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Crafts and Cons

October 4, 2022

I went to this presentation at the Grolier Club. Unfortunately, Michael was already up to The Woggle-Bug (1905) by the time I came in, although that’s my fault–I was about 15 minutes late. I bought Notes on a Cowardly Lion. I wanted The Art of Oz but didn’t feel comfortable spending that much money at present. Even buying Notes on a Cowardly Lion, a book I’ve known about since childhood but never read except a little bit when my parents wanted to tour a new subdivision, and that book was on a desk in one of the houses, at $22 was very anxiety producing, especially since I had already splurged what I thought I could afford of my artist grant for the month. I already have The Annotated Wizard of Oz.

Stephen Schwartz, whom I met for at least the third time (previously at The Dramatists Guild and Unity), said he read Wicked thinking of it as source material after a woman whom he met on vacation mentioned it and felt blessed to have gotten the rights. It was interesting how the feedfback he got from audiences was basically that the MGM Wizard of Oz was a documentary that he couldn’t contradict, although Baum (and Maguire) could be contradicted all he wanted–Maguire was generous in that respect. There’s just something about it that seems to make book-faithful adaptations of Baum too trepidatious for producers, much like adaptations conforming Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus to ideas in “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (author disputed), which Baum felt free to ignore in his 1902 novel, giving Santa Claus ten reindeer (Glossie, Flossie, Racer, Pacer, Reckless, Speckless, Ready, Steady, Fearless, and Peerless), for example.

I remember a young woman at my first Oz club convention, Michelle Naylor, telling me that she was disgusted by a traveling puppet show early in the novel Wicked that depicted a mother and daughter in a threesome with the same man and throwing the book against the wall when she reached that point. It is certainly interesting the way Oz fandom, at least at that point, had its conservative strands. An incident in which the International Wizard of Oz Club’s founding secretary, Fred M. Meyer, parked his wheelchair in front of the door Dee Michel’s talk, “The Appeal of Oz for Gay Men” at the Oz Centennial convention at Indiana University and prevented children from entering even though I’m told the talk was no more sexual than the heterosexuality in Disney films, garnered a lot of negative attention. (Not being LGBTQ+, I was more interested in another panel–there were something like four each session that year–but I did briefly see Fred pulling this stunt, and people talked about it for many years after.)  That might have been the panel about aging and death in Oz, in which Nathan pointed out that Belfaygor of Bourne in Ruth Plumly Thompson’s Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz proves that cellular growth occurs in Oz even though we are told in later Baum Oz books that Ozites don’t age or die, and this is inconsistent with the early books, particularly The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in which not only the two witches, but over 100 animals, are killed, and Nick Chopper mentions providing end of life care to his parents before he became a woodman and eventually became tin.

Nathan and I did see each other there, but we didn’t really speak except to say hi.

My 1st cousin once removed, Johanne Hunter Fairs Grewell (daughter of Dad’s Aunt Eleanor and Uncle John), who unfortunately passed away last year (on my birthday, no less, which might have explained some of sadness I was feeling that day even though it took several months before I found her obituary) told me that she and my Uncle Clarke got to see The Wizard of Oz in the theatre in 1939 (Dad was born in 1941), and my grandfather, who was known as Oz (short for Osburne), was really angry because they were so terrified by the Winged Monkeys that they wanted to leave. At the panel, that was frequently brought up as being more frightening than Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch.  I always liked the Winged Monkeys and gave one a cameo in my novel, Tip of Oz, in which one was sitting in a theatre, his wings taking up too much space making my original character, Aubrey the Elf Queen, physically uncomfortable.  The Multi-Toy Winged Monkey was the first of that doll collection that I bought (I previously bought the 3 1/4 inch action figures, but honestly, those weren’t very well done, and there were only six of them).  My parents proceeded to buy me all the dolls in the collection for Christmas, then within a year complain that I owned dolls–after all, I was a 14 year-old boy by that point. Baum never used the Winged Monkeys again after the first book, but in a backstory taking most of a chapter, he presented them as innoccuous pranksters who were magically enslaved to a Golden Cap (seen briefly in the 1939 film near the poppy scene but pretty unrecognizable before DVD) out of revenge and forced to do its bidding, and, as in the film of The Wiz (in which Michael noted that they were played by members of the Hells Angels, none of whom were black in 1978), are helpful and friendly when not magically compelled to do otherwise by a wicked person.  At the end of the novel, Glinda promises that after having them take Dorothy’s friends to their new homes, she will give the Golden Cap to the Winged Monkeys so that they can never been enslaved again.  (In the Ralph Griffith/Stuart Kerr/Bill Bryan comicbook from the 1990s titled simply Oz, it is stolen.)

It was also really interesting that Stephen Schwartz said he was initially pronouncing Elphaba with emphasis on the second syllable until Gregory Maguire told him how he pronounced it, and that it was based on sounding out L. Frank Baum’s initials as a word. That’s how I pronounced it until I learned otherwise, too.

Like Nathan, I haven’t seen Wicked, but I do really enjoy the cast album. I even found the German version at a thrift shop (as one can see in my music collection, the German cast album uses the same orchestral backing as the original album, and only the vocals were recorded separately).

Michael noted that the only actors “Maggie” Hamilton didn’t get along with were Don Ameche, Tony Randall, and Ray Bolger, which was pretty amusing. Both Jane Lahr and Scott Meserve gave the impression that Bolger was not very well liked. Bolger was married but never had children, so we don’t really get to have his side of that. Sarah Bolger, who played Aurora on Once Upon a Time, has been quoted saying that she gets asked a lot if she is related to him, but said she wasn’t. For years, I also said that I wasn’t related to Robert Maynard Hutchins (University of Chicago president) but found out that I was, although our common ancestor was named Joseph Peck–our Hutchins lines reach unknown without touching–but even then it’s pretty distant, 8th cousin three times removed), so I won’t be surprised if someone finds a connection between Sarah Bolger and Ray Bolger, but she didn’t know him, so it’s pretty trivial.

When I got home, I watch The Steam Engines of Oz, which I bought on a DVD+Blu-Ray combo at Dollar Tree. I liked the writing but found the look of the film rather disappointing, looking more like a video game than Frozen, although Victoria Wright is definitely drawn in that style. Sean Patrick O’Reilly picked and chose rather randomly from the books and the 1939 film, including a couple of famous quotes from the movie, one of which he incorrectly attributes to Baum rather than to Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf, who wrote the screenplay (and no, I was not the one who added that to the goofs on IMDb–it was already there). The opening line of the film is “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” a line I always found a bit cheesy and is particularly irrelevant to this film since it, like The Marvelous Land of Oz, has no visitors from the outside world (unless one counts Oscar Digg [sic] and his brother Phadrig (which is one of Oscar’s many middle names in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz), who have been in Oz for years by the time of of the film, and Dorothy appears only in flashback. The Good Witch of the North, unnamed in the novel and called Tattypoo by Thompson (likely a reference to The Mikado; or, The Town of Titipu by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan), although she is revealed to be someone else at the end of the novel, is called Locasta as she was in Baum’s 1902 musical, which moved from Chicago to Broadway the following year.

VoVatia


As I said last week, I’ve already written about the 2003 Oziana across twoposts back when it was new, and I still agree with what I wrote. I didn’t go into much detail, though, so I’ll examine it a little more closely now. The cover was drawn by Melody Grandy and colored by Marcus Mebes, and shows several characters who appear within the issue, including a few new ones.

“The Bashful Baker of Oz,” by Kieran Miller – As I said before, this tale is focused on Ozites who aren’t part of Ozma’s court or people who get swept into an adventure, but rather some more ordinary types from the Gillikin town of Crafton. Everyone there is encouraged to pursue a specific craft, but Maria and Derek feel they don’t really belong. Maria does her job as a baker quite well, but even her own family thinks she’s kind…

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One Comment
  1. Here is a recording of the event:

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