The 2017 National Oz Convention

In the mid-1970’s, I came home from school and my Mom showed me an article about “The International Wizard of Oz Club.” My membership in clubs was limited. I was in Boy Scouts but I wouldn’t consider that a club. I was on the Speech Team but again, not really a club. So I dove in. I sent off a check with a letter stating my interest and the next thing I knew, I received a cardboard membership card, an issue of a magazine called, “The Baum Bugle” and a newsletter. I also received an club member directory and the only person I really connected with was a guy named Rob MacVeigh.

In a few years, pre-occupied with College, I stopped renewing my membership and that was that. More recently, I was curious as to whether the club still existed and of course it did. It was thriving and now online, I was re-introduced to the club and on Facebook found several Oz groups.

My interest in collecting (especially the original books) was ignited and for the first time in my life, I was off to attend the National Oz Convention an hour away from my house. Jason encouraged me to go full throttle and book a hotel room and make a mini vacation of it and that is exactly what I did.

The club celebrates not just the movie but all of the Oz books and all of the various stage, film and televised versions of Oz. I was  in heaven as there were discussions on my hero, W.W. Denslow, the original Oz illustrator from the original book that was published in 1899. There were Oz collectibles and books to buy, an auction, viewings of various animated versions of Oz and there was even a Dorothy fashion show that featured all the various Dorothy’s through the years.

The Convention began with a kick off party at the home of Walter Krueger who’s collection fills three plus rooms in his house.
For an Oz fan like me and everyone else at the party for that matter, got an exclusive tour. John Fricke was there and he introduced a re-creation of the 1950 Lux Radio Broadcast of “The Wizard of Oz.” What a joy to look around the room and see everyone beaming, laughing and singing along.
I have met a wonderful new group of friends and I look forward to future Oz conventions and events.

 

 

And to the “young at heart,” I dedicate this weekend

 

Illustration

Quote: Robert McCammon

“…we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.”   – Robert McCammon, Boy’s Life

Liz Callaway

I surprised my friend Mary Beth Samuelson with tickets to go see Liz Callaway in concert. Liz herself had sent me a Facebook note when the tickets went on sale and I got front row center tickets.

It was so good and Liz was in pristine voice as she always is. She sang every single song we hoped she’d sing. During one of the songs, Petula Clarks, “Downtown,” she came down into the audience holding the mic in front of people to sing the backup chorus response, “Downtown…” The ten year old in me (who pretty much is always with me, hoped she’d come over to me and sure enough, there she was, Liz Callaway holding a mic to my face and I belted out the word, “Downtown” with all my might and she actually squealed and jumped up and down and I pretty much wet my gay little pants. 🙂

Between the three of us, we have a lot of friends in common. Mary Beth even babysat Liz’s kid when she lived in New York in the 80’s. Oh, and to top things off, when we came out of the auditorium, Liz was sitting at a table ready to sign CD’s and everyone was singing “Happy Birthday” to her. So MB and I just belted it out. “Happy Birthday LIZ CALLAWAY, Happy Birthday to yoooouuuu…”

It was so much fun and I would say one of the best concerts I have been to. When the artist is smack in front of you and singing all her greatest hits, well, it just doesn’t get much better than that.

Big Head

When I was in Fifth Grade, I was coming out of the bathroom one day and a fourth grader, Todd McWilliams, looked up at me and said…

“Hey Big Head!”
Big Head? I have a big head? Like physically? Or, a big head because I’m overconfident?
I never told anyone what happened because why would I do that?

“Do I have a big head?”
“No. Well… Maybe… Kind of…”

My heads too big.
My head is so big that it has a gravitational pull.
Tiny little clowns follow me with ropes attached to my head as I walk down the street.

I actually had a conversation with someone that went like this:
“I have to tell you Rob, I think you are going to be famous.”
“What? Really? Why?”
“I can just tell. I have always been able to tell. You have something in common with a lot of celebrities.”
What is that?
“You have a very expansive face. Lots of famous people have big heads.”

This didn’t happen exactly but it could have:
“Ok, lets get a group shot. Everyone gather around. Ok. Wait. Rob? Could stand in the back so that your head will balance out with the others? No in the back. Further back.”

I once started working with one of the best voice teachers in Chicago. By this time, I had worked through my “big head” anxieties or what I call, “BHA.” I was in charge now, there was a confident and not over confident person inside this… head.

“Wow Rob, that was great. You just hit those high notes so easily. As a voice teacher, I have worked with a lot of singers and you… you have such great attributes that contribute to your singing. I mean, first of all, you have an enormous head cavity.”

Sigh.

My Oz Books

I have been collecting Oz books for most of my life. I remember going to the wonderful old library in my home town when I was a kid. It had once been one of those grand “Meet Me in St Louis” type houses (except in Dundee, Illinois where I grew up) and it was placed mid-way up a steepish hill that led down to the main area of town.
I remember the librarian was this older woman with a bee-hive hair style and cat glasses. She rarely if ever smiled. The floors creaked as  you went up to the second floor where I discovered the Oz books. I knew of the movie of course and I knew of a version of the book that my First Grade teacher had.  I fell in love with and was greatly inspired by the drawings of W.W. Denslow. I checked the book out from the classroom library each and every week until Mrs. Weaver told me that the other kids wanted to read it too. They didn’t.

My Grandma gave me one of my first of the “white cover” collection. It was “The Wizard of Oz” and it led me down the (yellow brick) road to discover the Land of Oz and all the magic that lie in it.

The above photo shows several of the books I have. The second one from the left is one of my favorites. This is the version my teacher had. It was the edition released along with the movie.

So, Mrs. Weaver, wherever you are, I don’t have to check it out from you. It’s mine… MINE!!!!!