15 Ways Judy Garland Out-Sex-And-Drugged Most Rock Stars
When you think of rock and roll, you may not think of Judy Garland, but there’s every reason that you should. On top of being a once-in-a-lifetime musical talent who simply chose a big band instead of a rock band, she could party with the best of them, with a string of affairs with Hollywood’s most wanted men and a literally legendary tolerance for substances. To be clear, Garland’s drug addiction was horrific, but it was also pretty impressive.
MGM Started Her Young
After signing with MGM when she was just 13, the studio put Judy on the standard regimen of “pills to keep us on our feet long after we were exhausted, then they’d take us to the studio hospital and knock us out with sleeping pills … then after four hours they’d wake us up and give us the pep pills again so we could work 72 hours in a row.” That would turn even most adults into Ozzy Osbourne, shuffling around in perpetual disorientation and somehow with a British accent.
She Was Married Five Times
Every rock star has a string of short-lived marriages, and Garland was no different. She’d had five husbands by the time of her death at 47, only one of which lasted longer than a few years (one lasted only three months), and as she got older, they stayed roughly the same age. Yes, Judy Garland was the Golden Age Matthew McConaughey.
She Got Around
Contrary to the innocent persona she played onscreen, Garland had friends-with-benefits relationships with her fellow teen idols from the time she was 15. Between (and sometimes during) marriages, she had affairs with some of Hollywood’s most desirable men, including bandleader Artie Shaw (who went on to marry Lana Turner and Ava Gardner), actor Glenn Ford, and screenwriter Joseph Mankiewicz (yes, Mank’s brother). What can we say but “get it, girl”?
She Nabbed Zorro
In fact, Mank, Jr. was a diversion from Tyrone Power, best known for 1940’s The Mask of Zorro and being the Chris Evans of his day, while he was training with the Marines. All three were technically or overtly married at the time, so it was a real mobius strip of infidelity.
Her Network of Drug Dealers
By 1949, Garland had such a well-oiled machine of doctors and pharmacists supplying her with drugs that friends observed “each evening, between seven and eight o’clock, something like half a dozen motorcycles” brought “drugstore deliveries from miles around.” Again, that’s hardcore, but like … man, that is hardcore.
Her Slapstick Affair With Orson Welles
While she was engaged to Vincente Minelli and he was married to Rita Hayworth, Garland’s affair with Orson Welles reached “sitcom hijinks” levels of wacky. She once sent him a bouquet of flowers that Hayworth assumed were for her and invited both her fiance and lover to dinner on the same night, but quick thinking relieved her from the necessity of pulling a “two dates in the same restaurant.”
The Gene Kelly System
If you were thinking this was going to be another affair, surprise! It’s drugs! When not even her mobile pharmaceutical gang could satisfy her, Garland began making semi-frequent stops at the Kelly residence, which was halfway between her own home and the studio, to “use the bathroom,” which Kelly’s wife soon realized was code for “steal just enough of their sleeping pills to put them in a newfangled Gaslight situation.”
She Robbed Parties
Perhaps emboldened by her routine tap-dancing heists, Garland soon developed a reputation for “shamelessly burgling medicine chests” at parties. Van Johnson’s wife even got an earful from Rosalind Russell after bringing Garland to a party at her house only to leave her medicine cabinet completely empty.
40 Pills a Day
It’s no wonder she had to resort to such drastic measures -- by 1968, Garland was taking 40 Ritalin pills every day. We took exactly one of those things one time in college, and we’re pretty sure she was superhuman.
The Singer and the Songwriter
You know the Frank Sinatra song “That Old Black Magic”? It’s about Garland, written by Johnny Mercer, who she dated in the ‘40s and also wrote such classics as “Moon River” and “Jeepers Creepers.” Then she also banged Frank Sinatra because nobody knew how to make something all about her like Garland (though she complained that “all he wants is blow jobs”).
She Was Probably Bisexual
Much like those who dress up as her today, Garland almost certainly enjoyed same-gender relations. How often and with whom are hard to pin down, but one of her partners was probably MGM publicist Betty Asher, who was so close to Garland that many suspected they were more than just gals being pals. She was also a studio spy, but that doesn’t necessarily preclude naked time. See: every James Bond movie.
She Was Constantly Setting Herself on Fire
Garland had a habit of passing out with a cigarette in her hand, which led to at least two fires, one in 1953 in which she barely escaped the flames when her husband carried her out of the burning bedroom and then a few years later when she suffered burns to her legs after her nightgown caught fire. Even in her delirious state, she managed to quip to her manager, “I better wear tights.”
Not Even a Glass Table to the Face Could Wake Her Up
The manager of her comeback tour in the early ‘60s also wrote that one night, as Garland stumbled to bed, she face-planted into a glass coffee table. Motionless and bleeding profusely, the manager thought she was dead, but it turned out she was just sleeping.
On a trip to Nassau, the manager recalled putting an intoxicated Garland to bed only to come back and find her on the balcony in her underwear, singing “Over the Rainbow” to a group of longshoremen on the street below. It’s hard to know what to do in that situation, whether to look away or simply accept the good fortune of a free Judy Garland show and applaud, but it seems the men did the latter.
Her Tragic Death
Sadly, it all caught up to Garland in 1969, when she was found dead of what was ruled an “incautious self-overdosage” with the equivalent of 10 Seconals in her system, ingested over the course of several hours. That might seem like a lot of drugs to forget you took, but the woman was up to 40 pills a day. We don’t even remember if we took our antidepressant this morning.
Top image: Clarence Sinclair Bull/Wikimedia Commons