Wamego #83 May 19, 2017

[Above left:  The cover illustration for the just-published (May 16th) initial title in the brand new “Ages of Oz” trilogy, A FIERY FRIENDSHIP. Right: Promotional color art from NBC’s recently cancelled TV series, EMERALD CITY. Both of these current Ozzy topics are treated at length – along with many others – in the Spring issue of THE BAUM BUGLE, magazine of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc., which goes in the mail in the next couple of weeks.]

Next month, this “John Fricke blog” completes its third year of publication – an arc that has seen over eighty installments of Oz history, personal and professional reminiscence, and an ongoing celebration of countless aspects of the greater, all-encompassing Ozian legend. I’ve been a fan since I was five, and at no time in the decades since has my fervor and fascination ever waned when it comes to the creations and characters of L. Frank Baum and his successors.

Three months ago, my passion was channeled into a happy “revisiting.” I’ve been a member of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc., since age eleven, at which time I immediately began to submit news items to their BAUM BUGLE journal. I graduated to occasional BUGLE feature writer at fifteen; to a position on the editorial staff at nineteen; and, finally, served as BUGLE editor in chief across four years when I was in my thirties. In February this year, I returned to the editor post once again; my first issue is “on press” now, and I’ve been fortunate enough to come to the job at a moment in time when there’s major (and frequently wonderful) Oz information and comment to share.

Paramount among the contemporary material in the forthcoming Spring magazine is an examination of the ten-episode EMERALD CITY NBC-TV series. That full-length critique also includes an invitation to Club members to submit their own opinions about the program in mini-review form for the Autumn edition. We’re also delighted to present the very first in-depth interview with Gabriel Gale, conceptualizer of the brand-new Oz book trilogy, “Ages of Oz.” The first volume, A FIERY FRIENDSHIP, hit stores this week, and while it’s often times difficult to be up-to-the-minute and topical in an Oz magazine that’s published just three times a year, I think we’ve managed to accomplish that for any who read the Spring issue.

[Above:  Color artwork – from The Muny Archives – that depicts the arrival of Glinda in Munchkinland during the St. Louis theater’s lavish 1997 production of THE WIZARD OF OZ stage musical.]

Oz devotees will also find BUGLE articles by five fans -- whose ages span six decades -- about their own personal or professional “Adventures in Oz”; part two of a three-part theatrical history of WIZARD OF OZ productions at the famed Muny Theatre of St. Louis; a written and photographic tour of the Oz exhibition currently (until August 20th) at the Kansas City National Museum of Toys and Miniatures; book reviews; and some rare paperwork, artwork, and ad copy attendant to MGM’s classic 1939 WIZARD OF OZ motion picture.

Given some extraordinary cooperation – and the fine design work of Marcus Mebes – this forty-eight page BAUM BUGLE (plus full-color cover) has been a joy to assemble. And there’s much to come in the succeeding 2017 magazines:  more fascinating MGM material; articles and rare art work that commemorate the centennial of Baum’s eleventh Oz book, THE LOST PRINCESS OF OZ; news and histories of some noteworthy Oz collectibles; a celebration of the Oz Club’s 60th anniversary; a feature about The OZ Museum of Wamego (!); a look-back at the Chittenango, NY, Oz festival (heralding its fortieth annual jubilee this summer); reviews and back-stories of recent Oz “theatricals,” including a full-length, original ballet; an advance look at the fifteenth anniversary of WICKED…and as much else as there’s room to print!

[L. Frank Baum’s exciting tale about the disappearance of Princess Ozma – along with much of the rare magical equipment of her kingdom – celebrates its one-hundredth anniversary this year. In a later 2017 issue, THE BAUM BUGLE will commemorate this special birthday and volume. Above: John R. Neill’s original cover art for the 1917 edition of THE LOST PRINCESS OF OZ, and two of his interior color plates: Dorothy, with Toto clasped in her arms, “rides” the enchanted Merry-Go-Round Mountains – and those legendary and fine fellows, the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, discover the missing magic dishpan of Cayke the Cookie Cook.]

I know I’ve waffled on at length, but I have to admit to a monumental amount of joy at being able to once again disseminate Oz information via the BUGLE. It seems to be a sort of culmination of this past year of ever-increasing personal Oz activity. Since last May, I’ve emceed the four national Oz festivals, a function I’m scheduled to fulfill again this year -- culminating in Wamego with OZtoberFest on October 6th-8th. I attended both the West Coast and National Oz Club Conventions in 2016, and I return to those in Portland, OR (June 29th-July 2nd) and Tinley Park, IL (August 3rd-6th); the latter is concurrent with the local Midwest Wizard of Oz Festival. I’m once again touting THE WIZARD OF OZ TRAIN RIDE, which returns to Bryson City, NC, on weekends from July 14th through July 30th. For anyone in New England, I’ll emcee a Judy Garland/Vincente Minnelli/Liza Minnelli film festival (A STAR IS BORN, THE BAND WAGON, and CABARET) at The Strand Theatre in Rockland, ME, on June 23rd and 24th.

All of this diverse activity – and across-the-boards-and-across-the-generations interest in Oz – seems to prove that the range of magic created by Baum (et al) is ever expanding…and never-ceasing. I hope those of you who love any or all of these aspects of Oz will continue to explore, participate in, and/or make your own contributions to the eternal legend. If my sixty-one years of exultation is any indication, I can guarantee your own personal pleasure, as well!

P.S. For those who would like to receive the three 2017 issues of THE BAUM BUGLE – including the about-to-be-published Spring edition, as described above – please visit ozclub.org to join up and subscribe!

Article by John Fricke


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