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Munckins Have a Local Fan to Thank! Click here to see Ceremony
"The Munchkins secured their place in Hollywood history and in the hearts of movie fans everywhere." -George Lucas, in a letter supporting ‘Wizard of Oz' actors getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Theater Owner Helps Secure a 2008 star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame for ‘Oz' actors.
WOODRIDGE - On the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, Godzilla has a star, as do Soupy Sales, Vanna White and the Rugrats. Heck, even Ryan Seacrest has one. But before June, you couldn't find a star representing an integral group of actors who appeared in "The Wizard of Oz." "I couldn't understand why the Munchkins didn't have one," said Ted Bulthaup, whose Woodridge movie house Hollywood Blvd. Cinema holds an annual showing of the 1939 American classic. Bulthaup-who became friends with the six surviving Munchkins after hiring them several years ago to host his annual event-decided to spearhead a nomination process. He paid a nomination fee of $25,000 to get the process going.
After getting turned down initially in 2005, Bulthaup decided to give it a second try in April. Only this time, he leaned on some heavy hitters, writing to Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Hugh Heffner, Ted Turner, Roger Ebert and major Hollywood film companies such as Universal, MGM and Sony. "I just started calling friends who had contacts with other people," Bulthaup said. "We even got an endorsement letter from the State of Kansas." Soon, letters of support began to come in.
" ‘The Wizard of Oz' was one of the greatest contributions to the golden age of Hollywood and fantasy," Spielberg wrote, while Lucas wrote in his letter, "With their joyous send-off for Dorothy as she began her journey down the yellow brick road, the Munchkins secured their place in Hollywood history and in the hearts of movie fans everywhere."
Johnny Grant, chairman of the Walk of Fame, announced on June 20 that the Munchkins had been selected as Walk of Fame recipients for 2008. A ceremony for the surviving actors will be announced soon. The Munchkins' star will represent the more than 120 actors who appeared in the film.
"We deserve it," said Mickey Carroll, 88, who played a Munchkin in the movie. " ‘The Wizard of Oz' was the best movie ever made." Carroll and several of the surviving Munchkins-ranging in age from 86 to 92-said they plan to attend the ceremony or visit the star in Hollywood. "It's very exciting," said Carroll, of St. Louis. The Munchkins "are a great group of people and they deserve to be remembered."
Bulthaup, owners of the Hollywood Boulevard Cinema in Woodridge, considers the movie a cult classic that crosses all language and cultural barriers. The Walk of Fame honors individuals in the entertainment industry who have made significant contributions to radio, television, motion pictures, recordings or live performance. Honorees are voted on every June, with an average of 20 stars selected a year
Carroll, who was in his teens during the filming of the "Wizard of Oz," said that he was close friends with Judy Garland and that the two of them performed together at times, including venues in Chicago. He said he and Garland also sang together at the 1933-34 Chicago World's Fair. Years later, he said Garland contacted him at his home in St. Louis to ask him to be a Munchkin in a film called "The Wizard of Oz." "I said, ‘Hell no...who wants to be a Munchkin?' " laughed Carroll, who is 4 feet 7 inches tall. "She begged me and I couldn't refuse her. I only earned $125 a week from the movie. I earned more than that in one day if I did a show at a night club."
He said his greatest memory of the movie is when Garland sang the film's signature song, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." "She was the most beautiful girl," Carroll said. "I can't forget when she was practicing the song. All the Munchkins were sitting on the floor. All of a sudden she started to sing; we were amazed by her voice. She was like an angel."