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Old 04-30-07, 12:57 PM
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The Case of Dorothy's Slippers

The Case of Dorothy's Slippers; Oz Fans Obsessed With Who Stole Them

Anna Schecter Reports:

Police in Minnesota say they are closing in on the thief who stole a pair of the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz."

The bejeweled footwear, valued at $1 million, was stolen Aug. 27, 2005, from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn., her hometown.

"The ruby slippers are the holy grail of movie memorabilia," said Brian Cummings, pop culture art appraiser and consultant.

The lead investigator on the case, Gene Bennet of the Grand Rapids Police Department, says the theft has provoked an outcry from movie fans.

"There are people all over the country obsessed with these slippers, an underground world more than I ever imagined," said Bennet.

Bennet says Judy Garland and Wizard of Oz aficionados have been throwing leads to investigators since the theft.

"Everybody's accusing everybody of stealing them," he said.

The museum alarm system had been shut off, and the thief broke a back window to gain entry. Bennet said his team has a very strong lead but does not yet have enough evidence to make an arrest. Other items from the movie, including a monkey's sword, the carriage in which Dorothy rode in Oz Land and Judy Garland's gold record for "Over the Rainbow," were on display but not stolen.

The shoes belonged to a Hollywood acting coach, Michael Shaw, who had loaned them to the museum.

"When I heard they were stolen, it was like the earth fell from beneath my feet," said Shaw.

The shoes, one of four known pairs used in the movie, were insured for $1 million, but the museum's insurance company only paid Shaw $666,000 based on the most recent sale price of another pair sold at auction at Christie's in 2000. Shaw paid $2,500 for the shoes in the early 1970s.

One pair is on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., another pair belongs to collector Philip Samuels of St. Louis and the third pair is owned by a memorabilia collector who plans to open his own museum in Hollywood and is represented by David Elkouby. Actress Debbie Reynolds owns a test pair that was made for the movie but never used.

Cummings, the memorabilia appraiser, said the collector community is small enough and close-knit enough that Shaw has probably crossed paths with the thief, perhaps many times.

"Given the level of obsession this group -- known as the Ruby Slippers Fan Club -- has with these shoes, I would not be surprised if one of them turned out to be the thief," he said.
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