When Judy Garland came to town, her star power could not be ignored.
That was true when her career was up, as well as when it was down — like when the talented, but troubled singer landed in Toronto more than a half-century ago.
In February 1965, Garland came north to play a series of gigs as part of a comeback effort in a career that had stalled.
And while she may have been perceived to be a falling star, the Toronto press was still eager to engage with the world-famous entertainer.
The city’s interest in all things Garland continues through to the present, in fact, as shown by the screening of Judy, a new biopic playing at the Toronto International Film Festival this month.
Judy tells the story of a time in Garland’s life when her star had faded and the singer was looking to lean on her legendary talent for a needed payday — similar to when she was performing in Toronto all those years ago.
Entertainer Judy Garland is portrayed by Renée Zellweger in a new biopic, Judy. (Submitted by Entertainment One)
Grateful to be performing in Toronto
In the Toronto of 1965, the real-life Garland was peppered with questions by the local media.
Ever the entertainer, she showed off a sense of humour when responding to them.
Judy Garland was quizzed by the press when she appeared in Toronto in February 1965. (This Hour Has Seven Days/CBC Archives)
“What do you think that you most missed as a teenager?” a reporter asked Garland, who had been a star on screen since childhood.
“Eating,” was her one-word answer — a subject that was raised several times during her press conference.
The discussion also took a more serious turn, when she was asked how she felt walking onto a stage like Toronto’s O’Keefe Centre.
“I feel great gratitude,” she responded.
No surprise on her favourite song
Judy Garland is seen posing with her children, Liza Minnelli (top left), Joseph Luft (front left) and Lorna Luft (front right), in a December 1964 file photo. Two months later she came to Toronto to perform eight shows at the O’Keefe Centre. (The Associated Press)
The questions continued, about her being a living legend, her favourite song — Over the Rainbow — and politics.
“Have you any formula when you do get tired?” asked one reporter. “People have compared you to a phoenix rising up.”
“I slap myself on the hip, I do, in the wings,” she said, while demonstrating. “Like an old pony.”
Seeking adulation from the audience
In a separate interview with the CBC’s Laurier LaPierre, which aired on This Hour Has Seven Days, Garland was asked about her relationship with audiences and how they made her feel at the best of times.
“I feel marvellous,” Garland said, adding, “they give me a feeling of love.”
When an audience was at its worst, Garland said she was left feeling “terrified.”
No advice for Liza
Judy Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli became a star herself. (Express Newspapers/Getty Images)
Garland was also asked if she had advice for her daughter, Liza Minnelli, who was becoming a star herself.
“I don’t give her any advice,” Garland explained, adding that “she’s seen my mistakes and my fears.”
LaPierre also asked about publicity and if Garland could describe a “happy, blissful moment” in her life.
“Being in love with Mark Herron is the best thing that ever happened to me,” she said, referring to her husband-to-be and the fourth of five men she would wed in her lifetime.
“He gives me, just, love,” said Garland.
No retirement plans, per se
Judy Garland is seen posing at New York’s Palace Theater in July of 1967, about two years before she died at age 47. (The Associated Press)
The final question from CBC was about what Garland would do if she were to retire.
“I’d cook,” she said, following up with a story involving insomnia, a family pet and her kitchen that drew off-camera laughs from those in the room.
Four years after her Toronto performances, Garland died in June of 1969. The Wizard of Oz star was gone at age 47, as a result of an accidental drug overdose.