Judy Garland still lives.
She is a 32-year-old Italian man from Long Island, New York with a love for entertainment and a knack for impressions. Judy Garland, is Peter Mac.
Well, he is as close to Judy Garland as we could possibly get, anyways.
Mac’s most rewarding experiences in his journey to revive Garland were the near identical statements he received on two separate occasions. They were very similar in nature; these statements occurred after two different performances, and they were sweet and to the point. They went a little something like this:
I never thought I would see Judy Garland in concert. Tonight, I did.
It is statements such as these which keep Mac going, as he strives to deliver the most realistic and spot-on impressions of Garland as he can muster.
“Those were some of the nicest compliments ever paid to me,” Mac said.
For those who, god forbid, are unfamiliar with Garland, I’ll break it down.
Considered to be one of the greatest performers of all time, Garland has received awards such as The Grammy awards, a Golden Globe award and Special Tony award.
She has starred in and held roles in classic films such as “The Wizard of Oz” (you may know her as Dorothy), “Strike Up the Band”, “A Star is Born” and “Meet Me in St. Louis.” She starred in television series “The Judy Garland Show” and has had countless albums released by Capitol Records.
Since 2002, Mac has dedicated himself to impersonating and bringing glory to the woman he believes to be the greatest entertainer of our time. It was at this time in New York City that he began starring in his first Judy-role in the Off-Broadway run “Judy and Me,” a show that Mac penned himself. It is an autobiographical play in which Mac plays Garland, and another actor plays Peter Mac’s character. The show highlights how Garland helped Mac through some of the toughest times of his life.
Since then , Mac has been performing at cabarets around L.A., determined to bring the deceased entertainer back to life in the most realistic and entertaining way possible.
Currently, you can find Mac at the French Market Place, a showroom located on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. Throughout the month of March he will perform the act of “The Songs That Got Away” as Garland on every Friday and Saturday of the month. The cabaret holds about 75 people, and according to Mac, has mostly been sold-out during this month’s showings. The show features some signature Garland classics, as well as modern-day music which Garland, sadly enough, would never have the chance to perform.
Since there tends to be repeat-attendees of the shows, the cast likes to keep the performances fresh with unexpected twists in the performances.
“We try up to stir up the pot,” Mac said. “Each week we’ll pull stuff out and put stuff in.”
Mac sporadically launching into songs such as “I Will Survive,” as the “narrator” in the show is in the midst of asking Judy questions, is just one method used to catch the audience off-guard.
The Theme of the performances changes every month, with the coming April performance being The Lost Easter special.
The French Showroom Place performances have even pulled in stars such as Mila Kunis—you may know her from television series “That ‘70’s Show” and movies such as “Friends with Benefits,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Black Swan.” However, get ready to start knowing her as Theodora. Kunis is set to play the youngest of three witches in “Oz, the Great and Powerful,” the upcoming prequel to the 1939 classic, “The Wizard of Oz.”
Other people of prominence who have paid visits to Mac’s shows include actress Margaret O’Brien, and best-selling author Jackie Collins. Collins gave Mac’s show an outstanding review.
“Peter Mac is Judy Garland is not a drag show. The illusion extends well beyond that antiquated form of performance. His portrayal of La Garland is Magical, Musical, Wonderful, and Brilliant. He has a gift for vocal mimicry… I can’t wait to see the rest of his cadre of Ladies,” she wrote.
Mac’s speedy transformation into Judy Garland is almost as impressive as his look is uncanny. Mac is responsible for all of his own makeup, and the process somehow can be done in as little as 45 minutes to an hour. As for his infamous Judy-wigs, hair and wig stylist Mark Hoyer is the man for the job. Hoyer has worked on many national Broadway tours such as “Wicked”, “Rent”, “The Phantom of the Opera”, “The Lion King” and “Hairspray.”
Oh, back to Judy.
Unfortunately, the way her legacy is often told falls extremely short of flattering. Her accomplishments tend to be overshadowed by her issues—which according to Mac—are insignificant specks of her reality, compared to the uncountable noteworthy achievements in her life. Let’s face it, Garland did have some issues. Not to mention, the fact that she was such an inspirational and known figure put her deviant behavior into the limelight. Garland soon became identified for nervous breakdowns, suicide attempts and substance abuse, a phenomenon often attributed to her low self-esteem. She lived and worked in an industry centered on appearance. Constantly being told she was too plump, or her face wasn’t attractive, Garland became insecure. According to sources, these insecurities and fears of never being good enough contributed to Garland’s tendency to turn to alcohol and drugs.
Another theory is that MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, an American media company involved in the production and distribution of films and television programs), which Garland was involved with, started her on these pills.
“She had checked herself into a hospital to kick the pills,” Mac said in defense of Garland, “She certainly tried to cure the addiction.”
Regardless of how Garland got started on these substances, they would ultimately lead to her demise. Garland died on June 22, 1969 at age 47, from an accidental overdose on barbiturates.
This side of Garland’s legacy is often the one which is told, and dominates the definition of her name. More unfortunate than anything, is the fact that this side of her is often the one portrayed even by most impersonators—the very people who set out to bring glory to an icon of the past. Impersonations of her stumbling over drunk and talking in slurred speech tend to be most dominant.
Mac vowed he would never bring such a negative connotation to Garland’s name. However, there is one impersonator who in his eyes stood above the rest; who personified everything he wished to be in a Garland impersonator:
Jim Bailey, an internationally acclaimed singer, character, actor and comedian.
Mac fell in love with Bailey’s great sense of humor and classy impersonation of Garland. Although Garland’s character is often portrayed as a joke, she also receives a great amount of respect from those who recognize the tough life she endured and tried so desperately to overcome. A tough life is something that Mac, himself, is undeniably familiar with.
“Listening to her, I got this huge sense of ‘this is rough, but you’ll get through it,” Mac said.
Mac’s childhood was ultimately defined by Judy Garland. It started when he saw the Wizard of Oz at age five—Mac was instantly in love, and his passion for Judy Garland’s music and films only grew over time.
It would be an understatement to say that Mac’s Long Island suburb wasn’t the most accepting place to grow up in. In other words, it was flooded with narrow-minded individuals who believed there was a right way to do everything. Mac had the privilege (I hope you sense my sarcasm) of growing up in this environment.
This situation would be tough for anybody, let alone someone who defied the typical ideologies of the town. Mac was a homosexual growing up in a community, and time period in general, in which this type of lifestyle was the furthest thing from ‘acceptable.’ High school was rough, to say the least, for Mac. He was slammed into lockers, had his glasses broken, and was even stabbed with sewing needles among other inhumane circumstances. Mac also had a tough family life; his father was aggressive and abusive to Mac’s mother.
Although his issues had been around for quite some time, he recalls that his most frightening experience happened when he was sixteen.
“Things got to an all-time bad,” he said. “I was pursued home one night by a car.”
Mac raced home as fast as he could, while the guys in the jeep shouted terrible death threats and slurs such as “faggot.”As a result of this, combined with all the torment from the past years, Mac decided to become homeschooled. Mac would often retreat to the only place he felt safe; the basement. Here, he would pour his emotions out into Garland’s music.
None of these incidents ever held him back. He would continue to entertain his family with kooky celebrity impersonations, expanding his love for the entertainment business. His family would prove to be very supporting of his choices as time went on.
Judy Garland wasn’t someone who would make a short appearance in Mac’s life. She stayed. She stayed as both a friend and an inspiration.
Before making the decision to pay his tribute to Garland, Mac climbed up the entertainment industry and attained roles in a number of broadways. Some of these include a Broadway titled “Making Porn,” which ended up going on a national tour, and “Anne Frank – A Voice Heard,” a play in which Mac received the part of Peter, Anne Frank’s boyfriend.
It turned out that Mac would find a career and place of living that would welcome him with open arms. Currently, Mac resides in Los Angeles, a place he doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon. He maintains that bringing Judy to L.A. was the best move he ever made.
He has but one thing to say when asked how long he plans to keep Judy around.
“As long as my ruby slippers will hold me up!” he said.