By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"Life was all pretty in the Sixties," says De Alba, conveniently glossing over the wars, rioting and murders that marked one of the most turbulent decades in modern history. "In Psycho, when the shower scene came, people would scream in fear. In West Side Story, when Tony died in Maria's arms, people would weep. Now you go to see The Terminator and the people are yelling, 'Keel him! Keel him!' Today, we are in a very cold, brutal world with no softness to it.
"I loved the Sixties. I loved the Seventies. Up through the mid-Eighties, everything was gangbusters for me." De Alba curls his lip. "I haven't liked anything since." Not so coincidentally, 1986 was the year De Alba's companion (who prefers to remain nameless) began a career move that forced the pair to leave the Bay Area. After De Alba departs to change costumes, his partner smiles. "David really enjoys performing. This is a real treat for him. It's been a long time since he's had the opportunity to pretend he was someone else.
"As he gets older, it gets harder for him to do Judy, though," continues the companion. "When he did this ten years ago, reaching the higher notes was no problem and neither was fitting into the costumes. Age catches up with you, particularly in a field like this. When he was in his 20s, he could do the soprano stuff all day."
"On some of his songs, you do have to use your imagination," concedes Gloria Shor, an acquaintance who is helping to get De Alba's career back on track. "But on others, though, he's so on target, it's eerie!"
Shor's qualifications for booking nightclub acts? "I've been in sales all my life, so I thought I'd give this a try," laughs Shor, who currently sells industrial chemicals over the telephone.
Whether she can sell Scottsdale's resort industry on De Alba remains to be seen, but Shor is optimistic. "These buses take the tourists to Sedona during the day. Why shouldn't they take them to see David at night? There's really not much else for them to do, so what have they got to lose by taking a look at David's act? If you'll remember, they used to have live shows around town where the women could stick money down the men's pants, and they were very successful." Dressed in a flashy pantsuit outfit that Liberace might have deemed excessive, De Alba reenters the room and perches atop a stool.
Replicating Garland's trademark herky-jerky hand movements and facial expressions, he radiates the same sort of nervous energy that eventually turned off as many Judy watchers as it attracted. As if in a trance, he slips into automatic, with Garland as his co-pilot.
A compulsive talker with a disconcerting habit of layering tangent upon non sequitur, De Alba suddenly begins parroting a Garland monologue gleaned from a 30-year-old episode of The Jack Paar Show. "It is so difficult be a legend, I sometimes feel like the Statue of Liberty," he announces to no one in particular. "People think that I am so busy being a star that I do not have time to go to a movie or dinner. So I just sit by the phone and wait." Catching something out of the corner of his eye, De Alba momentarily breaks character, curtly suggesting that the photographer put a stocking over the lens to soften the image. "The camera can be so cruel," he coos, slipping back into Judydom and delivering a long-winded monologue about how "she" lost the chance to star in Mame on Broadway when the producers cast Angela Lansbury instead. Never mind that nobody but the most delusional fan seriously believed that the notoriously undependable Garland was capable of handling the rigors of eight shows a week in a Broadway musical.
"The producers, they are afraid that right when I am in the middle of a big scene, someone will call out, 'Judy, sing "Over the Rainbow!"' and it will spoil the show," explains "Judy." "That's why I am not angry when the part goes to my darling friend Angela. You see, with Angela they know they will not have this problem because she is not associated with any theme songs like I am." Briefly returning to the here and now, De Alba weighs one of the many what-if questions that have kept Garlandites guessing for the past quarter-century: Assuming Garland had won the role, would she really have shown up at the theatre every night? The answer from the De Alba corner is a matter-of-fact "no." "But when Judy did show up, it would be worth the wait," he insists.
In spite of his shortcomings as a male songstress, David De Alba has a way with slip-sliding Garland monologues that may be worth waiting for themselves. How often do you see a man impersonating a woman who is offering fanciful rationalizations about why she was denied the opportunity to do something that was never a remote possibility in the first place? Assuming that's really what's going on. At any given moment, it's nearly impossible to determine whether De Alba is speaking for himself, doling out genuine Garland sound bites or simply riding the crest of a Garland-fueled stream of consciousness.
Call it psychological performance art. But whatever it is, De Alba has inadvertently created a dizzying form of theatre that arcs way over reality's rainbow. Now if he only had a stage. . . .