Go Home to the Emerald City

Our friends in Rockford, Winnebago County CASA, are planning their annual fundraiser. This year the theme will be ‘There’s No Place Like Home.’

Oz

To pay by credit card you can visit Winnebago CASA’s website at WinnebagoCountyCASA.org.

Their theme for this year is so, so fitting. Not only does it stress the importance of home, a lesson Dorothy learns in the “most watched” movie in the history of the United States, but the star of this movie was herself an abused minor.

Judy Garland was 16 when she completed work for Wizard of Oz, though the character in Baum’s original work was 12. Judy was made to feel very self conscious by the producers who forced her into tight, restrictive corsets and onto a starvation diet to slim her frame. She was frequently given “pep pills” to keep up her energy without the naturally energizing effect of a healthy diet. To combat the effect of the pep pills, executives would give her sleeping pills at night in order to allow her the four or so hours of rest that were slotted. Mickey Rooney later corroborated this, as he was treated similarly during his time with MGM. Judy was also forced to smoke cigarettes, as the slimming and appetite suppressing effects of tobacco usage were known to the industry.

Judy later revealed that Louis Mayer, MGM bigwig, sexually mistreated her. He was known to behave toward many underage female actresses in this way. It is believed that her mother, who kept a large amount of the profit made by Judy as a minor, knew of the treatment.

ThoughtCatalog states that, “Garland had a difficult time with the scene where she has to slap the Cowardly Lion, as she kept laughing. To help get her into the scene, Victor Fleming dragged her aside and smacked her across the face. Garland quit giggling. She came back and nailed the scene in her first attempt.”

The laughing that Judy exhibited wasn’t unusual. She frequently erupted in giggling fits during inappropriate times while shooting the movie. The mix of stimulants, depressants, lack of sleep, and an unhealthy diet were visibly affecting her.

Express says that, “After watching herself in her first feature film, Pigskin Parade in 1936, she remarked: “I was frightful. I was fat – a fat little pig in pigtails.” The fact that Mayer commonly referred to her as “My little hunchback” can’t have done much for her self-esteem either. Indeed, although he thought she could sing, he remained unimpressed by her appearance with the result that Garland was constantly having prosthetics applied to her nose and teeth, her waist was brutally corseted and she was put on a diet that would have killed most people.

Lauren Bacall recalled: “From childhood Judy was placed on drugs – to lose weight or to go to sleep or to wake up. And once you get hooked on pills… it obviously affected her.”

According to Paul Donnelly’s remarkable 2007 biography, Garland was a lost child from an early age. When her beloved father Frank Gumm…died in 1935, the 13-year-old Garland lost her best friend and was left to the mercy of her despicable mother. “My father’s death was the most terrible thing that happened to me in my life,” she repeated over the years. The traumatic period created an unhealthy desire in the girl to seek out older men for love and marriage…

 

“I was always lonesome,” Garland later recalled. “The only time I felt accepted or wanted was when I was on stage performing. I guess the stage was my only friend; the only place where I could feel comfortable. It was the only place where I felt equal and safe.”

While we may want to explain away this situation with an easy, “They didn’t know better then,” or a simple, “It was a different time,” those sentiments cannot explain the alleged abuse that current actress Ariel Winter suffered under the care of her mother while a minor. The Daily Beast even mentioned the similarities between Judy’s situation and Winter’s in an article that stated in part, “The opportunistic, abusive stage parent is a common Hollywood theme: think Mama Rose in Gypsy, Judy Garland’s mom pimping her out to MGM, McCauley Culkin’s family stealing his money. Now come allegations that the mom of ABC’s Modern Family star Ariel Winter is physically and emotionally abusing her.

Last month, a Los Angeles judge granted temporary guardianship of Winter to her older sister Shanelle Gray. Gray alleged in court documents that the 14-year-old actress, who is best known for her role as brainy nerd Alex Dunphy, the middle child of Claire and Phil Dunphy (Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell) on the three-time Emmy-winning comedy, was the victim of ongoing physical and emotional abuse by her 54-year-old mother, Chrisoula Workman.

 

According to a petition for appointment of guardianship, Winter was allegedly subjected to slapping, hitting, and pushing by Workman, as well as “vile name-calling, personal insults about minor and minor’s weight, attempts to ‘sexualize’ minor, [and] deprivation of food” for an extended period of time.”

 

What was a mitigating and important factor for Ariel was the support of a loving family member, her sister, something that Judy did not have. Like so many children affected by traumatic home life, exposure to drug use, and verbal and sexual maltreatment Judy Garland died a young and tragic death. Hers was, unfortunately, a likely event when looking at the statistics. Scientific American explains a study in which it was found that, “A difficult childhood reduces life expectancy by 20 years among adults who experienced six or more particular types of abuse or household dysfunction as kids, while those who suffered fewer types of trauma lost fewer years of life, a large-scale epidemiological study finds.”

Abuse happens to children. It happens to children even when millions of eyes are on them in the spotlight. Do what you can to help to support them, these ones who will never have a light shine brightly upon their dark home lives. Support CASA.

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