I “You Tubed” a 1962 interview by Jack Parr where Judy says the below statement plus a lot more, like being hit on by one of the more mature little guys. It is very funny.
The Munchkins were apparently a rowdy bunch. According to Judy Garland, “They got smashed every night and the police had to pick them up in butterfly nets.”
MGM Studios producer Mervyn Leroy had his own acerbic comment about the munchkins saying, “They got into sex orgies at the hotel. We had to have police on every floor.” Bert Lahr, the “cowardly lion” had this to say about the munchkins: “Many of the Munchkins were midgets who, in fact, made their living by panhandling, pimping and whoring. Assistants were ordered to watch the crew of midgets, who brandished knives and often conceived passions for other, larger Metro personnel.” Most of the comments were likely untrue or exaggerated, nevertheless, they make for interesting stories.
The Munchkin’s have arrived!
Reunion of Munchkins Revives Magic of Making ‘Oz’
By TODD S. PURDUMNOV. 3, 1997
She steps off the bus, no bigger than a minute in her dirndl dress, flower-pot hat and flame-red fingernail polish, ready to greet her fans. She takes a seat at the end of a long table, the better to pose for the pictures she knows will come. She has a pint-sized place in Hollywood history and is proud to say so.
Today, Margaret Pellegrini is a 74-year-old great-grandmother from suburban Phoenix. But 59 years ago this month, as a 3–foot-4-inch teen-ager known as Popcorn, she arrived at the Culver Hotel here to take a job at the M-G-M Studios just down the street, playing 1 of the 120 or so Munchkins in ”The Wizard of Oz.”
”It was exciting to be around so many little people,” said Mrs. Pellegrini, who played one of the Munchkin sleepyheads (”Rub your eyes/ Get out of bed/Let them know the Wicked Witch is dead!”) who greeted Judy Garland’s Dorothy. ”I was from a small town in Alabama, and I had never seen so many before.”
This weekend, Mrs. Pellegrini and five of her fellow Munchkins converged once more on the lobby of the Culver Hotel, where many of them stayed during their six weeks of rehearsals and filming in the fall of 1938, for a three-day ”Munchkin Rendezvous” of fans and collectors sponsored by a St. Louis mail-order memorabilia business called Beyond the Rainbow. The hardiest of 14 surviving Munchkins, they are the last living links to a beloved movie whose big stars are all dead.
No matter that the old M-G-M sound stages now belong to Sony, or that David O. Selznick’s onetime studios just across the way no longer rumble with the cannons of ”Gone with the Wind.” No matter that the Culver Hotel is no longer the kind of place where Joan Crawford once lived but is scrambling to reopen after a string of failed owners and attempts at renovation. No matter that most of these Munchkins are pushing 80. When the old gang gathered again on Thursday night to sign $5 autographs, there was a poignant magic in the air.
”The opportunities are not going to be here much longer,” said Stephen Cox, who wrote ”The Munchkins of Oz” (Cumberland House, 1996) after setting out in 1988 to record the stories of as many of the Munchkins as he could find on the eve of the film’s 50th anniversary. ”These people are getting older; it’s like Titanic survivors.”
For Mickey Carroll, a 78-year-old former vaudevillian who played a Munchkin soldier and one of the fiddlers who sent Dorothy skipping down the yellow brick road, ”it’s a living fantasy.” Now retired from running his family’s tombstone-carving business in St. Louis, he is a regular at Munchkin reunions around the country and would not have missed this one for the world.
”This picture,” Mr. Carroll said, ”is loved by millions.”
The roughly 120 midgets collected for the movie, many of them from the celebrated troupe of Leo Singer, the Austrian impresario billed in the credits, probably amounted to the largest such gathering ever assembled and one unlikely ever to be equaled, in part because of advances in medical treatment that have made midgets extremely rare.
Unlike dwarfs, whose small stature is often caused by defective cartilage or bone growth and is usually genetically transferred, midgets’ bodies are proportionately correct miniatures caused by a malfunction of the pituitary gland, which can often be corrected with hormonal treatments.
The gathering of so many little people spawned tall tales of misbehavior, some of them spun late in her life by Judy Garland herself in a bibulous appearance on Jack Paar’s television show, in which she dismissed the Munchkins as ”little drunks,” one of whom, ”about two inches high,” had asked her for a date.
A 1981 film flop, ”Under the Rainbow” starring Chevy Chase, was a slapstick spy comedy set in the Culver Hotel and portrayed the Munchkins as trashing the place.’
“That’s a lot of hooey,” said Jerry Maren, 77, who played the smirking bad-boy in the middle of the Lollipop Guild and is perhaps the best known of the ex-Munchkins, having spent a long career playing parts in movies and commercials, from Buster Brown to Little Oscar, the Oscar Mayer hot-dog man.
”She was higher than a kite and didn’t know what she was saying,” Mr. Maren said. ”How the hell could we be acting up? We were making $50 a week and working six days a week starting at 6 o’clock in the morning.”
Mr. Carroll added, referring to Judy Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli, ”Even Liza said, ‘Mama always made things up to make a better story.’ ‘‘
Still, there were some adventures. Mrs. Pellegrini recalls a morning just before Christmas when her roommate’s ex-husband burst into their room at the Culver brandishing a knife, forcing them to decamp to another hotel. She has happier memories of piling into a car for a New Year’s excursion to Tijuana when the filming was done.
Ruth Duccini, 79, had just graduated from high school in Minnesota when she was hired for the movie.
”You can’t imagine how exciting it was,” she said. ”I think what makes that scene so great is the fun we were all having.”
This reunion also included Clarence Swensen, 79, who had come from Austin, Tex., to be a Munchkin soldier. ”It was fantastic,” he said.
Mrs. Pellegrini, who brought her 10-year-old great-granddaughter, Cheryl Pellegrini, to help her autograph sepia-toned photographs of her younger self peeking out from the bushes at Judy Garland, was still going strong Thursday night, long after Cheryl had put her head down on the table and gone to sleep.
”It’s a fairy tale — it’s fantastic,” she said, to no disagreement from the faithful. ”There will never be another movie like it.”
Stars for Munchkins
On November 20, 2007, the Munchkins were given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Seven of the surviving Munchkins actors from the film were present. As a result of the popularity of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, the word “munchkin” has entered the English language as a reference to small children, persons with dwarfism, or anything of diminutive stature.
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