By L. Frank Baum | Adapted and Illustrated by Rob Dorn
For as long as I can remember, I promised myself that one day I would illustrate the original Oz book, L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” And so, I begin.
I am planning on dedicating my version of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” to a friend of mine, someone who was very influential to me, Rob Roy MacVeigh. Here is a story I wrote about my love of Oz and my friendship with Rob.
The Wizard of Rob
Written by Rob Dorn
For as long as I can remember, I have been nuts about the movie, “The Wizard of Oz.” I was just crazy about it from the start.
For those of you born before the advent of the VCR, you had to wait an entire year to see the Wizard of Oz on television. Originally it was broadcast during the Christmas holidays, but I remember it most being broadcast in the early spring.
I could feel it in the air. I knew that it was going to be on soon. Then watching Saturday morning cartoons, the commercial came on. It was going to be on next Sunday.
Dinner was rescheduled, we ate early. Then we gathered around the tv. I was in front naturally waiting… waiting… and then you would hear as the NBC peacock unfurled it’s colorful feathers, “The following program is in living color. The first portion is in black and white.”
If I would have known back then that someday I would be able to carry the movie around with me, watch it whenever I want… I wouldn’t have had to have any goals or dreams!
With the help of my family and friends, I was given anything and everything oz. I had the Oz books, the “off to see the wizard” colorforms set, the MGM original soundtrack recording, pillows, throws, masks, puppets and Christmas ornaments. I was Franklin Minted into a stupor.
If my Mother was ever wondering where I was, she would just go to the window and listen. In the distance she would hear me, “Auntie Em, Auntie Em!” and be reassured that I was ok.
I played Wizard of Oz almost everyday. “You and your Wizard of Oz!” the other kids would say. I had a basket with a checkered towel and a real oil can in it. If there was a storm, I was out in it, with the basket and with our pet poodle bridget pushing my way through the twister. “Auntie Em!! Uncle Henry!”
I was always disappointed when our door didn’t fly off it’s hinges when I opened it.
I’d put a fan in my bedroom window blowing in at me as I watched imaginary cows, the old lady in her rocking chair, three guys in a boat…
“We must be up inside the cyclone.” Bridget had already gone downstairs.
All of this Oz devotion would ultimately lead me to someone very special to me.
I was only fifteen when I won first place in a state speech tournament in Humorous Interpretation. I was excited to have the opportunity to attend the National tournament in Seattle , Washington that early summer.
I was even MORE excited because I would get to meet a pen pal I had acquired through the International Wizard of Oz club.
My mother read in the paper about the Oz club and thought I should join. Without hesitation I became one of hundreds of members. I received a quarterly magazine, “The Baum Bugle” and they also had listings of other members who were selling Oz memorabilia. Books, artwork, posters…
One member in particular caught my eye because he sold lots of memorabilia from the Oz movie including color still photos I had never seen before. So I began purchasing them from him and through this process we became pen pals.
Rob Roy MacVeigh was a talented artist and would send me original drawings and rare movie stills. And now I was off to see him in Seattle, The Emerald City!
I am a bit ashamed to admit that I could have cared LESS about the speech tournament. I won State… who needs to win Nationals.
As soon as I arrived, I called him and he soon was at the hotel to take me out into the city. He was in College, six years older than I was and I looked up to him like he was my big brother. He so generously took me under his wing. He was just excited to show me all of his Oz collection as I was to see it.
One of the first and greatest things he did for me was to show me a 35 mm print of the movie projected on to a wall in the apartment he shared with his two room- mates. Together we watched and he annotated the entire film, telling me how this was done and how that was created. He showed me all the mistakes and goof ups. We sat there and watched the entire movie. He was my hero.
Due to my lack of interest in the tournament I lasted for only a couple days and then was “free” to spend the rest of my time with Rob.
I remember moments of that trip so distinctly. Wandering through various book and record stores – browsing through the “B” section of the record bins, he showed me how the record stor was boycotting all Anita Bryant records. We saw a man walking down the street holding a sign that read, “Gay Power.” I had never seen anything like that before but knew that it was something important for me to see. Somehow I knew that Rob and I were not only alike in our love of Oz, but alike in another way. At that time, there weren’t that many gay role models. The only gay people I knew of were either on Match Game or Hollywood Squares. Charles Nelson Reilly, Walen Flowers and his puppet Madam and Paul Lynde.
Rob Roy MacVeigh was the first admirable gay role model I had. It was tough being a closeted gay teen in the 1970′s. Through Rob, I knew that I could just be myself and things could all turn out.
As we took the bus throughout the city, I sat next to him and watched him draw in the black sketchbook he always had with him.
The grand finale was a visit to his families home. He was going to show me his complete Oz collection.
He told me to close my eyes as he led me into the middle of what was his childhood bedroom. Then he said, “open your eyes.”
Surrounding me were hundreds of posters and pictures and books and records. Original movie posters, FOREIGN movie posters “El Magico de Oz” stills from the movie I had never seen. All of the various Oz records that had existed through the years. He even had the edition of the Wizard of Oz that came out when the movie was released in 1939. I had remembered this from first grade. My teacher had it and after checking it out weekly for three quarters of the school year, she wouldn’t let me check it out anymore (even though none of the other kids could care less about it!) But here it was in all it’s glory.
I am pretty certain that anything and everything that was Oz related was IN his room. I was in heaven, the clouds far behind me.
Then it was time to go home. If I ever went looking for my hearts desire again, I wouldn’t have to look any further than, well, Seattle, Washington!
After returning to Chicago, we kept up through the years through occasional letters and the annual holiday card (had drawn and oz related ofcourse!)
Flash forward to 1990…
I was on tour for nine months with Stephen Sondheim’s musical, “Into The Woods.” I knew we were playing Seattle so I made sure to get in touch with Rob. It had been thirteen years since I saw him in person. He told me to meet him at his production studio.
There he was, a handsome bearded man and an active member of Seattle’s bear community. Again, he showed me his collection that was now housed in his professional art studio. We went out to lunch. Before we ate, he took out a bottle of prescription pills. He saw me look at the label. He smiled and said, “It keeps me alive.”
He told me about the Oz animated film he was producing. He showed me some animated cels from the film as well as a few of the background paintings. Then he did something that will always be special to me. He had a laser disc copy of the movie and you could turn off the dialogue track and just listen to the background music. He played for me the music at the end of the movie when she woke up in her bed in kansas. The song was “…be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home…” and then it intertwined with and then segued into “Over the rainbow.” We both stood in his living room, quietly listening to it.
He had to return to work and I had to get back to my hotel and get ready for the show. I walked with him to his studio. He hugged me goodbye. I turned and began to walk down the sidewalk. Then I heard him say, “hey…” and I turned around to look at him. Suddenly to me, he WAS the Wizard of Oz himself. He looked like he could BE the wizard, his bearded, adorable grin, his magical presence. Smiling, he looked into my eyes and said, “you turned out GOOD!” and
with that, he disappeared around the corner.
I never saw him again. Three years later he died of AIDS.
I am so proud and happy I got to know him as I did. Rob Roy MacVeigh was a great and powerful inspiration to me. And he always WILL be.
I know it sounds corny and I assume you may have been expecting me to incorporate this into my story… but he really did show me what it was like to have a brain (knowing I was a lost gay teen in 1977 who needed a light at the end of his tunnel), a heart (taking me under his wing, not taking advantage of me, opening my eyes to a world I would become part of and of course, showing me un-flinching courage.
Ain’t it dah truth, ain’t it da truth!”