By John Fricke

[Above: This famous MGM OZ still has been colorized, but it gives an inkling of one of the surprise elements the movie provided audiences back in the day — when “real” Technicolor was new, bright, and exciting. Metro’s publicity department chose it as one of the most representative of the Munchkinland moments, and it’s been widely reprinted for more than eighty-four years — although generally in black-and-white. Of course, front and center is Judy Garland, while (a couple of little people to her left) is Mayor Charlie Becker, and immediately to her right is the subject of this particular blog: the one-and-only Meinhardt Raabe as the Munchkin Coroner!]


In our August 26th entry, posted on the various Chittenango, New York, All Things Oz and OZ-Stravaganza! Facebook pages (as well as its blog site), we celebrated 2023’s Oz festival. The weekend highlight, of course, was the song/dance/autographing/reminiscing participation of ninety-one-year-old Betty Ann Bruno, an original “MunchKid” from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 feature film, THE WIZARD OF OZ. This was Betty Ann’s second annual visit to the birthplace village of L. Frank Baum – author of the original book and next thirteen titles of the subsequent series — and we joyously anticipated she would make many returns to us in the future. Incidentally, for those unfamiliar with the terminology, it’s important to note here that the unofficially-named MunchKids were comprised of a dozen little girls from Hollywood dance schools who mostly “filled in” background spots on the MGM OZ set. Five, as of earlier this year, were still among us, although — well into their nineties – the only one who traveled was Betty.

Most unexpectedly, however, Betty Ann herself passed away just a month after that forty-sixth festival. Such a shattering loss has since reminded me of other MGMunchkins, whose appearances beginning in the late 1980s were much responsible for putting Chittenango’s long-term, annual Oz event on the map.

These were among the 124 “little people” who played in the film; five years have passed since we lost the last of them, and it’s been more than a decade since any were able to appear in Chittenango. As I wasn’t doing a blog across the 1989-2012 era of their participation, it occurred to me that this autumn might be an opportune time to especially remember some of them. In that manner, we’re able to again celebrate their contributions as we did those of Betty Ann in 2022 and 2023.

In keeping with this concept of tribute, we heralded Munchkins Ruth Duccini and Karl Slover in September and October. Today, we move on to one of the most recognizable of all Dorothy Gale’s Ozian welcoming corps: the famous Coroner.

[Above: Although the interior of the Emerald City itself was the largest of THE WIZARD OF OZ sets, Munchkinland was certainly a near-equal. This rare overhead photograph, taken from an MGM catwalk, offers an insider’s view of the darkened soundstage – with the actual set bathed in the intense hot lights then required to film in the three-strip Technicolor process.]

By the late 1970s, The International Wizard of Oz Club had begun its third decade of organized Ozian activities. Their publication, THE BAUM BUGLE had appeared – consistently – since summer 1957 and become not only an entertaining fanzine but an ever-more valued, professional, bountifully illustrated, and extraordinary periodical. The BUGLE has consistently shared an immeasurable abundance of research and rapture: long-past and previously unavailable Oz history, contemporary Oz news, insight as to collectibles of all vintages, biographical information re: salient Ozians, bibliography . . . and oz-cetera!

The Club’s sortie into the social aspects of joy-OZ-ly celebrating the L. Frank Baum (et al) creations had burgeoned from the onset of the group, as well. The first “Oz Convention” was held in 1961 in the Midwest, and it thereafter continued for decades as an annual event, spurring other meetings and parties in that basic area — plus regional assemblies “down South,” “up North,” and on both East and West Coasts. The get-togethers often bore titles that reflected their geographical locations in terms of places in Oz; thus the eventual designation of the East Coast “Munchkin” Convention.

Across its first decade – from the late 1960s into the late 1970s – that latter assemblage hosted such notable celebrities as “Royal Historian” Ruth Plumly Thompson, who wrote twenty-one Oz books between 1921 and 1976, and Mrs. John R. Neill, widow of the great Oz illustrator (and sometime author) from 1904-1942. But it wasn’t until Meinhardt Raabe — pronounced Mine-heart Robb-ie – read about the “Munchkin Convention” in a local East Coast newspaper that the Club met its first REAL Munchkin from the cast of MGM’s THE WIZARD OF OZ movie musical. The press announcement was brief and generic enough to lead Meinhardt to believe that the gathering was a get-together of other little people from that area – who had nothing whatsoever to do with Oz. As he unwittingly strode into a hotel meeting room full of Oz decorations and diverse Oz maniacs, however, he was as amazed by what he saw as were those who watched his entrance. Yet the mutual curiosity was quickly supplanted by vibrant enthusiasm on all sides.

[Above: Flanked by two other eminent Munchkin-ians, Coroner Meinhardt Raabe and Mayor Charlie Becker pose for costume, hair style, and preliminary make-up tests. All four are perched on a small platform at MGM Studios, Culver City, California, in December 1938.]

Katie and Susan Koelle were young women at that point, but we’d already known each other for a decade or more. They were regular attendees (first as little girls with their mom, collector/vital Club participant Barbara Koelle) at the national Oz Club convention in the Midwest. Supremely hip, hep, and adult early on, they became good friends to me and were well aware of my own initial “passage to Oz” at age five, when I saw the MGM movie on TV. Thus, when Meinhardt made his surprise experience near Philadelphia – the Koelles’ Eastern USA home locale — they were kind enough to get his autograph for me, which they then mailed off and (politely!) asked if I could confirm his Munchkin legitimacy. He really didn’t need such confirmation – but I could and did offer it. 😊 Under judicious prodding from incomparable Club Secretary Fred M. Meyer – this was circa 1965-66 (when I was fourteen or fifteen) — I’d undertaken to research and prepare what turned out to be the first-ever history of the making of MGM’s OZ. It had appeared in the Autumn 1969 issue of THE BAUM BUGLE, celebrating the film’s thirtieth anniversary, and one included factoid was the text from my hometown, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, theater ad for the local premiere engagement of OZ in 1939. That booking also boasted a concurrent, “live” onstage appearance by “Munchkin Coroner Meinhardt Raabe”!

[Above: Meinhardt took a leave-of-absence from his job with The Oscar Mayer Company when he went off to film THE WIZARD OF OZ. He was, as shown here, for many, many years one of the company’s mainstays. He’s garbed in his MGM costume, so this image probably dates from his promotional appearances in late 1939-early 1940, as he toured with the movie. Note, of course, the Wienermobile!]

Over the second decade of the Munchkin Conventions across the late 1970s into the late 1980s, Meinhardt and his treasured wife, Marie, were periodic and informal “drop-ins.” (I met him at one of those – and he was, indeed, My First Munchkin!) The Raabes’ subsequent visits inspired him to delightedly bring along “show’n’tell,” including his set of original 1939 OZ lobby cards. (He’d received them as a gift from a theater owner when Meinhardt and his Oscar Mayer wiener samples and Wienermobile toured the Balaban and Katz cinema chain to promote the movie in its initial release.) He also displayed the extensive scrapbook of movie star autographs and signed photos he collected during his approximately seven weeks on the MGM lot while working “in” OZ. Primary among them was an eight-by-ten portrait of the film’s sixteen-year-old star, which had been signed: “To Meinhardt, a perfect coroner and person, too. Love, Judy.”

Then, the film’s golden anniversary in 1989 led to an astonishing media and product onslaught. I was very fortunate to be caught in the middle of it all, having written THE WIZARD OF OZ: THE OFFICIAL 50th ANNIVERSARY PICTORIAL HISTORY and authoring besides a thirty-five page booklet, packaged with the ultimately outrageously best-selling (three million units!) VHS tape. Between Warner Books and MGM/UA Home Video, I was sent to more than a dozen major cities for TV and radio appearances and book signings; I was also given the opportunity to begin a series of emcee and speaking duties at the burgeoning Oz festivals around the country. One of the major boons of this came in working with Meinhardt and, in turn, launching a warm and wonderful alliance with nearly twenty other MGM Munchkins. Although only a dozen or so were thereafter available or willing to continue traveling to meet their fans – and the surviving little people seemed to lose their fellow actors on a regular basis after 1990 – that core of hardy and hearty types made it to Chittenango, to Grand Rapids, Minnesota (Judy Garland’s birthplace), Chesterton, Indiana, Liberal, Kansas (and then Wamego, Kansas) . . . and on and on.

The Raabes were an integral feature of all those locales and venues. In fact, I owe Meinhardt maximum gratitude for recommending me to the Chittenango Oz faction. After he and I worked together multiple times for the fiftieth anniversary, he told the organizers in L. Frank Baum’s hometown – where he’d already appeared — that I knew a lot about Baum, Oz, and the MGM movie, and that I might make a good addition to their event. In early 1990, I received one of the many phone calls that has beautifully impacted on my life, and I’ve been part of the Chittenango excitement (now officially OZ-Stravaganza!) ever since.

[Above: Here are some of us at a wrap party after one of the first of the Chittenango Oz Festival appearances I was invited to do. Collector Extraordinaire Michael Mickacel (from Canada) was part of this “fare-thee-well” pose; otherwise, from left: Jerry (“Lollipop Guild”) Maren and his wife, Elizabeth; “Sleepyhead-In-the-Nest” and “Flower Pot Hat” Dancing Munchkin Margaret Pellegrini; and Marie and Meinhardt Raabe.]

Meinhardt’s estimation of my worth always meant a great deal. The fact that we were both proud natives of Wisconsin (he from Watertown, born on September 2, 1915) gave us extra “foundation” when we began building our friendship. At this point, I can’t recall all the places we first aligned, but several special occasions here in New York City in August 1989 remain vivid recollections. Meinhardt was part of the Macy’s tie-in celebration, when their Herald Square flagship store was transformed into Oz for a couple of weeks: emerald-green carpeting, scores of Oz mannequins, parties, receptions, presentations – and even “Tap-OZ-Mania.” This last saw 4,877 people gather outside the building on West 34th Street to perform a routine to the deleted OZ movie song, “The Jitterbug.” Across the next few days of merriment, Meinhardt and Marie (among several other OZ Munchkins) came by my one-room apartment for a welcome-to-NYC reception for my mom and dad. Once again, the Raabes were genuinely pleased to meet fellow Wisconsin-ians and manifested a genuine rapport with Dotty and Wally Fricke. (Meanwhile, the residents of this Times Square-area building spoke for years afterward about the startling thrill of getting into an elevator that was transporting residents of Oz!)

Finally, there was an invitational, official anniversary screening at New York’s Museum of Modern Art that August where both the PICTORIAL HISTORY BOOK and new video were launched. On the way into the theater for the presentation, one of the MGM executives asked me if I would “take over” and introduce the special guests and movie. His confidence was much appreciated, but it would have been nice to have more than a three-minute warning! However, as I have blessedly and thankfully found is often the case, “God sends the words” – and I knew that whatever I said was going to be acceptable to that elite crowd . . . because when I introduced Meinhardt, and he took a bow, the purportedly sophisticated New Yorkers let out a thrilled holler that forever decimated the idea that these City Dwellers were too blasé to suppress a life-long love of Oz – and couldn’t wait to salute a real, live Munchkin in the process.

[Above: A rare variation of the standard Munchkinland still shown up top; this one is much more informal and “in action.” Or, perhaps, it’s “in between” takes, as the actors all look as if they’re in comfortable conversation rather than performance mode. I was able to purchase this still (for $1.00!) back in the 1960s and always treasured it for its informality and unusual view. It was then, in 1989, a proud “share” in the 1989 50th Anniversary OZ coffee-table book.]

The same reaction – even greater – came with one of Meinhardt’s final appearances here in 2009 for the film’s seventieth anniversary. This go-round, the film was shown at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Cener, and while the packed crowd was once again celebrity-strewn (Spike Lee among them), the showing was open to the public as well. However, they only expected to see the movie. Period. When I was introduced and “oversaw” the positioning of five onstage chairs – and began to introduce five MGM Munchkins — there was another indescribable roar of ecstatic glee (or gleeful ecstasy). This was only surpassed when each of the little people offered a “bit” about themselves or some recreation of a bit from the film itself. Although his voice was actually dubbed in the motion picture, Meinhardt had absolutely no problem in chanting “live”—for one and all — the E. Y. “Yip” Harburg lyrical couplet about the Wicked Witch of the East: “As Coroner, I must aver/I thoroughly examined her/And she’s not only merely dead/She’s really most sincerely dead!”

[Above: Watertown, Oconto, and Milwaukee are respectively represented by these three born-and-bred Wisconsinites: Meinhardt, center; my mom, Dotty Fricke; right, and yours truly on the left. This was taken on the Munchkin Cruise, circa March 2002.]

Another shared bond, amidst all those years, led to one of the singular interactions of our lives. In 2002, I was asked to participate in a week- long Caribbean “Munchkin Cruise.” L. Frank Baum’s highly personable great-grandson Robert, his equally nifty wife, Clare, and several of the little people were also among the special guests. Meanwhile, my mom (who by then knew all the surviving Munchkins) flew down and joined the ship at embarkation in Florida. There were several dozen specific aficionados who were part of the onboard Ozzy contingent; one of them was the drily ebullient Pat Kinske of Michigan. We’d met before, and as her son, Navy Lt. Daniel Kinske, was then anticipating the conclusion of his service and wanted to pursue work in journalism, we discussed writing as a career. In the process, Pat learned that Danny was stationed near Meinhardt’s home in Florida, so we arranged a meeting between them. The Lieutenant’s first major project thus became the gloriously assembled, gorgeously mounted, and colorfully pictured MEMORIES OF A MUNCHKIN: AN ILLUSTRATED WALK DOWN THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD by Mr. Raabe himself.

In truth, it was Dan who invested the time, money, and industry to assemble one of the most lavish of all the OZ movie history books. Yet it was Meinhardt’s memories and reputation – and the public affection in which he was held – that made a saleable product and very well received souvenir.

By now, it must be apparent that these decades of professional memories are endless. The personal memories of Meinhardt, however, center on his love for – and feisty relationship with – his treasured-by-all wife Marie. (Her patience with his idiosyncrasies was sometimes off the charts, but everyone adored her for it!) Many can also reflect on the garden named for him behind the Chittenango Village Hall, which he faithfully tended during his visits to Baum’s birthplace; on his radiant face as he posed on the “Hollywood Walk of Fame” when the Munchkins received their pavement “star”; and the fact that – despite his increasing frailty and diminished energy – all one had to do was hand him a microphone and ask him to kick across “his” OZ lyric. To the very end, it then rang out with power, volume, distinction, enunciation, and pride!

Early on in life – despite his college education and because of his size –Meinhardt was initially dismissed by educators and employers. So, from the onset of his careers, he would then quietly, calmly, and determinedly demonstrate his perseverance, intelligence, abilities and dedication – and get the jobs. He was treasured for decades as one of the “Little Oscars (the World’s Smallest Chef)” by The Oscar Mayer Company. He was additionally esteemed as a pilot — and immeasurably successful, later on, as an educator, botanist, and human being. And he was — ever and always — very, very much a gentleman of the old school.

He would, it’s true, sometimes privately rankle the other surviving Munchkins in his sotto voce comments to event organizers about additional work; he never wanted to be left out of an Oz event of ANY kind, anywhere. He was ever eager and happy to sell his autographed photos and would sometimes lobby for a table space near the public entrance so as to be the first to “capture” the attention of collectors and fans.

[Above:  Late in life, Meinhardt posed with one of the many pieces of OZ movie merchandise that focused on or included him. Note: None of the actors, from the stars to the extras, received any residual or product placement royalties from their participation in THE WIZARD OF OZ. This wasn’t – lest social media start unduly whining and moaning about this, too! – a sly move on the part of MGM to cheat the film’s participants. It’s just that 1939 was long time before such contractual stipulations made possible such “cut-ins.”]

Meinhardt was ninety-four when he died in Orange Park, Florida, on April 9, 2010. Very soon thereafter, his sometimes rabid and misunderstood campaigning to sell memorabilia was made startlingly clear. His native Watertown, WI, birthplace was near the Bethesda Lutheran Home, and he was well aware of their decades of efforts to aid the disabled of many ages. Perhaps, in part, because of the discrimination and prejudice based on his size, he identified with the Bethesda residents and their more serious handicaps. Thus, after Meinhardt passed, it was discovered that he had donated more than $3.5 million in estate gifts and legacy donations to Bethesda — even prior to his death. Five years later, his estate contributed another $1 million for their use.

This certainly explains his determination to work as long as he could, and to live as frugally as he did. As such, his legacy continues – and will continue – to benefit countless people for decades to come.

And beyond that . . . :  How much joy did he bring to how many people in his OZ-related appearances? How many autographs did he sign across the years of festivals and fun? How many hearts will he have touched before that film and this world are no more?

And just HOW many people did he teach the definition of “aver”?!!


[Above: A close-up of twenty-three-year-old Meinhardt in make-up and garb on the set of THE WIZARD OF OZ, December 1938. He looks much younger here than in the finished film, where final touches to his face provide him with a more severe adult appearance.]

God bless him!


Article by John Fricke

[This blog was expanded and edited from a briefer John Fricke feature that appeared in THE BAUM BUGLE: A JOURNAL OF OZ (Spring 2010) — a publication of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc. (ozclub.org)]


by John Fricke

[Above: Karl Slover proudly poses with a personal, take-away souvenir from the Hollywood Walk of Fame “Star Ceremony” that honored the actors who played Munchkins in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s THE WIZARD OF OZ. The event was held on November 20, 2007, near the forecourt parameter of the former Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. OZ had enjoyed its gala West Coast premiere there on August 15, 1939.]


In our August 26th blog — posted on the various Chittenango (New York) All Things Oz and OZ-Stravaganza! Facebook pages — we celebrated 2023’s Oz festival. Its highlight, of course, was the song/dance/autographing/reminiscing participation of ninety-one-year-old Betty Ann Bruno, an original “MunchKid” from MGM’s feature film. This was Betty Ann’s second annual visit to the birthplace village of L. Frank Baum – author of THE WIZARD OF OZ book — and we joyously anticipated she would make many returns in the future.

Most unexpectedly, however, Betty Ann passed away just a month after that forty-sixth festival. Such a loss has since reminded me of other MGMunchkins who were much responsible for putting Chittenango’s annual Oz weekend on the map, beginning in the late 1980s. (Four of the MunchKids are still among us, although — well into their nineties — they don’t travel.) Moreover, five years have passed since we lost the last of the OZ “little people,” and it’s been more than a decade since any of them were able to appear in Chittenango. As I wasn’t doing a blog across the 1989-2012 era of their participation, it occurred to me that this year would be an opportune time to remember some of them here. In that manner, we’re able to again celebrate them as we did Betty Ann in 2022 and 2023.

[Above. Here’s a reference photo of a small corner of the massive Munchkinland Plaza, as created for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s OZ. Across two weeks of filming in the second half of December 1938, the gi-normous set provided a workplace for some 124 “little people” — a term they themselves preferred to “midget.” Their musical comedy portrayals of the Munchkins of Oz were augmented by the presence of a dozen short-statured little girls, who ranged in age from seven to twelve. Those latter dancers have since been nicknamed the MunchKids. You’ll notice, though, that it’s one of the actual little people who has crept into the right-hand edge of this set reference still: Frank Cucksey, otherwise known as “Townsman #2”!]

In keeping with this concept of remembrance, we heralded Munchkin townswoman Ruth Duccini here in September. Today, we recall the cherished Karl Slover. As a result of THE WIZARD OF OZ, he joins those who have their own distinctive immortality, and it’s a special sort of awe and bliss to recall Karl’s individual history and our times together – whether elsewhere around the country or in the birthplace village of the man who first discovered Oz and its inhabitants.


Whether remembering his visit to a different Oz set on an adjacent MGM soundstage (“That durn apple tree made a FACE at me!”) – or recalling a first in-the-mirror glimpse when garbed in one of his Munchkin wardrobe changes (“I didn’t even recognize my own self!”) — or bringing down the house at special Oz appearances from coast to coast with an a cappella rendition of “We’re Off to See the Wizard” (“ . . . Becoz of the wonderful things he does! TRAH-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LAH!”) – Karl Slover created an immediate, immeasurably joyous bond between himself and his awed following. It’s safe to say, however, that a similar connection was established with any of the coworkers, friends, or strangers who encountered tireless, indefatigably upbeat “little Karl” across the majority of his ninety-three years.

[Above: As representatives of Leo “Singer’s Midgets,” Karl and several others were among the first called to come into MGM to help costume designer Gilbert Adrian – and seamstresses, cameramen, and lighting designers – in their determination to find a best approach to designs, fabrics, colors, and “fit” of early Munchkin and OZ wardrobe concepts. This is an actual frame of silent test film dating from August 1938; it shows Judy Garland as a potentially blonde Dorothy, and she is ringed here by Nona Cooper, Karl, and Nita Krebs.]

Karl’s quotes above refer: a) to his 1938 saunter through the OZ apple orchard and Tin Woodman’s cottage set (where the men inside the tree trunks were directed to surprise their diminutive guest); b) to the fact that he played several Munchkin roles – primarily the first trumpeter, a soldier, a townsman, and – attendant to his comment overhead – a townsWOMAN, as well (there were more male than female little people who turned up to work in OZ); and c) to the finale of his happy rendition of THE WIZARD OF OZ “marching song.” (If I was doing the interviewing, I always made sure that Karl wrapped up any Munchkin encounter in that manner – from the stage, in a park, at an autograph signing, for TV cameras and radio microphones . . .  and etc.!)

Karl’s life – gratefully – evolved into those kinds of exultant, memorable, and funny experiences, although his first dozen or so years were infinitely more challenging. Steve Cox’s THE MUNCHKINS OF OZ (Nashville: Cumberland House, 2002) gives well-warranted space to the Slover history and is highly recommended. For our purposes here, the basic facts will suffice: Born Karl Kosiczky on September 21, 1918 (in a later-annexed section of Hungary), he was the only little person in a family of five children. His mother and four sisters adored him; his father was apparently deeply disturbed when it became evident that his son would always be unusually small. With astounding grace and good humor, Karl later reflected on the methods his father employed to “enlarge” the little boy. He buried Karl up to his neck in the backyard, leaving him there in hopes that he’d grow like a plant. He scalded him in a barrel of burning hot water — mixed with coconut leaves! — until his skin was bright red and about to blister. (His mother stepped in and rescued him.) Finally, Kosiczky turned the child over to doctors who strapped Karl on a hospital stretching machine that pulled him in multiple directions until his bones began to make cracking sounds. Fortunately, the doctor who brought the boy into the world appeared and intervened at that moment.

In a final attempt to erase his perceptible shame, Karl’s father sold his son – age nine – to a traveling European midget show produced by Leo Singer. The child (probably mercifully) never again saw his father, but nor was he able to return to Europe to reunite with his mother and sisters until 1963. The story of that meeting, after a thirty-five year separation, was always told by Karl with glistening eyes – but with his beaming face of absolute glee, as well.

The adjustments he made in his final years abroad as a child – learning to be an entertainer, learning to work with other “little ones,” learning English – were an immense and ongoing challenge. Instead of becoming hardened in the process, however, Karl stoically and with an apparently seldom-wavering attitude of “ever onward” seemed to take everything in stride. When he came with the Singer troupe to the United States, his diminutive size, acquired professionalism, and ceaselessly pleasant personality launched a long show business career. 

Through the 1930s, Karl (he eventually took a new surname, Slover, from his later manager and “adoptive” family) appeared in films with a number of major motion picture stars of the day. These included Alice Faye, Laurel & Hardy, the Ritz Brothers, and Wheeler & Woolsey. He was among the multitudinous Broadway cast of the legendary circus musical, BILLY ROSE’S JUMBO (1935) – a lavish production that played the five-thousand-seat Hippodrome Theatre in NYC and top-billed Jimmy Durante and Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra. Therein, and in addition to other assignments, Karl rode an elephant; the wardrobe department was then required to supply the two-foot-tall teenager with leather pants to keep his skin from being torn up as he perched on the needle-like hair of his pachyderm. (All that — plus such hit songs by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart as “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” “My Romance,” and “Little Girl Blue.”)  During those years, Karl’s ongoing association with Leo Singer also led to a featured role in the all-midget Western-musical movie, THE TERROR OF TINY TOWN (1938), vaudeville and circus bookings throughout the United States and a long stint in Hawaii, and – finally – to THE WIZARD OF OZ.

[Above:  Karl was the first of the three advancing trumpeters who musically celebrated the approach of the Mayor of the Munchkin City. This composite photo was prepared as something for him to autograph and sell at his Oz appearances. Its left and bottom borders were adapted from the original 1939 WIZARD OF OZ lobby cards; the insets show Karl (in black and white) at age twenty-two, and in a tiny, full-length glimpse of his OZ performance (in color). The central art itself is a film frame enlargement that shows his proud and Ozzy entrance.]

As could be confirmed by anyone who heard Karl interviewed across the last twenty-two years of his life, the Slover recollections about November/December 1938 at MGM were scythe-sharp, fond, and funny. He became again (and instantly) a taken-aback twenty-year-old when recalling Billie Burke’s preliminary, informal visit to the Munchkinland soundstage. With her all-black wardrobe and veiling, her thinning hair, and her dependence on a cane, his impression was that of “an old woman. I thought, ‘She must be one hundred years old – or close to it.’ But when I saw her all dressed up [and] made-up [as Glinda, the Witch of the North], she looked like she was about thirty-five! She looked beautiful – I mean BEAUTIFUL!” He would also proudly confess that his ability to enter on cue (when a fellow trumpeter couldn’t remember the prompt!) enabled him to be the first of the three musicians to march out on the elevated platform of Munchkin City Hall and instrumentally mime a furbelow to propel the Mayor into view. Finally, Karl was delighted to be one of the handful of OZ cast members selected to ride a preview float (the film wouldn’t open for another seven months) in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade in January 1939. He then returned to stage work under the aegis of “Mr. Singer,” whom he very much liked and appreciated.

[Above: A couple of days after completing their portion of OZ filming, several of the film Munchkins donned their costumes again and joined the stars’ doubles on a float for the annual Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade (January 2, 1939).  Karl wears his trumpeter outfit and is just left of (and above) center — at the foot of the floral stairway that leads to Charlie Becker as the Mayor.]

Karl’s intrinsic sweet patience led him to a latter-day livelihood as a trainer of dogs and small animals for the circus. His greatest recognition, however, didn’t burgeon until 1989 and the fiftieth anniversary of MGM’s OZ. Suddenly, surviving Munchkin actors from the film were thrust into an unexpected, ongoing limelight, and Slover’s excellent memory and unfailing good nature made him a treasured guest at countless events. Among many highlights: his glowing, articulate appearance in the 1994 documentary, WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE MUNCHKINS, and his justifiably proud participation in the 2007 ceremony when the Munchkins received their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Please see the photograph at the top of this blog.)

[Karl was always on the go and supremely ready to – smilingly! — take the Yellow Brick Road to the next Ozzy location. Above, top: For years, a similarly bannered bus picked up “special cargo” at O’Hare Airport, trundling these cherished guests to the long-time, Jean Nelson-founded Chesterton, Indiana, Oz Festival. From left: Munchkins Karl, Margaret Pellegrini, Betty Tanner – followed by four Munchkins-By-Marriage (herein after MBM): Marcella Kranzler, Anna Cucksey Mitchell, Olive Wayne, and Marie Raabe. Then: Munchkins Meinhardt Raabe and Lewis Croft – the latter mostly obscured by MBM Myrna Swensen – followed by Munchkins Jerry Maren and (rear) Clarence Swensen, MBM Elizabeth Maren, and Munchkin Nels Nelson. This 2003 photo also marked the participation by some in the home video documentary, WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE MUNCHKINS, wherein Karl, Margaret, Betty, Meinhardt, Lewis, Jerry, Clarence, and Nels shared on-camera tales of their Ozian involvements. Above, bottom: A special event in Syracuse in May 2006 celebrated the one-hundred-fiftieth birthday anniversary of Oz author L. Frank Baum. Standing here at the State Fair Grounds are Baum’s great-grandson, Robert and his wife, Clare (garbed as Frank Baum and HIS wife, Maud). In front of them are Munchkins Margaret, Karl, Jerry, Ruth Duccini (please see last month’s blog for a tribute to Ruth), Clarence, Mickey Carroll, and Meinhardt. The woman kneeling at far left is Donna Stewart Hardway. She claimed to have appeared as a little girl MunchKid in the MGM film and made many Oz-related appearances in the 1990s and early 2000s. None of the other Munchkins or MunchKids have been able to confirm her contention, however, which has since been further contested by researchers.]

 It was especially fitting that Karl made his final public appearances — on November 12and 13, 2011 — for Chicago cinema entrepreneur Ted Bulthaup. It was the latter’s relentless campaigning for the Munchkins that finally resulted in their Walk of Fame recognition four years earlier. After those autographing sessions in Illinois, Karl returned to his apartment in Georgia on Monday, November 14th. He finished Tuesday breakfast at that assisted living residence and told friends he was going back to his place to finish unpacking from the trip. When they went to pick him up for lunch a few hours later, he was sitting peacefully in a chair.

We should all be so lucky as to “shuffle off” in such style – at age ninety-three and after a weekend of active work, surrounded by delight, admiration, appreciation, friends, and love. Despite that sometimes horrific first nine years, Karl Slover’s subsequent life was crammed with adventure, flair, and pleasure, and he excitedly embraced, tackled, and sustained it all.

The blessed tens of thousands of people who knew him, long-term or briefly, hold special memories of how quick he was to chortle out loud in gladness over anything that gave him bliss. That “Slover Sound” was a singular, unique, pure gurgle – a child’s delight — and, as a result there are literally countless grateful adulators of all ages who are elated to have met (and laughed with) both Karl the Munchkin and Karl the Man.

And it’s for certain that none of ‘em are EVER going to forget:


[Above: An event in 2009 split its activities between Cadiz, Ohio, and Wheeling, West Virginia, in simultaneous homage to the seventieth anniversaries of THE WIZARD OF OZ and GONE WITH THE WIND. (Cadiz is the birthplace of Clark Gable, legendary star of the latter film. The dual celebration was – to be honest — assembled at my suggestion a year or so after I’d been asked to make a visit to Ohio to lecture about Gable’s association with Judy Garland. Her performance on film, radio, and record of the song, “Dear Mr. Gable: You Made Me Love You,” led to her initial stardom and their life-long friendship.) For 2009, the organizations that produced the OZ/GWTW weekend incorporated Karl, Margaret, and Jerry to represent the Munchkins, and (top left) Cammie King (“Bonnie Blue Butler”) and Ann Rutherford (“Scarlett O’Hara’s Little Sister Carreen”) to remember GWTW. (I’m in the middle as emcee and interviewer.) Ann really provided a triple-whammy: She was also Mickey Rooney’s girlfriend, “Polly Benedict,” in the ANDY HARDY movie series and thus had a working and social relationship with Judy Garland. Better still, Ms. Rutherford grew up in Hollywood just steps away from “Ozcot,” the home built there by Frank Baum and his wife Maud circa 1910. Although Frank had died in 1919, Ann often stopped and talked to Mrs. Baum about her flower garden (originally created by Frank), as well as about the Oz Books, which Ms. Rutherford adored.]


Article by John Fricke

[This blog was expanded and edited from a briefer Fricke feature in THE BAUM BUGLE: A JOURNAL OF OZ (Winter 2011), a publication of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc.: ozclub.org]


By John Fricke

[Above: This was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s version of the Munchkinland Plaza as it was created for their 1939 motion picture release, THE WIZARD OF OZ. Across two weeks of filming in the second half of December 1938, it provided a workplace for some 124 “little people” — a term they themselves preferred to “midget.” Their singing and dancing portrayals of the Munchkins of Oz were augmented by a dozen short-statured little girls, who ranged in age from seven to twelve. Those latter dancers have since been nicknamed the MunchKids.]


In our immediately preceding blog — posted on August 26th on the various Chittenango [NY] All Things Oz and OZ-Stravaganza! Facebook pages (as well as on my own) — we celebrated this year’s extraordinary festival. The activities and joys that thrilled some 30,000 attendees were highlighted by the “She Is Everywhere!” participation of ninety-one-year old Betty Ann Bruno, one of the original MunchKids from MGM’s feature film. 2023 marked Betty Ann’s second annual visit to the birthplace village of L. Frank Baum – author of THE WIZARD OF OZ book — and we all anticipated that there would be many returns in the future.

[Above: Incomparable Betty Ann Bruno indefatigably signed photographs and copies of her autobiography, THE MUNCHKIN DIARY: MY PERSONAL YELLOW BRICK ROAD, at the Chittenango OZ-Stravaganza! festivals in both 2022 and 2023.]

As the blog also noted, however, Betty Ann unexpectedly passed away just a month after that forty-sixth festival. We now — in memory — honor, cherish, love, and hold her forevermore in joy. Yet our loss has since reminded me of the other MGMunchkins who were very much responsible for putting Chittenango’s annual Oz weekend on the map; who brought it world-wide attention; and whose presence led to its expansion from an initial Saturday morning and afternoon event to the full Friday-through-Sunday affair it’s long since become.

Although four of the MunchKids are still among us, five years have passed since we lost the last of the OZ “little people,” and it’s been more than a decade since any of them were able to appear in Chittenango. As I wasn’t doing a blog across that 1990-2012 era of my own appearances here, it occurred to me that it now might be nice to remember some of them via several of these monthly All-Things-Oz installments. In that manner, we can once again celebrate them as Betty was heralded here in 2022 and 2023.

So! This will be the first of several entries across the next few weeks, which we hope will recapture the actual ecstasy felt by tens of thousands of visitors. They came to Chittenango and actively MET some of the little people who followed Judy Garland down the Yellow Brick Road, and we’ll reintroduce a number of those miniature men and women to you, right here. As a result of THE WIZARD OF OZ, the MGMunchkins themselves have their own immortality, and it’s a special sort of bliss to recall both their individual histories and our times together – whether around the country or in the birthplace village of the man who first wrote about them.




Ruth Duccini was atypical of the dozen or so MGM movie Munchkins who blazed an Ozzy trail of “personal appearances” between the mid-1980s and 2013. Although her townswoman role in 1939’s hallowed musical, THE WIZARD OF OZ, was certainly a point of pride and a happy memory for her, it was not the pinnacle of her life story when she reminisced. (Please keep reading for “the reveal”!)

Born in Rush City, Minnesota, on July 23, 1918, Ruth Robinson joined the Grace & Harvey Williams Midget Troupe out of Minneapolis after she graduated high school. Their ensemble of twelve traveled by trailer to Culver City [CA] in autumn 1938, responding to MGM’s publicized need for diminutive actors to appear in OZ.

[Above: This is one of three pages of MGM correspondence and paperwork (dated November 16, 1938) that detailed travel arrangements for many of the “little people” as they trekked to California to work on OZ. Numbers fifty-one through sixty-two account for the members of the Grace and Harvey Williams “company” of entertainers, including Ruth, who were imported for the movie.]

While working on THE WIZARD OF OZ, Ruth met Fred Duccini. He wasn’t involved with the picture, but he was another little person, and he happily socialized with some of OZ Munchkins with whom he’d previously been acquainted. Ruth and Fred’s initial friendship across November and December 1938 led to marriage in 1943, and they had two children, Fred, Jr., and Margaret.

[Above: Ruth posed in her Munchkin townswoman garb for this 1938 MGM costume test reference photo. With her are (left) Olga Nardone – who also appeared in the film as one of the three Lullaby League ballerinas – and (center) Hildred Olson.]

Although basically retired while raising her family, Ruth also appeared in the 1981 film, UNDER THE RAINBOW. It starred Chevy Chase, Carrie Fisher, and Eve Arden and harked back to 1938 in a wildly imaginary account of the making of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Per the “plot,” the fictional Munchkin actors of that era — temporary residents of the Culver Hotel – supposedly became embroiled with their fellow guests: Austrian royalty, a Nazi secret agent, and his Japanese henchman. The equally false legends of Munchkin misbehavior at the hotel were majorly integrated into the slapstick saga, and Ruth’s later counsel (“Don’t believe ANYTHING you see in that movie!”) has since been validated by the internet site, ROTTEN TOMATOES. It’s noted there that ZERO percent of professional movie critics have given UNDER THE RAINBOW a favorable rating. 😊

[Above: Nearly half the troupe of Ozzy little people are gathered here with three gentlemen integral to the production. (Top center, from left: director Victor Fleming, impresario Leo Singer, and first assistant director Al Shenberg. Singer held the contract with MGM to hire most of the Munchkin actors for the film; his own vaudeville unit served as the core group of pint-size players.) Beaming delightedly, Ruth Duccini is fifth from the left in the first row.]

Fred Duccini died in 1994, shortly after he and Ruth celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. She passed away two decades later, on January 16, 2014, at Solari Hospice Care Center in Las Vegas [NV], and she is survived by her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

[Above: Wrapping up another weekend — somewhere on the circuit! These 1990s participants in random Ozmania were captured at an airport when departing town after a festival. Front row, from left: Margaret Pellegrini, Jerry Maren, Munchkins-By-Marriage Elizabeth Maren and Myrna Swensen, Clarence Swensen, Karl Slover, and Ruth Duccini. Back row: Margaret’s great-granddaughter Cheryl is boosted by John Fricke — a then-much-younger Oz historian and author! My apologies, though: the gentleman at the right is unidentified.]

Over the last twenty-five years of her life, Ruth traveled to Oz festivals and events whenever she liked – AND when she felt she could trust the event planners’ promises that they would not exploit the Munchkins with overlong workdays. Her attendance was ever welcome, and her singular, dulcet sparkle, low-key sense of humor, and ever-aware, no-nonsense demeanor were a delight.

She made her final public appearance on September 15, 2013, as the guest of honor at the launch of THE WIZARD OF OZ seventy-fifth anniversary celebrations. On that occasion, I was asked by Warner Brothers to serve as master of ceremonies at the debut screening of the film in 3D IMAX at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre. (This is the former Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, where OZ was first publicly premiered in Los Angeles on August 15, 1939.) Ruth traversed the ruby-red carpet in front of the venue, posed for innumerable photographs with costumed OZ characters, and conferred, conversed, and otherwise hobnobbed with her fellow celebrities: Drew Carey, William Shatner, Mario Lopez, Joey King (of OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL), Rico Rodriguez, Kevin Sorbo, Molly Ringwald, Christianna Rickard (niece of “Scarecrow” Ray Bolger), Robert Baum (great-grandson of L. Frank Baum) with his wife Clare and daughter Christine, and two of the other MGM MunchKids: Priscilla Montgomery Clark and Elaine Merk Binder.

Unquestionably and undeniably, however, Ruth was the star of stars that afternoon. Inside the theater and prior to the film screening, I acknowledged from the stage some of the OZ-related people in the crowd. Yet all the attendant anticipation and applause was nothing compared to the audience’s adoration of (and welcome to) the diminutive lady from Minnesota. Ruth came down to join me and received a triumphal standing ovation; we then sat comfortably, side-by-side, for some brief, shared thoughts about MGM’s film-making process. Whatever she said, however, the by-invitation-only spectators reacted as did all Oz onlookers everywhere — at the mere idea of having an actual Munchkin, live, in person, in front of them. They were acutely (forgive me, please. . .) Ozified by Ruth’s every observation.

[Above: Duccini & Fricke were selected by Warner Bros. to introduce THE WIZARD OF OZ in its first 3D IMAX showing at Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre in 2013.]

Delightedly, she offered (to everyone’s surprise, I think) that OZ was secondary to another professional accomplishment of which she remained MOST proud: serving as a World War II riveter on the inner wings of C-54 transports being manufactured at Santa Monica’s Douglas Aircraft. Her ultra-petite stature made it possible for Ruth to get into spaces impossible to navigate by those of normal size. As a result, she had treasured for decades the fact that any number of pilots told her – in so many words – that they felt safer flying the planes on which she’d worked. (There’s a personal Ruth/John anecdote that she enjoyed that fits in here. We appeared together many times over the years, and I’d request her Douglas Aircraft anecdote on each occasion. It was a foregone conclusion that audiences would be entranced and touched and uplifted by it, so Ruth would always comply. She’d then laughingly endorse my follow-up observation that – although men like Roosevelt, Churchill, and assorted generals and scientists got credit for the victory – the tide of WWII was really turned by four women: the three Andrews Sisters and Ruth Duccini. 😊 )

The final comments Ruth made at the Chinese Theatre had also become a standard section of her professional speaking engagements over the years; they were greeted with cheers and an ovation as well. After receiving a beautiful piece of jewelry from the Warner Bros. hierarchy, Ruth addressed the fact that almost all of the surviving “little person” Munchkin delegation of 1938-39 had passed on by 2013. She was ever-declarative, however, in both stressing the fact that she was grateful to be honored, but that any gifts, recognition, and OZ-related acknowledgement wasn’t just about her or “those of us who are left – it’s for ALL of us.”

It’s worth noting that she’d emphasized the same point six years earlier when the Munchkins were given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame:

After much campaigning by OZ fans, the general public, and a number of top level Hollywood industry “names,” the Munchkins finally received their commemoration on November 20, 2007. Shown above are (from left): Mickey Carroll, Clarence Swensen, Jerry Maren, Karl Slover, Johnny Grant (certainly a non-Munchkin but then definitely the honorary mayor of Hollywood), Ruth Duccini, Margaret Pellegrini, and Meinhardt Raabe. Preceded by the Hollywood High School Marching Band, the little people arrived for the ceremony in a carriage drawn by “a horse of a different color,” and for those aficionados and children of all ages who would now seek it out, the Munchkin “star” is located at 6915 Hollywood Boulevard. Per Ruth, it was, indeed – and is – intended to honor ALL 124 little people and the dozen MunchKids of THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Ruth’s words may also be extrapolated to add that it was a privilege for “ALL of us” among the OZ community who met, knew, or worked with her. We are thankful for her observations, memories, and kindness.

And for her unforgettable, imperishable pluck!

[This blog was expanded and edited from a briefer Fricke feature in THE BAUM BUGLE: A JOURNAL OF OZ (Spring 2014), publication of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc.: ozclub.org]



By John Fricke

[Above: Costume designer/creator/fashionista extraordinaire Shawn Ryan and make-up and hair honcho/actor wrangler/overseer Jeffrey Lane Sadecky pose with their creations – who were perhaps the most extraordinary gang we’ve ever seen at a festival. As attendees can attest, these OZ-Stravaganza! Ozians never broke character in public, recreated their personalities and voices as “children of all ages” hoped and expected they might, and served as a shining sensation from June 2nd-4th, wherever any of ’em hove into view!]

[A BRIEF, PRELIMINARY NOTE FROM JOHN: The rough draft and art selection attendant to this “All Things OZ” Blog were basically wrapped up nearly two months ago. Then I was hit with sciatica, and everything went on hold here, as I figuratively “tread water,” did weeks of physical therapy, and recovered. (Blessedly, I’m just fine now, and I sincerely apologize for the delay in this posting.) In the midst of that, however, all of us very unexpectedly and even more sorrowfully heard the news of the passing of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer “MunchKid” Betty Ann Bruno.

She was so very much more than a seven-year-old child dancer, of course. Her work in MGM’s THE WIZARD OF OZ motion picture in 1938 took scarcely two months in a life that spanned almost ninety-two years. Across those decades, Betty Ann was evermore and immeasurably active, productive, professional, and extremely accomplished.

Naturally, there’s scattered commentary about her throughout this OZ-Stravaganza! 2023 blog; she was — to be sure AND for the second consecutive year! — Our Headliner. 😊  Further new material has now (the third week in August) also been added at the conclusion of this entry, but I’m leaving the original text, prior to that afterword, exactly as it was in late June. This seems to be a fitting way to celebrate yet another Bruno triumph, as every recollection of the time she shared is both happy and glorious. These are the events as they blithely and joyously happened in Chittenango in June 2023.]

How to describe OZ-Stravaganza! 2023 . . . .

Remember Jack Webb on the 1951-1970 TV series, DRAGNET? Per Wikipedia, it remains “the most famous and influential police procedural crime drama in American media history,” and every week, detective Joe Friday would invariably ask witnesses for the “facts . . . just the facts.” Well, the 2023 OZ-Strav! facts can be summarized as three days of gorgeous weather and nonstop Ozzy activities; press, TV and radio promotion, presence and coverage; a thrilling parade; and the gleefully permeating presence and ebullience of special guest Betty Ann Bruno.

This brought us a final attendance tally ranging up to 30,000 people!

Or — if you prefer — the festival might also be best measured on a popular/populace level and summarized as the very best kind of family reunion. Everyone was out, about, mingling, talking, eating, performing, exulting, and unifying in honor of Chittenango native L. Frank Baum: his history, creations, illustrators, and official Oz coauthors and coproducers.

Need it be added that every moment was relished by his fans and adherents of absolutely all ages?

[Above: This sign, on the edge of the annually rechristened OZ PARK, honors a superlative native son, whose imagination and creativity in writing has circled the globe billions of times since publication of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ in 1900. The text shown here is topped by a silhouette of New York State and reads: “L. Frank Baum/Author of The/Wizard of Oz/Born Near Here/May 5, 1856/ Chittenango Foundation Inc.”]

Or I can herald this summer’s jubilee in a personal manner, although I’ll state up-front that I’m not in any sense unbiased. Chittenango’s annual commemoration dates back to 1978, and I was first invited to attend and speak in 1990. Including that year – and through 2023 — I’ve been privileged to serve “in person” thirty-one times: participating, emceeing, lecturing, and presenting. (The pandemic forced us all to skip 2020, and we went virtual in 2021; conflicting work commitments kept me on the West Coast for two years in the mid-1990s.)

I think it’s best, though, to forego the usual two thousand (plus!) Fricke words here and instead tell this year’s saga in a handful of great images. For starters and just below, you’ll see one of two Chittenango locales that serves as “Oz Central” across the dates of OZ-Strav! weekend. (Throughout the rest of the year, it’s “Oz Central” all on its own!)

This is the frontage of the All Things OZ Museum and Gift Shop, 219 Genesee Street, (315) 687-7772. There’s always a cheery stock of Oz-related souvenirs for purchase, but the building is best described as a remarkable gallery of thousands of rare, collectible, colorful objects that trace the history of Baum and the diversity of the Oz franchise: books, movies, stage shows, toys, games, ad infinitum. Recently refurbished, the gallery boasts glistening glass and shining wood presentation cases — each of them surrounded by lively patrons throughout OZ-Strav! Nearly six hundred people wandered through, wide-eyed, as they viewed the treasures and listened to entertaining anecdotes and factoids provided by the well-informed and comfortably personable Museum docents.

As a sampling of the All Things OZ holdings, here are three new Museum images from this year.  The first shows items just donated to Chittenango’s archive: an autographed photo and personal postcard and letter written by MGM’s “Wicked Witch of the West” to uber-Oz fan Paul Miles Schneider of New York, Los Angeles, and Kansas. Maggie – as she preferred to be called — sent them to him decades back when he was given a second grade school assignment to find a pen-pal out-of-state. Paul has since become the successful author of modern-day Oz books of his own (SILVER SHOES, THE POWDER OF LIFE, and THE MAGIC BELT, all of which are perfect for today’s young readers); as a frequent special guest in Chittenango, he gifted his valuable Hamilton pieces to All Things OZ earlier this year:

Next: For some time now, the Museum has very graciously honored me with the case shown just below, commemorating our ongoing work together, as well as some of the Oz and Judy Garland-related projects with which I’ve been professionally involved across the past thirty-eight years. 2023-24 marks the twentieth anniversary of the PBS-TV “American Masters” program, JUDY GARLAND: BY MYSELF, for which I served as coproducer and received a second Emmy Award. All Things OZ asked if I would loan it to them for the occasion, and they placed it in an assemblage including four of the eight Fricke books, the medallion I received as a Grammy Award nominee for the CD booklet, JUDY GARLAND: 25th ANNIVERSARY RETROSPECTIVE (the CD itself is shown just to the left of the pendant), and two photographs from the Museum’s own collection of what we gently term my “first communion” pictures:

Finally, we’ve saved the very best and most exciting of the Museum’s latest acquisitions for last: one of the “Madame Morrible” costumes from the extraordinary musical stage success, WICKED (which also celebrates its twentieth anniversary on Broadway this year). This glamorous gown was worn by Academy Award-winning actress Patty Duke, who portrayed Morrible in one of the national companies of the production; the ensemble was donated to All Things OZ for their permanent collection by the WICKED company. (Such generosity is a remarkable tribute to the esteem won for the Museum by Chittenango’s volunteers and participants in the ILFB&ATOHF — or International L. Frank Baum & All Things Oz Historical Foundation!) With design complexity, beauty, and workmanship like this now available for close scrutiny, it’s easy to see why designer Susan Hilferty won the Tony Award for her work for WICKED:

Moving on! The annual costume contest and Oz Parade seemed to be standout, special successes this year. There were many entrants in the former, and in the case of the latter, literally thousands lined up, whether side-by-side or (in the most popular viewing spots) “stacked” up in standing room behind those sitting on curbs, cushions, or chairs.

In terms of competitive costumes, there are literally hundreds of book, stage, and screen Ozians who might suggest winning (award and otherwise) garb to OZ-Strav! visitors. Here are three views of some of Saturday’s jovial morning partakers: an MGM-styled Lullaby Leaguer (with what appears to be a little Dorothy in the left background); three gleefully committed-to-the-“c’oz” adults: a Munchkin, a representative of the Poppy Field, and the unique title character from Frank Baum’s seventh Oz book, THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ; and an empty box that was one of the hits of OZ Park. It had a cleverly stenciled label on its side that suggested several winged monkeys had been shipped to Chittenango in it — and escaped. Three surrogates here happily took their place:

Regarding the parade, we’ll take just a quick glimpse, below, of a supremely unrequested moment. I’m now — as referenced above and by the grace of God and the members of the ILFB&ATOHF – at the onset of my fourth decade of association with Chittenango. They’ve been very kindly asking me to serve as Grand Marshal of the OZ-Strav! parade for nearly thirty years of that time; I’ve always said, “Thank you; no, thank you.” (There have always been many more worthy and most definitely better-known and famous people for that colossal accolade.) I demurred in the same fashion when I received their gracious invitation in early 2023, but for this go-round, the Foundation pretty much corralled me. The photo below offers the “result” – and thank goodness for Rhonda Rueger Fibiger and her John Fricke Memorial Rainbow Umbrella (it’s sheltered me during any number of parades) and for Michael Keville and his classy car: glossy transportation, indeed! The latter at least made me LOOK important, although I still had to deal with totally mystified glances from thousands along the route of the cavalcade. (I just kept calling out, “Betty Ann Bruno is coming along right behind me!”)

A very important P.S. to this photo.  One of the first people I met in Chittenango in May 1990 was Terry Shaler, and we happily (laughingly, teasingly, kiddingly, fondly) reunited year after year. When the dodgy May weather eventually caused organizers to switch the annual festival from the weekend nearest Baum’s birthday (May 15th, as mentioned above), it then always fell on the June weekend of – or nearest – Terry’s birthday. This was coincidence, of course, but it eventually became my treat to lead the singing on many occasions, up through 2022. Terry was frail but THERE last year, and (true to her tradition) ever ready to beam back at “her” chorale. God bless that girl; we lost her in September, but in a lovely happenstance of somebody-up-there-definitely-likes-her, the fates saw to it that her car was sold to Mike Keville. Thus, as was written in the preceding paragraph, I got the benefit of being Grand Marshall in “the Terry Mobile!” (Or to put it more completely, “with” her along for the ride. 😊 )

Per tradition, there were two different and very Ozzy programs on both Friday and Saturday nights, where we were once again welcomed by the First Presbyterian Church to use their chancel. Audiences filled the pews each evening, and the first presentation got off to a magically endorsed beginning when a greeting was read from Robert Baum, great-grandson of the “Royal Historian of Oz.” The advocacy and approval of Bob and his wife have always resonated in Chittenango, and such backing did once again – this year from afar: “I wish Clare and I were going to be there. Hope all goes well and say hello to all for us; we are there in spirit! Have an OZ-some time! The Baums.”

Beyond that, of course, the highlights of the special programming were the entertainments offered by Betty Ann Bruno and Gabriel (AGES OF OZ, THE ART OF OZ) Gale. Betty Ann, though making only her second OZ-Strav! appearance, was preeminent in her appeal, personality, and bond with one and all. Her Oz, professional, and personal sagas garnered everything from uproarious laughter to entranced silence; the Bruno level of charisma is suitably beyond Richter Scale measurement. (It’s definitely an understatement to say so, but it must be noted – for the historical record — that no one wanted the woman to leave the stage!) During his own turn, longtime favorite Gabriel Gale created and illustrated (on the spot and via audience suggestions) a new Oz creature. He was then interviewed, so as to bring the fans up to date on his own Oz project developments and his trip to London earlier this spring. There he sat in on the ongoing production of the film of Broadway’s WICKED: visiting soundstages, touring the outdoor location sets-in-progress for Munchkinland and the Emerald City, and enjoying a recording session. (Below: Betty Ann is ever tolerant of the customary Fricke inquisition; Gabe reveals his “instant” Ozian creation!)

[The other offerings during the evening sessions: 1) A bountifully illustrated recounting of the assemblage of the first edition of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ book. This highlighted the masterwork imaginations of Baum and illustrator W. W. Denslow; the latter’s incomparable, innovative design and color pictorials did much to make the original volume a sensation. And 2) A Gabe-Interviews-John discussion about the omnipresent, ridiculous, and running rampant rumors about Oz, Baum, the MGM film, and etc. Social media has a LOT for which to answer, and the audience had many questions to pose regarding these topics, as well.]

Among other constant activities (all weekend!), Sunday morning paid specific homage to the winners of the OZ-Strav! coloring and writing contests. The outstanding highlight of the early afternoon, however, came when Betty Ann again took stage to demonstrate and dance the hula, to sing the original song she’d written about Chittenango and the festival, and to dragoon her cherished friends, Gail & Becky, into teaching the basic steps and gestures with her. (The two women made the trek from California to “experience” OZ 2023 after Betty’s raves about the time she’d relished here last year.) Dozens of viewers then leapt up to join the trio as they moved through some of the traditional Hawaiian choreography; Betty is shown here at the opening of her act:

The informal “Grand Finale” traditionally wraps up OZ-Strav! around 3:30 or 4 p.m. on Sunday. This year, there were the customary gratitudes, good-byes, and Ozzy exaltations, but there was also a genuine surprise that brought elation, ecstasy, and euphoria to the finish of the festival. Thanks to Gabe, the assembled farewell-ers enjoyed a live, virtual video appearance from London by Stephen Schwartz, whose songs have provided infinite magic to the scores of many stage and film productions; WICKED is currently both! Several years ago, Stephen performed as a majorly special guest at OZ-Strav!, both on his own and teaming with Michael McCorry Rose and Tiffany Haas, past cast members of WICKED (who had respectively appeared as Fiyero and Glinda on Broadway). Given this earlier association with Chittenango and his friendship with Gabe, Stephen was willing to spend time answering – via laptop — several questions from the assembled OZ-Strav! throng. (An outdoors-in-broad-daylight photo capture of his onscreen visage wasn’t possible, but his gracious participation must be included and jubilantly acknowledged. So here’s Stephen! 🙂

It doesn’t get any more magical OR Ozzy than that! 😊

There was so much more activity — there were so many more activities – that made possible and comprised OZ-Stravaganza! 2023. This report is barely a taste or a touch. It’s a cliché, I know, but it’s true: You just have to be there when everybody makes it happen.

And you know . . . NEXT year might be a great time to make the trek! It’ll be the eighty-fifth anniversary of the MGM film. The 120th anniversary of the second Oz book, THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ (introducing Jack Pumpkinhead, the Sawhorse, the Woggle-Bug, Mombi the Witch, and Princess Ozma). The 110th anniversary of Baum’s own Oz Film Manufacturing Company. The ninetieth anniversary of the NBC network radio WIZARD OF OZ series (sponsored by Jell-O!). The sixtieth anniversary of the Rankin-Bass NBC color TV special, RETURN TO OZ (with Socrates Strawman, Rusty Tin Man, Dandy Lion, and the return of the Wicked With of the West, debuting her flying alligators – or was it crocodiles?). The fiftieth anniversary of the JOURNEY BACK TO OZ feature-length cartoon (with the voices of Liza Minnelli, Ethel Merman, Paul Lynde, Mickey Rooney, Danny Thomas, Milton Berle, and Rise Stevens).

And etc.

Once again and as always: Where Oz is concerned, there’s a LOT to celebrate!

[Above: ONLY in Chittenango, folks . . . ! Thank Heaven for Frank Baum – and for the amazing village that so regularly and profoundly prizes him!]

In conclusion, I want to offer my thanks to those whose photographs made possible this Blog: Lindsay, Leah, Eilis, Ron, Cara Marie . . . and any whom I’ve inadvertently missed in the scramble through the postings of those who generously share on social media. As someone who has NEVER been able to “work” a camera (and whose cellphone is ONLY a phone, not a camera, a video-maker, a texter, a breakfast-cooker, et al), I’m much indebted to all of you for making it possible for me to “tell” some of this year’s story.

Warmly, affectionately, and gratefully!

John F.


An Afterword . . .

It goes without saying that this Blog is dedicated (as we all are) to Betty Ann Bruno.

I woke to the news of what had happened on Saturday, July 30th very early the following morning. As I wrote then and have experienced ever since, the sadness just keeps coming in recurrent waves, and I think it must be like that for everyone who’s ever known her.

Yet that’s all I’ll emphasize about the sorrow and loss felt by her husband Craig, Betty’s three sons, and the countless rest of her family, friends, admirers, and fans . . . because I just can’t imagine that any of us have ever known — or ever will know – anyone else who’d ultimately and more want to be remembered in joy, laughter, appreciation, and grateful love than would Betty Ann.

Moreover, it would all be reciprocal. We’d receive every bit of heart and soul and humor and emotion in return. And her hips and arms and hands and feet and head would be simultaneously swaying besides!

She was a continual blessing for these many decades, and such memories are ever there to be summoned. The inimitable radiance of her presence, wisdom, and delight – while once more on the road to Oz, of all places, in 2022 and 2023 — is a benediction none can forget. Whether in the parade, during her autograph sessions and interviews, or as she went into (and always shared) her literal and figurative dance of life — the tens of thousands of people who saw her in Chittenango certainly possess new and indelible gifts. And as was the case at MGM in 1938, those of Betty Ann’s OZ-Stravaganza! encounters encompass but a handful of days of the outreach she offered ceaselessly across her lifetime.

Typically, she just recently told a reporter from the Sonoma, CA, INDEX-TRIBUNE, “I am still processing the fact that all these accolades, all the fan mail, all the fuss, really have nothing to do with me personally. They aren’t about the life I have had, or the things I have accomplished. I just happen to be the icon, if you will, of the most beloved picture on the planet.”

Icon, yes. But that woman was “most beloved” on her own — far, far beyond any single “credential.”

So . . . GOD bless, keep, and go with Craig, her family, and all of you who knew her best and loved her most.

HIS care for Betty, meanwhile, has long since been guaranteed.

And we love her, always.


by John Fricke

Above:  The one-and-only BETTY ANN BRUNO . . . “MunchKid” of MGM’s classic film, THE WIZARD OF OZ and special guest star of OZ-STRAVAGANZA! She’ll lead the way down the Yellow Brick Road to All Things Oz on June 2, 3, and 4 in Chittenango, NY: birthplace of L. Frank Baum, who wrote THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ and thirteen other books in the forty-title Oz series!

Let the JOY-OZ news be spread: OZ-STRAVAGANZA! is JUST ahead!

I know that isn’t at all the way “Yip” Harburg put it in his “Munchkinland” lyric in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s THE WIZARD OF OZ movie. Back then, however, he was “only” proclaiming the passing of the Wicked Witch of the East; WE’RE here today to herald the annual OZ-STRAVAGANZA!, upcoming in Chittenango, NY, across Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 2,3, and 4.

That favored hamlet (just a few miles east of Syracuse) is ever-more renowned as the birthplace of L. Frank Baum, “Royal Historian of Oz” and the man who discovered the magical land and its celebrated denizens and locales. Just pause for a moment and consider who and what that includes: such personages as Dorothy Gale, Toto, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion, the Wonderful Wizard, Glinda, Princess Ozma, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Patchwork Girl, the Woozy — ad infinitum. Plus such scenic treasures as the Emerald City, the Yellow Brick Road, Munchkinland, and all the rest.

Every spring for 46 years, Chittenango has celebrated its native son and his incomparably uplifting contributions to the happiness and hearts of all ages: quite literally billions of readers, moviegoers, theater patrons, fans, collectors, and historians. This year will be no exception, and the festival will be highlighted by several very special guests; the writers and artists of the OZ “Alley;” extraordinary new additions to the All Things Oz Museum & Gift Shop; the illustrious Oz parade; the writing and coloring and costume contests; and, of course, the vendors and auctions and rides. (Oh, my!)

Topping the list of attractions is BETTY ANN BRUNO, one of the original Munchkins of the MGM film. She was only seven years old in 1938, but her already-advanced dancing talent won her a costumed and terpsichorean spot on the Culver City soundstage amidst the 124 “little people” who made up most of the jubilant townsfolk welcoming Judy Garland’s Dorothy to Oz. Now, eighty-five years [!] later, BETTY ANN triumphantly returns to Oz via Chittenango. Our OZ-STRAVAGANZA! audiences couldn’t get enough of her last year, whether onstage or off. She sold out copies of her new memoir, THE MUNCHKIN DIARY: MY PERSONAL YELLOW BRICK ROAD, as fans clamored to read more about OZ and hear about her major adult careers in investigative journalism, television, broadcasting, work for the CIA, and as the founder of her own and ongoing dance company. BETTY takes the stage on Saturday night to discuss all of the above — and in addition to that (you can trust me on this one) NO ONE will want to miss Sunday afternoon’s reprise of her hula demonstration and class. Two dancing friends from her troupe are coming all the way from California to join her onstage for that; be THERE at 1 p.m.!

On Friday evening, our headliner is (just above) GABRIEL GALE, innovative artist, creator, and a brand new, Ozian “Royal Historian.” That latter declaration is beautifully borne out by his deluxe book, THE ART OF OZ, and by AGES OF OZ, his series of novels for children (and people who used to be children). GABE will share the latest news of his projects and adventures; Oz AND Broadway fans will be thrilled to hear about his just-completed trip to England and visit behind-the-scenes and on the sets of a two-part motion picture now in production. (Hint: It’s based on a nonpareil Broadway musical also set in the Land of Oz – and that Stephen Schwartz/Winnie Holzman triumph celebrates its 20th anniversary this year!)

Prior to BETTY ANN’s appearance on Saturday, GABE will also open the presentation that evening, leading a discussion about the MGM WIZARD OF OZ movie and all the VERY peculiar lies and legends that have grown up about it in recent years. I’ll be taking his questions and clarifying and explaining (and/or demolishing where I can!) the social media “gozzip.” Questions from the audience will be uber welcome, too! (Wanna talk shoes? 😊 )

Anyway, please bring your inquiries!

Finally, yours truly gets to launch Friday evening’s festivities with a reminder of the very basic and beloved roots of Oz. Chittenango’s descriptive mantra labels it “Where Oz All Began.” With that in mind, I’m going to look back at Baum’s original creation of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ book – and how he and phenomenally decorative illustrator W. W. Denslow teamed to produce both the very first “American fairy tale” and a product whose fanciful story-telling, pictorial design, and elaborate color work forever changed children’s literature and the publishing thereof. Here’s one of Denslow’s 24 full-color plates from the first edition of OZ in 1900 to underscore that statement:

Both the Friday and Saturday evening programs “launch” at 6 o’clock in the First Presbyterian Church, 118 Arch Street, immediately adjacent to OZ Park.

While discussing schedules and times, here are a couple more to note right now. The Oz Parade kicks off down Genesee Street at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The All Things Oz Gift Museum (219 Genesee Street) offers special OZ-STRAVAGANZA! hours: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tours are given on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; admission is $9. (Children 10 years old and under are admitted free of charge, as are active members of the military and their families, and All Things Oz members. They also offer an AAA discount.)

The Museum offers some amazing, new, and glorious Oz items this year. How about an opportunity to see – up-close and for real – “a real, truly” costume from one of the extraordinary professional companies of WICKED, as “built” for and worn onstage by an Academy Award/“Oscar”-winning actress? 😊 (I won’t bait you beyond that: just come along and be dazzled by Patty Duke’s Madame Morrible garb!) In the same realm of wickedness, All Things Oz premiers the Margaret Hamilton autographed photos-and-correspondence collection of Paul Miles Schneider. A life-long fan of the Oz books and 1939 film, Paul became pen pals with the famous Wicked Witch of the West when he was a second grader – shortly after they met in person. (Paul’s Ozzy passion has also manifested itself in three outstanding books for young readers: SILVER SHOES, THE POWDER OF LIFE, and THE MAGIC BELT. His generosity in sharing his Hamilton treasures is pretty much way over the rainbow!) Finally, the Museum also debuts the autographed Jim Shore sketches that evolved into some of the most admired and collectible Enesco Wizard of Oz figurines; AND the Original Lion’s Club Artwork from years of their fishing derby . . .

. . . and BETTY ANN BRUNO’s Munchkin hat, specifically recreated from its original MGM design for her ‘replica” festival appearances!

Our annual Artists & Authors’ Alley talent pool will hold forth in the Celebrity Tent of OZ PARK, and once again, OZ-STRAV! is delighted to play host to a happy gathering of majorly gifted scribes and skilled “illustratives.” On this year’s roster: the ebullient and prolifically Ozzy Ron Baxley, Jr.; “pin-up Oz” aficionado (comics, graphic novels, fantasy, and the LEGEND OF OZ/WICKED WEST series) Tom Hutchison; Julienne La Fleur, artist and author of LESSONS FROM OZ; artist/caricaturist Jim Coon; and first-timer Oz writer/“romanticist,” K. A. Silva.

Throughout the weekend, young and old will have the opportunity to pose with OZ-STRAVAGANZA!’s remarkable, official, and wondrously wardrobed costumed characters. Designer Shawn Ryan, who executed their amazing apparel, will be on hand to oversee their presentation of his work, and he’ll be joined by Jeff Sadecky, their make-up artist and Shawn’s co-envoy of Dorothy & Company.

Bottom line: There’s never enough space to do justice to the OZ-STRAVAGANZA! participants, volunteers, and local and regional support factions. They and their constituents make it all possible, however – as do YOU and your presence, partaking, and exultation! So please come on along for three days of amusements, rides, food, vendors, crafts, auctions, displays, all kinds of contests, Oz celebrities, Oz artists and authors, Oz collectibles, Oz treasures, and Oz souvenirs. The full schedule for the weekend and further details may be found at: www.oz-stravaganza.com

And as ever, I am grateful to everyone in Chittenango – and everyone coming to Chittenango – for letting me be part of something that has permeated my life on a daily basis for the last 67 years. I hope to see, meet and/or reunite – a week from this weekend . . . in OZ!


By John Fricke

[Above: This edition of THE WIZARD OF OZ “en français” was published in 1964 — just thirty-two years after LE MAGICIAN D’ OHZ (as it was then titled) became the first Oz book to be translated and issued abroad. An avalanche of foreign language volumes has followed ever since, and in this month’s blog, you’ll read more about the 1964 French version and three others – from Yugoslavia, Israel, and Japan. Their original artwork is uber-enjoyable!]

In last month’s entry, we shared brief history about — and multiple illustrations from — four overseas translations of L. Frank Baum’s THE WIZARD OF OZ. It’s worth noting, however, that the reaction of the blog’s All Things Oz adherents (while always graciously expressed) seemed even more than customarily enthusiastic when we displayed these colorful, curious, and sometimes bizarre narrative and pictorial approaches to Baum’s famous citizenry.

Well, we can take a cue; here are four more! 😊

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 Technicolor musical film of THE WIZARD OF OZ didn’t reach many European countries until after World War II, yet its subsequent release abroad almost immediately spurred varied translations of the original Baum book. One of the first of these appeared in 1947; it was issued by Izreel Publishing House of Tel Aviv. The abridged HUKOSEM MEIERETZ OOZ was translated by Chernowitz and included a raft of diminutive drawings by Mrs. Bena Gewirtz. The volume was popular enough to be reprinted a number of times, and the cover shown just above accompanied its 1963 edition. (In this charmingly imaginative pose, Dorothy and Toto are shown as they look through a pair of the “green spectacles” then deemed essential to protect the eyes of those who wanted to enter the sparkling and maximally jeweled Emerald City.)

Mrs. Gewirtz was only allowed a limited number of images, but she selected both expected and unexpected moments of Baum’s saga to share. Below, we see the Stork returning the Scarecrow to his friends. He’d been briefly trapped mid-river, clinging to a pole he’d been using to propel a raft as he helped transport himself, Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion across one of those often inconvenient Oz rivers. The Scarecrow’s pole got stuck in the mud at the bottom of the waterway, and he was tugged from the raft and left to cling and hang, much to his friends’ despair. The gracious Stork flew by — and then flew in — to effect his rescue. The Gewirtz drawing beneath that one offers our five protagonists on their second visit to the Emerald City, as they’re discovering and confronting the “Great and Terrible” humbug himself. (Note that Mrs. Gewirtz interprets Dorothy’s companions at much the same petite height as Baum’s preteen heroine.) Finally, even in his truncated retelling of the OZ text, Chernowitz manages to detour to the Dainty China Country, where Dorothy and Toto confront the China Princess. (The milkmaid’s cow seemingly has its four legs intact, so the mishap that broke one of them apparently occurred after this drawing was made.) (A heartfelt suggestion: read the book! 😊 )

A curious and perhaps semi-hybrid edition was the 1963 CAROBNJAK IZ OZA, translated by Slobodan Glumac and published by Mladost in Zagreb; its cover is pictured just below. While a Yugoslavian version of two years earlier credits Baum as the book’s author, this one cites Alexander Volkov on its title page. As noted in last month’s blog, Volkov was the journalist who produced translations of THE WIZARD OF OZ in Russia in 1939 and 1960, crediting himself with the book’s creation and offering only passing reference to Baum. Despite its declared Volkov “authorship,” however, the 1963 Yugoslavian copy seems to be a more straightforward (if truncated) retelling of Baum’s verbiage, at least insofar as what might be ascertained by the Ferdinand Kulmer artwork. (Finally, to further muddy the issue, the volume then has a brief paragraph about Baum at the conclusion of the story text!)

CAROBNJAK’s Kulmer is not a painstaking draftsman, but his broadly or heavily stroked penwork has a sense of both fun and style. There is detail and/or humor in his handling (below) of: the tornado, as the trees on the Kansas plain bow to the ferocity of the passing wind; the sequence in which the Cowardly Lion is rescued from the Deadly Poppy Field on the Tin Man-built cart, pulled by thousands of field mice – notice their Queen bringing up their rear and simultaneously directing traffic; and the sight of Dorothy & Co. being transported to safety over a hill of danger in the Quadling Country. At least three of the now-helpful Winged Monkeys seem to be thumbing their noses at the frustrated Hammer-Heads below.

The 1964 LE MAGICIEN D’OZ was abridged and interpreted by Jean Muray, published by Hachette in Paris, and pictured by Romain Simon; the Simon cover illustration leads off this blog “up top.” Simon’s interior artwork is charming, especially in its alternating bright or lightly pastel color work, and three of those drawings have been selected for presentation here. Each falls into its own category of storytelling: the first is unusual in the moment chosen for portrayal; the second seems to subvert a basic tenet of “given” Oz characterization; and the third presents an – indeed! – special approach in its depiction of one of the minor tribes of Oz. In that order:

a) Early on in her journey, Dorothy and Toto have only met the Scarecrow, and when it comes time for the trio to find a place for the girl and dog to rest, they ultimately spend the night (in Baum’s words) “in a little cottage . . . built of logs and branches.” The Kansas kid “found a bed of dried leaves in one corner . . . and with Toto beside her, soon fell into a sound sleep. The Scarecrow, who was never tired, stood up in another corner and waited patiently until morning came.” When morning came, of course, the travelers discovered the rusted Tin Woodman nearby and eventually learned that they’d spent the night in his home:

b) The odd circumstance in the next picture offers the Cowardly Lion, swimming across an Ozian river and transporting the Tin Woodman in the process. While the Lion DOES pull the aforementioned raft from the river in that segment of the story, the scene shown here is not lifted from Baum’s text. It seems that translator Muray may have adapted the situation to suit himself, for as every Oz fan knows, the effect of that much water on the joints of the Tin Woodman would be — most definitely — detrimental and deleterious to his immediate future:

c) Even though an abridgement, LE MAGICIEN D’OZ manages to include some of the side jaunts of Baum’s original story, and the French art here offers a unique interpretation of the encounter with the attacking Hammer-Heads. As described in Baum’s text, they are shown as armless, with necks that can extend to great lengths to batter and deter trespassers from climbing their mountain. The lengthening cervixes here, however, seem more like balloon strings than the Baum-described “thick” necks. (Please refer to the Yugoslavian group of drawings above to see the more accepted, traditional Hammer-Head appearance.)

Between this month and last, the idea must have landed with blog readers that THE WIZARD OF OZ characters are world-wide wanderers! It’s equally happy to be able to cite the additional fact that there also have been numerous translations of Baum’s later Oz series books as well.

One of these is “book seven” of Baum’s fourteen Oz novels, THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ. Published by Hayakawa in Tokyo in 1977, it was the fifth Baum title they’d issued in three years; their translations were done by Takato Sato, and Sonoko Arai contributed excellent black-and-white line drawings, color covers, and a double-page color illustration for each volume. The PATCHWORK GIRL front cover below manages to portray eight characters central to the plot: Toto, Dorothy (shown holding the Glass Cat), Scraps — the Patchwork Girl herself, the famous Scarecrow, Ojo the Munchkin Boy (whose mission propels the story), a yellow butterfly, and the Woozy. (The latter’s eyes are angrily flashing fire in the background; one may assume someone has taunted him with the phrase “Krizzle-Kroo,” which invariably provokes such combustion on his part.)

Three other examples of Arai’s talents may be found below. The map for THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ artfully traces many characters and locations encountered by the principal cast on their quest. Just below, from top right of the art and moving left along the Yellow Brick Road, we see the simple, single Munchkin dwelling of Ojo and his Unc Nunkie, the similarly secluded home of the Crooked Magician, two Oz oddities — the Foolish Owl and the Wise Donkey, the imprisoned Woozy, the monstrous entrapment plants, a Horner and a Hopper, the embedded bars of Mr. Yoop’s mountain jail cell, the village of the Hottentots, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the respective tin castle of the Tin Woodman and the palace of the Emerald City. A single-page Arai drawing then shares the confrontation between Ojo, Dorothy, Scraps, the Woozy, and the Shaggy Man with Chiss, the overgrown Porcupine – and a much larger threat in this Japan art (the Godzilla influence?) than in that contributed by John R. Neill to the original 1913 edition of THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ. In conclusion, Arai uses the double-page color plate to memorialize the skirmish faced by Dorothy, Scraps, Ojo, and Toto when they’re beset by imprisoned giant, Mr. Yoop. (The latter already has the Scarecrow well in hand.)

Now . . . back from Oz and into the present! Or to be more accurate: Back from past Oz to present-day Oz and Chittenango’s OZ-STRAVAGNZA! 2023, which comes up in about eight weeks. In deference to such topicality, we’ll be eliminating excursions to foreign realms in the blogs for May and June and concentrating on – as they phrase it in Chittenango – “Where Oz All Began.” Certainly, were it not for native son, L. Frank Baum (born in this singular upstate New York hamlet in 1856), there’d be no Oz or any of its bands of merry players. There’d also be no annual weekend celebration (June 2nd, 3rd, and 4th this year) to attract the twenty-to-thirty-thousand celebrants, who’ve come from all over the world since this – the longest-running Oz festival in history – was first launched decades ago.

I hope to see many of you there! 

Meanwhile, I promise to return to the alternately odd, beauteous, creative, and evocatively illustrated topic of Oz Abroad in this space later in 2023 — if you like. Please give a shout out in the comments section on any of the Facebook links to this post; let us know how YOU feel and/or what other aspects of “hoztory” you’d like to see examined here. We aim to entertain. 😊

And, as ever, your presence and appreciation are appreciated!

Finally, I want to offer another grateful acknowledgement of the 1960s and 1970s research and journalism done by Douglas G. and David L. Greene. Their pioneering work in tracing, tracking, accessing, and annotating foreign editions of the Oz Books was frequently and generously shared across those (and other) years in THE BAUM BUGLE, journal of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc. (ozclub.org). It’s a joyous, Ozzy fact indeed that such effort on their parts is capable of bringing information, pleasure, and entertainment across all the decades ever since; may it continue to do so, to their everlasting credit!


Article by John Fricke


by John Fricke

Above: The Emerald City “Guardian of the Gate” invites you to the thus-far earliest known translation of L. Frank Baum’s THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, published by Denoël et Steele of Paris in 1932. The cover of that edition is shown here as it was reproduced in THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF OZ/AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN CLASSIC (Down East Books, 2013). That book details the history of all-things-Oz from 1900 to 2013 – a story told in over four hundred illustrations of items from the world’s greatest Oz/Baum assemblage, The Willard Carroll/Tom Wilhite Collection.)

Happy anniversary! March 2023 marks the onset of the sixth year of this series of monthly blogs, published by the Chittenango (NY) based International L. Frank Baum & All Things Oz Historical Foundation. My heartfelt appreciation goes to each of the Foundation officers and members for providing such a forum, for letting me compose and assemble it – and for being an invariably grand group of compatriots. Equal gratitude, of course, goes to all of you who “read here,” and who spread the Ozzy news that diverse material of an Ozzy nature is gleefully purveyed at this location by a fellow and very fervent Oz fan. 😊
Precisely three years ago this month, we looked back at some of the many foreign language editions of Baum’s first Oz book. The illustrations (whether cover or interior) were much marveled-at by many of you, so we’re returning to that topic for a brief series across these next months. In the process, I think you’ll come to the (perhaps astounded?) realization that Oz is – and indeed! has been — everywhere. It has also, as you’ll see, enjoyed many different guises across the decades since THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ was originally published out of Chicago in 1900.
Within the first decade of that book’s appearance, Baum himself claimed that translations of his initial tale about Dorothy & Company were already available in several nations around the globe. That may be true, but (as shown in the photo up top), the first of these thus far discovered by researchers, historians, and collectors was actually issued in France in 1932. Marcelle Gauwin did the adaptation, aided in the story-telling task by a number of reproductions of W. W. Denslow’s illustrations from the first or early WIZARD editions. Despite such “loyalty” – and as noted by the extraordinary OZ collector and historian Dick Martin in 1962 — there were a few (if inexplicable) adjustments for those who read the story in French: Dorothy became “Lily,” Kansas became “l’Arkansas,” and the hometown of the Wizard himself was changed from Omaha to Colorado!
If THE WIZARD OF OZ was at first slow to be translated, the past eleven decades have provided an ever-increasing floodtide of world-wide publications. The eventual global — and finally ongoing — familiarity of the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie musical of THE WIZARD OF OZ has been responsible to a great degree for the primo popularity of the Baum characters and terrains. Whatever the impetus, however, OZ now has been read over the years in (among other languages) Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, Tamil, Russian, Czechoslovakian, Italian, Dutch, German, Swedish, Hungarian, Danish, Slovenian, Afrikaans, Finnish, Persian, Hebrew, Japanese, Chinese, Polish, Rumanian, Serbo-Croatian, and Rumanian.
There’s no question that much of the appeal of such volumes — and the enjoyment of collecting them — comes through the alternately beautiful, curious, unique manner in which they’ve been illustrated. Here are four diverse examples (with more to follow in one or two further blog installments).

This is the cover of the 1961 Yugoslavian edition of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Aleksandar Stefanovic did the translation into Serbo-Croatian; the Belgrade publisher was Mlado Pokolenjz. Like so many international artists before and since, Sasha Mishi took a singular approach in the selection of moments to illustrate; both familiar and less-often-portrayed moments of Dorothy’s saga are encompassed in Mishi’s interior black-and-white pictures. Here are three examples:

Douglas G. Greene and his twin brother, the late David L. Greene, were among the initial and most indefatigable forerunners of research and collecting when it came to foreign Oz books. As they noted in 1966 (and as can be seen above), the Mishi version of the Emerald City was “an unusual combination of Gothic and Moorish architecture.” In the other two images here, the artist first shows a semi-unfamiliar moment, as the Cowardly Lion proved his post-Emerald City courage by dispatching a giant spider that had been terrorizing the animals of one of the southern forests of Oz. Mishi also offers a pictorial of the welcome and to-be-expected sequence in which Dorothy melts the Wicked Witch of the West. Note that the art fully respects Baum’s original text reference to the fact that the evil crone had but a single eye.)

This paperback Dutch adaptation, DE GROTE TOVENAAR VAN OZ, was issued in Amsterdam by L. J. Veen in 1962, with perky contemporary cover art by Elly van Beek. Note that the credit for the original author reverses Baum’s “initial initial” (!) and middle name; this was not an uncommon occurrence over the years, whatever the publication. (The same mistake is made on the book’s title and copyright pages.) Henrik Scholte was the translator for this Oz excursion, and its lovely, evocative interior black and white pictures by Rein van Looy were retained from Veen’s 1940 edition of the title. They amount to an interesting amalgam of Denslow’s original interpretations of the Ozians and – especially in the case of Dorothy – a seeming (if minor) homage to MGM’s Judy Garland:

The MGM/Denslow juxtaposition can clearly be seen in the top van Looy illustration above. It accompanied the very first page of the Dutch text; here, Dorothy is determinedly Garlandesque, while the composition of copy and art resoundingly echoes Denslow’s original approach to the same leaf of the original 1900 edition (printed just below van Looy’s handling). The charming, in-repose picture of Dot, Toto, and her first two new companions is also a mélange of Hollywood and “Den,” while the last image here offers another, lesser-depicted moment, as the Cowardly Lion is acknowledged by what-may-be-the-later-legendary Hungry Tiger. (Is that a Bert Lahr tail maneuver at hand?) (So to speak . . .) The newly crowned King of the Forest has just dispatched the killer Spider; please see Michi’s drawing for the Yugoslavian WIZARD a few drawings back.

LU YEH SIEN TSUNG (above; cover by an unknown illustrator) dates from 1962, published in Formosa. Oddly enough, the text is Alexander Volkov’s version of Baum’s story, first issued in Russia (in Russian) in 1939 with no mention of Baum. The Mandarin Chinese adaptation includes Volkov’s added sequence, in which Ellie (Dorothy) is captured by a cannibalistic ogre, who plans to make sausage of her. Just below, you’ll see the bound Kansas girl, the monster (at right) sharpening his blade, and his meat grinder on a topmost shelf (at left).

All the interior visuals in this edition were originally drawn by N. Radlov for Volkov’s 1939 rewrite. In his approach to Oz, the artist depicts several of the traditional highlights of the story; he also shows a taste for the darker aspects of the Baum plot, as can be seen in the following images: The Tin Woodman is shown as he beheads a wildcat, so as to save the life of the Queen of the Field Mice (who complacently gazes on from the bottom left corner of the art). Meanwhile, the Scarecrow – later in the story – is represented in the process of matter-of-factly wringing the necks of the Wicked Witch’s forty crows, so as to save his friends from their attack. Here, Radlov blithely scatters the birds in the drawing: several on the ground, dozens in the air, and “two in the hand.”
[Note: As many Oz fans are aware, Volkov later began his own semi-original but successful sequels, in Russian, to THE WIZARD OF OZ. His series of five further books – about the “Magic Land” – was even continued after his passing in 1977 by several other authors, much as the “official” Oz Book series in America was expanded after L. Frank Baum died in 1919.]

Finally, an upbeat DER ZAUBERER OZ – translated by Sybil Grafin Schonfeldt and Maria Torris – was published in Berlin in 1964 by Cecilie Dressler Verlag. Illustrator Peter Krukenberg displays humor and heart (if not much detail) in his approach to the Tin Woodman, giving new meaning to the concept of a blockhead, as well as foreshadowing the platform shoes of later in that decade and into the 1970s. Below, he also submits a seldom-composed appreciation of the Emerald Citizians who prepped the Wizard’s balloon for its departure from the Emerald City; proffers a “gift” map from Dorothy and Toto, so as to help the children of Germany find Kansas amidst the contiguous forty-eight of the United States; and shows the Midwestern girl and her “Hund” in their return home again. His variation on the Em and Henry Gale abode is akin to both Baum’s one-room description and some of the hastier assemblages done in the mid-to-late-1800s by Charles “Pa” Ingalls for Caroline (“Ma”), Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Grace. 😊

And that’s all for this month – but as noted, there’ll be more amazing and/or glorious and/or puzzling and/or rapturous views-of-Oz from abroad in future blog installments. Many thanks for reading!
P.S. I would like to again acknowledge Dick, Doug, and Dave for their ground-breaking and joyous reportage about the foreign editions of THE WIZARD OF OZ referenced here. Some of their discoveries were shared in our correspondence, beginning in 1962-63; this information was then refined by them for more formal presentation in THE BAUM BUGLE, journal of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc. (ozclub.org)


By: John Fricke

[Above: Is there another pair of shoes in history more familiar, cherished, valuable, and magical than these — especially when they step out on a specifically hued road of bricks?]

Across the last nine months, multiple entries in this series have celebrated L. Frank Baum, including a special column about his Christmas traditions with wife Maud Gage and their four sons. (This is, of course, no less than is deserved by the native of Chittenango, New York, and the

By John Fricke

Above: This handwritten letter from L. Frank Baum to young Oz fan, Carleton H. Davis, is reprinted from THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF OZ/AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN CLASSIC (Down East Books, 2013), a book I was privileged to write to detail the history of all-things-Oz from 1900 to 2013. (Such a comprehensive summation, with over four hundred illustrations, could only have been compiled and presented in conjunction with the world