Bill Beem Honored for Oz Club Support

Best Bill Beem moment ever? Cheering as he accepted the Oz Club’s 2019 L. Frank Baum Memorial Award last weekend in Louisiana. Since meeting Bill at a Club convention in Castle Park, Michigan, in 1981 he has never ceased to amaze me. Often because when the Club really needs help⏤any kind of help⏤he’s the one who steps up.

In 1999 the Club’s centennial convention was looming. There was a 30-foot wide display case in a hallway that would be a perfect Oz display.  Not only did Bill agree to fill it, he visited the facility in advance, found a SECOND 30-foot case on another floor and filled both of them!

His public library displays in Michigan, Club convention displays, and loan of material to a multi-collector display at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures here in Kansas City just continue to demonstrate the generosity that distinguishes him as a collector.  Pieces from his collection were included in the Wizard of Oz Collector’s Treasury, too. And he’s provided checklists to the Bugle for things like Oz glasses.  

Then, set aside his collecting for a minute. He’s still stepping up!  Like when Fred Meyer’s death left two apartments crammed full of Club publications, mailings and materials that needed to be sorted, inventoried, packed and shipped. There was Bill, diving in to make order of the chaos. 

With his wife Anita he chaired the 2005 Ozmapolitan convention. He was both a director-at-large for the Club, and served as our recording secretary for several years. 

Currently he receives all our incoming mail, inputs the details of every single member into the  spreadsheets that serve as our membership database, participates in both monthly conference calls and the annual board meeting. His written reports come complete with charts so we who read them can get info at a glance.  Bill’s the person who sends you renewal notices (and who lets you know when you’ve inadvertently renewed so many times you’re good through 2023…) He mails Bugles to those who join later in the year, and handles all the questions mailed to our post office box.

Promoting Club membership began years ago — here with Angelica Carpenter at Oz-Mania in 2006.

In recent years Bill has begun attending public Oz events to represent the Club and to recruit members. He’s at Oz-Stravaganza, the Michigan and Ohio Oz festivals, Autumn in Oz, and more. Lynn Beltz who works many of those events with him swears he is personally responsible for all the members we sign up. For a little perspective, our 2018 membership increased by more than 40% over 2017 once Bill’s grin became the face of the Oz Club at these public events. 

Setting up an Oz Club auction.

I can think of other moments where we’d have been stumped without his help, but I suspect this run down helps you understand why he rose to the surface of the current nominee slate. The L. Frank Baum Memorial Award sometimes honors someone like Gregory Maguire who brought a whole new audience to Oz, or Willard Carroll whose productions and collections-based books have given more traditional Oz fans so much to enjoy.  But some years the winner is honored for the unselfish, generous support that keeps our Club strong. Bill has been that faithful supporter, and I’m thrilled he’s been recognized for all he’s done.

PS. Even as I wrote this draft he offered to input information on 500 members into a new online program supporting our store.  There’s no end to our appreciation for him!

Helping young attendees with Oz masks.

Early 1980s portrait of Bill from an Ozmapolitan convention in Castle Park.



Oz Exhibit Opens at El Segundo Museum of Art

Freddy Fogarty, center, at the opening event for Experience 41: Oz

Due west in the “wish I were there” category, the spacious galleries of the El Segundo Museum of Art (ESMoA), just a stone’s throw from LAX, feature the museum’s own lavish, mural-filled Oz exhibit. Visitors can interact with online content inspired by the collection of original art borrowed from collectors around the country. (To get a feel for it yourself, click into the “Grid” section of the ESMoA website.) Five massive murals look at Oz from unique perspectives, so visitors see “… Munchkinland through Glinda’s bubble, or the poppy fields as the size of a regal mouse.” And everywhere there’s original art.

Left to right, Peter Hanff, Catherine Bienvenue, Bob Baum, Clare Baum, Paul Bienvenue — aka “the best friends anybody ever had.”

The Oz Club rarely loans material from our collection, but you will see pieces from our collection here. I loaned a few, as did Peter Hanff (Oz Club director, past-president, curator, and more), Brady Schwind (Lost Art of Oz project), Cindy Ragni (Wonderful Books of Oz rare book specialist), Patty Tobias (one of my very first Oz friends and a past recipient of the L. Frank Baum Memorial Award), many other Club members.  Perhaps most of all, Freddy Fogarty.

Freddy Fogarty at home.

Freddy, a collector from El Segundo, is who first involved me by looking for original art that might be available for this exhibit. Would I loan? Could I recommend others to approach?  (You know that song in Oklahoma, “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say ‘No'”? That’s my mantra….)

Freddy lives in an environment packed with Oz. Cases line his room floor to ceiling packed with books, toys, and vintage Oz treasures. Posters cover every scrap of wall space. The presentation of his collection at home is so striking the museum opted to recreate a part of it on its own walls. Extraordinary!

Patty Tobias arriving from the Emerald City for the opening event. Her lovely John R. Neill portrait of Polychrome is among the original artwork on display.

Expanding on this already unique exhibit, ESMoA is offering public programming on an events calendar starting with a June 27 panel. Freddy, Patty Tobias, and Paul Bienvenue (Book Collectors Guide to L. Frank Baum and Oz) will “discuss the fun and magic of collecting Oz artworks and memorabilia.” The talk will be moderated by curator Jeff Cason.  Keep an eye on their event calendar for more; I understand they are looking for a date when Brady Schwind can speak.  Judging from the look of this exhibit, there’s just no telling what all they might dream up to do!


Expanding Oz Exhibit Opens

All Baum’s books are grouped in this bookcase for a photo taken at my home.

The summer’s Expanding Oz exhibit in Overland Park, Kansas, (a Kansas City suburb) is open and wonderful. It’s always fun to loan material from my collection to a public exhibit. This one, where the Johnson County Museum has done such a beautiful job of creating an Oz environment, is particularly satisfying.  These photos, taken just ahead of the opening event, will give you an idea of what you can expect

One of the exterior walls of the exhibit presents Oz as it’s appeared on stage and screen.

To present international Oz, we selected interesting covers from translations to compliment a case of collectible material.

The Oz Club is beautifully represented with a bit about me and how important our Club has been to me through the years,

Murals cover walls. You wander between them among cases of Oz items. Bits of ephemera, book covers, and photos have been enlarged and incorporated with W.W. Denslow’s original artwork.  I took my large bookcase, re-styled it to include all Baum’s books, and they’ve presented it life-sized in one place. They created a fun corner with some vintage pieces made for a child’s bedroom.

And the Oz Club!  Their presentation of our organization is everything I could hope for.

I’ve agreed to support some public events in July, including hosting a fashion show of Dorothy costumes. We first did this at our Club convention in 2017. I’ve changed a couple costumes, added more, and look forward to introducing fourteen versions of Dorothy to the audience.