Monday, May 4, 2015

Munchkin Harry Doll's Deathaversary May 4, 2015

Harry Doll
March 12, 1899 - May 4, 1970
"Dummkopf! What have you on your shoulders for heads?  Swiss cheese?"

I like little animals.

I like little people.

When I was a child, watching the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz worried and fascinated me.  The fact that they were given odd little outfits to wear that accentuated their size gave us permission to stare at them.  When I first saw the film Freaks, I fell in love with those featured in that film as well.  Again, it was okay to stare.  

I loved that I got in on the tail end of real Freak Shows while I was growing up, actually being able to experience one.  I know it's not politically correct, but I miss them.  I have absolutely no problem with people taking what others would consider a "disability" and using it to their advantage.  Of course, back in the Freak Show heyday, there were some very dark and unhappy stories.  That is not one of them.

Meet the Doll Family. 

They certainly are a treat for the eyes, aren't they?

Though born in Germany, they spent most of their lives living in Sarasota, Florida.  Sarasota is only 40 miles south of Gibsonton, the retirement place of many circus performers.  It seems that "Gibtown" has all but dried up - which is truly a loss.  One of my dream locations that I will visit at some point.

The Doll Family lived in this modular home community, behind this guard booth.

Here is a rare photograph of Daisy and Tiny Doll in front of their home, circa 1969.  Their home was featured in several publications because it was designed especially for little people.  Smaller furniture, light switches being lower, etc.  

This is Harry's favorite chair.

By most accounts, the Doll family lived happy lives.  Daisy was the only one who ever married - it didn't last long.  

Midgets - like the Doll Family, tend to live long lives.  I believe because they don't have the physical stress on their bodies that average sized people do.  They are perfectly proportioned, just small.  

Dwarves usually have bodies that are abnormally formed, and have medical problems, bone, respiratory, etc.  Herve Villechaize, David Rappaport, Peter Dinklage..I'm probably going to get loads of email about how Un PC I am.  So be it.

Grace Doll died on November 8, 1970.  She was 71.  

Harry Died on May 4, 1985 in the Doctor's Hospital of Sarasota, Florida.  He was 83.  

Daisy died on March 15, 1980 in the Sarasota Memorial Hospital.  She was 72. 

Tiny Doll died on September 6, 2004.  She was 90.  Tiny especially liked the color photograph of the Dolls at the top of the page.  She let me know herself.

All the Dolls were cremated, and the location of their cremains is unknown.

It is well known that while the Wizard of Oz was being made, the Munchkins stayed in the Culver Hotel nearby the MGM Studios.  Judy Garland herself fueled the urban legends of the orgies and police raids, which really never happened.  Judy would say anything for a laugh, especially when she was (obviously) inebriated.

Making the film was the first time a lot of little people had the chance to meet other little people.  Marriages and relationships (and one night stands I'm sure)  were made.  No doubt there were parties, but not to the extent it is often exaggerated.

I had the opportunity to stay in the Culver Hotel.  I even had one of the cool corner rooms.

Except for the view, it was terrible.  It was a total shitty experience.  No keys worked on any rooms, the portable air conditioner on wheels took up most of the room, the elevators were not working properly.  It was pretty costly for an experiment.  The lobby/bar, very nice.  The hotel?  Disqualified.

A few years ago the Munchkins received a star on the 
Hollywood Walk of Moneygrubbing.  

A very kind benefactor coughed up the several thousands of dollars to pay for the star, and fly 7 of the remaining 9 Munchkins out to Hollywood for the ceremony.

Joey Luft, Judy's son even shows up, to a crowd of squealing queens.  It was the last ceremony officiated by Johnny Grant before he bit it.  Buh bye.

The Munchkins finally received recognition in this world because of a man named Stephen Cox.  Long before the internet, and information was available at our fingertips, Steve documented every single Munchkin for his book - The Munchkins Remember, later republished The Munchkins of Oz.

A fascinating "Whatever happened to..." book that I loved and recommend.  I am proud to call Steve a friend, and Steve helped by providing original photographs for this story.

After the star ceremony there was a screening of The Wizard of Oz in Grauman's Chinese Theater, where the film was premiered back in 1939.  

The little people showed up for a Q and A, and were able to enjoy the most amazingly shitty print of the film.  One of those "Only in Hollywood" evenings.

CREEP FACTOR:  Harry and Daisy played lovers in Freaks.  MMmmmm.  What could make this movie more disturbing?

More:  Tiny subscribed to the National Enquirer.  Would you like Tiny Doll to show you their mailbox?

As of this writing, May 4, 2015, there is only one adult Munchkin alive.   His name is Jerry Maren.  He presented Dorothy with a lollipop in the film, and also recently visited Dearly Departed Tours.

No Munchkin killed himself during the filming of The Wizard of Oz.

Big findadeath thanks to Ryan Fridley who drove around Sarasota snapping pictures for us.  Thanks Ryan!

Special thanks to my buddy Barry Patraw.

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