Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Wizard of odd

On this day in 1856,  Lyman Frank Baum (who went by L. Frank Baum because he didn't like his first name), the man who wrote The Wizard of Oz was born.  He died 63 years later on May 6 in Hollywood. His last words to his wife were "Now we can cross the Shifting Sands."

After writing the Wizard of Oz, Baum liked to spend winters at the Del Coronado Hotel near San Diego, California. Coincidentally, there was lots of shifting sands at the Del. Also coincidentally, my wife and I spent a few nights at the Del Coronado before we got married, had kids and couldn't afford such luxury.

Even more coincidentally, Margaret Hamilton, best known for her portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's classic film "The Wizard of Oz" died on May 16, 1985. It would have been more of a coincident if she died on May 15, Baum's birthday, but I work with what I have.

To Hamilton's credit, the Wicked Witch of the West was eventually ranked No. 4 in the American Film Institutes's 2003 list of the 50 Best Movie Villains of All Time, making her the top ranking female villain. Coincidentally, my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Gussie, was the spitting image of the Wicket Witch of the West. And whereas Hamilton, unlike her role of the Wicked Witch, was known to be a sweet lady in real life, Mrs. Gussie would have intimidated the Wicked Witch of the West. She certainly gave me nightmares.

Coincidentally, the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz always scared the bejesus out of me and gave me nightmares as well. And one more strange but true fact about the Wizard of OZ -- for years I watched the movie on a black and white television set and didn't know the film switched from black and white to color when Dorothy fell into Oz.

So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered the yellow brick road wasn't gray. Now that truly is the Wizard of Odd!

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