There’s no place like home for Judy Garland fans worldwide

Marielle O'Neill runs a Judy Garland fan club.
Marielle O'Neill runs a Judy Garland fan club.
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She was adored by millions and one of the first international sweethearts.

From her appearance in the 1939 Wizard of Oz film in those ruby red slippers at the age of 17, Judy Garland became an instant superstar.

Marielle O'Neill runs a Judy Garland fan club.

Marielle O'Neill runs a Judy Garland fan club.

Now her memory lives on with the International Judy Garland Fanclub, which has hundreds of members from around the world.

It is run from a bedroom in Armley, Leeds, by secretary Marielle O’Neill, 26.

She runs the official fanclub with Gary Horrocks from Beverley, who is club president and also editor of the journal ’Judy Garland: A celebration’.

They have hundreds of Judy fans from around the world including members in South Korea, the United States, Australia and across Europe

Marielle, who works for an engineering firm, lives in Leeds, but comes from Batley, where her dad is a Labour councillor.

She said: “There was nothing fake about Judy Garland. If I had to use two words to described Judy they would be: empathetic and real. She revealed her true self, her essence in every one of per performances.

“There are moments when I am truly amazed by her talents, not only is she a film icon, but she is one of the greatest singers of all time with a legendary concert career.”

Marielle said that Judy adored the UK and used it to launch every key element of her career: “She first came here in 1951 after her MGM career came to an end, touring the UK to launch her concert career.”

The fanclub is appealing for anyone who has memories of the Leeds show to get in touch.

A huge Judy Garland weekend event is being planned for October 25-26 in Beverley by the fanclub, to celebrate her life and achievements with a celebratory dinner and cocktail reception, plus talks and Judy themed events. They are hoping people who attended her concerts will attend.

It will be a rare opportunity for fans to meet up and indulge in their fascination for their idol.

It may be almost 54 years since Judy performed in Leeds at the Odeon Cinema, on The Headrow on October 16, 1960 (now a Primark store), but nostalgia of the event lives on.

It was a popular concert venue and the first night of her UK provincial tour.

On the night Judy forgot her shoes, but legend has it she borrowed some from a front row fan.

She is reported to have said on stage: “I remembered to have my hair fixed but I quite forgot the shoes.”

She performed with a small jazz group and sang Noel Coward’s ‘Love were all’ ‘Bittersweet’ and piano accompaniment.

At the Leeds gig Judy road tested her new show which later became the legendary Judy at Carnegie Hall.

Judy said of her Leeds gig: “Leeds .... they gave me such a wonderful welcome there.”

Judy died in 1969 aged 47 but her memory lives on.

The fanclub is appealing for anyone with memories or pictures of Judy’s 1960 gig in Leeds to get in touch.

More details about the fanclub which sends out a journal and newsletters at www.judygarlandclub.org.