Legendary entertainer Judy Garland passed away more than 40 years ago, but it’s taken her younger daughter, Lorna Luft, decades to really get to know her mother.
“I don’t think you really get to know your parents until you’re in your forties,” explained Luft, who was just a teenager when her mother died. “When you’re in your twenties, you’re just taking footsteps in the sand, by your thirties, you’re having kids and by your forties, you start looking into your family history. You don’t get to really know them until you travel in their footsteps.”
For the past 12 years, Luft has been touring the country with her own account of the relationship between famous mother and daughter, who made her own show business debut at the age of 11. Lorna Luft: Songs My Mother Taught Me is a very personal show full of joy, humor and honesty. She brings the show to West Palm Beach’s Kravis Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, March 20.
“If it’s not honest, the audience isn’t going to buy it,” she said. “I think audiences can expect to have a really, really great afternoon of entertainment, (it’s) a mother/daughter story, a journey of how I grew up told through the music that was in our house.”
What’s different about being the daughter of an icon, according to Luft, is that “everybody had their own version of the truth, but I was there.” She grew up constantly listening to her mother’s friends, acquaintances and fans telling stories about Garland, but it was up to Luft to be the “editor…especially for my children.”
"Everybody has their own history of their family and mine happened to be in the newspapers,” she said with a slight chuckle.
Even Luft’s children, now 28 and 22, have experienced the devoted following Garland still commands. She said they are extremely proud, although they feel a sadness they never got to meet their grandmother.
“They’re aware of their legacy and of her legacy and aware it’s around them all the time,” said Luft. “You come from what you know and this is their normal.”
Luft didn’t always embrace her legacy. She concedes “running away and doing all those crazy things” like dying her hair purple and singing back-up on rock n’ roll albums for Blondie. But, today, she strives to live for the moment. She encourages her children to remember the present as they look toward the future:
“It’s wonderful to have a goal, but don’t let that goal overtake you,” Luft said.
Recently, Luft was honored by the Desert AIDS Project with the Steve Chase Community Service Award. A longtime advocate for HIV/AIDS care, she raised millions for research to find a cure.
“I lost so many people, it was like Niagara Falls. The AIDS epidemic hit all of us, not just show business, I mean people all around the world. It just hit me and I had to do something. Whenever they asked me to sing, I sang, when they asked me to walk, I walked,” she recalled, “and I never ever was paid.”
At the awards ceremony, she shared the stage with AIDS activist Elizabeth Glazer’s son, Jake. Glazer was a hero, she felt, and commended Jake for picking up the torch after his mother passed away, just as she has picked up the torch for her mother.
If You Go
What: Lorna Luft: Songs My Mother Taught Me
When: Wednesday, March 20, 11 a.m., 2 p.m.
Where: Kravis Center, West Palm Beach
How Much: $28
For More Information: Kravis.org