Very sad to report on the passing of Meinhardt Raabe, who died on Friday at the age of 94 after suffering a heart attack.
You may not know the name but you surely know his claim to fame. Raabe appeared as the coroner who pronounced the Wicked Witch of the East dead in the film classic "The Wizard of Oz." Though there were 124 Munchkins featured in the film, Raabe was only one of nine that had a speaking part, his lines consisting of:
As coroner, I must aver
I thoroughly examined her
And she's not only merely dead
She's really, most sincerely dead!
In August of 1999 I was the director of promotions and marketing for a theatre chain in Kansas City and it was my extreme pleasure to host Meinhardt and fellow Munchkins Jerry Marin, Margaret Pelligrino and Clarence Swensen at the grand opening of a new theatre. They all shared stories of their careers but none were as mesmerizing as Meinhardt's. Meinhardt earned money for college by appearing as part of the Midget City cast at the 1934 Chicago World's Fair. He was a mathematical genius, earning a degree in accounting from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. After college he went back to show business, appearing in vaudeville shows as a "midget" performer, as people of his size were called back then. Making his way to Hollywood he answered an add looking for "little people" and soon found himself front and center with Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz." He served in the Civil Air Patrol during World War II and after the war earned his MBA. He also met and married Marie Hartline, a cigarette girl who worked for a vaudeville show called Rose's Royal Midget Troupe. Marie and Meinhardt were married for 50 years. Marie died in 1997 after she and Meinhardt were involved in an auto accident. Meinhardt was also injured in the accident but recovered. In 2005 Meinhardt published the book "Memories of a Munchkin: An Illustrated Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road."
What I remember most about his Kansas City visit is that Meinhardt struck up a friendship with my son, Phillip, who was 15 at the time. In the few days they spent together they spent hours talking about everything from movies to the difference between a "hot dog" and a "frankfurter." Yes, Meinhardt knew the difference: from the ingredients used to the cuts of meat. Which I'm sure was a help for him as he represented the Oscar Meyer company for over 30 years, traveling the country in the famous "Weiner Mobile" and making appearances as the company spokesman Little Oscar. Fellow Munchkin Jerry Marin also played Little Oscar and one of my prized possessions is an inflated Oscar Meyer Weiner signed by both. 60 years after "The Wizard of Oz" he was still providing memories.
According to reports, "Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief" star Logan Lerman is the new front runner to play Peter Parker in the upcoming re-boot of "Spider-man." Good luck kid.
Producer Barbara Brocolli has officially confirmed that Oscar winner Sam Mendes will be the director the next James Bond adventure, currently known as "Bond 23"
"The Closer" co-star Jon Tenney has signed on to play test pilot Martin H. Jordan, father of Hal, in “Green Lantern”
HYPOCRITE PART 2
Some time ago I lambasted Tiger Woods for his conduct. I could care less how many hookers he screws. That's between him and the Mrs. I was more upset with his blaming others, most notably the media, for his problems and not his own wayward penis. Today I almost feel sorry for him. At the start of the Masters Golf Tournament Billy Payne, redneck in charge of the Augusta National Golf Club, chided Eldrick for his past actions, adding "It is simply not the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here. It is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children."
First of, Billy (and dude, when you're an old man on death's door, you should drop the "y") the only people Tiger Woods should be a "role model" to are his own kids. There is nothing wrong with admiring an athlete and I'm proud that my own son was and is a fan of someone the caliber of Cal Ripken, Jr. But I'd like to think that my son thinks of me as his hero...that he molds his life by observing mine. Not because I can hit a home run or drive a golf ball but because I'm his dad.
If I was Tiger I would have gone in front of the cameras and told "Billy" to kiss his ass. I'd have said "Billy, you dare to criticize how I conduct myself when you won't even allow women to play on your golf course. Hell, if I wasn't the greatest golfer in the world you'd probably have had my black ass come in through the servant's entrance. Blow me!" Enjoy your time in hell, "Billy."
"Nothin' Matters and What If It Did" by John Cougar
"Slow Dancing in the Big City - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Music composed by Bill Conti
This past week on Facebook a friend of mine posted an Easter greeting and using an image of the late Edie Massey, who played the infamous "Egg Lady" in John Waters' film "Pink Flamingos." I had the great pleasure of knowing Edie and was a frequent visitor to her store, Edith's Shopping Bag, in the Fells Point section of Baltimore. In fact, when a group of "the gang" came up to Baltimore for the World Science Fiction Convention in 1983 a visit to the store was demanded as, apparently, everyone had just discovered John Waters and his films. The funniest part of the trip came when Edie (who is NOT of Korean extract) told Tom Bowles (who IS) that he looked just like her brother. Anyway, the photo also reminded me of Edie's appearance on the cover of John Cougar's album "Nothin' Matters and What If It Did." This was Cougar's fourth album, and the second to last one before he began using his last name, Mellencamp. Whatever the name, the music is the same then as it is now...full of fun lyrics and musical hooks. Among the great songs on this album: "Ain't Even Done With the Night," "Hot Night in a Cold Town" and "This Time," which showed a more milder, romantic side of the singer. Give Mr. C. a listen:
I chose "Slow Dancing in the Big City" for a different reason. Though the music is elegant and one of Bill Conti's best scores, I chose it because the movie has provided me with a great story. "Slow Dancing" was director John G. Alvidsens' follow up to his Academy Award winning film, "Rocky." It's a sweet love story set against the backdrop of the world of ballet. I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Alvidsen in the early 1990s and I told him that not only did I enjoy "Slow Dancing" but that I was puzzled that I couldn't find it available on home video. Mr. Alvidsen explained to me that, because of some of the music featured in the film they couldn't get the copywrights cleared. We exchanged business cards and said our goodbyes. A few months later a package arrived in the mail. In it was a VHS cassette and a note from John Alvidsen, explaining that "enclosed is "Slow Dancing in the Big City. Enjoy. John." I'll treasure the note, and the film, forever. Here is a highlight tribute film someone put on YouTube:
Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. See ya!
"Mike's Rant" is ©2010 by Michael A. Smith. Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.