It was 1968 when John Meyer, a 28-year-old pianist, met Judy Garland at the Manhattan studio of a mutual friend.
It was a moment that would forever change his life.
On Wednesday, Meyer told People magazine that the 46-year-old was far from the Hollywood star people have grown up with.
“She had a suitcase, a little black dress, a pair of fishnet stockings and a pair of heels,” the now-79-year-old recalled to the outlet. “That was about it. And a mink.”
According to Meyer, he began playing a song he had written titled “I Like to Hate Myself in the Morning and Raise a Little Hell Tonight.” It made an unforgettable impression on the former child star.
“She liked the song and she liked me,” Meyer said. “When our friend left the room, she pointed to herself and then to me and mouthed the phrase, ‘I’m with you.’ Just like that.”
Meyer claimed they moved into the New York City apartment of his parents.
“There was a spare bedroom in the back and I took her there and she said, ‘Great, I’ll move in here,'” he said.
According to the outlet, Garland allegedly owed several million dollars to the IRS, and her agent had embezzled much of her earnings. She was divorced from her fourth husband, Mark Herron, broke and homeless. She was recently kicked out of New York’s St. Moritz Hotel, where she was living with her two younger children, for not paying the bill.
Her meeting with Meyer happened two months before she flew to London for a five-week concert series at the Talk of the Town nightclub in 1969. But before her residency, Meyer booked Garland gigs at local clubs where he played the piano.
“She was broke, literally had nothing but a five-dollar bill in her purse,” he claimed. “I called the owner of a club and said, ‘I could get Judy Garland to sing for you for $100. Cash. And cab fare. I became her manager, her agent, her lover, her companion, the shoulder that she could lean on. It was amazing. Her reality was that she would rely on the kindness of strangers.”
“Her big overriding motivation was ‘love me,’” he continued. “And she made people prove it in all her relationships. She would escalate the levels of commitment until you were staying up with her for 36 hours a day. She’d keep moving the goal posts, until the person just had to drop and then she could say, ‘You deserted me, see.’”
Meyer also alleged Garland was on a combination of Ritalin and vodka.
“One time, I was making her a very nice dinner,” he said. “She didn’t want to eat by the way; she didn’t like to eat in front of people. And she began to sing ‘It Never Was You’ and she held out her arms to me and I put down the saucepan and I almost fainted. Can you imagine Judy Garland two inches away from your ear?”
And there were moments of laughter between the pair.
“When she would talk about ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ she’d say, ‘The munchkins were a bunch of horny little guys and they were not above pinching my a–. And she made jokes about Toto’s bad breath,” he said.
Meyer also alleged they had just as much fun in the bedroom.
“We did a lot of role-playing,” he told the magazine. “We’d do scenes back and forth and we’d make up our own improvs. She’d say, ‘Tonight, you be the professor and I’ll be the student.’ It was a lot of fun. That was more important to her than the actual sex.”
However, their relationship ultimately came crashing down.
Meyer said the two were kicked out of his parents’ apartment. Then 10 days before Garland was flying to London, Meyer became sick with a fever of 104.
“’That’s nothing, I’ve been on stage with 106,’” Garland reportedly told Meyer.
Then, he claimed, she dropped him. In London, she teamed up with Mickey Deans, a nightclub manager she first met when he “delivered her a box of uppers.”
“Mickey was a hustler,” Meyer said. “And when I was unable to shepherd Judy through the TV shows in New York, she called Mickey. And Mickey, like me, dropped his whole life to go with her. She had dropped me and somebody else assumed my place.”
Meyer said he flew to London with the hope of winning Garland back.
“She was a compulsion, you know?” he admitted. “I realized that this mission of mine to restore Judy to her former greatness and be the guy who rescued her was not going to work.”
Meyer said the last time she saw Garland was in January 1969.
“She gave me a cursory kiss goodbye, ‘So long Johnny,’” he said.
Garland passed away on June 22, 1969, at age 47 from an accidental drug overdose. According to People, crowds of more than 15,000 lined up through the night at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home in Manhattan to say goodbye. Meyer attended the service.
“James Mason [her costar in ‘A Star is Born’] gave the eulogy and then we all filed out into the bright, bright sunlight at 11 o’clock in the morning and I cried,” Meyer said. “No more jokes, no more fun. She was the most marvelous fun. That’s what nobody really speaks [about].”
“She thought her life was a gas, a ball,” he continued. “She didn’t think her life was painful. She was funny. She experienced joy. She loved sex. She didn’t love food. She loved to sing and she loved the attention.”
Meyer chronicled his relationship with Garland in the 2006 memoir titled “Heartbreaker.” Garland was the subject of a recent biopic titled “Judy,” which starred Renee Zellweger as the film icon. Zellweger, 50, is now considered an Oscar frontrunner for her performance.