Ryan Jay Day

I’ve been hearing about Ryan Jay’s condo in Milwaukee for a bit more than a year.  He’d describe the Oz colors going on the walls, or the arrangement of Oz art. It all sounded like a magical must-stop. This was my chance. 

Ryan has a wall of Oz fame in his home office — photos shot of him at red carpet events with stars and celebrities involved in Oz productions.

When we first met, Ryan was a 10-year Oz enthusiast attending his first Oz Club convention. Today he’s is a film critic, syndicated radio host, and all-round on-camera personality in Milwaukee. Through the years his profession has allowed him to interview some amazing performers and personalities associated with Oz; he’s often written about those interviews in the Baum Bugle or shared footage with Oz festival and convention audiences. He’s currently working on a documentary about “Over the Rainbow.” I’m grateful to have him on the Oz Club board of directors. 

We met for lunch and quickly fell into our usual pattern of non-stop Oz talk about Oz collecting, Club business, mutual friends, and our most recent individual Oz experiences.  My Oz adventures aren’t quite so celebrity-studded as his, but I live vicariously through his visits with Lorna Luft, Kristin Chenoweth, and Todrick Hall. Before the day was out we’d also Skyped with Emma Ridley and Aaron Harburg. Eventually we headed home. 

There is no place like it. Stepping over the rainbow rug inside the door, I was stopped in my tracks. There was the Sawhorse!  Centered happily in the living room was a wooden sawhorse Ryan bought at that first Zion, Illinois, Oz convention in 1985.  

I tore myself away to let Ryan lead my tour through his collection, which is tastefully displayed throughout his home. Much of it was in his office which would double as my guest room, but from Oz mugs in the kitchen to paintings in the bathrooms I spotted Oz everywhere.  

He is also a Harry Potter enthusiast, and has posters and ephemera from his career and favorite films all cheerfully displayed. It was just a mini-immersion into his passions and profession to visit his home—a Winkie spear from a local stage production, leaning against a poster quoting him as a film critic.

Ryan fired up the massively large wall-mounted television to let MGM’s classic Wizard of Oz roll as background to our conversation.  We watched a few unusual Oz films he’d recently uncovered online.

Back home we consolidated three partial Return to Oz games I had with me into one complete playable game for his collection, because it always comes back to Oz. A late night ensued. 

Morning views: (top) at my feet;
(bottom) over my shuulder.

I needed to get started on the long drive to Kansas City, but Ryan first wanted to show me that portion of his collection that was still at his childhood home.  We headed that way after brunch at a nearby restaurant.  

Passing walls lined with framed photos of Ryan performing in stage musicals, we worked our way to the basement and were laughing in no time. Ryan hadn’t looked at some of these boxes in years, and once we got started it was just too amusing.  We had to open more. “My Life” one would be labeled. “$MILLIONS WORTH OF OZ” in screaming all caps on another—that turned out to be old Baum Bugles, well-worn Mego dolls, an Oz lap robe, and some of his own early Oz art.  “$5000 in Oz Merchandise” read another, clearly aimed to keep his parents from tossing the contents as worthless.  Most were prominently marked to “Never Throw Away!!!” with a series of exclamation marks.

Rummaging through the games, books, toys, and memorabilia, Ryan found a few things to take home. When I admired a piece of artwork he promptly gave it to me. We consolidated things a bit more efficiently, and I found myself eyeing the clock.  I was facing a 10-hour drive home with just one more stop. To paraphrase Dorothy, it’s always hard to say “goodbye.”

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