The hotel suite was like many others. A vase filled with red carnations stood between two very recent Louis XVI chairs. The sun shot in through the Fifth Avenue window and lit up the coffee table where masses of messages were strewn. At the other end was “The Common Book Prayer.” On the table by the window stood two bottles of vodka and some quinine water. Judy Garland was still in the other room having her hair combed. You can’t help wondering about someone like Judy — whether she had ever found what existed somewhere over the rainbow — or had her own life become more unbelievable and more dramatic than any MGM script. But, hadn’t Judy said at the press conference just last week when she signed for the part of Helen Lawson in “Valley of the Dolls” that “I have had more happiness than unhappiness in my life.” What is Judy Garland like today at 45? She came out of the bedroom and her slim figure was sheathed in a black silk linen dress. High-heeled black suede pumps made her seem taller.

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This story first appeared in the May 29, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Time hadn’t stood exactly still for Judy — a finger of gray marked her dark short hair. But her voice was the same golden Pied Piper’s voice that had lured millions of moviegoers and elevated her to that rarified star pedestal. You felt it — you don’t quite know what it is enveloping you, but its there. Dick Swift, the photographer, shot her quickly and laughingly. When he left she said: “I like him — he laughed at me.” Judy had a vodka and tonic, put on her pearl earrings with a small emerald center and her pearl necklace and laughed when I asked her under what sign she was born: “Gemini, the personality most likely to split.” I asked her if she felt her upcoming role in “Valley” was a comeback. “I don’t think I’ve ever made a comeback. I’ve always been working. I wonder if they know there are other things about my life. I’ve won a golf tournament. I can cook. I have some nice children.”

When I asked her why there was always some vague rumor circulating about her being difficult — “Don’t you think it’s a bit boring? It’s really out of style.” She sipped her drink: “It’s been going on for a long time. It started in my early days at Metro. It never came out that I was tired. I was doing three pictures at once. I was so scared of not pleasing everybody. I remember once the wardrobe people got confused. They sent me on the ‘Harvey Girl’ set with a pirate costume. I was trying to dance with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. You have to be very demanding to stay sane and keep a very wicked sense of humor about yourself. I’ve paid people thousands of dollars to advise me. It’s been a long run, but I finished with it about eight months ago. I wasn’t working and I was paying a PR man, a lawyer, a business manager. I was paying them a salary of 115 percent of what I wasn’t making.” The PR man from 20th Century who is producing “Valley” was leaving — he wanted to know if she had received the tickets for the return flight for herself and her two children, Lorna and Joe. “You know I really just came to town for Liza’s wedding.”

Judy went back to the conversation: “Then the Government stepped in and said ‘We’re taking your house away in two days.’ So I just dismissed everybody. I sat around and listened to my own records. Then I heard from a friend: ‘Have you read that book about you taking drugs?’ So I went out and bought ‘Valley.’” It’s rumored that you’re broke. “I’m not broke. I wouldn’t say it if I were. Made a lot of money … not for myself. I started at an age when they didn’t pay too much money. Nobody took care. I know I made millions for other people. I think a lot of people around me have been extremely careless with my money.” What about L.B. Mayer? “He was a wonderful movie maker. Demanded the best from his actresses and actors. Even though we were a little young we came off very well. Why is Mickey Rooney so forgotten — he started us all? Mickey Rooney is my king. He has more talent than anybody.”

Back with Mr. Luft? “I’m not back with Mr. Luft. It’s very nice to be pleasant.” Mark Herron? “I didn’t want to be married. Mark Herron appeared at my house with a lot of people, then I went to Honolulu and he appeared and then to Australia and he was there. Then I had to appear in Las Vegas at the Sahara. When I got off the plane a wedding had been arranged and I went to the hotel to change and before I knew it I was whisked to a wedding which had been set up in the chapel by my press agent’s wife’s father. I don’t think you know what it is to be alone. There wasn’t anyone. So there I was. Now, I have to go back and divorce him.”

She sat in the large arm chair with her legs tucked under her — and there was a feeling of Dorothy from the ‘Wizard of Oz.’ “I plan a great big, shining star so nobody can reach up and tear it down.” Judy walked me to the door — “You know I’m 45 — I don’t diet and I believe in humor and beauty.”

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