This Pride Month Homage To Judy Garland Aims To Save Young LGBTQ+ Lives

More than a half-century after her death, Judy Garland is still regarded by many as the ultimate queer icon ― the varying reasons for which will no doubt continue to be analyzed by fans and pop culture historians for years to come.

New Yorkers will get a chance to kick off LGBTQ+ Pride Month with songs from Garland’s catalog next week when “Night of a Thousand Judys” returns to the Manhattan stage once again.

Now in its 12th year, the one-night-only concert on June 3 will take place at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater and feature performances from a host of stage and screen talents, including Nathan Lee Graham, Grey Henson, Natalie Joy Johnson and Nicole Zuraitis.

Judy Garland in 1939's
Judy Garland in 1939's "The Wizard of Oz." The actor and singer's legacy will be celebrated June 3 in New York at the "Night of a Thousand Judys" concert. MGM Studios via Getty Images

As in previous years, 2024’s “Night of a Thousand Judys” will be hosted by writer-performer Justin Elizabeth Sayre, whose TV credits include “2 Broke Girls” and “The Cool Kids.” Proceeds from the show will benefit the Ali Forney Center, a New York-based advocacy group for homeless LGBTQ+ youth.

This year, queer cabaret legend Justin Vivian Bond will be on hand to accept the inaugural Judy Icon Award, which honors performers who, like Garland, “exemplifies what it means to be a true gay icon.”

Sayre gave HuffPost a sneak peek at what to expect from “Night of a Thousand Judys” by sharing a video of Tony-winning actor and singer Lauren Patten performing a chilling version of “The Man that Got Away” from 1954’s “A Star Is Born” at last year’s show. 

Check out “The Man That Got Away” below. 

“Judy Garland always made an impact,” Sayre, who uses they/them pronouns, told HuffPost in an interview. “She gave you her all. She gave you her heart and her talent. She inspired.”

They went on to note: “It was a powerful transference of emotion and truth that still inspires people like me to talk about her as we do. I want the people coming to ‘Night of a Thousand Judys’ to have an experience like that. And I know they will.”

To modern audiences, Garland remains best known for her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz.” That breakout role led to a streak of indelible performances in films like 1944’s “Meet Me in St. Louis” and 1950’s “Summer Stock.”

Garland performs at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1961.
Garland performs at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1961. Bettmann via Getty Images

By her late 30s, Garland had also established herself as a thrilling concert act, most notably in 1961 when she performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall. The latter years of her life, however, were publicly defined by her experiences with drug and alcohol abuse. In 1969, she died of an accidental drug overdose in London at age 47.

Sayre says they’ve come to view Garland’s life not as a tragic tale but, rather, a reminder that “how we care for each other [and] how we are present for each other matters” ― which is why they’re happy to host “Night of a Thousand Judys” each year.

“As someone who loves Garland and someone who loves live performance, it’s always a thrill,” they noted. “Judy said, ‘There’s no place like home,’ and everywhere we want to make that statement true for more LGBTQ kids all over this city.”

“Night of a Thousand Judys” plays Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in New York June 3. For more information on how to support the Ali Forney Center, head here