Wamego #69 April 8, 2016
IF EVER – OH, EVER! – A GUEST THERE WOZ….!
JANE LAHR (DAUGHTER OF OZ “COWARDLY LION”) TOPLINES OZTOBERFEST 2016
[Above left: Jane Lahr informally poses with her father’s WIZARD OF OZ costume at Bonhams in New York City in late 2014; the lion garb then sold at auction for more than three million dollars. (OZ Museum devotees: At the left of the photo, please note a trace of the red-and-white Munchkin fiddler costume, also sold at that Bonhams auction and now carefully restored and preserved in Wamego.) Right: “The King of the Forest” himself; there was only one Bert Lahr, and how blessed Oz fans have been to enjoy his singular talents -- and his dedication to his profession and audiences.]
Many special guests have thrilled WIZARD OF OZ fans of all ages across recent years of the annual OZtoberFest. But the 2016 weekend of September 30th-October 2nd promises a brand-new level of Ozzy excitement when Jane Lahr – daughter of Bert Lahr, adored Cowardly Lion of THE WIZARD OF OZ film – makes her first visit to Wamego, KS, to headline the roster of speakers and participants.
During OZtoberFest 2016, Ms. Lahr will make a special appearance at an invitational reception on September 30th and take part in public autograph sessions at The OZ Museum on both Saturday and Sunday mornings, October 1st and 2nd. Best of all, she’ll offer an illustrated lecture presentation about her legendary father on Saturday afternoon at The Columbian Theatre, moderated by….me! (as the weekend’s master of ceremonies). The program will include rare audio recordings of Bert Lahr’s introduction to the first telecast of THE WIZARD OF OZ, in which he was joined by ten-year-old Liza Minnelli. (This took place exactly sixty years ago, on November 3, 1956.) Those who attend will also hear a brief radio interview given by a devoted Judy Garland after Lahr died in 1967.
Although the list of special guests for OZtoberFest 2016 is not yet complete, Wamego already has confirmed the attendance of Johnpaul Cafiero, whose family’s amazing Oz collection holds forth at The OZ Museum. Also returning is the nationally syndicated radio commentator and TV motion picture critic, Ryan Jay, who will present his exclusive red-carpet and behind-the-scenes video interviews with cast and creative staff members of last December’s triumphant NBC-TV special, THE WIZ LIVE!
[Above left: Jane Lahr in a non-Oz – but indefatigably buoyant – mode. Right: Johnpaul Cafiero, OFM, and Franciscan Priest of the Sacred Heart Province of Chicago/St. Louis. The tens of thousands of Oz collectibles assembled over many years by his family serve as the foundation for The OZ Museum displays.]
An ebullient exponent of “the second generation of Oz,” Jane Lahr is an author, editor, and anthologist. Her thirty-five years of experience in publishing encompasses work as a founding partner of Stewart, Tabori & Chang, as Associate Publisher of Greenwich Workshop Press, as Director of Advertising, Publicity and Promotion at Harry N. Abrams, and as Director of Special Sale for Abbeville Press. But she comes to Wamego to celebrate her father, whose career spanned six decades and included triumphs in the theater, in motion pictures, and on television. Lahr played everything from burlesque to Shakespeare, from vaudeville to Aristophanes, from Broadway musicals to WAITING FOR GODOT. Most memorably – and incomparably -- he companioned Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley (and Toto, too…) on the Yellow Brick Road to Oz in the best-known, best-loved motion picture of all-time. When Lahr, pun-in-cheek, sighed “If I Only Had the Nerve” -- or forever devastated the vibrato/bravado posturings of classical baritones in “If Were King of the Forest” – he achieved a never-surpassed combination of comedic and heart-rending artistry.
[Above left: Since 2013, Ryan Jay’s video presentations of celebrities and Ozzy events have dazzled OZtoberFest guests, as he’s taken them to Hollywood and the 75th anniversary 3D/IMAX re-premiere of THE WIZARD OF OZ, the opening of OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, and the launch of LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN. Right: Oz and Garland author/historian/producer John Fricke poses last year with the latest additions to the holdings of The OZ Museum: two original 1939 MGM OZ costumes (soldier and fiddler) and two examples of “traveling” Munchkin wardrobe, worn in festival appearances by “flowerpot”/dancer Margaret Pellegrini and soldier Clarence Swensen.]
The exact schedule of appearance times and the names of additional special guests will be publicized closer to the dates of OZtoberFest 2016. But this advance notice is being given so that you can plan your travel and vacation dates NOW to meet Jane Lahr, herald her inimitable dad, “ease on down the road” with Ryan Jay, and join Johnpaul Cafiero (and yours truly) on that once-a-year passage from Kansas to “over the rainbow”….
Article by John Fricke