Decoder Ring

Friend of Dorothy

Why do gay people love Judy Garland so much?


Episode Notes

Illustration of Judy Garland singing
Illustration by Benjamin Frisch

Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every episode, host Willa Paskin takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speaks with experts, historians, and obsessives to try and figure out where it comes from, what it means, and why it matters.

When Peter Mac was young, he found solace from his troubles in the voice of Judy Garland. He’s now been a Judy Garland impersonator for 17 years. On this episode of Decoder Ring we explore the special valence that Judy Garland has for queer people, the history of female impersonation on stage, and what the future might hold for Judy Garland as an icon.

Some of the voices in this episode include Peter Mac, Dr. John Mac Schaefer, Joe E. Jeffreys*, drag historian and professor at NYU and The New School, Frank DeCaro, author of Drag: Combing Through the Big Wigs of Show Business, drag queen and impersonator Queen Robert, and Bryan Lowder, writer and host of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ podcast.

Correction, Feb. 10, 2020: This page originally misspelled Joe E. Jeffreys’ last name.


About the Show

In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

All episodes