Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Magic Belt

It's been awhile since we got an Oz-related book from Paul Miles Schneider, six years in fact since his second book The Powder of Life was released. And keeping in theme with that book and his first, Silver Shoes, the third one features an item from the third Oz book, Ozma of Oz, The Magic Belt.

Donald Gardner and his friends are having trouble going back to their day to day lives after the events of The Powder of Life as Halloween draws near. Not helping are the mysterious earthquakes happening nearby.

Donald actively wants to forget about Oz and just get back to a normal life, but it doesn't help when his classmate Katie gives him an old copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that someone has scribbled in.

Finally, Halloween rolls around and Donald and his friends go trick or treating, when they spot a new home that seems to be open for trick or treaters. However, the host isn't just dressed as a witch, she is a witch! Namely, Mombi!

Joining with Katie, old family secrets are turned up as Donald and his friends discover that the Nome King and Princess Langwidere have joined forces to reclaim the Magic Belt, which has been hidden in Kansas, its magic greatly decreased by hiding three gems from it in some very Ozzy places.

There's a number of twists and turns along the way and plenty of magic in tow, and some visits to actual places of interest to Oz fans, Schneider giving a wink and nod to places that celebrate Oz that he's visited.

This one wasn't quite as exciting as the first two books and it felt more like this was written to wrap up the series. If Schneider continues with stories about Donald, they might be more self-contained. As such, if you haven't read Silver Shoes or The Powder of Life lately, you might want to re-read them before getting into this one for the best effect.

Although there's a pretty major conclusion to the story this time, as said, it's not a huge, action-packed one and when the enemies were dealt with, there were still a few more chapters as everything else was being addressed. There were so many pages left I thought for sure there had to be one last encounter with the Nome King, but there wasn't. The writing is still quite engaging, and I wasn't bored with the story.

But that's not really a problem. The Magic Belt is concluding a trilogy and in that matter, I think it succeeds at concluding the over-arcing story. Donald has grown older and wiser and learned new things. The slower ending really handles that well. As a standalone, I wouldn't recommend it as there's a lot of things referenced that are better explained in the first two books.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Lost Tales of Oz

Joe Bongiorno's Royal Publisher of Oz has a new book out, illustrated by eminent Oz illustrator Eric Shanower. Instead of a single Oz story, it presents seventeen stories by thirteen writers.

I'm one of the writers who contributed to the anthology and thus have some insight into the creation. Each writer was solicited for a story that didn't necessarily have to stick to traditional Oz themes. It didn't need to be “safe for kids,” Joe encouraging us to think of stories that wouldn't be in traditional Oz books. I chronicled the creation of my contribution in one of the appendices.

The book features a framing sequence in which Dorothy, Trot and Betsy Bobbin look through some of the stories that appear in the Royal Library. You could interpret this that not all of the stories are “true,” but the book goes on to consider them so.

Joe runs The Royal Timeline of Oz website and as can be expected, has a big focus on continuity. When he edited the stories, it would sometimes mean that he would add notes to continuity. He might also add other things as well.

The first story is The Great and Terrible Oz Mystery by Michael O. Riley in which Ojo spots some suspicious behavior of the Wizard around the Palace. With some information from Jellia and help from his friends, it's up to Ojo to solve the mystery.

Next is The Witch's Mother of Oz by Paul Dana. This midquel takes place during the final chapters of The Marvelous Land of Oz, introducing the mother of none other than Mombi, who approaches her, revealing some secrets from her past.

The Trade: A Langwidere Story by Mike Conway features a young woman offering her head to Ev's mysterious dignitary. The response reveals that there may be a bit more to explore about the head-swapping princess.

Ojo and the Woozy is J.L. Bell's attempt to create another “Little Wizard Story,” focused on the titular characters. As Ojo meets some new friends, he runs into a situation that the Woozy might be quite suited to handle.

Nathan DeHoff makes the first of three contributions in The Other Searches For The Lost Princess. Taking place during The Lost Princess of Oz, these three short stories follow the other three groups who didn't find Ozma: the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman; Shaggy Man, his brother, Tik-Tok and Jack Pumpkinhead; and Ojo, Unc Nunkie and Dr. Pipt. This one is chock full of puns and Easter Eggs for fans of the Oz series and its adaptations.

Next up is Chop by Eric Shanower. Originally written for an Ozzy horror anthology, it tells how Button-Bright came across the home of Chopfyt and Nimmee Aimee. But this was never a happy home, and it hasn't become any happier... It's probably the darkest story in the collection.

Following is In Flesh Of Burnished Tin by Jeffery Rester, a short piece depicting the relationship of Nimmee Aimee and the Wicked Witch of the East.

David Tai's Diplomatic Immunity comes next, revealing Trot and Betsy investigating an island that has descended on Oz from the sky. It is—in fact—Sky Island, and as Trot is the ruler she has to make the choice whether to enforce Ozma's rule or help her people.

The late M.A. Berg offers The Scrap Bag Circus of Oz, in which Scraps comes across a small circus of plush people and animals, who it turns out where made from the cloths that were also used in the crazy quilt that made up Scraps' body.

Following this is a pair of stories by the late Sam Sackett with Joe helping out. In The Wizard in New York, the Wizard goes to check out the 1939 World's Fair. It's not a majorly eventful story, mostly the Wizard reacting to the state of the world he left behind several years before, including going to see MGM's The Wizard of Oz. But he does pick up a stray cat he names Ali, who features in Ali Cat in Oz, which follows the adventures of the Wizard's new pet cat as it travels through the palace, then the Ozian countryside.

Joe then presents an unusual Oz story in Lurline and the Talking Animals of Oz, which follows the diaries of a resident of Oz who lived through Oz becoming a fairyland and animals beginning to talk and asserting their own place in Oz. It further addresses how Lurline had to intervene to maintain the peace.

Then comes the story from yours truly: Tommy Kwikstep and the Magpie. Journeying to a Gillikin village with Corina the Magpie, Tommy Kwikstep discovers what became of the Good Witch of the North before making a new acquaintance in Perry, the son of the ex-General Jinjur. It's very much a story about relationships, from the families we are born into to the ones we choose.

Up next is Nathan DeHoff's Ozma and the Orange Ogres of Oz, which follows the conquest of the Emerald City of a group of orange ogres and how it was resolved. If you thought it might be a timely political allegory, Nathan actually wrote it over two decades ago and it was revised heavily by Joe for publication.

Marcus Mebes offers Quiet Victory which reveals how Victor Columbia Edison, the talking phonograph, came to live with Allegro De Capo, the Musicker. Perhaps these two were made for each other.

Nathan's final offering in the collection is Vaneeda in Oz, which I admit I had a hand in. Not a big one, but I told Nathan that as I'd written a story featuring Jinjur's son—who was a twin—perhaps he might write a story featuring the other one, Winnie. (As they're Munchkin-born, their names are similar to perriwinkle, a blue flower.) Anyway, Winnie and her friends Henrietta and Paella the Cookywitch decide to investigate the claim that Vaneeda, daughter of the Wicked Witch of the East (name and identity suggested by a never completed story by Ruth Plumly Thompson), has turned the Munchkin Royal Family into glass.

The final story is The Puppet-Mistress of Oz by Andrew Heller. As Dorothy relates her first adventure in Oz, Trot begins to think some things added up too well. Suspicions are raised and questions are answered. And if you've thought about Oz history, it's exactly who you think it is.

Each story is introduced by an opening page that features an introduction written in character by Dorothy, Trot or Betsy. A small illustration by Eric Shanower also tops this page. With the exception of The Trade, there's two illustrations by Eric per story: the small one on the introductory page and a full page illustration. It's all right for some stories, but this means many characters will only be seen in your imagination.

What a lot of Oz fans love about Shanower's artwork is that it's finely detailed and drafted. His human characters look human, and the characters of Oz are designed after John R. Neill's illustrations. He also adds well-proportioned design work to scenery and animals and other creatures so it adds a believable look to the world of Oz, even when completely unreal creatures such as the Woozy are being depicted. I had to admit, I only had a determined visual for Corina when it came to creating my story as she is a Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, also known as a Ceylon Magpie, specifically. Perry I had decided to let the illustrator handle. While Eric did draw Perry and I was pleased with it, what impressed me was that he drew a lot of birds I'd described in the story. That I was not expecting at all!

The book also features notes on the stories that tell how they came to be written, as well as continuity notes by Joe, and then biographies of the authors are given. Mine sadly dated quickly as it mentions that I live with my two cats when that's no longer the case. But I don't think I'll request it to be revised.

The book is laid out in classic Oz book style with the text set in the Schoolbook font with the title of the book being at the top of left hand pages over a line with the title of the chapter being on the right hand page over another line.

With the exception of Chop and moments in Lurline and the Talking Animals, most of these stories fit the traditional Oz style of being fun adventures for all ages with some strange twists. The Oz stories have always toed that line between whimsical and macabre, though. One might want to be a little wary about giving this one to children without some supervision, though. Literature provides a good way for readers to learn about certain concepts, but in the form of fantasy and fiction, it might be best to discuss these stories with young readers.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Remembering The Wiz Movie at 40

Original illustration by Bob McGinnis, intended for a
movie poster. From the collection of Bob Gold.
Image courtesy of Sam Milazzo.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the film adaptation of The Wiz, the Royal Blog of Oz solicited comments about the film from several Oz fans. The film was the subject of an episode of The Royal Podcast of Oz, which featured fan Garrett Kilgore. Opening is a history of the movie and thoughts from Jay.
The Wiz movie, what a loaded one this is. It was, of course, based on the stage show of the same name. A stage show that took Broadway by storm despite having a closing notice on opening night. The way I've heard the story is that Motown originally intended to have Broadway star Stephanie Mills star in the film, but when Universal offered to help fund the movie if Diana Ross was Dorothy, it was an offer Motown couldn't refuse.

Since Diana was 33, there was no way they could stick with the play's script, which hewed closely to L. Frank Baum's novel, reimagining the story through an African-American perspective. Joel Schumacher (yes, that one) was brought on to write a wholly new script, which he infused with inspiration from Werner Erhard. His connections also helped them with the massive number of costumes needed. After the Ross-switch, Saturday Night Fever director John Badham dropped out, and Serpico and Murder on the Orient Express director Sidney Lumet was brought in.

The cast was filled out with Michael Jackson (post-Jackson 5, pre-King of Pop) as the Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man, Richard Pryor as the Wiz, Lena Horne as Glinda, Thelma Carpenter as Miss One (the Good Witch of the North), and Ted Ross and Mabel King reprised their roles from the original Broadway cast as the Cowardly Lion and Evilene (the Wicked Witch of the West), respectively. Motown producer Quincy Jones would arrange the music, dropping much of the instrumentals from the musical and creating new tunes, which used a lot of cues from a song ultimately dropped from the movie, "Is This What Feeling Gets?"

The film would eschew the story's original setting on a farm in Kansas and placed Dorothy as living with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in a Harlem apartment. Oz was depicted by many locations in New York City redressed into a bizarre fantasy world, which alone made the budget skyrocket. The yellow brick road was actually linoleum, which was also available for commercial sale.

The film was released on October 24, 1978, and wound up only bringing in $13.6 million on a $24 million budget and critics panned the movie. The failure put studios off of making all-black movies, ending the "blaxpoitation" genre and big budget musicals for a time. But it did find an audience, especially after the film began to air on television in 1984 and later when it would be released to home video, and it is available on VHS, laserdisc, DVD, Blu-Ray and digital formats.

The movie certainly has problems. One is that it's too long, running at 135 minutes. While that's comparable to how long the play would go for, it should be remembered that the play was in two acts, giving the audience a break mid-way. That time for the play also includes the overture, entr'acte music and curtain call.

A major issue with the run time is the dance scenes. Many of these extend the song sequences for far longer than they need to be, and sadly, much of the time, the fact that you're seeing these dances filmed takes away a lot of the energy the performers were giving off. The first time Dorothy and the Scarecrow sing "Ease On Down The Road" features a big problem as instead of using multiple angles, the two are filmed from behind, the scene panning into a large wide shot.

The movie also throws off the pacing of the original show by having the Tin Man's two songs "Slide Some Oil To Me" and "What Would I Do If I Could Feel?" back to back. While it's clear that "You Can't Win" shows off more of Michael Jackson's vocal talents, this comes at the cost of the optimistic and upbeat "I Was Born On The Day Before Yesterday." Richard Pryor didn't sing, so the Wiz's version of "If You Believe" was given to Dorothy and "So You Wanted To Meet The Wizard" and "Y'All Got It!" were cut. "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "A Rested Body Is A Rested Mind" were also dropped.

The movie also can come off as creepy. The revival of the Munchkins with no context looks and feels pretty creepy. The peddler with his puppets is just weird, and even after the subway sequence (the adaptation of the play's Kalidah chase scene), we have no idea what their deal is. The concept of turning New York City into Oz is interesting, but there's something unsettling about seeing Dorothy and her friends dance through empty streets littered with garbage bags.

The movie is actually very colorful and visually rich, but a lot of scenes take place at night, making them visually dark. When the movie was shown on TV and released to home video, the colors looked muted and a lot of the finer details disappeared into the background. It wasn't until Blu-Ray and digital HD that people viewing at home could begin to see these.

The re-framing of Dorothy as a timid introverted elementary school teacher was interesting. She's in a good job, but should be willing to take more risks and become more adventurous. Aunt Em mentions that Dorothy has been offered to take on a high school job and encourages her to move out on her own. This is a good setup, but when Dorothy sets out into Oz, her desiring to go home is puzzling. She needed to get out on her own, and now she is. I suppose she gets to go home and apply this knowledge to her life, but you forget about that during the long song sequences and with how it rarely comes up after she gets to Oz.

It's easy to see why fans of the original musical were disappointed with the movie. Movies can easily be seen by people on television and now home video, much more cheaply and conveniently than going to see a play. For a lot of people, The Wiz would be the movie, not the original show. It would not be until The Wiz Live! in 2015 that there would be another easily accessible version of The Wiz.

However, The Wiz movie has its fans, some very devoted. There's a lot of iconic talent in the cast, there's a lot of great songs, and it is inventive in many ways, even if those ways didn't win over audiences. But for African-American families, what other fantasy film offered them an adventure featuring people who looked like them? A lot of the shortcomings noted by their peers were easy to ignore in light of the fact that they had this movie that featured people who represented their lives and culture. The Wiz filled a void, and to be honest, it's a void that few other movies have filled.

I happened to first pick up a VHS copy of The Wiz in 2005, the same day that The Muppets Wizard of Oz was released to DVD. I had gone over to a store to pick up the new movie, then I went over to the library to use the internet (no home connection at that time), and then went over to a movie trading store and found the VHS.

I watched the movie with my siblings. Being a used copy, we noted that the tape resumed during the "A Brand New Day" sequence during which the Winkie slaves remove their ugly costumes. I could only imagine a prudish mother freaking out, taking the tape out and disposing of it by getting it to a movie trading store. (Coincidentally, it was at another location of the same line of stores that I purchased the movie on Blu-Ray later.)

My siblings and I weren't impressed with the movie, the running time taking a toll on us. Still, as a collector of Oz film, I held onto the tape until after I replaced it with a widescreen DVD that I ordered from a third party seller on Amazon. I would later also pick up the 30th anniversary DVD that presented the movie in anamorphic widescreen for the first time. It was not a movie I revisited often.

When I got the Blu-Ray, I decided to watch some of it to see how it looked. At the time, I was using a CRT TV, having not yet upgraded to an HDTV. Even on that, the upgrade in clarity and color was very noticeable. At one point, I decided to watch the "He's The Wiz!" sequence and wound up watching the rest of the movie.

I think my feelings shifted from disdain to acceptance to being able to see how you can enjoy the movie to finding some enjoyment. It has its flaws, and I certainly wish we could've seen the original conception of Stephanie Mills recreating her Broadway role on film, but in the end, it is what it is.
 - Jay Davis
A collection of The Wiz merchandise, courtesy Sam Milazzo.
I can remember my first viewing of The Wiz movie was in Primary school, as one of the teachers had taped it from a TV broadcast - where each time there was to be a commercial, it would use and slow down the shot of Dorothy and Toto spinning inside the blizzard - and I have so many memories from that viewing, even if they are inaccurate and the scenes in my mind are different to those in the actual film on video: I even remember the dreams I had growing up afterwards from seeing it:
* a magazine I "found" at the end of my bed with a double-page spread showing Dorothy, holding Toto in her arms and talking to Miss One, wearing fluffy pink slippers (this is because, earlier, someone thought I was talking about the OTHER movie) ... naturally when I woke up the next morning, I checked the end of my bed for the magazine, which wasn't there because it didn't exist.
* a zooming close-up on Dorothy's Silver Slippers when she returned home at the end which led to a "dance number" on the street (which was not snowed under).

I remember a friend in high school talking about the film with its changing color city lights and the Witch wanting the girl with the Silver Shoes.

The first time I read anything on the 1978 film, was a small section in The Annotated Wizard of Oz (and many other things I would eventually and gradually be exposed to and collect, or avoid).
Even before I saw it again, the image of a tall Dorothy and a short Good Witch/Miss One stayed in mind and would be remembered whenever I saw a similar thing on screen, such as Maggie and Yetta in one episode of "The Nanny" or Nicole Kidman and Shirley MacLaine in the "Bewitched" movie.

Soon as I got the DVD I loved it, even in its low, dark quality and gaps in story (especially why Glinda created the storm to abduct Dorothy in the first place) and faulty editing.  I loved this film because I resonated with them showing a grown-up Dorothy having difficulty becoming a full proper adult and resisting a change of jobs, something I am still learning to do myself.  Whenever I watch it, I find something else about it that adds depth to the detail in scene or shot, or reveals a possible new meaning of interpretation like reasons or characters that may represent a different aspect of Dorothy's personification.  Even the Blu-ray can reveal details I could never notice so clearly before.

As much as I love this film, I would be blind and foolish to not see where improvements are needed. However, while this film does severely lack proper and excellent editing and design choices (especially wasting so much time, effort and resources in costume changes for the Emerald City tri-colour number/s, when White would have been easily adjustable!), I am clever enough to know that video and TV allows us to mute, fast-forward or even adjust color settings to improve viewing - choices of which I am willing to take advantage of.

I am interested in the magazines that cover the production, but am also disappointed in the complete absence of more interesting merchandise and memorabilia, particularly the abandoned Comic treatment, as I strongly feel that this companion piece would have not only filled up blank spots in the film (especially dialogue in scenes without singing and, in particular, Dorothy's thoughts once she had returned "home") but also be a better adaptation than what "Return to Oz" got in similar form.
- Sam Milazzo
I first saw the movie on TV many years ago. I don't know how old I was. I think it's good. Though I still think Diana Ross was too old to be playing Dorothy and I thought the Tin Man's crying was annoying. (I mute at that part.) Plus, what the hell was up with the poppies looking like strippers and the Winkie guards running around in their underwear? But I bought the DVD four or five years ago.
- Sarah Crowther
I really hated it. The premise was good, it was an unique spin on the story (for the time). What killed it for me were the dance numbers that just went on and on and on. I get it, you're free and you're happy but can we please get back to the story?
- Erica Olivera
There's so much I can say on this one. One scene that sticks out for me is the first version of "Ease on Down the Road." As a child I loved seeing Dorothy and Scarecrow dancing to that. As I got older I realized just how crazy that scene was since it's friggin' Michael Jackson and Diana Ross!!! Growing up, the MGM film was the standard for Oz fun, but whenever this movie would come on TV, I would beg for the world to stop just so my young eyes could watch. It was important for me to see that race is not an issue when it comes to telling this story. This story is for everyone. Later on this became more apparent when I was in an all Filipino version of The Wiz playing the Scarecrow. The Wiz film has not become one of my favorite movies, but I can appreciate it. If anything, the recent Live version has become one of my favorite Oz adaptations.
- Eduard Cao
Pages from the unpublished comic adaptation of The Wiz,
from the collection of David Lee,
image courtesy of Sam Milazzo.
I saw this movie on my last night in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in June 1979. My family moved back to the states the next day. I don't remember knowing there was to be a movie version of The Wiz, though of course I was aware of the stage show. So it was a surprise when the title showed up on the marquee of the Officer's BOQ lyceum.

My father, my mother, and my sister watched it, too. A female friend my sister's age (Karin Kaempfer Mann) and the little girl she was baby-sitting also came along. By the time of the Munchkin scene the little girl was so terrified she and the baby-sitter left. I watched the whole thing. The seat got really, really hard.

I had never been to New York City and did not understand what the thing was with the locations or why. I still don't understand why. I wish they'd stayed closer to the stage show and just made it take place in a standard Land of Oz, not this weird, unreal New York City version of Oz.

It's also too bad they booted Stephanie Mills and cast Diana Ross as Dorothy. An older Dorothy just doesn't work for the story as they filmed it. And the other weird decisions like shifting one of the Tin Woodman's songs to give Nipsey Russell two songs in a row. He's one of the weaker singers in the cast and that whole scene's really hard to sit through.

Giving Michael Jackson the cut Winkie song in place of "I Was Born on the Day Before Yesterday" makes no sense in context. Don't get me started on the nonsensical Emerald City stoplight number—although I have to say the fashions look better and better the older the movie gets.

Why in the world would they reveal the Wizard's a humbug before Dorothy discovers it for herself? What were they thinking to make such a huge anti-story, anti-interest blunder?

And there's so much more that's just anti-theatrical in the movie version. The two best scenes are still "Mean Ole Lion" and "No Bad News." Taken out of context, both are flat out great. It's telling that those are the two performances which use the stage stars in their original roles. I wish the producers and director had gotten a clue from that to help the rest of the movie.

I avoided seeing any version of the stage show for years because of this dreary, drawn-out movie version. But when I finally understood that all the bad parts of the movie were added just for the movie version, I finally went to see the stage show. Fortunately it was the early '90s tour with Stephanie Mills and Andre deShields reprising their original roles.

WOW! What a great show! So joyous and fun and Ozzy. No wonder it won so many Tonys. I don't hate the badly thought-out movie version, but it's really hard to sit through, although I find it easiest to take if I simply watch it to gawk in disbelief at the numerous moments of bad movie-making decisions.
- Eric Shanower 
To put my two cents in, I prefer the stage version of The Wiz to the movie version. Even the TV version is one, if not two steps above the movie! Fortunately, I was able to see the stage version in NYC (with family and friends) in 1976. Still have my program guide. On my first WinkieCon in 1978, I dressed up as Dorothy from the stage Wiz. Still have that photo. I would like to see Wicked for comparison, but am already convinced that the stage version of The Wiz is the best revision since the 1939 movie.
- Beverly Mendheim
I love the film. Sure Diana is too old for the role, but she plays it to the hilt. I believe her. I love the musical numbers. I only remember seeing it as aired on TV, but I had the LP and played it over and over and over. The only scene that makes no sense to me is the vendor in the subway with the weird pump up marionettes that grow and grow. What is the correlation to the original novel? The kalidahs? I dunno, it just stands out and want to just move on. I want to watch this again. I own it on Blu-Ray. It's been a year or two since I watched it last. (I also loved The Wiz Live! as well.)
- Barry Dougherty
There is so much I'd like to say about The Wiz that I don't have time for at the moment. It's an odd duck that I enjoy. There's parts I would have liked to have seen done differently, but all together I have fond memories of it. Being too young to have seen seen the Broadway version went it came out, it was my only version of The Wiz. I can't afford going to the theater now, so revivals are out. The TV version, I haven't seen.

Growing up as a POC it was the only version of Oz where everyone wasn't white and that was a big deal. It was a very large departure from a traditional Oz, and also a kid from California, the NYC version of Oz always intrigued me. New York City was a mystical place so for me that fit for a version of Oz. MGM's Oz was a dream, but things worked normally, not dream like. The Wiz was full on dream/nightmare. Things didn't make sense, things were scary, the most horrific scenes in any movie for me were the subway scenes. The peddler still gives me nightmares, I'm surprised it's not a staple Halloween costume. There's a lot I'd change, there's a lot I'd keep the same, but all and all it'll always hold a place in my cold frozen Ozzy heart.
- Aaron Almanza
The peddler sequence freaked me out as a kid. Even as an adult I won’t get too close to a subway column.
- Garrett Kilgore

Sam Milazzo presents us with another little tribute...
Dubbed "Wiz City," this video sets clips from the film to song "Kansas City" by Sneaky Sound System.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Oz news!

Any Oz fan who enjoys podcasts needs to be subscribing to a couple podcasts. (In addition to The Royal Podcast of Oz, which will be returning soon.)

First of all is Crossover Adventure Productions, which is currently running Season Two of "The Chronicles of Oz," adapting The Marvelous Land of Oz. This adaptation takes a few twists on the story, just as season 1 took twists on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but it's proved delightful and very exciting.

Second of all is another story telling podcast, Hit The Bricks. This series has a pilot up, with a brand new story that involves some of the smaller Oz characters. They'll soon be running a Kickstarter to raise funds to pay the costs of running a podcast, and are also casting several characters.

In some sadder news, blog team member Craig Noble is having to part with his collection of valuable Oz and Baum books, including many first editions in dustjackets. PBA Galleries will be handling the auction in San Francisco on November 29, 2018.

In new Oz book news, The Lost Tales of Oz is finally out. This anthology is full of fun Oz stories by Oz fans and established writers such as Nathan DeHoff, Mike Conway, Michael O. Riley, Eric Shanower, David Tai, Paul Dana, J.L. Bell, Jeff Rester, M.A. Berg, Marcus Mebes, Andrew Heller, Sam Sackett, editor Joe Bongiorno, and yours truly. The book is illustrated by Eric Shanower in his lively, detailed classic Oz style. The book features a framing sequence of Dorothy, Trot and Betsy looking through new entries that have appeared in the Royal Library of Oz. Some of these tales have supposedly slipped through the cracks and aren't presented in chronological order. One of the longer tales follows the three other search parties in The Lost Princess of Oz, offering many Easter eggs for well-versed fans. And it's not quite all rainbows and yellow brick roads, either as a few stories might contain a moments better appreciated by older Oz fans.

Finally, Oz fan Anthony Whitaker is using Indiegogo to seek funding for his new play, Scraps, presenting the further adventures of the Patchwork Girl. Perks include a poster, online access to a video version of the play, and a script in return for donations from $35-$100.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Oz news! The Ruby Slippers are finally all accounted for!

Of all the existing costumes and props used in MGM's The Wizard of Oz—which will have its 80th anniversary next year—the most iconic have been the Ruby Slippers. Audiences thrill to see the sparkly red pumps on Judy Garland's feet throughout the film, at first taken from the Wicked Witch of the East, then given to Dorothy, which makes the Wicked Witch of the West target her. At the close of the film, Glinda reveals these very shoes were Dorothy's ticket home the entire time, having her tap her heels together and say the now iconic line, "There's no place like home."

The film had changed the shoes from the book's Silver Shoes, deciding that a sparkly red looked better than shiny grey. The effect was created by sewing sequins onto shoes made by the Innes Shoe Company of Los Angeles, dyed a dark red. In addition, bows studded with false glass gems were added.

No one knows how many pairs of shoes were made and used in the film. The producer once gave a figure of "from five to ten," a wardrobe department employee offered a number of six. The need for so many is easily explained. Judy's stand-in and double also needed pairs. Judy's feet would swell after filming in the morning and she would use a slightly larger pair later in the day. And if something happened to the shoes, if they became damaged, there would be a backup so the crew could simply change pairs and continue with filming. Some pairs had felt on the soles so when Judy had to dance, the felt would muffle the sound of them hitting the stage. At least one pair didn't have felt as the soles were seen in the film without them.

One test pair with a notably different design, including curled toes, is known to exist. Of however many pairs were made and used in the film, we only know about four pairs. Counting the test pair which wasn't used in the film, that makes five pairs.

These pairs were found by one Kent Warner as he was preparing for a major auction of MGM studio memorabilia. One of these were auctioned off in that auction for $15,000 in 1970. It seems that this is the pair that was recently conserved by the Smithsonian and will soon be back on display. Warner sold the test pair to Debbie Reynolds, and they were auctioned off in 2011. Another pair is in a private collection. Warner's own pair was eventually sold to a collector who used them for charitable purposes and let the Smithsonian display them as a substitute when their pair was elsewhere. This pair was sold in 2012 to become an asset for the upcoming museum by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Among the people who donated to purchase this pair were director Steven Spielberg and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

And so we come to the most scandalous pair. Collector Michael Shaw loaned his pair to the Judy Garland Museum of Grand Rapids, Michigan (Garland's hometown). In 2005, the pair was stolen with hardly a trace as to the culprit or where to find them. The theft caused a sensation for fans of the MGM film, Oz at large and Judy Garland. There were much publicized searches for the stolen shoes involving flooded mine shafts and other places. Theories flew wild, I even reviewed a novel that presented a first-person fictional account of the theft. A documentary about the Ruby Slippers and the case was made. Some believed Shaw needed money and was holding out for the insurance payout, and given that it had been so long, he did indeed get the payout. (I state this not to accuse Mr. Shaw who I genuinely believe was grieved over the loss, but to state a theory and the fact that the payout did occur.)

Oz fans got the news today that after thirteen years, the stolen pair had finally been recovered by the FBI. It seems arrests of the culprits have yet to be made, so the full details of the case have not been revealed. What has been revealed is that they were recovered in a sting operation over the summer, which resulted from an extortion attempt (a "we'll give them back if you pay us" situation). A conservator from the Smithsonian who had been working on their pair of Ruby Slippers assisted in authenticating the recovered goods.

It appears that the long term plan is to restore the slippers to public display, however as the investigation is ongoing, the FBI is holding them as evidence.

In some other news, it is the 40th anniversary of the film adaptation of The Wiz, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. Looks like we're not getting a 40th anniversary 4K Blu-Ray or any special merchandise or reissues. To be fair, the film didn't recoup its budget, but it proved to be a big enough seller on home video that it was released on three Region 1 DVD editions (fullscreen, widescreen, anamorphic widescreen in 2008), and got upgraded to Blu-Ray in 2010, a fairly short time into the format's life. In addition, it's been subject to many airings on television as well as a handful of special film screenings.

And The Royal Blog of Oz would like your thoughts on the movie! We'd like to get a variety of perspectives on it. Love it? Like it? Hate it? Neutral? Let us know.

You can comment on this post or send an email to Your commentary will be posted in a special blog entry and your name (or a pseudonym if you prefer, please specify) will appear with your comment. (I reserve the right to edit content appearing on the blog.) The plan is to release the blog within the next two weeks.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Wizard of Oz - A Music Video Tribute

I had planned that at OzCon this year, we would follow a panel with Barry Bregman and Christianna Rickard reflecting on their relatives involved with MGM's The Wizard of Oz with an original music video tribute to the movie, featuring the beloved song "Over the Rainbow" and "The Reprise" from Meco's Wizard of Oz disco album. However, things got shifted around and it wound up being one of the last things we showed on Sunday. But thanks to YouTube, now anyone can see it. It was my first time editing in Vegas and I had to learn the software while making this video.

Editing the "Over the Rainbow" part at the beginning was a little difficult in that I realized just how magnetic Judy is during it. She has a lot of presence during this song and it's hard to take your eyes off of her. So deciding when I would cut away to clips from later in the movie was a little tough. I think it works rather well and the Over the Rainbow portion works as a video all on its own.

The second half was a real challenge to time everything correctly and not linger on shots for too long. I really like the Wicked Witch montage, though.

Monday, August 20, 2018

OzCon 2018 - Wow!

Well, it's been just over a week since OzCon 2018 wrapped up. This was, without a doubt, one of the more ambitious undertakings I've ever done.

OzCon registrar Paul Dana with Friends of Dorothy author
Dee Michel
OzCon has had a lot of changes over the years. It was originally the Winkie Convention and was just a single day event, little more than a grand house party. Then the schedules and venue grew larger along with the number of attendees! By the turn of the century (and the millenium), it was a 3-day event held at Asilomar on Monterey Bay.

Numbers began waning during the 2000s, and one David Maxine (publisher at Hungry Tiger Press) was afraid that if something didn't happen, the Winkie Convention would disappear, as had other Oz conventions. In 2009, he began to create a more widely appealing slate of programs, and introduced a new item: a program book full of essays, artwork and other goodies for convention goers along with a collectible tote bag.

Sam Milazzo, James Ortiz and Freddy Fogarty enjoy an
evening meal at Innovation Brew Works.
For 2014, it was decided it was time to leave Asilomar and we moved to San Diego at the Town and Country hotel. Part of this was so it would be easier to arrange and stage a remounting of The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, the musical that served as the basis of Tik-Tok of Oz, the centennial book that year. In addition, it was the 75th anniversary of MGM's The Wizard of Oz, and people connected to the film were easier to bring to San Diego than Monterey. This was when the convention rebranded as OzCon International. The next year proved just as strategic to bring guests and even props and behind the scenes material from Disney's Return to Oz. The next two years were in Portland, Oregon.

Raymond Wohl captivates an audience as L. Frank Baum.
I'd at first floated the idea of chairing 2018 in 2015, and that wound up being how I got my name in. By the time the 2017 convention was underway, I had a co-chair in British Oz fan and collector Colin Ayres and a treasurer in the Oz Club's Susan Johnson. Fellow Oz author Paul Dana joined us as registrar, Robyn Knutson came on as Dealer's Room director, and author John Bell came on as daytime programming director. David Maxine had stepped away from heading up the convention a few years ago, but still had a lot of advice and manned the website and put together the program book.

John Coulter had his Ozzy artwork for sale in the
dealer's room!
The first guest of honor I thought of was James Ortiz, the co-creator of The Woodsman, a hit off-Broadway play that had finished running a few years ago, in which he had designed the puppets and actually played Nick Chopper himself. We had tried to get Andy Mangels—a comics writer and historian of Filmation Studios—during our second year in Portland as he lives in the area, but that didn't work out. David reminded me of Andy and we reached out to him. We also reached out to Robert Payes, son of Rachel Cosgrove Payes.

L. Frank Baum (center) poses with characters he created
or inspired during the incredible costume contest.
Our new site at Kellogg West in Pomona, California was suggested by Aljean Harmetz, author of The Making of the Wizard of Oz, so we had her as a guest of honor, but sadly, she wasn't able to attend. We had also invited fandom extraordinaires John and Bjo Trimble, but they also couldn't make it.

Barry Bregman, grandson of Jack Haley had expressed interest in our convention, so we decided to go ahead and add him. Then we invited Christianna Rickard, niece of Ray Bolger. Sam Milazzo got us in contact with local musician Kevin Wood, who we had provide live music for our Friday afternoon reception. Dina Schiff Massachi of UNC Charlotte offered to come to speak about depictions of the Tin Woodman. Finally, Raymond Wohl asked if we had any space for his show in which he depicted L. Frank Baum. We had a cancellation, so we went ahead and put him in. Robert Welch also came, returning from the San Diego years with his book about his grandfather, Arthur "Buddy" Gillespie, and a photo op booth where you could get your photo taken with a real Oscar statuette.

Your chairman and the co-chair (channeling the Scarecrow
in the moment) are photoBaumed.
Adding new elements to OzCon can be a bit rough, and we had some ideas for new additions to the convention. The handful of dealer's tables at Asilomar had flourished to a whole room for San Diego and we were glad to continue that, but this time, we put our registration table in the dealer's room.

In planning out evening programming, I saw we needed some entertainment on Friday night and had the idea of a reader's theater adaptation of the episode from The Tin Woodman of Oz in which the Tin Woodman's party visits Ku-Klip's workshop. Colin suggested that we shouldn't do a straight reading and that we should add some humor to the story. The cast we came up with on our Skype call discussing it was the same cast we had that night: Dina would narrate, Anil Tambwekar would be the Tin Woodman, Colin would be Captain Fyter and the head of Nick Chopper (prompting a joke right away with the Tin Woodman noting that his old head had a British accent), Nathan DeHoff was Woot, Paul Dana was Ku-Klip, and pulling double duty as Polychrome and the Scarecrow would be Erica Olivera, a new attendee from our Portland years, signifying change of character with swapping between a hat for the scarecrow and a rainbow flower crown for Polychrome.

A replica pair of ruby slippers on display near the lounge.
I had a little talk with some of our guests of honor about what we could do with them. Andy mentioned that he'd done karaoke parties at previous events. I'd noted a lot of Oz fans singing at conventions and had remarked that we should have karaoke event. So why not do it at the convention I would chair? Colin began to ask if we could get a karaoke machine, but I realized all we really needed was a laptop, a microphone and good speakers. Mentioning this to Andy, he confirmed it was an easy way to run karoke and with his help, we were good to go.

James Ortiz answers questions
about The Woodsman.
We didn't really want to change a lot of what had made OzCon so much fun in recent years, just bring in new elements that might be adopted in the future. If future chairmen and their teams want to continue comical readers theaters and have late night karaoke with an open bar, that's up to them.

The big day finally came. Since my role would be so important, this was the first year I flew to OzCon. Actually, it was the first time I flew. And what do you know? I loved it!

Thursday we got the dealer's room ready for business and early Friday morning, our decorator Margaret Koontz got to work and turned the whole area very Ozzy with a selection of green and silver balloons and streamers as well as reproductions of illustrations from The Tin Woodman of Oz. In fact, she even added a new contest for us by providing sheets with an illustration at the top and lines for people to write in captions.

To say OzCon went without a hitch would be over generalizing it. I can tell you that in my experience, anything you set out to do will have some issues pop up. The important thing is not that they happen but how you manage them. At the end, a lot of people told us in person and online that they'd had a great time. Things went very well.

During the post-OzCon
Disneyland Day, the Evil Queen
from Snow White peeked out
your fellow Oz fans.
James, Robert, Andy and Dina all fit in well with our attendees, quickly making many friends, while Barry and Christianna were warmly welcomed. Raymond left quite the impression on our attendees, especially when I suggested to him that he attend the OzCon masquerade in costume as L. Frank Baum, which then led to a second suggestion: group photos of L. Frank Baum and the characters he'd created or inspired! The reader's theater was hilarious after our cast revised the script, and the karaoke was a lot of fun for all. Even Margaret's caption contest sheets were full by Sunday morning.

I said "thank you" so often that weekend, and it bears repeating: thank you to Colin Ayres, Susan Johnson, Robyn Knutson, John Bell, Paul Dana, Madeline Knutson, Cindy Ragni, Eric Shanower, David Maxine, Freddy Fogarty, Anil Tambwekar, David Kroffterson, Andy Mangels, James Ortiz, Robert Payes, Aljean Harmetz, Barry Bregman and his family, Christianna Rickard, Jane Albright, Peter Hanff, the International Wizard of Oz Club, Kevin Wood, Sam Milazzo, Nathan DeHoff, Judy Bieber, Erica Olivera, Dina Schiff Massachi, Raymond Wohl, Ted Abenheim, Susan Hall, Bill Graff, Bill Thompson, Scott Cummings, Lee Speth, Margaret Koontz, Eric Gjovaag, Robin Hess, Dee Michel, Angelica Carpenter, John Coulter, Robert Welch, Gary Wood, Kevin Thomas, Karyl Carlson, Laura Gjovaag, Brian Russell, OzRoy Good, Gina Wickwar, Laura Elliott and the staff of Kellogg West and all of our attendees. And if I forgot to list anyone, please put it on my head and not my heart.

Thank you, Mr. Baum.
I spent the day after OzCon at the Disney resort in Anaheim with many of our Oz friends, using a 1-day Park Hopper ticket to experience many of the attractions at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in my first ever visit. The day after saw Colin driving his rental car with four passengers—including myself—over to Glendale where we visited the Forest Lawn location and paid our respects at the grave of L. Frank Baum and the memorial for Walt Disney. (We also spared a thought to MGM producer Mervyn LeRoy, whose grave isn't publicly accessible.) After a lunch, we went over to Hollywood Forever in Los Angeles proper where we visited the new gravesite of Judy Garland, saw the Toto memorial as well as the graves of Mickey Rooney and Rudolph Valentino. I also spotted the grave of Hattie McDaniel.

And we'll remember you very
fondly, Judy.
From there, we split up, Sam taking an Uber to his hotel, and I took a train from Union Station back to Pomona, where I caught a bus to the Ontario airport, where I awaited my flight home. The rest of our party headed out to West Hollywood for even more fun

I still can't believe that all happened, even though I was there for it.

I plan to one day chair OzCon again, and I know next year's team will have things well in hand.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

A Legend In Straw: The Spirit of My Uncle Ray Bolger

As time goes on, we look back at people who created art from the past and begin to think, Who were they? How did they think? And the cast of MGM's The Wizard of Oz is no exception. Today, most of the cast is gone, but we're not so removed from their generation that we don't have people who knew them.

A Legend In Straw is written by Christianna Rickard, Ray Bolger's niece. Bolger was an Oz fan, being inspired to dance and become an actor when he saw one Fred Stone perform. Linking both of these talents was that they both played the Scarecrow of Oz. Stone had played him in the original cast of the 1903 Wizard of Oz extravaganza, and Bolger would play him in the 1939 classic film. Stone would feature with Bolger in a segment on an episode of Maxwell House's Good News radio program, advertising MGM's new film.

In later years, Bolger reprised his role in a Donnie and Marie Wizard of Oz parody, recorded several abridged Baum books for Caedmon Audio, and also recorded an abridgment of The Scarecrow of Oz for Disneyland Records. He also wrote introductions for The Mysterious Chronicles of Oz and an edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

A Legend In Straw is not a biography. Rather, it's a philosophical memoir by Christianna. She draws on her memories of her uncle who helped raise her and the lessons he taught her. She frames this around her own diagnosis with cancer and going in for treatment. In addition, she also draws on the philosophy of The Wizard of Oz as a whole, talking about the themes of the story and how they relate to our own lives.

While not a biography, Christianna does have some biographical information, but it's not thorough information, you don't get all the ins and outs of his career and life. There's also a fourteen page section of photographs printed in black and white in the middle of the book, under a new cover of Bolger as the Scarecrow in artwork by Vincent Myrand.

This isn't a long book, as Christianna makes no pretenses to stretch out her premise for longer than necessary. She presents her interpretations simply and never as "the mysterious real truth," which I find far easier to embrace.

For an interesting read about Ray Bolger from someone who knew him closely, I'd recommend this book.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

How to get to OzCon International (2018 edition)

One of the things about going on a vacation to a specific location is getting there. It's one thing if you're driving, and another if you're flying or taking a Greyhound bus or an Amtrak train. Because while these get you very far from home and in a short distance to the site, they don't take you right there.

OzCon International is no exception. During the Asilomar years, I was able to take a public transit bus from the Greyhound station in Salinas to Asilomar in Pacific Grove. In San Diego and Portland, the convention sites were very close to public transit trolley cars.

But this year, I'm flying at last, and there's a few options.

Our site this year is Kellogg West, a little hilltop conference center and hotel on the Cal Poly campus in Pomona, California. Getting to Kellogg West can be tricky if you're not following directions.

If you're flying into Ontario airport, you're in luck as Kellogg West will—with at least 48 hours advance notice—send a shuttle to pick you up. But note, this is only for Ontario. If you are arriving at Ontario, call (909) 869-2222 to arrange a shuttle.

LAX and John Wayne International airport aren't too far, and while it's possible to arrange shuttles to get to Kellogg West, you will have to pay for those. (One convention goer informed me that flying to LAX and paying for a shuttle to Kellogg was cheaper than flying straight to Ontario in his case.) For a shuttle from or to other airports, Kellogg West suggests Super Shuttle, which can be called at (800) 258-3826.

Public transportation is also an option, however, Kellogg West is not on any stops, resulting in at least a 23 minute walk from the nearest stop. Google Maps is helpful in finding your specific route. Just enter where you need to go in the directions bar. Fares in Pomona appear to be $1.25 for a ticket with a $.50 charge for a transfer, or $5 for a day pass.

I can't say I recommend it as a budget friendly option, but if you want, there's the option of calling a taxi, or using ride share services such as Uber or Lyft.

If you're a local to the area or are renting a car for the weekend and driving to the site, here's some instructions from the Kellogg West website. Make sure to follow them as missing a step can get you a little lost. I have been informed that a driver using a GPS discovered that his system lumped Kellogg in with the Cal-Poly university, so it's best to take some notes. Kellogg West also provides a PDF map on their website, click this link to download/view. The Google Maps mobile app is suggested for getting there, but please remember to not look at your phone instead of the road while driving!

Kellogg West will have free open parking on the days of the convention, but if you're arriving Thursday or staying after Sunday, make sure to register your car at the check in desk so you don't get a ticket.

From Downtown Los Angeles

Take Interstate 10 east; exit at Kellogg Drive.  Right at University Drive.   Take Horse Hill Drive, staying to your left at the fork, to the Kellogg West Conference Center & Hotel.

From San Bernardino/Ontario
Take Interstate 10 west to Route 57 south. Exit Temple Avenue and make a right hand turn. Take Temple Avenue to University Drive and make a right hand turn. Take University Drive to Horse Hill Drive and make a right hand turn. Take Horse Hill Drive, staying to your left at the fork, to the Kellogg West Conference Center & Hotel.

From Orange County/Anaheim

Take Route 57 north. Exit Temple Avenue and make a left hand turn. Take Temple Avenue to University Drive and make a right hand turn. Take University Drive to Horse Hill Drive and make a right hand turn. Take Horse Hill Drive, staying to your left at the fork, to the Kellogg West Conference Center & Hotel.

From Pasadena

Take Interstate 210 east to Route 57 south. Exit Temple Avenue and make a right hand turn. Take Temple Avenue to University Drive and make a right hand turn. Take University Drive to Horse Hill Drive and make a right hand turn. Take Horse Hill Drive, staying to your left at the fork, to the Kellogg West Conference Center & Hotel.

I hope this information proved useful and I hope to see you at OzCon International!

OzCon International
August 10-12, 2018
Registration and information at

Kellogg West Conference Center and Hotel 
3801 W. Temple Avenue
Pomona, CA 91768
1-800-KWEST-76 or 909-869-2222 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

OzCon International: Some reminders!

We're nearly down to about four weeks until OzCon International! So I have some reminders.

One is that if you're planning to eat your meals with your fellow attendees in the dining room, you need to purchase your meals in advance. The final day to purchase your meals is July 25th.

The hotel's catering staff needs to know how many people to prepare for and time to make sure they have enough food on hand. Hence the deadline. We won't be able to sell meals onsite at the convention.

There are some restaurants in a short driving distance away, but outside food won't be allowed on the convention site. Please keep any such items in your hotel room.

We wanted to offer sit down meals for all attendees in one area at the same time as this was a pretty favorite way to do meals in years past but hasn't been possible for a bit. It's a great time to chat with your fellow fans. So I highly encourage going ahead and getting your meals paid for.

If you register for all three days of OzCon International or get a supporting membership, you automatically get two collectible souvenirs: the program book and the tote bag. These are made in limited runs specifically for the convention and are thus very collectible.

The tote bag is dual-sided and features full color artwork by W.W. Denslow and John R. Neill. The bags are sponsored by Cindy Ragni of Wonderful Books of Oz.

This year's program book is full color and features essays by many Oz fans, as well as a poem and two short Oz stories, and a guide to Ozzy locations in the greater Los Angeles area with original photographs. The front cover is a beautiful original piece by Maurine Starkey.

If you donate extra to the convention with the $50 upgrade option, you also get a poster and the hardcover edition of the program book, which is in a larger format and has a back cover illustration by Eric Shanower not on the standard paperback.

EDIT: If you want to upgrade to the hardcover program book, you have until midnight July 14, this upcoming Saturday.

To get your book and tote bag, make sure you're registered for a 3-day membership at the convention, or if you can't attend, simply get a supporting membership and you'll get a tote bag and program book mailed to you.

To register or purchase a supporting membership, go to

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Friends of Dorothy: Why Gay Boys and Gay Men Love The Wizard of Oz

So why do gay men love The Wizard of Ozor more often than not, many different incarnations of Ozso much? Why is the MGM film a gay film classic and why are people dressed as Oz characters a common sight at Pride events?

Dee Michel has been researching this for a very long time. His first panel about it was at the Centennial convention in 2000, and shortly after he penned an article on the topic in The Baum Bugle. Now after sending a questionnaire out to over 100 gay/bisexual/pansexual male Oz fans ("gay" is used as an umbrella term, not strictly homosexuals), he presents a more nuanced and multifaceted approach in his new book.

Over the course of ten chapters and multiple appendixes, Michel details commonalities between many of the narratives he's heard. He talks about many of the ways gay fans have celebrated Oz from drag performances, naming shops and items after Oz, to starting companies named after Oz characters or even just writing Oz books or stories, or blogging.

Michel takes his research seriously and isn't salacious about how he presents his findings. He discusses the cultural connotations of Oz in its various incarnations and how readers and viewers respond to it, pointing to the relevance that gay male audiences latch onto. He also breaks down some gay Oz folklore and questions how relevant Oz will remain in the future.

Michel shares anecdotes based on the stories he collected. I was surprised at how many of these people I've met online or at OzCon International and how relatable I found many stories.

Michel writes in an accessible voice, taking the time to explain his points and how he's approaching the subject. He also offers generous footnotes to fully explain his points and sometimes even pointing out cases that prove generalizations are never the rule.

The book also features a lot of images, from illustrations from the Oz books to various photos of young fans to gay fans celebrating Oz as well as images displaying the cultural significance Oz has in relation to the LGBT community.

Overall, I'm impressed with the book and heartily recommend it.

Dee Michel will be having another panel at OzCon International this year and will also have a book signing where he will sell and sign copies of this book on August 10. If you're coming make sure you're signed up for Friday or the full convention.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

OzCon International 2018: Check out our SCHEDULE!

There's a lot more to say about OzCon International this year!

First of all, our schedule is now online! You can download and view a handsome PDF designed by David Maxine, or just read the text below.

Our slate of featured folks at the convention grew with the addition of Kevin Wood of New Vision Music, who will be playing a set during our Friday afternoon reception. Also, Robert Welch, the grandson of MGM's special effects wizard A. Arnold "Buddy" Gillespie" will have a table in the dealer's room, which will feature a photo op with a real Oscar statuette.

Make sure you're registered at the OzCon website and hurry and get your hotel room booked!

If you are arriving at Ontario airport and staying at Kellogg West, if you give the hotel 48 hours notice, they will be able to pick you up in a shuttle free of charge! Call 800-593-7876 to arrange the shuttle.

Directions on how to get to the convention site are online on the Kellogg West website at:
OzCon 2018
August 10th- 12th

(Schedule is subject to possible changes)

Friday, August 10th
10:00 AM
Registration Opens—Baum’s Bazaar
Meet and reunite with fellow Oz fans through introductory games and activities.

10:45 AM
Welcome from the OzCon organizers—Emerald City Room

11:00 AM
Baum’s Bazaar—The Dealers Room opens for business. Add to your collection of Oz books and artifacts.

Oz Animation OdditieZ—Emerald City Room
Pop-culture historian Andy Mangels shares a selection of the quirkiest visits to Oz in cartoons, from The Super Friends to Futurama, Rugrats to The Simpsons, Scooby-Doo to Family Guy, Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse to Robot Chicken, and many more hidden gems!

Encountering The Tin Woodman of Oz—Tin Castle Room
Author J. L. Bell explores the themes of L. Frank Baum’s twelfth Oz novel, which forces Nick Chopper to confront himself over and over.

12:00 noon
Lunch Break—Dining Rooms
Join us in the dining rooms for a catered meal.
Advance registration required. If you aren’t able to join us, refer to the dining options flyer on the registration desk or in your tote bag.

1:00 PM
Gay Fans of Oz: The Open Secret—Emerald City Room
Dee Michel, author of the new book Friends of Dorothy, discusses the Oz books’ particular attraction for gay boys and men. What does that phenomenon say about Oz and about American society?

2:00 PM
Strong Women of Oz—Emerald City Room
L. Frank Baum is known for creating strong female characters, from Dorothy, Glinda, and Ozma down to unnamed farmwives. Judy Bieber explores this side of the series.

David Montgomery: The First Man to Play Nick Chopper—Tin Castle Room
Portraying the Tin Woodman on Broadway made this comedian a star, but Montgomery died young, leaving no work in the movies or radio like his partner, Fred Stone. David Maxine, compiler of the Grammy-nominated Vintage Recordings from the 1903 Broadway Musical “The Wizard of Oz,” shares what we know about David Montgomery.

3:00 PM
The Woodsman—Emerald City Room
Watch the acclaimed off -Broadway adaptation of the Tin Woodman’s story on video, not yet commercially available. Afterwards, discuss the show with playwright-director James Ortiz.
(This session runs until 5:00.)

What’s Ahead for The Baum Bugle—Tin Castle Room
New editor Sarah Crotzer talks about her plans and hopes for the Oz Club’s flagship magazine of scholarship, criticism, and news. Bring your questions and ideas.

Signing in the Dealers Room—Baum’s Bazaar
Dee Michel, author of Friends of Dorothy

4:00 PM
Finding The Lost Tales of Oz—Tin Castle Room
Author Gina Wickwar moderates a panel of contributors to this collection of new Oz short stories. What’s the state of Oz fanfi ction in our digital world? With more Thompson books starting to enter the public domain, what new opportunities lie ahead?

5:00 PM
Signing in the Dealers Room—Baum’s Bazaar
Paul Dana and other contributors to The Lost Tales of Oz

Opening Reception for All OzCon Attendees—Ozma’s Courtyard
So join us for delightful glass of refreshment or purchase something Ozzier at the bar. Singer-songwriter Kevin Wood will be performing a set, including his original song “The Tinman.”

6:00 PM
Dinner Break—Dining Rooms
Join us in the dining rooms for a catered meal.
Advance registration required. If you aren’t able to join us, refer to the dining options flyer on the registration desk or in your tote bag.

Friday Evening Program
Emerald City Room

7:30 PM
Opening Remarks

7:45 PM
Journey Back to Oz: Filmation’s Animated Oz Feature
Andy Mangels, coauthor of Creating the Filmation Generation and producer of the Journey Back to Oz DVD release, discusses the fi rst ever animated Oz feature film. Find out how this project evolved in its decade of development and creation, and how the all-star cast—including Liza Minnelli and Margaret Hamilton—were brought on board. Learn behind-the-scenes secrets of one of the most famous Oz fi lms ever created!

8:30 PM
100 Years Full Circle: L. Frank Baum, Todrick Hall, and an Emotionally Intelligent Tin Woodman
Dina Schiff Massachi briefly shows the commonalities between L. Frank Baum’s Tin Woodman depiction and Todrick Hall’s, with a focus on how male emotional intelligence and stereotypes play into both.

8:45 PM
Robert Payes: Son of a Royal Historian
Robert Payes is interviewed by Eric Shanower and David Maxine about his mother Rachel Cosgrove and her Oz writings.

9:15 PM

9:30 PM
Puppetry: The CGI of the Stage
The Woodsman’s James Ortiz explains how he uses puppetry to bring fantastic characters and creatures to life before the eyes of a live audience.

10:00 PM
The Tin Woodman of Oz: Ku-Klip’s Workshop
A hilarious reader’s theater adaptation of an episode from the Baum book we’re celebrating.
Narrator: Dina Schiff Massachi
The Tin Woodman: Anil Tambwekar
Polychrome/Scarecrow: Erica Olivera
Nick Chopper/Captain Fyter: Colin Ayres
Woot: Nathan DeHoff
Ku-Klip: Paul Dana

10:30 PM
Closing Statements
Join us for a drink at the OzCon after-party (complete with cash bar).

Saturday, August 11th

8:30 AM
Registration Opens—Baum’s Bazaar

9:00 AM
Welcome to all from the OzCon organizers—Emerald City Room

Baum’s Bazaar—The Dealers Room opens for business. Discover Oz books new and old. Add to your collection of ornaments and artifacts. Have your photo taken with a real Oscar statuette.

9:30 AM
Costume Contest—Emerald City Room
Admire and applaud this year’s Ozzy outfits and vote for your favorites. Prizes awarded to the best children’s, adult, and group costumes.

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10:30 AM
Assembling the Tin Man—Tin Castle Room
Aljean Harmetz, author of The Making of “The Wizard of Oz,” looks back on MGM’s twisting path to casting the Tin Man, and how Jack Haley made the part his own.

Collectors’ Show and Tell—Yookoohoo Lounge
Freddy Fogarty hosts a gathering of Oz collectors sharing their unusual fi nds and favorites. Bring your discoveries and questions.

Quiz Time!—Baum’s Bazaar
Test your knowledge of Ozzy trivia by taking one of the annual quizzes. There are separate quizzes, and prizes, for novices, fans of the movie, and trivia masters.

11:30 AM
Auction Preview—Emerald City Room
Check out all the Oz artifacts and collectibles to be sold this afternoon. Sign up for a bidder’s number and start participating in the silent auction.

Digging into Rachel Cosgrove Payes’s Work—Baum’s Bazaar
Enjoy an in-depth conversation about the author of The Hidden Valley of Oz and many other books in different genres between her son Robert Payes and expert collectors David Maxine and Eric Shanower.

12:30 PM
Lunch Break—Dining Rooms
Join us in the dining rooms for a catered meal.
Advance registration required. If you aren’t able to join us, refer to the dining options flyer on the registration desk or in your tote bag.

1:30 PM
OzCon Auction—Emerald City Room
Join in the bidding for Oz collectibles of all kinds! Conventions are a great place to find bargains and never-before-seen items to round out your collection. Proceeds benefit the International Wizard of Oz Club. (The auction will last until 4:30.)

Heart over Head: Evolving Views on Male Emotional Intelligence and the Tin Woodman—Tin Castle Room
Dina Schiff Massachi provides an overview of how male emotional intelligence, and acceptance or rejection of stereotypes, play into the character of the Tin Woodman by looking at the character as he’s changed over time.

Signing in the Dealers’ Room—Baum’s Bazaar
Barry Bregman, compiler of Heart of the Tin Man, and Christianna Rickard, author of A Legend in Straw.

2:30 PM
MGM’s Special Effects Magic—Tin Castle Room
Robert A. Welch, co-editor of The Wizard of MGM, reveals how his grandfather A. Arnold “Buddy” Gillespie and his special-effects department brought all the magic of Oz to movie screens in 1939.

Signing in the Dealers’ Room—Baum’s Bazaar
Eric Shanower, Eisner-winning comics creator, illustrator, and author; and singer-songwriter Kevin Wood.

3:30 PM
Memories of Jack Haley—Tin Castle Room
Barry Bregman talks about growing up with his grandfather, the vaudeville and Hollywood trouper who was best known as the Tin Man in the MGM movie, and compiling Heart of the Tin Man: The Collected Writings of Jack Haley.

Signing in the Dealers Room—Baum’s Bazaar
Aljean Harmetz, author of The Making of “The Wizard of Oz”

4:30 PM
Shaping the Tin Woodman—Emerald City Room
Even John R. Neill couldn’t decide on one shape for the Tin Woodman’s head. Artist and collector Eric Shanower explores how illustrators across the decades and around the world have drawn the tin man.

Lessons from Ray Bolger—Tin Castle Room
Christianna Rickard, author of A Legend in Straw: The Spirit of My Uncle Ray Bolger, shares stories about how the famous dancer provided the world with an example of harmony and compassion.

Baum’s Bazaar
Last hour to shop in the Dealers Room!

Auction Settlement—Yookoohoo Lounge
Pay for the items you bought in the Oz Club auction.

6:00 PM
OzCon Saturday Royal Banquet—Emerald Hillside Terrace
Join us on the fabulous shaded Emerald Hillside Terrace for a served meal. It is OzCon tradition that we try to dress up a bit for the Saturday evening dinner. During the meal, the winners of the Treasure Hunt, the Quizzes and the costume contest will be announced as well as the winners of the Winkie Award, the Oz Club Research Table, and the L. Frank Baum Memorial Award.
Advance registration required. If you aren’t able to join us, refer to the dining options fl yer on
the registration desk or in your tote bag.

Saturday Evening Program
Emerald City Room

7:30 PM
Putting the Fun in Fundraising
In which we enrich the OzCon Programming Fund.

7:45 PM
It’s the Baum!
The return of the OzCon game show sensation! Team Chopper and Team Fyter clash as players help their teammates guess Oz-related celebrity names.

8:15 PM
Dear Sarah, Dear Nick: The Long-Distance Friendship of Oz
A long time ago, a ten-year-old in England wrote to a girl in Tennessee, c/o the Oz Pen Pal Association. Twenty-five years later, this unusual friendship is still going strong, based on a shared love of Oz books and other stories—and a nice knock-down argument or two! Since January 2016, these online pals have been reading and discussing the Oz books on their blog, Burzee, to a warm response. They will talk about how a long-distance friendship can endure across the miles and inspire new creative projects in the 21st century.

8:45 PM
A Stroll Through Baum’s Hollywood
Hollywood historian Bill Graff turns back the clock and reveals the Hollywood that L. Frank Baum knew.

9:00 PM

9:15 PM
OzCon 2019
Plans are already underway for the next convention! Meet next year’s Chairman and Vice Chair and listen to some of the early plans.

9:30 PM
MGM’s The Wizard of Oz: Fondly Remembered
Journalist and historian Aljean Harmetz, Barry Bregman (grandson of Jack Haley), Christianna Rickard (niece of Ray Bolger), and Robert A. Welch (grandson of MGM’s Oscar-winning special-effects wizard) engage in a panel discussing the classic film and their personal ties to it.

10:15 PM
MGM’s The Wizard of Oz: A Tribute
Chairman Jay Davis presents a new fan-made music video celebrating the film, closing the program for the evening.
Join us afterward for a drink and Ozzy fellowship at the after-party (complete with a cash bar).

Sunday, August 12th

10:00 AM
Journey Back to Oz—Emerald City Room
Animation historian and DVD producer Andy Mangels provides a special introduction to the 1972 animated movie that featured the voices of Liza Minnelli, Margaret Hamilton, Ethel Merman, Paul Lynde, and other stars. This Filmation cartoon was the fi rst follow-up to the beloved MGM movie—how well did it do? Stay after for a brief Q&A with Mangels about the making of the film and its legacy. (This session runs until noon.)

Marriages in Oz—Tin Castle Room
From the Swynes to the Yoops, The Tin Woodman of Oz portrays couples of many kinds. Baum biographer Angelica Carpenter leads a panel discussion of how the Oz books treat the institution of marriage.

11:00 AM
Contradictions in Oz—Tin Castle Room
Oz novelist and researcher Robin Hess presents a theory about the consistency of Baum’s Oz books certain to stimulate the brains and hearts of Oz fans.

12:00 noon
Lunch Break—Dining Rooms
Join us in the dining rooms for a catered meal.
Advance registration required. If you aren’t able to join us, refer to the dining options flyer on the registration desk or in your tote bag.

1:00 PM
Upcoming Oz Projects—Emerald City Room
A new biography of Matilda Joslyn Gage—Spanish editions of Baum’s books with new Shanower cover art—even a movie of a certain Broadway musical? Freddy Fogarty welcomes guests with news about these projects and more to look for.

Continuity and Consistency in Oz—Tin Castle Room
A panel of Oz fans and scholars responds to the thoughts that Robin Hess shared in his “Contradictions in Oz” presentation. Join in this discussion moderated by Anil Tambwekar about what makes the Oz books real to you.

2:00 PM
Preview and Farewell—Emerald City Room
Hear about plans for OzCon 2019, get involved, and say goodbye to old and new Ozzy friends.