THE PRE-TEEN LOTHARIO

 

Jan 30, 2015   THE PRE-TEEN LOTHARIO

 [Above left: Fred A. Stone in his star-making turn as The Scarecrow in the first stage version of THE WIZARD OF OZ (1902). With vaudeville partner David C. Montgomery as The Tin Woodman, Stone toured the country for four seasons in the uproariously, unprecedentedly-successful OZ; they played several Broadway and/or New York City engagements during that time. Right: The cover of a songbook that published a half-dozen numbers from the show. The inset photograph pictures Montgomery & Stone with Anna Laughlin, who portrayed Dorothy in the much-acclaimed extravaganza.]

 ---------------

 Near the conclusion of Part Eight of a recent series of personal Munchkin Memories -- and after six installments of interim waiting/baiting -- I shared an anecdote involving Gus and Olive Wayne that proved to be happily embarrassing to me back in 1990. It was one of those awkward, disconcerting, but ultimately funny moments that happen in one manner or another to many of us, and (I guess!) it's always a pleasure to hear about the discomfiture of other people; several readers since have commented that they enjoyed the humor thereof.

Or, at least, that it was -- in this instance -- visited upon the red-haired and red-faced Fricke….

So here’s another recollection. I’m not quite sure who the mortified party or parties (if any) might have been on this occasion, as I didn’t understand the quiet, quick commotion it caused until months and months after the fact. But it was a totally Oz-centric occurrence, and that makes its re-telling suitable for (if not essential to!) this blog.

My own intensive Oz-related research began when I was seven. It was then I ascertained that the downtown “Central” Public Library contained thousands of books and publications not available at our neighborhood branch. For the next decade, I took the ninety-minute, round-trip bus jaunt to Milwaukee’s main drag – Wisconsin Avenue -- on pretty much a weekly basis, haunting the Library’s card catalog, their encyclopedias and reference works, the READERS’ GUIDE TO PERIODICAL LITERATURE, and the bound volumes of decades’ old newspapers. I seldom lingered among the children’s books; I was infinitely more curious about (for example) the original 1939 press advertisements for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture release of THE WIZARD OF OZ.

[Side note: When I located those specific billboards in back issues of THE MILWAUKEE SENTINEL and THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL, it was some kind of triple thrill to note:

      a) that the film had played (more than twenty years prior) at the still-extant Riverside movie palace our family frequently patronized;

      b) that (as I subsequently learned) the same theater had – in 1934 – boasted a week-long vaudeville engagement by The Garland Sisters, whose youngest member was twelve and had as yet to change her first name from Frances to Judy;

 and

      c) that the August 1939 Milwaukee premiere of OZ also featured an onstage personal appearance by “Meinhardt Raabe, Munchkin Coroner, courtesy the Oscar Mayer Weiner Company,” for whom he was working as “Little Oscar, The World’s Smallest Chef.” Meinhardt then was on tour with the already-legendary Wienermobile; his participation in MGM’s OZ some ten months prior is detailed in past chapters of this blog.]

In due course, I realized that the Milwaukee Public Library also possessed a collection of sheet music, and I poured over that catalog, seeking songs from the vintage Oz stage shows: THE WIZARD OF OZ (1902), THE WOGGLE-BUG (1905), and THE TIK-TOK MAN OF OZ (1913). It was in autumn 1962 that I found that the Library’s holdings did, indeed, include one folio from the first of these productions; additionally, it was a number that boasted a lyric by Oz author L. Frank Baum himself. I rushed to write the news of my discovery to my new, adult, pen-pal friends in The International Wizard of Oz Club, which I had joined earlier that summer.

Preeminent among those compatriots was Chicago resident Dick Martin, commercial artist extraordinaire and already the illustrator of several Oz picture books and abridgements. Dick was especially pleased by my “find,” as the refrain in question was one for which he himself had never been able to track the music. By return mail, he asked if I would have the Library make a Photostatic copy of the score for his collection, for which he’d gladly pay.

Assignment in hand, I returned downtown just a day or so later and tackled the arts-and-music librarian. She was, by this juncture (some four years after my initial onslaughts), very accustomed to the energetic JF and his Oz Mania. But when I handed her the request form for that particular piece of music, there was – for the very first time – a hesitation and resistance on her part. The dialogue, as I recall it, went something like this:

JF: Would you please send down to the stacks for this sheet music for me?

A&ML (smiling, then glancing at the call slip, doing a double-take, and returning my eager gaze with a nonplussed question):   John… What IS this?

JF (relentlessly perky and semi-impatient): It’s a song from THE WIZARD OF OZ!

A&ML (circumspectly): I don’t recognize this title at ALL.

JF (patiently; and long-since acclimated to explaining the vagaries and varieties of The World of Oz to the – however otherwise intelligent – uninitiated): No, no. It’s not from the movie; it’s from the 1902 stage musical.

A&ML (still doubtful): Well…all right. Uh….ummmm….uh…. You wait over there, and I’ll send for it.

As usual, she put the application form in a cylindrical container, and – via pneumatic tube system – it was whisked down to the sub-basement of the building. Then she gathered the two other women on desk duty and began to talk with them in a hushed but semi-excited manner; all three kept looking in my direction, although none of this really registered with me. I was waitin’ for the Ozzy ditty!

 

Within ten or so minutes, the distant elevator door opened, and an aide wheeled out with a cart for the Arts & Music Desk. It carried several volumes requisitioned by others – and a flat, rectangular, cardboard folder, obviously designed to protect fragile paper….like sixty-year-old pages of music. I leapt up from my waiting space, but instead of simply “handing me the goods” (as she had with dozens of prior Fricke entreaties), my friend the librarian softly said, “No, John. Just a minute, please.” When I held back but hovered, she gently continued, “Just sit down again, please. I’ll call you when you may take the music.”

Well, this mystified me -- and I was further bewildered as she and the other librarians VERY carefully and VERY slowly perused the four or five pages of lyric. Perhaps when they were finished, they exchanged relieved or self-conscious glances; I honestly don’t remember. I just know that I was FINALLY summoned to the desk and permitted to take the music to my table and review it at length.

And, yes, it WAS the song I thought it was from the 1902 THE WIZARD OF OZ -- a song that was simply and declaratively titled…

“The Different Ways of Making Love.”

Oh, well!

When I ultimately figured out the reasons for the librarians’ wary panic, it actually was quite comical. Given that name, they maybe were expecting a rhymed Kama Sutra – which, in truth, wouldn’t have been exactly suitable for an eleven year old. (At least not in 1962….)

Instead – and as I remember it -- the very-much-of-its-era verbiage was a gentle paean to the art of bringing flowers to a girl…or candy…or compliments…or taking her for a stroll…i.e., “The Different Ways of Making Love.” [Note: I just looked up the song in OZ BEFORE THE RAINBOW (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), which is Mark Evan Swartz’s wonderfully detailed and evocative account of early stage and film versions of THE WIZARD OF OZ. He defines the song as “a trifle…. Its lyrics compare the actions of maidens in love with those of little birds and pussycats.” So it may be that my memory is fallible here!]

Anyway, bottom line(s):

The song – whatever the text of its stanzas – definitely and definitively defines “tame” and/or “innocuous”!

The librarians (back-in-the-day) did their duty -- and then some.

Dick eventually got his Photostat.

And I retained my faith in the Milwaukee Public Library System, my passion for Oz, and whatever innocence was then appropriate for a sixth grader who looked like Opie of Mayberry.

 
 

Article by John Fricke

 

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