A man and woman who played Munchkins in the film "The Wizard of Oz" will come to and Hollywood Palms this weekend.
You will also have a chance to get free movie passes if you donate blood at Hollywood Palms.
Munchkins Margaret Pellegrini and Karl Slover will appear at Hollywood Palms Saturday and Sunday.
The "Have a Heart Blood Drive" will take place at Hollywood Palms Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. All donors will receive a movie pass for two that can be used for any film. The actors will appear from 1 to 6 p.m. for 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. show times.
They will then appear at from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. shows.
Below are the two biographies of the actors.
Margaret Pellegrini was also known as “Popcorn” or sometimes “Li’l Alabam” to her friends and colleagues. She was a tiny southern gal who got whisked away from her hometown of Sheffield, Alabama, to a movie set to be a Munchkin.
Margaret was born on September 23, 1923, around the corner from where Helen Keller lived. Margaret’s venture down the Yellow Brick Road actually began at a potato chip booth in the Tennessee State Fair. “My sister’s husband worked for a potato chip company in Memphis, and they had a booth at the state fair. I was helping them out, and some little people came walking by and spotted me. They introduced themselves as part of Henry Kramer’s Midgets and asked me if I wanted to join their show. “At that time I didn’t think I was a midget,” says Pellegrini, who then stood about three feet four. She gave the people her address and eventually was contacted by a booking agent who worked with Leo Singer. “I got a letter from Thelma Weiss in Hollywood to come out to make the movie. ”You can spot Margaret in several corners of Munchkinland—even as one of the Sleepy Heads who wipe their eyes and “get out of bed.” The director used her in more than one place, no doubt, because she was so small, perfect for the setting. And she still knows the entire scene by heart. It was a fantasy to make the movie, and she has never regretted it, remembering almost every detail as though it were yesterday. With a bit of a raspy voice Margaret looks back on Oz as a “fantastic experience.” Afterward, she traveled with some midget troupes and later married an average-sized man, ex-fighter Willie Pellegrini. They had two children, Margaret Jo and William Joseph Jr. (who refers to himself as “a son-of-a-Munchkin”). Margaret is even a great-grand-Munchkin, she says. After her marriage in 1943, she devoted her life to raising her children and steered clear of show business, except for a brief appearance in the unusual Dalton Trumbo film “Johnny Got His Gun” (1971).
“There were many years where I didn’t even tell people I was in the Wizard of Oz,” Margaret says. “Unless the topic came up. I thought people would think I was looking for attention. And then it started showing on television, and as time went by, people started asking me questions. It’s all very exciting, even now.” Of all the midgets from the film, perhaps Margaret was the one who stored the memories with the most accuracy over time. In vivid detail she has been able to recall nearly every aspect of her Oz experience. She happily remembers the first time she saw herself in the film at a theater in 1939. “I was at Treasure Island World’s Fair working with Singer’s Midgets,” she says. “The movie came out on August 15th and Mr. Singer picked out a couple of us little ones. His chauffeur took us over to San Francisco to a large theater, like one of the vaudeville houses, maybe the Fox Theater, and it was premiering there that afternoon. A lot of people came to the movie. I believe Singer had Nita Krebs, me, and Karl Slover, and we were at a card table in the lobby and we autographed some programs or photos as they went in and when they came out. “When the show started, they let us stand in the back by the railing that blocks off the seats from the aisle and we stood there and watched the movie,” she remembers. “I saw myself and I started jumping up and down and I was saying ‘That’s me! That’s me!’ I got all excited and everybody turned around and looked. They thought something had happened. I just put my hand to my face and said, ‘oh, I’m sorry.’” What Margaret can’t recount is how many times she’s watched the movie since that day in 1939. “Too many to count,” she laughs.
Today Margaret is widowed and makes Glendale, Arizona, her home. She has become one of the most visible of all the little people who appeared in the movie, usually donning a replica costume at personal appearances. During the anniversary year she turned up on countless television shows, including Good Morning America and Larry King Live on CNN. She has greeted crowds at Oz festivals and waved in parades (including the Indianapolis 500 parade) all over the country and maintains a hectic schedule. Luckily, her memory for names, places, dates, and times is fantastic. She saved much from her show business and traveling days and is planning to remodel and devote one room in her house to her treasured Oz collectibles. “Right now,” she says, “it’s crammed so full I can barely walk into it. I get so much stuff every time I go to these festivals. I love it!”
Karl Slover says he was the tiniest of the Singer Midgets who portrayed Munchkins. He’s grown now, from three feet tall when he played a trumpeter in “The Wizard of Oz” to four foot four. His father was six foot six. “Mr. Singer told me I would grow,” Karl says. “He seemed to know who would and who wouldn’t grow later in life.” Originally, Karl’s last name was Kosiczky. Born in Hungary, he changed his name to Slover when he became a U.S. citizen in 1943. His odd nickname, “Karchy,” originated when he was working with Singer’s Midgets and there were too many midgets named Karl to keep them straight. Karchy, which is Hungarian for Karl, was pinned on him for years, although he seldom answers to it now.
Karl played the first of three trumpeters who lead the mayor’s procession. Besides Oz, he appeared in the film ‘Block-Heads’ (1938) with Laurel and Hardy, and ‘They Gave Him a Gun’ (1937) with Spencer Tracy. He was the town barber and a saloon bass player in The Terror of Tiny Town (1938), and you can also spot him in the baby carriage in ‘The Lost Weekend’, a 1945 blockbuster starring Ray Milland. Karl, who still speaks with a slight accent, said, “We knew English when we did The Wizard of Oz. I’ve read in places that all the Munchkins were German, and they didn’t know how to speak English. We learned way before that.” Karl remembers the first day on the set of Oz: “They took us through the studio. Here they had these apple trees,” he says. “Well, at this time, I didn’t know they were rubber. They looked very real. I saw the trees move, and I said, ‘What the heck?’ My roommate thought I was nuts, and we kept walking around, and then he saw it, too. About that time, the prop man said, ‘Oh, there’s a man in those trees.’ That tickled me.”
Karl is now the last of Singer’s midget troupe, and has earned a sort of “royalty” status in the Munchkin world, commonly meeting celebrities who seek him out and wish to meet him. In 1995 when David Copperfield toured the country and stopped in Tampa with his extravagant show, the magician requested a meeting with Karl, who happily obliged. Today Karl, who is now in his eighties, remains retired from full-time work except for traveling with “The Wizard of Oz”. His time is spent corresponding with friends and relatives and gearing up for the frequent Oz festivals he attends each year. In 2001 Karl was honored at a banquet given by the Sons of the Desert organization (the longtime Laurel and Hardy fan base) in Los Angeles, where he was even congratulated by Ray Bradbury.