While it was interesting reading about the behind the scenes of the ill-fated Judy Garland Show, this is a very sad book and it’s a grim look into the waste that can occur on the heels of abuse with no help afterwards. I think what struck me the most reading this is that Tormé never has the thought t0 get Judy some help — there are no suggestions from him of therapists or rehab centers that could help her work through her glaringly obvious traumas. Instead he gets angry at her for trying to manipulate him and verbally spars back and forth with her, or feels pity for her as she drinks. The same pattern that followed her from her youth — exploitation for her talent, getting whatever drugs or alcohol or men she wanted so that she would just perform — is played out here yet again, even though she thinks she is in control this time, which makes it even sadder.
Tormé comes off as a fan here, as he did in his biography of Buddy Rich, but while he has genuine affection for Rich despite being mistreated personally by him, he has more of an adversarial relationship with Judy and seems to be in more of a mental war with her. In the end he drops his suit against her for his money from the show, but I couldn’t help but feel that he missed a lot of the point here. I don’t agree with some other reviews I read that he is unfair or casting Judy in a bad light — I do believe that she was a problem on this show due to her well-documented substance abuse problems — but he comes off as overly glib throughout. He is a solid writer but not a great one, more workmanlike and wry. Recommended for the mid-century enthusiasts among us, but it can be a bit discursive as he describes his failing marriage a lot, so there are probably better books to read about her.