Sunday, August 22, 2010

2010-28 The Judy Garland Museum (A bonus Report) Minnesota


Grand Rapid Minnesota

Six Degrees of Separation

Every now and then my travels bring me on a journey that wraps around and comes full circle.  While in the Duluth area taking care of business, things like making an appointment to have my 5th wheel campers axle checked out (possible bent axle), replacing my Droid phone (under warranty so not a problem) and attempting to get over a bought of Thunder Bay (Montezuma’s) Revenge from either the water or maybe the two egg whites I had for breakfast one day, I actually had time to take in a tour item.

Now was that a long sentence or what?  And did you notice all the parentheses in there.  Kind of like some of my journeys, long and winding with pauses to notice something along the way.

So I was looking at a couple of brochures of the area and noted that in Grand Rapids Minnesota, not the one in Michigan, that they have a Judy Garland Museum.  Hmm, might be worth checking out.  Especially since it includes the original house that her parents lived in for 12 years and Judy for the first four years of her life.  And I love looking in homes.

It was a long boring drive of about an hour an a half and I didn’t think I’d ever get there.  Pretty much a straight shot heading west on hwy 2 past evergreen forests, lakes, swamps the occasional farm land and maybe two whistle stops along the way.

Judy Garland grew up with the name “Frances Ethel Gumm” but was always called “Baby” as she was the youngest of three sisters.  Her Mother and Father were always into show business and performing some type of Vaudeville act which included the kids usually in a singing role.

The museum contains some wonderful artifacts from the Wizard of Oz especially the carriage drawn by “a horse of a different color”.  But what makes it even more special is that the carriage was once owned by President Abraham Lincoln back in 1863.  Now even though the carriage was roped off, I just had to touch it.  Imagine, I touched a piece of our countries history and came within touching distance of where President Lincoln might have placed his own hand and the carriage that was in the Wizard of Oz. Talk about 6 degrees of separation, that was like two degrees of separation.

I guess I should explain the phrase, “Six Degrees of Separation” in case you’ve never heard of it before.  It basically refers to the concept that everyone is within six people of knowing anyone else in the world.  Say you would like to meet the Queen of England.  You know someone who has been to England.  They in turn have met friends or relatives there.  That person has a friend who works in the palace, and that person has spoken to the Queen Mother herself.  But my previous example with the carriage is not my 6 degrees of separation experience.  That will follow.

Judy came back to see the house she grew up in and even performed at the Minnesota State Fair for their 100 year celebration.  It was all the rage at the time you know.  Back in Hollywood, the story goes that Judy got her last name from an MGM studio executive who looked up at the ceiling and saw Garland strung around the room and gave Judy her name, Garland.

So after touring the museum part of the exhibits, I walk through a breezeway to the original house the
Gumm family lived in.  What an astonishing home.  Simple yet beautiful in design and function.  So much so that Architectural Digest has taken extensive photos and plans a large spread on the home as soon as the economy picks up and they have more advertisers to pay for the multi-page spread on the house.  So be on the lookout for it in Architectural Digest one of these days.  But you won’t have to wait, because I’ve taken quite a few pictures and you can get a sneak peak through my eyes.

Now for my story on the 6 degrees of separation.  While I was a young boy growing up in Houghton Michigan, my across the street neighbor, Jackie Weber had grown up and was getting ready to move to New York to make his mark.  He ended up in Greenwich Village playing the piano.  I remember being about  10 years old and hearing him play the upright piano in the basement of their home.  He played a rowdy honky-tonk tune and I just loved it.

Well now, a couple years later, he came back on a visit and told us about the time he was playing his piano in a night club in the Village and in walks Judy Garland.  She sits down at his piano and orders a drink and starts to talk to him.  He’s blown away of course with the famous Judy Garland sitting there at his piano.  She asks him if he knows any of the songs she sings and of course he knows every one.  She stays there and sings an entire set with Jack playing the piano in perfect sync with Judy.

Now that’s like two degrees of separation from the famous Judy Garland and that’s what I call coming full circle in life.  Kind of puts a tingle up and down my spine just thinking about it.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Hi Doug
Actually it was Frances Gumm -- no "R" and I know this because my two degrees of sep come from my dad's life in G.R. Minnesota where he went to high school. (Born in Hibbing; raised in Virginia MN)-- When he was about 18, he was in the movie theatre that JG's dad owned. She was about 3, he said (not absolutely sure of that) and she was running up and down the aisles during the movie. So he 'nabbed' her and spanked her! (So like my father who thought that spanking solved everything. -- [written with a tone of resentment!] ) Anyway, those connections are a lot of fun.
I have another one and it's a piano player one, too! John Fricke is a piano player and wrote a JG biography on his own and co-wrote one with her daughter, Lorna Luft. He is from Wisconsin and when I ran an organization called ARTREACH Milwaukee, (we sent artists out to work in nursing homes, treatment centers, etc.) he was one of our artists! So I got to know him pretty well. I don't know if he ever met JG, but he sure loved her! (A good gay boy, too!) 2-3-4 etc. degrees of sep. There is always something in our lives like that. Fun, huh?
When you coming back to Santa Fe?