By Matt Stevens
Living in Los Angeles definitely has its perks — the weather, the culture, and the occasional celebrity sighting. One of my more memorable, Wizard of Oz-related encounters occurred a few years ago at a neighborhood supermarket…
I spotted an elderly, diminutive man — a little person — shopping for groceries, and something he wore caught my eye. I snuck closer, down the dairy aisle, until I could see his jacket featured an Emerald City design and read “Original Oz Munchkin.”
My mind raced faster than a witch on a broomstick: Which Munchkin did this guy play? What was Judy Garland like? Did he talk to Margaret Hamilton? So many questions I wanted to ask … but didn’t.
Why my sudden attack of the shys? I had chatted with celebrities before, sometimes for work reasons, so I couldn’t fathom my reaction. Then it hit me. I wasn’t just star-struck or awestruck; I was Oz-struck! This actor was a real-life part of something, well, great and powerful — a pop-culture phenomenon that has bewitched us for nearly 75 years.
Granted, the 124 actors who played The Munchkins weren’t well compensated for their roles. They only earned $50 a week, while that diva Toto made $125 a week! They did, however, get to work alongside Judy Garland, Billie Burke, and Margaret Hamilton, whose likenesses and indelible performances are now perfectly captured in The Wizard of Oz™ collection of dolls.
The Munchkins also received a long-deserved honor in November 2007 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The unveiling ceremony took place in front of the world-famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater, where The Wizard of Oz premiered on August 15th (my birthday!) back in 1939 (not my birth year).
Still jazzed about seeing an honest-to-Oz Munchkin, I paid homage by visiting their star on Hollywood Blvd. After all, the Walk of Fame is another Los Angeles perk — and the city’s own version of the Yellow Brick Road!
Have a favorite Oz moment or memory?
Please share below!
Matt Stevens is a twice-published author and sold screenwriter who specializes in movies and pop culture. A former producer for E! Entertainment Television, he now writes about film for their website, E! Online, and contributes to numerous new-media outlets. Since his first games-writing gig for Barbie.com, Matt has been tickled pink to work on BarbieGirls.com and MyScene.com before joining the BC blogger team.
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