Friday, July 6, 2018

Evelyn Copelman in the Tiger Den!

There's nothing better to motivate one to get back to blogging than a new treasure to share! And this time it's a painting by an Oz artist I never had much thought of acquiring, Evelyn Copelman, the second major illustrator of The Wizard of Oz.

Watercolor by Evelyn Copelman.

Alas, the painting isn't from Wizard, but a watercolor of a country street scene. The image is a bit larger than 8" x 11", signed at the bottom right in pencil.


For those of you not acquainted, Evelyn Copelamn was the first illustrator to reillustrate a full-length edition of The Wizard of Oz after W. W. Denslow. After World War II, Wizard publisher Bobbs Merrill wanted a new edition of Wizard. The MGM film had made the book more popular than ever,  and the original Denslow illustrations were difficult to make attractive. The first edition of Wizard is stunning, but by 1903 Denslow's art was already suffering from cheap and simplified printing. By the 1920s and '30s the book was decidedly unattractive.

In 1944, Bobbs Merrill decided on a major overhaul and hired Evelyn Copelman to reillustrate the book. It was her first book illustration job. In the printed book the publisher slyly suggests the drawings are based on those of Denslow, but they are clearly much more inspired by the MGM film.

Copelman's line drawings (actually scratchboard work) in the early printings are sometimes a bit stiff and often overworked. Her paintings are much better. A few years after this new edition of Wizard was released, Copelman went back and redrew almost every image and added several new color plates, creating a much more handsome volume.

In 1947, Bobbs Merrill asked Copelman to reillustrate Baum's The Magical Monarch of Mo. She's become a much more gifted illustrator by this point, too, though her style is at odds with Baum's text. (You can read my analysis here).

However, one can see more stylistic parallels between my newly acquired painting and her Mo watercolors than one can find when examining her Wizard paintings - such as in the Mo frontispiece below.


Frontispiece of THE MAGICAL MONARCH OF MO by Evelyn Copelman.

Note how much looser her style has become in the watercolor sky above, and the similarity in technique of the forested hills at the left in the distance.

But even more similarities can be seen with my painting and the most important work of her career - illustrating the Sally, Dick, and Jane school readers!

Illustration from WE COME AND GO (1946-'47) by Evelyn Copelman as "Eleanor Campbell."

Looking at the lovely watercolored grass, the trees across the road, one can imagine Sally, Dick, and Jane walking down the country street scene in my painting. Evelyn Copelman did all of her school reader work under the pseudonym Eleanor Campbell.

Well, that's it for today in the Tiger Den. "See David Blog. Blog, David, blog!"



Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The 1903 WIZARD OF OZ and my Grammy Nomination!


I'm pleased to announce that the 2 CD set Vintage Recordings from the 1903 Broadway Musical The Wizard of Oz which I produced back in 2003 is now available again! You can order a copy by clicking here. I am very proud of this project and it earned me my Warholian fifteen minutes of fame as you'll see in the blog below.

When I was a kid, I often fantasized about being famous and winning awards. I do not mean the spelling bee, either! I was certain one day I’d have an Oscar, a Tony Award, or an Emmy Award. As I got a little older, PERHAPS I even fantasized about winning a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize! Yet I never even remotely imagined I would be nominated for a GRAMMY AWARD. Well, fate showed me!

Me at the 2003 GRAMMY Awards.

But wait, there’s a little back-story to fill in …

As some of you know, I have loved L. Frank Baum’s Oz books since I was in the second grade. I’ve worked in musical theatre and I have a passion for old recordings, really old recordings from the early 1900s. Then suddenly this almost forgotten Broadway musical of The Wizard of Oz entered my life. My three interests were all neatly tied together. 

Me and my 1905 Edison home cylinder player.
The Wizard of Oz is one of the best-loved fairy tales and one of the best-loved films of all time. Yet few people know that the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman attained fame in a hit Broadway musical in 1903.  The show was legendary for its success and its impact on American culture. It made Oz, Dorothy Gale, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman household names.  



The show opened on Broadway at the Majestic Theater in New York on January 21, 1903. It toured, came back to New York, toured, and returned to New York again many times until finally disbanding around 1911. Stock and amateur companies continued to present it into the 1930s when it was overshadowed by the classic MGM film of The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland, which featured a new score.

To cut a long story short, I began a project to collect all of the ancient records I could find from the show, as well as photos, newspaper clippings, etc. In 2003 (a hundred years after the show originally opened!) I produced a 2 CD set of said recordings with two picture-filled booklets. I was very proud of my work on the project. 

A theater friend of mine, musical theatre orchestrator Larry Moore, said, “You must make sure this CD is submitted to the GRAMMY Awards.” I thought, “Yah, right . . .” But then another friend in New York said the same thing. And then my boyfriend started in on me! So I finally broke down and made sure the CD was submitted for consideration.

A month or so goes by, the GRAMMY nominations come out, and low and behold:

Nominated for “Best Historical Album”
Producer: David Maxine

I don’t remember literally “pinching myself,” but it was definitely one of those moments! So what happens when you’re nominated for a GRAMMY Award? Well, you start getting mail from the National Academy of  Recording Arts and Sciences, friends start congratulating you, and eventually you get to go to the GRAMMY Awards!

So I bought a tux. My BF rented a tux. And off we went! The night before the Awards were handed out, there was a “nominees reception" where we were given delightful things to eat and drink. They also presented the nominees with their GRAMMY Medallions! All of the nominees get them! It is a brass medal on a blue silk ribbon. It’s very spiffy! They also take our “official” GRAMMY portraits.

The bulk of the awards are given out in a “pre-telecast” ceremony. There are about 125 GRAMMYs given each year; and only about a dozen are presented on the air. My boyfriend’s parents came down for the awards, too. Mom-in-law was kind of excited to see several members of Chanticleer a few seats away.

Well, my category finally came up and, ala,s my GRAMMY went to “Martin Scorsese’s THE BLUES,” which I suspected it would. After my loss at the pre-show we headed over to the Staples Center in Los Angeles to attend the telecast part of the GRAMMYs. After the telecast we went to the big GRAMMY party at the Beverly Wilshire, ate lots, drank lots, picked up our “goody-bags,” and it was over.

I really do wish I’d won. I REALLY want one of those little phonograph-shaped awards! Some day!

Click here to order:

 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Good-bye, Yellow Brick Road

For more than four years now Emerald City Radio has been bringing you Oz music twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

But no more.



How the story of Emerald City Radio came to an end:

Live365, the internet radio website that hosts Emerald City Radio and hundreds of other internet radio stations of all varieties, is being forced to shut down at the end of January 2016.

The broadcasters that Live365 hosts are largely not radio professionals. They tend to be people who simply want to share their taste in music with the world. For awhile the internet made that possible at a reasonable cost. Each broadcaster pays a small yearly fee to Live365 for the ability to broadcast their chosen programming. Live365 in turn tracks and pays royalties for all proprietary music broadcast by the hundreds of stations they host.

At the end of 2015 provisions for small webcasting were not renewed by the US Copyright Royalty Board. These provisions had allowed small to mid-sized internet broadcasters to pay lower royalty rates. As of 2016 these rates have increased to such an extent that most of these broadcasters will find them prohibitively expensive.

As a result, Live365 will cease broadcasting at the end of January 2016. Unless an alternative presents itself, the majority of the stations that Live365 brought to the world will cease to exist.

Including Emerald City Radio.

So if you want to get your fill of the widest variety of Oz music on the internet, you have a few days remaining to tune in. It's free and easy to listen to Emerald City Radio on Live365. Just go to the Live365 website and register your account for free. Here's the link. Click the magnifiying glass on the upper right of the Live365 home page, search for Emerald City Radio (or any other genre of music you're interested in), and start listening. But hurry, you have less than a week left.

It's been an enjoyable four years collecting and broadcasting Oz music from the sublime to the ridiculous, conducting radio interviews, and figuring out how long a playlist we could fit into the space Live365 allotted to Emerald City Radio (more than fourteen hours!). If you've been a listener, thank you. We hope you've enjoyed it.

Farewell.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Boy in the Robot Suit

 

Well, here's a treat! I had known for many years that the performer inside Tik-Tok in Disney's Return to Oz was an adorably cute guy named Michael Sundin. I also knew that Michael died of AIDS in 1989. He was only twenty-eight.


It was quite a job being strapped into the Tik-Tok costume. Sundin had to fold himself in half, curled up inside Tik-Tok's spherical body. He then had to walk backwards to make Tik-Tok move forward. Sundin's only view of where he was going was a small video monitor.


I had later discovered that Michael Sundin was also connected with a BBC children's television show called Blue Peter. This info has been rattling around in my brain for years and I had never thought to look up the show online . . . until now! And what a nice few treats I found!

First up is an episode of Blue Peter from 1985. And what do you know, it's an Oz episode! Sundin, delightfully cute in a Christmas sweater and yellow slacks, introduces a group of seven kids who have put together a Wizard of Oz dance - performed to the Meco disco album! After the dance Sundin talks to them about their costumes and tells a bit about his time on Return to Oz. Followed by a segment on the cut "Jitterbug" number from the MGM film, complete with Harold Arlen's 1939 home movies. Have a look!



And I can't resist sharing one more sample. Michael Sundin's Blue Peter interview with Elton John. Michael begins the interview climbing out of Elton John's swimming pool wearing a Speedo! What more need be said!





Friday, January 8, 2016

The Wicked Witch does Sondheim

I always find it interesting when my various passions intersect. Such things always pack a little extra fun or satisfaction, despite the difficulties in deciding which collection the thing goes into. The latest cross-pollination is between my Oz collection and my Stephen Sondheim collection.

I have been a Sondheim fan since my early teens. My first exposure to Sondheim was the 1977 film version of A Little Night Music. It is a flawed film, but no where near as awful as legend states. Anyway back to today's blog - I just got a copy of the lovely souvenir program from the National tour of the original Broadway production of the show.

A Little Night Music Souvenir program featuring Boris Aronson's set design.

The handsome program is large and packed with photographs. The Oz connection is that Margaret Hamilton played Madame Armfeldt. It was her final stage role. The tour began February 26, 1974 in Philadelphia and closed February 15, 1975 in Boston.

Incidentally, Hamilton was performing in the tour of Night Music in Los Angeles when she was interviewed by Aljean Harmetz for The Making of The Wizard of Oz (1977).

Madame Armfeldt is an aged demimondaine, a high-end courtesan, (now retired). If you've seen the film Gigi, it was the "occupation" Gigi was being groomed for: a cultured, educated, and lovely woman who would be "kept" in style by an upper-class gentleman - for,.  uhm . . . "favors."

I'm not going to go into the whole plot of A Little Night Music, but you sort of need to know at least that much to understand the song Hamilton sings in the sound clip below.

This is Margaret Hamilton's solo in the show, a song called "Liaisons," in which she recounts her triumphs and losses in love and luxury - and the seeming decline of style, culture, and civilization.



On the one hand, Margaret Hamilton may seem an odd choice for a musical. She does not have a beautiful voice. And in this song she shifts between speaking and singing. But it's a great performance nonetheless. Hamilton did play in at at least two other musicals over the years: as Aunt Eller in Oklahoma! and as Parthy Ann Hawks in Showboat - neither big singing parts.

Below are a few more photos of Hamilton in A Little Night Music.






Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Cards - Have a Cool Yule!

I've previously blogged about several examples of holiday cards drawn by the creators of the Oz series. Eloise Jarvis McGraw was known to engrave wood-blocks to print her own Holiday cards (click here). And Eric Shanower drew his own Christmas cards for many years. Here's one of my favorites featuring Percy the Personality Kid. Bill Campbell of the Oz Collector blog recently shared a great collection of John R. Neill's personal Christmas greetings.

Here is a Christmas card drawn by Oz illustrator Dick Martin. It is a commercially produced card designed by Martin in the mid-1950s. Dick created dozens of different greeting cards back then. Many delighted in '50s kitsch, such as this trumpet playing cat lounging in a bowl chair. The front of the card gives little indication this is, in fact, a Christmas card. But as you'll see from the inner spread, it is!

As this cat says, "Have a cool Yule . . . and a real crazy new Year!"


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cheese!

In 1980 I won the Munchkin Convention's Oz quiz. The quiz had been prepared by John Bell. Both of us were in our mid-teens. This was the first time I won a convention quiz and I was eagerly looking forward to the glory that came attached to such a win. And I had much anticipation for the Ozzy prize that was sure to come with it.

At my first Oz convention a few years earlier, the quiz prize had been a first edition of The Giant Horse of Oz, and I had gotten it into my head that quiz prizes should be substantive. Well, my prize for winning the Munchkin Quiz was a small cheese board, hand-made by John Bell himself. In all likelihood it had been made in John's high school "wood shop" class. It came with this "Certificate of Authenticity."


At the time, I was a bit disappointed in the little cheese board. Perhaps, John, too, thought it was a trifle too little as he augmented the cheese board with an inexpensive Whitman edition of The Wizard of Oz, which he had autographed by Margaret Hamilton, who was the special guest of the Munchkin Convention.

Margaret Hamilton's "Congratulations!" on winning the quiz.

Now, in hindsight a copy of The Wizard of Oz signed by the Wicked Witch of the West sounds very nice, but at the time she was in the same room with me and I'd just had lunch with her and had her sign several other books I'd brought with me.

But over the years this once disappointingly cheesy prize has come to mean much more to me than some book or Ozian collectible would have. John and I are still friends and blogging colleagues. (John writes the Oz and Ends blog as well as the American Revolution blog Boston 1775.) And now, thirty-five years later, I really enjoy knowing that John made that stupid little cheese board for me back when we were both teenagers. And you know, for decades now it's actually been really useful for serving cheese!


[Update] You can read John's version of the story by clicking here!