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The Emerald Gala: An Evening of Enchantment

By Janet Walker

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Warner Bros. Films recently hosted The Emerald Gala at the iconic Tavern On The Green located in New York’s Central Park to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the immortal film classic The Wizard of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz Celebrates its 70th Anniversary! *

The celebration was an enchanted magical evening set in the luxurious landscaped gardens of the fashionable restaurant situated on Manhattan Upper West Side just inside the park entrance on Central Park West at 66th Street.  

Ned Price, VP Of Mastering (center rear) with the original Munchkins and the Warner Bros. team.

From the Yellow Brick Road that led visitors to The Emerald Balloon, poised to whisk all away to a distant time, to the original munchkins who carry the torch of this Warner Bros. classic film the evening was all about Dorothy, The Wizard and all her fabulously famous friends.

The Emerald Balloon being filled.

Lorna Luft, the daughter of the late Judy Garland, was on hand to perform and very graciously agreed to be interviewed after her magnificent performance as well as Rhythm & Blues singer Ashanti who performed her newly released version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from the film’s classic soundtrack.

It's all about Dorothy and her Ruby Reds!

The traditional red carpet welcoming was replaced by a Yellow Brick Road that guided the evening’s guests into the magnificent setting and past the wall of silent auction items that were on display throughout the event.

Art work from the Inspirations of Oz Fine Art Collection.

The Wizard of Oz Ruby Slippers Collection, interpretations of Dorothy’s famous ruby red slippers,  designed by the foremost talent in the fashion industry including Diane von Furstenberg, Betsey Johnson, Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, A. Testoni, Abaete, Alberta Ferretti, Botkier, Christian Louboutin, Giuseppe Zanotti, L.A.M.B. by Gwen Stefani, Lisa Pliner, Moschino, Oscar de la Renta, Roger Vivier, Sergio Rossi, Stuart Weitzman, Tibi, and Tuleh were encased for viewing and silent auction with all proceeds benefiting The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

The Wizard of Oz Ruby Slippers Collection.

The auction also featured select pieces from The Inspirations of Oz Fine Art Collection. One-of-a-kind interpretive works of art including painting, drawing and sculpture from esteemed artisans Angelo Aversa, Romero Britto, Nelson De La Nuez, Todd White and Yakovetic.

Art work from the Inspirations of Oz Fine Art Collection.

Holding the event at Tavern On The Green was a homecoming for the film as its owner and CEO Jennifer Oz LeRoy is the granddaughter of The Wizard of Oz producer Mervyn LeRoy. The LeRoy’s have faced the recession like the rest of us and still on that night they put on the show!

Jennifer Oz LeRoy and Lorna Luft at the press photo shoot.

Multiple buffets lined the courtyard, gardens and interior rooms with the re-mastered  Wizard of Oz playing continuously throughout on Widescreen Televisions. Elegant wait staff circled with coconut deep fried shrimp, boiled shrimp and mini sirloin burger appetizers’ and, later, for dessert Chocolate covered strawberries served on silver platters. 

The Emerald Balloon is filled with hot air from the gas torch and sits filled.

The evenings menu offered of a choice of lit fare consisting of fruits, a variety of imported cheeses, crudités, salami and other imported cold cuts and an entrée menu of boiled shrimp, green salad, pasta salad, roast beef, pasta, shrimp scampi, chicken scampi, salmon and much, much more. The buffet menu varied at each station with flaming entrées available.  The dessert tables were overflowing with everything from flaming Crêpes and cookies to Marble and Chocolate cakes, pies and enough toppings to create the dessert of one’s choice.

Damien Miles, Hollywood 101 Film Critic.

The Warner Bros. team were hand to meet, greet and mingle which allowed opportunity to discuss other happenings on the lot including the film restoration process that played a pivotal role in restoring the original Wizard of Oz to its pristine finish. 

Tavern On The Green Courtyards.

Ned Price, Vice President of Mastering, Warner Bros. Technical Operations, is the restoration specialist. He’s kind and comfortable with an easy demeanor and spoke in depth on the process of film restoration and in general on restoring some of the earliest films, dating back to Greta Garbo and even Buster Keaton that are a part of the Warner Bros. Film Library.  It is a very interesting process that will undoubtedly become the focus of an interview on its own.

The landscaped gardens at Tavern On The Green.

Also, allowing a personal interview the magnificent Lorna Luft who graciously agreed to a brief Q & A after her dazzling performance.

Lorna Luft Performs.

Janet Walker: What is it like to be a part of the wonderful enchanted event?
Lorna Luft:  It’s just amazing; it’s wonderful. It’s great!

Janet Walker: Your mother, the late Judy Garland, was one of the most celebrated starlets in Hollywood history and yet you shy away from you legacy why is that?

Lorna Luft: I didn’t know how to handle it all. It’s overwhelming in a way.  You have to basically grow up and grow into it. It’s something that you either understand that you grow into or you run away from and I ran away for a long time. I didn’t know how to deal with it. It was hard; it was bad and then my mom passed away.

Janet Walker: Now, how do you feel about embracing your legacy?
Lorna Luft: Now, it’s great! Now, I embrace it; Now, I’m all these things. I’ve come full circle.

With that our interview was halted by well-wishers, autograph seekers and others complimenting Ms. Luft on her spectacular performance.

Lorna Luft, the original Munchkins and Jennifer Oz LeRoy at the photo op in front of the Emerald Balloon.

It was truly an enchanted evening. Here’s to Luke Fontneau, Ned Price and everyone at Warner Bros. who made it special.  Special thanks to Wizard of Oz Author and Historian, John Fricke; Munchkins actors Karl Slover, Jerry Maren, Meinhardt Raabe, Margaret Pelligrini, Ashanti, Lorna Luft, Jennifer Oz LeRoy and Vincent Beggs.

And to Dorothy, The Wizard, Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Toto: 70 never looked so good!

The Emerald Balloon fully inflated.

To order the beautifully remastered The Wizard of Oz in time for your Holiday gift giving: www.thewizardofoz.warnerbros.com

For more information on Warner Bros. Films: http://www.warnerbros.com

For Tavern On The Green reservations: www.tavernonthegreen.com

All pictures, except where noted (*), by Janet Walker courtesy of Pulse Point Productions, Inc. www.pulsepointproductionsinc.com

Published on Dec 31, 1969

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