Twenty-two-year-old theater performer Jason Wise wasn’t thrilled to read the New York Times piece lamenting the fact that Judy’s greatness is lost on young gays (in the context of a discussion about End of the Rainbow, the Broadway play covering Judy’s messy time in London towards the end of her life).
Wise was fuming. He didn’t “get happy.” In fact, it sent him over the rainbow, in a giant snit.
Here’s what Wise had to say in a letter he shot off to the paper:
“I am a 22-year-old gay man who is writing to The New York Times in response to Robert Leleux‘s article claiming that the younger generation of gay men no longer consider Judy Garland a gay icon.
“Leleux seemed to be basing his theory off the opinions of his 30-year-old date who admitted he did not know much about Garland. Leleux then made a blanket statement in a huge publication stating in terms of the new generation, ‘Judyism is little more than a vague cultural memory’.
“Robert Leleux, I am 8 years younger than your date and I know that Judy Garland did more in her career than play Dorothy and sing ‘that train song’. You said you grew up with Judy Garland records, and you were surrounded with Judy’s music by ‘a brilliant team of Texas big haired ladies to whom Judy was a kind of patron saint’.
“Robert, no one in my family introduced me to Judy Garland. I was not surrounded by her music. It may seem like a far-fetched theory to you, but believe it or not I discovered her on my own, as I promise you hundreds of thousands of other young gay men have managed to do.
“Therefore, you can not blame it on your date’s upbringing as the reason for why his thick head does not understand ‘what she has to do with being gay anymore’ except for reminding him of ‘Whitney and Lindsay and Britney’.
“It is ludicrous to me that you would tell Judy today that her wish for Immortality has tarnished since the millennium. I would only hope she would slap you across the face.
“Before you wrote this article, did you stop for a moment to think about the fact that maybe Judy Garland’s resilience has inspired the younger gay generation to not throw themselves off the George Washington Bridge after being bullied? Because I can promise you it has. We STILL identify with her. And elements of her life STILL echo bits of inspiration into our ears when we are going through a rough time.
“While I’m talking about Judy’s resilience (which you said yourself was ‘superhuman’ and held ‘enormous appeal for gay people’), I would like to inform you of the dictionary definition of ‘resilience’: The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress. Yes, End of the Rainbow ultimately ends with the death of Judy Garland, but in the show that I saw, we witness her ‘wit, gravitas and glamour’ as she proceeds to fulfill her concerts, no matter how many times she had said she didn’t want to.
“The whole show is about her resilience, which is educating people who may not know (like your date) why gay men identify with her. So can I ask you Robert Leveux, why you said End Of The Rainbow was ‘no way to treat an icon’? Your article does not make the slightest bit of sense and if anyone is killing the legend of Judy Garland it is you, because you just wrote an article informing all 8 million people in New York City that Judy Garland no longer holds iconic status.”
PS: End of the Rainbow is certainly dividing people–of different ages. On All That Chat, someone started a thread that wonders, “Should we picket the defamation of the genius that was Judy?”