The marriage and death of Judy Garland, Chelsea 1969

Mickey Deans, Judy Garland and Johnnie Ray at Chelsea Registry Office, March 1969

Mickey Deans, Judy Garland and Johnnie Ray at Chelsea Register Office, March 1969

On March 15th 1969 at Chelsea Register Office on the Kings Road, Judy Garland married a gay discotheque manager and part-time jazz pianist called Mickey Devinko better known as Mickey Deans. After the brief ceremony, which was actually her fifth, Garland said;

“This is it. For the first time in my life, I am really happy. Finally, I am loved.”

Not that loved, because despite the long celebrity guest-list, not one of Judy’s famous friends made it to the reception held at Quaglino’s the large and expensive restaurant situated in Bury Street just south of Piccadilly. Several hundred people were invited and only fifty made it to the function.

Mickey, Judy and Johnnie

Mickey, Judy and Johnnie

The glasses of champagne remained largely undrunk and an ostentatious three-tiered cake remained mostly uneaten. “I can’t understand it,” Judy was reported to have said in next day’s Sunday Express, “they all said they’d come”. Even her daughter Liza Minnelli, who had turned 23 just three days before, had called her mother to say “I can’t make it, Mama, but I promise I’ll come to your next one.” Another journalist apparently wrote that the reception was “the saddest and most pathetic party I have ever attended”.

Judy and Mickey on the empty dancefloor at Quaglinos

Judy and Mickey on the empty dancefloor at Quaglinos

judy-and-mickey-wedding-cake

Actually there was one celebrity guest at the wedding – Mickey Deans’ best man, Johnnie Ray. Ray had had hits in the fifties such as Cry and The Little White Cloud That Cried and was famous for the mootable ability to cry on stage earning him the moniker ‘the Nabob of Sob’ or occasionally the ‘Prince of Wails’. In reality, Ray was no close friend of Deans or Garland and the only reason that he was a guest at the wedding was that he was due to open for a brief Scandinavian tour Deans had organised for his new wife four days after the wedding.

Johnnie Ray at the reception

Johnnie Ray at the reception

Judy told the Sunday Express:

“I don’t know if London still needs me, but I certainly need it! It’s good and kind to me. I feel at home here. The people understand me, and I’m not aware of the cruelty I’ve so often felt in the States. I’ve reached a point in my life where the most precious thing is compassion – and I get this here.”

Judy and Mickey

Judy and Mickey

4 Cadogan Lane today

4 Cadogan Lane in Chelsea, November 2009

After the wedding Garland and Deans rented a small mews house in a Chelsea cul-de-sac called Cadogan Lane. On Saturday 22 June, just three months after their wedding, Judy and Mickey had been watching a BBC documentary on the Royal family but, not untypically, had started to furiously row. Garland ran into the street shouting and screaming (also not untypically) followed not long after by Deans who ran after her. He was unable to find his wife and returned to the house and soon after went to bed.

At around 10.40am the next morning the phone rang for Garland. Deans, initially unable to find her, found the bathroom door locked. He climbed out on to the roof and looking through the window saw Garland motionless on the toilet with her head slumped forward and her hands on her knees. Climbing into the bathroom he found her skin was discoloured and dried blood had dribbled from her mouth and nose. She had been dead for about eight hours.

The Chelsea Coroner, Gavin Thurston wrote “This is a clear picture of someone who had been habituated to barbiturates in the form of Seconal for a very long period of time, and who on the night of june 22nd/23rd perhaps in a state of confusion from a previous dose (although this is pure speculation) took more barbiturate than her body could tolerate.”

death_judy_garland

Garland had been taking drugs since she was in her early teens, initially to keep her weight down – Louis B Mayer the owner of MGM called her ‘that fat kid’ (not to mention ‘my little hunchback’ – you can understand why she had trouble with self-esteem all her life) and was constantly troubled by what he saw as her weight problem. Studio doctors prescribed the new wonder drug Benzedrine and subsequently the more sophisticated offshoots Dexedrine and Dexamyl. Drugs like these, at the time, seemed like miracles of science and were as common as aspirin.

benzedrinetin

Judy at sixteen

Judy at sixteen

Louis B Mayer and his little hunchback

Louis B Mayer and his 'little hunchback'

Garland had been prescribed Seconal, the drug that killed her, off and on, since the fifties. It is a barbiturate derivative medicine that was becoming widely misused in the sixties. It had nicknames such as ‘reds’, ‘red-devils’ or seccies, but another nickname was ‘dolls’ and thus responsible for the punning title of Jacqueline Susann’s novel ‘Valley of the Dolls’.

Seconal

Seconal

valley_covers

Jacqueline Susann and Judy Garland at a press conference for Valley of the Dolls in 1967

Jacqueline Susann and Judy Garland at a press conference for Valley of the Dolls in 1967

The character Neely O’Hara in the book, with her undoubted talent blunted by self-destructive alcoholism and dependency on prescription drugs, was purportedly based on Garland. Judy was actually cast in the film, not as O’Hara but to play the character Helen Lawson but not long into the filming Garland missed several days of rehearsals and was fired in April 1967. She was replaced by Susan Heyward but not before Garland recorded the song ‘I’ll Plant My Own Tree’.

Judy Garland was just 47 years old and $4 million in debt when she died. She was buried in New York and, making an effort this time, guests included Lauren Bacall, James Mason, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Lana Turner and latterly Frank Sinatra who paid all the funeral expenses and presciently said, “Judy will now have a mystic survival. She was the greatest.”

Judy Garland's body as it arrived back in the States

Judy Garland's body as it arrived back in the States

Ironically, considering the effort she put into keeping her weight down, Garland was probably less than 70 lbs when she died. She was so thin that it was said that to keep the waiting photographers non the wiser, when her body was removed from the Cadogan Lane mews house, covered in only a blanket, she was carried out draped over someone’s arm like a folded coat.

Judy Garland applying makeup before her last ever concert in Denmark 1969

Judy Garland (with Mickey Deans) – When Sunny Gets Blue – recorded three days before she died. Mickey is heard on the piano prompting her

Judy Garland – Broadway Rhythm – by way of contrast this is Judy performing on MGM radio with Wallace Beery aged just 13 and just after she signed with MGM (she’s wrongly announced as 12)

Share

Tags: , , , , , ,

43 Responses to “The marriage and death of Judy Garland, Chelsea 1969”

  1. davyh says:

    What a sad story. Had no idea she died in London, in such circumstances.

  2. Emm says:

    Wow, what an absolutely fascinating story! I love this blog more and more each time you post!

  3. AndrewC says:

    Awesome post as always .. I think a book is needed

  4. Peteski says:

    (This just came across my desk)
    Dec. 1, 1959 Singer Pleads Not Guilty to Soliciting
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2009/12/singer-pleads-not-guilty-to-soliciting.html

  5. Jason says:

    Like everyone else I just wanted to say how well-researched and totally fascinating this post is, just like every post. Great reading. Thanks

  6. Anne B says:

    I was only chatting this week with my sig other about how we should always be more accepting of the behaviour all the Divas – fan or not, don’t be too quick to judge. I talked about how JG was given drugs at an early age and that the film studios wrapped her breasts up tight (like lesbian cross-dressers – is that an oxymoron?) so they wouldn’t show & she would still look like a little girl. What is that going to do to a creative mind? Or any pubescent mind? So, throw your head back and swallow, here’s to ALL our wonderful Divas.
    And again, thank you for your blog. It looks good and as always, is inspirational.
    A

  7. Jason says:

    Oh and I forgot that of course the story of Judy Garland and Johnnie Ray in London and mixing with a gay club manager was covered in an episode of the BBC’s ‘The Long Firm’

  8. Yes, this is a good site. I cover Judy’s death a bit in my book London Babylon. What isn’t mentioned here is how they got Judy out of her house without the pressmen and photographers knowing.

    Since she was tiny and bent double with rigor mortis, a hefty cop carried her out over his arm with his overcoat draped over the top of the body. The press apparently never suspected a thing.

  9. Dane says:

    The overall story, the third photo, and the paragraph under it about the lack of guests at the wedding have just broken my heart for her.

  10. nickelinthemachine says:

    @ Steve Overbury, I don’t think you got down to the last paragraph!

  11. David says:

    this blog rocks, as ever

  12. LondonLee says:

    It all happened at Chelsea Town Hall, didn’t it?

    Quaglino’s gets name-checked in ‘Do The Strand’

  13. Lito says:

    A sad story of a troubled celebrity. Fascinating read. Thank you.

  14. Pop9 says:

    This is both interesting and sad. Great work from the blog’s owner. I’ll be back on this place to read more.

  15. Bill Luther says:

    My wife and I were watching “The Long Firm” a few weeks back and I wondered whether she actually hung around with Johnnie Ray as portayed in the film, now I see it wasn’t too far off. Fantastic stuff as always, keep up the good work!

  16. MM says:

    Another fascinating story, well told.
    I love this blog.
    Thanks for so much stuff this year

  17. Mrs Patrick Campbell says:

    We heard the sad news in the morning of June 22, 1969. We were so overcome that we became extremely drunk and remained so more or less until the ‘moon landing’ in July – which we watched on TV in the mental hospital to which we had been confined!

  18. Fnarf says:

    For some reason I still have the clearest memory of this. I was playing in the hallway with the radio on in my bedroom when they announced Judy Garland had died. I knew who she was, from “Wizard of Oz”, and from my mother’s cherished copy of “Judy at Carnegie Hall”.

  19. Marriage is one of the most sacred ceremonies that we humans experience. Being married also gives us happines.’*,

  20. Pierre Andre says:

    Sadly Judy had a very eventful and stressful life! combined with success
    and world fame mixed with depression.She is a living legend that still touches hearts and inspires many to find their dream Somewhere over
    the rainbow.

  21. Perry Grant says:

    Judy was not the sad ,tragic figure that you create in this blog. Having known many many of her friends extremely well ..i can assure you she was one of the funniest ,upbeat and happy human beings you could ever meet.
    A brilliant and funny raconteur she was as up beat right till the last days of her life.
    I have a recording of her at a party 9 days before she passed away and she is singing .partying and mimicking and having the time of her life .
    yes, she was physically depleted near the end and that was tragic…her end was an accident because of a higher dosage than she was used to and a very under fed body and a husband who had no idea how important it was to “watch” her at all times carefully.
    check out her television interviews and appearances and innumerable concerts right up to the end ..it is not the sad pathetic figure that everyone portrays
    but a champion , gifted performer who did her job better than anyone else!
    In 20 years there were actually only 4 concerts that were ‘rocky” the thousands of others were triumphs.
    I hope this balances out this infuriating image of this wonderful , kind woman .
    best regards
    Perry Grant Entertainer ( do a google search if you like )

  22. PATRICIA OWENS says:

    JUDY WAS THE GREATEST ACTRESS OF ALL TIME SHE WILL BE MISS AND WILL LIVE IN THE HEARTS OF HER FANS AND FAMILY

  23. Tisha says:

    Too many copmilmnets too little space, thanks!

  24. Gays…

    The marriage and death of Judy Garland, Chelsea 1969…

  25. Liz Gramer says:

    Agree with the others that this was fascinating reading… She seemed to be a victim of not only her own tremendous success but of what others (particularly Louis B. mayer) thought and said about her. I wonder if he ever felt any guilt about how much power he exerted over this young, talented and ‘ready to please’ teen that he molded into a somewhat neurotic, still talented actress. Very sad. Very, very sad.

  26. michelle McDonne says:

    I enjoyed reading this and did not realize that Judy Garland died in London. I dint believe I even heard that she died from a overdose although in fairness to her,it might not have been a intentional overdose,because
    it seems from only what I’ve read here that she indeed was abusing medications and very well could have just taken too many pills and her body couldn’t withstand the medication. Thank you so much for posting this article. I was born in the early 70′s(1972) and when I was growing up we always mtade it a point to watch the wizard of oz once a year where it always came on once a year. It’s so tragic what hollywood made of her and such a sad sad ending to such a wonderful,beautiful actress….

  27. This kinda sucks.. you should not have writtin it!

    With Love,
    Shelly(:

  28. Jason Stock says:

    What a heartbreaking end of such magnificent singer,performer.

    But how kind of the celebrity-world to show their shallow faces at the funeral, I hope they enjoyed the publicity.

  29. Simon Towers says:

    Me and my Friend visited Judy’s Cadogen Lane home today, what struck us was how modest and small the house is, certainly not a home a Hollywood Actress would reside in. The house was empty and in a terrible state, such a sad end for a wonderful and very talented person. God Bless Judy.

  30. Sharon Mead says:

    Denial of Judy’s tormented life is natural but I have to say that no one can take drugs and drink excessively for years like Judy did and not be hurting tremendously on the inside. No one can go through 5 marriages and not feel terribly alone, never able to fill the hole inside of you. Her films and music are ways I remember her. As a child, I watched Wizard of Oz numerous times and watched some of The Judy Garland shows with her guests. I agree, listening to her on some shows and in interviews, she had a humor that would be addicting–I’m sure people loved it and wanted more and more of it. Very interesting write up. No one can ever deny her talent.

  31. [...] her cost  of living considerably. When the directors stopped calling, her debt took off, reaching $4 million by the end of her celebrated life. It probably would have been higher but for an accidental [...]

  32. Lois Hawley-Simmonds says:

    Such a waste of a life. She inspired many to be the actors that they are today. I never knew she died so tragically. They (the media) never discuss such circumstances like they did with James Dean, Michael Hutchence or Jimmy Hendrix….yet she was taken far too early. Very sad indeed.

  33. Danny says:

    Dearest Judy
    For we have only Taken your Laughter and Your Tears, and have made them all our Souvenies…..Your VOICE will forever be with us….you are and forever shall be so DEARLY LOVED….your Devoted fans

  34. Rick James says:

    Um sorry but some of the crap you posted here is just disrespectful, You have that sleazy supermarket tabloid vibe going on, Its shameful, Sure some of what you post might be true but for Christ sake the woman is dead, show a little god damn respect, She did things in her life that are still much loved right up till this very day, kids all over the world still love to watch the wizard of oz. Now what the hell can you say you ever did?? oh you can say you made a Judy Garland website and talked about worthiness, disrespectful and disgusting things, like the bit about how her body was supposedly removed, or her saying she felt really loved for the first time, then your big ass mouth chimes in “not that loved, nobody came to the wedding party”.. Asshole, you like kicking people when they’re down, dont ya?? Well Im not surprised, It seems like an American AND British past time to kick someone thats down,

  35. KayLynne T. says:

    I agree with Rick James….Just because the most inspirational women is dead doesnt mean you go and say ” not that loved, nobody came to the wedding party” it is horrible to say that kind of stuff….if you want to make a website about Judy Garland then do it where you are not being a complete jerk!! Judy would cry over this if she could see this! how dare you…….. >:(

  36. Barbara says:

    JUDY GARLAND IS GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN IN THIS HEART OF MINE.I AM LISTENING TO CARNEGIE HALL RIGHT NOW. SHE CAME BACK SO MANY TIMES SHE LOST TRACK!!!!!!!I HAVE A GORGEOUS PICTURE OF HER SITTING BESIDE ME AND I MIGHT EVEN HAVE A DRINK LATER. SHE WAS A CANDY LAND ALL BY HERSELF!!! SHE WAS ADDICTIVE AND STILL IS. THEIR IS AN ACHE IN MY HEART RIGHT NOW LISTEN ING TO HER KNOWING SHE IS GONE.IT MAKES YOU WANT TO GO BACK IN TIME WHEN SHE WAS TEARING UP THE WORLD!! AND SHE DID JUST THAT! I WAS NOT THERE BUT I THINK SOMEONE JUST GAVE HER FLOWERS.THEY HAVE FOOTAGE OF THIS NIGHT IN APRIL 1961 BUT THEY WON’T RELEASE IT AND I WONDER WHY?SHE HAD A HUGE HEART AND PEOPLE LOVED HER!!! SHE IS SO MISSED THAT TODAY MARKS HER 44TH YEAR GONE.I WILL CELEBRATE YOU ALL DAY!!!!!!!!! R.I.P. JUDY.I’M SURE SO MANY OTHER PEOPLE FEEL THE SAME WAY I DO SO IF YOUR OUT THERE SHOUT TO THE ROOF TOPS JUDY GARLAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  37. Jolson says:

    I have a wonderful friend who worked with Mickey Deans in a Reno, NV nightclub around the mid-1960′s. My friend (also a talented musician) describes Mickey as being “very talented, fun, funny, and fun-loving.” They were neighbours and enjoyed playing the 10 cent slots together during their down times at the club where they worked (they were just good friends). It’s easy to see how Judy would be attracted to such a man. Cheers to the memory of Judy and the now late Mr. Deans.

  38. pfffill says:

    A sad story, beautifully told. How replete are the annals of American stardom with tales such as this, but Judy Garland’s is surely one of the most baleful.

  39. Nellie Kelly says:

    Funny how this perpetuates. Our dearest Judy has been dead many many years and we feel as if we’ve lost our best friend yesterday. Judy was a product of her time and honestly, was enslaved to a cruel, exploitative industry.

    Much heaven bound love to a precious, beautiful and extraordinarily talented powerhouse. Don’t we all wish we could have known her?

  40. Paul Simpson says:

    R.i.P judy garland sadly always missed

  41. Gwendolyn lewis says:

    Thank you for letting me know about judy garlend

  42. Henriette says:

    Regardless of how angry they get, people should know and accept the truth.
    Just for example, that a lot of invitations were sent out to her party and none of the big names cared to attend. Well, if it’s true, it’s worth knowing. Near the end, many so-called friends got tired of her marriages, and this particular one seemed absurd from the start. That said, the story about her corpse draped over anybody’s arm, covered by a coat… look, no matter how thin and tiny she was, it defies the laws of human anatomy. And if it had really occurred, there would certainly exist a photograph of someone carrying a very unusual- looking coat. Also, there are the silly stories of child abuse by her mother. Yes, Mrs. Gumm wasn’t a barrel of laughs, but the folklore that gets accepted as truth is pretty silly. When people are high so much of the time, it is not uncommon to tell tall tales and even come to believe them, and that is the case with Judy.

Leave a Reply