Picks and Pans Review: Heartbreaker

updated 10/24/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/24/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by John Meyer

Then there is this self-serving, pathetically commercial, kiss-and-describe-it-in-detail celebrity biography that is interesting in spite of—maybe because of—its excesses. Meyer, then 31 and a struggling songwriter, met Judy Garland in 1968 when he tried to sell her one of his tunes. He writes that, at the time, she was 41, destitute, with no permanent home, no possessions except a mink coat she got for doing an ad, and no friends. She was estranged, Meyer says, from her children and four ex-husbands. (Other accounts of Garland's life concur that she was utterly without means.) Instead, she drifted between men, who passed her on after their patience had worn thin, along with instructions on how to handle her. Meyer ran around town trying to get pharmacists to dispense pills she said she needed, while Garland holed up in the apartment he still shared with his parents. Since they were together for only two months, this 315-page retelling might have been tedious. Instead it permits a level of detail that makes Garland's pain more palpable. Practically every day between Oct. 18, 1968 and Jan. 31, 1969 is recounted at length; Meyer says he primed Judy with pills and liquor just to get her out of bed each morning, only to repeat the process to get her to sleep at night. Meyer ends by blaming Mickey Deans, Judy's last husband, for the fact that Garland never recorded any of Meyer's songs; one was titled I'd Like to Hate Myself in the Morning. (Doubleday, $15.95)

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