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The Ruby Slippers: A Journey to the Land of Oz

In September, 1986, Rhys Thomas was on MGM's Culver City lot (now Lorimar Studios) producing a segment for the "Hollywood Closeup" TV magazine series. His subject was the dismantling of an old script vault in the wake of Ted Turner's takeover of MGM. He happened across an original working draft of "The Wizard of Oz," written 50 years ago this year. As he turned the pages, he began to wonder whatever happened to the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in her curious journey through the Land of Oz. In the ensuing months Thomas talked to more people in an attempt to unravel the twisted history of the legendary shoes. As it turned out, he discovered that there were several pairs of shoes. Calendar learned of Thomas' pursuit of the slippers and commissioned him to write his story, never expecting that his search would become a personal obsession. This is the first of two articles. Next Sunday: The fake shoes and a Ruby Slipper feud. Plus Fred Astaire's shoes, Ginger Rogers' dresses , the haul from Burbank Studios.

March 13, 1988|RHYS THOMAS

Warner's last job was at Stephen J. Cannell Productions, where he worked on "The A-Team" during the winter production days of 1984. Gaunt and weak, he worked until the week before he died. Friends in the business say he fought his illness valiantly, determined to be active and unwilling to acknowledge that he was terminally ill. He was very ambitious, collegues remember, diligent and hard working.

Warner's mother, now living in Los Angeles, declined to talk about her son, understandably finding questions about the ruby slippers trivial in relation to his death. A number of his closest friends who figured in this article and might have answered important questions about the slippers have also suffered untimely deaths, apparently from AIDS-related illnesses.

I had one phone conversation with Warner's mother, but it was strained. She claimed that she "knew nothing about his business." What remained of his collection supposedly was dispensed by his family in "the garage sale of all time," friends said.

When asked about the ruby slippers, she exclaimed, "Why would anybody be involved with a pair of shoes, a pair of lousy shoes that belonged to a person that did a movie? How absolutely unimportant."

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