This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, May 9, 2001

May 9, 2001 - Wizard of Oz! The Tale Never Tires

I have always loved the movie, "The Wizard of Oz."

When I was a kid, it was run, on one of our five network TV stations, exactly once a year.

We watched for this big event in the TV Guide. But it was important enough that it was even featured (e.g., run as a story) in local newspapers.

When the show came on, we were always assembled, my three sisters, my brother, and I, on the floor in front of the TV, a good 10 minutes ahead of time. With luck, we'd even gotten our mom to let us shake up a little Jiffy Pop popcorn.

I remember one day, when Frazier Thomas (the emcee of "Family Classics" in the Chicago area) solemnly announced that we should not try to adjust the color on our TV sets during the first part of the program. Dorothy, in Kansas, all the way through the tornado, lived in a black and white world.

Color, or so Thomas told us, was introduced at the exact moment when Dorothy opened the door, after landing somewhere over the rainbow.

Well, I was pretty excited. I KNEW that splashes of gorgeous color would materialize on our screen. The fact that we had a black and white TV (like most of the folks I knew then) didn't enter into it. This was OZ. It was magic!

To no one's surprise but mine, color did NOT materialize on our cheesy little screen. I do remember a pang of disappointment.

It didn't last. So what if it was in black and white? All the drama was there. My imagination was Technicolor.

I loved almost all of the characters. Dorothy was perfect. Toto, too. The witch. The Scarecrow. Oz. Auntie Em, and even Uncle Henry. The Lion.

The one key character that always frustrated and eluded me, though, was the Tin Man. That bothered me, because my favorite moment of the film was when he lifted his ax and slammed it against the door to free Dorothy from the witch.

In that moment, I saw what Tin Man MIGHT have been. A hero. THAT was what friends were all about — folks who loved you, who risked it all.

Instead, somehow, the Tin Man got glossed over, somehow edited into blandness.

Years later, I read the Oz books (they are a series, not a single title) to my daughter. Frank Baum, the author, got a bad rap from critics and librarians alike, who found the books poorly written and juvenile.

Guess what? Critics and librarians were wrong. The books are even better than the movie.

And the tale of Tin Man was fleshed out (so to speak). It's a weird but powerful story.

The Castle Rock Players will be presenting the Wizard of Oz — and its cast of 90 — on May 31 through June 3. You can buy tickets (have your credit card handy) by calling 303-814-7740.

And I've decided that the Tin Man (who just happens to be the role I landed) will finally get his due. Here's the guy who lost his human body, all for the love of a maid. Here's the chance to tell his whole, passionate life.

Come see the story — I'm just one of the performers, and the rest of them have their own compelling tales. The talent lurking around Douglas County will surprise and delight you.

Oh, and do stop by the library to check out the original. Your kids will love it.

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