of The Judy Garland Experience Facebook group and page where their gang congregated, originally a Yahoo group) Daniel Berghaus (aka “Buzz Stephens” aka “clothedambition” and a few others) encouraged and supported their behavior (see examples below).
On March 14, 2015, Johnson posted two attempts to comment on this blog, five minutes apart. All comments to the blog have to be approved by me. Obviously, these were not. But they stay in the administrative comments section. What these people don’t realize is when they comment, their ISP address is always listed in spite of the fact that they created bogus email addresses in order to post. So clever! This information came in handy later. The ISP address won’t show an actual street address, but it does reveal the area/town as well as the information of the company that provides Internet service to that person.
These two blog comments read more like what Nick would write. They are very similar in tone and “style” to what he had been posting. The reference to the private message sent to Aaron made me think that it was him rather than Johnson. But the ISP is from her area so perhaps they lived near each other or perhaps Nick was an alias of Johnson’s. It was anyone’s guess. Considering the number of screen names their leaders and others in their group went by it wouldn’t be surprising if Nick and Johnson were one and the same.
In this case, the ISP was out of West Covina, California (part of Los Angeles County) and the hosting company was in Monterey Park, California, which is just around the corner from West Covina. West Covina is just a few blocks away from Walnut, California, which is where Johnson told everyone she went to high school and college. Everything on her many social media profiles pointed to the Rancho Cucamonga area which was verified when she posted a photo of a package with her address. She took a photo of the actual package to show that she had received mail from as far away as England. Showing clearly was her complete home address and her name. Apparently “crazy” and “stupid” go together. We were also able to verify her birthday. Online she acted like an immature adolescent but at the time of this incident, she was 39 years old.
As noted, Nick was a fake profile. His FB profile link is https://www.facebook.com/KCIN93 and allegedly he is also from California. Because it was fake it was impossible to trace (without getting Facebook involved which would have been one of the next steps if the harassment continued). Much later I was told that Nick set up Johnson by telling her he would meet her for a romantic date but stood her up on purpose. That was told to me as an example of how “mean” he is which judging from what I have seen this Nick person say and do, it wouldn’t surprise me if that story were true. After Nick decided to try to harass our company through Facebook, I was advised to get a lawyer, which I did.
The lawyer I hired is an expert at this sort of thing. I wrote everything up for him complete with dates, screenshots, and details of conversations. He explained to me that under the law it’s one thing for people to argue and bicker online, but it’s another, more serious action to take it into the real world and try to get someone fired from their job. That is a criminal offense that could result in jail time. He explained that in doing this, the perpetrator is purposely trying to adversely affect the victim’s ability to make a living (pay the rent, feed their family, etc.). That’s considered criminal under the law.
My lawyer advised me that the best thing to do first was to get as much contact information about these perpetrators as possible. For Johnson, it wasn’t difficult. Not at all. In fact, it’s a little scary just how easy it was to get not just her address, but phone numbers and a lot more. As noted above, she was all over social media (some platforms I had never seen before) sharing personal information. That fact, coupled with investigating her history online, painted a very sad yet stereotypical picture of the type of person one would assume might engage in this type of crazy behavior. At the time, she claimed her occupation was as a “freelance writer” (that’s where her threat of using her imaginary boyfriend’s connection with the LA Times came from). She was a self-professed “cat lady,” very overweight, pushing middle age, and lived at home with her parents. One previous Valentine’s Day (according to her) her father (apparently feeling sorry for her) sent flowers to her workplace which she excitedly shared on social media. She has a YouTube channel with videos of her speaking into the camera pretending to be Judy Garland, attempting to recreate some of Judy’s anecdotal stories from recorded concerts and “The Judy Garland Show.” The response in our office to initial viewings of these videos was hysterical laughter followed by, “Wow, that’s really bizarre and so sad.” Later on, the videos on her channel came in handy when we had to do a voice match.
Links to more:
(“singing” “You Made Me Love You”)
Once the information was gathered on Johnson, my lawyer drafted a “cease and desist” letter. The letter clearly told her to stop the harassment. Failure to do so would result in the filing of a restraining order. Breaking that order would result in automatic arrest and jail time.
My lawyer then advised me not to say or do anything about this issue online. The next step was that, if after receipt of the letter she continued her harassment then we would file a restraining order. Once the letter was sent and received, the harassment stopped. For a while.
Several months later, and quite out of the blue, our customer service line got a call from a woman who was (again) hysterically ranting about me. All of those customer service calls are automatically recorded. Being a tech company, we were able to compare the voice in those calls to Johnson’s voice in her YouTube videos. A match!
This time, Johnson was claiming that I was harassing her teenaged son on Facebook. Of course, she has no teenaged son and if there were an issue with Facebook you would think “mom” would go to Facebook and not my company. But since this was made up in her head looking for logic would have been futile. I said, “I’ll contact my lawyer.”
When I contacted my lawyer, I said, “Guess what? She’s at it again.” He advised me to contact her directly, via phone, and give her one last chance to stop before suffering serious legal action (restraining order). The reasoning was that if we filed a restraining order, we could show to the court that we tried to diffuse the situation multiple times prior to being forced into court action. My lawyer said to not just call her but also the numbers we had for her and her parents (since she lives with them) and let them know what’s going on. We had several phone numbers for them all thanks to our previous research.
I called Johnson and left this message on her voicemail, “Hi Kristen. This is Scott Brogan in San Francisco. I have been told that you have called my company again. We know it’s you because you were recorded and we matched the voices. I have been advised by my lawyer to contact you personally to tell you that if you do not stop harassing me and my workplace, I will file a restraining order against you in the Los Angeles Superior Court. Breaking that order is automatic arrest and jail time. So, I’m giving you one last chance. Stop harassing me. Thank you.”
When I called her parents’ numbers, I also got their voicemails and left the same basic message, “Hi. I’m Scott Brogan, webmaster of The Judy Room. Your daughter Kristen has been harassing my workplace for several months. She has been given a cease-and-desist letter by my lawyer to stop the harassment or face the consequences of a restraining order. She has recently continued that harassment. Please talk to your daughter and tell her to stop harassing me. If she doesn’t, I will file a restraining order that if broken, results in automatic arrest and jail time. Thank you.”
Things quieted down. After my phone calls, Nick changed his profile photos again, removing the image taken from my company’s website (but keeping the “Ed” theme). That didn’t mean his shenanigans had ceased. He simply went on to continue his harassment of other people via the “experience” Facebook group, but also via private messages and personal texts. Naturally, my name was the go-to scapegoat in many of these random posts.
HOW IT BEGAN
You might wonder just where all of this nastiness came from. I wasn’t the only person out there with Judy Garland groups and pages on social media or a Judy Garland website and blog, and I certainly wasn’t alone in my opinions of well-known Garfreaks. I wasn’t the only person to have run-ins with this crowd. Even my experience with John Fricke, the telling of which is what prompted their criminal actions in the first place, was not unique either. The short answer to the question is jealousy. As I have noted before, the bigger and more popular my website became the bigger and more popular the target on my back. But that is simplifying things. The complete answer is much more complicated than simple jealousy. It’s a hatred borne out of that jealousy that had been fostered, fueled, and then fed to these people for years before this incident. In a sense, these two unfortunate souls were simply pawns having their emotions and actions controlled by others.
The sequence of events that resulted in the criminal activities of 2015 began in December 2009. Lawrence Schulman’s article about the saga of the 1964 Palladium recording had recently been published in the ARSC Journal (pdf). Over at The Judy Garland Experience Yahoo group owner/moderator Berghaus had a fit. Schulman’s incredibly detailed and well-researched article had indicated that most of the general negative attitude towards a release of the complete recordings Judy Garland and daughter Liza Minnelli’s concerts at the London Palladium in 1964 was fostered and encouraged by Berghaus and the members of his Yahoo group.
The complete concert had been planned as a 2002 release by the late Scott Schechter but it was halted. Then, in early spring 2009, the word came out that the release was going to happen after all. That was halted, too. Schechter tragically died of a heart attack not long after. Copies of his planned multi-CD “complete” edition of the concert from 2002 had already made the rounds. Berghaus was aping the general disdain of the project from Fricke and author Steve Sanders. They had hated the project beginning in 2002, claiming among other reasons that Garland’s vocals were subpar and shouldn’t be shared with the general public and that the quality of the recordings themselves was also subpar. Discussions centered around the possibility of losing future Garland fans due to what they assumed would be a poorly executed release and thus a bad listening experience. Accusations and comments about things like plagiarism, sloppy work, and mediocre journalism abounded. They really did rake Schechter over the coals on something they hadn’t even seen or heard yet (excepting the copies of the aborted 2002 release which may or may not have been the same as the proposed 2009 release).
I think the problem Berghaus had was not just the negative comment about the Yahoo group, but also the fact that Schulman’s article was printed in a real and respected journal and not some random blog or social media platform. Plus, it was nominated for a publishing award. Berghaus, whose self-worth was already wrapped up in his online identity as an alleged “Garland expert,” and in his Yahoo group, was simply jealous. That jealousy was partly due to the accolades being given to someone (Schulman) that he had been poisoned to view as a nemesis. There was a long history of hatred by Fricke (and by extension, his minions including Berghaus) toward Scott Schechter. When Schechter died in 2009, that hatred was aimed at Schulman, baggage (Berghaus & Co.) and all. The reason for the hatred was competition. Fricke saw Schechter as competition in the Garland product market (CDs, DVDs, etc.) and Schulman had risen to that same level so, without Schechter to fling arrows at, Schulman became the new target. The difference was that Schulman stood up for himself more than Schechter did and was more vocal in his opinions. So, they hated him even more!
Berghaus became very active on The Judy Garland Message Board (JGMB) while at the same time and totally out of the blue, Fricke signed up and also became very active. They both targeted Schulman, challenging him on almost everything. It got so bad that they both were given a warning by the board’s owner, Dennis. I called them out for their actions in a public post to the board:
It’s very obvious to me what’s happening here. Although Daniel joined the board a few years ago, he’s been non-active and really didn’t care what anyone said here about anything, until Lawrence’s article about The Palladium was published. Daniel took offense to what was said about his Yahoo group. Suddenly, he’s very very active on the board. But aside from a few random posts here and there (usually in response to Mr. Fricke), Daniel’s focus has been negative. Looks to me like he’s monitoring the board with the intent of challenging Lawrence whenever he can and pick fights. That axe [SIC] to grind is obvious.
Dennis (going by the screenname “tinman”) created The Judy Garland Message Board in 2005 as a sister site to The Judy Room’s website. It was not like a Yahoo discussion group but more like an advanced bulletin board system (BBS). True social media was a couple of years away when it was created. I promoted it and linked to it. It was very popular and successful for several years and overall things were quite pleasant. The members got along and there was minimal drama – until Berghaus and Fricke ruined it. For most of the board’s existence, Fricke had ignored it, claiming that he barely had time for Berghaus’s Yahoo group and that certain people he didn’t like (his late rival Schechter) were members. Knowing the players involved here, I could see their sudden activity as something more than coincidental.
Berghaus had been a member of the board for a few years but hadn’t posted in over two. I warned Dennis and the other board moderators (I was a moderator as well) that I did not trust these two at all, that it was obvious to me why they were on the board, what they were doing, and that it would only end in trouble. And it did.
In late January 2010, Berghaus sent me a nasty gram and ranted about how I had all my info wrong. On the board, he had objected to the post quoted above.
I responded with “… I was only going back to this past summer, with your latest screen name, or incarnation. From then to now, it’s obvious what tenor your posts are … You didn’t like what he said about your group in his article, so you have an axe [SIC] to grind.”
Berghaus misunderstood. He assumed that I was changing my story about when he joined the board when I said, “I was only going back this past summer.” I should have been clearer. I thought it was clear that I was referencing his recent activity, not when he joined (a member’s join date was always noted with their icon identifier on the board).
I replied with a short, “Thanks for your email. I still stand by everything I said.” His reply was, “I figured as much when you de-friended on FB. You’re not exactly accurate on everything, but if you want to believe your assumptions to be fact than [SIC] so be it. Take care.” I replied, “Ditto.” And that was it.
After that initial flare-up, things eased up a bit. Then Schulman posted a link to some Garland related thing that was R rated. Berghaus and Fricke pounced. Schulman was fed up. He argued with the moderators (excluding me) and then left the board because he was being treated differently. I can’t blame him on that. Dennis was not very fair in his dealings with Schulman. He seemed to want to try to appease everyone. He changed the board rules to suit his needs at the time, which again wasn’t fair to Schulman but as Dennis had said, it was his board, he could do what he wanted.
To show my support for Schulman, I withdrew my activity from the board. I didn’t have my account deleted, I just stopped posting. It was fast becoming yet another discussion forum overrun by Fricke, his endless minutia, and his negativity toward any Garland-related project that he wasn’t involved with, in some manner. He was all over the board, all the time, correcting people, repeating things like “I’m not where I can check, but…”. “For the record…”, “communicative power of…”, “attendant to”, “and etc.” When you’ve been around as long as I have this behavior becomes very noticeable as a distinct pattern. Members of the board began to complain to me in private that they were increasingly afraid to post anything for fear of being coldly and rudely “corrected.” The board was beginning to turn into what other previous discussion forums had become, a place where members were afraid of a small group of other members. In other words, practically dead.
Side note: Not long after all of this nonsense over Schulman’s Palladium article, on April 10, 2010, an “expanded” version of the original Capitol LP was in fact released on CD by DRG Records/EMI Special Products. The single CD release added two songs not released on the original album but was far from a complete representation of the two concerts. It was newly remastered and sounded great. It was also released just a year after Schechter’s 2-CD release was planned (and advertised) but yanked at the last minute, prompting some to speculate that it was purposely attacked and yanked to make way for this DRG release which was most likely already in the early phases of its production.
THE DRAMA GETS THICKER
In February 2010, Kim Loeffler contacted me. She was attempting to gather people together to try and file some sort of legal complaint against Berghaus for harassment. She asked me for details of emails and other interactions with him. When I asked why, she told me she was putting a case together for, as she wrote, “Harrassment [SIC] and stalking on myself and others who have come forward.” She sent me an email with a few testimonials from people explaining the harassment they received from Berghaus. Two examples are below, cleaned up a bit (the content has not been changed, of course) converted into images for easier reading.
I responded to Kim with a lengthy email explaining some of what happened on the message board to give her some context. I told her, “Whether his actions warrant an actual lawsuit is beyond my knowledge. I know that cyberbullying is a big deal now. I think the hardest thing is to prove it. I wish you luck with it. I can’t really help. Everything that I’ve been involved with is on The Board, and easy to access. I haven’t really been bullied by him. I’ve watched his actions from the sidelines and I simply shake my head.” My opinion was that no court (or lawyer) would care about Garland queens and their online bickering. I declined to be a part of it.
I didn’t hear anything from Loeffler nor about what she was doing for a long while. After my review of the A Star Is Born Blu-ray “Digi-book” was posted on my blog in June 2010 (the blog that no one ever reads according to Berghaus), I was persona non grata at Berghaus’s Yahoo group. I had dared to say something negative about Fricke’s text which made me grist for the mill (Fricke had written the booklet that came with the discs). Not long after that review, I posted my interview with Schulman about the upcoming “Judy Garland – Lost Tracks” CD set. In that interview, Schulman is very open and honest about his feelings toward Berghaus’s group and the nuttier Garfreaks out there, with observations dating back to his experiences in the late 1960s. He had referred to a segment of Judy’s fan base as “peculiar” and Berghaus’s group as “no more than a cult whose guru is John Fricke.” That went over like a turd in a punchbowl and only added to the sequence of events a month later.
Berghaus posted on his group that “someone” (hinting it was Loeffler) was threatening him with a lawsuit and/or some kind of legal action. He went on to explain that this person had somehow hacked into his Facebook account and/or Facebook group, and was using them to send out nasty notes. In all my time on Facebook at that point, I had never heard of anyone hacking into a Garland fan’s account or group, especially to that extent. Generally speaking, the hacking of accounts did and does happen but it’s not that easy and is beyond Loeffler’s capabilities. He went on to claim that this person was threatening him with bodily harm, was telling people on Facebook that he was dead (that’s how his post started, with “Just so you know, I’m not dead.”) and was going to take him and his group down. The following, from February 2010, is an example of one of his emails sent to people he thought were a part of Loeffler’s alleged threats:
Berghaus’s words and actions were very similar to the paranoid claims Mark Harris was making before his big meltdown on “The Judy List” almost ten years earlier (where he was the owner/moderator). Harris was claiming back in 2001 that someone had hacked into his bulletin board system and was wreaking havoc, threatening physical harm, and more. And just like Harris, Berghaus kept providing updates to what was going on, even though he said he didn’t want to get people involved and didn’t want to say too much because of alleged pending legalities.
Berghaus also alleged that Loeffler’s claims were that it was Berghaus and Fricke who had told her that they were going to get her banned from the Internet. He then said he couldn’t really say much about it but wanted everyone to know in case they received some weird email or notices. According to Loeffler, they already had someone else banned. As late as August 18, 2010, in an attempt to comment on a post on The Judy Room’s blog (JudyGarland News.com), Berghaus mentioned a “Sally” who he claimed was banned from the Internet and “confessed to everything” (below). That comment was not approved for posting.
I don’t buy that – it’s pretty hard to keep someone off the Internet completely (if that’s possible at all), and it takes some serious legal action, money, time, and I would assume “showing cause” to even get close. I thought they were all full of shit. I don’t doubt that Loeffler was threatening Berghaus because she had come to me for help as she had gone to others and had shared a few of their emails with me. I also, from what I have seen over the years, don’t doubt that Berghaus was making threats to Loeffler. I believe (although I can’t prove it) that much of it was probably made up lies to trash Loeffler’s name (that wouldn’t be unusual with that group) because of her alleged threats to him, or they both simply had active imaginations that created paranoid delusional reactions and idle threats. I was glad to not be a part of it, but it’s included here because it makes a difference later. In late August 2010, Berghaus notified his group:
THE 2010 MELTDOWN
The drama that had begun in December 2009 over at The Judy Garland Message Board came to a big dramatic finale in July and August 2010. There were two things that happened, at times happening concurrently. First, there was the “Lost Tracks” debacle. On the heels of that was the drama over my posting MP3 files to my website which was tied into what became the final blow-up at The Judy Garland Message Board.
In July 2010, Schulman and I were preparing for the big press release and notices about the upcoming “Judy Garland – Lost Tracks” 4-CD anthology which Schulman had spearheaded and compiled. A few weeks prior to the actual release date for the set, a member of the various discussion forums had somehow gotten ahold of an image of the flyer for the set. Even Schulman and I hadn’t seen it yet. He posted it everywhere. The cat was out of the bag. In response, I got the approval to go live with the pages in The Judy Garland Online Discography and posted a notice on The Judy Room’s news page. True to form, Berghaus immediately came out against the set claiming, without proof, that most of the recordings were taken from his group’s “archives.” That was a plainly stupid claim. His group didn’t have archives because Yahoo didn’t allow the space for archiving very much in their groups. They were discussion groups, not stand-alone websites which was one of the reasons he swapped out most of the files every week. He always contended (and still does) that he has some big room of physical archives in which he periodically “discovers” a hidden gem after rooting around. Everyone knows he gets most of his “archives” in digital format, so his silly claims are taken as just that, silly. Anyway, the real reason he immediately hated the set (based solely on the flyer and my web pages) was Schulman’s involvement. If it had been compiled by anyone other than Schulman, his response would have been completely different.
Regarding the alleged “theft” of things from Berghaus’s purported archives, Schulman had obtained original transcription discs for most of the radio performances from the owners of those discs and had two engineers re-master them and the recordings from other sources (images of a few of the sourced discs can be found here). So, even if a track was of the same performance as an MP3 posted on Berghaus’s group, the source material was of a higher quality than those very compressed MP3 files. We just sat back and let them all stew in their own juices. We watched Berghaus slam the graphics and design of the box, and Fricke made a typical snippy remark responding to someone’s query with “I’m not involved in any of the Schulman and Brogan ‘productions.’” That cracked me up. We remained silent. Let the set speak for itself.
In late July, a week before the set was due to be released in the UK (August 2 in the UK and August 10 in the US), Berghaus posted horrible sounding versions of the complete Garland solo of “Bill” and a part of her solo “Medley” which were the previously unreleased first-ever Garland studio recordings made in 1935. They were the anchors of the set. He proceeded to complain that Judy’s performance was bad (it wasn’t), saying that she sounded inexperienced and that it was obvious Roger Edens (her musical mentor at MGM and for the rest of her life) did it all.
How Berghaus got a hold of copies of the recordings is anyone’s guess as they had been under wraps for, literally, several years. He took them down about sixteen hours later after being notified by the set’s label, JSP Records, that he had no right to post them. On the one hand, he screams theft. On the other hand, he freely posts copies of recordings that actually were stolen and he knowingly posted these two without permission. Later, he went on a tangent about copyrights and getting notices from Schulman about his actions. The hypocrisy of it all was noticed by many.
When the set was released everyone was thrilled. The accolades started pouring in. It received tons of great press, from real critics and not just online self-appointed “experts,” including this major review by Will Friedwald in the Wall Street Journal. Everyone who had received a copy of the set raved about it. That’s when Berghaus recanted his original negative statement of Judy’s vocals. Fricke had posted early on, when Berghaus posted the files, how much he loved the records. When Berghaus changed his tune about the two recordings it was not without some typically bitchy comments about hearing it all (meaning the rest of the tracks) before on his group, and so on. Sour grapes. He hadn’t even heard the set yet. But because it was a Schulman release Berghaus had to find some kind of fault in it.
Since he couldn’t be a part of the set (nor the attention it was receiving), and his ploy to try to jump the gun by posting the two rare recordings got him smacked down, Berghaus posted a “Lost Garland Album” to his YouTube channel. That “album” was a collection of pre-recordings that Judy had made for her 1963/64 TV series, “The Judy Garland Show.” His use of the word “lost” in the title was an obvious attempt to jump on the bandwagon of the critical and popular success of the release of the “Lost Tracks” set.
Why would anyone go to such lengths regarding a new CD set? Well, the release of the set was monumental. That’s not hyperbole. The reason it was monumental was the premiere release of those two Decca test records Judy recorded on March 29, 1935 (at age 12). They were part of the “holy grail” of lost Garland recordings. They are Judy Garland’s very first studio recordings. They are the only recordings of Judy being accompanied at the piano by her mother, Ethel. They are the only studio recordings she made of those particular songs. Finally, they are the only recordings of her voice as it sounded when she auditioned for and was signed by MGM (that following September) and then put under the tutelage of Roger Edens. Several years prior to the set’s release the discs had been put up for auction, but the highest bid did not reach the reserve price, so the discs went back to the original owners (see the link above for details). To have them finally be released was thanks to the herculean efforts of Schulman and the disc owner’s willingness to work with him after the disappointment of the auction. Just the fact that they even survived is a miracle.
The entire sequence of events with Berghaus was ridiculous and a sad example of just how petty and, well, needy some Garfreaks can be. Afterward, Berghaus tried to claim that it was his group that “premiered” the recordings to the world. This wasn’t true because his group was private, so they weren’t the “Internet world premiere” as claimed. This was just more of his desperation to be validated.
THE MESSAGE BOARD DEBACLE
Around that same time, I suddenly didn’t have access to Berghaus’s Yahoo group. I had noticed, after a few days, that I hadn’t seen anything at all. I thought it was odd. His group’s activity had recently decreased but not down to zero. Believe me, if he didn’t post all the time, hardly anyone else would. I posted to the message board and asked if anyone else had any problems. Then when I clicked on the group to re-join, it said I was “banned.” I went back to the board and said I was “banned” and wondered why. Martha, who was another moderator on the board and had recently cozied up to Berghaus & Co. said, “You should ask the moderator.” Fair enough. In theory, I should have emailed Berghaus directly. But why would I go to him when it was obvious from his recent comments and actions that this sudden banning was most likely malicious and in its intent and execution, banning someone without any notice or explanation.
I found out a little later just why. I had been updating The Judy Room’s MP3 files page with many new (to my site) audio files from my hard drive. I had so many that I didn’t know where they all came from (some had been in the folders for years). I also had multiple versions of the same performance. I removed singling out specific people (and his group) on that MP3 page because I thought people would get the wrong idea (not knowing where files came from) that I was slighting them by not listing them as a resource. So, I added a blanket thank you to everyone who provided files. He was angry that I removed the singling out of his group and the link. In all honesty, why would I keep a link to his group after all of that drama over the release of “Lost Tracks”?
Regarding being banned, I emailed him personally on August 7, 2010:
Nothing. No word. I posted on the board that I had emailed him, but that he couldn’t man-up and tell me anything. Here’s what I said:
Note that message board posts included in this article are all transcribed unedited excepting the use of [sic].
TOPIC TITLE: The Garland “Experience”
“Experience” is right! A bad one.
Originally I was going to let this all pass. But in light of recent accusations by Daniel Berghaus on his group, and the fact that a few people have asked me what the heck is going on, I feel compelled to give my side of the “story” here. I was going to put something on the Judy News Blog, but it’s not really “Judy News.” Just more drama:
It’s been brought to my attention that Berghaus is accusing me of “conspiring” against his Yahoo group. He has also accused me of being a part of the “strange forces conspiring against [his] group” that “it turns out are more connected to eachother [sic] than anyone would have imagined, but they haven’t even made a dent in our armour [sic].”
He is alluding that I am somehow a part of his recent drama with Kim Loeffler. I’m not. Nor am I “conspiring” against his group. I have no reason to – it makes no sense.
To continue, he further stated: “P.S. Sorry for editing out the name of the site from your post, but that site apparently doesn’t want us to plug them anymore, and THAT I will happily comply with.” He says this, but all the while the subject line of the posts are: “Scott B.’s site.” Everyone knows what “Scott B.’s site” is. That makes no sense either.
Add to that an additional post that I’m “lying” about where I got my audio files, and not giving his group (him) credit. I was “banned” from his group without explanation – what makes him think I’m going to continue to promote it? Again, that makes no sense.
I began updating my audio page weeks ago, long before this “banishment” of me from his group. When I was “banned” I sent him a private email, giving him the opportunity to explain. All I got was the silent treatment. He can’t “man up” and tell me directly. No, he would rather be passive aggressive, wait a week after my “banishment” (which was three days after my query), and start in on the accusations in a forum where I have no opportunity to defend myself. If he’s angry with me, he should have said so, directly to me. Especially after I gave him the opportunity to do so. That opportunity is now gone, replaced by this passive aggressive behavior that he thrives in.
For the record, as someone else likes to say, I have not “conspired” with anyone, against anyone or any group. I barely have time to update my own site, let alone “conspire” against anyone else.
So, that’s what has happened. It’ll pass because it’s all silly and petty. I only bring it up now because, again, people have asked. Plus, being accused of “conspiracy,” I think I should defend myself.
That got Berghaus’s attention. On August 11 he finally replied to my email. He claimed to have banned me because I said something “bad” about him in a private email to someone that was forwarded to him. He then didn’t like the way I reacted to being banned, faulted me for that, then got mad and hence, his passive-aggressive behavior, and finally this email.
Here’s the exchange, starting with his email:
His “conspiracy accusations” were the only reason I even engaged him. The Judy Room is not dependent on him or any membership in any group. But, in a rant about the latest with Loeffler and her legal actions (which she claimed never happened), he claimed that I was a part of this “conspiracy” against him and his group. The reason for that is in my response to her that previous February, where I said, “Whether his actions warrant an actual lawsuit is beyond my knowledge. I know that cyber bullying is a big deal now. I think the hardest thing is to prove it. I wish you luck with it. I can’t really help. Everything that I’ve been involved with is on The Board, and easy to access.” She apparently sent him either my full email to her or at least that snippet because he then told people that I was working with her and noted that I wished her luck.
His reply to my email was:
I ignored him. I wasn’t going to continue a futile back and forth with him or anyone who would throw themselves on a sword to get the last word. As they say, play stupid games get stupid prizes. I didn’t want his stupid prizes.
But what IS funny is once I ignored him, he then tried to join at least two other Garland Yahoo groups that he assumed I was a member of. One of them was – Loeffler’s group! Well, that just showed me that the further I am from these people, the better. Did he really think she would let him be a part of her group?
The finale to all of this was my “demotion” from moderator to a regular member at the message board, all because of this drama. When I posted that notice on the board about Berghaus’s group and actions – I also sent the following to the moderators of the board (in the board moderators-only section which wasn’t public):
I thought it would go away, but it hasn’t. Now Berghaus is accusing me of “conspiring” against his group, as a “strange force” that is one of several that “it turns out are more connected to each other than anyone would have imagined, but they haven’t even made a dent in our armour.”
That’s crazy talk. I can only surmise that he’s alluding to his recent drama with Kim Loeffler and that I’m somehow connected to that. Again, crazy – and paranoid.
To prove that crazy is as crazy does, he goes on to say “P.S. Sorry for editing out the name of the site from your post, but that site apparently doesn’t want us to plug them anymore, and THAT I will happily comply with.” He says this, but all the while the subject line of the posts are: “Scott B.’s site.” That makes no sense.
Add to that a recent post from him that I’m “lying” about where I got these audio files, and not giving credit. Um, I was banned from his group – what makes him think I’m going to continue to promote it? Crazy! (For the record, I haven’t said where my files came from at all, one way or the other).
Eventually he will run out of people to have as enemies. But this is, really, beyond nutty. I was updating my audio page two weeks ago. And, if anyone cares, it’s not all of the files were “stolen” from his group. But suddenly I’m “banned” – and when I ask why, in a private email, I get the silent treatment. He won’t man up and tell me directly. He waits a week after my “banishment” which is three days after my query, to start in on the accusations.
If he’s angry about “his” audio files, he should say so. To me. But I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think his drama with Kim Loeffler (all that weird stuff about lawyers and police and what have you), has fizzled out. He needs a new enemy to continue getting people on his group fired up, and I’m it. First it was Scott S. – but he died. Then it was that person selling CDs on eBay, then Larry (because of Larry’s article), then Kim Loeffler and that weird business about detectives and the police, and now me.
While we’re on the subject, I’d like to point out that he was dormant on this board for over a year, but when he got his nose out of joint over Larry’s Palladium article, not only does he suddenly become chatty cathy, but he enlists John Fricke – and they both go after Larry at every turn. Larry was just as stubborn as anyone, and wasn’t perfect either. Regardless, it was a calculated move on their part. Sorry Martha – but I still think Fricke is pulling a lot of these strings. I saw back then what was happening but I stood back to see how it would play out.
I’m not standing back anymore. I’m a founding member of this board, which is a sister site of The Judy Room. But I’m not going to be a part of any board or any other endeavor that welcomes someone who is so obviously unbalanced and is targeting me for no reason – and making accusations about me that are not true. I think it’s obvious what kind of person we’re dealing with here.
Berghaus hasn’t posted here since beginning this latest smear campaign/drama. But he will. His ego will demand it. He’s not getting any response out of me on his group (obviously, since I’ve been banned), so he’ll have to do something. These people live for that attention, and when they don’t get it, they seek it out.
I know there are board rules, but there are also exceptions to rules. And he’s the exception. He hasn’t attacked me here – yet. But he will. And I would think that anyone who goes after one of our board moderators, whether on this board or somewhere else, would not be welcome.
Since we alter the rules as various unforeseen events happen, my suggestion is to create this new rule:
Anyone who has demonstrated aggressive behavior to another member of the board, either at the board or elsewhere, will be subject to immediate removal from the board
I think that’s only fair. If you don’t agree, then I would have to sever all ties with this board. I don’t like giving ultimatums, but I’m not going to play his game nor will I sit back and allow him to continue to be a member of this board while attacking me elsewhere.
Thanks in advance.
Dennis responded with this:
Sure, we could all do the “Schulman” and leave the board, but then – since the board is not the problem – this would be beyond nutty. I will not accept any kind of ultimatum being imposed on me, I guess you would declare me crazy if I did such a thing to you. Furthermore users here cannot be punished for any action they take somewhere else; there’s absolutely no logic in such thoughts. People would think that I had lost my mind and I’ll not make such a fool of myself.
Scott, we’ve had such great years with the Judy Garland Message Board as the “official” board of TheJudyRoom. I don’t see why we should ever put an end to that cooperation, because – once again – this board and the vast majority of its members are not the problem. It’s rather unfair to try to get us mixed up in issues that are really happening apart from the board between adults (who should be able to sort things out or just stop communicating).
I’d suggest you, Scott, to step down from being a moderator. Be a board V.I.P. for some time, let us others follow discussion closely and sort things out whenever there might be need to do so. I promise that we’ll act a lot quicker than in the inital “Schulman case”. I still can’t understand all the sudden agitation, but I’m trying to make things work out for all of us (as always).
At the same time, my public post about what happened was “moved” and when I asked why I was ignored. I sent the moderators another message amending my idea for a new rule to state that members who are aggressive to moderators outside of the board be removed (rather than aggressive to all members). It was a minor detail but at the time I thought that might be fairer.
I was ignored on that, too. I waited for a response. I resent my “why did you move my topic” query to Dennis, and said, “I thought maybe this didn’t go through.” I received a snippy, “If you don’t see anything it means it hasn’t been read.” I waited again. Nothing. So, I removed links to the message board from The Judy Room site. That got a swift response from Dennis. I was demoted, sans any prior notification, from being a moderator.
Here’s his message to me after my demotion:
as you might have expected after removing the links to the board from https://thejudyroom.com/: your moderator privileges have been revoked. As I wrote in the ‘Board Matters’ section: this is a huge personal letdown and a big, big shame (if done on purpose). Mocking “peculiar” Garland fans is nothing but a big joke by now.
Dennis’s comment about mocking “peculiar” Garland fans was his way of referencing the interview Schulman gave to this blog in which he said that Judy fans can be “peculiar.” I don’t think anyone could deny that fact. Apparently, he took that personally which was partly why I was currently receiving this silent and harsh treatment.
Meanwhile, I had sent this to the moderators:
I didn’t think I was mocking anyone. If that’s how everyone took it, then I obviously wasn’t very clear.
I posted my “why was this moved” query and got no response. I then posted parts of the latest diatribe from Berghaus, and got no response.
The only response I DID get was to my earlier request to have a new rule made as well as my statement “I’m not going to play his game nor will I sit back and allow him to continue to be a member of this board while attacking me elsewhere.”
I was mulling over the idea of “stepping down” as moderator, or being a “VIP,” or even suggesting that the idea for a new rule be changed to read that if someone went after the moderators, not all members, they would get removed or at least get a warning. But the continued, and total, silence I received since that initial reply gave me my answer.
However, I sure did get an immediate response, and demotion, within hours of removing a link from my site. From where I sit, that says a lot. I didn’t get “a single word of explanation” for the removal of my topic, yet I’m expected to give an explanation for removing a link on my site? And where in the board rules does it say that moderators will be automatically demoted (and a public noticed posted) if they remove links to the board from their site?
I’m sorry too. But I can’t sit on this board, watch Berghaus post, and pretend nothing happened. He “banned” me for no reason other than spite. He only gave me his “reason” after I called him out publicly and told him to “man up” and the reason was: Spite!
I was happy living with being banned (I didn’t participate in the group much anyway), and wasn’t going to say anything more, but he just had to cross that line and make those accusations that not only was I conspiring against his group, but that I was conspiring with Kim L. and was a part of that weird business. That’s borderline slander. When I defended myself on the board, my defense was moved. And my question as to why it was moved was ignored.
I WILL NOT be a part of any endeavor Berghaus is involved in. He can spin this however he wants, maybe he already has. He’ll move on to his next perceived enemy in due time. What I DO care about is being accused of the things he accused me of, and then have him come here and pretend like nothing happened. I’m not sure what game he’s playing, or if he’s just plain nuts.
An example of this “game” happened yesterday. I ignored his most recent email rant to me, and within a short time he was trying to get access to several other Yahoo groups that he thinks I’m a member of, including Kim’s. That makes no sense if he’s supposedly in some serious legal battle with her and detectives and the police and all that jazz – and told not to contact her, to leave it up to the authorities. (I don’t remember all the details of that recent drama).
At any rate, as I said before, I can’t sit back and pretend nothing happened. It did. And as I said before, the total silence from the board until my link removal, coupled with the swift public notice of my demotion from moderator, says a lot.
I’m sorry, too, if you were offended by my “ultimatum” regarding Berghaus. But that’s how I feel.
I would hope that when (not if) he starts posting things about me, or more likely his thinly veiled swipes at me and my site, the board moderators will move those just as swiftly as my post was moved.
To quote Martha: Carry on.
A day later (August 13) Dennis started a public thread about me being demoted, told everyone that I tried to blackmail him, and even quoted my first new rule idea. He said he didn’t want any of this discussion at the board but then opened up a discussion.
Since Dennis had removed some of my posts on the board, on August 16, I posted this statement to the blog to clarify what had been going on. The post irritated Berghaus enough to actually attempt to comment when he saw what “Alex” had commented on the same notice. Berghaus must have been trolling around as he angrily wrote this diatribe because although the comment was referencing Alex, it was posted in response to someone else’s comment on a different article (hence the ‘in reply to Katherine” identifier). I removed Mark’s last name for obvious reasons. This was posted above but it’s pertinent here, too.
In the end, I posted to the board one last time, but my post wasn’t about any of this drama. I responded to a weird ranking that Dennis came up with. Dennis tried a new ranking system and appointed me and John Fricke as “VIP” members. Dennis then tried appointing us as “Experts” and that’s when I posted my last post saying, “I’m not comfortable being ranked as an Expert because I’ve never said that I’m an expert in anything, please take that off.” He didn’t. After a while, he finally changed me to “Ex Board Moderator.” And that’s where I thought I would sit for all eternity. Eventually, I was removed completely. In 2016 the message board folded. It was another casualty of the popularity of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and others.
THE END OF THIS SAGA
In the years in between these events in 2009/2010, and the events at my workplace in 2015, I didn’t hear from Berghaus or any of his group personally, but they kept obsessing over me. People would send me screenshots of their latest accusations and lies about me as posted in their group. My response to the folks who sent me these screenshots was generally, “They can say and do what they want, it’s in their private groups so they’re just screaming in their own echo chambers.”
Even Fricke got into the act by giving people ultimatums that if they were friends with me on Facebook, they couldn’t be friends with him in real life. That’s what I was told by some mutual friends. It’s interesting to note that Fricke would give people ultimatums about Facebook when at the time he claimed that he wasn’t on the platform at all. Since that ultimatum happened around the same time that Johnson and Nick were harassing me and my employer, I have no reason to think that what my friends told me isn’t true. There was a smear campaign to ruin my name online and, of course, get me fired from my job which was completely unrelated to my Judy Garland efforts online.
I’m not the only one that’s been the target of their hate. Not by a long shot. Although from what I’ve seen and have been told, Berghaus is obsessively jealous of my website which is the root cause of his lies and misinformation. However, many other people have also been harassed by this group. Some people have been harassed relentlessly so. Berghaus & Co. have actively gone after people over many imagined slights, always playing the victim. At times, he has galvanized his group to be a virtual version of the angry mob hunting their targets down and harassing them or attempting to get them booted off some platform. In all fairness, there have been a few times when he’s been justified in feeling slighted, to a point. But even in those instances, he’s blown them way out of proportion. As they say, if you don’t want something shared online, don’t share it online! Whether fair or not, it’s futile to try to monitor the Internet and find where your things pop up just to then engage in a hate campaign against that person.
The Judy Garland Experience has become known in Garfandom as the notoriously toxic repository of the freakiest of the Garfreaks. It has the reputation for being overrun by immature, volatile people who spend more time making fun of others (and each other), spreading gossip, and harassing people than it does in actually “preserving” the legacy of Judy Garland (as they repeatedly claim). Many people have left or been booted out as a result. For Berghaus, (the Lost Tracks story above is a good example), he only cares about getting kudos to feed his fragile ego. As noted in the previous chapter, he’s the stereotype of the “self-loathing gay.” He’s in his early 60s, lives alone, is grossly overweight, and apparently, he has nothing to do all day but stare at a computer.
For Berghaus, his entire self-worth is wrapped up in his online “Garland identity,” so he’s lost much (if not all) of his grip with reality and only cares about the empty “likes” and ego-stroking he gets from social media. I think that’s why he’s always fighting with someone over something. There is always some drama (whether imagined or not) to be turned into a vehicle for validation. “He’s not happy unless he’s unhappy” as the saying goes. He relays his faux struggles and martyrdom to his group and gets support and approval. The best is when he goes for the emotional response with things like, “How dare so-and-so to do that to such-and-such when such-and-such is going through [insert personal crisis/malady]” making it seem personal. As noted above, none of it is really about “preserving” Judy Garland’s legacy as he claims. But he should be happy, he has achieved a kind of fame in Garfandom, just not for the reasons he thinks.
In the end, the point here is that over the five years between 2010 and 2015, the hatred that was fostered and encouraged in their forums resulted in the unhinged and psychotic actions of a couple of very unstable people. If it weren’t for the insecurities and jealousies of people like Berghaus and Fricke that created and fueled the constant lies and misinformation, I doubt that what happened at my work would have happened at all. But when people are brainwashed over a long period of time (as events in early 2021 have shown us), they can be capable of erratic, illogical, dangerous, and yes, criminal behavior. Lucky for me their actions didn’t have the result they wanted, which was to get me fired. In fact, in my next job performance review, I received a raise.
© 2021 Scott Brogan, The Judy Room & Judy Garland News & Events
Back to Chapter Eight – “Obsequious Sycophants
Continue to Chapter Ten – TBA
Wow! I haven’t seen Those sites/names in Years!! It brought back some Very Unpleasant memories! Good Riddance to all if them!!
Wow, some people. I have been a target/victim of one of the parties mentioned….and it hurt. However there is recovery… 🙂
I remember when your Yahoo group was a target at that same time. Crazy times!
I got kicked off the JGMB too. I was obviously far too opinionated for their liking, especially when they tried to silence me!
You don’t hear much of dicky-picy-Fricke anymore.
Thank goodness! I have always got the sense that he is a ‘leech’ when it comes to the preservation of Judy’s work.
Thank you, Lawrence!
Thank you, Scott for another fascinating and hilarious chapter in the history of Garfreakdom! It was worth the wait!
Reading all this reminds me of how much I miss my dear friend Scott Schechter. He was a very kind & sweet man. Period.
I miss him too. He was always 100% supportive of The Judy Room and was a kind and generous friend.