Entertainment :: Books

"Operation Ruby Slipper" pits Judy Garland against the Nazis

by Bill Biss
Contributor
Thursday Mar 1, 2012
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Does the idea of Judy Garland working undercover for the U.S. government during WWII sound implausible?

Yet, in John Meyer’s new work of fiction called "Operation Ruby Slipper," the author has managed to create a scenario that is not only plausible, but also filled with realism, action and suspense... and definitely a dose of Judy’s magnetism and humor.

If John Meyer’s name rings a bell for admirers of Miss Garland, that is because he is also the author of a Judy memoir, "Heartbreaker." His relationship, friendship and business acumen forged a very real bond with the star in 1968 over a period of two months near the tragic end of Garland’s life. Hence, he has a definite sense of how she ticks, her speech patterns and personality in transferring reality to fiction for "Operation Ruby Slipper."

It is a great pleasure to speak with Mr. Meyer about his new book and Judy Garland in this interview with John Meyer on EDGE Media Network for "Operation Ruby Slipper."


Parallel threads

EDGE: "Operation Ruby Slipper" is a thoroughly enjoyable and exciting read.

John Meyer: Thank you. I’m really glad to speak with you, Bill, and have this interview on EDGE. This is the first interview I’m doing on "Operation Ruby Slipper."

EDGE: Oh wow. Okay.

John Meyer: I’m particularly pleased because I know that you are familiar with Judy’s history at MGM during the early 1940s...

EDGE: Definitely.

John Meyer: It forms a great deal of the book and then, of course, there’s World War II. In these pages, I have tried to synthesize these two parallel threads, which are responsible for most of the action.


Judy in a Hitchcock situation

EDGE: I wanted to find out, what was your initial motivation to take Judy Garland off the MGM lot and into WWII as a U.S. undercover agent?

John Meyer: Well, I thought since that was the most dramatic part of our history, certainly of the 20th Century, that it would be fun to utilize Judy in the most dangerous situations she could experience... which is that of an undercover agent, going behind German lines.

I knew since "Heartbreaker" had made quite a splash in the 1980s that Judy had become in publishing terms, my platform. I thought, "How can I use Judy in the most appealing way?" Let’s put her in a Hitchcock situation you know? A thriller situation where she has an objective, she has to find this physicist, this guy in Germany who is working on a nuclear-powered sub for the U-boats and has to be taken out. Otherwise, these U-boats will threaten the invasion of Normandy.

I had to find a reason for why the O.S.S. would choose Judy for this mission... that really should be given to an experienced O.S.S. operative.

EDGE: I don’t want to ruin the plot for those who haven’t read the book.

John Meyer: No, we can’t. But, certainly put in the fact that this gay physicist is perhaps, Judy’s first German fan. He writes her a letter and that’s the only thing the army has to go on. It’s a letter that was written to MGM’s publicity department.

EDGE: Your attention to detail in regards to her real love affairs, friends and studio associates makes the book even more believable.

John Meyer: I’m glad you think that. Since I’ve been a fan of her work for over thirty years now, I of course, know the history and know all these names. Having investigated the MGM hierarchy, the chief of the studio, Louis B. Mayer, whose word was law, then his assistant, Benny Thau. I did a lot of research on it.


Through Judy’s eyes

EDGE: For those who know, it creates a very realistic flow to the book.

John Meyer: I tried to anchor Judy’s evaluation of these people to her interior monologues in the book so you always get a picture of the people through Judy’s eyes.

EDGE: Capturing her essence and spirit... It’s almost like you knew her and loved her! Oh wait, you did!

John Meyer: (Laughter) Exactly. I met Judy through one of my customers in a little piano bar I was playing in. Since I’m a songwriter, I had this very piquant number called, "I’d Like to Hate Myself in the Morning" and when he asked me if I had any material for Judy, I thought of that song immediately. For some reason, he knew her and was putting her up. She was down and out, so far down at that point, that, she [Meyer puts on a Southern accent] "really did rely on the kahndness of strange-uhs."

He brought me over to his flat in the Carnegie Hall studios and I played the song for her. She responded to its humor, she responded to me and all of a sudden... we just took hands and left. (Laughter) We embarked on this amazing eight-week adventure, in which I tried to rescue Judy from her demons. That’s the truth and is detailed in "Heartbreaker."

EDGE: Both of your books are well done for different reasons.

John Meyer: Thank you.

EDGE: One very important aspect of "Operation Ruby Slipper" is that you really bring out Judy’s sense of humor.

John Meyer: When I talk about Judy... so many people want to put her in a pigeon hole, "Oh poor Judy, tragic Judy, wasn’t that a shame? That great talent stifled." On a day-to-day basis, she was funny, man, you know? I’ve tried to bring that quality out in the book. Everything she said had humor. It was the fabric of her personality, really, based around humor. She just loved to laugh.

EDGE: Exactly. Thanks so much, John.

John Meyer: You’re welcome. I’m thrilled.

Operation Ruby Slipper" is available at amazon.com. $12.99. GraceNote Publishing. For more information about John Meyer, visit his website.


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