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From the Quarter Mile to the yellow brick road

Jay Scarfone
‘Oz’ never lost its appeal for Jay Scarfone

When Julius “Jay” Scarfone ’88 (accounting) was growing up in Hilton, N.Y., the annual broadcast of The Wizard of Oz was an eagerly anticipated holiday tradition.

“I was just fascinated with it,” recalls Scarfone. “I guess I never outgrew it.”

Indeed, the beloved 1939 film has become his avocation. While still a student at RIT, he signed with Warner Books to co-write The Wizard of Oz: The official Fiftieth Anniversary Pictorial History. The book did very well, making The New York Times and several other best-seller lists.

“We were in the right place at the right time to tap into the archives and tell the story in a way that hadn’t been done before,” says Scarfone.

Since then, he has been involved in a variety of Oz-related projects, including several other books: The Wizard of Oz: The Film Classic Comes to Life with Music and Stunning Three Dimension; The Wizard of Oz Collector’s Treasury; and the officially licensed 60th anniversary book, The Wizardry of Oz: The Artistry and Magic of the 1939 MGM Classic.

Scarfone and co-author William Stillman were consultants for the Telly Award-winning documentary, Oz: The American Fairyland, and they contributed to and served as guest lecturers for a major Oz exhibition mounted by the Library of Congress.

He’s tracked down people who worked on the film without receiving credit, interviewed family members, located never-published photos and documented the production in exhaustive detail. For the last book, perhaps the most difficult challenge was persuading a publisher that the work was different than what had already been written.

Scarfone says he isn’t interested in writing about other subjects. “I don’t do this for the sake of having something on the bookshelf. This is my interest. I’m not passionate about other projects.”

But is there anything left to say about Oz? Nothing is in the works now, but he doesn’t rule it out. The 75th anniversary arrives in 2014, and Scarfone expects to be around for the film’s 100th anniversary as well. He doesn’t expect that the world will forget about the film; more than 1 billion people have seen it, and it still retains its appeal.

Certainly Scarfone hasn’t grown tired of the subject.

“My true vocation is finance,” says Scarfone, who works for Penn National Insurance in Harrisburg, Pa., “but this is a nice diversion from what I do every day.”