Some days, you just don’t want to leave the house. Instead, you need a day to yourself.
For me, a perfect Robby day this time of year would go a little something like this: sitting in front of the fire with a hot bowl of home made tomato soup, wrapped in my favorite blanket, listening to the soothing sounds of a variety of divas from years gone by. Of course, perfection and my reality are currently not speaking to each other so I have to compromise a space heater in place of a fire, an I’m sure it has long since expired can of Chef Boyardee, and settle for being wrapped in a mangy and musty smelling bathrobe that should have been put to sleep years ago. And my soothing divas? Being too lazy to actually charge and update my iPod, my options of kind of limited. Thank God for the one compact disc I have kept in my possession through music’s technological advances: Judy At Carnegie Hall.
This of course made me laugh to myself, because it just so happened to be another not leave the house day that first introduced me to this particular divas.
It was a cold winter evening some years back. My then Boyfriend decided we should scrap a date outing and instead go back to his place and hang out for the night. As any red blooded American gay boy would assume, I thought going back to his place and hanging meant it was time for sex.
Imagine then, to my horror, when instead of whipping out his, well, you know, he pulled out a Judy Garland record. An actual vinyl Judy Garland record.
Though I don’t mean to be insensitive with my language, it was perhaps the gayest moment of my life. And that’s not a compliment.
“What the fuck is that?” I blurted out.
“You have to hear this!” he exclaimed proudly. “It’s my favorite!”
He put the record on the turntable ever so gently and joined me on his couch, where he proceeded to hold me and sing along simultaneously. It was kind of cute in a goofy way. As the record played, you could physically see him transported to another time, another place. It was a beautiful moment, but secretly, and selfishly, I wanted our adventures with “Dorothy” to end our adventure of a condom hunt to commence.
But that was not to be. Sex would not happen this day.
Instead, for two hours, we sat there, holding each other, he holding on to Judy’s every word, every syllable, and me...well...I was just trying to hold my tongue.
“Isn’t she amazing?" he asked me, sincerely. “It’s like you can actually hear her own heart breaking with every line she sings. She doesn’t just sing a song, she lives them!”
The song, by the way, was “By Myself".
Ironic really. At that moment as I was losing patience, all I wanted was to be by myself.
“Honey, I don’t know how else to ask this,” I began, “but what’s the big deal about the girl who did The Wizard of Oz like a hundred years ago?”
So there it was. I had laid it out on the table. The phenomenon known as Judy Garland was completely lost on this gay boy. But instead of looking at me like I had just cut one at temple, he simply clutched my hand and offered, “One day you’ll appreciate her. And you’ll have me to thank.”
Of course now I was on a mission. Screw one day. My impetuous self wanted to know now! What was the freakin’ fascination gay men have with Judy Garland?
Legend has it the passing of Judy Garland precipitated the Stonewall riots of 1969. I can just hear it now. “Jesus, first the police treat us like shit and now the good Lord has taken Judy away? Somebody hand me a brick!” Funny, but an insult to the men and women that started the fight for gay rights.
I even pondered her status as the queen of the musical from the golden age of MGM to rationalize the fixation. Cause you know us gays love our musicals. But even that was stretching it. I think she’s more famous for her behaviors during this era than her actual body of work. Really. How many of you have actually seen The Pirate? Anybody? How many of you knew she got kicked off of The Valley of the Dolls because for being undependable? Okay, I hear some murmuring. How many of you have heard she popped pills to get through her day the way most of us use coffee? I see hands. I rest my case.
Somewhere in the middle of what I dubbed Judy-Gate, then Boyfriend unceremoniously dumped me. And he did this in a voice mail. I was blindsided. Have I already called him a bastard yet? And say? Didn’t MGM do something similar to Judy when they let her go after all of her years of loyalty and service?
Of course after the initial shock and anger of being left faded, I became a basket case. I would drive around for hours passing by our favorite places, all the while listening to the mix CDs he had made me during our time together. Self torture. Isn’t it divine?
And then, a stunning revelation. There I was driving up Monroe Avenue, alternately bawling my fucking head off and scanning though CD tracks, when suddenly I heard the voice. The song? "By Myself".
The lyrics and her powerful phrasing hit me with such clarity I have not seen since.
“I’ll face the unknown…I’ll build a world of my own…I’m by myself alone.”
Strength over adversity. What other reason would a gay man need to idolize this fantastic force? The condescending bastard was right. I now did appreciate her and I did have him to thank.
So here I sit listening to Judy on my Robby day. Still no real fire. No homemade tomato soup. But I’m relishing the peacefulness of being alone, by myself.
Essential Download: "By Myself"
Artisit: Judy Garland
Available On: The Essential Judy Garland
Originally published in the March 2007 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.