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)

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

  1. Sharon says:

    Judy weighed less than 70 pounds before she died??? She is gone but never forgotten.

  2. Rosamund Forbes says:

    I remember Judy Garland marrying Micky Dean’s in 1969 and her sad death not long afterwards I believe she was married at least 3 times before that marriage. Judy i thought looked ill in the news footage very thin and frail looking much older than her 40′s. Judy Garland i think was a good entertainer but sadly for whatever reason she went downhill both in her mind and body. The drink and drugs all took there toll. Her death is still some speculation did she kill herself or was it an accident. I think Judy was a tormented soul but she always if she could give her audiences a great show which people still admire her for even today. I wonder if Micky Deans is still alive now perhaps he still is hopefully. Judy’s death must have been a great blow for him so early in their marriage.

  3. Nobody says:

    Judy Garland will be remembered as many things… a singer, an entertainer, an actress, a hero, an inspiration whatever. But we forget that she was a person. She made mistakes, yeah, so what haven’t you? As another reader you might think she messed up big time, would hate to be her. But the reality is no one has a perfect life. I mean what you read isn’t always true. I bet you would be ashamed to see people making cruel remarks about how your life turned out. Have some respect for the Woman, she took what she had and lived with it. Most of us didn’t even know her, we know of her and she is in our hearts as a voice people looked up to, so why judge her than rather see her as you or me. That’s what breaks my heart, because if you ever got to meet her i bet almost all of those who place her as this monster would not have the guts to say anything like that to her face. Why do you think she did what she did…the same reason you do what you do. So she made mistakes but she had one heck of a life, that most of us couldn’t compare to. But throughout her pain she found a strength to keep her going, a strength some of us have not found yet. All i’m trying to say is don’t say crap about this woman, she lived and died, she’s laughed and cried. She’s had her up’s and down’s. But through it all she kept going, doing what she loved, what we treasure. I don’t know about you, but she’s the reason I got inspired. I have my own mistakes, and i’m not gonna waste my life looking for someone else to judge rather than fix my own mistakes, and be remembered as someone who loved than as someone who hated. Judy is forever loved by me, even if it’s just me.

  4. tom smith says:

    What a wonderful well written tribute to Judy! I agree and I to am a great fan and love Judy too. Always would leave yellow flowers in front of her crypt on Easter or her birthday when I live in n.y boy she knocked it out of the park in meet me in st Louise and OZ

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