Friends of Dorothy
Friends of Dorothy
ast May I heard from Katya Gibel Mevorach. She had been a classmate of mine in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades at PS 125 in Morningside Heights in Manhattan, where I knew her as Kathie. We had corresponded by email in 2014, when I was organizing a reunion of classmates to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our graduation in 6th grade, but we hadn’t seen each other since 1964! It turned out Katya had seen a presentation online that I had given about folklore in the gay community related to Judy Garland and The Wizard of Oz film. She asked me if I would be interested in being a guest speaker in the fall for the American Studies Concentration committee of Grinnell College.
The American Studies folks came up with a plan for my talk on Sunday Nov. 10. They screened the MGM film, which was followed by a buffet dinner and my talk, “Gay Boys, Gay Men and the MGM Wizard of Oz.” Grinnell was a particularly lucky choice for a venue; my boyfriend Richard’s sister Angela works in the college administration. So we stayed longer than the one night that is usually part of a speaking gig, and hung out with Angela and her partner John for a few days.
Students and staff at Grinnell’s Burling Library created two displays. One was of Oz- and gay culture-related materials from the library’s collection.
And the other was of items of mine highlighting the MGM/gay connection.
After my talk, the audience of students, faculty and friends participated in a lively discussion about identifying with different characters in the film, current and past gay icons, the origin of the expression “friend of Dorothy” and more. I also sold and inscribed a few books. Word games and fun meals with Angela and John rounded out the delightful long weekend.
Back in May, the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, PA asked me to give a book talk. This was the first time I had a gig where I didn’t initiate contact! The Center was unusually accommodating: they paid one night’s stay in a hotel, and a lovely dinner for me and one friend after my talk. They also tried to get me other gigs in the area and arranged for coverage by a local paper, and my event showed up in the Washington Blade calendar. Special thanks to Executive Director Adrian Shanker and Liz Bradbury, Director of their Training Institute, both of whom are also authors.
My reading on Oct. 24 went really well; all 16 seats in the room were filled. Fascinating questions and comments went on for quite a while.
Let’s Play Books from nearby Emmaus sold copies of my book, which was really nice. I didn’t have to worry about Square and credit cards, and could simply sign and inscribe books for folks. The bookstore also donated a copy for the library at the Center.
I was delighted that Dee Elliott, a friend from high school, told me she would be there. She won the free dinner sweepstakes! We dined with Liz Bradbury and Patricia Sullivan, the founders of the Center. Liz is a longtime fan of both the Oz books and the MGM film, and I managed to pass her obscure trivia question about the film (what two foods is Dorothy seen about to eat?).
Since I was driving down to Allentown, I decided to make it a real book tour by giving a talk in Philadelphia, about two hours away. Contacting the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philly led to a talk on Oct. 27. The room they gave me was the same one I was in when I spoke at the 2016 convention of the International Wizard of Oz Club. Friends pitched in at the last minute to get equipment for my PowerPoint working. We had a small but enthusiastic audience with engaging questions and comments. One audience member gave me the price of a book, but didn’t want a copy! Another said he had been collecting Oz references in popular culture, and I look forward to seeing his list.
After the talk, a cousin who attended my talk and I wandered around Washington Square West, aka the Gayborhood, looking for a place to get a bite to eat. We stopped at Giovanni’s Room, the venerable LGBT bookstore; because someone had told me they had bought my book there. Sure enough, there was a copy in the “Theory & Criticism” section.
Am leaving in a few days for Grinnell, Iowa, where I’ll give a talk on Sunday at Grinnell College sponsored by the American Studies Department: “Gay Boys, Gay Men and the MGM Wizard of Oz.”