Friday, July 29, 2011
I told my Facebook friends that Paul and I wanted to share our story about a remarkable man (Daniel) that we met at Sheridan Square Park by Stonewall Inn in New York City. We were admiring Segal’s Gay Pride sculptures and reading the plaques when Paul started a conversation with a man who was sitting on the bench in the park. In a short period of time, he disclosed that he was Judy Garland’s most loyal fan. He said he could chronicle every part of Judy’s life. After listening to several pieces of information, we had little doubt that he was indeed a Judy Garland historian. In fact, theater and movie trivia came easily for him. The day before we met Daniel another man had observed his incredible ability to recall information about a variety of topics and draw conclusions from those facts. He wanted Daniel to work with him on recording the knowledge he had stored in his head.
Paul and I had plans to have lunch at a Greenwich restaurant because they had a special menu for Restaurant Week. As I watched Paul and Daniel talk, I knew we needed to invite him to lunch so the conversation could continue. Daniel was willing to join us and we proceeded to the restaurant. We were early so we sat in the lobby and continued to talk. He pointed to a painting on the wall and told us he had just read a book about that painting. It was a late 1800 painting. The woman was beautiful. One of her dress straps was gently placed on her arm. Once this painting was previewed at the artist’s show, the family was shunned – too risqué. The woman died single and alone. The story was interesting but Daniel was even more interesting. He was well read and knowledgeable about a variety of topics.
Daniel shared that he had come from a good family. I asked him how his parents reacted to his news about being gay. He said his father said he wanted to put him in a “cattle car” and send him to Idaho with the hope they would dispose of him and the other gays. Later in his life he asked his dad about that comment and he responded that he regretted that statement then and ever since. Unfortunately that confession hadn’t stopped Daniel’s response to his father’s words. At the tender age of 13 he attempted suicide. He drew strength from Judy's music. He said he felt like Judy was singing to him. His theory is that her life had a lot of pain as well and she sang from a very emotional level. He had other observations about why gay men are so attracked to her and why she sustains her popularity over other stars.
We don’t know Daniel’s entire story but we could read behind the lines. He was a gifted man who grew up in a difficult time for gay men. At this point in his life he is homeless and has an alcohol addiction. Paul and I were very sad for Daniel but happy we met him. At the end of a wonderful meal and a two-hour conversation, he took both of our hands and said, “I woke up this morning and wondered how I was going to get through another day and then I met you. No one has ever done something like this for me. Thank you.”
Now we want Daniel to get together with our other Judy historians – Michael Siewert and John Fricke. He just might have a few tidbits that may be of interest to them for their next book. We will always wonder how Daniel is doing. He seems to be a survivor but it is hard to know what this does to your head. We told him he needed to stay in touch with the man he met who wants to record his stories. He has so much to offer.
There are people you come across in your life for one reason or another. I have to believe that meeting Daniel on July 21st was more than a coincidence. I also believe there will be another chapter to this story in the future. We thank Daniel for entrusting us with his stories.