‘Oz’ expert has full, wonderful world of a career “I’ve really been lucky to do what I love,” Mr. Fricke said this week from his longtime New York City home. He’ll give a talk next Thursday at the Figge on the making of the beloved 1939 MGM movie, and Aug. 13, he’ll introduce two showings of the film at the Adler Theatre. He adores Garland in all her performances because “she’s so real and she’s so honest.” “From the time she was a little girl, a 13-year-old girl sang like a 30-year-old woman,” Mr. Fricke said. “One reason she endures today, she was never acting. In other movies, in concert, you can see Judy Garland is just being. Holy cow, nothing gets in the way of her communication with the audience.” In a three-minute song, “you were getting honesty, and warmth and humor and emotion,” he said.
Oz-Struck: Historian John Fricke Takes “Wizard of Oz” Fans Over the Rainbow at the Figge and Adler “I was acting out the Oz story in the living room from the time I was five years old,” he says, right before referencing one of Garland’s most beloved torch songs. “And I was the only first-grader in Milwaukee who wasn’t singing ‘Old MacDonald.’ I was singing ‘I’m gonna love you like nobody’s loved you come rain or come shine.’ There weren’t many first-graders who could follow me – tearing myself to shreds on that little Johnny Mercer lyric.” But few such fanatics are able to turn those obsessions into actual careers, which is just what Fricke has done over the past three decades. At age 11, he joined the International Wizard of Oz Club (now at OzClub.org), a group for which Fricke serves as one of the elected directors-at-large for 2016. “I edited the club magazine,” he says of his early years with the organization. “I was one of its officers. And this was not a kids’ group. I mean, there were kids in it, but it’s also been a lot of first-edition-book collectors and art collectors … .”