It’s the end of an error in Hollywood as the last surviving “Wizard of Oz” munchkin, Jerry Maren, has died.
He passed away at the age of 99.
Maren was living in a nursing care facility in San Diego at the time of his death. He was believed to have suffered from dementia.
Maren was one of the members of the Lollipop Guild to famously welcome Dorothy to Munchkin Land in the 1939 classic film.
His niece, Stacey Michelle Barrington, told The Associated Press that he passed away on May 24.
There were rumors that Maren passed away in March 2016 of pancreatic cancer. However, TMZ confirmed that a friend of Maren’s said it wasn’t true and that he didn’t have pancreatic cancer.
He was reported to be in good health at the time. Maren was an ambassador for the film and would often attend film conventions, munchkin reunions, and other events honoring the film and its cast.
“I’ve done so many things in show business but people say, ‘You were in The Wizard of Oz?’ It takes people’s breath away,” he told North Hollywood Patch in 2011. “But then I realized, Geez, it must have been a hell of a picture, because everyone remembers it everywhere I go.”
Maren was one of more than 100 little people featured in the film. He, however, managed to stand out as the munchkin to hand Dorothy an oversized lollipop.
Maren said he ad-libbed the lollipop handoff in an early take the director loved it and decided to keep doing it.
The handoff came just before he and two other Lollipop Kids sang, “We represent the Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild. And in the name of the Lollipop Guild, we wish to welcome you to Munchkin Land.”
His niece said that the film was very special to him and that he loved to greet fans.
“He was a very sweet person and he was very approachable if you were a fan,” his niece. “He was the kind of person who would always take time to talk to you.”
Maren, who was born in Boston in 1919, was spotted by an MGM talent scout when he was a teen and dancing and singing in a show at a Connecticut hotel, NBC reports.
He was paid $50 a week for his role, which is twice what he was getting paid at the time.
“We got $50 a week,” he recalled. “Which was good money. We didn’t know better. My dad was making $25 a week, and I was making twice that, which I thought was doing pretty good.”
The dog cast as Toto earned $125 per week.
“It means everything to me,” he said at the time. “It shows that it could happen to any one of us, you know if you get lucky breaks.”
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He was also featured in “The Terror of Tiny Town,” “Under the Rainbow, and “Hello, Dolly.” He was also in TV episodes of “Seinfeld,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Bewitched,” “The Wild Wild West,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” “Lou Grant,” and “Julia.”
He also played McDonald’s Hamburglar and Mayor McCheese, as well as Oscar Mayer’s Little Oscar.
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