Did Judy (Garland) Cause Stonewall (Riots)?

Thumbnail image for Judy Garland.jpgJune 22 is the 40th anniversary of Judy’s death — like Marilyn’s, the result of an overdose that whether accidental or intentional will never be clear. Some think that Garland’s gargantuan two-day funeral — 20,000 fans and friends attended — was the last straw for the harassed and brutalized drag queens, faggots, dykes and proto-twinks who were pushed, hit, arrested and shoved into a big wagon early the next morning by the cops who raided the Stonewall Inn. What was happening on Christopher Street?

That sinkless, mob-owned, wretched bar was is where our Greenwich Village forebears could meet, flirt, and actually dance. New York police, many on the take, had the upper hand.

Stonewall Rebellion (Fred W. McDarrah).jpgYes, dear readers, the boys and girls exploded that night and a number of nights after. Part of their neighborhood, and part of a whole city, joined them. Soon, a Gay Liberation Front formed, tired of the brave but docile and mostly ineffective efforts that preceded it.

Was Judy’s death the straw that broke this miserable camel’s back?

Some say yes, some no. Writer, critic and gay maven David Ehrenstein emailed me to say that

“Judy’s passing was ‘in the air,’ ” and one of the “Stonewall kids” named Tommy who was there confirmed that to him. Others, noted in my piece for the now-deceased online magazine Obit (here’s a link to the text), completely disagree.

As you can read in my salute to Judy and Stonewall, I think the truth, by its very nature fugitive, is somewhere in between. Both riveting spirits reward another look.

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  1. Gary Knight says

    Don’t know if you caught The Colbert Report last night, but Jim Foratt was on and discussed Stonewall and indicated it was the arrest of a woman dressed as a man and her subsequent resistance that lead to the “explosion.”

  2. says

    From my understanding of the event, what “empowered” the patrons at the Stonewall Inn was a general hippie/countercultural rejection of societal power structures (arising from the anti-war movement) AND, importantly, from a sense of numbers.
    I think what happened is that earlier that the day, Friday, June 27th, 1969, a great many men from the Village flocked to Judy Garland’s funeral at a upper Eastside funeral parlor at Madison Ave and 81st. What impressed them — and in the early hours of the next day, mobilized them to resist the police raid on the Stonewall Inn — wasn’t Garland’s divahood (after all, it had been her downfall), but rather the number of other gay men they saw at the event. These were Garland’s fans. There were crowds of homosexuals recognizing each other on the street in front of the funeral parlor.