Welcome to My Daily Meltdown, where I explore tenets and threads woven into my creation of Melt. And today, a tie-in.
Yesterday I went with my sons on a walking tour of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
There are many fascinating things about this particular final resting place, which was also part of The Battle of Long Island, which I wrote By the Sword about.
There’s even a statue of Minerva, which I mention in my places to visit – and I took a picture with it!
George Washington’s dentist is also buried there – the man who provided George with his famous teeth (not made of wood, but llama and camel, our guide claimed.)
And we also encountered the grave of the woman who was performing the night President Lincoln was shot. John Wilkes Booth ran across the stage past her – and she recognized him. She went up to the balcony and cradled Lincoln in her arms. Later, she tried to comfort Mary Todd Lincoln as Lincoln lay dying. It was Laura Keene’s 1,000th stage performance, and the entire house proceeds were supposed to go to her that night.
Another totally wild thing was that we encountered the grave of the guy who wrote “It’s Raining Men” – which I must confess is my go-to request song for the dance floor. It’s so ridiculous it’s awesome! Our guide said one of The Weathergirls came and paid her respects once. This man, Paul Jabara, also wrote “Enough is Enough” and “Last Dance.” (So most brides and grooms have him to thank at their weddings, though I opted for “I’ve Had the Time of my Life.”)
We even got to go into the underground catacombs – which were pretty creepy, though nothing compared to the Paris ones we visited five years ago, with piles of skeletons and skulls!
But the goal that was first on my mind as we tromped over pavement, dirt and questionable brown orbs that looked like massive poop balls or some sort of humungous pods that fell from trees was to see the wizard.
That’s right: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
He was “billed” as one of the people buried at Green-Wood. How could that be, I wondered, when the wizard is a fictional character?
I asked our guide this, as we approached “the wizard’s” grave. He looked at me questioningly, as if he didn’t understand my inquiry. Then another person on the tour said, “It’s the actor who played him.”
Not as cool – but cool enough.
Funny how that possibility never occurred to me – I guess I’m just too literal. If you say it’s a wizard – then I expect it to be a wizard.
Another interesting fact: The wizard was actually a traveling salesman who purveyed interesting “remedies” – and Frank Morgan’s family made its fortune by selling an elixir (again, according to our guide.)
Frank Morgan received second billing on the movie poster under Judy Garland, even though he appeared in many less scenes than other actors billed beneath him. That’s because he was a famous actor at that time.
Yesterday was the latest chapter in my fascination with things associated with The Wizard of Oz. Years ago, my sons were in a dance show at a festival, and I met one of the last surviving “munchkins” – Jerry Maren, an actor who is three feet four inches tall, and who has spent years going to fairs and selling autographs. He said two interesting things that I remember: the movie was not expected to be a hit or in any way memorable, and Toto was paid a bigger salary than he was.
I was thrilled beyond reason to meet this munchkin, who is apparently now the last surviving one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Maren
Why? I liked the movie well enough – but I’m not one of those people who watch it over and over. As a matter of fact, I was just informed by a blogger on my upcoming tour that I got a reference wrong in Melt. I mentioned “The Lollipop League” – but there’s actually a “Lullaby League” and a “Lollipop Guild.” (Jerry was in The Lollipop Guild.) I want to apologize for the mistake, which my copy editor also didn’t catch. It’s too late for me to correct this in the book – but I will in future editions.
You see, I carry the story in my heart – of not the exact details. (I’ve been singing the song wrong all these years!) There’s something about The Wizard of Oz that struck such a chord in me that I referenced it in my previous novels as well. I knew it meant something to me – I just didn’t know exactly what – or how deep that what went.
What is it about The Wizard of Oz that means so much to me?
I’ll explore that question tomorrow.
Bye for now.
PS: It’s nice to know that in 2013 Jerry Maren had a footprint and handprint ceremony at Gruman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
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