After two years when it just wasn’t possible, we finally had an in-person OzCon International this year. It was in Pomona, California again, and it was one day and some change, so I initially thought it wouldn’t make sense to go.
Then Beth suggested we could do other things in the area, so that’s what we ended up doing.
It was cool to see people I hadn’t seen in two years, except over Zoom in some cases. It started with a dinner and the announcement of the Winkie Award on Friday evening, while the official programming began on Saturday morning.
Along with our tote bags, we also each received a copy of Ruth Plumly Thompson’s A Day in Oz and a gift from Freddy Fogarty’s collection. We ended up with a soundtrack record of The Wiz and a little book of celebrities, both in some Asian language. There were some pictures from The Wizard of Oz in the book, along with some unrelated movies.
It was the hundredth anniversary of Thompson’s Kabumpo, which was reflected in the bags and decorations, but only came up a little in the main programming.
A major theme was the animals of Oz, and some presentations were based on that.
The first presentation on Saturday was by Dina Massachi, who talked about Toto, starting it off with how some people seem to really hate Dorothy’s canine companion. Salman Rushdie famously called him “that little yapping hairpiece of a creature, that meddlesome rug!” That is not, however, why the Ayatollah declared a fatwa on him. But anyway, Dina described how, in Wizard, Toto is often the emotional center of the book, the one who reacts to things and gives an indication as to whether the experience will be a positive one. The MGM movie downplays the character somewhat, although he does reveal the humbug Wizard on his own volition rather than because he was scared by the Cowardly Lion, a plot point in an Oziana story I reread recently. I’ve never known that Toto was particularly unpopular, and I say this as someone who was kind of afraid of dogs at the time I first watched the movie and read the book. Dina mentioned someone proposing a sort of overarching idea on L. Frank Baum’s part when it’s revealed in Tik-Tok that Toto could actually talk all along, but it seems pretty obvious that he just made it up as he went along. I was thinking recently about how Emerald City has the dog eating some sentient bread products in Bunbury, which becomes more disturbing if taken in the light of his being sentient.
Next came Freddy, showing the slides he’d collected of the making of Return to Oz.
Convention chair Colin Ayres did the presentation after that, presenting some letters from Thompson in which she mentioned some of the books she was working on at different points in her career.
Then, after lunch, Glenn Roberson and Ashley Chase showed their unfinished film Dorothy, retelling the story of Wizard in a post-apocalyptic world where scientists used brain chips to control women for a breeding program.
Colin led a panel discussion of Judy Garland with Ashley and Eric Gjovaag, then Sam Milazzo read “The Glass Dog” from Baum’s American Fairy Tales.
After that, J.L. Bell led a panel on animals in Oz with Steve Cox, Atticus Gannaway, and Dina.
I was on a similar panel at the last in-person convention, but there were some different points brought up this time, and more focus on the MGM film. I’ve written before about how complicated the status of animals in Oz is, with animals usually being just as intelligent as humans and able to speak their language, yet still driven by their natures. It seems to be a general theme that animals are accepted into human society if they behave themselves according to the people’s rules, but these rules aren’t necessarily enforced on all Ozian animals. And even the ones who do One thing I thought of was how Billina stays in Oz because of how tasty the bugs were, yet later in Patchwork Girl, the Tin Woodman absolutely refuses to let anyone hurt a yellow butterfly.
Of course, Nick is pretty extreme about such things even by Ozian standards, and even he doesn’t have a problem with killing animals who are acting hostile.
And Billina actually addresses human hypocrisy on meat eating with Dorothy in Ozma, although it’s not like Baum offers a solution. With dinner, there was a cucumber-based drink called Pompadore Punch, although I’m not sure what the connection is between cucumbers and Prince Pompadore.
They also had pink lemonade, which is specifically mentioned in Kabumpo, although I doubt the hotel staff knew that.
The evening program began with Nate Barlow discussing the Woozy, one of my favorite Oz characters. There was even a smoking Woozy head to accompany it.
Nate talked about how the Woozy was used to promote the silent film of Patchwork Girl, yet he isn’t even in the movie that much. I believe he does reappear in an animal scene in another Oz Film Manufacturing Company product, although he doesn’t breathe any fire in that one.
Eric Shanower donned a Tik-Tok hat to read an excerpt from the book he’s writing
about the stage musical The Tik-Tok Man of Oz. And it ended with a quiz on the books, hosted by co-chair Erica Olivera. I believe there was karaoke after that, but we were really tired by that point. Normally I have more adrenaline during OzCon, but my sleeping schedule had been weird for the past few days. I did end up buying some stuff from Cindy Ragni: paperback copies of The Master Key and Who’s Who in Oz, a Shanower drawing of Polychrome, and an Easter postcard by John R. Neill.
Some convention attendees visited the Academy Museum and L. Frank Baum’s grave on Sunday, and while I didn’t go with the group, I did do that second thing.
We had planned to meet our friend Stephanie, who lives in the area, and we went to Forest Lawn in Glendale together. I have to wonder if it was a convention attendee who left a Hot Wheels car on the tombstone. There were smaller markers for Baum’s relatives, and for some reason his son Kenneth was buried on the opposite side from the other three. We had been talking about Liberace, and Beth noticed that he was also buried at Forest Lawn, although it was a different part.
So we saw that as well, and I happened to notice that Naya Rivera’s remains were interred in a wall not far from that.
We also drove by the place in Hollywood where Baum’s house, Ozcot, used to stand; but it was destroyed in the 1950s, and we weren’t sure where the exact site was. We’d met Stephanie’s dog Chelsea before, but she was less nervous this time, and really took a liking to Beth.
The next day began our adventures at Disneyland, which will have to wait for another post, or more likely a series of them.