In 1963, Judy Garland taped a special Christmas edition of her CBS musical-variety series featuring her children Liza Minnelli and Lorna and Joey Luft, and guests Jack Jones and Mel Torme. The Disney Channel has dusted off the special and will air it Sunday for the first time since the original telecast in 1963. (Disney will also air four other episodes of Garland's series over the next year.)
"The Judy Garland Christmas Show" marked Lorna Luft's professional debut and she has been performing ever since--in clubs, on Broadway and in films and television.
Luft, now 38 and the mother of 6-year-old son Jesse and 3-month-old daughter Vanessa, discussed the Christmas special and working with her legendary mother with Susan King.
Have you seen the Christmas special since it aired in 1963?
No. It's too hard (to watch), especially since it's getting to be Christmastime. I haven't sat down and watched the whole thing.
Did the special mark your TV debut?
Yes. I was 11 years old. I remember it so vividly. I remember all the good times we had and how comfortable everybody was and how much fun we had. That's why it's hard to watch it around the holidays.
Do you remember what you sang?
Sure. I sang "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." We all sing "Consider Yourself" from "Oliver!" I sat on Jack Jones' knee and did "Santa Claus." It's funny because I see him now and I always say, "Can I come sit on your lap and sing Christmas songs?"
Did you perform in front of an audience?
Yeah. I was nervous at rehearsals and things like that, but I wasn't nervous by the time we actually shot it because we had done it so much and Momma made us feel so comfortable.
Were you bitten by the performance bug after you did the show?
I always knew I sort of wanted to go into this business, but I think what was interesting about doing that show is that it taught me about the discipline that it takes to go into this industry and how hard it is. It takes hours and hours of rehearsals or whatever to make something look that you didn't rehearse. That was a great learning experience. Some people get to have their debut on TV show like "Roseanne," but this was all of a sudden performing with a legend. It was jumping into show business feet first in the deep end and you better not screw up either. Momma made us feel very comfortable unless you screwed up and didn't take it seriously.
When did you start performing professionally?
I went on the road in the summer of 1967 on a concert tour with my mother and then we finished at the Palace (in New York). I was 14 years old.
I had my own solo part. I was singing mainly pop stuff that came out then. It's sort of interesting because I have an album out right now--the very first complete recording of the show "Girl Crazy," which my mother did as a movie. And it was Ethel Merman's first (Broadway) show and I am singing all of the songs that Ethel introduced originally and that Momma sang in the movie. It's first of a series of albums commissioned by Mrs. Ira Gershwin because a lot of the Gershwin pieces were never recorded.
Do you want your children to go into show business?
Are you crazy? I put a scalpel and Retin-A in my son's hand every day and say "plastic surgery. You are going to become a plastic surgeon." And for my daughter, she is going to be a scientist. What I really want them to do is to be able to do what they want to do, but I want them to realize that this industry is not fun and games.
Do you feel that way because you think you started performing at a young age?
No, because I was asked if I wanted to go on tour. I had already said, "I want to take lessons. I want to do this." I just think that the industry on a daily basis is getting harder and harder because there are fewer and fewer jobs. And there are more actors than there are jobs. It's just so hard.
What I feel about this industry is that you better be grateful for what you have. That is why when I read about people complaining about this industry I want to slap them. I was raised in a family that respected this industry and went through all of the training you had to do to be a star. There is luck involved. I think today there's more luck involved than when my mother went into the industry. You had to have talent and you worked real hard and that is how I was raised. You better be grateful to go into this industry. I am so grateful to be working. That's all you can ask for today.
"The Judy Garland Christmas Show" airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on the Disney Channel. It repeats Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.; Dec. 22 at 10 p.m. and Dec. 24 at 12:30 a.m.