Toward the end of her short life, Judy Garland was joyful but profoundly desperate for attention and money, according to a man who became her lover and confidante.
Garland was 46 when she met 26-year-old pianist John Meyer, and the two were immediately infatuated with each other. Meyer, now 79, spoke at length with People about their romance, which rapidly escalated in some part because Garland had nowhere to live: The star, by then short on money and work, had recently been booted from her hotel residence for skipping out on bills.
It was a spirited roller coaster of a relationship, Meyer told the outlet, that combined sex with business. "We did a lot of role playing. We’d do scenes back and forth," he claimed. "It was a lot of fun. That was more important to her than the actual sex."
Despite her financial woes and a plaguing addiction to dangerous substances — Garland ultimately died at 47 of an accidental overdose — "she thought her life was a gas, a ball," Meyer said. "She didn't think her life was painful. She was funny. She experienced joy. She loved sex. She didn’t love food. She loved to sing and she loved the attention."
The aversion to food was a perpetual issue for Garland, who faced enormous pressure as a young woman to be excruciatingly thin. One of her husbands, Sid Luft, claimed he fruitlessly tried to steer Garland toward a healthy diet, but she had difficulty choosing between eating lots of food or nothing at all.
PHOTOS: Judy Garland with Sid Luft and their children
As for Garland's craving for attention, Meyer said, it poisoned many of her relationships. "Her big overriding motivation was 'love me.' And she made people prove it in all of her relationships," he said. "She would escalate the levels of commitment until you were staying up with her for 36 hours a day."
He continued, "She'd keep moving the goal posts until the person just had to drop. And then she could say, 'You deserted me, see.'"
The romance was both overwhelming and intoxicating, and Meyer found himself reeling when she quickly disappeared from his life, returning to her on-and-off lover Mickey Deans. The two wed in March 1969, three months before her passing.
PHOTOS: Judy Garland with Mickey Deans
In retrospect, Meyer says his fixation on his short-lived romance with Garland was "a compulsion ... I realized that this mission of mine to restore Judy to her former greatness and be the guy who rescued her was not going to work."
Garland died in June 1969 of an accidental overdose. Several of her exes attended her funeral; former husband Luft wrote in his unpublished memoir that at the time of her death, "she couldn't have weighed more than ninety pounds. She was totally burned out. Destroyed."
Renewed interest in Garland's life is in part related to "Judy," which came out earlier this year with Renee Zellweger starring as the late icon. The film is considered to be a viable Oscar contender.
PHOTOS: Judy Garland with daughter Liza Minnelli