There’s a touching scene in the new movie Judy (as in Garland), when the legendary trouper, played by Renée Zellweger, meets two gay fans after her London show and invites herself back to theirs for dinner. After a comically disastrous meal, the tone turns melancholy, as Garland laments her unhappy life and her hosts reflect on theirs, as closeted partners in pre-legalisation 1960s Britain. It’s a little moment of solidarity that gets to the heart of Garland’s gay appeal.
Judy Garland didn’t simply tick the boxes for “gay icon”, she created those boxes: child stardom, tragic life, big showtunes, drag-friendly stage persona, addictions, comebacks, having sung Over the Rainbow. Not to mention her unfortunate habit of marrying men who turned out to prefer other men. But as that scene in Judy underscores,