In July 2013 while on holiday in London for a few days I walked from Hyde Park down into Chelsea. A short walk away from the buzzing Sloane Square I found a quiet, short, cobbled dead-end street with a few houses on it. It seemed a little sorry for itself and I wasn’t sure I’d got the right place. Surely such a legend would rent somewhere a little less threadbare?
This was it though. I’d watched a short television programme about Judy Garland and her pitiful death at a house here. I’d paused the documentary and printed the screen when it showed the mews house where she’d died. It was before me now. In the documentary it had looked empty and unloved and it didn’t look much better now.
I took a few photos. People sat outside a café on the main road looked on and must have thought I was daft saluting away at the camera but they probably didn’t know a legend’s life flickered out here.
In 1969 Judy was 47 and her health was deteriorating. That year she’d done her (last) concert in Copenhagen and married her fifth husband musician Mickey Deans around the corner at Chelsea Register Office. They were renting this house on Cadogan Lane. On Saturday 21st June 1969 they argued. Judy stormed out and – this being nothing new - her husband went to bed. The next morning he took a telephone call for Judy but he couldn’t find her. When he found the bathroom door to be locked he assumed the worse. Knowing what he’d find he climbed out on to the roof and looked into the bathroom window. Judy motionless body was sat on the toilet. Her head was slumped forward and her hands were on her knees. He climbed in through the window and found dried blood had dribbled from Judy’s mouth and nose. She had been dead for about eight hours.
At the inquest the coroner stated that the cause of death was "an incautious self-overdose" and there was no solid evidence to suggest suicide. The autopsy showed drugs had been ingested over a long period of time rather than in a single dose. Her remains were taken to New York City where about 20,000 people lined the streets for hours to enter the funeral chapel to pay their respects. After the funeral she was interred in a crypt in the community mausoleum at Ferncliff Cemetery in New York.
As I stood there I wondered if any of Judy’s three children had walked across these cobbles to see where their mum died. There’s not much to see but this is where a legend’s life tapered to an end so it’s still worth a visit.
This website is quite interesting for further reading...
Judy’s wedding, not far from the house…