THANKSGIVING . . . IN OZ!

THANKSGIVING . . . IN OZ!

by John Fricke

     

[Above: To Oz? To Oz! . . . as we review some of the happy moments for which the remarkable residents of the land are most thankful.]

Because of the wonderful books written by the “Royal Historians of Oz,” we’ve come to know much about the extraordinary citizens of that marvelous land.  As a result, I don’t think it’s possible to overemphasize the gratitude expressed by many of them for the experiences they’ve enjoyed across the 118 years since L. Frank Baum first brought Oz to our attention. Perhaps a number of you will read here for the very first time about such happy moments; others will already know them by heart! Regardless, they’re worth citing, especially at this thanksgiving (and Thanksgiving) time of the year.

The following is, of course, just a perfunctory “primer,” drawn from countless examples of the personal joys of some favorite Ozians. But every reference is meant to honor the appreciation felt by such genuinely loved inhabitants – and to celebrate the past week’s United States holiday.

Of course, it was Dorothy Gale who introduced most of us to Oz, and it was her cyclonic journey that first carried innumerable readers (and even more moviegoers and television viewers) “over the rainbow.” But her connection to Oz didn’t end when Baum’s silver shoes took her home to Kansas. In fact, she was delighted to return to the magic kingdom via other mystical routings: when swept off a ship during a Pacific Ocean storm; by falling victim to a California earthquake; and by becoming the pawn of a magical multiplication of Kansas roads. The Midwestern girl never failed to offer thanks for such adventures, but it’s safe to say that even they were surpassed when Princess Ozma invited her – plus Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and Toto (too!) – to permanently relocate to Oz. [For specifics of Dorothy Gale’s second, third, fourth and fifth escapades, please (respectively!) see the books OZMA OF OZ, DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD IN OZ, THE ROAD TO OZ, and THE EMERALD CITY OF OZ.

[Above: An unexpected encounter of the best kind is explained and described in the paragraph below.]

It’s likely that the famous Scarecrow (often regarded as “the most popular man in Oz”) might describe himself as most appreciative of the brains given to him by the legendary Wizard. However, the straw genius is equally notable for his own capacity to care: One of the most rapturous and riveting (if emotionally fleeting) encounters in any of the hoztories comes with his first glance of Scraps, THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ, in that volume of the series. Significantly — In Baum’s perfect world — Scraps is equally bedazzled by the Scarecrow, and although they eventually settle down to become “just good friends,” their initial meeting is (you should pardon the expression) one for the books!

The scope of the Tin Woodman’s magnificent heart is a matter of record across many Oz legends. But like all three of Dorothy’s first companions, Nick Chopper (his given name) already possessed the gift he most sought from the Wizard of Oz. When the story of the Tin Man’s first trip across Oz with Dorothy & Co. was brought to the screen by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1939, the film’s limited running time meant that many indications of Nick’s care for his fellow travelers had to be dropped from the plot. However, those who would know more about the Tin Woodman’s sensitive response-and-defense (and sometimes necessarily ruthless use of his strength and ax) will find many examples in the full-length, first Oz book, THE WIZARD OF OZ.  Read how Nick saved the Queen of the Field Mice from a ravening wildcat! Discover his skills with the trees of different Oz forests, as he creates a bridge over an impassable chasm, builds a cart to transport (and save the life of) the Cowardly Lion from the Deadly Poppy Field, and teaches a lesson to the fighting saplings who would prevent Dorothy from reaching the palace of Glinda the Good! Learn how he dispatched the howling wolves of the Wicked Witch of the West – and overcame so many other challenges to those he loved. And let it be noted that he undertook many of these actions before he ever possessed a heart; they’re all described in THE WIZARD OF OZ book!

In that same title (and in another episode that never made it into the Judy Garland musical), the Cowardly Lion rescues a forest of animals from a giant spider. In the process, the Lion also has a brief, pleasant encounter with “the biggest of the tigers” in those woods – a meeting which foreshadows a companionship that gave him much for which to be thankful across other Oz stories. When we next come across them in OZMA OF OZ, the Lion and the “Hungry Tiger” have become best of friends; they’re also Emerald City dwellers, serving as duo honor guard to Princess Ozma. Their later sojourns into the wilds of the land involve them in no little excitement and danger, especially in THE MAGIC OF OZ, when a single word of transformation turns them into a Munchkin boy and a rabbit! How the Lion and Tiger return to their original forms, save two other friends from shrinking away to nothing when they become literally ROOTED on an enchanted island, AND help to provide Princess Ozma with an amazing birthday gift . . . well, it’s nothing short of miraculous. There’s no question that such an amalgamation of events is something the Lion and Tiger were most beholden to experience together.

[Above:  Dorothy and the Wizard himself are “processioned” into the Forest of Gugu by the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger in the book, THE MAGIC OF OZ.]

Finally, what of the Wizard himself? Of course, the citizens of Oz built the Emerald City under his wise guidance (although in later years he modestly claimed he “only bossed the job”). Additionally, the Wizard most certainly gave the residents a sense of security during his rule; when he departed in his balloon, the populace was most sorry to see him go. All that being said, the Wizard’s most grateful moment is easy to pinpoint: When he unexpectedly returns to Oz in DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD IN OZ, Princess Ozma welcomes him graciously and warmly — and then offers him “a home here as long as you live. You shall be the Official Wizard of my kingdom, and be treated with every respect and consideration.” When describing this scene, L. Frank Baum notes that the Wizard had “tear-drops . . . standing in his keen old eyes. It meant a great deal to him to secure a home like this.” Even better, the former humbug thereafter goes on to study at length with Glinda the Good; in the process, he becomes a genuine, wonder-working Wizard.

[Above:  A combination of royal and fairy lineage has made Princess Ozma a supremely right and rightful ruler of Oz. Her kindnesses to her own citizens – as well as to Dorothy, the Wizard, and others from the “Great Outside World” – are copiously described in the Oz Books.]

So, as you can see, there’s always much for which to be thankful in Oz! Indeed, as noted above, these are just a very few depictions of the hundreds that could be cited. Imagine Glinda’s delight at possessing the Great Book of Records, in which every event that happens anywhere in the world – no matter how minor — is immediately noted. Conjure up the joy of Jack Pumpkinhead when he’s able to grow a pumpkin large and spacious enough to use as his home. Or consider the ebullience of Santa Claus when he takes a couple of days off from his North Pole duties to attend Ozma’s birthday party in the Emerald City.

All of these adventures are told in The Oz Books – there are forty volumes in all — and well worth the exploring by any “reading children” you might know. Or any children-to-whom-you-read. Or any people you know who used to be children — and who would welcome a reminder of the fact that some of the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true. (Chittenango’s All Things Oz Museum and Shop stocks many of the Oz Books . . . and Christmas is coming!)

Finally, and given all of the foregoing, it might be best to conclude with a slight reconsideration of the title of this month’s blog – and offer that it could just as easily be called:  THANKSGIVING . . . TO  OZ.

Here’s every heartfelt wish that your holiday was happy, fulfilling, and suffused with gratitude — Ozzy and otherwise! 😊

AMONG MY SOUVENIRS . . .

AMONG MY SOUVENIRS . . .

by John Fricke

 

Across the last sixteen months, I’ve been fortunate to spend even more than the customary amount of time in the All Things Oz Museum in Chittenango, NY.  The happy experience of being surrounded by so much “Oz collection” has led to a lot of reflection here on the wide variety of products, projects, and memorabilia launched by L. Frank Baum, when he discovered the marvelous land (and first wrote about it) in THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ book in 1900. Fortunately, much of that material has been preserved, gathered, and presented – both in the public/professional sense, as with the Chittenango holdings, and also in the private/personal sense, as is demonstrated in the many photographs that fans post or otherwise share of an “Oz room” at home.  (Of course, truth be told: sometimes it’s “Oz roomS” . . . and/or hallways and/or houses. But more power to ‘em!)

I was a fervent and Ozzy collector myself as a preteen and teen; since then, during decades of Oz and/or Judy Garland-related work, there’s been additional happy accumulation. Many of the items are treasured here because of their special association with people, places, events, and heartfelt memories; given the social-media displays of favorite acquisitions joyously exhibited by so many fellow enthusiasts, I thought I’d take the same approach for this month’s blog.

The photos up-top show the front covers of two unusual editions of THE WIZARD OF OZ.  EL MAGO DE OZ (left) was published in 1940 in Santiago, Chile; O MAGICO DE OZ (right) appeared in Brazil in late 1939 and was one of the first foreign book publications to capitalize on that year’s release of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Judy Garland musical. These publications were comparatively unfamiliar to Oz historians until they were discovered in an ancient MGM file folder during research for projects attendant to the film’s fiftieth anniversary in 1989. They’re of additional interest in that their texts follow the movie plot rather than that of Baum’s original story — and they’re illustrated with film stills (and, in the case of O MAGICO, a variety of actual film frames).

 

As a little boy, I haunted the two used book stores in downtown Milwaukee, WI, and turned up a number of treasures – some of which I still cherish. One of the loveliest of these (above left) was a 1902 first edition/second printing of Baum’s beauteous fantasy, THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS, which sold for a rip-roaring five dollars! (Well, that was a hefty price for a preteen, back in the day.) A couple of years later, in 1963, I began to attend the annual conventions of The International Wizard of Oz Club, then held in Bass Lake, IN, at Ozcot Lodge – the summer home of Baum’s only surviving son, Harry Neal. He and I had already enjoyed a brief correspondence, and he most kindly autographed my copy of SANTA CLAUS — which his father had dedicated to him some sixty-one years earlier.

 

The Oz Club was only five years old when I first became a member in 1962. Among its prime movers-and-shakers was the wonderful illustrator/writer Dick Martin. We became pen pals and then friends; a few months after our initial meeting at the 1963 OzCon, the fortieth (and final) “official” book in the Oz series was published by The Reilly & Lee Company of Chicago; Dick had pictured and designed it.  In a gesture that typified the sharing, generosity, and camaraderie of the Club’s early members and collectors, he sent me a copy of MERRY GO ROUND IN OZ as soon as it came from the press. Or, to be more specific, as soon as he’d had time to gently excise the book’s first page, inscribe it, send it off from his Chicago home to Oregon to garner and retrieve the additional autographs of the coauthors; and then carefully “tip in” the returned leaf. Over subsequent years, the McGraws – mother and daughter – befriended me and became revered companions, as well . . . but Dick holds a forever-place of his own in my gratitude and heart for being both an omnipresent compatriot and a marvel of talent.

(The explanation behind the origin of my Ozzified first name in the Martin drawing will have to wait for a future blog; it’s not a biggie!)

Finally, this little boxed set of 45rpm vinyl records was my sixth birthday present. Just twenty-seven days prior, I’d been introduced to the magic of Oz by the initial coast-to-coast telecast of THE WIZARD OF OZ movie over the CBS network. The lifelong delight, thrill, excitement (not to say glorious obsession) began that evening, and my ever-supportive and encouraging parents provided three related presents when my natal day came around. The record set was, perhaps, first among equals; there was the thrill of the color cover (I’d seen the film on a black-and-white TV); the eight black-and-while stills on the back of the box; the interior plot synopsis and production history; and the original soundtrack excerpts of song and story. Such an amalgamation went a very long way toward reinforcing my fascination with the movie I’d so recently viewed; to be sure, those records “held me” – way beyond entranced — for three years, until OZ was televised for a second time.

As I finished typing the foregoing sentence here, I found myself letting out a very happy sigh. And that was because there was the once-again realization that it’s not about the collecting or possessions – as euphorically pleasing as they can be. It’s about the recollections that come with each individual article.

So, I thank you for your possible interest in (or curiosity about) the items pictured here. But I most especially thank you for giving me the warmth of remembering people, places, events . . . and OZ.  😊

BUT HAVE YOU REALLY SEEN “THE WIZARD OF OZ” MOVIE? 😊

By John Fricke

[Here’s an Oz trivia query: Which outrageously popular song of 1905 can be heard on THE WIZARD OF OZ movie soundtrack during the sequence pictured here?]

Last month’s blog featured a discussion about The Oz Books – the famous “official” series of forty titles published between 1900 and 1963. And although it’s safe to say that I’m biased, I’ll never qualify the statement (as was put forward here in July) that there’s no better reading for youngsters, families, adults — or anyone — than the real, true Oz!

However, there’s also absolutely no question that, since the late 1950s, most people have first come to L. Frank Baum’s story via the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture version of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Highly praised at its initial release in 1939, the film is now regarded as legendary, iconic, unforgettable, classic, timeless, and magical. (One of many lovely claims that can be made for OZ is that it deserves at least all of those adjectives!) Millions saw it on theater screens in 1939-40, and additional millions attended its nationwide theatrical reissues in 1949 and 1955. Yet the total number of those who viewed OZ in movie houses was stunningly surpassed in one night. When the film first appeared on network television in 1956, it’s estimated that more than forty-five million people tuned in. The OZ audience was even larger for a second telecast in 1959; by 1960, the movie had launched its unique reign as an established, extraordinary, annual TV event that continued virtually unabated for almost forty years. Since 1980, the Judy-Garland-&-Co. musical has also been a consistent best-selling presence on home video, encompassing release on Beta tape, VHS tape, laser disc, DVD, Blu-ray DVD, and 3-D DVD.  Thus, it’s happily apparent that — by the mid-to-late twentieth century – the OZ film had become the primary “yellow brick road” introduction to Baum’s story and characters for the majority of the world.

This is just conjecture, but it’s also highly probable that most people reading here have seen THE WIZARD OF OZ multiple times. So, given all the foregoing facts, I thought it might be fun this month to leap from July’s discussion of The Oz Books to a look-back at THE Oz film and point out some entertaining moments you might have missed — or for which you can watch the NEXT time you view THE WIZARD OF OZ.  As entertainment (and, hopefully, entertaining) history, it’s a glimpse at both back-story and the film-making process: a peek “behind the curtain” at MGM-in-action across the months in 1938-39 when the movie went before their cameras.

For example . . . !

Sixteen-year-old Judy Garland was elevated to full “star status” on the MGM roster during production of THE WIZARD OF OZ. For many years between the mid-1980s and 2013, innumerable fans reveled in the story told by “flowerpot hat”/“sleepyhead” Munchkin Margaret Pellegrini, who remembered in happy detail the day on the OZ soundstage when the studio presented Judy with “her own [portable] dressing room trailer on wheels” in confirmation of the girl’s new rank. But if Judy was then officially a star, she remained legally a minor across the entire arc of OZ filming. This meant that, by law, she could only work on-set four hours each day, Monday through Saturday. Three other hours per day were committed to schoolwork; a fourth fell under the loose and nebulous designation of “recreation. Beyond that – and in addition to Judy’s limited availability of time — production honchos were increasingly, physically careful with the teenager, who appeared in all but a handful of OZ scenes. (Think about it: when is “Dorothy Gale” NOT on-screen across the one-hundred-one minutes of the movie?)

[Stafford Campbell and Bobbie Koshay “stand in” for Ray Bolger and Judy Garland during lighting tests on the Haunted Forest set. Ms. Koshay actually appears at least three times on-screen in THE WIZARD OF OZ.]

The result of all of this: there are at least three instances when Judy’s stand-in Bobbie Koshay, “takes over” – and you’re watching the “Dorothy double.” These include the moment when the Kansas girl walks the pigsty fence and topples into the pen; when the flying monkeys lift her into the air in the Haunted Forest; and when she – in brown-and-white-checked gingham – steps forward to open the door of the Kansas farmhouse to Technicolor Munchkinland . . . and then backs away, completely off-camera, to allow the “real” blue-and-white garbed Garland to exit onto the multi-hued plaza.

Among other “no-it’s-not-them” moments in OZ:  Margaret Hamilton’s double, Betty Danko stood in for the initial appearance of the Wicked Witch of the West, popping up (under cover of scarlet smoke) through the floor of the Munchkinland set. Ms. Danko (as shown above) was filmed in long-shot, with the brim of her hat covering much of her face. The studio also spared Bert Lahr a certain combination of athleticism and potential physical impairment by having a double fulfill the leaping first “entrance” of the Cowardly Lion in the forest sequence, as well as the first leaping “exit” of that character through the “glass” window of the Emerald City palace, as he runs to escape from the throne room and the Head of the Great Oz.

Lahr’s absence – as well of that of Tin Man Jack Haley and Scarecrow Ray Bolger – is again (however briefly) apparent in the sequence in which the trio climbs the mountain to access the castle of the Wicked Witch. While it’s unquestionably the real trio on-camera for the close-shot dialogue moment (“I hope my strength holds out”/“I hope your tail holds out”), the Lion/Tin Man exchange is framed by two long shots and a medium shot wherein Dorothy’s companions are played by doubles. This is especially noticeable in the reasonably ratty condition of the costume of the faux-Lion!

[Will the real Haley & Lahr please stand up – and climb the Winkie Country mountain for their two-shot and this still?]

Munchkin Margaret Pellegrini was happily referenced above. At age fifteen, she was one of the youngest, tiniest, and cutest of the “little people” performing in THE WIZARD OF OZ, as well an adept actor/reactor to the plot unfurling around her character. Because of that, she was placed in multiple scenes, sometimes up front and sometimes in the background (where the camera was primarily focused on one or more of the speaking, principal players). You can see Margaret, in her blue flowerpot hat, directly (if hazily) in the distance and right in between Glinda and Dorothy when the latter sings, “It really was no miracle . . . .” In the very next shot, Margaret’s one of the Munchkins in the foreground to whom Dorothy was singing, and thereafter, she’s omnipresent as: the little people come forward to carol, “The house began to pitch”; at the conclusion of the tracking shot as they offer, “. . . [a healthy ‘sitch’-uation for] the Wicked Witch”; as she dances with others on the plaza; and (in an especially charming double appearance) in the group around the carriage as the two Munchkin gentlemen salute Dorothy (“We thank you very sweetly . . . “). Immediately thereafter, Margaret can be seen again over Glinda’s left shoulder, as the Good Witch exclaims, “The wicked old witch at last is dead.” (There are other such moments, but you get the idea!)

One of Jerry Maren’s background moments is worth referencing as well. When Betty Danko first appears as the Wicked Witch in Munchkinland, the green-garbed, “Lollipop Guild” member Maren is barely discernible upstage, right of center, standing in a group of other little people in front of the big white pot of artificial leaves and flowers. He spreads his arms upward on one of the final “Tra-la-la-la-la-lah”s, just before the explosion heralds the WWW. Then – watch for it – Jerry scampers across the background to the left and leaps into the window of one of the Munchkin huts. There he stays, legs hanging out the window (across Heaven knows how many “takes”), until he completely retracts them at the Witch’s exit.

[A dozen or so of the most photogenic and tiny “little people” worked an extra day on OZ for stills such as this one. Margaret Pellegrini (her flowerpot hat semi-obscured by a gigantic leaf or pod) is just to the right of Judy Garland’s outstretched left hand. Jerry Maren’s “Lollipop Guild” head seems to be growing out of the poufy right shoulder of Glinda the Good! Side note: For early Oz Festival attendees, the fondly-recalled and cherished Fern Formica is the Munchkin Maiden on the extreme right of this still.]

For OZ audiologists and musicologists, there are several soundtrack cues wherein the brilliant composer/conductor/arranger Herbert Stothart interpolated — or oversaw the interpolation of — various bits of famous and/or familiar classical and popular melodies in the film’s underscoring. (Stothart won an Oscar for OZ, and given his talent and musical perspicacity, it’s no wonder.) The vintage, well-known Payne/Bishop “Home Sweet Home” is heard several times in OZ.  Schumann’s “The Happy Farmer” accompanies Judy and Terry in the very first scene, as Dorothy and Toto run home and commiserate on the feared advent of Miss Gulch. Pryor’s “Whistler and the Dog” – better known as “Where, oh where, has my little dog gone” – pops up as the Kansas girl and her companion run away from home; later on, the Van Alstyne/Williams hit of 1905, “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree,” is very recognizable during the orchard sequence, just prior to the first appearance of the Tin Man. When Toto breaks away from the castle of the Wicked Witch, he’s accompanied by Mendelssohn’s “Opus 16, #2.” Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” – two years later an integral music cue in Walt Disney’s FANTASIA – was utilized (in part) for the Fab Five’s attempted escape from the Witch and Winkies. Finally, the traditional graduation-exercise theme, “Gaudeamus Igitur,” comes into play during a portion of the “presentation” sequence, where wonderful and wizardly Frank Morgan bestows a diploma to the Scarecrow.

Of course, there’s MUCH more minutiae that can be discussed regarding THE WIZARD OF OZ. Yet its overall potency as entertainment has always meant that – examine it frame-by-frame (as some have done) – even microscopic scrutiny can’t take away from the mirth, melody, emotion, and glory it purveys.

Such a special status and level of fame and familiarity  may never again be equaled by any other motion picture!

The Upcoming Oz-stravaganza Festival

April 2018 

OZ ON BROADWAY!  (STARS OF WICKED!) 

OZ IN SONG!  OZ IN “COZTUME”!                                                                                        …AND OZ & BAUM IN BOOKS!

by John Fricke

 

A few days ago, the International L. Frank Baum and All Things Oz Historical Foundation announced their special guest roster for OZ-Stravaganza! 2018, and it’s a dazzling list of multi-talents — several making their debuts on “the Oz Circuit.” Each of them also ties-in with either this year’s theme, BROADWAY COMES TO OZ, or with the general love of Oz and its creator that characterize the annual Chittenango, NY, festival. A small village just east of Syracuse, Chittenango is the birthplace of author L. Frank Baum . . . and what would this world have been without him — and his stories, characters, and mystical lands that define THE WIZARD OF OZ and Oz Books?

Now in its forty-first consecutive year, OZ-Strav! 2018 takes place from Friday afternoon, June 1 through Sunday afternoon, June 3. The festivities include the traditional, lavish Oz parade, evening presentations by the honored guest stars, costumed characters, diverse contests, Ozzy displays and auctions, live music, vendors, craft booths, carnival rides, Authors & Artists Alley, a wide array of food – and much more.

“Topping the bill” are two first-timers for the festival, though they’re certainly not newcomers to Oz itself. TIFFANY HAAS and MICHAEL McCORRY ROSE have starred on Broadway in the legendary stage musical, WICKED: she as Glinda, and he as Fiyero. In addition to participating in OZ-Strav! autograph sessions, photo ops, and meet-and-greets on Friday and Saturday, they’ll take stage on Saturday evening to share fascinating, funny stories about their personal pathways to Oz. It’s happy history that the yellow brick road ultimately led both of them to New York’s Gershwin Theatre and their iconic roles in WICKED, the phenomenally successful Stephen Schwartz musical. That production celebrates its fifteenth anniversary on Broadway this year, and “Glinda” and “Fiyero” are the OZ-Strav! exemplifications of this joyous milestone. (Please note: Due to prior professional commitments, Ms. Haas and Mr. Rose will appear at the festival on Friday and Saturday only.)

Broadway composer, orchestrator, and symphonic arranger STEVE MARGOSHES wrote the songs for FAME – THE MUSICAL, which commemorates its thirtieth anniversary this year. The show has been performed world-wide since first produced in 1988; it’s been recorded on some twenty original cast albums and remains a supreme favorite of both audiences and entertainers. In recent years, Steve has brought his new (and often Oz-related) compositions to debut at OZ-Strav! and it’s a privilege to spotlight him in 2018.

In keeping with the festival’s theatrical theme, designer/newcomer SHAWN RYAN will premiere his OZ costume recreations at June’s OZ-Strav!, heralding WICKED, THE WIZ, the original 1902-1903 WIZARD OF OZ stage musical, and the more recent Lloyd-Webber incarnation of L. Frank Baum’s story. One of Shawn’s costumes will thereafter become part of the permanent collection of the Foundation’s All Things Oz Museum in Chittenango.

It’s always good and important to underscore the fact that all of this (and so much more) grew from the imagination and creativity of L. Frank Baum. In keeping with that, OZ-Strav! is proud to welcome back – for the first time in many years – Baum’s great-granddaughter, GITA DOROTHY MORENA.  A transpersonal psychotherapist, author, and lecturer, Dr. Morena practices in San Diego, CA, where she often draws upon Baum’s fairy tales and characters in her teachings and sessions. Much of her own philosophy and dedication is discussed in her book, THE WISDOM OF OZ.

Returning this year as well is GABRIEL GALE, conceptualizer and coauthor of the new book trilogy for children and young adults, AGES OF OZ. Simon & Schuster published its first volume, A FIERY FRIENDSHIP, in May 2017, and Gabe has selected OZ-Strav! as the ideal launching spot for volume two, A DARK DESCENT, which will be officially published on May 15 – the birthday anniversary of L. Frank Baum.

All of these special guests – and perhaps some surprise guests as well – will appear on either Friday or Saturday evening in their own presentations adjacent to Oz Park. They’ll also be available in the park itself during the afternoon hours throughout the weekend. As we draw closer to the magic, please continue to check the All Things Oz or OZ-Stravaganza! sites for more specific information (and more biographical details about these celebrities): Oz-stravaganza Special Guests

I’m delighted to say that I’ll once again serve as OZ-Stravaganza! emcee this year — and pretty much be around all Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons. Please come over and say “hello” – and take the opportunity to let us know what you’re enjoying; what you’d like to see as a part of future Oz events; and, in general, join in the conversation about the topic we love!

Many thanks for reading; I hope to see many of you in June . . . in OZ!

 

 

All Things Oz & Baum by John Fricke

March 2018

by John Fricke

 

GREETINGS FROM THE BIRTHPLACE OF “THE MAN WHO INVENTED OZ”!

          Happy and heartfelt salutations to any and all Oz enthusiasts – everywhere!

The joyous smiles you see above were provided courtesy the Chittenango, NY, OZ-Stravaganza! festival in a photograph taken a few years back. The woman on the right is Margaret Pellegrini, the unforgettable “flowerpot” Munchkin from the 1939 MGM motion picture, THE WIZARD OF OZ. The gentleman on the left is Clarence Swensen, one of the Munchkin soldiers from that film. And the overwhelmed and grateful fan in the middle is yours truly. Margaret and Clarence are no longer with us, but they’re never far from the memories and emotions of any who met them — or any who saw them in the movie — or, for that matter, any who have been touched by the limitless and enduring magic of Oz.

I thought it would be appropriate to show you this “scene” to launch the blog, as The International L. Frank Baum & All Things Oz Historical Foundation of Chittenango provided the invitation that makes it possible for me to write and greet you here. This will be the first of a monthly series commemorating Oz and Baum history, plus the Ozzy activities of the upstate New York village “where Oz all began”: L. Frank Baum was, indeed, born in Chittenango in 1856. I could also formally state that it’s an honor and privilege to be associated with the Foundation in this manner – and such a declaration would be true, too, as far as it goes. But to paraphrase E. Y. “Yip” Harburg’s lyric from “Over the Rainbow,” this is basically “a dream I never even dared to dream…come true.”

Like many of you who might be reading this, I’ve been a fan (okay, a “resident”!) of Oz since childhood. I was five years old when I first saw the Judy Garland movie on television, and it was a life-altering moment. Within a couple of years, I was relentlessly searching the Milwaukee Public Library System, finding out everything I could about the Oz books. There were then thirty-nine of them, written between 1900 and 1951 by five different authors. L. Frank Baum, however, was the first of these, and the title of this month’s blog reflects that. In a 1939 newspaper article touting the premiere of the MGM film, Baum was headlined as “the man who invented Oz.” It’s undeniably true; his wondrous imagination gave us Dorothy and Toto, the trio of the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion, Glinda, the Wizard, the Yellow Brick Road, the Poppy Field, the Emerald City, the Munchkins – and countless other characters and locales in his initial fourteen Oz books.

I wanted to know everything about him.

This meant that, as a preteen, I’d already read about Chittenango as his birthplace. (I then found it on a map!) My own “all things Oz and Baum” investigation continued from there and eventually led to professional work on behalf of Oz, Baum, Judy, and other related topics. What’s most important in terms of this blog, however, is that some thirty years after my childhood discovery, I was invited to visit Chittenango. In 1990, I actually became part of what was then an annual Saturday morning/afternoon Oz festival, honoring their native son. I’ve pretty much been active in it ever since, and we’ve all strived together until the event now fills the complete first weekend in June – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday — every year. Over the decades, the festival’s special guests have included members of the Baum family (including great-grandson, Oz author Roger Baum); performers and “creatives” from the major Oz movies and stage shows (including THE WIZARD OF OZ, THE WIZ, RETURN TO OZ, and OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL); the writers of such books as WICKED and the “AGES OF OZ” trilogy . . . and so many, many more.

This year’s OZ-Stravaganza! (on June 1st, 2nd, and 3rd) will be no exception, with a roster of honored guests, many of them new to Chittenango. Watch the Foundation’s site and the various Oz and Judy Garland social media groups for details which will — magically! — appear any day now.

And please join me here on the last Friday of every month to share Oz news, Oz memories, and a general Oz and L. Frank Baum celebration. He’s The Man, to be sure! And it’s the power and scope of his inspirations that started all the Ozian sharing: the laughter, glee, affection, loving tears, friendships, camaraderie, festivals . . . and a few irreplaceable nightmares. (One of these days, we’ll talk about THAT Witch and THOSE Monkeys!)

Finally, whichever observance or holiday you might be honoring this weekend, here’s another Ozzy piece of art to book-end the blog. Did you KNOW that the Easter Bunny lives – and works – in a majestic and monumental burrow, somewhere under the Munchkin Country? Authors Eloise Jarvis McGraw and Lauren Lynn McGraw gave us that news in the fortieth book of the official “Oz Series,” MERRY GO ROUND IN OZ (1963). And artist extraordinaire Dick Martin captured the moment when Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion met E. Bunny himself, as they placed an order for eggs for an Emerald City Easter egg hunt.

Many thanks for reading – and here’s to a blessed spring to all. See you next month!