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Garland’s Star Reborn on Internet

June 24, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Fans who observed the 29th anniversary of Judy Garland’s death on June 22 didn’t have to travel any farther than their own Internet connection to pay their respects.

On one of numerous Web sites devoted to Garland (www.zianet.com/chrisb), an admirer has posted a color photograph of the singer’s crypt in Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, N.Y., for anyone wishing ``to stand in silence in front of Judy’s grave.″

Celebrity grave sites online are not uncommon. But the number of elaborate, fan-generated Web sites dedicated to Garland so many years after her death is somewhat remarkable. Her Web presence dwarfs that of many contemporary artists, including her daughter, 52-year-old entertainer Liza Minnelli.

``I was really impressed,″ said Andy Gems, a professional Internet surfer employed by the Web directory Yahoo! ``She’s a star from a different era, and her sites are of way higher quality than a lot of the stuff I see for rock bands and current actors and actresses.″

A broad search of her name calls up hundreds of pages, but Gems said the 15 core sites linked through a Garland Web ring are notable for their sophisticated design, breadth of information and intricate multimedia links.

Surfers can find out about the 23rd Annual Judy Garland Festival in her birthplace of Grand Rapids, Minn., on June 25. Or they can investigate her extensive and varied film career _ from the treacly 1930s films with Mickey Rooney and lavish 1940s musicals of Hollywood’s Golden Era (``Meet Me in St. Louis,″ ``Easter Parade″) to her critically acclaimed dramatic roles, including an Oscar-nominated performance in 1961′s ``Judgment at Nuremberg.″

Music samplings are clickable from a recording career that spanned four decades and included such standards as ``You Made Me Love You,″ ``Get Happy″ and ``The Man That Got Away.″

On several sites, collectors display, trade and sell memorabilia such as photos, movie posters, photographs, autographs and videos of her early 1960s TV variety show.

Information in some of the deeper links can be bizarrely idiosyncratic: from noted typos in her 1922 birth announcement to the fact that she is buried in the same cemetery as Malcolm X.

Discussions on Garland-related bulletin boards can get so intense that her daughter, Lorna Luft, 45, told the Miami Herald last month that some surfers should ``get a life.″

Still, the Web ring’s title page touts a required G rating for its member sites because they are frequented ``by a wide cross section of people, including children.″

``My 10-year-old daughter is mad for Judy,″ said one posting from a 37-year-old Connecticut man.

``I found my mom’s old Judy albums in the basement. Her music is timeless,″ said another from a 30-ish Ohio mother.

Mark Harris, manager/Web master of The Judy List, a daily e-mail discussion about Garland launched in 1996, said many of its more than 250 subscribers are younger than 16.

``Judy seems to be a particular favorite with teen-age girls these days, presumably because they identify with her early film work,″ Harris said, adding that one subscriber is ``a prototypical rock ‘n’ roller in his early 20s,″ fascinated by her vocal technique.

Camille Paglia, a cultural critic and humanities professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, said the youthful interest in Garland springs as much from a curiosity about American popular music as from yearly TV broadcasts of ``The Wizard of Oz.″

``We’re living in an era where style is defined by irony and a sense of detachment,″ Paglia said. ``Artists like Judy Garland offer something young people aren’t getting from their rock stars _ the pure, organic voice and a sense of emotional intimacy.″

Paglia said that in terms of artistic achievement, through film, television, radio, concerts and song styling, Garland is the late Frank Sinatra’s only peer, though he lived nearly twice as long.

John Fricke, a Garland biographer who contributes to the Judy Garland Database, is glad that few pages mention the drug-addled antics often associated with her personal life and later concerts.

Fricke views the Web as a means for older fans like himself, who saw Garland perform live, to broaden an appreciation of her artistry among younger fans. ``The Internet leads them to her body of work, instead of the legend that is inaccurately permeated with a sense of tragedy,″ he said. (Garland died at age 47 of a drug overdose.)

However, Garland’s re-emergence isn’t limited to the Web.

EMI Capitol Records just released a CD anthology, ``Judy Garland,″ in conjunction with the A&E Network’s ``Biography″ cable show. A two-hour telecast on Garland that aired in March 1997 and again this year drew high audience ratings.

``There’s been a whole resurgence of interest in American popular music among college students and 30- to 40-year-olds,″ said Marc Rashba, producer of EMI’s ``Biography″-related CD anthologies. ``This CD is definitely being targeted to that audience.″

In addition, ``Me and My Shadows,″ a new book about Garland by Ms. Luft, will be the basis of a TV miniseries scheduled to air next year.

In a New York Times essay previewing a recent sold-out, two-night musical tribute to Garland at Carnegie Hall, Paglia assessed this decade’s entertainers and wailed, ``Where among today’s young ... will we get another Judy Garland?″

No one really can say, but young people know where to look for the lady herself: on the Internet, the equivalent of their own back yard.

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